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

Featured Item  »»  Remarks introducing Justice Albie Sachs, The Global Centre for Pluralism’s Fifth Annual Lecturer (Toronto, Canada)

Justice Sachs’ career has been a truly inspiring one. He has been a heroic freedom fighter, an insightful legal scholar, a compelling author and for fifteen years a member of South Africa’s Constitutional Court. And, as most of you undoubtedly know, he was a chief architect of South Africa’s new, post apartheid Constitution, one of the most admired Constitutions in the world….

Constitution-making requires a strong sense of idealism, married to a practical sense of realism. It requires a willingness to listen as competing priorities are expressed, and a readiness to negotiate as differences are reconciled. As the challenges of governance grow in complex and changing societies, a widely respected Constitution is essential to the preservation of peace and the pursuit of progress.

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Featured Item  »»  Ismaili scholars at the Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS) and elsewhere cite NanoWisdoms in published works

Four years ago, today, the NanoWisdoms Archive of Imamat Speeches, Interviews and Writings was given special permission by Aiglemont to publish His Highness the Aga Khan’s speeches. One key objective and reason for establishing the Archive was to create a comprehensive and authoritative, professional reference resource of the Aga Khan’s wisdom for scholars. It is, therefore, with great satisfaction and pride that we can announce today that the Archive has started to achieve this objective and is now being cited as a source in academic papers and books published by respected Ismaili scholars — including those from the Institute of Ismaili Studies, Carleton University and Sacred Web. While at Harvard University, the Archive was even listed as a resource for a graduate level course on Ismailism.

Below we provide a summary of some of these citations as well as the scholars’ comments about the NanoWisdoms Archive, which they describe as “indispensable,” “invaluable,” an “absolute necessity,” “fantastic,” “unique,” “professional” and “the best resource to conduct research into the speeches, interviews and writings” of the Aga Khans.

These recognitions and accolades, by the Ismaili academic community, are tangible demonstrations of their confidence in the Archive, confirming it as an invaluable and unique resource which all — especially Ismailis — may rely on with confidence. The recognitions are also an indisputable validation of the importance of the project for the community and why we view them as our most important achievement to date.

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le Parisien Interview, Gilles Maarek & Gaetane Morin, ‘Aga Khan, l’imam philanthrope’ (Chantilly, France)

[Google translation] How do you perceive the rising tensions around Islam?

This is a concern for the whole world, not only for the Muslim world. The vast majority of these conflicts is not the result of theological problems, but political. Sometimes there instrumentalization of religion for political purposes. The answer is first constitutional. A quarter of the Member States of the United Nations are now reviewing their constitution.We must find a balance between secularism and theocracy, and this is a bigger problem for developing countries for the West. Today, the most thoughtful and the most successful in the Muslim world’s most advanced Constitution, is the Tunisian Constitution.

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State Luncheon (Zanzibar, Tanzania) ·· incomplete

During an official luncheon hosted by Zanzibar’s President His Excellency Abeid Amani Karume, [the Aga Khan] described Zanzibar as a “cultural jewel” and expressed readiness to invest in rehabilitation of the Island’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, concentrated in the Old Stone Town.

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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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Life Magazine Interview, Margot Dougherty and Richard B. Stolley, ‘In Him, East and West Meet’ (New York, USA)

Many parts of the Islamic world, and in this, the Ismailis certainly agree, perceive an American imbalance involving excessive emphasis on material comfort. I should go further than comfort, I think perhaps the concern of wealth and the way wealth is used rather than comfort. In Islam there is nothing wrong in the search for comfort, but the accumulation of wealth for the specific purpose of accumulating wealth or personal power is something which Islam does not like to see. If you are fortunate enough to go past what you personally need then share what you have.

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Luncheon announcing the merger of the Bellerive Foundation and Aga Khan Foundation (Geneva, Switzerland) ·· incomplete

We need in the “Ummah” to move away from the normative attitudes towards the acceptance of pluralism of the “Ummah”, and that pluralism starts from the time of the Prophet himself and “Hadith” (Sayings of the Prophet Mohammad) as well as the Prophet’s historical footprints show that in the life time of the Prophet himself he knew that there would be pluralism in the interpretation of the faith.

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The Aga Khan Agency For Microfinance 2005 Annual Report: Inaugural Statements (Geneva, Switzerland)

The Aga Khan Development Network agencies have been involved in micro-credit for more than 60 years. During that time, a variety of institutions offering a range of products tailored to specific needs have been established in many countries…. We have also extended loans for education and health care, which we believe can be important ways to break down the barriers to access to those services for the poor. It is important to note that the issue is not only the provision of services, but making them accessible to the poor….

We must be prepared to bank good character, good ideas and the willingness to work hard. If we do bank those attributes, micro-finance can be a formidable tool for poverty alleviation in large parts of the developing world. Its versatility allows it to be adapted to the needs and circumstances of the poor in urban and in rural environments. I am convinced we have only begun to tap into its potential.

