Abbott joins Ismaili Muslims in opening Cedar Park community center
Gov. Greg Abbott was on hand Tuesday as Ismaili Muslims community members opened their first purpose-built interfaith center in Cedar Park.
The Ismaili Jamatkhana at 2401 South Lakeline Boulevard is the newest prayer and gathering place that community leaders say was built specially to promote an understanding of Islam and other religions.
Texas Governor and community officials inaugurate new Ismaili Jamatkhana
Nestled just outside Austin, the city of Cedar Park is now home to a new, permanent Ismaili Jamatkhana. On 7 August 2018, state, city, and local leaders from across Texas joined Jamati leaders and volunteers to open the new purpose-built space, and share its vision.
Upon arriving at the new Jamatkhana, visitors were struck by its gleaming white facade. Many walked into the building for the first time on 7 August and saw its iconic circular motif of eight overlapping circles, which adorn the exterior walls and outdoor waterfall feature.
The Mayor of Cedar Park, Corbin Van Arsdale, addressed the assembled guests, noting that “Cedar Park is a diverse community … and the Ismaili community brings additional diversity, professionalism, and a servant-hearted ethic that adds great value and quality to our experience in our community.” He recounted attending a Jamatkhana tour a few weeks earlier, and being “struck by the warmth of the people here as well as the architecture and the feeling of the building itself.”
Dr. Barkat Fazal, President of the Ismaili Council for the United States, welcomed the guests and provided a context on the functions of the Jamatkhana: “This centre is envisioned to be a place to build bridges and encourage dialogue between our civic organisations, civil society, and faith communities,” he said.
Following President Fazal’s remarks, Texas Governor Greg Abbott delivered a keynote address in which he also acknowledged the Jamatkhana as “a place of civic and interfaith engagement — a place to share knowledge, to learn, and unite cultures.” He also recognised the Ismaili community’s dedication to volunteerism. He thanked the 2,500 Ismaili volunteers who dedicated more than 13,000 hours to the evacuation and recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, telling the 150-plus attendees present, that “Texas is forever thankful for the way these volunteers came together to help those in need.”
Following the remarks, Governor Abbott, Mayor Van Arsdale, and President Fazal stood together to unveil a commemorative plaque. Governor Abbott then presented a signed proclamation recognising the opening ceremony of the Ismaili Jamatkhana.
After the opening ceremony concluded in the social hall — designed to accommodate educational and social events such as seminars and conferences — the guests gathered to greet one another under the Jamatkhana’s rotunda, which features a large skylight to let in natural light. Here, they were able to view the Ethics in Action exhibit, depicting the work of the Aga Khan Development Network, and join guided tours of the building, to learn about its architecture and many functions.
Attendees at the event included elected city, county, and state officials, as well as leaders from academic and healthcare institutions, interfaith leaders, and representatives from diverse civil society organisations.
Many marvelled at the circular motif found in details from the Jamatkhana’s carpeting to the metal latticework. The tessellating motif symbolises unity and diversity in nature, and is inspired by both traditional Islamic geometry and the clean, modern lines of mid-century architecture prevalent across the Austin area.
The total Jamatkhana space of over 28,000 square feet, designed locally by the renowned Austin company, Pfluger Architects, includes dedicated areas for early learning classrooms, a library, religious education classrooms, and a small conference room, alongside a 7,000-square-feet prayer hall.
One of the most remarkable aspects of the event was that individuals from across diverse communities had all come together under one roof for this momentous occasion.
“I’m very impressed with the community, the centre, and the outreach into the broader community. Just a minute ago, we had individuals from the Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu communities all in one circle of conversation,” noted Earl Maxwell, CEO of St. David’s Foundation, an organisation addressing the most pressing health challenges in the Central Texas region.
“It warms my heart to see a community that is all about inclusivity and gives it such a high value,” remarked Simone Flowers, the Executive Director of Interfaith Action of Central Texas. “This is such a beautiful place … there’s so much light, and the energy is really positive. I can’t wait to have an interfaith event here.”
Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre in Khorog opens its doors to the Jamat
Nestled amid flourishing trees, a flowing river, and a formidable mountain range, the newly opened Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre in Khorog is a long-awaited blessing for the Jamat of Tajikistan.
Up close, a jewel is made up of a number of facets, each producing intriguing patterns, which help the gem to shine. Shimmering bright on the evening of 12 December 2018, the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre, Khorog opened its doors to the Jamat on the eve of Salgirah.
At the foot of the Pamir mountains, and situated beside Khorog City Park and the Gunt River, the Centre provides a purpose-built space for congregation, contemplation, and contribution to civil society.
In his remarks at the foundation stone laying ceremony of the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre, Khorog in 2008, Mawlana Hazar Imam said, “It is my hope that the town of Khorog will become the Jewel of the Pamir.”
On that significant day, Mamadnazar Mamadnazarov thought to himself that whomever is involved in the building of the Centre would be very lucky indeed. Little did he know that he himself would be involved, as the site manager.
“Our people dreamt of their [own] place of worship for years. It was Monday, 3 November 2008 when Mawlana Hazar Imam laid the foundation stone for the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre in Khorog. This day became a happy and special day to our people.”
Construction began in April 2016 with a focus on benefiting the local community and utilising local building materials. For example, approximately 1.5 million pieces of granite were used to clad in the interior and exterior walls of the building. Most of the floors have also been tiled with local granite.
