Ismailis are a minority within the Islamic tradition, representing 10% of the general Shiite Muslim community. Their emphasis on the esoteric interpretation of Islam has set them apart from the larger Muslim population.
Founded in 1973, the Boston Nizari Ismaili Cultural Center began with students gathering at MIT, then at Harvard. In 1990, the community relocated to its present facility, which houses the jamat khana (house of congregation) and two small classrooms where religious education classes are held. With an abundance of floor space for people to sit, the jamat khana may resemble other Muslim prayer rooms, but in the Ismaili tradition women pray side by side with the men and play a central role in religious services. On either side of the prayer room are two pictures of the Aga Khan, the community’s religious leader. Encircling the room a band of small, blue and white tiles bear the names Allah, Muhammad, and Ali in stylized Arabic calligraphy. The physical setting reflects the interior focus of the worshippers.