The Zaytuna College in Berkeley, Calif., is the first Muslim seminary in the United States. It is run by two influential American clerics who received classical training abroad and who have large followings here, particularly among young American Muslims. A 2006 New York Times article credited the scholars, Sheik Hamza Yusuf and Imam Zaid Shakir, with countering the influence of conservative Wahhabism that has been spread in the United States by clerics trained in Saudi Arabia.
Seminaries are welcoming students back to school this fall, but both the students and these institutions are facing pressures that are transforming the way clergy are trained. Schools are struggling financially, enrollment is declining, and many seminarians face increasing debts. Other factors, however, could make a seminary education more accessible.