By Sami Gillani, Capilano University
MONOVA: Museum of North Vancouver (115 West Esplanade) showcases many communities that make up North Vancouver, including the Shia Ismaili Muslim community. The Ismaili community is a bright and beautiful community which has a long history on the North Shore.
People sometimes carry assumptions about Muslim people which can be harmful. I remember one day very vividly in my head. It was the day when I was told not to say out loud that I am Muslim. I have never forgotten that, but I also never listened. Someone’s assumptions cannot put a whole community in the dark.
Ismaili Immigrants to North Vancouver
When I toured the Museum of North Vancouver earlier this year, I was very interested in the display on Ismaili immigrants to North Vancouver.
The display showcases the book “The Ismailis: An Illustrated History” by Farhad Daftary and Zulfikar Hirji, which traces the development and spread of the diverse Shia Muslim community throughout the world, from the birth of Islam over 1300 years ago to the thriving communities we see today.
It also features an image of our spiritual leader Mawlana Hazar Imam, who has visited Vancouver in recent years. This was known as the Diamond Jubilee, which was held at Canada Place on 11 July 2017. During that event, Canada Place was decorated beautifully with white and gold colours and we were lucky enough to experience Mawlana Hazar Imam sitting with us during prayers.
Ismaili culture comes from many different areas of the world. For example, my family comes from Gujrat, India as well as Kenya where many Ismaili people migrated to before coming to Canada. The Ismaili community has a long and storied history.
Jamatkhanas: The House Of Community
The exhibit at the Museum of North Vancouver also profiles the Lions Gate Jamatkhana (1150 Gladwin Drive) in North Vancouver. This is the place where the local Ismaili community connects and gathers for special occasions.
According to The Ismaili, the word jamatkhana means “the house of the community” and is an amalgamation of the Arabic word jama‘a, which means group or community, and the Persian word khana, meaning house. It refers to a place where members of certain Sunni and Shia communities come together for prayers and communal gatherings. It is commonly associated with the activities of Sufi groups, but has also evolved into the principal space of worship for Shia Ismaili Muslims.
When I first moved to North Vancouver, the Lions Gate Jamatkhana was my “new khana”. I have gone to several other Jamatkhanas throughout the Lower Mainland with my family. In each one, members of the Ismaili community can connect and give support to other jamat members.
The vibrant and engaged Ismaili community is proud part of North Vancouver’s cultural diversity. There are many ways to learn about the Ismaili culture on the North Shore and visiting MONOVA is just a start. Be sure to check out the Ismaili exhibit on your next visit to the Museum of North Vancouver! Click here to plan your visit.
During the spring of 2022, students were invited to explore the Museum of North Vancouver to create editorial content inspired by MONOVA’s Archival and Museum collections. Watch for other stories from the students to roll out over the coming months.
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We respectfully acknowledge that MONOVA: Museum and Archives of North Vancouver is located on the traditional lands of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) First Nations, whose ancestors have lived here for countless generations. We are grateful for the opportunity to live, work and learn with them on unceded Coast Salish Territory.