ISNA traces its origins to a Muslim student organization in 1953, which emerged as the Muslim Student Association in January 1963. ISNA regards the MSA's 1963 convention as its first one. ISNA was founded in 1982 by individuals. In 1983, ISNA completed a $21 million ($ today) headquarters complex in suburban Indianapolis using funds raised in part from Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Nada and the Emir of Qatar.
ISNA's goal is "to be an exemplary and unifying Islamic organization in North America that contributes to the betterment of the Muslim community and society at large." ISNA is an association of Muslim organizations and individuals that provides a common platform for presenting Islam, supporting Muslim communities, developing educational, social and outreach programs and fostering good relations with other religious communities, and civic and service organizations.