Below the featured items is a random selection of His Highness the Aga Khan's speeches & interviews.

Featured Item  »»  The Road to Toronto (Societal): The vision and rationale behind the Aga Khan’s passion for parks and gardens

Next month the Ismaili Centre, Toronto, the Aga Khan Museum and their Park are expected to be officially opened. In anticipation of this landmark event, NanoWisdoms is pleased to present The Road to Toronto series in which, each week, we’ll focus on a different aspect of this multi-faceted institution. This week’s instalment is on the societal aspect and the park.

The park is the latest of some two dozen parks and gardens created, or committed to, by His Highness the Aga Khan and illustrated on the graphic. Click on the image, or here, to view it in full size or download as a wall-paper for your computer.

In an interview with Philip Jodidio, the park’s designer, Lebanese architect Vladimir Djurovic, said the Aga Khan has a “passion for gardens which is intoxicating” and that he feels the Aga Khan “is happiest when he is working and discussing the gardens.” Why is this? Why are parks and gardens such a point of focus and happiness for the Aga Khan?

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Featured Item  »»  The Road to Toronto (Intellectual): The vision and rationale behind the Aga Khan Museum

Next month the Ismaili Centre, Toronto, the Aga Khan Museum and their Park are expected to be officially opened. In anticipation of this landmark event, NanoWisdoms is pleased to present The Road to Toronto in which, each week, we’ll focus on a different aspect of this multi-faceted institution. This week’s instalment is on the intellectual aspect and the Aga Khan Museum.

When opened, the Aga Khan Museum will be a unique museum on the North American continent, and indeed the Western world. To help better understand why, we bring you “His Highness the Aga Khan explains the vision and rationale behind the Aga Khan Museum, Toronto.”

Click here to read:
His Highness the Aga Khan explains the vision and rationale behind the Aga Khan Museum

Image credits (pursuant to 2012 Canadian Statute, Bill C-11, Section 29.21):
Fumihiko Maki and Maki Associates via The Aga Khan Museum, Jodidio, 2008

Featured Item  »»  The Road to Toronto (Spiritual): The vision and rationale behind the Ismaili Centres

Next month the Ismaili Centre, Toronto, the Aga Khan Museum and their Park are expected to be officially opened. In anticipation of this landmark event, NanoWisdoms is pleased to launch The Road to Toronto. Each week we’ll focus on a different aspect of this multi-faceted institution, starting this week with the spiritual and the Ismaili Centre.

When opened, the Ismaili Centre, Toronto will be the sixth such Centre, with more planned for Houston, Los Angeles and Paris. To help better understand the Ismaili Centres, we present “His Highness the Aga Khan explains the vision and rationale behind the Ismaili Centres.”

Click here to read:
His Highness the Aga Khan explains the vision and rationale behind the Ismaili Centres

Image credits (pursuant to 2012 Canadian Statute, Bill C-11, Section 29.21):
London: WikiPedia; Burnaby: Mohib Ebrahim; Lisbon:; Dubai: Muslim Harji via; Dushanbe: FNDA Architecture Inc. via; Toronto: Imara Wynford Drive via

The Road to Toronto Credits:
Concept & Research by: Azeem Maherali
Design & Published by: NanoWisdoms Archive

Jamati Institutional Leaders Dinner (Vancouver, Canada) ·· incomplete

I am infinitely proud, infinitely proud of the leadership that is coming from Canada, or from communities that have left their homelands in difficult circumstances, built a new future for themselves here in Canada, empathised with Canadian values and are able today to bring back to their home countries not only new knowledge, new competencies, but also Canadian values.

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Press remarks with an unidentified media outlet (Central Asia) ·· incomplete

In Islam, imams whether they are Shia or Sunni, they have a duty to serve people. That is the nature of imamat and, therefore, in countries where the Ismaili Imamat can bring support and help, it is our duty to do so and we’re very happy to do so in Central Asia, like we are doing so in the Indian sub-continent, we’re doing so in East Africa, in West Africa. So it’s part of the mandate of any Imam. But it’s a big mistake to think that you can do development only for Muslim communities. Many countries have mixed communities and therefore you have to do development for all the people within a given area whether they are Muslim or Christian or Jewish or Hindu or Sikh. You have what I would call a civil responsibility. [Emphasis original]

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Irish Times Interview, Alison Healy, ‘Jubilee for an imam among equals’ (Maynooth, Ireland) ·· incomplete

He is interested in the current debate on whether the hijab, the Muslim headscarf, should be worn in Irish schools and cautions against the issue being used to create division. “My own sense is that if an individual wishes to associate publicly with a faith, that’s the right of that individual to do that, whether he’s a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim. That is, to me, something which is important.” But he says that people should not be forced to wear the hijab. “To go from there to an imposed process by forces in society, to me is unacceptable. It’s got to be the choice of the individual who wishes to associate with his faith or her faith. I have great respect for any individual who wants in the right way to be associated with his own faith. I accept that totally and I would never challenge it.”

