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

Featured Item  »»  Acceptance Remarks – Honorary Doctorate, Universidade NOVA de Lisboa (Lisbon, Portugal)

I have always felt at home in Portugal, and now ever more so since the signing in 2015 of an historic Agreement between the Ismaili Imamat and Portuguese Republic to establish the Seat of the Ismaili Imamat in this country — an important milestone in the 1,400-year history of the Ismaili Imamat. It marks the culmination of our long and deep relationship here and one that will now deepen further. While we work in 30 countries, we hold an enduring affinity for Portugal and its institutions, its history and its people. And the historic Palacete Henrique Mendonca will become the most fitting host for the Seat. Underpinning this partnership with Portugal is our admiration for the country’s pluralism and bridge-building initiatives with people from disparate cultures and faiths…. Our commitment to Portugal reflects our deep respect for this country and our deep affection for its people.

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Featured Item  »»  Diamond Jubilee Mubarak, 2017: Dare to Imagine

The NanoWisdoms Archive of Imamat Speeches, Interviews and Writings wishes all belated Diamond Jubilee Mubarak!

Although thought of as an architectural endeavour, the Aga Khan Award for Architecture — established forty years ago by His Highness the Aga Khan — has deeper intellectual and philosophical roots. As the Aga Khan explained, in 2001, the “goal was to create an intellectual space” for “seeking diverse solutions.” A space where “challenging ideas could grow without restraint” and “creativity and risk-taking could blossom,” free from dogma and timidity. A space for “debate” and “broad participation on a basis that … provides freedom for full exchange.” In sum, he said, the goal was to create an “intellectual trampoline to generate ideas.”

While milestones, like the Diamond Jubilee, are times when we review progress made on ideas, hopes and dreams imagined at prior milestones, such as the Golden Jubilee, their real benefit and importance may well be to remind us to, once again, dare to imagine boldly the new future we wish to create for ourselves, our families and community. Albert Einstein said “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” And, in 1989, the Aga Khan advised the community to “listen to ideas, develop ideas, create ideas and bring them forward …” And so, in that vein, perhaps one worthy objective for this Diamond Jubilee — which could carry our community for generations — would be to imagine how we can help our community more effectively create that intellectual space, that intellectual trampoline, the Aga Khan spoke of. That special environment which not only values, but actually protects and encourages intellectual pluralism, at all levels of activity and administration.

The theme for our Diamond Jubilee Mubarak card is, therefore, “Dare to Imagine.”

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Featured Item  »»  Diamond Jubilee Inauguration Interview (Aiglemont, France) ·· incomplete

When I inquired as to what role can Islam play in promoting social peace, especially in a region like South Asia, the Aga Khan was unequivocal: “Social ethic is a strong principle in Islam and I think that Muslims would be well advised to respect that as a fundamental ethic of our faith and to live by that, which means that we have to be what I would call an empathetic society, a welcoming society, peaceful society, a generous society.”

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Featured Item  »»  Acceptance Remarks — Architectural League of New York 2017 President’s Medal (New York, USA)

There are many, many challenges and we know all about that, but challenge is part of human life and I don’t think you or I will bend our knees in front of a challenge. I don’t like bending knees. I dissuade people who have knee problems to work for me. And I still try to ski at my old age.

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

As people living in a given time, we are observers of that time. We have the ability to affect the future and one of the exciting aspects of this Award, I think, is, particularly, that precise opportunity to build for the future, to look forward to processes of change which are thought through, which are evaluated, which are affected upon in terms of impact on society, impact on cultural history, impact on personal enjoyment in public spaces or private spaces. So, this Award really has, as its objective, to cause people to think about the processes of change in our world, and see how we could best influence them.

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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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Acceptance Address – North-South Prize Award (Lisbon, Portugal)

As I observe the world, I am struck by the insufficiency of well-informed debate, of richer dialogue, of deeper education in our quest to avoid human conflict. That insufficiency often plagues relations between the North and the South and increasingly between the North and the Islamic world. Some have called this a clash of civilisations. I think it is, essentially, a clash of ignorances. What it means, in any case, is that institutions such as the North-South Centre have never been more important….

