ISNA’s Victories and Vision for the Future: Current Leadership Chimes In

By Islamic Horizons Staff

Sept/Oct 2023
ISNA Leadership Past and Present

Through its wide array of services, ISNA has undoubtedly touched hundreds of thousands of lives in six decades. From conventions that provide spiritual guidance through highly qualified scholars, to high-level engagement with federal and state administrations, ISNA is looked upon as a leader in various areas.

Vice President, Kareem Irfan, who has been associated with the organization since 1984, was attracted to ISNA through the convention and since has served in various high-level positions dealing with Islamic wills, strategic planning, Muslim arbitration, and interfaith coalitions. His legal expertise helped tremendously when the State Department was investigating Islamic organizations.

“ISNA has been an incubator for many organizations that started with people getting together and pooling intellectual and financial resources. Several ISNA alumni work in top levels of academia, government, and the corporate and nonprofit world,” Irfan said. “I came back to ISNA when I could dedicate serious time because I strongly believe in leadership transparency. The higher up you go, the humbler you need to be. I have taken on this role as an amanah (trust) and that’s why I refer to myself as ‘Servant number 2’ for the community.”  

Treasurer, Azhar Azeez, has been with ISNA for the last 22 years. He believes ISNA has been able to thrive for 60 years because of the duas of our community and sacrifices made by the founding fathers and mothers and the leaders and volunteers that served this organization.

“The beauty of ISNA is that it is not ideologically driven. It is an all-inclusive organization,” Azeez said. Its leadership is elected through an electoral process. The membership or the general body is the top decision-making body. ISNA’s vision right from its inception in 1963 was that the Muslim community is very diverse. Anyone who believes in the creed (shahadah) is a Muslim. They should not be ignored because of their sect or school of thought.”

Both leaders agree that ISNA’s consistent interfaith and intrafaith work is considered a benchmark in the country for various communities to emulate. ISNA is also passionate about gender equality and women empowerment. Nearly every session in a conference or convention has a female speaker or presenter as part of policy.

The Education Forums bring hundreds of full-time Islamic and weekend school teachers under one roof and provide them innovative ways and solutions to cater the growing needs of our community. The chaplaincy programs assist chaplains in U.S. armed forces, hospitals, and universities. The matrimonial services benefit hundreds of couples every year to find suitable life partners. The convention bazaar brings more than 600 vendors annually promoting Muslim businesses and organizations offering important products and services.  

Leadership agrees that ISNA needs to enhance its online presence and leverage the MYNA success story. Mentoring around 3,000 youth annually with Islamic values and launching well-rounded leaders for tomorrow is no small feat.

With lots of successes under its belt, ISNA still has a lot of important work to do.

Tall Task Ahead                                                        

“ISNA needs to promote its services and have tiered levels of membership across the country. It needs to chalk out a network of regions and key cities where staff members host town hall meetings to understand current challenges,” Irfan said. “We need to recruit highly efficient staff in our Washington D.C. office to elevate its credibility on a national level.”

ISNA also needs to coordinate mental health programs and senior homes on a national level. There needs to be more collaboration with ISNA Canada – and perhaps even foray into Mexico to become a truly North American organization.

“The core responsibility of ISNA leadership is not just raising funds — but ensuring good use of the funds,” Irfan said. “To remain relevant, ISNA needs to have a finger on the pulse of the communities it serves. It needs to remain active on the civic, government, and interfaith levels.”

“I pray ISNA continues to offer these important services to the American Muslim community and provide solutions to the challenges faced by our community for the next several decades,” Azeez concluded.  

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