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Luncheon hosted by Governor of Illinois (Chicago, Illinois, USA) ·· incomplete

I am here to learn. I am also here to seek partnerships. The global knowledge society is led by the United States. And therefore we are looking for partnerships. Partnerships which are long, which are stable and which produce quantifiable results. We will work with anybody who wants to help us in social development, economic development, pluralism and more important than anything else, building civil society.

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Gulf News Interview, Ashfaq Ahmed, ‘Aga Khan: The architect of universal good’ (Dubai, United Arab Emirates) ·· incomplete

Do you think the world is heading towards a “clash of capturing natural resources”? … I think we are seeing a concentration of wealth in a number of countries. There is a search for new resources to exploit for national or strategic purposes. The situation can be changed by making a move towards using nuclear power, as it has the potential to change the global economic scenario. (1) …

Any message for the community? The spirit of Islam is to share knowledge and I always tell the community not to think in material terms. Think in terms of knowledge and think what you can offer our institutions in various parts of the world. Raise our performance in healthcare, education, financial services and in civil society. Many minorities from the Middle East countries are living in the West. Just think how wonderful it would be if young women and men return to their respective countries to strengthen institutions and do voluntary work for their countries.

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Vanity Fair Interview, James Reginato, ‘The Aga Khan’s Earthly Kingdom’ (USA) ·· incomplete

We have no notion of the accumulation of wealth being evil … It’s how you use it. The Islamic ethic is that if God has given you the capacity or good fortune to be a privileged individual in society, you have a moral responsibility to society.

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Kyrgyzstan AKDN Rural Support Program Announced (Osh, Kyrgyzstan)

We hope to bring to areas that are amongst the poorest and least served, our experience of strengthening communities living in other high mountain regions with similar economic and ecological environments. As in those other regions, we see this as a long-term initiative whose success will be determined by the commitment of the beneficiary population and the continued collaboration of the government.

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CTV Canada AM Interview, Norm Perry (Ottawa, Canada)

One of the main causes we hear of the strife in Iran is that the Shah wants progress…. Many of the religious leaders in Iran are opposed to that. They think the conservative approach is best. You yourself are a modern man, Harvard educated, very much a Western oriented man in education and learning. So doesn’t that sort of put you and, in that sense, your people, against what seems to be a majority of feeling in Iran?

It might do. It might do. I think the main issue really is how the Mullahs or in my case the Imam, view the compatibility or the incompatibility of Islam with the modern world, and as far as my family is concerned, my community is concerned, we don’t run away from that. We are not prepared to say that there is a basic conflict between the modern world and our practice of Islam. I am not sure that this conflict is seen by all Ithnashri Muslims in Iran. I don’t think it is.

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Globe and Mail Interview (1st), Stanley McDowell, ‘The Aga Khan: A Man of His Time’ (Toronto, Canada) ·· incomplete

My impression is that the fundamental cause (of economic slippage in the Third World) is the lack of political consistency and stability. Are we talking about free enterprise? Are we talking about socialism? Are we talking about Marxism? … No matter what these countries do, unless they have underground wealth — not just oil but ores, diamonds, uranium — or are able to harness in efficient manner their very cheap labour to an industrial machine, they can’t overcome their problems. And an industrial machine requires access to capital, either self generated or invested from abroad. So no matter how you approach it you can come back in the end to the requirement of political stability and a climate attractive to investment.

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Aga Khan Award for Architecture Seminar and Exhibition on winning projects in Burkina Faso and West Africa (Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso)

[Official translation] The improvement of rural housing is obviously an important goal in the development process, first to improve the quality of life in rural populations, which are often the poorest in these countries, but also to pass on the message that, for a start, these people are not forgotten by those who support national growth in their country. Moreover, they do not need to adopt an urban life in order to build a stable and promising future in the medium and long term.

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Letter to architect Fumihiko Maki setting out crystal as the design inspiration for the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat, Ottawa (Aiglemont) ·· incomplete

The goal is to create a building which causes the viewer to wonder how different elements and different planes relate to each other, how they work together to tickle the eye (the Aga Khan said, proposing that Mr. Maki take inspiration from rock crystal, the mineral quartz in its clear and colourless form).

In a rock crystal the cuts and angles permit both transparency as well as translucency. It pleases and confuses the eye by its internal planes running at different angles, creating a sense of visual mystery. The … building in a sense should be somewhat mysterious and visually nearly esoteric. It should not be blatant but ethereal, not obvious but difficult to captivate.

