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.”