Jamatkhanas share a natural affinity with many places of worship. Throughout the country, local Ismaili Councils have engaged with various faith communities, inviting them to tour Jamatkhanas to participate in programmes.
In the Midwest, the Ismaili Jamatkhana in Glenview has hosted children from the neighboring Glenview Community Church Sunday School, St. David's Episcopal School, and 300 students from Springman Middle School, as part of their social studies curriculum. They toured the building and participated in a discussion about Islam and the Ismaili tariqah.
For almost two decades, the Council for the Midwest has also participated in the annual Thanksgiving service organized by the Edgewater Community Religious Association, an alliance of roughly 20 Christian, Jewish, and Muslim congregations in north Chicago. The celebration this year was held at the Ismaili Jamatkhana. Rabbi Craig Marantz remarked on the “similarity of our compassion,” and said that, “Even though we are all created in God’s image, we come out in diverse ways.”
The Ismaili Jamatkhana and Center, Houston, has held an Eid luncheon for many years, and this year over 130 people, including state and city officials and people of diverse faiths and backgrounds attended the event, which also featured musical entertainment by renowned sitar maestro Ikhlaq Hussain Khan, and tabla artist Shantilal Shah.
Also in Texas, the Ismaili Jamatkhana, Plano, hosted an interfaith event where 150 people of diverse faiths were invited to learn more about the Shia Ismaili Muslim community and to build bridges with the greater Plano community. The event offered tours of the facility, featured a performance by the Ismaili Muslim Youth Choir, and a visit from Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere who remarked, “There’s a sense of warmth and acceptance I feel when I come here, a sense of belonging immediately.”
For several years, Atlanta's Lovett School students, teachers, and parents have been visiting the Ismaili Jamatkhana while exploring diverse places of worship in Islam, and to learn about Islamic architecture, ethics, and values.
Said Mary Beth Walker, the Lower School Chaplain, “Our main goal was to not just talk about how we are the same, but also how are we different.”
Literature, art, and music have been avenues through which to share culture for centuries, and offer an entertaining and educational medium through which to understand each others' traditions, faiths, and histories. Cultural programmes provide a safe space through which to explore the diversity of the world around us.
With this in mind, musical performances are recurring events offered by the Jamat, and Plano Jamatkhana has hosted the musical heritage of Central Asia, performed by the trio Ancient Moods, co-sponsored by the Aga Khan Music Initiative and the Ismaili Council for the Central US, as well as the HUM Ensemble, with tabla player Sandeep Das.
A qawwali performance was organized at the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Center in Houston, featuring the group Fanna-Fi-Allah. From the Indian Subcontinent, the audience was flown on a musical magical carpet to Spain, as the country's premier flamenco group, Solero Flamenco, illustrated the rhythms of this captivating art form.
Every year in New York since 2011, the Jamat has organized a Roz-e-Nur (Day of Light) event at the New York Headquarters Jamatkhana. The occasion is a celebration of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s first visit to Tajikistan in May 1995. It is a time when Pamiri families celebrate by cooking palau and sweets, sing songs, maddoh and qasidas, and share memories and experiences.
Additional cultural programmes and interfaith collaborations are planned for the future at Jamatkhanas across the United States, and are expected to intensify following the opening of the Ismaili Center in Houston. They have provided a valuable opportunity for communities to come together and appreciate each other's traditions, and have allowed for lasting relationships to be built.
During the month of February, The.Ismaili will explore the theme of Jamatkhanas and Ismaili Centres by exploring the role they play in the lives of the community, and the ways in which they contribute to the quality of life of members of the Jamat and those amongst whom we live.