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

Featured Item  »»  Province of Ontario and Ismaili Imamat Agreement of Cooperation Signing Ceremony (Toronto, Canada)

Our history, our interpretation of our faith, is anchored in the intellect and we rejoice in investing in the human intellect. It’s part of the ethics of what we believe in and it’s part of what we believe distinguishes us, obviously, from the environment in which we live. So the agreement that we have is giving us new opportunities to widen our exposure to education in the industrialised world, but to widen that education within a context where our values are the same. And that it is very important, because it’s clear with a global community — such as the Ismaili community — we need to invest in global values, in values which can be applied to any society, at any time in any part of the world. [Emphasis original.]

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Featured Item  »»  Aga Khan Park Opening Ceremony (Toronto, Canada)

The Park and its Gardens can serve as a symbol of “connection” in other ways as well. Among them are rich connections across time linking us to the past. The Garden has for many centuries served as a central element in Muslim culture. The Holy Qur’an, itself, portrays the Garden as a central symbol of a spiritual ideal — a place where human creativity and Divine majesty are fused, where the ingenuity of humanity and the beauty of nature are productively connected. Gardens are a place where the ephemeral meets the eternal, and where the eternal meets the hand of man.

The tradition of Islamic Gardens places an emphasis on human stewardship, our responsibility to nature and to protect the natural world. We see that principle expressed in the disciplined use of geometric form — framing the power and mystery of nature. And, of course, the Garden of ancient tradition, like the Garden here today, is a place where — whatever difficult moments may come our way — we can always find, in the flow of refreshing water, a reminder of Divine blessing.

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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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Featured Item  »»  The Road to Toronto (Societal): The vision and rationale behind the Aga Khan’s passion for parks and gardens

Next month the Ismaili Centre, Toronto, the Aga Khan Museum and their Park are expected to be officially opened. In anticipation of this landmark event, NanoWisdoms is pleased to present The Road to Toronto series in which, each week, we’ll focus on a different aspect of this multi-faceted institution. This week’s instalment is on the societal aspect and the park.

The park is the latest of some two dozen parks and gardens created, or committed to, by His Highness the Aga Khan and illustrated on the graphic. Click on the image, or here, to view it in full size or download as a wall-paper for your computer.

In an interview with Philip Jodidio, the park’s designer, Lebanese architect Vladimir Djurovic, said the Aga Khan has a “passion for gardens which is intoxicating” and that he feels the Aga Khan “is happiest when he is working and discussing the gardens.” Why is this? Why are parks and gardens such a point of focus and happiness for the Aga Khan?

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Message to The International Islamic Conference (Amman, Jordan)

Our historic adherence is to the Jafari Madhhab and other Madhahib of close affinity, and it continues, under the leadership of the hereditary Ismaili Imam of the time. This adherence is in harmony also with our acceptance of Sufi principles of personal search and balance between the zahir and the spirit or the intellect which the zahir signifies.

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State Banquet (Antananarivo, Madagascar)

Our duty is to try to free people from poverty. And to me, poverty means being without shelter, without protection, without access to healthcare, education, or credit, and without hope of ever controlling one’s own destiny. This means condemning one’s children and grandchildren to unacceptable living conditions. A voluntarist and innovative strategy is needed in order to break this chain of despair and total imprisonment.

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Jamati Institutional Leaders Dinner (Atlanta, Georgia, USA) ·· incomplete

I think that there probably isn’t an area of human endeavour in which we do not have today a Murid who is exceptional in his or her own field.

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Aga Khan Academy, Mombasa, Residential Campus, Foundation Stone Ceremony (Mombasa, Kenya)

[A new] World Bank study confirms a central tenet of our Academies planning, our confidence in the value of a residential campus. We believe that students draw valuable life lessons not only from learning together but also from living together — especially if the mix of students is broadly diversified. The laying of this cornerstone symbolises this commitment to a residential experience. In addition, we are also committed to building an international network of similar schools so that those who are enrolled on any one campus will also be able to be study at other Academy sites….

As world affairs have been steadily transformed by the process of globalisation, the ability to command and control has become less important than the ability to anticipate, connect and respond. And educational institutions which can instill and enhance those capacities have become essential to effective development.

Educating effective future leaders is a high responsibility…. We must rise above the antiquated approaches of earlier days and instead infuse our students with what I would call three “A’s” of modern learning — the spirit of anticipation, the spirit of adaptation and the spirit of adventure.

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The (Manchester) Guardian Weekly Interview, Akbar Ahmed, ‘The quiet revolutionary’ (London, United Kingdom) ·· incomplete

Those who wish to introduce the concept that you can only practise your faith as it was practised hundreds of years ago are introducing a time dimension which is not part of our faith today. It is a very delicate issue, whether it is in science, in medicine, in economics.

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Public Address (Al Khwabi, Syria)

It is thus clearly evident that peace in the decades ahead can only be achieved when the pluralist nature of human society is understood, valued and built upon to construct a better future. In Islam, the pluralism of human society is well recognised, and the ethics of its multiple interpretations require that this diversity be accorded respect. The shahada — La-illaha-Illallah-Muhammadur-Rasullilah — binds a thousand million people who, over the centuries, have come to live in different cultures, speak different languages, live in different political contexts, and who differentiate in some interpretations of their faith….

