Muslim Spaces of Worship and Gathering

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Muslim Spaces of

Worship and Gathering





The Mosque / Masjid

Shrines and Related Spaces

The Cemevi

The Jamatkhana

The Mevlevihane and Sama‘khana

Spaces of Personal Retreat

Further Reading









Geometric Pattern:

A photograph of the geometric pattern that adorns

the interior of the Ismaili Centre Burnaby. In Islamic art

geometric patterns represent the symbol of unity and the

ultimate source of all diversity in creation.

Photo credit: Asif Lakhani.


Glass crystalline dome descending to a white onyx

translucent block. In designing the Ismaili Centre,

Toronto, Charles Correa’s vision was to create a building

that responds to the traditions of Islamic architecture in a

contemporary design using modern materials.

Photo credit: Gary Otte.


The historical formation of Muslim societies has resulted

in diverse communities of interpretation, reflecting a rich

intellectual, cultural, spiritual and institutional pluralism.

This diversity is invariably reflected in the formation of

Muslim spaces of worship and gathering throughout

history, and continues today.

This short introduction to Muslim spaces of worship and

gathering showcases aspects of the richness and diversity

of the worldwide Muslim community (Umma) through

the variety of spaces used for expressions of piety and

community gathering.

6 7

For many centuries, a prominent feature of the

Muslim religious landscape has been the variety of

spaces of gathering co-existing harmoniously with

the masjid, which in itself has accommodated a

range of diverse institutional spaces for educational,

social and reflective purposes. Historically serving

communities of different interpretations and spiritual

affiliations, these spaces have retained their cultural

nomenclatures and characteristics, from ribat and

zawiyya to khanaqa and jamatkhana.

His Highness the Aga Khan at Foundation Ceremony,

Dubai Ismaili Centre, 13 December, 2003

8 9


Baadshahi Mosque

Photo Credit: Credit: Guilhem Vellut, Creative Commons.

The Mosque / Masjid

The mosque/masjid is the most prominent

congregational space in the Muslim world,

however, little attention has been given to

its varied types and uses amongst Muslim

determine the nature of the rituals that take

place in a mosque and the considerations

to whether or not a mosque accommodates

one gender or both.


The word jami‘ refers to a place of communal

The English word ‘mosque’ refers, in

actuality, to a series of words used in the

languages spoken in the Muslim world. The

most common of these is masjid, a word of

Arabic origin, signifying a place where one

prostrates. In old Semitic languages such as

Aramaic, Nabatean, Syriac and Amharic, a

masjid refers to a place of worship of other

gathering, and is distinguished from a masjid

in that it accommodates large numbers of

congregants for the weekly Friday mid-day

prayer. In Indonesia, jami‘ is referred to

as masjid agung (great mosque), which is

usually a larger space than jami‘. The term

also signifies the ‘royal’ or ‘principal’ mosque

in a town or city.

religions as well. Over time, the word came

to be specifically referenced, in the Muslim

tradition, to the principal Muslim space for

gatherings and offering prayers.

Buildings dedicated as musallas, namazgahs

or namaz-khanas are usually informal spaces

used by Muslims for private or small group

prayers and can often be found in public places

The regional and historical developments of

the types of mosques, including the variety

of architectural features, is influenced by

a number of factors ranging from culture,

such as train and bus stations. In parts of the

Arab world, a musalla can also designate a

large space, usually on the outskirts of a city,

used twice yearly for the ‘Id or festival prayers.

language, politics and the forms and The term ‘Id-gah is used more commonly for

expressions of piety. These factors also such spaces amongst South Asian Muslims.

12 13

The Mosque of The Prophet

al-Masjid al-Nabawi

al-Madina al-Munawwara, Saudi Arabia

Built in 622 CE by the Muslim community

in Yathrib, later called al-Madina al-

Munawwara, the mosque of the Prophet

was situated next to the Prophet’s house.

It was essentially a square enclosure, built

with palm trunks and mud walls and was

accessed through three doors, Bab al-

Rahma, Bab Jibril and Bab al-Nisa’. Within

this enclosure, there was a shaded area to

the south called the suffrah, which aligned

the prayer space facing north, towards

Jerusalem. Later on, the Prophet changed

the direction of this space (qibla) to the

south – facing masjid al-Haram or the

Ka’ba, in the city of Mecca. Seven years

later, the mosque was doubled in size, to

accommodate the increasing number of


Floor plan of al-masjid al-Nabawi as it may

have looked in the time of the Prophet.

Credit: Keith Turner (Draftsman), MIT Libraries,

Aga Khan Documentation Centre.

Read more about al-Masjid al-Nabawi

Courtyard of al-Masjid al-Nabawi.

Credit: Adzril, Creative Commons.



A contemporary view of al-masjid al-Nabawi.

Credit: Elias Pirasteh, Creative Commons.



