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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2013 Aga Khan University Convocation Ceremony (Karachi, Pakistan)

We are planning now to build new undergraduate Faculties of Arts and Sciences, one in Karachi and one in Arusha in Tanzania. We plan to achieve this goal progressively as circumstances and resources allow. Yes, it will be a time-consuming exercise, but our planning has been advancing very quickly indeed.

Again, developing a liberal arts capacity will not only fulfil AKU’s founding vision, but it will also follow in the tradition of the great Islamic Universities of past centuries and their effort to expand, and to integrate, a wide array of knowledge. At that time, of course, comprehending the full expanse of knowledge was seen as an achievable goal; today, the explosion of knowledge seems overwhelming. But the knowledge explosion is precisely what makes a liberal arts platform even more valuable. The liberal arts, I believe, can provide an ideal context for fostering inter-disciplinary learning, nurturing critical thinking, inculcating ethical values, and helping students to learn how to go on learning about our ever-evolving universe.

A liberal arts orientation will also help prepare students for leadership in a world where the forces of civil society will play an increasingly pivotal role….

In places where government has been ineffective, or in post-conflict situations, civil society has demonstrated its potential value for maintaining, and even enhancing, the quality of human life. But civil society requires leaders who possess not only well-honed specialised skills, but also a welcoming attitude to a broad array of disciplines and outlooks.

This is why we believe that an investment in liberal arts education is also an investment in strengthening civil society. And this is also true of another, complementary investment we will be making at AKU — the creation of seven new graduate professional schools.

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Opening Remarks, Ninth Seminar, ‘The Expanding Metropolis: Coping with the Urban Growth of Cairo’, The Aga Khan Award For Architecture (Cairo, Egypt)

[T]he poor can display considerable ingenuity in improving their own environment and in utilising locally available materials. I was delighted when Hassan Fathy’s work of a lifetime in this direction, reflecting his profound understanding of the virtues and possibilities of vernacular architecture, was recognised by the Chairman’s Award in 1980. People are the Islamic world’s greatest single resource. If we are to harness their latent abilities then we have to understand ordinary citizens’ aspirations — which may be far removed from architectural or planning ideals — and we have to persuade them of the value of what we are attempting to do. But, I ask again, are we starting from the correct premise? Have we successfully identified our long-term objectives?

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Aga Khan Development Network and Government of Syria ‘Framework Development Agreement’ Signing Ceremony (Damascus, Syria)

Underlining the long-term nature of the commitment represented by this agreement, the Aga Khan referred to the beginning of a “partnership for development into the future not constrained by time.” “We look forward to this collaboration,” he said, “so that we can prioritise the greatest necessities where you feel strategies of partnership are most urgent.”

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Aljazeera Interview, Daniel Lak (Toronto, Canada) ·· incomplete

It’s an extraordinary phenomenon that there’s this enormous knowledge gap and I think it’s the duty of everybody, myself included, to try to fill in that knowledge gap.

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Acceptance Address – Tutzing Evangelical Academy’s ‘Tolerance’ Award (Tutzing, Germany + [USA])

There is a human impulse it seems — fed by fear — to define “identity” in negative terms. We often determine “who we are” by determining who we are against. This fragmenting impulse not only separates peoples from one another, it also subdivides communities and then it subdivides the subdivisions…. But the human inclination to divisiveness is accompanied, I deeply believe, by a profound human impulse to bridge divisions. And often the more secure we are in our own identities, the more effective we can be in reaching out to others.

If our animosities are born out of fear, then confident generosity is born out of hope. One of the central lessons I have learned after a half century of working in the developing world is that the replacement of fear by hope is probably the single most powerful trampoline of progress. Even in the poorest and most isolated communities, we have found that decades, if not centuries, of angry conflict can be turned around by giving people reasons to work together toward a better future — in other words, by giving them reasons to hope. And when hope takes root, then a new level of tolerance is possible, though it may have been unknown for years, and years, and years.

Tolerance which grows out of hope is more than a negative virtue, more than a convenient way to ease sectarian tensions or foster social stability, more than a sense of forbearance when the views of others clash with our own. Instead, seen not as a pallid religious compromise but as a sacred religious imperative, tolerance can become a powerful, positive force, one which allows all of us to expand our horizons and enrich our lives.

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Aga Khan University Hospital, Kampala, Foundation Stone Ceremony (Kampala, Uganda)

You know the expression “golden handcuffs”? Well the one thing I don’t know how to make is golden handcuffs! But I hope that the institution which will come up here will be so important that our graduates will actually choose to be here, because that is the best form of loyalty that we could expect.

