The word Jamatkhana is a combination of two words. The term Jamat means community or congregation, and the term khana, means house or place. Jamatkhana therefore means a place where the community gathers. It is a designated space for Shia Ismaili Muslims to perform tariqah practices, such as supplicatory prayers - du‘a, meditative sessions of remembrance - zikr, and the recitation of devotional poetry, such as ginans and qasidas.
Jamatkhanas are places of peace and tranquillity, of prayer and contemplation, of hope and upliftment, of humility, and of spiritual enlightenment. It is a space where we are further able to nurture and strengthen our personal relationship and spiritual bond with our Imam. When we are facing hardships, pain and suffering, we often attend Jamatkhana and supplicate to our mushkil kusha - the remover of difficulties - for solace, comfort and fortitude to overcome our troubles.
The Qur’an also refers to the sanctity and nobility of spaces of worship. In Sura An-Nur, we are told:
Allah’s Light is lit in houses, which Allah has allowed to be exalted, and that His Name should be remembered in them. He is glorified in them in the mornings and in the evenings by men [and women] who are not distracted … from the remembrance of Allah, performing prayers and the giving of charity.
The Jamatkhana is looked on as one such space where the Imam’s nur - light - is always present. When we enter this elevated space, we are encouraged to be conscious of his presence at all times, and to leave behind the distractions of the material world. We are then able to open ourselves up to the blessings of his Divine Light. The spiritual energy within the Jamatkhana space heals and nourishes our souls. And praying together - as a congregation - enables us to support and uplift each other in spiritual unity.
Jamatkhanas also act as hubs of social engagement, unity and brotherhood. Within this space, we educate ourselves and grow intellectually, while reinforcing our ethics and values and thereby reaffirming our identity as Shi‘a Ismaili Muslims. It is also here that we mark important events in our life cycle, such as birth, marriage and death. Jamatkhanas improve our quality of life and truly are a wonderful grace and blessing from Imam-e-Zaman, touching and impacting all dimensions of our lives.
It is Mawlana Hazar Imam’s hope that Jamatkhanas are not only spaces of happiness and spiritual intimacy, but they ought to play a larger role in the life of the Jamat, and the communities in which we live - opening channels of communication and opportunities for relationship-building. In a speech in 2003 at the Foundation Ceremony of the Ismaili Centre in Dubai, Mawlana Hazar Imam said:
“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.”