The Great Umayyad Mosque

al-Jami‘ al-Umawi al-Kabir

Damascus, Syria

The Great Umayyad Mosque in the old city

of Damascus, is the first monumental work

of architecture in the Muslim history. The

mosque is situated on the site of a Christian

basilica dedicated to St John the Baptist,

the Prophet Yahya, who is a figure of

reverence to both Christians and Muslims.

From 661 CE, during the reign of the first

Umayyad caliph Mu‘awiya, Muslims shared

the church with the Christians. They prayed

in the eastern section of the ancient temple

whilst the Christians prayed in the western


This collective use continued until the reign

of the fifth Ummayad caliph, al-Walid bin

Abdul Malik (d. 705 CE), when the prayer

space became inadequate. The caliph

negotiated takeover of the whole space by

the Muslims, promising safety to all other

churches around the city and the addition of

a new church which would be dedicated to

the Virgin, for Christians as compensation,

in return.

Read more about Jami‘ al-Umawi al-Kabir

TOP IMAGE: The Great Mosque

of the Umayyads in Damascus.

Credit: Dan, Creative Commons.


Qibla, prayer direction, and minbar, platform for issuing

sermons at the Great Mosque of Damascus.

Credit: Russell Harris, The Institute of Ismaili Studies.

Shrine housing the head of Prophet Yahya (St John the Baptist)

situated inside the Mosque space.

Credit: Russell Harris, The Institute of Ismaili Studies.


The Great Mosque of Mahdiyya

Mahdiyya, Tunisia

The Great Mosque of Al Azhar

Cairo, Egypt

Al-Jami‘ al-Kabir, the Great Mosque, of Mahdiyya was originally built in 916 CE by the

first Fatimid Imam-Caliph, Abd Allah al-Mahdi, the founder of the Fatimid dynasty.

Established in 909 CE as a Shi‘i caliphate in north Africa, the Fatimids posed a direct

challenge to the Abbasid caliphate, who ruled from Baghdad, and the Umayyads of

al-Andalus ruling from Cordoba, Spain. Mahdiyya, in present-day Tunisia, was capital

city founded by the Fatimids.

Watch a video clip of The Great Mosque of Mahdiyya; Read more about The Great

Mosque of Mahdiyya

In 973 CE, during the reign of fourth Fatimid

imam-caliph al-Mu‘izz, the caliphal seat

was transferred to the newly founded city

of Cairo, Egypt. Al-Azhar mosque was built

in Cairo and the first khutba, sermon, was

delivered from its pulpit, minbar, in 972

CE. From that time until today al-Azhar

has continued to serve as a distinguished

Muslim educational institution.

Other well-known surviving mosqueuniversities

from the early period of Islam

are Jami‘ al-Qarawiyyin in Fez, Morocco

and Jami‘ al-Zaytuna, in Tunis, Tunisia.

Read more about The Great Mosque of al-


Read about Fatimid Cairo as described by

Nasir-i Khusraw, an eleventh-century CE

Isma‘ili da‘i, philosopher and poet


The surviving Fatimid portal of the Great Mosque of Mahdiyya.

Credit: Shiraz Kabani, The Institute of Ismaili Studies.

Contemporary view of al-Azhar Mosque.

Credit: Nasser Rabat, MIT Libraries, Aga Khan Visual Archive.


The Great Mosque of Huajuexiang

Xian, China

The Great Mosque of Huajuexiang is the largest and best preserved of the early

mosques of China. Built in fifteenth century CE, during the reign of the Ming Dynasty.

The mosque is a great example of the use of Chinese architectural elements in mosque


Read more about Huajuexiang Mosque


A view of the courtyard of the mosque.

Credit: Preston Rhea, Creative Commons.


Interior view of the Mosque.

Credit: Rizwan Mawani, The Institute of

Ismaili Studies.

Entrance to the Great Mosque of Huajuexiang.

Credit: Mararie, Creative Commons.

22 23

Masjid-i Imam

Isfahan, Iran

Masjid-i Imam, formerly known as Masjid-i Shah, was commissioned in the early 17 th

century by Safavid Shah Abbas. The mosque was constructed on the south side of

Isfahan’s royal square, the maydan.

Read more about Masjid-i Imam

General View of Masjid-i Imam.

Credit: Daniel C. Waugh Archive, Aga Khan Documentation Centre at MIT.

The Portal of Masjid-i Imam.

Credit: Daniel C. Waugh Archive,

Aga Khan Documentation Centre at MIT.

24 25

Badshahi Masjid

Lahore, Pakistan

Considered one of the last great monuments

of the Mughal period, the mosque remains

the largest on the Indian subcontinent. It is

adjacent to the western wall of the Lahore

Fort, and was commissioned by the Emperor

Awrangzeb (1658-1707) to house a number

of relics of the Prophet.

Read more about the Badshahi Masjid

Interior view of the arcade in Badshahi Masjid.

Credit: Guilhem Vellut, Creative Commons.