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Preface to the book ‘Syria, Medieval Citadels Between East and West’ by Stefano Bianca (Aiglemont)

Such deep and abiding affinities [between Christendom and the Muslim world] demonstrate that so-called conflicts between East and West — whether past or present — are political or ideological constructs that have no real basis in deeper cultural and religious fact. Beyond and apart from the controversies highlighted by contemporary observers (and acerbated by modern nationalistic concepts originally alien to Islam) there has always been a tradition of cultural exchange, tolerance and mutual understanding — even during conflictual situations such as the invasion by the Crusaders. It is this ‘subterranean’ tradition of multicultural symbiosis and of tolerant pluralism, as exemplified by the cultural history of Syria, which needs to be brought to light again, in order to overcome stereotypical prejudices that aggravate any real or imaginary conflicts that may still exist.

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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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CBC Interview (2nd), CBC Morning with Alison Smith (Toronto, Canada)

I have had a feeling that in Europe, but also in Asia and Africa, many, many of the conflicts have been driven by peoples or faiths or tribes who do not accept the existence of others, who want power or who want to normatise religious attitudes or things of this sort. I don’t believe these societies are born into the acceptance of pluralism. I think societies get educated about pluralism. I think young children can be educated without even it being a process — to recognise and accept people of different backgrounds, of different faiths, etc….

I think our experience with rural development in mixed communities … is that in those contexts pluralism is equitable access to opportunity rather than monolithic carrying of despair. And if there is equitable access to opportunity, communities come together because they are looking to the future. And they are looking to that future with hope. And they are entitled to believe in that. And they are entitled actually to manage that. [Emphasis original]

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Address to the Conference on Central Asia and Europe: A New Economic Partnership for the 21st Century (Berlin, Germany)

It is appropriate that the word “Regional” is at the centre of our deliberations on Central Asia. The countries are diverse in many ways — and the development approaches there must be sensitive to divergent requirements. But these countries also have a common historical experience, including several centuries of shared Islamic heritage. Each of them has faced the need to build new political and economic institutions following the breakup of the Soviet Union. And, as the EU Strategy document emphasises, each of them can only optimise their development through a regional approach.

In this respect, the Central Asian experience parallels the European experience. In Europe, too, the end of the Cold War demanded new political and economic structures and it is striking how quickly Europe is now reaching out to Central Asia — offering, among other things, the great gift of a powerful regional example. Among other things, the European example demonstrates that a healthy sense of national identity need not be a barrier to constructive regional engagement….

The key to building partnerships, whether they are among social sectors or among countries, is a profound spirit of reciprocal obligation — a readiness to share the work, to share the costs, to share the risks, and to share the credit. In the end, what it will require most in Central Asia, as it has in Europe, is a spirit of mutual trust.

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Mark Hopkins Hotel Press Conference (San Francisco, USA) ·· incomplete

INCOMPLETE: We regret that from this interview, only limited portions made public by the reporter are available below. We would be very grateful if any of our readers who may have the complete transcript would kindly share it with us. Please click here for information on making submissions to NanoWisdoms; we thank you for your assistance.

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Introduction to ‘The Worlds of Islam in the collection of the Aga Khan Museum’ (Madrid and Barcelona, Spain)

The Umayyad Caliphate integrated the Peninsula to a vast transcontinental empire which, from Baghdad to Cordoba, was the focal point of human civilisation during a period of European obscurity. Muslim Spain transmitted to the West many of the literary and scientific works of antiquity, which had been lost at the fall of the Roman Empire. Classical texts, recuperated in the Alexandria Library, were rendered into Arabic and then translated into the Romance languages by the school of Toledo. It was also from al-Andalus that the works of the great Muslim humanists and scientists spread to Europe, contributing decisively to the development of medieval knowledge in a great number of subjects: astronomy, geometry, mathematics, natural history, medicine, geography, technology, philosophy …

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New York Times Interview, G. Pascal Zachary, ‘Do Business and Islam Mix? Ask Him’ (New York, USA) ·· incomplete

[AKDFED’s] main purpose “is to contribute to development,” [the Aga Khan] adds. “It is not a capitalist enterprise that aims at declaring dividends to its shareholders.” Central to his ethos is the notion that his investments can prompt other forms of economic growth within a country or region that results in greater employment and hope for the poor.

Economic developments experts say the Aga Khan’s activities offer a useful template for others — including philanthropists like Bill Gates and George Soros — who are trying to assist the world’s poorest by marrying business practices to social goals, but whose foundation work usually stops short of owning businesses outright in poor countries.

Paul Collier, an economist at Oxford University who specialises in the problems of poor countries, says he believes that aid agencies could benefit from operating more like venture capitalists — and more like the Aga Khan. “He gets a multiplier effect from his investments that’s really lacking in foreign aid,” Mr. Collier says. “I’m impressed with his way of accepting risk and thinking long term.” …

Mixing business and charity, while long at odds with mainstream capitalist practice, is growing in prominence, making the Aga Khan an unlikely innovator.