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Aga Khan Development Network and Government of Mozambique ‘Development Co-operation Agreement’ Signing Ceremony (Maputo, Mozambique)

In his remarks [at the signing ceremony] the Aga Khan noted that a distinguishing feature of the AKDN was its overriding emphasis on “investing in human capacities.” He mentioned themes that the Network had identified in Mozambique: human resource development, the economics of rural populations and the need to access resources and technologies for economic diversification within the private sector.

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Aga Khan Development Network and State of California ‘Agreement of Co-operation’ Signing Ceremony (Sacramento, USA)

We have seen over the developing world in Africa and Asia, that when politics are fragile, what continues to sustain development is civil society. If you build a strong civil society, then you have a country that continues to progress even if governments are unstable.

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Address to the Conference on Afghanistan (London, United Kingdom)

Our financial pledge of $75 million in 2002 has been exceeded by 60 per cent and along with our donor, lender and investor partners, we have mobilised just under $400 million for the reconstruction of Afghanistan….

[D]evelopment is only possible when the community is engaged at the grassroots level and is given the ways and the means to take responsibility for its own future. This means building the capacity of civil society institutions as well as tapping into the wellspring of individual initiative …

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Philip Jodidio interview (3rd) published in ‘A Racing and Breeding Tradition: The Horses of the Aga Khan’ (Aiglemont)

The idea of entering into an activity that was in no way central to the Ismaili Imamat, an activity in which no member of my family — neither my brother nor my sister nor I — had any understanding, in itself raised a major question mark. Would I have the time, and the capacity, to learn something about an activity with which I was totally unfamiliar? When the leader of a family endeavour disappears, the next generation does not necessarily carry on…. To be the new young owner who would come in and cause the operation to collapse was not exactly what I wanted!

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Address to the ‘Marketplace on Innovative Financial Solutions for Development’ Conference (Paris, France)

I would underscore the growing potential of what some call PPP’s — public-private partnerships. Such collaborations can tap the unique strengths of both sectors, overcoming outmoded dogmas which depreciate the role of the market-driven enterprises on the one hand, or which denigrate the capacities of publicly supported agencies on the other. Effective public-private partnerships must be genuinely participative, as committed leaders coordinate their thinking, sharing objectives, sharing strategies, sharing resources, sharing predictions. And this approach can be powerful, indeed very powerful, in the social and cultural development fields, not only in the more established economic one….

[F]inally, I would mention what many call “Quality of Life Assessments”, a more adequate way to measure the results of our work. Quite simply, we need to embrace a wider array of evaluative criteria, both quantitative and qualitative, elements which the poor themselves take into account when assessing their own well-being. As we measure outcomes with greater breadth, we will move beyond an excessive reliance on traditional categories, such as average productivity levels, or per acre yields, or per capita national product, or rates of population growth. Yes, these are all significant variables, but they come alive only as they transform the quality of daily living for the populations involved in ways in which they, and their children, can see and value.

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Ismaili Centre Opening Ceremony (Houston, Texas, USA)

Islam does not deal in dichotomies but in all encompassing unity. Spirit and body are one, man and nature are one. What is more, man is answerable to God for what man has created. Since all that we see and do resonates on the faith, the aesthetics of the environments we build and the quality of the interactions that take place within them reverberate on our spiritual lives. As the leader of a Muslim community, and particularly one that now resides in twenty-five countries on four continents, the physical representation of Islamic values is particularly important to me. It should reflect who we are in terms of our beliefs, our cultural heritage and our relation to the needs and contexts in which we live in today’s world.

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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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Opening Remarks, Eleventh Seminar, ‘Architecture of Housing’, The Aga Khan Award For Architecture (Zanzibar, Tanzania)

In the seamless web we call national development, housing is only one factor influencing the quality of human life. But how vital it is to health and human safety, still more fundamentally, the state of a person’s home touches deep chords in the human spirit.

It can make him proud or ashamed; give him light and a sense of hope or deepen his despair. It is his statement to his children and to the world about his control over his life, and his aspirations for the future. It is not too much to say that to the extent a man is a householder, he is also a citizen, with a permanent interest in the stability and progress of his country. Still more important, housing has historically been created by families. The African or Asian village, like most other traditional settlements, is not an abstraction, but an architectural expression of a social reality, the way people relate one to another — often as an extended family. These settlements reflect human bondings and community spirit. They can foster families and their ties to other human beings; or they can express human alienation as the extended family disaggregates….

[C]onfronted by the appalling magnitude of the problem of inadequate housing — estimates that one-fifth of the human race is without decent housing, of whom one hundred million do not even have a roof over their heads — one must avoid the trap of the mass solution. Government resources and political commitment to a solution are indispensable: but they will be effective only to the extent that they mobilise as part of the solution the people for whom housing will not be merely shelter but a source of community and of a better life. This will take infinite care and powerful imagination, for the institutional models will vary with regions and cultures, but I deeply believe there is no substitute for them.

