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

Featured Item  »»  New Year’s 2017; Dare Greatly

The NanoWisdoms Archive of Imamat Speeches, Interviews and Writings wishes all Happy New Year.

A New Year brings with it the promise of change and 2017 promises to be memorable year, full of change, for both Ismailis and the world, as a whole. This year we Ismailis will, In’Shah’Allah, celebrate His Highness the Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee — marking 60 glorious years of his Imamat — and eagerly look forward to new directions which his steady, guiding hand may take us. Meanwhile, the world braces for what, by all accounts, appears to be a profound change in direction on the global stage as American President-elect Donald Trump assumes office.

At a personal level, however, New Year’s is a time when we reflect and resolve to change our lives through the time honoured tradition of New Year’s resolutions.

Change and new directions — whether globally, communally or personally — require confidence, courage and conviction. Confidence to assess and chart a new course. Courage to set sail on the journey. And conviction to be true to ourselves and our journey so we continue to have faith in ourselves and don’t lose heart when we face troubled waters — which we will — but, instead, calmly make the course corrections needed to forge ahead.

However, what kind of change should we strive for? What kind of journey should we chart? It is said greatness lies not where we stand but in what direction we are moving and so we could not find a more fitting answer than the powerful words of America’s 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt, who said to “dare greatly.” In 2006, at the Aga Khan University, the Aga Khan himself said the path chosen for AKU was “not easy”, “certainly not risk free” but one “filled with the promise of high adventure.”

So, today, at the start of this New Year, filled with promise, hope and change let us resolve to “dare greatly” so we may feel the satisfaction and pleasure that only one who leaves it all on the field, “who spends himself in a worthy cause,” truly understands. Our theme for our New Year’s card is, therefore, “Dare Greatly.”

Click on the image, or here, to view the card and read both President Roosevelt’s and the Aga Khan’s inspiring remarks.

If this is your first visit to the Archive, we invite you to view our introductory video here.

Featured Item  »»  Salgirah, 2016: Wisdom & Education

The NanoWisdoms Archive of Imamat Speeches, Interviews and Writings wishes all Salgirah Mubarak.

Salgirah is an annual Ismaili celebration, commemorated on December 13, in recognition of His Highness the Aga Khan’s birthday. The famous 19th Century playwright, poet and author, Oscar Wilde, once remarked “with age comes wisdom, but sometimes age comes alone” — though in the Aga Khan’s case, of course, wisdom has been the hallmark of his entire life. This year, when we commemorate the Aga Khan’s 80th birthday, it seemed fitting, therefore, to reflect on his wisdom about wisdom itself and so we chose “Wisdom & Education” as the theme for our greeting card.

Click on the image to view the card and read the Aga Khan’s remarks.

If this is your first visit to the Archive, we invite you to view our introductory video here.

Featured Item  »»  2016 Aga Khan for Award for Architecture Prize Ceremony (Al-Ain, United Arab Emirates)

I think, first, of how great architecture can integrate the past and the future — inherited tradition and changing needs. We need not choose between looking back and looking forward; they are not competing choices, but healthy complements. We can learn valuable lessons from history without getting lost in history; we can look boldly ahead without ignoring what has gone before….

I think of how architectural excellence can integrate the Gifts of Nature and the potentials of the Human Mind. Natural Blessings and Human Creativity are Divine gifts — and it is wrong to embrace one at the expense of the other. The best architecture teaches us to engage with Nature respectfully; not by conquering or subduing it, nor by isolating ourselves away from it.

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Featured Item  »»  2016 Aga Khan Award for Architecture Winner’s Semiar (Dubai, United Arab Emirates) ·· incomplete

We’re beginning to see in many parts of the Muslim world … how global warming is beginning to create situations where life is at risk, where it was not at risk before…. We’re seeing villages are being wiped away by earthquakes, by landslides, by avalanches, we’re seeing people moving to dangerous areas in modern environments…. I would ask you to try to bring this issue forward so that we address it in good time (he said). I see these crises of change as being badly predicted.

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Featured Item  »»  Inauguration of the Naryn Campus of the University of Central Asia (Naryn, Kyrgyzstan)

Students of world history remind us how Central Asia, a thousand years ago, “led the world” in trade and investment, in urban development, in cultural and intellectual achievement. This was the place that leading thinkers from around the known world would look to for leadership. What were the latest breakthroughs in astronomy or mathematics, in chemistry or medicine, in philosophy or music? This was the place to find out. This region is where algebra got its name, where the earth’s diameter was precisely calculated, where some of the world’s greatest poetry was penned.