Several local companies were involved in the building project, from site excavation, timber cladding, to stone production. In addition, at its peak, up to 400 local craftspeople worked on the construction of the building, which in the process provided them with new skills for future employment opportunities.
The completed Centre offers tranquil spaces for both spiritual and secular endeavour. Its focal point is the prayer hall, which features a Pamiri roof, stone walls, stained glass windows, and carved wood pillars. The Centre also houses a social hall, library, meeting and multipurpose rooms, a foyer, a covered veranda, an amphitheatre, and courtyards.
This Centre is the latest in a series of projects which have contributed to the development of the city of Khorog, the capital of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region in Tajikistan.
Mawlana Hazar Imam remarked on these plans for progress at the foundation stone ceremony in 2008.
“And we will seek to improve, all of us together, the quality of the environment in which we live, bringing clean water to everywhere where the people live, bringing energy to all the places where people live, improving the schools and health facilities, improving and restoring our historic buildings which are representations today of our cultural history,” he said.
“We today have a new park in Khorog, inshallah we will build the University of Central Asia, we will build this Centre, and while working together, step by step, we will make Khorog the Jewel of the Pamir.”
Since then, the revitalised Khorog City park was inaugurated in 2009, and includes a river promenade, a pond, a children’s play area, and a restaurant and teahouse. In addition, the University of Central Asia’s Khorog campus was officially inaugurated earlier this year, becoming UCA’s second operating campus, attracting students from across Central Asia.
The Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre Khorog is the latest in this series of developments, representing a long-awaited blessing for the people in the Pamirs, and which will serve the flourishing of the Jamat and the surrounding communities for decades to come. Glimmering at the heart of Khorog, the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre adds another facet to the ‘Jewel of the Pamir.’
Ismaili Jamatkhana and Center opens in the “Jewel of the Pamir”
The Ismaili Jamatkhana and Center has opened in the “Jewel of the Pamir”, Khorog, the capital of the Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO).
The project costs 15 million U.S. dollars and the construction of the Center was funded by the Aga Khan Foundation.
The Center consists of three parts, including the prayer halls that can accommodate 1,500 worshipers. The Center also features administrative and meeting facilities, classrooms, library and social halls that can accommodate 450 people.
The Center is located in the center of Khorog near City Park on the bank of the Ghund River.
The foundation stone laying ceremony of the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Center in Khorog took place on November 3, 2008 but the active phase of construction of the Center began in 2016.
Common Ground - The Ismaili Centres as Enablers for Holistic Engagement.
“The Holy Quran commands humankind to shape our earthly environment, as good stewards of the Divine Creation...We hope that the Aga Khan Award for Architecture will always point towards an architecture of optimism and harmony, a powerful force in elevating the quality of human life.”
Speech by Mawlana Hazar Imam at the Aga Khan Award for Architecture Ceremony, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 2016.
Across history, the public space has physically and symbolically consolidated the presence of civilizations and societies throughout the world.
Unique to the architectural traditions of Muslim Cultures, however, has been the masterful, and at times playful, balance of this aesthetic expression with functional utility. In doing so, this creates a lasting impact for the communities who live and work amongst these public spaces.
And of course this is not a compromise between practicality and creative ambition - it is a rich fusion between the two. By doing so, the ‘Public Space’ does not only act as a representation of a community’s heritage and values, but it in fact becomes the focal point around which the social and cultural life of a community can revolve.
The Ismaili Centres act in the same way, both as ambassadorial or cultural symbols, but also as spaces with the capacity to facilitate all aspects of the daily life of the Ismaili community.
Traditionally, the space established for congregational prayer has been referred to by many Muslim Communities as masjid ( a term derived from the Arabic sajada, meaning to bow or prostrate).
Derived from the Arabic Jama‘a (Community) and the Persian khana (House), the Jamatkhana similarly serves as a place for congregational and personal prayer, whilst also providing capacity and facility for the various cultural, social and educational needs of the community.
It is with this intention of facilitating inclusive and active social engagement that a variety of architectural features, inspired by the traditions of Muslim Civilizations, can be seen across all of the six Ismaili Centres.
The alcove, for instance - a small pocket of space placed at an indent from the usual wall or corridor - is not just a feature of aesthetic value; it encourages groups of people to sit together and engage, with an added quietness from the sound-muffling qualities of the way the windows are shaped.
This smaller retreating space compliments the wider atrium-style spaces commonly referred to as ‘social halls’. These larger multipurpose spaces utilise natural light, open plan design, and various floor elevations to provide larger spaces where the entire community can come together, with the addition of, and a warm welcome towards, non-Ismaili guests and visitors.
Another key design consideration present in the Ismaili Centres is accessibility. Designers of public spaces, furniture and interiors are often faced with the challenge of ensuring that those with all ranges of ability are able to participate in an equally immersive experience, across the entire journey of being in the public space. At the Ismaili Centre London, enclosed built-in ramps on the sides of the entrance provide privacy and comfort for wheelchair users to travel up to the social space, where this ramp rejoins with the shared walkway. Moreover, the shape and form of the staircase railings are able to provide sensory cues to aid visitors with visual impairments to find their way upstairs to the social and prayer halls.