It is ironic that a sense of intensified conflict comes at a time of unprecedented breakthroughs in communication technology. At the very time that we talk more and more about global convergence, we also seem to experience more and more social divergence. The lesson it seems to me is that technologies alone will not save us — the critical variable will always be and will always lie in the disposition of human hearts and minds.

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‘Splendori a Corte’ Opening Ceremony – An Exhibition from the Aga Khan Museum Collection (Parma, Italy)

This exhibition of artistic masterpieces from the Islamic world underlines that the arts, particularly when they are spiritually inspired, can become a medium of discourse that transcends the barriers of our day-to-day experiences and preoccupations. Many questions are currently being raised in the West about the Muslim world, with countless misconceptions and misunderstandings occurring between our contemporary societies. I hope that this exhibition will hold a special significance at a time which calls for enlightened encounters amongst faiths and cultures.

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NBC Interview, Richard Engel, ‘A Hollywood stepson and a Muslim leader’ (USA)

I certainly think the invasion of Iraq was a serious mistake. We had crisis situations before that. We had them in Kashmir. We had them in the Middle East. If you look at the origins of those crises, they were political not religious. At the moment, it’s the horrible conflicts which are dominating the image of the Islamic world and I can say without one iota of fear that is totally wrong, totally wrong. You had wars in the Christian world, you had wars in the Jewish world. But you don’t define them in theological terms anymore, except Northern Ireland.

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Aga Khan Academy, Kampala, Foundation Stone Ceremony (Kampala, Uganda)

Let me extend, at the very start, my heartfelt thanks to the person who made this beautiful site available for the building of a new Aga Khan Academy. He is Amirali Karmali [and we] are most deeply grateful to Amirali and his family for their extraordinary generosity. I know I speak for everyone here in describing this gift as a truly inspiring one….

Together [the 18 Aga Khan Academies] will constitute an inter-related community of learning exchanging students and teachers, sharing ideas and insights. And they will also share a variety of environmental experiences. Some, like the first Academy at Mombasa, will be in ocean-side settings, other will be placed in high mountain environments, still others will be built in desert terrains or forested areas or, as in Kampala, at the side of a beautiful lake. As our students and teachers experience these remarkable surroundings, I hope they will develop what I would call a sense of “environmental pluralism” to accompany the appreciation for cultural pluralism which we will also hope will be one of the programme’s hallmarks….

The final point I would emphasise today, above all else, is our uncompromising commitment to quality, in every aspect of the Academy experience. Our hallmark will be quality students, quality instructors, quality facilities — an unwavering devotion to world-class standards. Let the day be long past when some could excuse mediocrity by saying that it was “good enough for Africa”.

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Ismaili Centre, Toronto, the Aga Khan Museum and their Park Foundation Stone Ceremony (Toronto, Canada)

As our plans began to take shape, we came to realise that the Museum’s focus on the arts of Islam will make it a unique institution in North America, contributing to a better understanding of Islamic civilisations — and especially of the plurality within Islam and of Islam’s relationship to other traditions. It will be a place for sharing a story, through art and artefacts, of highly diverse achievements — going back over 1,400 years. It will honour the central place within Islam of the search for knowledge and beauty. And it will illuminate the inspiration which Muslim artists have drawn from faith, and from a diverse array of epics, from human stories of separation and loss, of love and joy — themes which we know reverberate eloquently across the diverse cultures of humanity.

In a world in which some speak of a growing clash of civilisations, we believe the Museum will help address what is not so much a clash of civilisations, as it is a clash of ignorances. The new Museum will have a strong educational vocation: it will be a place for active inquiry, for discussion and research, for lectures and seminars, and for an array of collaborative programs with educational institutions and with other museums.

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CBC Interview (4th), One-on-One (2nd) with Peter Mansbridge (Toronto, Canada)

What are the continuing consequences of the situation in Iraq?