Why did this happen then? Why did it happen here? Above all, I would suggest, it was because of the quality of “openness.” By that I mean openness to new ideas, openness to change, and openness to people from many backgrounds and with a variety of gifts. The people of the cities here, even all those centuries ago, joined hands with the people of the steppes, and together they reached out to people who were far, far away. That kind of openness can again be the key that unlocks the doors to the future.

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Featured Item  »»  Brussels Conference on Afghanistan (Brussels, Belgium)

Since 2001, AKDN and its partners have channelled over $1 billion to enhance self-reliance and improve the quality of life of Afghans. Between now and 2020, AKDN plans similar investments in cultural heritage, education, energy, health, and poverty alleviation…. I would reiterate my profound belief in the power of sustained, long-term, multi-dimensional development that empowers individuals and communities to improve their quality of life.

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Featured Item  »»  Acceptance Remarks and apres speech Conversation with the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson — Accepting the Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship (Toronto, Canada)

These are just a few thoughts as I look to the future of Global Citizenship. The challenges, in sum, will be many and continuing. What will they require of us? A short list might include these strengths: a vital sense of balance, an abundant capacity for compromise, more than a little sense of patience, an appropriate degree of humility, a good measure of forgiveness, and, of course, a genuine welcoming of human difference. It will mean hard work. It will never be completed. But no work will be more important….

I have been very impressed since 1957, in developing countries, when elections had to be held or were held in circumstances where you would assume that the population didn’t have access to the information they would’ve, in our view, needed to express themselves rationally and competently. Well, I got it wrong. They are very, very wise. Public wisdom is not dependent on education.

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Jamati Institutional Leaders Dinner (London, United Kingdom) ·· incomplete

It has been an enormously happy visit to the United Kingdom and I appreciate all the kindness, generosity and particularly the hard work that has gone into transforming the Jamat of 1957 — less than a hundred people in the UK — to a successful Jamat of significant global importance that you are today. Congratulations and on behalf of the Jamat around the world, mubarak and thank you.

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Supporting Syria and the Region Conference (London, United Kingdom)

AKDN’s development and humanitarian work in Syria began many years before the war. In the present situation, we have committed resources and efforts to ensure that Internally Displaced People receive humanitarian assistance, and are supported to sustain their livelihoods. We are taking two approaches: First, we are supporting local community leaders, teachers, doctors, engineers and others to foster stability, protecting their families and their communities. We are thus building and strengthening civil society to take as much responsibility as possible for their own future. Second, we are investing in communities, by supporting agriculture, income generation, early childhood education, schools, and hospitals. We also provide vocational training to create skills. Our goal is to sustain hope.

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Featured Item  »»  2016 Aga Khan for Award for Architecture Prize Ceremony (Al-Ain, United Arab Emirates)

I think, first, of how great architecture can integrate the past and the future — inherited tradition and changing needs. We need not choose between looking back and looking forward; they are not competing choices, but healthy complements. We can learn valuable lessons from history without getting lost in history; we can look boldly ahead without ignoring what has gone before….

I think of how architectural excellence can integrate the Gifts of Nature and the potentials of the Human Mind. Natural Blessings and Human Creativity are Divine gifts — and it is wrong to embrace one at the expense of the other. The best architecture teaches us to engage with Nature respectfully; not by conquering or subduing it, nor by isolating ourselves away from it.

Read more »

Visit to Madagascar (Antananarivo, Madagascar)

A fresh approach to ethics in public life and in the private sector, an improved recognition of the inherent pluralism of contemporary societies, and increased opportunity to build high competence in the sectors of greatest need, are features of the new horizons that I see in Africa today.

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India Today Interview (1st), Aroon Purie (??, India)

As Imam of the Ismaili sect, I am in a position to adapt the teachings of the Qur’an to the modern condition. On the question of modernity the issue is essentially whether one is affecting the fundamental moral fabric of society or whether one is affecting the fundamentals of religious practice. As long as these two aspects are safeguarded the rest can be subject to adjustment.

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Itar-Tass Interview, ‘Between Conflicting Sides’ (Dushanbe, Tajikistan) ·· incomplete

All the Afghans should promptly resume an open and fraternal dialogue, thereby turning Islamic peace ethics into a national reality and putting an end to hatred and division… [My] heart overflows with sorrow from the very idea that Muslims are now fighting against Muslims (whereas) it is necessary to respect the sanctity of life.

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Luncheon hosted by Governor and First Lady of Georgia (Atlanta, Georgia , USA) ·· incomplete

Georgia is making very, very serious, intelligent commitments to developing forces in the Knowledge Society. When we work in the developing world, we are trying to build new institutions, and our most difficult thing to achieve is to enter that Knowledge Society. And entering into that Knowledge Society is a question of people. It’s not only a question of money, it’s institutions working with institutions.