Any differences must be resolved through tolerance, through understanding, through compassion, through dialogue, through forgiveness, through generosity, all of which represent the ethics of Islam.

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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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Address to both Houses of the Parliament of Canada in the House of Commons Chamber (Ottawa, Canada)

When the clashes of modern times have come, they have most often grown out of particular political circumstances, the twists and turns of power relationships and economic ambitions, rather than deep theological divides. Yet sadly, what is highly abnormal in the Islamic world gets mistaken for what is normal. Of course, media perceptions of our world in recent years have often been conveyed through a lens of war. But that is all the more reason to shape global conversation in a more informed direction. I am personally aware of the efforts the Prime Minister has made to achieve this. Thank you, Prime Minister….

Perhaps the most important area of incomprehension, outside the Ummah, is the conflict between Sunni and Shia interpretations of Islam and the consequences for the Sunni and Shia peoples. This powerful tension is sometimes even more profound than conflicts between Muslims and other faiths. It has increased massively in scope and intensity recently, and has been further exacerbated by external interventions. In Pakistan and Malaysia, in Iraq and Syria, in Lebanon and Bahrain, in Yemen and Somalia and Afghanistan it is becoming a disaster. It is important, therefore, for non-Muslims who are dealing with the Ummah to communicate with both Sunni and Shia voices. To be oblivious to this reality would be like ignoring over many centuries that there were differences between Catholics and Protestants, or trying to resolve the civil war in Northern Ireland without engaging both Christian communities. What would have been the consequences if the Protestant-Catholic struggle in Ireland had spread throughout the Christian world, as is happening today between Shia and Sunni Muslims in more than nine countries? It is of the highest priority that these dangerous trends be well understood and resisted, and that the fundamental legitimacy of pluralistic outlooks be honoured in all aspects of our lives together, including matters of faith.

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Humayan’s Tomb Site Museum Foundation Stone Ceremony (Delhi, India)

Through the centuries, millions of people have made their way here. They have come to see these architectural achievements, the oldest and largest Indo-Islamic architectural complex. They have come to admire the decorative genius that we have around us and to think about its continuing influence in contemporary life. They have come to enjoy the green spaces that are such an essential part of this complex, reflecting the profound harmony that can ideally unite our natural and our built environments. And now, as a new Museum is born on this site, visitors will be able to learn in greater depth why these legacies were built, how they served the court and society more generally, and what they have meant since.

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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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Acceptance Address – Cartier Racing Awards’ Horse of the Year for Zarkava (London, United Kingdom) ·· incomplete

Sometimes we are associated with fast ladies and this is a case when I am very happy to be associated with a fast lady! …

I want to say that, as a traditional breeder, Zarkava is probably the greatest reward that any breeder could ever have. If you are in this industry and you like breeding and not only racing this is the greatest, greatest reward that any owner could have because whether we admit it or not — and men can be kind of macho — we depend on the ladies in this game. They are the ones who produce the winners. And some of them we try to make faster than others.

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Jamati Institutional Leaders Dinner (Mumbai, India) ·· incomplete

As you know I attach great importance to Indian history and to the great caliphates, the great empires of the Muslim world, because I believe there’s always something to learn. The past is a place to learn, even if the future is different, and this is why I have spent considerable time in trying to enhance in India the Mughal history and to learn how the Mughals achieved global leadership.

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Jeune Afrique Interview (1st), Anne Loesch, ‘Prince of Islam and businessman’ (Paris, France)

[Google translation] One last question: how do you see the future? The future of the Third World?

[Google translation] With optimism. In twenty years, no country is bound water. It will reduce the level of the sea. There will be far fewer medical problems: we will track it will cure all these diseases are still rampant. I trust in progress. We are moving towards an era of sophistication unimaginable. The total for each government is to understand how our time is moving, whether to follow suit.

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Statement at the Kabul Conference on Afghanistan (Kabul, Afghanistan)

AKDN is of the view that investing in the institutions of civil society and in their capacity to deliver services deserves far greater priority, attention, support and resources than has hitherto been the case, even as investments in rebuilding the State’s institutions continue. Civil society institutions are best able to take into consideration, to reflect, specific provincial or local political situations and socio-economic needs and opportunities. They are well placed to ensure that progress is both public and transparent, that good governance is observed as the norm, just as they are the best tools for ensuring better impact and for hastening visible socio-economic development.

There is need for a sub-national governance structure that is clear, efficient and transparent. There is no reason why planning or programming at the provincial or local level need either contradict or undermine central authority. On the contrary, bankable programmes need to be evolved and implemented that are synchronised with sub-national governance and policy and with the reintegration programme….

There needs to be a willingness to support small-scale and medium-level investments in the short term that may not immediately be considered financially sustainable by conventional measures, but which experience demonstrates are necessary to achieve medium to long-term returns and benefit.

