The Ismaili Centres provide opportunities for Ismailis to engage with non-Ismailis through social, cultural and intellectual exchange.

"These new buildings and the spaces within and around them, are in rich symbolism; drawing on the plurality of cultures which characterise Ismailis here, and around the world. The array of facilities included is a reflection of the core values of the Ismaili community, its organisation, its discipline, its social conscience, the importance of its community organisations, and its attitude toward the society in which it exists.” 

Mawlana Hazar Imam, Opening Ceremony of The Ismaili Centre, Lisbon, July 11, 1998

The Ismaili Centres are symbolic markers of the permanent presence of the Ismaili community in the regions in which they are established. They have developed more recently as a response to the Jamat’s settlement in new contexts and countries.

The Centres belong to the historic category of Jamatkhana, serving the community’s need for worship and gathering, while also housing a range of secular spaces where Ismailis can extend a hand of friendship to the broader community among whom they live.

The Centres provide opportunities for Ismailis to engage with non-Ismailis through social, cultural and intellectual exchange. As Mawlana Hazar Imam remarked at the opening ceremony of the Ismaili Centre, Dushanbe:

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.

Our faith teaches us to seek knowledge to better understand Allah’s creation and to use that knowledge in the service of others. According to the 11th century Ismaili scholar and poet Sayyidna Nasir-i-Khusraw, “Knowledge is a shield against the blows of time”; it dispels “the torment of ignorance” and nourishes “peace to blossom forth in the soul.” The Ismaili Centres offer a place for people to come together to share knowledge and wisdom. 

The architecture and aesthetics of these ambassadorial buildings seek to illustrate the core values of the Ismaili community, bridge tradition and modernity, dispel misperceptions of Islam, promote pluralism, and foster the exchange of culture and knowledge.

There are six Ismaili Centres around the world. The Centres in London and Burnaby were the first to be established in 1985. Four additional Centres have since opened in Lisbon, Dubai, Dushanbe and Toronto.   Each Centre draws from historic decorative traditions such as geometric patterns and calligraphy, structural features such as domes and arches, interplays of light and shadow, as well as water features. However, each Centre is uniquely designed to fit within the context of the country and community in which it is built.

Through their architecture and variety of uses, they are bridges of friendship and understanding, serving to enhance relationships with various faith communities, government and civil society. Inshallah, they will continue to be significant markers and symbols of our Shia Ismaili Muslim identity for generations to come.

As Mawlana Hazar Imam said at the foundation ceremony of the Ismaili Centre, Burnaby in 1982:

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.

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Learn more:

  1. The Ismaili Centres

  2. Ismaili Centre Resources

  3. Ismaili Centres chapter from Under the Eaves of Architecture: The Aga Khan: Builder and Patron by Philip Jodidio, 2008

Explore     Part 3: Situating Jamatkhanas within Diverse Muslim Spaces of Gathering and Piety

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