Stanford Report Online

Stanford Report, October 4, 2000
Islamic society has served Muslims for more than four decades

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Stanford Muslims had no building in which to meet, so they arranged to pray on the lawn of the old International Center near the site of the current post office.

"At that time there were no congregations anywhere except in San Francisco," recalled Marghoob Quraishi, who founded the society in 1958.

These days, at 1:30 p.m. every Friday, the Islamic community holds an Islamic congregational service in the Ballroom of the Old Union. Since 1981, the Islamic Society of Stanford University (ISSU) has had a library and prayer room on the third floor where followers can pray five times a day.

Between 80 to 100 men ­ and a handful of women ­ attend the weekly services. Many of the Muslims who attend Friday's prayer service are alumni from the Peninsula and South Bay. There are about 200 students on the ISSU mailing list.

After a fire destroyed the International Center and left Muslims without a meeting site in 1961, members prayed in each other's homes and other locations in the area. After Quraishi bought a home on California Avenue in the early 1960s, he and his wife, Renae, hosted meetings there that were attended by 30 to 40 persons. "That was a mix of students and a few families," recalls Quraishi, a Palo Alto management consultant.

Current ISSU President Hossam Fahmy, a graduate student in electrical engineering, said Stanford alumni have since established mosques, or official worship sites, in Santa Clara, Fremont, San José and Berkeley.

During the 1990s, the society continued devoting itself to serving the spiritual needs of the community and shifted toward activism. Members became involved in prison outreach and community service. Next spring the ISSU again will participate in the university's fourth annual Islam Awareness Week. The society hosts events throughout the year. Last year's schedule included a talk by Yusuf Islam, the former pop star previously known as Cat Stevens. In 1999, the ISSU was among five student organizations presented with the inaugural Dean of Students Outstanding Achievement Award, given to groups in recognition of their service to the Stanford community.

Last Friday the ISSU, along with the Muslim Students' Awareness Network (MSAN), presented "The Journey of Islam in the West," a panel discussion led by Georgetown University Professor of Islamic Studies John L. Esposito and College of Geneva Professor of Philosophy Tariq Ramadan. MSAN, a university organization of about 100 students with a political bent, was founded in 1994.