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Ismaili Imamat and Government of Portugal ‘Protocol of Co-operation’ Signing Ceremony (Lisbon, Portugal)

The Protocol of Co-operation between the Government of the Portuguese Republic and the Ismaili Imamat, which we signed this evening, is the first such Agreement that the Ismaili Imamat has signed with a Western Government, and I am deeply convinced that it will bring clear benefits to our peoples and to many others. For the Ismaili Imamat, the Ismaili Community worldwide and me, this is a highly important day. I, therefore, wish this evening, to illustrate the full significance which it has in our eyes …

The Government and municipalities, the European Commission, leading civil society and business organisations are our partners in this moral enterprise, [AKDN’s Urban Community Support Programme in Portgual], known by its local name of Kapacidad, reflecting the conviction that people are inherently capable to look after themselves.

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Architecture, The American Institute of Architects Journal, Interview, ‘The prince and the paupers’ (USA)

Some of the buildings we restore will have a direct commercial impact. Others will be cultural symbols that we hope will be self-sustaining, but may not be profit-generating. After all, many of these buildings are more important as symbols of historical social structure. It would be foolish to try to change that or to pretend it didn’t exist. In the developing world, you can’t just take any historic building and do anything you want with it. How you choose to re-utilise those buildings has to be acceptable to the society in which they are located. That notion of social responsibility for reuse of historic buildings is very important for us.

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Paris Match Interview (2nd), Caroline Pigozzi (Paris, France)

[Translation] Who in your mind are the strongmen of the Muslim world of tomorrow?

First of all, those who represent serious politics and economic courage among whom I name the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the King Hussein of Jordan, the King Hassan of Morocco, or even the President Suharto of Indonesia, the Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamed of Malaysia or President Akaev of Kyrgyzstan.

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Restored Polana Serena Hotel Opening Ceremony (Maputo, Mozambique)

There is one other larger context I would like to mention today — the story of the Serena Hotel Group as a whole. Stretching back now over nearly four decades the Serena Group has contributed significantly to the economic progress of the places where it operates. And we intend that this same thing will happen in this country.

To begin with, attracting visitors to this country — business leaders and leisure travellers alike, one-time visitors and repeat customers — will itself produce foreign exchange at the time of such visits as well as later foreign investment, often as a result of those stays. And in both cases, there will be important multiplier effects for other enterprises, as well as for government revenues.

As the Serena Group has learned in so many other places, world-class travel facilities can be crucial components of what we call an “enabling environment” — a setting in which additional development initiatives can take root and thrive.

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The Sunday Times Interview, Part II, Nicholas Tomalin, ‘Our Future in Africa’ (London, United Kingdom)

For the future, have you made any basic decisions where Ismaili communities should develop? There are only a certain number of areas in the world where a Muslim group can live with its own traditions. In Western Europe our habits are either misunderstood or totally ignored; [Y]ou can see that Africa, with all its dangers, has tremendous potentiality. I have intense respect for the African; I think in a number of years we’ll find he has brought something new to political concepts. We will make a major effort in that continent….

Do you find left-wing political attitudes are a danger to your Faith? In the Faith itself, every man is equal. So long as this is the dominant element a left-wing attitude is not going to get a strong grasp. What does happen, and this is a danger, is that the left-wing attitudes tend not only to destroy the Faith of a man towards his religion but also the respect of one individual towards another. When the Faith is broken down everything goes with it: the family, society, the individual, the intelligence.

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University of Sind Convocation Ceremony (Hyderabad, Pakistan)

It is through the creation of such a new elite, inspired by, and widely read in everything related to our heritage, that there must come about a revival in Muslim thought. The whole approach to education, without becoming archaic, should begin now to re-introduce, as widely as possible, the work and thought of our great Muslim writers and philosophers. Thus, from the nursery school to the university, the thoughts of the young will be inspired by our own heritage and not that of some foreign culture.

Again, let there be no misunderstanding: I am not in any way opposed to the literature or the art or the thought of the West. I simply maintain that the Islamic heritage is just as great and that it is up to us to bring it to the forefront again. When our nursery school children first begin to read, why should they not let their imaginations build upon the prowess of the Great Khaled rather than Wellington or Napoleon? And if the student of philosophy seeks a degree, should he not be encouraged to read about even Al-Hallaj rather than Hegel or Kierkegaard?

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Pranay Gupte Interview (United States, United Kingdom) ·· incomplete

In the long run, the question is what is the context in which human society will function and the Islamic community will function? And I think the whole notion of relevance is a massively important issue. It’s going across all faiths. Not just the Islamic faith. Not just the Islamic interpretation. It’s going across all faiths today. There is a clear search for ethical contexts. And my sense is that could be a little bit of a reaction to maybe some of excesses in the material context.