Not only does this suggest the high level of consideration given for people of all levels of ability, but it also reinforces the notion of unity within the community, as all individual members can all take part in a collective experience within the community space.
This notion of accessible engagement for all members of the Jamat is evident in the emphasis Mawlana Hazar Imam places on our Jamatkhanas and Ismaili Centres as spaces for fostering unity within the Jamat, and stronger, collaborative ties with the communities amongst whom we live.
“These are places where Ismailis and non-Ismailis, Muslims and non-Muslims, will gather for shared activities… they will also, we trust, be filled with the sounds of enrichment, dialogue and warm human rapport, as Ismailis and non-Ismailis share their lives in a healthy gregarious spirit!
Yes! We are a community that welcomes the smile!”
Speech by Mawlana Hazar Imam at the Opening Ceremony of the Ismaili Centre, Toronto, September 2014.
USA Jamatkhanas play important role in diversity and pluralism
Jamatkhanas and Ismaili Centres play an important role in the lives of the Ismaili community in the USA but they also play a very important role in promoting diversity and pluralism in the communities where they exist.
Jamatkhanas share a natural affinity with many places of worship. Throughout the country, local Ismaili Councils have engaged with various faith communities, inviting them to tour Jamatkhanas to participate in programmes.
In the Midwest, the Ismaili Jamatkhana in Glenview has hosted children from the neighboring Glenview Community Church Sunday School, St. David's Episcopal School, and 300 students from Springman Middle School, as part of their social studies curriculum. They toured the building and participated in a discussion about Islam and the Ismaili tariqah.
For almost two decades, the Council for the Midwest has also participated in the annual Thanksgiving service organized by the Edgewater Community Religious Association, an alliance of roughly 20 Christian, Jewish, and Muslim congregations in north Chicago. The celebration this year was held at the Ismaili Jamatkhana. Rabbi Craig Marantz remarked on the “similarity of our compassion,” and said that, “Even though we are all created in God’s image, we come out in diverse ways.”
The Ismaili Jamatkhana and Center, Houston, has held an Eid luncheon for many years, and this year over 130 people, including state and city officials and people of diverse faiths and backgrounds attended the event, which also featured musical entertainment by renowned sitar maestro Ikhlaq Hussain Khan, and tabla artist Shantilal Shah.
Also in Texas, the Ismaili Jamatkhana, Plano, hosted an interfaith event where 150 people of diverse faiths were invited to learn more about the Shia Ismaili Muslim community and to build bridges with the greater Plano community. The event offered tours of the facility, featured a performance by the Ismaili Muslim Youth Choir, and a visit from Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere who remarked, “There’s a sense of warmth and acceptance I feel when I come here, a sense of belonging immediately.”
For several years, Atlanta's Lovett School students, teachers, and parents have been visiting the Ismaili Jamatkhana while exploring diverse places of worship in Islam, and to learn about Islamic architecture, ethics, and values.
Said Mary Beth Walker, the Lower School Chaplain, “Our main goal was to not just talk about how we are the same, but also how are we different.”
Literature, art, and music have been avenues through which to share culture for centuries, and offer an entertaining and educational medium through which to understand each others' traditions, faiths, and histories. Cultural programmes provide a safe space through which to explore the diversity of the world around us.
With this in mind, musical performances are recurring events offered by the Jamat, and Plano Jamatkhana has hosted the musical heritage of Central Asia, performed by the trio Ancient Moods, co-sponsored by the Aga Khan Music Initiative and the Ismaili Council for the Central US, as well as the HUM Ensemble, with sitar player Sandeep Das.
A qawwali performance was organized at the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Center in Houston, featuring the group Fanna-Fi-Allah. From the Indian Subcontinent, the audience was flown on a musical magical carpet to Spain, as the country's premier flamenco group, Solero Flamenco, illustrated the rhythms of this captivating art form.
Every year in New York since 2011, the Jamat has organized a Roz-e-Nur (Day of Light) event at the New York Headquarters Jamatkhana. The occasion is a celebration of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s first visit to Tajikistan in May 1995. It is a time when Tajik families celebrate by cooking palau and sweets, sing songs, maddoh and qasidas, and share memories and experiences.
Additional cultural programmes and interfaith collaborations are planned for the future at Jamatkhanas across the United States, and are expected to intensify following the opening of the Ismaili Center in Houston. They have provided a valuable opportunity for communities to come together and appreciate each other's traditions, and have allowed for lasting relationships to be built.
Situated in the mountains of Northern Pakistan, two new Jamatkhanas were opened last month in the valleys of Ishkoman and Puniyal in Gilgit-Baltistan. The inauguration ceremonies were attended by over 5,000 members of the Jamat.
The new spaces are located in areas of outstanding natural beauty. The Ishkoman valley runs north to south in the Northernmost part of Pakistan, and separates the Karakoram mountain range from the Hindu Kush. Puniyal, also a mountainous valley, translates from the Shina language to mean “basket of fruits.”
At the opening ceremony of the Ismaili Centre, Toronto in September 2014, Mawlana Hazar Imam remarked, “One of the ways in which Ismailis have expressed their identity wherever they have lived is through their places of prayer, known today as the Jamatkhana.”
The Jamatkhanas in Daien (Chatorkhand, Ishkoman) and Gitch (Singal, Puniyal) serve as a centre point for religious activities, and the inbuilt multi-purpose halls provide space for conducting social and educational activities such as early childhood development (ECD) classes.
