Author: Mawani, Parin I.
This study concentrates on and examines the role of the institution of the jamat khana as a major source of cohesiveness in the Ismaili community in Kenya.
The Ismailis first settled in the country at the end of the 19th century, and established the jamat khana as the foremost communal institution. This institution has hitherto been an unexplored area of enquiry, and it is maintained and demonstrated through purposive interviews and a randomized survey that the close-knit nature of the community is primarily due to the jamat khana. This is so because the jamat khana acts as a central focus for essential religious as well as essential social functions. Owing to a lack of in-depth studies on any of the varied aspects of the Ismaili community in Kenya, and because of a marked scarcity of historical documents on the subject, the conclusions reached in this study depend extensively on the survey that was carried out. Reference has been made to several sociological studies which discus different ways of achieving cohesiveness among people in any given society. The soundness of same of these hypotheses has been verified in this study.
The major findings do indicate that the cohesion of the Ismaili community springs from “the fundamental belief in an ever living imam pressed and realized in a practical form in the jamat khana, through the observance of regular ceremonies and the consequent interaction between individuals. In-spite of the observation made that the level of individual commitment differed considerably and consequently, determined variance in individual perceptions and attitudes, the Ismail! community as a whole is distinctive in having a very strong degree of cohesiveness which derives primarily from the jamat khana.
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