ISNA Prepares to Celebrate 60 Years!

Here’s what ISNA is planning for the September convention in Chicago

July/August 2023

Six decades of bringing the community together is no small feat. From humble beginnings in 1963, today ISNA is a household name in North America. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims and neighbors from other faiths have attended the popular annual convention over the years. 

But this year from September 1-4, brace yourself for a jam-packed weekend of spirituality, civic engagement, entertainment – and of course food and shopping. From matrimonial services and basketball tournaments to an art and film festival, ISNA aims to provide activities for all ages and interests.  

“60 Years of Service: Navigating the Way Forward” is the theme of the convention this year. The focus is two-fold: celebrating the accomplishments of the last six decades and planning for the future. ISNA recognizes that it would not have grown today without the sacrifices and hard work of its founders and successors. However, at the same time, we need to look at our current landscape and figure out how to continue serving the growing Muslim community in the future. 

“With the grace of God and support from our community, ISNA has ably served the community for 60 years, and we are ready to embark on our journey for the next 60.” said Basharat Saleem, Executive Director of ISNA. “In this time, our needs have evolved, but ISNA’s mission has been and will be to serve our beloved community. We are undergoing a strategic planning process and nationwide surveys to better understand these needs.”

Saleem is spearheading the convention planning with regular meetings, steering committee coordination, and other preparations. “Every year, we try to take it up a notch, so we are hoping more people join us this Labor Day weekend in Chicago. In 2022, due to COVID-19, we weren’t sure if we would be able to have an in-person convention, so we couldn’t plan in advance. But this year, we got the ball rolling much sooner, and we cannot wait to share the programming with you,” he added. 

ISNA has invited Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai and the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Anwar Ibrahim. The highlight of the convention is always the star-studded panel of speakers that inspire, enlighten, and rejuvenate our minds and soul. Some of the confirmed speakers for the 60th Convention include family favorites Dr .Yasir Qadhi, Imam Zaid Shakir, and Shaykh Abdul Nasir Jangda. Among the amazing female speakers, ISNA has confirmed Dr. Ingrid Mattson, Ustadha Ieasha Prime, Dalia Mogahed, and Dr. Rania Awaad.

Something for Everyone

“We are coordinating with Chi-Care in Chicago to hopefully have a huge service project during the Convention,” said Tabasum Ahmad, Convention Project Manager. “We are finalizing the details to try to be able to feed 60,000 homeless people with a food packaging or distribution drive. Keeping with the 60th-anniversary theme, we will also have 60 raffles so there will be lots of opportunities to go home with prizes.”


Another new exhibit planned for the 60th convention is an Afghan art gallery. With the recent influx of refugees, ISNA is coordinating with a local artist to showcase their resettlement journey through art. He might even be able to have a hands-on kite-making workshop!

While the ISNA Board and staff always tries to bring new ideas to the convention, they are also happy to repeat events that were a big hit in the past. For instance, they received great feedback about the robotics program last year. So they have invited the Texas company again. Ditto for the fashion show. Women enjoyed seeing the diverse styles and fabrics from different parts of the Muslim world. 

ISNA recognizes that its convention is attended by Muslims from all walks of life. Some are looking to increase their religious knowledge. Some are looking for spouses and others wish to network with like-minded individuals. If viable, ISNA is also planning a career and entrepreneurship event so people can network and find better job opportunities and leads for their business. During the virtual conventions due to the pandemic, they had speakers who are Muslim founders or CEOs of large companies like Edible Arrangements and Ethan Allen. 

If you are interested in adding value to ISNA’s 60th Convention with a live cooking demonstration, calligraphy workshop, men’s fashion show, or any other ideas, send your proposals to Let the ISNA team know as soon as possible what you can bring to the table. At press time, there are several other plans in the pipeline. The shape and form of some of the events may change by September depending on various factors. However, rest assured this is going to be a convention you will remember for years, in sha Allah.

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