“There is only one Diamond Jubilee School in the vicinity and it was difficult for the parents to travel to other areas due to harsh weather conditions,” said Jahangir Shah, President of the Ismaili Council for Chatorkhand. “The ECD hall in Jamatkhana has provided hope and will play a significant role in the development of young children of the Jamat. We feel lucky to have this facility at our doorstep.”
Highlighting the benefit of multiple social services offered under one roof in Daien Jamatkhana, President Shah said, “Through one window service, skill development training was given to the Jamati members and now four of them have shops through which they are now able to support their families.”
Built on high altitudes, the Jamatkhanas in Daien and Gitch have been constructed in collaboration with the community in Gilgit-Baltistan. They blend traditional design with modern structural and architectural methodologies. To address the seismic risk, harsh winter climate, and other challenges posed by the natural environment in the Northern region, the construction team relied on the disaster risk assessment capabilities of the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH), along with its decades-long experience with technologies and methodologies used in its Building and Construction Improvement Programme (BACIP).
Experts at AKAH conducted Hazard Vulnerability Risk Assessments at both sites in order to ensure safe zones for Jamatkhana construction. “After the assessment, AKAH hired the designers and provided top supervision throughout the construction period. From AKAH, the Architect and Buildings Manager took the lead and worked closely with the construction teams and the consultants to build the Jamatkhana,” said Tausif Ahmad, Head of Planning and Building at AKAH, Pakistan.
The Jamatkhana structures use the flexible BACIP galvanised wire which adjusts to the contours of uneven stone masonry, thus providing seismic resistance. Therefore, the new Jamatkhanas will not only create a space for the Jamat to gather for prayer, learning, and social functions, they will also act as shelters in the event of a natural disaster. Through sharing of best practice, these spaces will also encourage the Jamat and neighbouring communities to adopt similar construction practices in their own buildings.
With the potential to uplift the Jamat in a variety of ways, the new Jamatkhanas of Northern Pakistan are sure to be catalysts in improving the quality of life of all communities in the region.
Ismaili Centres empower youth to "study, celebrate, and pray"
Along with serving as symbols of the presence of the Ismaili community around the world, Ismaili Centres also act as meeting points for youth in the Jamat to connect, learn from, and interact with one another.
At the opening ceremony of the Ismaili Centre Toronto in 2014, Mawlana Hazar Imam said, “When our planning for the Toronto Ismaili Centre started in 1996, we decided to ask the younger generation of Ismailis about their vision for this building. What did they want it to represent? How did they see it functioning? In response, young people from the ages of 18 to 27 generously shared their aspirations with us. They told us that they wanted a building that would be forward looking, while also being anchored in traditional community values.”
Through each Centre’s unique programmes and events, young Ismailis have had numerous opportunities to come together and benefit from these buildings in ways that are unique to each region.
Ismaili Centre Dushanbe
“The Ismaili Centre is my favourite place to visit; I always feel so comfortable there,” said 16-year-old Fatima Mirzoeva. “It’s amazing that you can study, celebrate, and pray in the same place.”
Along with hosting religious education classes, the Ismaili Centre also offers tutoring in academic subjects including math, physics, and biology. These sessions allow students to practice and get extra help with the concepts they learn at school.
The variety of events held at the Centre also provides an opportunity for Tajik youth to come together. Recently, the local Jamat celebrated Khushiali by partaking in Madoh, a traditional singing event passed down to younger generations by the community’s elders.
“Because of the Ismaili Centre, we get to know our brothers and sisters in Dushanbe better,” said Fatima. “It brings together the local Ismaili community.”
Ismaili Centre Dubai
When 17-year-old Karim Jadavji first moved to Dubai, integrating into his new home was made easier thanks to the connections provided by the Ismaili Centre.
“It was a great, welcoming place to meet new people,” he said.
Through a variety of camps, sports tournaments, and activities, there are several ways in which youth are able to get involved. The Centre is also home to the Aga Khan Early Learning Centre, Dubai. This early childhood development facility is accredited with the UK National Day Nurseries Association and welcomes children of all backgrounds and nationalities.
Located across the street from the Centre is the Dubai Park, a gift from Mawlana Hazar Imam to the city of Dubai.
“The Dubai Park is really nice because everyone in the neighbourhood can go there,” said Karim. “The beautiful architecture of the Ismaili Centre and Park reflects the beautiful history of the region.”
Ismaili Centre London
“Seeing the Ismaili Centre sign in the tube station makes me proud because I know that the work that Mawlana Hazar Imam is doing is being recognised,” said 17-year-old Khaleel Jiwa.
Along with being a hub for young members of the Jamat, the Ismaili Centre also provides youth with the opportunity to participate in a variety of activities and serves as a marker of the Jamat’s presence in the UK.
During one of the programmes, youth from Jamatkhanas across the region spend the entire night at the Centre and have the chance to connect with each other while participating in different games and activities. This programme, and planning for events such as the European Sports Festival, allow students to meet one another and participate in different events while keeping an active lifestyle.
“The fact that it is in the middle of London makes me really proud,” said Khaleel. “Along with the new Aga Khan Centre, it is a symbol of our community to people of all faiths, and brings awareness to what Mawlana Hazar Imam is trying to achieve.”
