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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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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Acceptance Address – Honorary Doctorate, University of Evora (Evora, Portugal)

One of history’s great lessons is that a society can underwrite human progress only when it overcomes its insularity and suspicion of “the other,” and instead, looks upon difference as a source of strength. For, while our new century continues to be marred by conflict and tension, the effective world of tomorrow is a pluralist one which comprehends, welcomes and builds on diversity. That is why I passionately view the struggle against poverty, and respect for the values of pluralism, as two of the most significant tests of whether the 21st Century is to be an era of global peace, stability and progress.

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CBC Interview (3rd), One-on-One (1st) with Peter Mansbridge (Ottawa, Canada)

Baghdad is one of the great historic cities of the Islamic world. Iraq is not a new country. It’s part of the history of our civilisation. It’s been a pluralist country. Great philosophers, great historians, great scientists. Reverse the question again. What would the Christian world think if a Muslim army attacked Rome? I think there would be a general reaction in the Christian world, not just an Italian reaction….

Well, that [conflict, between the Shia and Sunni in Iraq,] was entirely predictable. Entirely predictable. There was nothing unpredictable. What you were effectively doing is replacing a Sunni minority government in a country that had a Shia demographic majority. And again, take the case out of its situation. What would happen — and I’m sorry to come back to this, but it’s important — if a Muslim army went into Northern Ireland and replaced one Christian interpretation by another? Imagine the fallout that that would cause in the Christian world itself.

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Acceptance Address – Royal Architectural Institute of Canada’s Gold Medal (Ottawa, Canada)

Is it not true that the quality of our lives is fundamentally shaped by the spaces in which we live, spaces that provide physical security, and spaces where we seek spiritual enrichment? They are spaces where we work, and where we pause from work; where we expand our minds and restore our health, places where we congregate and where we meditate; and they are places where we are born, as well as places of final rest….

People everywhere — independent of their particular background or educational level — almost instinctively understand the importance of place, and how the spaces of our lives are shaped and reshaped, for better or for worse. I thought about this universal capacity for comprehension again, these past weeks, as the world reacted to photographs of the Haiyan typhoon in the Philippines.

This universal sensitivity to changes in the built environment also helps explain the profound impact of architecture on the way we think about our lives. Few other forces, in my view, have such transformational potential.

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‘His Royal Highness the Aga Khan National Park’ Opening Ceremony (Bamako, Mali)

Today, parks meet the needs of many city-dwellers wanting to relax in a natural environment. This explains the success among local communities of parks already created by AKTC. Experience shows that these urban parks are a vital public facility, frequented by city-dwellers in their hundreds of thousands. The Cairo park, for example, now receives more than 2 million visitors a year….

The National Park of Mali is also one of the largest urban parks on the African continent, and a remarkable achievement in several respects:

  • it preserves an ecosystem of priceless value with the arboretum dating from the 1930s, which includes the most beautiful species of trees and is today shown in its full glory once again;
  • it expresses a new landscape architecture, harmoniously combining the characteristics of a botanical garden that had fallen into disuse with a contemporary planning concept for public parks in major cities;
  • it includes a garden of medicinal plants, reflecting Mali’s ancestral knowledge in this field;
  • the architecture of the buildings and entrance gateways, of the restaurant and the sports centre, is distinctively contemporary, while displaying its African roots in the use of traditional materials combined with advanced technologies, especially in the roofs and the technical services. This is the work of Diébédo Francis Kéré, an Aga Khan Award for Architecture recipient in 2004 …

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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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Xinhua News Agency and Xinkiang Gizetti Interview, (Urumchi, Xinjiang, China)

As a result of my building exercises, I started asking, what were the correct elements, what were the correct issues that anyone responsible for a large amount of building should keep in his mind when he makes these decisions. You can completely eliminate the social roots, the cultural roots. You can weaken the economic strength of the community by bad development, by bad building.

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Religion and Ethics Newsweekly Interview, PBS, Lucky Severson (USA) ·· incomplete

How much are you guided by your faith? Is your faith everything?

Yes. I wouldn’t be guided by anything else. I wouldn’t understand that.

So every minute of every day, you’re guided by your faith?

Well, the faith has 1400 years of tradition. It has been exposed to so many different situations that there’s practically no human situation unknown to it, although science is changing things today.

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The East African Interview, Peter Mwaura, ‘How East Africans can build one common destiny for and by themselves, step by intelligent step’ (Nairobi, Kenya)

[W]e are looking at quality of life indicators — indicators that are not the same as those of the World Bank, indicators we have tried to develop through our own experience. We are looking at things like security, longevity, disposable income, access to education and employment. We are looking at what really affects people’s attitudes to their own understanding of quality of life. We did discover that communities around the world don’t have the same value systems. They will interpret their own qualities of life very differently from one part of the country to the other….

Imams around the world have businesses, not just the Shia Ismaili Imam. We do not see a conflict and indeed if we lived in an attitude of conflict, I don’t believe we would be living within the ethics of Islam. Islam doesn’t say that a proper practice of the faith means you have to ignore the world. What it says is: Bring to the world the ethics of your faith. If you have wealth, use it properly. But the actual ownership of wealth is not in any way criticisable unless you have acquired it through improper means or you are using it for improper purposes. It is seen as a blessing of God. So this whole notion of conflict between faith and world is totally in contradiction to the ethics of Islam….

