In October of 1946, the Association of Muslim Students in America (AMSA) was formed in San Francisco by students from India. It expanded to include Muslim students from other countries in 1947. It published the Muslim News Bulletin (MNB), which was edited in Toronto. The editor of the MNB was Mohammad Ameen Khan Tareen, 177 College Str, Toronto, Canada. The AMSA formed in order to "authoritatively explain the Muslim viewpoint before other nations" and especially the people of America. During the first ten months of their existence they expressed that "they availed of every opportunity afforded them, to acquaint the people here of the real problems of the Muslim world. Radio, newspaper, platform and pulpit." They appealed to Muslim students in America "to get together and organise themselves . . . to open a branch of the AMSA." This organization pre-dated the Muslim Student Assocation, which still exists, by seventeen years (The Moslem World 37 , 314-316).
The work of the Association of Muslim Students in America (AMSA), which began in 1946, in establishing Muslim student associations and increasing attendance of Muslim students from abroad of American colleges produced a need for national coordination. So in 1963 those associations held their first national conference in Urbana, Illinois and formed the Muslim Student Association (MSA). Apparently AMSA had ceased functioning. In 1976, the manager of the MSA book service and director of the International Muslim House in Ann Arbor, Michigan informed me that its first headquarters was in Ann Arbor, Michigan on the campus of the University of Michigan. Their new headquarters was moved to Al-Amin Mosque in Gary, Indiana in 1971. Unlike FIA it had a lot of ethnic diversity--Arabs from different countries, Indo-Pakistanis, Iranians, Turks, and others. Its leaders were younger and less concerned with assimilating into American society since they originally had the intention of returning to their country. Initially it was less concerned with establishing communities outside of the college campus. Like the FIA it was more concerned with maintaining their Islam than with spreading it and were aware of Western culture and organization. Having attended college with these students in the later 1960s and 1970s, I know that it was no small task in helping students maintain their practice of Islam.
In addtion to duplicating the success of the FIA in holding annual conventions and raising money locally and abroad, they had an impact on the local development of Muslim associations. Although its focus was on campus activities, it eventually had an effect on off-campus immigrant and indegenous groups. They raised the level of knowledge of Islamic rituals since all of them were recently from the Muslim world and many of them had some formal background in learning Islam. Their ideas about organization, however, were basically Western. The first, second and third generation Muslims, as well as American converts generally regarded the students to be more knowledgeable about Islam than themselves. After attending school for four to eight years, many of the students--especially the Indo-Pakistani students--did not return home. They found jobs but continued functioning with MSA. With its ability to raise funds, especially from overseas, MSA began establishing business and professional organizations useful in establishing off-campus institutions. The North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) became instrumental in establishing masajid, student houses, Islamic centers, full-time schools, and literature publishing (under the American Trust Publications, International Graphics Press, and Islamic Book Service). Its members created the American Muslim Scientists and Engineers (AMSE), the American Muslim Social Scientists (AMSS), and the Islamic Medical Association (IMA). These professional organizations may have made more of a contribution to Muslim countries than they did to Muslims in America.
Its conventions attracted increasing numbers of permanent Muslim residents of America--including converts. They came for the bazaars with its literature on Islam, which most Americans relied on in teaching themselves Islam since there were few teachers. They came to listen to the lectures of major scholars flown in from Muslim countries--another valuable source in understanding Islam. They came to observe how Muslims who had grown up in Muslim countries conducted themselves. With the increase in conversions to Islam and their desire to learn Islam, MSA found another need it was able to meet. It helped converts get scholarships to study Islam in countries like Saudia Arabia. It also established the Islamic Teaching Center (ITC) to help instruct Muslims in America. The interaction of Muslim converts with the Muslim students and settled immigrants made them aware of their need to be more exact in their practice of Islam. Recent converts inspired and embarassed them into wearing more appropriate Muslim attire--some Muslim women were dressed like Hindus and few covered their hair. Almost all the men shaved off their beards, including officials. Their constant and unending questions about practicing Islam in America made them more aware of the need for formal study of Islam. With the successes of MSA there came an increased strainage of members from the FIA. As the increased settlement of its graduating members in America increased, the per centage of its non-student administrators and members increased also. Towards the end of the 1970s it became clear that in reality MSA was no longer predominantly a student organization. Furthermore, with the increase number of masajid and Islamic centers being established among converts and others, and the problems that developed with their establishment, a student focused organization could not maintain any leadership status.