Ismaili Centre Burnaby
“Given that Burnaby was amongst one of the first Centres to be built, us Vancouverites are very proud to have our identity as Ismailis represented this way,” explained 17-year-old Inaya Ali. “As Canadian Ismailis, we are honoured that Hazar Imam has placed so much trust in our Jamat in terms of maintaining this establishment.”
Lectures and workshops are regularly hosted in the Centre to benefit youth in the Jamat. Recent events have included a children’s robotics exhibition and a session for young artists with the musical duo Salim-Sulaiman.
The Centre’s social hall and surrounding green spaces have allowed for numerous events and activities, including those that welcome non-Ismailis such as scouting, seminars on law enforcement, lectures on the future of technology, and other networking events.
Ismaili Centre Toronto
“The Ismaili Centre plays an important role in the lives of many youth across Toronto,” said 17-year-old Rumsha Panjwani. “The Centre provides a space for lots of involvement as well as educational opportunities. It allows Ismaili youth from all around the city to learn more about our identity. Being an Ismaili, walking by the Centre everyday makes me feel so proud.”
Rumsha also explained how, through her eyes, this establishment represents the large Ismaili presence in Canada and fosters peace, pluralism, and unity, which is a huge part of our ethics and values. “This Centre serves as a symbol of our strong relationship with society in Canada.”
The events held in the Centre, such as educational workshops and lectures, encourage youth to express their culture and love for the Imam through the mediums of art and dance, which gives them an opportunity to appreciate the talents in our Jamat. Not only does the Centre, as well as the neighbouring Aga Khan Museum, serve as a communal space for Ismailis, it also provides an opportunity to build relationships with other Torontonians.
Ismaili Centre Lisbon
To 17-year-old Hannah Sofia Sabjaly, the Ismaili Centre is much more than just an area for devotion and reflection. It is a safe place that brings fellow Ismaili brothers and sisters together, giving them a chance to interact through the different events that take place there. The Centre hosts numerous workshops and educational sessions on a regular basis so that young minds are stimulated by discussion. The majority of the events aim to connect teens and to make them feel included in the community.
“This Centre is a reflection of our history, our ethics, and our culture, not only as Ismailis but also as members of the Portuguese society,” she explained.
Portugal contains such a rich Islamic history, dating back to the early 700s CE. This presence has left some cultural heritage there, which can clearly be seen in the art and architecture. Today, the Centre is considered to be an architectural landmark in Lisbon.
Hannah Sofia stated how proud she is of the connection between her faith and country. “Both Islamic and Portuguese ethics share common fundamental principles, and the Centre acts as a constant reminder of them: pluralism, tolerance, inclusiveness, and respect towards others.”
The Republic of Burundi is a landlocked country in the African Great Lakes region of East Africa, bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east and south, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. Burundi is a part of the Albertine Rift, the western extension of the East African Rift. Currency: Burundi Franc (FBu) Official language: Kirundi, French Population: 10.5 million. It joined the East African Community in July 2007.
Bujumbura Burundi Jamatkhana was built in around 1949, and was renovated around 2007.
Ismaili Centres: Spaces that uplift mind and spirit
Situated in six cities around the world, the Ismaili Centres are places of contemplation and congregation, peace and prayer, humility and hope, discovery and dialogue, and equanimity and enlightenment.
In his remarks at the Foundation Ceremony of the Ismaili Centre Dubai in 2003, Mawlana Hazar Imam defined the purpose and the unique characteristics of an Ismaili Centre as:
“At a time when the search for mutual understanding remains essential to assuring peace and stability, the creation of spaces that will enable that search becomes a greater imperative than ever. It is my humble prayer that, when built, the Ismaili Centre in Dubai will be a place for contemplation and search for enlightenment, where people come together to share knowledge and wisdom. It will be a place of peace, of order, of hope and of brotherhood, radiating those thoughts, attitudes and sentiments which unite, and which do not divide, and which uplift the mind and the spirit.”
Ismaili Centres therefore serve as a bridge between our community’s heritage and our aspirations for the future, a statement of where we have come from and of our permanent home in the places we now reside.
In 1979, the foundation stone was laid for the first Ismaili Centre, in the South Kensington area of London. The completed high-profile building was officially opened by then prime minister Margaret Thatcher and Mawlana Hazar Imam in April 1985 — a historic event which marked a new phase of the Ismaili community’s presence in Europe. Several months later, in August, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney joined Mawlana Hazar Imam to open the second Ismaili Centre in Burnaby, British Columbia, an area where Ismailis had first settled in the country more than a decade earlier.
Each Ismaili Centre contains a space for prayer — a space we refer to as the Jamatkhana. The word Jamatkhana is a combination of two words; Jamat, meaning community or gathering; and Khana, meaning house or place. Jamatkhana therefore is a place where the community comes together for a variety of purposes, often including congregational prayer, expressions of piety, and personal search.
The third Ismaili Centre was opened in Lisbon in 1998. The Muslim heritage of Portugal made it appropriate for the Centro Ismaili to draw inspiration from many influences, including the distant but familiar heritage of Moorish architectural forms in the Iberian peninsula. In particular, the interplay and combination of outdoor and indoor spaces give the building a unique aesthetic feel, reflecting the local context as well as aspects of Islam's architectural heritage.
