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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Dinner hosted by President of Burkina Faso (Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso)

[Google translation] Formal links with the Imamat West Africa dates back to 1960 when a young Imam, I had the opportunity to visit several countries in the region. At the time, this country was called Upper Volta. But our informal links back to a much longer time since historians speak because of trade in the 12th century between the scholars of the University of Sankore in Timbuktu and al-Azhar university institute founded in Cairo in early 10th century by my ancestor, Imam-Caliph al-Muizz Fatimid. So Mr. President, our reports are very very old.

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Restored Forodhani Park Opening Ceremony (Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania)

The accomplishments we celebrate today, then, are a part of an ongoing story — and it is a story which has counterparts in many places around the world. In Cairo, in Damascus and Aleppo, in Delhi and Lahore, in Kabul and Bamako, in Mopti, Djenne and Timbuktu, and along the ancient Silk Route, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, through its Historic Cities Programme, has worked to restore a series of major cultural landmarks.

We undertake these projects, in part, because they can reinforce a sense of identity within proud communities, providing gateways to cultural understanding for local citizens and for visitors alike. But there is more to the matter than that. These cultural initiatives, in each case, have also been accompanied by a social and economic rationale, so that the entire project works to improve the well being of the people who live in these areas. How does this happen? It happens when many components come together — like pieces of a complex puzzle….

Our mandate is that no such project should require future support from government or any other institution, but should stand on its own, as an entirely independent engine of community progress.

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Address to the Conference Marking Nation Media Group’s 50th Anniversary, ‘Media and the African Promise’ (Nairobi, Kenya)

I am convinced that the best way for media, in Africa and elsewhere, to maintain their independence is to prove their indispensability. This is not an easy task. Information flows more quickly, over longer distances at lower cost than ever before. But sometimes more information, in and of itself, can also mean more misinformation, more confusion, more manipulation, more superficial snapshots of events, lacking nuance, lacking context, or hiding agendas….

In my view the time has come when a sometimes dysfunctional relationship born out of government inexperience or media shallowness can be replaced by a new level of constructive intellectual empathy. I am convinced that an improved relationship is now possible. No! It is essential if African development is to progress at the pace African peoples need and want….

I am pleased to tell you that The Aga Khan University is planning to establish a new Graduate School of Media and Communications, based in East Africa and dedicated to advancing the excellence of media performance and the strengthening of ethical media practices throughout the developing world. The School will be driven, above all, by an absolute commitment to quality.

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Aga Khan Academy, Dar es Salaam, Foundation Stone Ceremony (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)

The students at this institution will be distinguished not only for their academic capacity, but for their character and their commitment to citizenship….

The students who come here will be exceptional because they will have capabilities and character that make them stand out from their peers. And we will ensure through scholarships that exceptional students will be admitted even if they do not have the financial means….

The faculty of the Academies will do more than teach our students. They will also reach out to schools and teachers in the surrounding community to share their knowledge through formal Professional Development Programmes and informal guidance and mentoring. In this way, the imprint of the Academies will reach far beyond their physical facilities….

One hundred years from now, I believe that our successors will look back at the founding of the Aga Khan Academies as an important milestone in the development of Tanzania and East Africa.

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Signing Ceremony for three agreements: 1) The First MicroFinance Institution the Central Bank of Portgual. 2) The Aga Khan University and Ministries of Health and Higher Education of the Government of Syria. 3) The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development and City of Damascus (Damascus, Syria)

I believe that Islamic cultures have immense power and immense opportunity. It is up to us Muslims to illustrate those civilisations, those cultures of the past and the present. And one of the ways to do so is to revive the effectiveness of cultural assets in communicating to people. And historic buildings do not need to be thought of only as unproductive buildings.

Cultural assets can and should become contributors to cultural dialogue, cultural understanding, pride in one’s heritage and make an economic contribution to the country. And this is why it is so important to develop the leisure industry not only in terminology of modern buildings, but cultural assets speak to people. And if we want to bridge the gulf of misunderstanding between many countries in the Ummah and other countries outside the Ummah, one of the ways to do so, I believe, is to have our cultural assets speak for our history, speak for our traditions, speak for our values, speak for our ethics.