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Prince Claus Fund Conference on Culture and Development, Concluding Address (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

[T]he strengthening of institutions supporting pluralism is as critical for the welfare and progress of human society as are poverty alleviation and conflict prevention. In fact all three are intimately related…. The actions to enhance pluralism have to be matched in the developing world by programmes to alleviate poverty because, left alone, poverty will provide a context for special interests to pursue their goals in aggressive terms…. [Emphasis original]

Is it not high time — perhaps even past time, that a systematic effort be undertaken to document “best practices” by looking closely at the array of public policies and structures that support pluralism in particular national settings? As lessons are extracted and models identified, should not a process be put in place to share them widely for replication? Should not this effort reach out to as many countries as possible, and in as many organisational and institutional settings as can be mobilised? …

My hope is that society as a whole will not only accept the fact of its plurality, but, as a consequence, will undertake, as a solemn responsibility, to preserve and enhance it as one of its fundamental values, and an inescapable condition for world peace and further human development. [Emphasis original]

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Globe and Mail Interview (2nd), Michael McDowell, ‘Prince with purpose’ (Toronto, Canada) ·· incomplete

Unless a continuous, problem-oriented discussion about the practical issues of development of the Third World continues and unless good, effective solutions are found, the majority of the world in the next 10 to 25 years is going to be increasingly instable and demanding.

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CNN Inside Africa/Design 360 Interview, Sylvia Smith (USA) ·· incomplete

Modernity is part of the concern of the award and our objective is to permeate good architecture, not to freeze it any time. The symbols of the past may be re-utilised in modern architecture, they may be dropped, new symbols may come forward — we need continuity, particularly in conservation, but, no, we’re not going to stymie creativity of the Islamic world. [Emphasis original.]

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UNESCO Conference on Culture and Development Keynote Address (Hangzhou, China)

For all of these journeys [of cultural projects], the development process has been long and complex, but filled with stimulating lessons. Let me briefly summarise five of them.

First, these cultural projects depend upon an ethic of partnership. This means that traditional separations between public and private domains must be set aside. The concept of public-private partnership is an essential keystone for effective cultural development. The role of governments, including municipalities, is fundamental in providing what we often term “an enabling environment” for development. But the public sector cannot do this work alone…. I have one more comment to make about partnerships. It is absolutely essential that effective partnerships are maintained throughout the life of a project, including the post-completion period….

This discussion leads me to a second conclusion: while cultural development often begins with physical legacies, planning must focus well beyond the cultural goals. We cannot somehow assume that a favourable social and economic impact will flow naturally as a by-product of cultural commitments. Issues relating to the quality of life must be considered from the beginning and monitored throughout the project’s life.

A third point in this list of lessons learned is that the engagement of the local community from the earliest stages is imperative for success. Cultural endeavours, in particular, involve risks that go beyond external, economic factors. Their progress can depend heavily on variable qualities of human nature, including the pride and confidence of the peoples involved….

There is a fourth point that is also special to historic restoration projects. That is the fact that we can never be sure just what we will encounter as the work of rediscovery moves along. There are many unknowns going in, and we must be ready for surprises….

Let me finally highlight a fifth lesson. Planning for such projects must anticipate how they will operate on a continuing basis after they are completed…. Up-front investment will be on everyone’s mind at the start. But our financial strategies should include eventual income streams that will sustain the project over the long run. One of the least happy outcomes for any cultural initiative is that it becomes a net drain on the local population.

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CBC Interview (1st), Man Alive with Roy Bonisteel (Canada)

One of the most difficult questions I ask and, and I’ve asked it I don’t know how many times, is simply “What is the definition of happiness for a peasant in Asia or Africa?” If we can’t answer that question we don’t know what are the elements that contribute and the priorities of those elements, we certainly will never be able to deal with the development issues in a manner which is going to be shared by the people who we are working with — taken over, and made, there….

Always remember whose needs are being fulfilled. Are they yours or are they the persons you are trying to help. In the Third World, where the need is the greatest, many organisations and governments throw in money. I throw in people — dedicated people to train, to educate and to encourage. I believe that there is no such thing as an underdeveloped country — only under-managed countries and for me the most important word is accountability. We must be accountable at all times to the organisations we serve and to the people we serve.

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Keynote Address to the Nobel Institute’s Seminar: ‘Democratic Development, Pluralism and Civil Society’ (Oslo, Norway)

Just as we read about the supposed clash of civilisations, we read about so-called “failed states.” In fact, at least in my definition of a state, it cannot fail. What we are observing in reality is the massive failure of democracy around the world.

I estimate that some 40% of the states of the United Nations are failed democracies. Depending upon the definitions applied, between 450 million and 900 million people currently live in countries under severe or moderate stress as a result of these failures. To me, therefore, a central question is why these democracies are failing and what can the world’s nations and international organisations do to sustain their competence and stability….

As long as the developed world hesitates to commit long term investment towards education for democracy, and instead laments the issue of so-called failed states, much of the developing world will continue to face bleak prospects for democracy.

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