In ensuring that the buildings are aesthetically pleasing, inside and out, Ismaili Centres remind the world that beauty is significant. Often incorporating courtyards and gardens with flowing water, the Ismaili Centres instil a sense of peace and serenity in visitors. The elegant appeal of these elements is one way in which the Jamat gives back to the communities in which we live, and is also a reflection of the Islamic tradition which gives beauty its own intrinsic value.
The Ismaili Centre, Dubai was opened in March 2008 during Mawlana Hazar Imam's Golden Jubilee, which commemorated 50 years since his accession as the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims. The Centre is comparable in scope and architectural standing to its predecessors in London, Burnaby, and Lisbon. Built on land donated by the Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the Ismaili Centre unites in its construction and décor the experiences and aesthetics of the past with the materials of the present, in order to meet the needs and objectives of the future.
The Foundation Ceremony for the first Ismaili Centre in Central Asia was held in August 2003 in Tajikistan, after which the Ismaili Centre Dushanbe was opened by President Emamoli Rahmon in October 2009.
The Ismaili Centres open their doors beyond the Jamat, and welcome diverse communities among whom Ismailis live. As demonstrated through exceptional architecture, the Centres act as representational buildings, symbolising the aspirations of the Jamat and Ismaili Imamat, while marking the community’s integration into the societies in which they live.
In May 2010, Prime Minister Stephen Harper laid the foundation stone for the Ismaili Centre in Toronto, Canada. Although each of the Ismaili Centres have incorporated green spaces and gardens, this was the first Centre to be built within a park which also incorporates the Aga Khan Museum. The Centre and Museum opened in September 2014.
These buildings, unique in architectural form yet forged in a common spirit, embody the hopeful aspirations of a forward-looking community. As Mawlana Hazar Imam said at the opening ceremony of the Ismaili Centre in Toronto, “These are places where Ismailis and non-Ismailis, Muslims and non-Muslims, will gather for shared activities — seminars and lectures, recitals and receptions, exhibitions and social events. These meeting halls and lounges, work offices and conference rooms will serve the organisational needs of the Ismaili community. But they will also, we trust, be filled with the sounds of enrichment, dialogue and warm human rapport, as Ismailis and non-Ismailis share their lives in a healthy gregarious spirit!”
The design draws its inspiration and design vocabulary from the vernacular architecture of the area; the majestic, tall Poplar trees, its spectacular setting, the local materials and construction techniques. The Project is seamless in the integration of architecture and interior design, interior spaces and exterior spaces with the use of local materials such as stone, wood and Lapis Lazuli. The interior ceiling is inspired by the rotated squares found in Pamiri Houses.
With the increased arrival of Ismailis into Atlanta in the 1980s, there was a need for a larger permanent building for the community's spiritual and social needs. The Atlanta Ismaili Jamatkhana, located in Decatur, opened in 1988 as the first purpose-built Ismaili Jamatkhana in the United States.
The architect was Vancouver-based Farouk Noormohamed who later designed the Ismaili Center Dushanbe and the recently inaugurated Khorog Ismaili Jamatkhana in Tajikistan. Farouk was assisted by the local architect team of Dean Designs Atlanta and architect Zamila Karimi who now teaches at the College of Architecture and Construction Management at Kennesaw State University.
One enters the Jamatkhana through the courtyard surrounded by a verdant lawn. The lawn is adorned by beautiful plants and a water fountain, a symbol of purity and paradise that masks the street noise beyond. It is immediately clear that this is a place of serenity and tranquillity.
The grand entrance portal of the Ismaili Jamatkhana is situated in the center of the building and contains Arabic calligraphy on the brick and marble façade. The frosting on the glass above the entrance reads “Ali,” in reference to the first Shia Imam whose name represents the Gate to the City of Knowledge.
The surrounding stucco, glass, and jali (perforated stone or lattice-work) contain geometric patterns and calligraphy saying “Allah” in Arabic Kufic script. The repetitive design reminds worshippers of the infinite nature of the Creator. The white stucco under the exterior windows is engraved geometric patterns made by Al-Ummah Camp participants from the United States and Canada.
The lobby, also decorated with framed jali works, features a Proclamation presented by Governor Nathan Deal to Mawlana Hazar Imam on the occasion of his Diamond Jubilee visit to Atlanta in March 2018, recognizing his service to humanity over the last 60 years.
The Library contains books, many of which were published by the Institute of Ismaili Studies, (IIS) and the Aga Khan Museum, to remind visitors of the importance of seeking knowledge and the intellectual tradition of the Ismaili tariqah.
Adjacent to the Library are the Administrative Offices of the Ismaili Council for the Southeastern United States, and on the other side are the Religious Education classrooms. Religious Education classes teach Muslim civilizations and ethics ranging from primary level, taught by volunteers, to secondary level, taught by professional teachers with a dual Masters in Education and Muslim Studies from the IIS. There is also a room for Early Childhood Learning that utilizes a Montessori curriculum to engage in secular and faith and moral-based learning to help develop global leaders who have an inclusive and pluralistic outlook.
In the Prayer Hall, the qibla wall is a jali which allows light to filter through, symbolizing the grace of God illuminating our lives and reminding the worshipers of the inextricable connection in Islam between the spiritual and material. Geometric shapes and tessellations create endless patterns, referencing the infinite nature of the Divine and the unity of the creation. On the side windows are calligraphic renderings of Allah, Ali, and Muhammad, which allow natural light to filter in, making the Prayer Hall a peaceful and quiet space for personal search and congregational prayers.
