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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Jamati Institutional Leaders Dinner (Paris, France) ·· incomplete

What I want to say to finish this evening, and this wonderful year year which you have given me, is that I intend to build an Ismaili Centre in Paris.

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Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association Awards’ Dinner (London, United Kingdom)

If interpretation is well founded and based on good observation, it can then be used as logic. Measured across the nearly 80 years of my family’s thoroughbred breeding in Europe, and the large number of bloodlines which we have managed and developed, I feel bold enough to say that logic has played a greater role than luck.

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Sociedade das Nações Interview, Martim Cabral and Nuno Rogerio (Lisbon, Portugal) ·· incomplete

Well if you ask yourself how an institution could be effective in terms of — as far as possible — ensuring security, ensuring the capacity to improve quality of life, then you have to ask yourself what does the institution need in order to achieve those goals? … Then the second thing was: “what did you need to make a difference?” And there the question was: “What could you do?” And the ’60s … the ’50s, the ’60s, the ’70s were decades of dogma in much of the developing world and it was a conflict of dogmas that we had to deal with between let’s say capitalism, as it was known at the time, and communism, as it was known at the time, and those dogmas tended to dominate political thinking and because of political thinking, they dominated economic thinking, social thinking, etcetera. So it was a time of great difficulty when developing countries were trying to find their way forward, and there were all sorts of, obviously, international interventions — or should I say interventions from outside — where these governments didn’t take independent decisions, they were often caused by others. So we looked at what we could do at that time in education, in healthcare, in economic support. We tried to build individual support systems according to the country we were involved in and this is what has caused the development network to become the way it is now … So the network today is the consequence of field driven needs. [Emphasis original]

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The Indian Express/NDTV ‘Walk the Talk’ Interview, Shekhar Gupta (Hyderabad, India)

So what do you tell your friends in the Western world about their new stereotypes of Islam and what do you tell your Muslim brothers and sisters and followers about their stereotypes of the Western world?

Well I would start by asking a very simple question: in 2013 what is the definition of an educated person? What is the knowledge that that person should have and how is that person going to use it? And the knowledge that that person requires, in my view, is more and more understanding the world not understanding little parts of it. And I think that understanding the world is a massively complex goal but I think that we’ve got to admit that that’s what’s necessary. It’s unavoidable. We’re more of one world than ever before.

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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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Connoisseur Magazine Interview, Paul Chutkow, ‘The Aga Khan’s Vision’ (London, United Kingdom)

I think the second thing the award has done has been to bring together not only architects, but also thinkers, sociologists, archaeologist, economists. The award has demonstrated that a good building isn’t only a structure. A good building has an impact on people’s perception of their cultural heritage. It has an impact on social balance or imbalance….

Yes, I do [see architecture as an instrument of social change]. I would prefer to call it an instrument for improving the quality of life. And I think you put your finger right on it. I genuinely believe that generations that are born, brought up, and live in better-quality surroundings have a different outlook on life. Architecture is, in my view, a method of creating development, well-being. And I think architecture, if it goes wrong, can be a source of conflict or destabilisation.

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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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Remarks introducing Her Excellency Roza Otunbayeva, The Global Centre for Pluralism’s Inaugural Lecturer (Ottawa, Canada)

In the course of my work over the past half-century, I have become convinced that finding ways for diverse societies to live peacefully together is one of the principal challenges of the contemporary world. It has led me to the conclusion that pluralism as an ethic of respect for diversity is an essential building block of successful and prosperous societies.

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Interview with an unidentified media outlet 9 days prior to the first Takht Nashini (Enthronement) Ceremony in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (London, United Kingdom?) ·· incomplete

Well the [installation] ceremony is a public installation of the Imam. The Ismailis pay homage to the Imam and that is when you are recognised by the world at large as the Imam. Officially as soon as one Imam passes away, his successor takes on from the very minute the Imam has passed away.

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ITN Interview at London Airport (London, United Kingdom) ·· incomplete

Your Highness that you are celebrating your 21st birthday on Friday — first of all wish you every success in the future — but now is there any significance about the 21st, any significance at all about coming of age in your religion?

No. It will be a private party. A Muslim boy is of age when he’s 16 and so it doesn’t have any particular meaning for myself.

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Pakistan Television Interview, Talat Hussain (Pakistan)

I think first of all, Pakistan should seek to diversify its economy further, because at a certain stage, whether it is Pakistan or any other country in the world, agricultural productivity as base of the economy is insufficient; you need to have other sources. So that’s the first issue. The second issue is the relation between the public sector and the private sector; both sectors have to work with each other instead of competing with each other or sometimes being in conflict. Thirdly, both have to be productive and they have to be effective and therefore, the measuring criteria in both have to be very clear, overt, and targets set.