It’s clear that uncontrolled freedom becomes license. It’s an issue that keeps coming up all the time. And it’s one which needs very, very deep reflection. Very deep reflection. It’s probably the most challenging issue that I have to address today. More so since the life sciences have evolved, since communications have evolved.

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Restored Monuments in Darb al-Ahmar, Opening Ceremony (Cairo, Egypt)

The first two reasons, then, for my special identification with this undertaking are its historical connections to the past, and the diverse and plural dimensions of its present. The third element, however, has to do with its sustainability in the future — and in discussing that future, two important questions come to mind.

They are, first, at what point of physical improvement can we consider that the areas of the Islamic city most at risk have been restored, rehabilitated and returned to their residents in a secured manner? And secondly, what can and should we do to ensure that the more than one million visitors per year who are likely to visit the Azhar Park in the future become an economic benefit rather than a potential economic burden for the residents of Darb al-Ahmar?

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Presidential Address, International Seerat Conference, ‘Life of the Prophet (sas)’ (Karachi, Pakistan)

I have observed in the Western world a deeply changing pattern of human relations. The anchors of moral behaviour appear to have dragged to such depths that they no longer hold firm the ship of life: what was once wrong is now simply unconventional, and for the sake of individual freedom must be tolerated. What is tolerated soon becomes accepted. Contrarily, what was once right is now viewed as outdated, old fashioned and is often the target of ridicule….

The Holy Prophet’s life gives us every fundamental guideline that we require to resolve the problem as successfully as our human minds and intellects can visualise. His example of integrity, loyalty, honesty, generosity both of means and of time, his solicitude for the poor, the weak and the sick, his steadfastness in friendship, his humility in success, his magnanimity in victory, his simplicity, his wisdom in conceiving new solutions for problems which could not be solved by traditional methods, without affecting the fundamental concepts of Islam, surely all these are foundations which, correctly understood and sincerely interpreted, must enable us to conceive what should be a truly modern and dynamic Islamic Society in the years ahead.

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Eighth Aga Khan Award for Architecture Prize Ceremony (The Citadel, Aleppo, Syria)

Many Muslims today, of which I am one, carry with them a memory of the historical achievements of Islamic civilisations. What is the significance of this historical memory for the Ummah in the contemporary world with its many and varied challenges? How can we look back and reinvigorate aspects of it, and what level of significance should be accorded to it? Since there is this general feeling that something has been lost, it is critical to look back in order to look forward. This is the debate that must occur, in which there must be broad participation on a basis that, like that used in the Award, provides freedom for full exchange. The goal should be to turn this great resource into an intellectual trampoline to generate ideas for building the future productively and constructively in terms that will be meaningful and beneficial for Muslims generally.

Some progress was made at an Award seminar on understanding the specifics of such a process with respect to expressions of Islam in contemporary architecture which I offer as an example, because it illustrates the level at which the process of questioning and deliberations must take place. Two lessons emerged from the discussion. One is that the technical issues of the built environment cannot be considered in isolation from the cultural and spiritual values of a society. The second is that these values have to be related at one and the same time to the historical traditions of Islam, in all their diversity, and to the fresh challenges posed by the opportunities and needs for living in the modern world.

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Lead architects for the University of Central Asia campuses announcement (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan)

There is a growing appreciation of the link between the intellectual resources of major universities and the overall development of cities and nations. The three campuses of the University of Central Asia will be catalysts for the development of the region.

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Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development and Government of Mali ‘Memorandum of Agreement’ Signing Ceremony (Bamako, Mali)

[Google translation] All the commitments I have just signed, will have a significant impact not only on the Malian economy, but especially on the quality of life of people. (l’Essor, Mali, No. 15061, 14 Oct 2003)

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Featured Item  »»  Inauguration of the Naryn Campus of the University of Central Asia (Naryn, Kyrgyzstan)

Students of world history remind us how Central Asia, a thousand years ago, “led the world” in trade and investment, in urban development, in cultural and intellectual achievement. This was the place that leading thinkers from around the known world would look to for leadership. What were the latest breakthroughs in astronomy or mathematics, in chemistry or medicine, in philosophy or music? This was the place to find out. This region is where algebra got its name, where the earth’s diameter was precisely calculated, where some of the world’s greatest poetry was penned.

Why did this happen then? Why did it happen here? Above all, I would suggest, it was because of the quality of “openness.” By that I mean openness to new ideas, openness to change, and openness to people from many backgrounds and with a variety of gifts. The people of the cities here, even all those centuries ago, joined hands with the people of the steppes, and together they reached out to people who were far, far away. That kind of openness can again be the key that unlocks the doors to the future.

Read more »