The term ‘Jamatkhana’ literally means ‘a house of assembly or gathering’. Specifically, it has come to designate a gathering space for community activities and for devotional practice among a variety of Muslim groups such as the Musta‘lian and Nizari Ismailis in certain parts of the world. In the predominantly South Asian Chishti order, the institution for Sufi activity was called jamatkhana and was centred on the residence of the shaykh.14 The Shi‘i Bohra and Sunni Memon communities of India also have private places of gathering called jamatkhana.
The custom of meeting in closed sessions, at specially designated places, to learn about and practice their own interpretations of faith, has been part of the Ismaili tradition from pre-Fatimid times. During the Fatimid period, the Ismailis used to participate in majalis al-hikma (sessions of wisdom), which were accessible only to those who had pledged their allegiance to the Imam-of-the-time.
Community tradition, based on passages from Ismaili ginans, suggests that the earliest Ismaili jamatkhanas were established in the Indo-Pak Subcontinent during the 14th and 15th centuries.
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