Mawlana Hazar Imam has remarked that Ismaili Centres have come to be seen as "ambassadorial buildings, which today reflect and illustrate much of what the Shia Ismaili community represents." These centres serve as a bridge between the Ismaili community and the communities where Ismailis live. There are six such buildings around the world, in London, Lisbon, Dubai, Dushanbe, Burnaby, and Toronto. Each building is unique both in architectural style as well as functionality. This photo essay depicts the beauty of these buildings, with quotes by Mawlana Hazar Imam on their function and importance.

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“The congregational space incorporated within the Ismaili Centre belongs to the historic category of jamatkhana, an institutional category that also serves a number of sister Sunni and Shia communities, in their respective contexts, in many parts of the world. Here, it will be space reserved for traditions and practices specific to the Shia Ismaili Tariqah of Islam.”

— Speech by Mawlana Hazar Imam at the foundation ceremony of the Ismaili Centre Dubai, 13 December 2003

 

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“The Tajik Ismaili community has roots in this region that extend back more than a thousand years, as long ago as the second century of Islam. The community holds a recognised and admired position in the history of human endeavour here, contributing some of the greatest names in the fields of theology, philosophy, poetry and the sciences. This new Centre will be a place for looking back on that rich and powerful history in grateful and solemn remembrance. It will be a place, as well, for peaceful contemplation of the spirit, and of the world, as we live our lives in the present moment. And it will be a place to think about the future and how this profound heritage can shape and inform tomorrow's world. This Centre aspires to give physical form and spiritual space for pursuing all of these objectives.”

— Speech by Mawlana Hazar Imam at the opening ceremony of the Ismaili Centre, Dushanbe, 26 March 2008

 

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“The space that the Centre will create in the midst of this historic city will, I hope, serve as a bridge linking and enriching various cultures of Europe with others of Africa and Asia, as it draws upon associations both from within and outside the Portuguese-speaking world. In so doing, the Centro Ismaili will, thus, follow the long tradition of Portuguese seafarers, who set off from this very port of Lisbon to those, then improbably distant lands, and who eventually succeeded in shortening distances between continents and peoples.”

— Speech by Mawlana Hazar Imam at the foundation ceremony of the Ismaili Centre Lisbon, 18 December 1996

 

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“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. Other Muslim communities give their religious buildings different names: from ribat and zawiyya to khanaqa. And, in addition, there are other places where Muslims of all interpretations can come together, such as non-denominational mosques."

— Speech by Mawlana Hazar Imam at the opening ceremony of the Ismaili Centre Toronto, 12 September 2014

 

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“It is probably true to say that eventually Ismailis, like other groups which have settled in the United Kingdom permanently, may lose touch with their original languages and adopt many aspects of British life. But they are certain to seek to maintain their faith and their traditions, whilst accepting what seems best and most appropriate from Western civilisation. This building is more than simply a place of congregation. Through the quality of its design and workmanship, it will be a bridge between the culture of the community's roots and that of its future as well as a symbol of the hopes of people who have lived through change and turbulence and have ultimately found security here in Britain.”

— Speech by Mawlana Hazar Imam at the opening ceremony of the Ismaili Centre, London, 24 April 1985

 

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“We see the mark of Islamic tradition in many realms of Portuguese culture: in its architecture, in its language, in its music, so that this Centre should never seem alien or out-of-place in Lisbon. It will be public in the sense that members of the community will use the site to walk in, converse in, and enjoy, and when it is being used by the non-Ismaili community of Lisbon, they will also be invited to enjoy the site. In other words, the Ismaili Centre in Lisbon will be able to envisage activities which could not be accommodated at either of the other Ismaili Centres in the West.”

— Speech by Mawlana Hazar Imam at the foundation ceremony of the Ismaili Centre Lisbon, 18 December 1996

 

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“We owe a great deal to all who have made gifts of time and treasure and endeavour to this project, including, most especially, the Ismaili community in Canada and around the world who have contributed to the development of Ismaili Centres and Jamatkhanas, and to the fund which was set up to commemorate my Golden Jubilee. This project has been designated as a Golden Jubilee project, and is a beneficiary of those generous gifts.”

— Speech by Mawlana Hazar Imam at the foundation ceremony of the Ismaili Centre Toronto, 28 May 2010

 

 

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“The Ismaili community has sought to create a building here which is both Islamic in its architectural inspiration and of a quality to enhance the overall distinction of Burnaby. The Jamatkhana is designed to be a social and cultural centre, as well as a place of congregation. It expresses the Ismailis' desire to give of their best to the cultural and economic fabric of Canada. They are proud that it symbolises their commitment both to this country's future and their ancient heritage. Nor is there any dichotomy in this dual aim. Muslims believe their faith is not for one time, but for all times and so there cannot be conflict between tradition and modernity.”