Exterior View of the Badshahi Masjid.

Credit: Guilhem Vellut, Creative Commons.


Sunset at the Badshahi Masjid.

Credit: Matthieu Paley,

Aga Khan Development Network.

26 27

A view of the courtyard of

The Great Mosque of Herat.

© Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

The Great Mosque of Herat

Herat, Afghanistan

The Great Mosque of Herat is the city’s first congregational mosque. It was built on

the site of two smaller Ghaznavid mosques that were destroyed by an earthquake

and a fire. The present mosque survives from Gurid times (1011–1215 CE).

Read more about the Great Mosque of Herat

A Kart period (791–1389 CE) cauldron in mosque courtyard.

Credit: Archnet.org. Reproduced with permission of the Fine Arts Library of the Harvard College Library.

28 29

Ulu Camii ve Darüşşifası

Divriği, Turkey

The Ulu Camii ve Darüşşifası is the oldest

and most elaborately decorated medieval

monument in Anatolia. The mosque

was built in 1229 CE by the Mengujukid

emir Ahmet Shah, and the hospital was

commissioned by his wife Melike Turhan


The Ulu Camii ve Darüşşifası, are well

preserved and have a storied history,

including use during World War II as the

secret vault for the treasures of the Topkapi


Read more about Divigri Ulu Camii ve


Decorative detail on the portal.

Credit: University of Hawaii Museum.

A view of Ulu Camii ve Darüşşifası in the surrounding urban setting of Divriği.

Credit: University of Hawaii Museum.

30 31

‘Idgah Kashghar

Xingjiang, China

University Mosque

Depok, Indonesia

Incorporating older structures dating back to late 10th century CE, the ‘Idgah was

built by the ruler of Kashgar, Saqsiz Mirza, in the mid-15th century CE.

Read more about ‘Idgah Kashghar

The basic design concept of this

contemporary mosque, built in 1990, is

derived from the general type of masjids in

Indonesia that are characterised by multitiered


Read more about the University Mosque of


A view to the main staircase of the mosque.

Credit: Courtesy of the project architect,

Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

General view of ‘Idgah Kashghar.

© The Institute of Ismaili Studies.

General view of the mosque.

Credit: Courtesy of the project architect,

Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

View of the mosque’s main gate.

Credit: Courtesy of the project architect,

Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

32 33

Grand National Assembly Mosque

Ankara, Turkey

A distinguished architectural feature of the

National Assembly mosque is the qibla wall

that opens onto the terraced garden. The

arrangement of the qibla wall and the mihrab

in glass is rather unconventional. With a

view to the landscaped gardens, the act of

prayer becomes completely transformed

by bringing the worshipers physically closer

to nature. By the means of such design

features the mosque acknowledges its

environment, thereby enhancing the acts

of prayer and devotion that are essential to

Islam. The mosque received the Aga Khan

Award for Architecture in 1995.

Read more about the Grand National

Assembly Mosque

The glass qibla wall overlooking a landscaped garden.

Credit: Reha Günay, Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

The Grand National Assembly Mosque amidst the Parliament buildings in the background.

Credit: Reha Günay, Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

34 35

Tengku Tengah Zaharah Mosque

Tanjung Bungah, Malaysia

Cologne Islamic Cultural Centre

Cologne, Germany

The Tengku Tengah Zaharah mosque, also known as Floating Mosque, is a free-standing

white sculptural form. Sitting against the backdrop of the vast South China Sea, the

mosque is built on an open sandy area with water flowing under it.

The centre is considered a prototype for the

co-existence of Muslims and non-Muslims

in Germany. The main elements of the

centre are grouped around a raised public

plaza, accessed by a wide staircase. At the

street level, there is bazaar and a conference

room. The library, offices and museum

frame two sides of the plaza and reflect the

existing urban fabric in height and massing.

The domed prayer hall dominates the third

side. Over 70% of the energy needed for

heating and cooling is derived from the onsite

geothermal resources.

Read more about Cologne Islamic Cultural


General view to Tengku Tengah Zaharah Mosque.

Credit: Bahrin Shah Raja, Aga Khan Award for Architecture.


Aerial view of the Cologne Islamic Cultural Centre.

Credit: Architecturbüro Paul Böhm,

Aga Khan Award for Architecture.


Ground level view of the Cologne Islamic Cultural Centre.

Credit: Bjarke Liboriussen, Creative Commons.

36 37



Baghdad, Iraq

General view of al-Kazimiya.

Credit: Historical Atlas of the Islamic

World (2004).

The shrine of al-Kazimiya is located near Baghdad. It is a major pilgrimage site for

the Twelver Shi‘a, Ithna‘ashari, communities. The shrine hosts the tombs of imams

Musa al-Kazim and Muhammad al-Taqi, the seventh and ninth imams of the Twelver

Shi’i lineage, respectively. The shrine is also the final resting place for famous Shi‘i

scholars such as al-Shaykh al-Mufid and al-Sharif al-Radi (who compiled the Nahj al-

Balagha, The way of Eloquence, which is a well-known collection of letters, sermons

and sayings attributed to Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib).