The leaders of MSA who were no longer students realized that they had to formally changed their name and structure to meet the needs of the Muslims and maintain any leadership status among Muslims in America. It was aware of other national groups which were focused on community development before it. However, it felt that those groups of converts were not knowledgeable enough to lead them so it had to try to fulfill that need. After planning since 1977, in 1982 MSA changed its name to the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and changed its structure.
By Antar Ibn-Stanford, Ph.D.
Said association is organized exclusively for charitable, religious, and literary purposes, namely, observing the five daily salah, Salah al-Jumu'ah on Friday, the fast of Ramadan, the celebration of Muslim holidays, the establishment of classes, and informing the public, and community service.
New members shall meet the following criteria and also be approved by consensus or the majority vote of the Majlis ash-Shura (Officers). The following constitutes such criteria: (1) A verbal declaration that "there is nothing worthy of worship except for Allah (God) and that Muhammad (ibn Abdullah) is the servant and messenger of Allah."
(2) A verbal acceptance of beliefs in Allah, the last day, His angels, His scriptures, and His messengers.
(3) A verbal commitment to pray in the manner of the Prophet Muhammad ibn Abdullah five times daily, to pay the obligatory charity, to endeavor to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca, and to fast during the month of Ramadan.
(4) Acceptance of the "The Constitution and Bylaws of The Muslim Student Association."
(5) Signing the membership form.
Any member recanting the aforementioned beliefs or failing to act upon such beliefs shall have his membership withdrawn with the approval of the consensus of the Majlis ash-Shura.
Every member of record shall be entitled at every meeting of members at-large to participate in the reaching of a consensus or one vote.
1. The Majlis ash-Shura. The Muslim Student Association shall be managed by its Majlis ash-Shura.
2. Number in the Majlis. The number in the Majlis shall be the number of officers--president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer.
3. Choosing the Majlis and Its Term. The term of each member is one school year.
4. Committees. The majority of the work undertaken by the Muslim Student Association shall be performed by committee with each committe having an amir (director).
5. Choosing the Amir of a Committee. An amir may be chosen by consensus or a vote of a majority of the members of the committee, unless otherwise provided in the "Articles of Incorporation." An amir should be chosen because of their knowledge of the Qur'an, the sunnah and the rulings of the widely accepted scholars and their ability to fulfill the objectives of the committee.
6. Resignation. An amir may resign at any time by giving written notice to the committee. Unless otherwise specified in the notice, the resignation shall take effect upon receipt thereof by the Majlis, and the acceptance of the resignation shall not be necessary to make it effective.
7. Quorum of the Majlis ash-Shura. A majority of the entire Majlis shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business or of any specified item of business.
No part of the net earnings of the association shall inure to the benefit of, or be distributable to its members, officers, or other private persons, except that the association shall be authorized and empowered to pay reasonable compensation for services rendered and to make payments and distributions in furtherance of the purposes set forth in Article I hereof.
This fiscal year shall begin the first day of September in each year.
(a) The bylaws may be amended, repealed, or adopted by concensus or vote of members. Bylaws may also be amended, repealed, or adopted by the Majlis, but any bylaw adopted by the Majlis may be amended by members.
(b) If any bylaw regulating an impending election of directors is adopted, amended, or repealed by the Majlis, there shall be set forth in the notice of the next meeting of members for the election of directors the bylaw so adopted, amended, or repealed, together with a concise statement of the changes made.
(c) New officers shall be elected to the Majlis at the beginning of each school year.
Signitures of current officers an date signed:
Ramadan 1417 A.H./January 1997
Obligations of Muslim Students In College