Harvest Green Jamatkhana opened in Houston

A feeling of awe overcomes one on entering a Jamatkhana for the first time, where nature and spirit, world and faith, physical and spiritual, are brought together in a harmonious balance. For Shia Ismaili Muslims around the world, Jamatkhanas are an integral part of gathering for congregational prayers, spiritual contemplation, community outreach, intellectual engagement, and forming strong communal bonds. The Harvest Green Ismaili Jamatkhana located in Greater Houston reflects these aspirations in a region that is home to the largest Ismaili population in the United States.

Experience the Divine in Sacred Spaces

Pic 8

The one-way drive encircles the Harvest Green Jamatkhana
The one-way drive encircles the Harvest Green Jamatkhana

Mawlana Hazar Imam has frequently spoken about the power of architecture as an expression of a community’s ideas and beliefs. At the Foundation Ceremony of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat, the Imam shared how architectural design can translate “concepts that have a context in our faith and our history, yet stride boldly and confidently ahead, into modernity… expressing both the exoteric and the esoteric…. In Islam, the Divine is reflected in Nature’s creation.” In speaking to this, he reminds us how Muslims have used the construction of their spaces to emphasize the inseparable nature of faith and world and how local architectural and cultural elements can be intermingled to create a rich contemporary expression of Islamic design.

The Harvest Green Jamatkhana achieves this balance in harmony with the surrounding environment while seamlessly embodying Islamic designs in its architecture. The features lend themselves to various interpretations and invite reflection upon matters of the spirit and the inspiration of human creativity.

Journey Through Harvest Green Jamatkhana

The iconic ‘butterfly roof’ immediately stands out as a distinct feature of the building, perhaps reminding visitors of an open book, symbolizing the search for knowledge or being analogous to bringing one’s hands together in prayer. Then, the one-way drive gracefully encircles the Jamatkhana, a design often found in sacred spaces that could represent the eternal and infinite – a characteristic commonly associated with Allah. Upon entering the space, visitors are surrounded by idyllic Islamic gardens in the charbagh (quadrilateral) design. The gardens include themes of water, light, and geometry, cornerstones of Islamic art and architecture. These representations allow the visitors to transition, in both body and spirit, from the focus of the physical into the spiritual.

With three entrances, built of locally-sourced Texas limestones, the Jamatkhana is divided into sections: (1) the Education Wing and Youth Zone, (2) the Social Wing, and (3) the Foyer and Prayer Hall, designed to meet the holistic needs of the community. A playground outside the Education Wing brings laughter and joy inside as children come together for activities and learning, while a separate entrance to the Social Wing allows for the Jamatkhana to hold multiple community events simultaneously.   

Islamic History and the Jamatkhana

Pic 1

Repeating geometric pattern in the foyer
Repeating geometric pattern in the foyer

As we journey more deeply into the Jamatkhana’s design, we see another feature commonly witnessed in Islamic architecture – geometric patterns incorporated in landscaping and interior design, epitomizing natural order, symmetry, and beauty. Often evoked by geometry is the idea of unity – where one feels part of the whole – as intricate, complex patterns are formed from simple, perfect shapes, commonly squares and circles. Repeated patterns in elaborate geometric designs remind us again of the infinite, creating a sense of tranquility, calmness, and balance.

Throughout history, the Ismaili Tariqah has found inspiration in many cultures and lived traditions. From the 7 x 7 grid pattern on the featured wall in the foyer, inspired by Granada’s Alhambra Palace, to rotated squares on the ceiling inspired by Pamiri homes in the Central Asian tradition, the Jamatkhana is filled with motifs capturing the diverse ummah’s rich and vibrant history. Emphasizing unity, many of these expressions come together to create layers of depth with light filtering into the space, creating artistic shadows. The themes are simple outside and become increasingly intricate within the building, which could symbolize the journey of discovering God by proximity.

Inner Journey into Oneself

Pic 2

The ceiling in the lobby and Jamatkhana includes.a large pattern illustrating five squares found in Pamiri homes
The ceiling in the lobby and Jamatkhana includes.a large pattern illustrating five squares found in Pamiri homes

In Shia Muslim belief, the Ahl al Bayt or the five people of the house referring to Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.), Hazrat Imam Ali (a.s.), Hazrat Bibi Fatima (a.s.), Hazrat Hasan (a.s.), and Hazrat Imam Husayn (a.s.) holds a very special status. Within the broader context of Islamic themes, the Jamatkhana incorporates a particular reverence towards this Shia belief within its architecture. Metaphorically, there are many examples of this in the Jamatkhana, including the gradient on the exterior back wall of the prayer hall, which has five different colors of bricks.

Finally, the Prayer Hall – centered around the qibla wall with the mihrab (a symbolic niche in the wall) – serves as a sanctuary within which the individual is invited to embark upon an inner journey to find a sense of peace and equanimity.

The Harvest Green Ismaili Jamatkhana reflects the Imam’s vision for the American Ismaili community. Underlining the spirit of Jamatkhanas, he has said: “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 unite. It has been conceived and will exist in a mood of friendship, courtesy, and harmony.”

To learn more about the Ismaili Jamatkhanas, please visit: