Center for Faith and Vocation

Islamic Society of North America

6555 S County Road 750 E
Plainfield, IN 46168
Phone: (317) 839-8157
Fax: (317) 839-1840
Friday Service: 1:30 pm
http://www.isna.net/

Institutional History

The ISNA headquarters is located in Plainfield, IN. The Muslim Students Association (MSA), established in 1963, is the parent organization of ISNA. This organization decided to create a central headquarters in order to better unite their work for the Islamic faith. The building for headquarters was designed in 1979 by two architects, Gulzar Haidar and Mukhtar Khalil.1

ISNA provides leadership programming and opportunities for Muslims all across the United States. ISNA also supports American Muslims by facilitating social events as well as educational programs including Imam training and leadership, youth involvement, and community outreach programs. Another program offered by ISNA promotes the sharing of ideas in addition to the education of the diversity of Islam within the U.S. In offering a unique variety of classes and programs, the goal of ISNA is to reach out to and encompass individuals of all religions and ethnicities in the community.2

Demographics

At the ISNA mosque, there are generally 30 attendees for the Friday afternoon service that includes the Dhuhr, or mid-day prayer. The ethnicity of this mosque is quite diverse. Among the twenty three members of the executive board, sixteen different countries of origin are represented. The ethnicities range from indigenous African, African American, South American, Arab, Euro-American, and Bangladeshi. At this mosque the attendance of families was very prevalent. There are many couples with young children as well as older individuals. The economic status of these families is quite diverse, but seemed on average, from the middle class with employment in a variety of professions.

Service Style

The Islamic Society of North America building is large and tall, with modern architecture but a distinctive Muslim style. Images of Allah and other important religious figures, such as the prophet Muhammad, Abraham or Jesus Christ, are not present in the mosque because Muslims fear that the incorporation of these images may lead to forms of idolatry. Members from the community affiliated with the mosque sit up front on the carpet, while those who are visitors sit near the back of the facility. Although the building houses the headquarters of ISNA, the largest Muslim organization in America, the mosque itself retains a sense of a small-town experience. Guests who attend a Friday afternoon prayer service will hear the mosque's leader, known as an imam, give a message from the Qur'an, in English, for about 20 minutes. (During this time, people sit quietly and meditate on what is being said.) After the message is delivered, people will stand and face the direction of Mecca and another person, known as a muezzin, will call them to prayer, and the Imam will then lead them in prayer, in Arabic.4 Called salat, the prayer always has a set order, and is conducted in cycles (called rakat). Each cycle contains several poses: standing erect, bowing with one's hand on one's knees, kneeling with head up, and kneeling with one's forehead on the ground. These poses are accompanied by ritual phrases, among them the takbir (Allahu Akbar - "God is Great") and passages from the Qur'an. Depending on which of the five daily prayers they are conducting, Muslims will complete 2-4 of these cycles and will end by turning to their right and left and saying salaam ("Peace") to their neighbors. Each cycle takes a few minutes to complete.

After prayers are offered, the imam will come forward and share announcements with the people. Finally, after the service, people will mingle among one another and talk about prayer concerns, as well as life in general.

What To Expect

Anyone wishing to visit an Islamic mosque can expect to be warmly welcomed by both the staff and the members of the mosque community. One will find that many Muslims are excited to have the opportunity to educate others about their religion and beliefs. For many Muslims, sharing the story and history of Allah and Prophet Muhammad is an act of faith in itself. For this reason, visiting an Islamic mosque can be an incredibly rewarding and enriching experience for those who wish to gain a better understanding of Islamic faith through first-hand experience.

Tours of the ISNA mosque are given almost every week to various groups of students and individuals. With a single phone call, one can effortlessly take part in an educational tour, personal consultation, and even attend their Friday prayer service. The staff members are enthusiastic about their opportunity to answer questions, share personal experiences, and explain the details of Islamic ritual and service to the public. The ISNA headquarters mosque is a very large and modern structure that, unlike many other mosques, has its own minaret which is used to call the community to prayer.

It is most appropriate to wear conservative clothing to the mosque. Long pants are worn by all the men of the community. Although many women wear a prayer shawl, it is not required for visitors to partake in this custom (however, visitors may want to bring and wear one to be respectful). Visitors enter the mosque in a common area and will remove their shoes. The practicing members then go to a hand and foot-washing station to complete their ablutions before the start of the service. During the prayer service, men and women sit in separate sections, all facing Mecca. Mothers with young children generally spend the service in a special room on the upper level, instead of on the main floor. Visitors should sit with members of their own sex and face the direction of Mecca as well. They can also choose whether they want to participate in the prayers or simply sit quietly and respectfully throughout the service.

For more information and photos, visit the About Islamic Society of North America web page

Sources

1Khalidi, Omar. " Approaches to Mosque Design in North America"
2Islamic Society of North America
3Molloy, Michael. Experiencing the World's Religions: Tradition, Challenge, and Change. 4th Ed. New York: McGraw Hill Higher Education, 2008