Interior view of the al-Kazimiya Mosque.

Credit: shia-forum.de.

38 39

Zahara Syedna Hatem

Haraz, Yemen

Fathiyyah al-Idrisiyyah / Santri Fadris

Tasikmalaya, Indonesia

Zahara Syedna Hatem is a significant pilgrimage site for the Bohra Ismailis. The site hosts a

mosque, and the house and tomb of the third Da‘i al-Mutlaq of the Tayyibi Ismailis, Syedna

Hatem ibn Ibrahim (d. 1199).

The mosque belongs to the Idrisiyyah Sufi tariqa. The complex consists of a masjid, residence

for 400 male and female students and a number of self-sufficient and profit-making farming

initiatives to fund the complex. Both men and women participate in the prayers within the

same space, separated by a curtain.

Ariel view of Zahara Syedna Hatem.

Credit: Fayz-e-Husayni Trust, Bombay.

A view of the house of da‘i Hatem

at Zahara Syedna Hatem.

Credit: Abbas Ali, Creative Commons.

General view of Fatihiyya Idrisiyya.

Credit: Santri Fadris.

Students at Fatihiyya Idrisiyya.

Credit: Santri Fadris.

40 41



Mazar-e Sharif

Credit: Embassy of Afghanistan, Washington, DC.

Shrines and

Related Spaces

These spaces are attributed to Sufi saints, shaykhs and

pirs, and are often built around their homes or final

abodes, or at places which they have visited or where

they are said to have performed miracles. Spaces for

the commemoration of the death of Imam Husayn

and his family at Karbala are also significant pilgrimage

sites, particularly for the Twelver Shi‘i communities.

In addition, spaces for private retreat and meditation

are also often found in shrine complexes.

44 45

Dargah of Ajmer Sharif

Rajasthan, India

Imam-zadeh Imam Saleh

Tehran, Iran

The dargah complex is attributed to the Sufi saint Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti. His wife

and daughter are also buried in the same complex. The dargah has several separate spaces

and monuments that are used for different rituals.

The Imamzadeh is a significant pilgrimage site in northern Tehran, hosting the tomb of Imamzadeh

Saleh, a son of the seventh Imam of the Twelver Shi‘a, Musa al-Kazim.

See the list of monuments at the Dargah of Ajmer Sharif

Read more about the Dargah of Ajmer Sharif

Death anniversary commemoration (urs) at Khwaja

Muinuddin Chishti dargah.

Credit: Zakir Naqvi, Creative Commons.

General view of Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti dargah.

Credit: Zakir Naqvi, Creative Commons.

General view of Imamzadeh Saleh.

Credit: Oliver Laumann, Creative Commons.

46 47

Rawza / Mazar-e Sharif

Northern Afghanistan

Marabout Alfa Mouhama

Bokary, Mali

Mazar-e Sharif, literally meaning, Tomb of the Exalted, is considered by Afghan Shi‘a as the

final resting place of Imam Ali bin Abi Talib (d. 661 CE). Legend contends that the Imam’s

body was moved from Najaf to a secret tomb near Balkh, which was re-discovered by a

mullah in the village of Khwaja Khayran in the early 12 th century CE.

The term marabout is used for a saint or hermit in the North African Muslim context, as well

as for their burial places, which are regarded with reverence.

Read more about Mazar-e Sharif

General view of Lardé Balé Mosque behind a partial view of

the tomb of the marabout.

Credit: Sebastian Schutyser, Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

Tomb of the marabout Alfa Mouhama Bokary, 1820,

at Lardé Balé Mosque.

Credit: Sebastian Schutyser,

Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

Genral view of Mazar-e Sharif.

Credit: Embassy of Afghanistan, Washington, DC.

48 49

Zikrikhana Teertej

Baluchistan, Pakistan



Zikri Muslims are followers of the Indian Sufi Syed Muhammad Jaunpuri, who is said to have

founded the Zikri tariqa in the 15 th century CE. Jaunpuri claimed the status of Mahdi – a

messianic reformer of Islam, to himself. Followers of the Zikri belief system flourished in the

16 th century, in Baluchistan.

Read more about the Zikris in Pakistan

Amongst the Twelver Shi‘a, Ithna‘asharis,

who are the largest of the Shi‘i Muslim

communities, there are a series of spaces

used as part of the rites and ceremonies

to commemorate the martyrdom of

Imam Husayn, the grandson of Prophet

Muhammad. These spaces are visited

throughout the year, but are particularly

busy in the first 10 days of the Islamic

month of Muharram. The ceremonies are

often marked by retellings of the stories

of the Prophet’s grandson and his family,

and of the events leading to their death at


In Iran, retellings are also accompanied by

passion plays (ta‘ziya) re-enacting the last

days of Imam Husayn’s life. In South Asia,

replicas of Imam Husayn’s shrine or tomb

(tabut), made anew each year, are paraded

and processed along with standards (‘alams)

and replicas of other relics belonging to the

family of Imam Husayn, taken out only at

this auspicious time of the year.