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Address at the ‘Musée-Musées’ Round Table Conference, Louvre Museum (Paris, France)

[The Islamic world’s view of its own future] is a world split into two tendencies: on the one hand, modernisers and believers in progressive change, on the other, traditionalists who might even be described as hidebound…. In this context, we thought it essential, whichever choice Muslim populations may indicate to their governments, to clarify certain aspects of the history of Muslim civilisations in order that today’s two main tendencies, modern and traditional, can base their ideas on historical realities and not on history that has been misunderstood or even manipulated….

[T]he Muslim world has always been wide open to every aspect of human existence…. The Qur’an itself repeatedly recommends Muslims to become better educated in order better to understand God’s creation. Our collection seeks to demonstrate the openness of Muslim civilisations to every aspect of human life, even going so far as to work in partnership with intellectual and artistic sources originating in other religions….

While some North American museums have significant collections of Muslim art, there is no institution devoted to Islamic art. In building the museum in Toronto, we intend to introduce a new actor to the North American art scene. Its fundamental aim will be an educational one, to actively promote knowledge of Islamic arts and culture. What happens on that continent, culturally, economically and politically, cannot fail to have worldwide repercussions — which is why we thought it important that an institution capable of promoting understanding and tolerance should exist there.

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Remarks to villagers during visit to Ambalafary (Sofia, Madagascar) ·· incomplete

I hope in the years ahead, we can grow our partnership to have an even greater impact on the quality of life of the populations of Sofia and elsewhere. Microcredit must be sustained, increased and developed, and it should bring you additional support, in new activities, in health, in education, in commerce, in infrastructure. I look to the future with great confidence, confidence because this partnership, which you chose to join, is unfolding into a partnership which is victorious. And I think that in victory, we can all be very, very happy and I congratulate you and I thank you.

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Zarkava’s victory at Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp (Paris, France)

My family has been breeding racehorses for five generations. Two generations in India and three in Europe, and I believe this moment is the apogee of that effort.

This is one of the most important moments in my life. I’m not just a racehorse owner and breeder, I have many other responsibilities, but in the racing world, with all that my family has done, I really feel this is one of the most important times we have lived through.

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Nation Media Group Printing Press Commissioning Ceremony (Nairobi, Kenya).

[S]ome people say, is that we live in a “post-fact” society. Yes, a post-fact society. It’s not just that everyone feels entitled to his or her own opinion — that’s a good thing. But the problem comes when people feel they are entitled to their own facts. What is true, too often, can then depend not on what actually happened, but on whose side you are. Our search for the truth can then become less important than our allegiance to a cause — an ideology, for example, or a political party, or a tribal or religious identity, or a pro-government or opposition outlook. And so publics all over the world can begin to fragment, and societies can drift into deadlock. In such a world, it is absolutely critical, more than ever, that the public should have somewhere to turn for reliable, balanced, objective and accurate information, as best as it can be discovered.

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Grant to the Om Habibeh Foundation (Aswan, Egypt)

Aswan and the people of Aswan, have a place of deep affection in my heart and within my family…. The programmes announced today intend to both continue, and also to build significantly on, the work begun by Begum Sultan Mahomed Shah. Our objective is to strengthen civil society at the grassroots by helping to improve community development organisations and by bringing to bear on critical needs in this area, the panoply of experience and resources of the Aga Khan Development Network.

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Aleppo and Masyaf Citadels, and the Castle of Salah ad-Din, Opening Ceremony (Aleppo, Syria)

The background to this initiative is very simple. The background is to illustrate to the peoples of our world the history of the civilisations of the Ummah. We don’t do enough to illustrate to the peoples of our world the greatness of the Islamic civilisations, of the cultures of the past. And because they don’t know, they don’t know our history, they don’t know our literature, they don’t know our philosophy, they don’t know the physical environment in which our countries have lived. They view the Ummah in terminology which is completely wrong. And I personally feel that this is a matter of the greatest importance.

