Our History

Islamic Services of America! Located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa? Yes!

Halal Certification and Services Body in Iowa? Why Iowa?

In approximately 1888, Haj. Abbas Habhab emigrated from what was then the Syrian region of the Ottoman Turkish Empire to Iowa. How and why Haj. Abbas Habhab found and stayed in Fort Dodge, Iowa, only God knows! In the next seven years, his three brothers, Musa (Moses), Yusef (Joseph), and Ali joined him. They became the cornerstone of young Muslims in the Northwest Iowa area, including Sioux City, Iowa, and also Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Omaha, Nebraska.

By this time, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, had a dam built on the Cedar River, ushering in agri-industry, such as Quaker Oats, National Oats, and the meat packing industry. Sam Bashar, a young Christian from the same region had established a “general store warehouse”and “staked and supplied” many of the newly arriving young men. In 1907, Haj. Yahya William Aossey came to Iowa and later married Mahaeba, one of Abbas Habhab’s daughters and settled in Cedar Rapids. From the early 1900’s to the 1920’s, Cedar Rapids was becoming a rich new opportunity and home for these young, early Syrian merchants.

German immigrants established the first and longest lasting communal society in the North America in Amana, Iowa, starting in 1855, by acquiring 26,000 acres of rich, Iowa land. The Amana Colonies were originally called, “Community of True Inspiration.” The Dutch established Pella and LeMars, Iowa, the Norwegians: Decorah, Iowa. Even Elkader and Tripoli, Iowa were named after Abdel Kader Al Jazeri, the famous North African leader and liberator. Finally, Spillville, “the writing home” of Dvorak’s New World Symphony, Ely, and Cedar Rapids were settled by our Czech neighbors. So why not create a focal point for the Middle East immigrants in establishing the first mosque in the USA?

These young, hard-working, warm-hearted Eastern Mediterranean immigrants from Syria were loved, trusted, respected and accepted by North European immigrants and settlers of Iowa. These Syrians, and what became later, Lebanese immigrants found their place in America! In IOWA!

Muslim and Christian Syrian-Lebanese communities of Iowa were established by the 1920's. They were well-accepted, and created deep roots in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The young immigrant men established a social organization, “The League of Bountiful Flowers.” What a beautiful name for young immigrants who came with so little-almost all were unlettered in either Arabic or English. Why not, “The League of Bountiful Flowers” as this was the time of the League of Nations? But these immigrants were not uneducated! They educated themselves and their families; hard work, ethics, Middle Eastern hospitality, courage and Faith earned acceptance and integration. Then came “The Rose of Fraternity Lodge” which was the clay and mortar for an idea, based on Faith, to build the first Mosque in North America. The first and oldest continuing Mosque and “Islamic Center” was completed before the Great Depression and kept families and their Faith intact and together. In 1948, Haj. Yahya William Aossey set aside and donated 12 acres of land in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, establishing the First National Muslim Cemetery in North America. In 1971, a new Islamic Center was built in Cedar Rapids and the “Mother Mosque” of America is now on the National List of Historic Buildings. It is still a focal point of the history of diversity in America.

Some 70 years later, Islamic Services was established in 1975 for non-religious community functions such as educational materials, working with local colleges and universities for the acceptance of the influx of foreign students and local community activities. In the mid-1970’s came the need for Halal verification and certification. Islam and Iowa have grown together over the century.

It can be openly and responsibly stated, “No other organization in North America has worked as long and as hard against so many obstacles, challenges, misperceptions, and ‘yes,’ even fraudulent ‘selling and issuing’ of false ‘Halal certificates’ by unethical individuals or false representatives of ‘Islamic’ groups." Islamic Services of America (I.S.A.) has worked with industry and food producers to achieve the responsible degree of certification demanded and required for Halal recognition. That is also why, after 75 years of heritage and responsibility to the early hard-working immigrants, I.S.A. also represents:

I. Integrity

S. Service

A. Authenticity

Our ethics, our respect for Muslim consumers, for importing country regulations, for U.S.D.A.-F.D.A., and for reputable industry are as solid as the foundation of our ethics and principles laid by our immigrant parents.

Islamic Services of America provides Halal certification and related services to industries and companies that respect themselves and value their products, their names, and the communities and consumers they serve.