These spaces take on various names, usually

depending on the part of the world in which

they are located. In Hyderabad Deccan, they

are known as ashurkhanas; further north in

South Asia, they are known as imambaras;

in Bahrain, they are called matam, referring

to the practice of beating one’s chest as

a display of grief and mourning; in Iran,

they are called husayniyas, in the east of

the country and tekkiya in the western

districts of Kurdistan and Kermanshah, and

mashhads in Syria.

General View of Zikrikhana Teertej, Baluchistan.


Credit: Dawn.com.


Badshahi Ashurkhana

Hyderabad, India

Bibi ka Allawa

Hyderabad, India

The Badshahi Ashurkhana was commissioned, in late 16 th century CE, by the fifth sultan of

the Qutb Shahi Dynasty, Mohammad Quli Qutb Shah. The ashurkhana, in addition to the

prayer space, comprises several other spaces such as the space for offerings (niyazkhana),

space for beating drums (naqaarkhana), space for devotees to rest (saraikhana), and space

for serving food to masses of people (langarkhana). There are also other spaces dedicated

to various functions related to worship, and to accommodate large gatherings.

Bibi ka Allawa is one of the oldest religious monuments of Hyderabad. Allawa is a Persian

word, meaning a place where stabdards (‘alams) are kept with reverence. The practice of

installing the ‘alam at Bibi ka Allawa is over 400 years old, dating back to the period of

Mohammad Quli Qutb Shah.

General View of the Badshahi Ashurkhana.

Credit: Shiaindia.com.

Relics representing the battle standards used

by Imam Husatyn and his entourage,

housed at the Badshahi Ashurkhana.

Credit: Rajesh, Creative Commons.

Entrance to Bibi Ka Allawa.

Credit: Times of India.

52 53

General view of the Chhota Imambara.

© Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

The Bara and Chhota Imambaras

Lucknow, India

The Bara/Great Imambara is a fine example of the first period of Nawabi architecture. It

is one of the few existing buildings in Lucknow that are devoid of European elements. The

Chhota/Small Imambara was built by the Qajar ruler, Ali Shah, around the middle of the 19 th

century, and hosts his own mausoleum and the tomb of his mother next to him.

Read more about the Bara Imambara and the Chhota Imambara

General view of the Bara


Credit: Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

Interior view of the Bara Imambara.

Credit: Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

54 55

The Moaven al-Molk Takkiya

Kermanshah, Iran

The Husainiya Dar es Salam

Dar es Salam, Tanzania

The Moaven al-Molk Takkiya in the old part of Kermanshah, western Iran, is a beautiful

husayniya from the end of the Qajar period (r. 1785–1925).

Decorative details of the tiles at Moaven Mulk Tekiyye.

Credit: Commons.wikimedia.org.

Decorative details of the tiles at Moaven al-Molk Tekiye.

Credit: Commons.wikimedia.org.

General view of Moaven al-Molk Tekiye.

Credit: Commons.wikimedia.org.

Commemoration of Imam Husayn’s martyrdom at

Husayniya Dar es Salam.

Credit: Commons.wikimedia.org.

56 57

Mashhad al-Husayn

Aleppo, Syria

Founded during 1183-1260 CE to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Husayn, Mashhad

al-Husayn is among the first few remaining Shi‘i monuments from 12 th -century CE Aleppo.

The other surviving Shi‘i monument nearby is Mashhad al-Dikka, also known as Mashhad

al-Muhassin. Together, the two sites embody the great Shi‘i traditions that thrived in 12 th

-century CE Aleppo.

Read more about Mashhad al-Husayn

A view of the Mashhad complex showing a later addition of a canopy that was built over the courtyard.

© Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

View of iwan on west side of courtyard from the 1990s.

© Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

58 59


General View of the Kartal Cemevi.

Credit: Commons.wipimedia.org.

The Cemevi

The Cemevi literally means gathering-house. It is the term used by Alevi and Bektashi

Muslims of Anatolia and the Balkans to refer to their places of communal gathering. The

space, often a pillared circular room, has its origins in a rural context, but can now be found

in major urban centres where Alevi and Bektashi communities live. The cemevi often forms

the central element of the large vakfi or dergah complex which can also include a library,

educational facilities and a small cemetery.

Interior view of the Sahkulu Dargah and Cemevi.

Credit: BBC Turkey.

62 63


Kinshasa Jamatkhana interior.

© the.ismaili.