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Announcement of changes in Imamat Nation Group holdings (Nairobi, Kenya)

[P]utting these NMG shares into an institutional framework will ensure the long term continuity of the Nation Media Group. I shall continue to watch over the future of NMG, to demonstrate my continued personal support for the Group, and to bring to it the same level of thought as I have contributed in the past….

No change in the Board of Directors of the Group is anticipated, nor in its management, nor in its relationships with its staff, its readers, its advertisers or any other institutions or constituencies in Kenya or other parts of the region. The Nation has built a proud record of journalistic excellence — and commercial competence — over the past forty years and I will continue to do everything I can to ensure that its reputation for editorial integrity and for business accomplishment is sustained and enhanced in the years ahead.

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Jamati Institutional Leaders Dinner (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania) ·· incomplete

And I am very excited by the prospects that I see ahead of our institutions in Africa and elsewhere, because I do genuinely feel convinced that the decades ahead can be very, very exciting for our Jamat world-wide if we are able to build in the various parts of the world where we are … continue to invest in intelligence, in knowledge, because that, after all, has been the sign of success throughout the history of the Ummah.

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Urban Park Announcement Ceremony (Bamako, Mali)

[Google translation] [W]hen one has a unique project like this, you have no right to be wrong. If it is unique, it must meet the needs of all segments of the population can not afford a kind of intellectual vanity, assuming we can know what all the needs of different users who will be attending this Park in the future. And so I want there to be, above all, an extremely broad consultation of all the people of Bamako, sports clubs, NGOs, diplomats, teachers, bankers, all those who may be interested in coming One day in the park. We want to know beforehand what they want to be offered, so we can build the programme for the park from a really deep understanding and consensus with the widest possible population of Bamako on what we must do.

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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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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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Yo-Yo Ma and Silk Road Ensemble Performance in Collaboration with the Aga Khan Music Initiative (Dushanbe, Tajikistan)

For many years, I have felt that traditional music played such a critical role in the cultures of Central Asia that it deserved attention and assistance. The need became all the more apparent after the countries of the region achieved independence and began the process of redefining themselves. For the new countries of Central Asia, the inherent pluralism of their societies can be an asset rather than a liability.

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Closing Remarks, Tenth Seminar, ‘Architecture Education in the Islamic World’, The Aga Khan Award For Architecture (Granada, Spain)

From the presentations of the delegates during the last four days, it is evident that professors and educators in the architectural field do have a number of very fundamental concerns about the way in which their faculties [of architecture] are functioning …

I hope that the reasons underlying the more general difficulties experienced by universities in the developing world in their attempts to deal with the sort of issues which we have been discussing would be identified at a future seminar. Particularly relevant are the questions: What is the relationship between decision making at a university and a given school? How can a number of people get together to improve that decision-making process? For if such decision-making processes fail, then the whole debate that we have been having during the last four days was really discussing a lost cause.

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

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

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

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50th Anniversary of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), (London, United Kingdom)

[I]t was not until a century later that the Institut [de France] made it a priority to revitalise the Domaine. And I was invited to become a part of the response. The Institut and I quickly agreed that a short-range burst of attention was not the answer. We needed a long-term plan. And we also agreed to build on the principle of public-private partnership. Increasingly, we realised the success of cultural projects in the developed world and the developing world alike requires a variety of actors animated by a robust spirit of cooperation and an overriding “ethic of partnership.” …

Planning ahead for long-term sustainability is critical. At Chantilly and elsewhere, our plans have included permanent service facilities — a museum perhaps, or a scholarly research centre, a children’s library, or a training workshop — so that their eventual income streams, along with public access fees, can provide re-investable income. But the real requirement, the sine qua non, is building a constituency for sustainability, including an engaged local community.

Let me conclude by underscoring my conviction that the work of cultural heritage is more critical today than ever before. In the developing and the developed worlds alike, societies are plunging into an increasingly bewildering future at an ever-accelerating pace. At such a time, and on occasions such as this, it is important that we commit ourselves ever more ardently to the essential work of cultural heritage as a powerful contributor to improving the quality of life for the entire human community.

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