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Ottawa Citizen Interview, Chris Mikula and Hayley Mick (Ottawa, Canada) ·· incomplete

I don’t believe that societies are born pluralist. Pluralism has to be omnipresent in civil society … it’s got to be part of the way a society is constituted.

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Amir Aqsunqur Mosque Inauguration (Cairo, Egypt)

Through revitalisation of the sort we celebrate today, we hope to preserve an extraordinary panorama of Islamic history, from the Fatimid Caliphs to the present. At a time when fractures in the unity of the Ummah are so highly visible, I see such projects as particularly hopeful. They are important symbols for the identity of all Muslims, sources of pride for the entire Ummah. And finally I would like you to know that a young Muslim walking here in the 22nd century will be able to feel the pull of his or her own history, even in a radically transformed world. And let us be reminded, too, that in undertaking this work, we are not only attending to our own Islamic heritage, but also preserving an essential part of the patrimony of all humankind. I can say to you today that the potential power of Islamic cultures is such that the Ummah is capable of achieving global recognition for its amazing heritage of unique spaces and buildings.

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Preface to the Report of the Chancellor’s Commission on “The Future of the Aga Khan University: Evolution of a Vision” (Karachi, Pakistan)

Bringing a university from conception to living reality is a demanding and absorbing undertaking, and perhaps especially so for one that chose to face the complexities of building a medical school and the provision of medical services at the outset. Only after several years of detailed planning and preparation was it possible for the rapid development of this medical centre to come about as an institution of quality, relevance and originality….

[The report of the study by a Harvard Committee under the chairmanship of Derek Bok, then Harvard’s President], a document of some 200 pages, was presented to us in 1983. It confirmed the need for a private, autonomous university of international quality and distinction, that would address generic problems of the developing and Muslim worlds in fresh and original ways….

The title of this report, “The Future of the Aga Khan University: Evolution of a Vision” expresses accurately the general conclusions of the Commission. It was asked to review the founding vision of the University and the conceptions for its development that were set fourth in the Harvard Report…. These reviews did not lead the Commission to think any sharp transformations in the original vision of AKU were required for the future. The need for AKU as a private, autonomous international institution of quality and distinction, serving the developing and Muslim worlds in original ways, was found to be at least as compelling as it was when AKU was founded.

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Acceptance Address – Royal Toledo Foundation Award Ceremony (Toledo, Spain)

[T]he reality is that our world is pluralistic and multi-cultural, and destined to remain so.

Ought we not, then, to focus our attention on periods of history when pluralism was happily embraced? May we not learn thereby the need to nurture what I have recently called a cosmopolitan ethic? For this is the foundation of a merit-based civil society capable of harnessing the best in all walks of life from all groups of people. This is the only way to manage, and build on, pluralism, the critical test of democracy anywhere.

This brings me to Toledo which has so successfully preserved, over many centuries, the evidence of its three-fold culture: magnificent churches, synagogues and mosques. This was an era when each of these cultures, Christian, Jewish and Muslim, retained its independent identity while all worked and came together in a glorious intellectual and spiritual adventure. The legacy was a truly enabling environment conducive to prosperity, harmony, scientific discovery, philosophical insights and artistic flowering — all the defining features of a thriving civilisation.

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India Today Interview (2nd), Sandeep Unnithan, ‘What keeps him on course with reviving cultural heritage in developing world’ (Delhi, India)

I think what drives our network is to enable people to manage their destinies. Once they manage their destinies, you will see, generally speaking, a take-off situation. It’s when they cannot manage their destinies and cannot achieve a level of economic independence that they are indebted in a terrible way or are subject to climate change because they are in agriculture or because they are high-risk and they have an earthquake — these are situations which we try to assist. We are not interested in philanthropy in a Western terminology as I would call it, because philanthropy or what they call it, charity, is not our notion of development. Our notion of development is to assist people to go from a notion of an unsatisfactory position of development to an autonomous position. That to us is what is important. Once they are autonomous, our role is finished. They can manage their destiny….

I think about what I used to read about India, China — you remember, the word most used by the Western media was “basket-case” (laughs). I think over and muse over the stupidity of that word, and how silly it looks today, in relation to India and China. I wonder where the basket is nowadays, probably it is moving to other places.

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The Ismaili Imamat and the Province of Alberta ‘Agreement of Co-operation’ Signing Ceremony (Edmonton, Canada)

[I]n the last decades I have come to an important conclusion about governance, about the fragility of governance in the developing world, and what people can do to protect themselves from governance which is not effective. And I think that history is beginning to show that civil society, in its complexity but also in its ability to impact the way people live, is probably the most important, single feature that I know. And building civil society is a complex exercise, needs multiple input and that multiple input, again, I hope we develop with your institutions in Alberta.

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