The Jamatkhana

The term Jamatkhana is derived from the

Arabic word jama‘a, gathering, and the

Persian word khana, referring to a house

or place, which together can be translated

as ‘a place of congregation’ or ‘assembly

house’. The term has its origins in the Indian

subcontinent, and has historically been used

to refer to the covered outdoor spaces used

by Sufis of the Chishti tariqa for fraternal

discussions, and during the sessions of

teaching and counsel conducted by their pir

or shaykh. In this context, the Jamatkhana

is most often found within important tomb

complexes such as that of Salim Chishti in

Fatehpur Sikri and Mu‘inuddin Chishti in

Ajmer. Spaces designated as Jamatkhanas

can also be seen in Mughal complexes, such

as that of the Taj Mahal in Agra.

The term is also used by other communities

of the subcontinent. Amongst the Alevi

and Dawoodi Bohra communities of South

Asia, the term refers to the space where

community members gather for social

occasions, including communal meals. The

Nizari Ismaili communities throughout the

world also refer to their congregational

spaces as Jamatkhanas which have been

designated for the community’s religious

and social practices

Images presented in the following pages

are of Jamatkhanas belonging to the global

Shi‘a Imami Isma‘ili Muslim community.

66 67

Plano Jamatkhana, USA.

© the.ismaili.

Nawabad Jamatkhana, China.

© The Institute of Ismaili Studies.

Glenview Jamatkhana, USA.

© the.ismaili.

Brongshal Jamatkhana, Hunza.

© The Institute of Ismaili Studies.

68 69

Salamiyya Jamatkhana Syria.

© The Institute of Ismaili Studies.

Hasnabad Jamatkhana, Mumbai, India.

Credit: Shaukat Chandani.

Mahoosk Jamatkhana, Iran.

© The Institute of Ismaili Studies.

Tashkorgan Jamatkhana, China.

Credit: Nuram.

70 71

Karimabad Jamatkhana, Surat, India.

Credit: Hussein Charania.


Kalanguzar Jamatkhana, Doshi, Baghlan,


Credit: Hussein Charania.

Karimabad Jamatkhana, Karachi, Pakistan.

Credit: Pyarali Jiwa.


Mwanza Jamatkhana, Mwanza, Tanzania.

Credit: Al-Karim Walli, Archnet.org.

72 73

The Ismaili Centre, Burnaby

© the.ismaili.

The Ismaili Centres

The Ismaili Centres belong to the historic

category of Jamatkhana. They are symbolic

markers of the permanent presence of the

Ismaili community in the regions in which

they are established. Rooted in the rich

tapestry of Islamic heritage and traditions,

the architecture of each Ismaili Centre

incorporates spaces for social and cultural

gatherings, intellectual engagement

and reflection, as well as for spiritual


The Ismaili Centres serve as ambassadorial

hubs, representing the Ismaili community’s

attitude towards the Muslim faith and

modern life, while extending a hand of

friendship and understanding to enhance

relationships among faith communities,

government and civil society.

Read more about The Ismaili Centres

74 75

The Ismaili Centre, Dushanbe

© the.ismaili.

76 77



Whirling dervishes at Galata Mevlevihanesi.

Credit: istanbul.com.

The Mevlevihane and


The mevlevihane also known as a

sama’khana or tekke is used by the Mevlevi

Sufi order (tariqa), known more popularly

as the ‘whirling dervishes’. This Sufi order,

named after the 12 th -century mystic and

poet, Mawlana Jalal al-Din Rumi, has a

large following in Anatolia and the Balkans,

as well as in its diasporic communities.

Historically, important lodges have existed

throughout the former Ottoman Empire,

attesting to the presence of significant

Mevlevi communities in these regions.

The mevlevihane is the central element of

the dervish lodge in which members of the

Sufi tariqa live, gather and pray. It is usually

square or rectangular in shape, with a

central octagonal performance ground on

which the main ceremony is staged. At the

two ends of the central hall are places for

accompanying musicians and an area where

the post or dyed red sheepskin mat is kept

- representing the presence of Mawlana

Rumi himself. In Konya, it is Rumi’s tomb

rather than the post which is located in the

main hall.

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Gallery of the Sama’khana after restoration.

Credit: Barry Iverson, Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

Mevlevi Sama‘khana

Cairo, Egypt

The Mevlevi Sama‘khana complex is an

eighteenth century theatre and monastery

of the Mevlevi whirling dervishes order. The

Sama‘khana went through an extensive

restoration in 1979.

Read about conservation of the Mevlevi


View of the Sama‘khana from the cloisters.

Credit: Barry Iverson,

Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

Whirling dervishes at the gallery of the Sama‘khana.

Credit: Commons.wikimedia.org.

82 83

Sama‘khana at Dargah Agha Sahab

Jabalpur, India

The dargah is dedicated to an early 19 th -century Sufi figure, Hazrat Meerza Agha Mohammed,

from Lucknow, India.

Read more about the Dargah Agha Saheb and view a photo album of events at the dargah

The Khanaqah/Tekkiya and Zawiya

The khanqah is one of the earliest institutionalised spaces for the practices of Sufi communities.