The Ismaili Jamatkhana has been host to numerous events for the public around Atlanta. Events engage the community in dialogue and strive to reflect the diversity and pluralism within the Muslim Ummah. A recent Mediation Forum, for example, drew a large attendance of peacemakers and law enforcement officials to the Jamatkhana as did the Nonpartisan Candidate Forum for the Georgia House of Representatives and State Senate candidates. Sixteen candidates from the 2018 election cycle, equally representing the Republican and Democratic parties, shared their viewpoints with over 200 attendees from the wider community.
Events for the public where the Jamat and diverse communities of Atlanta can exchange knowledge and discuss issues of common interest, continue to expand. These include Interfaith gatherings, Eid celebrations with civic leaders, book launches, service initiatives, film shows, and speaker series. These serve one of the major objectives of an Ismaili Jamatkhana - that of being a valued and contributing element in the social fabric of the larger community.
Interview with Dr Sharofat Mamadambarova, President of the Ismaili Council for Tajikistan
As part of a new interview series, Dr Sharofat Mamadambarova discusses the recent opening of the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre, Khorog; its construction, design, and the role it will fulfil for the Jamat in Tajikistan in the years ahead. The.Ismaili is pleased to publish this interview on the 3-month anniversary of the Jamatkhana's opening.
At the foot of the Pamir mountains, and situated beside Khorog City Park and the Gunt River, the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre in Khorog provides a purpose-built space for congregation, contemplation, and contribution to civil society. The Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre, Khorog opened its doors to the Jamat on 12 December 2018.
TI: Ya Ali Madad President Saheba, and thank you for speaking with The.Ismaili today. We would like to wish you mubarak on the recent opening of the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre in Khorog.
President: Mubarak, or as we say in Shugni, muborak to the global Jamat. We hope our brothers and sisters around the world will share in our happiness.
TI: How does it feel to have this new purpose-built Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre in Khorog?
President: The Jamat was indeed very happy and joyous to hear of the completion of the building project. Along with the Ismaili Centre in Dushanbe, which opened in 2009 — and has been serving as a cultural space for Ismailis and others in the country’s capital city — the Jamatkhana in Khorog is a new chapter in the history of Tajikistan.
During the foundation ceremony in 2008, Mawlana Hazar Imam said, “It is my hope that the town of Khorog will become the Jewel of the Pamir.” The addition of the University of Central Asia campus and other AKDN developments are significantly contributing to this vision. For example, a medical and diagnostic centre, and early childhood development centres, coupled with the Government’s massive investments in energy and utilities to expand the electricity network, and in transportation to connect the country, and now with the establishment of the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre, we are very happy that this transformation is becoming a reality.
TI: Can you share with us the thought process behind this building?
President: Mawlana Hazar Imam expressed that the Jamatkhana should aim to fulfil both a spiritual and intellectual role. Moreover, he wished for the space to preserve the traditions and rituals of the Shia Ismaili tariqah, and for the Centre to serve as a space for spiritual and secular cooperation in Islam.
In this building, Jamati members can find a place of peace, where the spirit of the community is united. The Jamatkhana and Centre has also been built with an eye on the years and decades ahead; in line with our emphasis on the importance of knowledge, it is a place for the moral and ethical education of future generations of the Jamat.
TI: At what stage of the planning of this project did you become involved?
President: I was fortunate to be able to participate in discussions around the planning, construction, and various other activities relating to the building project, similar to my involvement with the Ismaili Centre Dushanbe and University of Central Asia. I am really proud to serve during this exciting time in Tajikistan. In July 2015, during a meeting with Mawlana Hazar Imam, it was a privilege for my team and I to be assigned to oversee the project. I was asked to convey his message of blessings to the Jamat at the beginning of construction. Having attended the recent opening of the completed Jamatkhana, it is a source of gratitude and pride.
TI: Can you tell us about the architectural and artistic features that stand out to you?
President: The Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre in Khorog is a symbol of the traditions, culture, and art of the people of Gorno-Badakhshan. Within Tajikistan historically, residents of mountainous areas have been characterised by modest means but strong beliefs. To preserve their faith over thousands of years, they leveraged various resources, including architecture. In particular, the traditional Pamiri house, with its five pillars, four layered ceilings, a basement, and a furnace, is where residential life and spirituality intermingle (The pillars represent the panjtan pak - the Prophet Muhammad and his family (peace be upon them); while the ceilings represent the natural elements of earth, water, air, and fire).
The residents of the house traditionally worship God, through performing prayers and reciting devotional literature. As such, the home is often considered a holy site. The Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre reflects the unique design of the Pamiri house within the mountainous landscape. The Centre is therefore a great example of the art and culture of the Ismailis of Badakhshan.
In its design, we not only see the past and present; we also see the future. Similar to other buildings and infrastructure projects developed by the Ismaili Imamat, this building and its surrounding area reflects the importance of nature and the natural environment, which we all share, and must protect for the next generation.
TI: How will the new building and grounds benefit the Jamat here in Khorog?