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Standard Tanzania Interview, Mansoor Ladha, ‘Islam – The Most Multi-Racial Faith’ (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)

I am a Muslim and Muslims believe that all men are equal no matter what the colour of their skin and I am therefore fundamentally opposed to apartheid in any form. I would wish to emphasize that Islam is probably the most multi-racial faith existing. Within this context, I think it is known that I do not believe it is in the interest of the Jamat to live in a society where multi-racialism is unacceptable.

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Luncheon hosted by Premier of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada) ·· incomplete

Knowledge in its purest form is often abrasive. When this knowledge comes into [developing countries’] societies it creates difficulties, creates reactions because the societies are not prepared for pure knowledge. What Canada has done is it has humanised that knowledge.

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Times of India Interviews ‘Celebrating Beauty’ & ‘Education has not kept pace with globalisation’ (New Delhi, India)

The past cannot be repeated. By copying it, it proves that one cannot do better. By repeating the past, by designing the same thing is not the solution. Modernity cannot be denied. How do we merge the two? That is continuity. We can’t ask people to live in mud houses. We have to come up with new solutions. The award tries to connect the two. The monuments of the past are important but the monuments of today are also important and they have to be recognised.

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Foreword to ‘Spirit & Life, Masterpieces of Islamic Art from The Aga Khan Museum Collection’ (London, United Kingdom)

The aim of the Aga Khan Museum will be to offer unique insights and new perspectives into Islamic civilisations and the cultural threads that weave through history binding us all together. My hope is that the Museum will also be a centre of education and of learning, and that it will act as a catalyst for mutual understanding and tolerance….

This exhibition illustrates how the Qur’an-e-Sharif, rich in parable and allegory, metaphor and symbol, is a fundamental source of inspiration, lending itself to a wide spectrum of interpretations. This freedom of interpretation is a generosity which the Qur’an confers upon all believers. It guides and illuminates the thought and conduct of Muslims belonging to different communities of spiritual affiliation, from century to century, in diverse cultural environments. It extends its pluralistic outlook to adherents of other faiths too, affirming that each has a direction and a path, and should strive to perform good works.

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Aga Khan Development Network and Government of Afghanistan ‘Agreement of Co-operation for Development’ Signing Ceremony (Kabul, Afghanistan)

Referring to “exploratory work for investments in telecommunications and in tourism,” the Aga Khan saw these as “stimulating a multiplicity of ancillary industries at the same time as serving an urgent need in the hospitality industry.” A major national initiative in micro-credit to promote entrepreneurship and build capital is under consideration with the possible involvement of the International Finance Corporation.

“[I]n each of these areas where we feel the greatest need for capacity building, we have been extremely conscious of the fact that opportunities must be created for women. This is why we are targeting women as major beneficiaries with regard to the income generation activities related to agriculture, the training of nurses, the professional education of teachers and for receipt of micro-credit.”

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Opening Remarks, Sixth Seminar, ‘The Changing Rural Habitat’, The Aga Khan Award For Architecture (Beijing, People’s Republic Of China)

Somehow ways have to be found to make the countryside itself a more desirable place to live in, which in turn demands an ability to earn more and to save enough, as individuals or families or communes to begin the process of self-generated economic growth and thus social well-being. The Aga Khan Award for Architecture seeks to identify and premiate all successful efforts in the resolution of man’s built environment, and clearly the fate and future of the rural habitat must be of prime concern to us….

Unless change takes account of rural life in all its aspects, unless it respects the past and the heritage of rural areas and peoples, unless it recognises the intricate ties between the physical and the social environment, it will fail to achieve planning and developing goals for each nation. It will also fail to provide attractive alternatives to migration and thereby fail to stem the tide of people flooding into the cities adding to the already almost insurmountable social problems the urban areas are facing.

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Documentary and Interview, ‘Pacemakers: A Man of the World – The Aga Khan’ (London, United Kingdom) ·· incomplete

What I wanted to do was to avoid turning [the Costa Smeralda development] into a business prospect, where one got everything out of it possible. I wanted to try to contain the development to make something really attractive, as far as one’s own judgement can do that, and avoid having the place completely swamped. We are trying here to stay in the background in the tradition of the island as far as possible….

The construction which will go with this tourism must justify industries, people coming to work here. They were all originally farmers or cattle breeders in the area and were scratching a living out of a land which was practically barren. Now with tourists as a reason for the income of money, the local population have regular salaries, their means of communication have improved, at least they all have now scooters and cars, they dress better, they have electricity in their houses and many modern facilities which I honestly don’t think could have been dreamt of before this project was started.

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