In Egypt, they have existed since at least the 11 th century CE and were encouraged by the

Ayyubid ruler, Salah al-Din. The khanaqah complex often coupled religious piety with a place

for wayfarers, providing food, shelter for novices and travellers passing through the city.

The khanqahs are most prevalent in Egypt, Syria and Iran, with examples in India. It is often

equated with the term tekke or tekkiya, which are in more common use in Turkey and Iran.

The zawiya, which literally means a corner, refers to a section of a home or, in more recent

times, to a purpose-built structure in which Sufi Communities path/way (tariqa) congregate

for their weekly remembrance (dhikr) sessions. These are most often found in northern

Syria and Egypt.

Khanaqah of Sultan Barquq

Cairo, Egypt

Commemoration of Urs (death anniversary)

of Agha Saheb at the Dargah.

Credit: Agharang.

Mehfil-e Sama‘, ceremony of listening,

at Agha Saheb Dargah.

Credit: Aragang.

The khanaqah complex was built by

Sultan Barquq, the founder of the Burji or

Circassian Mamluk Dynasty, between 1384

and 1386 CE.

Read more about the Khanaqah of Sultan



A view of the khanaqah of

Sultan Barquq from the street.

Credit: Maison Bonfils, Archnet.

Reproduced with permission of the Fine Arts.


Khanqah-e Shah Hamdan Srinagar

Jamu and Kashmir

Tekiyya Sulaymaniyya

Damascus, Syria

The khanqah of Shah Hamdan, built in the memory of Mir Sayed Ali Hamdani, is one of the

oldest Muslim shrines located on the banks of the river Jhelum, in Srinagar.

The takiyya complex is located on the banks of the Barada River, built by the Ottoman Sultan

Suleyman I or Sulayman al-Qanuni between 1554 and 1560. The complex initially consisted

of a large mosque, a soup kitchen, and a hospice. A separate madrasa was added by Sultan

Selim II (1566-1574), and is linked to the tekiyya complex with a market (suq).

Read more about Tekiyya Sulaymaniyya

General view of the khanqah of Shah Hamdan.

Credit: Commons.wikimedia.org.

A view of the courtyard with a pool in foreground.

Credit: Interamericaninstitute.org.

86 87

Entrance to the mosque at the Hala Sultan Tekke.

Credit: Stephania Zographaki, MIT Libraries,

Aga Khan Visual Archive.

Hala Sultan Tekke

Larnaca, Cyprus

Located to the south of the city of Larnaca, on the shore of the Salt Lake, the Hala Sultan

Tekke is a sacred pilgrimage site for the Muslim community of Cyprus. The complex consists

of a mosque, a tomb – widely believed to be of Hala Sultan, the sister of the Prophet’s foster

mother – a cemetery, and living quarters for men and women.

Interior view of the prayer hall at the Hala Sultan Tekke.

Credit: Stephania Zographaki, MIT Libraries,

Aga Khan Visual Archive.

Door towards the tomb of the Hala Sultan Tekke.

Credit: Stephania Zographaki, MIT Libraries,

Aga Khan Visual Archive.

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Zawiya Tijaniya

Fez, Morocco

The zawiya is the congregational space for

the Tijaniya Sufi community, named after

the Sufi Sheikh Ahmed Tijani.

Learn more about the Tijaniya Sufi


Decorative details of the exterior of Zawiya Tidjaniya.

Credit: Tidjaniya.com.

Interior view of the Zawiya.

Credit: Tidjaniya.com.

90 91



Spaces of Personal Retreat

The Zawiya of Sidi Bel Abbes

Marrakech, Mororcco

In addition to spaces for congregational

In the Persian and Indo-Muslim world, they

Commissioned in 1605, the Zawiya of Sidi

prayers, there is a range of spaces in the

are invariably known as chehel-neshini,

Bel Abbes is dedicated to an influential 12 th

Muslim world that facilitate meditation,

chilla or chehel-khana, terms that refer to

century CE Sufi saint, Sidi Bel Abbes (1130-

personal reflection, reading of the

the mystical practice of an inward retreat

1205 CE). He is revered as the patron saint

Qur’an in seclusion,

reciting litanies

lasting forty days. Amongst the Nurbakhshi

of Marrakesh, and is counted among the


remembrance, the repetition and

Muslims, centered in Baltistan, they are

seven Sufi saints associated with the city.

glorification of God’s names and attributes

known as ‘itiqaf-khanas.