Well I think one of them obviously is crisis between the Shia and Sunni communities. I think that crisis is now extending throughout the region, and I mentioned today [in my speech to Parliament], that it’s actually active in nine countries. I mean, if you make a parallel with the Christian world, what would have been the Christian world’s reaction if the Irish crisis had been active in nine countries. (Pause) It would have been a very, very serious issue. That’s what we’re facing today. That crisis is in nine countries and it is likely to expand further. (Emphasis original)

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Address to the XIIIth International Meeting of Peoples and Religions, Special Session ‘Africa’s Rebirth’ (Lisbon, Portugal) ·· incomplete

A shared social ethic, underwritten by Africa’s faiths, can help resolve many of the problems afflicting Africa today…. I am unaware of a single situation where the faiths of Africa have sat down and asked themselves what policies and strategies are in place to offer long-term availability of health and education.

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Interview with an unidentified media outlet (Unknown location) ·· incomplete

If those values are destroyed or moved in directions which are not compatible with people’s thinking, the way they live, you find all sorts of disjunctions and dysfunctions. Society becomes dysfunctional. So investing in the culture, in the value systems, and making them effective today is, I think, a major aspect of development.

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Paris Match Interview (4th), Caroline Pigozzi, ‘The Confessions Of The Aga Khan’ (Paris, France)

[Translation] I confess that I am obsessed with time and each day I remind myself that my rare free moments must be devoted to preparing for the future. After all, life is fragile. God calls us whenever He sees fit. If I had to take stock of my life, my feeling would be that I have structured the Ismaili Imamat, for which I was given responsibility nearly 50 years ago, in such a way as to provide it with the institutional means to work for the good of Ismaili communities and the countries in which we are involved. However, there is still a great deal to do and in order to be both effective and reactive I try always to acquire new knowledge in all sorts of areas.

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Aga Khan University Hospital, Kampala, Land Grant Ceremony (Kampala, Uganda)

We started the Aga Khan University in Pakistan some 32 years ago and it has grown into a truly international institution, with major campuses in Africa as well as in Asia, and with programmes in many fields. But right at the centre of its mission, from the very start, has been one principle goal: to help ensure the people living in the developing world are able to access international standards of healthcare….

Now these standards cannot be maintained without research. Therefore the Aga Khan University is investing — and will continue to invest very heavily — in research, in postgraduate studies, not undergraduate studies. It is this research which will enable the Aga Khan University and others in the area to bring new knowledge, appropriate knowledge to Africa, Asia, which we desperately need.

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Announcement of the Aga Khan Museum (Toronto, Canada) ·· incomplete

In situating [The Aga Khan Museum and Global Centre for Pluralism] in Canada, we acknowledge both a tradition of tolerance and inclusiveness as well as an environment that has permitted diversity to flourish, enriching civic life of each individual and community that has sought to make this country its home. It is to this commitment to pluralism that we will turn in seeking to make these institutions both a repository of heritage and a source of inspiration for societies the world over in the future.

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National Building Museum Panel Discussion on ‘Design in the Islamic World and Its Impact Beyond’ at the Scully Seminar/Symposium (Washington D.C., USA)

Today, the absence of public spaces in the Islamic world is something of major concern to me. And, Charles, you were talking about city planning. I think we are, generally speaking, in the Islamic world still very weak on landscape architecture and planning. We will need to do a lot more there. A number of architectural schools actually are linked to schools of engineering. And that, in itself, tends to bring a form of architecture which may not necessarily be what we would be looking for. I’m not criticising that, but I’m saying what used to be a great strength in Islamic design seems to have disappeared. And one of the issues that we’re trying to develop now is to restore value to these traditional forms, and keep in mind that these materials in these forms are not without meaning.

In many, many cases they’re symbols, symbols of interpretation of the faith, symbols of viewing of the future and so on and so forth. So I think it’s very important that this notion of beauty should be respected and developed. Now taste changes so I think we have to be careful not to try to take the sense of taste of the past and stick it on an airport or stick it on a modern building. I mean, I think we have to live in our time and live in the future also.

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Dinner hosted by President of Côte d’Ivoire (Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire) ·· incomplete

[Google translation] The Aga Khan Development Network has started its activities in West Africa, at the request of President Houphouet in the economic field but we do not want to stay only in the economic field we now want to engage in social in the cultural field and that is why our next major initiative will be the micro-credit because micro-credit is an absolutely exceptional to help the poorest in society to build a future.