— Speech by Mawlana Hazar Imam at the opening ceremony of the Ismaili Centre Burnaby, 23 August 1985

 

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“The continuing pluralism of human endeavour will be manifested in the life of this Centre. It will be reflected in an array of exciting activities, serving people of many different backgrounds. The Centre will have a space for congregational gathering, just like the array of Ismaili Centres in major cities across the world, both those which are now being developed and those that already exist, from London to Vancouver and Lisbon to Dubai. In addition, we hope and trust that people of all faiths and background will gather here for educational and cultural events – for seminars, lectures, recitals and exhibitions. We will seek to demonstrate that spiritual insight and worldly knowledge are not separate or opposing realms, but that they must always nourish one another, and that the world of faith and the material world are the dual responsibilities of humankind.”

— Speech by Mawlana Hazar Imam at the opening ceremony of the Ismaili Centre, Dushanbe, 26 March 2008

 

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“It is my conviction that the building of this Centre is symbolic of a growing understanding of Islam. For some centuries past, the Muslim world has lived in shadow as far as the West was concerned. Muslim civilisation and society were poorly understood, or not understood at all. Apart from a few exceptional and dedicated men, there was no communications and almost no desire to be informed. Now we see that conditions have changed. This building and the prominence of the place it has been given indicate the seriousness and the respect the West is beginning, to accord Muslim civilisation, of which the Ismaili community, though relatively small, is fully representative. May this understanding, so important for the future of the world, progress and flourish.”

— Speech by Mawlana Hazar Imam at the foundation ceremony of the Ismaili Centre, London, 6 September 1979

 

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“The new building will stand in strongly landscaped surroundings. It will face a courtyard with foundations and a garden. Its scale, its proportions and the use of water will serve to create a serene and contemplative environment. This will be a place of congregation, of order, of peace, of prayer, of hope, of humility, and of brotherhood. From it should come forth those thoughts, those sentiments, those attitudes, which bind men together and which unite. It has been conceived and will exist in a mood of friendship, courtesy, and harmony.”

— Speech by Mawlana Hazar Imam at the foundation ceremony of the Ismaili Centre Burnaby, 26 July 1982

 

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“Today's ceremony marks an event that I believe to be as significant for the contemporary landscape of this region as it is historic for the Ismaili Muslim community worldwide. 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.”

— Speech by Mawlana Hazar Imam at the foundation ceremony of the Ismaili Centre Dubai, 13 December 2003

 

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“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. They also wanted a building in which they could strengthen their personal relationships -– a place where they could not only unite in prayer, but could also develop new life-shaping associations — amongst themselves and with other Canadians."

— Speech by Mawlana Hazar Imam at the opening ceremony of the Ismaili Centre Toronto, 12 September 2014

 

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“These Centres serve to reflect, illustrate and represent the community's intellectual and spiritual understanding of Islam, its social conscience, its organisation, its forward outlook and its positive attitude towards the societies in which it lives.”

— Speech by Mawlana Hazar Imam at the foundation ceremony of the Ismaili Centre, Dushanbe, 30 August 2003

 

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“The Ismaili Centre in Lisbon will bring to Portugal's capital city new buildings and open landscaped spaces which aspire to be unique in quality and design, which will hopefully carry with them also a certain prestige. The city of Lisbon is a metropolis comprised of Portugal's Government, numerous communities, public and private institutions – all of which have many international links. And of course, Lisbon has long been a world centre of culture, and an integral part of human history."

— Speech by Mawlana Hazar Imam at the foundation ceremony of the Ismaili Centre Lisbon, 18 December 1996

 

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"What we dedicate today is what we identify as an Ismaili Centre — a building that is focused around our Jamatkhana, but which also includes many secular spaces. 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!”

— Speech by Mawlana Hazar Imam at the opening ceremony of the Ismaili Centre Toronto, 12 September 2014

 

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“At this juncture, perhaps, it would be appropriate to situate one of the functions of the Ismaili Centre in the tradition of Muslim piety. For many centuries, a prominent feature of the Muslim religious landscape has been the variety of spaces of gathering co-existing harmoniously with the masjid, which in itself has accommodated a range of diverse institutional spaces for educational, social and reflective purposes. Historically serving communities of different interpretations and spiritual affiliations, these spaces have retained their cultural nomenclatures and characteristics, from ribat and zawiyya to khanaqa and jamatkhana."

— Speech by Mawlana Hazar Imam at the foundation ceremony of the Ismaili Centre Dubai, 13 December 2003

 

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“We hope the Ismaili Centre, and its activities and programmes developed here by various components of the Aga Khan Development Network, will succeed in presenting the Ismaili community of Portugal and the world community, as a community and an interpretation of Islam which are intellectually strong and humanistic in outlook. We hope that this initiative will reflect a community living in Portugal which, through its Centre and activities, will share its strong social conscience with the widest spectrum of people and faiths in Lisbon and further abroad.”

— Speech by Mawlana Hazar Imam at the foundation ceremony of the Ismaili Centre Lisbon, 18 December 1996