One of the ways in which Ismailis have expressed their identity wherever they have lived is through their places of prayer, known today as the Jamatkhana. Other Muslim communities give their religious buildings different names: from ribat and zawiyya to khanaqa. And, in addition, there are other places where Muslims of all interpretations can come together, such as non-denominational mosques.
Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV,
(Toronto Ismaili Centre Opening Ceremony, Toronto, September 12, 2014, Read at NanoWisdoms)
Bay‘ah is the spiritual contract or covenant that every Ismaili Muslim or murid has made with the Ismaili Imam of the Time. Bay‘ah gives the murid the right to access the Imam’s teachings, guidance, blessings, and spiritual medicine, and the Jamatkhanah is the private space where the Imam makes these available to his murids. The bay‘ah, a word which means “buying/selling”, is a two-way contract that includes a commitment from the murid and a commitment from the Imam. Thus, the bay‘ah between the murid and the Imam is a spiritual “transaction” or “contract” in which the murid commits his allegiance, devotion, and obedience (walayah) in exchange for the Imam’s spiritual guidance, intercession, blessings, and purification – in this world and in the afterlife.
Since bay‘ah is a two-way contract involving both the murid and the Imam, only those who have given bay‘ah to the Imam of the time have access to private discursive spaces and private religious practices offered by the Imam in the Jamatkhanah, while those who do not give this bay‘ah are not privy to them. This only makes logical sense because every single Ismaili ritual practice performed in the Jamatkhanah is an expression and an enactment of the Imam-murid relationship, a relationship that only exists through bay‘ah.
Meeting in restricted private spaces for learning and worship has been the norm in Ismaili history from the beginning. However, this custom is not an exclusively Ismaili phenomenon; Sufi Muslims throughout the ages have congregated in restricted private spaces for prayer, knowledge discourse, and spiritual practices. Most Sufis require the disciple (murid) to make bay‘ah with the Sufi master (shaykh) in order to participate in certain religious practices.
“For instance, khanaqahs of the Suhrawardi Order in India are known to restrict participation to those who have given their bay‘ah, pledge of allegiance, to the pir or shaykh of the Sufi Order.”
(Karim Jiwani, “Muslim Spaces of Piety and Worship”)
Read the full article at: https://ismailignosis.com/2016/11/19/why-ismaili-jamatkhanas-are-only-open-to-ismailis-for-prayers/