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University of Alberta Graduation Ceremony (Edmonton, Canada + [Kenya])

When we talk about the ethical realm, when we attack corruption, we are inclined to think primarily about government and politics. I am one, however, who believes that corruption is just as acute, and perhaps even more damaging, when the ethics of the civil and private sectors deteriorate. We know from recent headlines about scoundrels from the American financial scene to the halls of European parliaments — and we can certainly do without either.

But the problem extends into every area of human enterprise. When a construction company cheats on the quality of materials for a school or a bridge, when a teacher skimps on class work in order to sell his time privately, when a doctor recommends a drug because of incentives from a pharmaceutical company, when a bank loan is skewed by kickbacks, or a student paper is plagiarised from the Internet, when the norms of fairness and decency are violated in any way, then the foundations of society are undermined. And the damage is felt most immediately in the most vulnerable societies, where fraud is often neither reported nor corrected, but simply accepted as an inevitable condition of life.

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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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ZDF (Enterprises) Interview (2nd) for the documentary ‘Islam and the West’, ‘Morgenland’ (‘Orient’) (Germany) ·· incomplete

[As] a Muslim we don’t make the divide between faith and life in the same way as parts of the Christian world do, not all of it but there are large parts of the Christian world which make that divide. We don’t make that divide. Islam doesn’t allow you to make that divide. You reflect your belief, your faith in the faith of Islam, not only by your attitude to the faith itself but to the society in which you live — to poverty, to the family, to ethics in your civil behaviour. It’s part of your everyday life. You live the faith. And I think that’s why many, many Muslims, not me but others, including myself, define the faith as, a way of life because it is a way of life. [Emphasis original]

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State Banquet (Dhaka, Bangladesh)

Technology is also transforming our economic lives. Economic value is no longer tied to how much land one controls or how many machines or factories one owns. Within our lifetimes, predominantly “Agricultural Societies” and “Industrial Societies” of the past have been joined, and sometimes supplanted, by what many call the “Knowledge Society,” propelled by the digital revolution, and focusing on the creation and management of information. In a Knowledge Society, the most productive investments we can make are investments in education. And education is another priority we share with the Bangladeshi people.

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University of Central Asia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan Campuses Foundation Stone Ceremony (Khorog, Tajikistan; Naryn, Kyrgyzstan) ·· incomplete

We are talking about something of the order of 40m people who live in the highest mountain ranges in the world, with the Karakorum and the Pamir…. In Afghanistan I think [the univeristy] will have a role. In north-west Pakistan I think it will have a role; in western China also. And Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Turkey — all these countries that have high mountain populations…. (BBC, 5 July 2004)

We are celebrating the foundation of a unique institution. By creating intellectual space and resources, the university will bring the power of education and human ingenuity to the economic and social challenges of mountain societies in Central Asia and elsewhere…. There are two measures of success of any university. The careers of its graduates, and the quality of research, which is carried out in the universities and then is used for the benefit of the communities that the university serves.

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Closing Remarks, Fifth Seminar, ‘Places of Public Gathering In Islam’, The Aga Khan Award For Architecture (Amman, Jordan)

Much has been said at the seminar about influencing decision makers, and there are no more important decision makers in Jordan than the King, the Crown Prince, the Prime Minister and the cabinet ministers who attended the opening session. This is the first time in the five pre-Award seminars that the head of state has personally opened the seminar, and I think this alone demands an expression of gratitude and admiration.

The Crown Prince himself presided over two full days of our meetings, and also took time to speak to us about central issues concerning the conservation of Islamic buildings and the Islamic heritage. I sincerely hope that the example set here in Jordan will be emulated in the Islamic countries in which we hold future seminars.

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Preface to ‘Architecture in Islamic Arts’ (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Singapore; St. Petersburg, Russia)

At the height of Islamic civilisations came a magnificent flowering of the arts and architecture: the buildings created by the great Islamic dynasties rank among the finest monuments of world culture. To focus one’s attention on material details of these creations and on their representation in the pictorial arts of the time makes one understand better how they reflect the all-encompassing unity of man and nature, central to Muslim belief. The aesthetics of the environment we build and of the arts we create are the reflections of our spiritual life, and there has always been a very definite ethos guiding the best Islamic architecture and artistic creation.

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