Creating energy can be a source of environmental damage. The question is what is the most cost-effective way of creating this energy with minimum damage. I believe the partners in Bujagali have gone through massive environmental analysis and come to the conclusion that this is one of the least environmentally damaging initiatives in East Africa, because it impacts a very, very small area of land and a small percentage of the population, who were all relocated in good conditions. I have seen situations where energy has been produced by windmills, by solar batteries and the damage that they have done to the environment is simply incredible. Because these types of energy creation don’t work everywhere. And when they don’t work, they get written off in three years but nobody pulls them down. So they stay there and they are awful. We still don’t really know a great deal about the technology of these new energy sources.

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New York Times Interview, Dana Micucci (New York, USA) ·· incomplete

Philanthropic initiatives cannot be contemplated exclusively in terms of economics, but rather as an integrated programme that encompasses social and cultural dimensions as well….

[Strengthening pluralism] is critical to the development of peace and humankind in the 21st century. [But] we must educate for it.

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Dinner hosted by the President of Mali (Bamako, Mali)

[Google translation] During my many trips to the region during the last forty years I have seen the importance of projects that contribute constructively to the development and this has reinforced some of my beliefs. Firstly, the development challenges also offer opportunities to create opportunities in a part of the world that has a rich cultural heritage. Then, as beneficial partnerships between the public and the private sector can enhance one’s ability to contribute to improving the quality of life and restore hope in resource-poor environments. Finally, by strengthening infrastructure, introducing innovations and facilitate synergy between the countries of the region, the fruits of development can have a wider impact and profound effect on people.

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Keynote Address to the Annual Conference of German Ambassadors (Berlin, Germany)

I would like to focus today on what I believe are three essential pre-conditions for the successful transition of the poorest areas of the world into modern, peaceful societies. They are:

  • First, stable and competent democratic governance;
  • Second, an environment that respects and encourages pluralism;
  • And third, a diverse and engaged civil society.

In my view, these must be critical components of any global development policy. Not only are they mutually reinforcing, they also permit developing societies to gradually become masters of the process and to make that process ultimately sustainable.

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Acceptance Address – Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, American University of Beirut (Beirut, Lebanon)

The university’s fidelity to its founding notion that disciplined, objective inquiry is the property of all humanity, attracts faculty and students of high calibre from dozens of countries and cultures, challenged not only to excel in their chosen fields, but to place their knowledge in the wider context of humanity’s pluralist heritage. This is a core principle of my own faith — Islam — that learning is ennobling, regardless of the geographic or cultural origin of the knowledge we acquire. Such teachings spurred a spiritually liberated people to new waves of adventure in the realms of the spirit and the intellect …

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Aga Khan Academy, Maputo, Foundation Stone Ceremony (Matola, Mozambique)

The conviction that home-grown intellectual leadership of exceptional calibre is the best driver of a society’s destiny, underpins the Ismaili Imamat’s endeavour to create catalytic centres of educational excellence….

Adopting internationally proven but flexible curriculum frameworks, the residential schools will evolve over time into an integrated system through which advanced students and faculty will be required to study at other campuses, and to be exposed to different social, ethnic and cultural environments. Students will specialise in the fields of knowledge most required for the development of their own and their neighbouring societies, within the context of a broad and meaningful education….

The Academy in Maputo, like its counterparts elsewhere, will seek to demonstrate the instrumental role that education can and must play in building strong civil societies across the developing world. It is institutions such as the one whose foundations we are laying today that will be a driving force for progress and betterment around the world.

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Kyrgyzstan AKDN Rural Support Program Announced (Osh, Kyrgyzstan)

We hope to bring to areas that are amongst the poorest and least served, our experience of strengthening communities living in other high mountain regions with similar economic and ecological environments. As in those other regions, we see this as a long-term initiative whose success will be determined by the commitment of the beneficiary population and the continued collaboration of the government.

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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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Foreword to the Daily Nation 50th Anniversary Special Supplement, ‘After 5 decades, the future depends on ability to adapt’ (Nairobi, Kenya)

My own role in the Nation Media Group has also evolved considerably. Seven years ago I gave my personal shares in NMG to the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) — the economic development arm of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). The move not only gave NMG a new source of corporate strength but it also anchored the company in a broader development philosophy designed to bring excellence and best practices to societies in the developing world. It also allowed NMG to benefit from the Network’s significant experience in East Africa.

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Preface to ‘Treasures of the Aga Khan Museum: Arts of the Book & Calligraphy’ (Istanbul, Turkey)

I am very grateful to the Sakip Sabanci Museum, and to the Chairman of its Board, Ms Güler Sabanci, for hosting this presentation of treasures of the future Aga Khan Museum’s collections …

The choice was made to focus on the arts of the book and calligraphy, themes which have been central to Islamic culture for close to fifteen hundred years. They are the core of the future Aga Khan Museum’s collection, and the works on parchment and paper shown here are complemented by a range of objects (metalwork, ceramics, wooden beams, textiles, jewellery, etc.) bearing examples of fine epigraphy, both Qur’anic and poetic.

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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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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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