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Banquet Hosted in Honour of the President of Uganda (Kampala, Uganda)

I believe the people of Uganda can give to the world, in the years ahead, the gift of a vibrant example as a society which has overcome the worst experiences of past intolerance and embraced the abundant promise of a pluralistic but united future.

If one key to unlocking the potential of Uganda, and of all of Africa, is a spirit of pluralism, then another key should be a commitment to excellence. There was a time, earlier in my Imamat, when mediocrity was considered tolerable here because it was “good enough for Africa”. I remember my apprehension at the time, my concern that among all the goals that were set for Africa in those days, the achievement of normal world-class standards was not seen as realistic.

But in the rapidly globalising world of the 21st century, the progress of every country and continent will depend on its ability to meet universal standards. To settle for less is an increasingly dangerous decision. This commitment to achieve global norms, and even to excel, can wisely begin with a nation’s educational institutions and the preparation of our future leaders.

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Jamati Institutional Leaders Dinner (Nairobi, Kenya) ·· incomplete

[I]f we have moved forward in various parts of the world, it is thanks to the leadership of the jamat. And I would like you to take these remarks to heart. Think about them because they’re said not only for today, they’re said for the past and they’re said for the future….

I wanted to tell you [that] your leadership [which] you may think of as African leadership but it isn’t. It’s become global leadership. What you have learnt and taught and are doing is now replicating itself around the world. And that is a magnificent gift that you have given from Africa to other parts of the world.

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Jamati Institutional Leaders Luncheon (Singapore) ·· incomplete

You can always achieve results over a long period of time, but every time you do that you damage a generation and every time you move more quickly you bring hope to an earlier generation. This is the reason for which, this notion of time, is so important in my mind and I believe now is well shared by the Jamati leaders around the world.

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Wall Street Journal Europe Interview, Philip Revzin (France) ·· incomplete

[Tajiks] are educated, sophisticated people who suddenly found they had no economic base left. The economic underpinning of society had literally collapsed. It had turned into a barter economy….

Most Ismailis in Central Asia live in isolated villages at high altitudes with poor communications. I hope there will be some possibility to develop some regional plans (that might encompass that part of China). I’m hoping that in time political and social relations might be such that these people could move more freely across frontiers that are in any case pretty ill-defined.

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Golden Jubilee Inaugural Ceremony (Aiglemont)

In a world where quality of life is increasingly measured in material terms there is risk that the essential value system of Islam will be eroded, or even threatened with disappearance. Political situations with a theological overlay are also causing disaffection or antagonism between communities of the same faith, and even more so amongst different faiths.

At the centre of this turbulence is Islam. We cannot let this continue. On the other hand, the sheer scale of the problem, added to its complexity, make it an issue which the Ummah, in its entirety, can better address, rather than individual schools of interpretation within it. It will be essential that while respecting their individual identities, various tariqahs within Islam should collaborate to articulate the common social and moral principles of our Islamic value system…. Islam is a faith of tolerance, generosity and spirituality…. Where we can build bridges with other tariqahs around a common Muslim cosmopolitan ethos, we should make this endeavour.

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Opening of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival (Washington D.C., USA)

The remarkable work of Yo-Yo Ma has enthralled audiences from all the countries of the Silk Route and beyond. By his leadership and imagination, he has proved that the force of cultural pluralism to bind people is as necessary, powerful and achievable today as was the Silk Route in history. It is my privilege and honour to be associated with the founder of the modern Silk Route, a cultural journey that inspires people to unity and joy through art.

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On the purchase of four Agusta AB139 helicopters by the Aga Khan Development Network

Our experience in the northern areas of Pakistan shows that the logistical efficiencies gained from the use of helicopters have had a positive impact on the beneficiaries – the poor in remote, high mountain areas – in terms of the speed, efficiency and quality of development activities.

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Interview with an unidentified media outlet, #2 (Cairo, Egypt) ·· incomplete

[Darb Al-Ahmar] was one of the poorest areas of Cairo. An area where social development had no horizons whatsoever therefore, you had more and more people coming in because these historic cities are transit areas very often for newly urbanised populations so you get more and more degradation. So we wanted to try and make sure the population in this area saw a strong economic future for themselves so there was no temptation to leave.

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Opening Remarks, Third Seminar, ‘Housing Process and Physical Form’, The Aga Khan Award For Architecture (Jakarta, Indonesia)

The present seminar, which has gathered some of the most eminent thinkers and policy makers in the field of housing, must address a much wider problem. We are looking to the seminar discussions for ways in which the Award for housing can encourage planners to seek new means of solving this great contemporary dilemma.

It is my hope that these four days will be as fruitful for the seminar participants as they will be for the Steering Committee. However, the dilemma is greater than this. We want to identify specific housing problems and solutions which are appropriate to contemporary Islamic societies, and develop models which could be replicated in concept if not in design elsewhere in the Islamic world.

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