President: The potential impact of the Centre on local residents, and the region of Badakhshan more broadly, is difficult to articulate in a few words. The new building will however provide a place for the Jamat and others to make a contribution to society, through collaboration and informed dialogue. The Centre will aim to bring together the people of Badakhshan to fulfil Mawlana Hazar Imam’s aspiration for us to live up to the expectations of the environment we live in.
In today’s faced-paced and rapidly changing world, the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre will offer a calm, peaceful, and contemplative space in which to reflect on the greatness of God, and the beauty of the world.
There are many Jamatkhanas in India, a handful of which have celebrated over a century of existence. In this article we will explore three of India’s oldest Jamatkhanas, including their histories, architecture, and the role they play in the community today.
California Assemblyman and Milpitas Mayor Visit New Milpitas Jamatkhana
“This is one of the most peaceful places in the City of Milpitas” -Rick Tran, Mayor of Milpitas
The recent opening of the Milpitas Jamatkhana was celebrated with an open house where community members were invited and provided with a guided tour of the new center. California Assemblyman Kansen Chu, Milpitas Chief of Police Armando Corpuz, and Superintendent of Milpitas Unified School District Cheryl Jordan were amongst the invited guests.
During the event, President Muneerah Merchant accepted a Certificate of Recognition from the California Legislature on behalf of the Aga Khan Council, and Mayor Tran presented a certificate recognizing the leadership of the Ismaili community and congratulating the community for the opening of the new center.
The Ismaili Health Professionals Network was also recognized by the California Legislature for their tremendous response to the Northern California Wildfires, having sent 25 volunteers and providing over 250 hours of service at the Butte County Red Cross Shelter.
“We were able to make a difference in the lives of those affected by the wildfires and that is what it’s all about—to make a difference,” commented Munira Wali, one of the many AKU nurses that volunteered her time to the shelter.
The new Jamatkhana features a designated room for relatives of Interfaith Families, an extensive library featuring publications from the Institute of Islamic Studies for all ages, and Islamic design found throughout the center. “The geometric designs and lighting paired with neutral colors invoke peace, tranquility, and spiritual connection,” said Sheila Lalani. “The entire space has a modern feel and transports you from the busy world of Silicon Valley to a spiritual, meditative place, where one can connect with our inner self and higher being.”
Ismailis from the Bay Area have actively participated in the Milpitas community for over 30 years. The new Jamatkhana replaces the prior one that was located only two miles away. The Jamat has volunteered regularly at food pantries, wildlife preservation events, and provided care packages for the homeless over the years. “It is a wonderful place,” said Chief Corpuz during the guided tour of the center, “but it is the people who make it more special.”
The Jamatkhana not only provides a place of congregation for Ismailis, but also serves as an inviting and peaceful place where the community can integrate and collaborate. “Ismailis in the Bay Area are in such a unique position in that we live in one of the most thriving, diverse, and metropolitan hubs in the world,” explained Sheila, a finance program manager for Google. She believes that Ismailis inherently have a responsibility to the communities in which they live to give back and offer their time and knowledge as best they can. “Being Ismaili in the Bay Area means that we have a unique opportunity to be ambassadors of our faith and make a difference.”
If structures could talk, then the huge, majestic building at the junction of Moi Avenue and River Road would narrate rich tales of Nairobi’s history.
Widely referred to as Khoja Mosque, its true name is Nairobi Town “JamatKhana”, meaning “prayer house or mosque”.
Khoja was built by members of the Ismaili community under their spiritual leader, the Aga Khan.
Its construction was completed in 1922.
Out of the original 32,000 Indian men who came to work on the “Uganda” Railway, about 6,700 opted to remain in Kenya after completing the assignment in 1902.
Before the completion of the railway, there already was a nascent community of Indian traders on the coastal strip who were hindered from venturing inland by the hostile environment.
As the Indians made their way inland, Khoja Mosque became the focal point of new businesses.
It is credited with stimulating the growth of Bazaar Street, later named Biashara Street.
Biashara is the Kiswahili for “commerce” or “trade”.
Today, not even the blaring horns of matatus, crowds or the exhibition stalls outside can disrupt the tranquillity of the mosque.
One just needs to take a step into the Victorian-style three-storey building to put the hustle and bustle of the city behind.
The iconic building, which celebrated its 96th anniversary in 2018, has withstood the dynamics of Kenya’s capital.
It also symbolised the permanent settlement of the Ismaili community in colonial Kenya.
It is said that during its heyday, hundreds of visitors would trek from the now heavily populated Ngara and Eastleigh areas — some even barefoot — to jostle for a place to sit inside the impressive mosque.
During festive occasions in the past, the magnificence of the building would be accentuated at night when the many bulbs on its exterior walls would be switched on.
The mosque expresses the beauty of Indo-Islamic architecture.
It has been gazetted by the National Museums of Kenya as a national monument.
Posted: Sun May 26, 2019 9:22 am Post subject: Kalupur Jamatkhana in Ahmedabad
This historical KALUPUR Jamatkhana of Ahmedabad, Gujrat was built in 1917 as says the plate. (See image) There is no space for parking or lift. It is in a heavy traffic area, situated near Moti Mahal restaurant and Moti Bakery in May 2019. Only few people are now attending this very peaceful and exceptional JK at night unless Fridays and Chhandrat when there are about 60 to 80. Also during Satada, there is good attendance in parorio mijlas, around 30.
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