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Pranay Gupte Interview, ‘The Unlikely Patriach’ (India)

The only answer for the Third World, in my view, is for it to become more productive — and the way to achieve that is by encouraging both local and international investment, especially in rural development. State-owned enterprises can seldom be a total substitute for private sector initiative in building the infrastructure of a nation’s economy. A developing country cannot afford the burden of loss-making enterprises….

I am not convinced that Third World planners and developers have an in-depth understanding of rural priorities and perceptions. People in rural areas have an inherited understanding of the issues that affect them most. They are often free from many of the ideological concepts that may affect urban populations…

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BBC Radio 5 Interview, Mick Fitzgerald, ‘The Shergar Story’ (London, United Kingdom) ·· incomplete

I’ve seen that film [of Shergar’s Epsom win] I don’t know how many, tens or hundreds of times. I keep trying to analyse where this remarkable performance came from and every time I see the film, I feel that I have learned something…. I had watched quite enough races to be able to determine what the jockey probably was feeling, how the horse was going, and when he came around Tattenham Corner, I couldn’t believe my eyes, frankly…. His victory was, as we all know, up to this point in time, unique. But I think I had two things that I found stunning — one was the ease with which that horse moved and second the fact that during the finishing straight, he just kept going away, going away, going away. That was really, I think, remarkable.

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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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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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Acceptance Address – Installation as a Foreign Associate Member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts, Kenzo Tange chair at the Institut de France (Paris, France)

[Google translation]: [Kenzo Tange] founded the “Tange Laboratory”, in which he will advise young architects whose Sachio Otani, Takashi Asada, Taneo Oki, Kisho Kurokawa, Arata Isozaki and Fumihiko Maki. The last two are well known to me. Arata Isozaki was the architect chosen by the University of Central Asia, which I am the chancellor, to build the three campuses of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. As Fumihiko Maki, is the designer of the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto and the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat in Ottawa.

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Aga Khan University and McMaster University ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ Signing Ceremony (Toronto, Canada)

I view this as an agreement of a much wider spectrum of importance and outcome than you might think, simply by talking about the profession of nursing. In the past years we have seen a number of countries in the developing world enter into the dimension of what I call failure of competent democratic government. A number of countries have run into difficulty; constitutional management, economic management, the management of pluralist societies. When governments are fragile, it is civil society which comes in and sustains the development process. Professional nursing, educating women, is an absolutely fundamental pillar to the building of society.

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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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Remarks at the White House Conference on Culture and Diplomacy (Washington D.C., USA)

At present there is a great deal of apprehension about the future of local and national cultures in most countries in the developing world. What can the cultural diplomacy of the United States do to address these anxieties and replace them with a sense of confidence through new and shared initiatives? …

Cultures that do not or cannot communicate become increasingly isolated, inward-looking, and, in due course, marginalised. Some would argue the United States’ dominance of global communications systems is, because of what has been called the digital divide, a contributor to this problem. I would offer a different perspective. It seems to me that by a purposeful effort, the United States could play a significant role not only in making the cultures of Asia and Africa available globally. Doing so would also make a massive contribution to the full acceptance to the legitimacy and value of social and cultural pluralism, something that is urgently needed in most parts of the developing world.

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Seventh Aga Khan Award for Architecture Prize Ceremony (Alhambra Palace, Granada, Spain)

Collectively the seventy-six projects selected for premiation over the last twenty years share a celebration of the humanity of inspired architecture, and confirm the potential of its social purposes. They are also distinguished by the pluralism of the cultures of the Islamic world in which they are rooted, a pluralism that all Master Juries have both honoured and trusted. This richness of cultural expression is even more fully documented in the materials collected on the hundreds of projects considered but not selected in each cycle of the Award. But what are the prospects for the pluralism of cultures in the Islamic world, their richness of expression, and their contributions to world culture as one looks ahead over the next twenty to forty years? On the basis of my extensive travels as Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims or in connection with the activities of the Aga Khan Development Network, I feel there are grounds for serious concern….

The loss of our inheritance of cultural pluralism … will impoverish our societies now and into the future. Sustaining this inheritance will require conscious and concerted effort involving the best minds and most creative institutions around the world…. It will also necessitate that the cultures of the developing world establish a presence on the rapidly growing information superhighway to balance those that currently dominate the new electronic media. This will require an investment of time and resources and a mastery of regional and international languages. Unless these cultures develop creditable and creative ways to present themselves effectively in this new and powerful medium of communication, cultural pluralism will suffer a massive setback.

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