The complex comprises of his mausoleum,

(dhikr). These spaces bear a range of names,

a mosque, and various religious and

but ultimately serve similar purposes. In

In North Africa, spaces of Sufi congregation

educational facilities organised around two

the Arabic-speaking world, these spaces

are also referred to as ribat. The ribats were

linked courtyards. The complex is also an

are most commonly known as retreats

originally constructed as frontier posts

asylum to the blind, as Sidi Bel Abbes was

(khalwa). They can be found within mosque

where travellers (particularly soldiers)

well known for his charitable work on their

complexes or on the perimeters of zawiyas

could stay. Over time, the ribats came to be


and khanaqahs. Amongst areas populated

converted to spaces of Sufi congregations.

by Hui Muslims in China, they are known

as bayt al-‘itiqaf. In this context, they

Read about Zawiyas in the Sahara

are portable structures brought into the

mosque during the month of Ramadan and

used primarily by the akhun, (brothers) or

imam on behalf of the congregation.

Fountain at the entrance of the

mausoleum of Sidi Bel Abbes.

Credit: Delpha, Creative Commons.

General view of the complex of the Zawiya of Sidi Bel


Abbes. Credit: Delpha, Creative Commons.


The room for forty-day retreats (Chilla-khana), at the Chashma-i Ayub Mausoleum.

Credit: Philip Huber, Archnet.org.

The Chashma-i Ayub Mausoleum

Near Bukhara, Uzbekistan

The name of the site literally means ‘Well of the Prophet Jacob (Ayub)’. Legend holds that

the Prophet made a well by striking the ground with his staff. The current mausoleum was

constructed during the reign of the Mongol ruler Timurlane (d. 1405 CE). The water of this

well is considered pure and healing.

Read more about the Chashma-i Ayub Mausoleum

Nomination of the Chashma-i Ayub as a World Heritage site at UNESCO

General view of Chashma-i Ayub Mausoleum.

Credit: Philip Huber, Archnet.org.

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The Ribat of Sousse

Sousse, Tunisia

The Ribat of Monastir

Monastir, Tunisia

The ribat of Sousse is both the oldest and most typical surviving example of the ribat typology

as it existed in medieval North Africa.

The fortress was constructed in the late-ninth century CE and fortified in the Hafsid era (mid-

13 th -16 th centuries, CE).

Read more about the Ribat of Sousse

Read more about the Ribat of Monastir

The Ribat of Sousse amidst its surroundings.

Credit: Russell Harris, The Institute of Ismaili Studies.

Fotifications of the Ribat of Monstir.

Credit: Encyclopedia Britannica.

98 99


Further Reading

There is an increasing body of academic literature on spaces and expressions of piety amongst

Muslim communities. The following titles provide an introduction to various perspectives

on the history, development and use of spaces by Muslims for worship and piety in both

historical and contemporary contexts.

Bloom, Jonathan M. Arts of the City Victorious: Islamic Art and Archtiecture in Fatimid North

Africa and Egypt. New Haven, Yale University Press: in association with The Institute of Ismaili

Studies, 2007.

Jiwani, Karim. Muslim Spaces of Piety and Worship. The Institute of Ismaili Studies: London,

2006. [accessed September, 2017]

Kahera, Akel Ismail. Deconstructing the American Mosque: Space, Gender and Aesthetics.

Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002.

Keshani, Hussein. “Architecture and the Twelver Shi‘i Tradition: The Great Imambara Complex

of Lucknow,” Muqarnas 23 (2006), pp. 219–250.

Flood, Finbar Barry. The Great Mosque of Damascus: Studies on the Makings of an Umayyad

Visual Culture. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2000.

Lifchez, Raymond. The Dervish Lodge: Architecture, Art and Sufism in Modern Turkey. Los

Angeles: University of California Press, 1992.

Geels, Antoon. “A Note on the Psychology of Dhikr: The Halveti-Jerrahi Order of Dervishes in

Manger, Leif, ed. Muslim Diversity: Local Islam in Global Contexts. London: Routledge, 1999.

Istanbul,” International Journal for the Psychology of Religion 6:4 (1994), pp. 229–251.

Metcalf, Barbara Daly, ed. Making Muslim Space in North America and Europe. Los Angeles:

Grabar, Oleg. Grabar, Oleg. “Architecture as Art” in Islamic Art and Beyond, volume III,

University of California Press, 1996.

Constructing the Study of Islamic Art. Hampshire: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2006. First

published in Aga Khan Award, Seminar Ten: Architecture Education (Granada, 1986), pp.

Norton, Augustus, R. Shi‘ism and the Ashura Ritual in Lebanon. Saqi Books: London, 2004.

33–42. [Accessed August, 2017].

Rabbat, Nasser. ‘The Meaning of the Umayyad Dome of the Rock’, Muqarnas 6 (1989), pp.

Hawting, Gerald, ed. The Development of Islamic Ritual. The Formation of the Classical


Islamic World, 26. London: Ashgate, 2006.

Stauth, Georg, ed. On Archaeology of ‘Sainthood and Local Spirituality in Islam: Past and

Jaschok, Maria and Shui Jingjun. The History of Women’s Mosques in Chinese Islam: A Mosque

Present Crossroads of Events and Ideas’, in Yearbook of the Sociology of Islam 5 (2004).

of their Own. London: Routledge, 2000.

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