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

Featured Item  »»  Remarks introducing Justice Albie Sachs, The Global Centre for Pluralism’s Fifth Annual Lecturer (Toronto, Canada)

Justice Sachs’ career has been a truly inspiring one. He has been a heroic freedom fighter, an insightful legal scholar, a compelling author and for fifteen years a member of South Africa’s Constitutional Court. And, as most of you undoubtedly know, he was a chief architect of South Africa’s new, post apartheid Constitution, one of the most admired Constitutions in the world….

Constitution-making requires a strong sense of idealism, married to a practical sense of realism. It requires a willingness to listen as competing priorities are expressed, and a readiness to negotiate as differences are reconciled. As the challenges of governance grow in complex and changing societies, a widely respected Constitution is essential to the preservation of peace and the pursuit of progress.

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Featured Item  »»  Navroz Mubarak, 2016

The NanoWisdoms Archive of Imamat Speeches, Interviews and Writings wishes all Navroz Mubarak.

Today, the Spring Solstice, is Navroz, or “New Day,” symbolising new beginnings. It is, therefore, also a time to reflect over what we wish to begin afresh. In the past four months, first at Harvard in November and then at Sharm el-Sheik in February, His Highness the Aga Khan introduced a new theme into his speeches: the marginalisation of intellectual resources and assets of a community or society — both the intelligentsia and private initiative undertaken by civil society organizations. Calling this marginalisation “extremely unwelcome,” “disturbing” and “regrettable,” the Aga Khan notes it “discourag[es] the qualities of vision, innovation and forward thinking that progressive societies so badly need.” Let us, therefore, on this Navroz, reflect on our own personal, familial, professional and institutional lives with an eye to ensuring we do not inadvertently marginalize these critical, but rare, intellectual resources.

Click on the image to view the card and read the Aga Khan’s remarks.

If this is your first visit to the Archive, we invite you to watch our introductory video here.

Featured Item  »»  Keynote Address: “Africa 2016: Business for Africa, Egypt and the World” Conference (Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt)

What I see emerging today is a refreshingly, balanced confidence in Africa — a spirit that takes encouragement from past progress, while also seeking new answers to new challenges — understanding that the best way to move into the future is to walk hand-in-hand with partners who share one’s goals. And we are all here to fulfil that role. I highlight the part played by confidence because it addresses a problem that has long plagued the human race.

I refer to the fear we so often have that our environment will be controlled by others, to the point where we distance ourselves from potential worthy partners. This difference can extend to people of different ethnic groups, different tribes, different nationalities, different religious traditions. It can also extend to people with different political or economic loyalties. And the frequent result is a fragmenting of society, a breakdown of cooperation, an undercurrent of fear, and even a paralysing polarisation in our public life. It can be a distinctly disabling environment….

[T]he role of Civil Society is often misunderstood or taken for granted. At times, Civil Society has been marginalised, discounted, or dismissed…. Even more disturbing have been efforts in some places to constrain or even repress these institutions, stereotyping them as illegitimate, unelected and unaccountable. These attitudes may simply reflect a reluctance to share power and influence, or perhaps a feeling that the creative energy and sheer diversity of Civil Society is daunting and dangerous. Such attitudes have been exceptional, but they are highly regrettable, discouraging the qualities of vision, innovation and forward thinking that progressive societies so badly need….

In sum, I believe that social progress will require quality inputs from all three sectors: public, private and Civil Society. Sustainable progress will build on a three-legged stool. And that progress can be particularly impressive when the three sectors work closely together.

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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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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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‘Where Hope Takes Root – Democracy and Pluralism in an Interdependent World’: Book of His Highness the Aga Khan’s speeches and interviews (Canada)

NanoWisdoms’ Introduction

Published in 2008, Where Hope Takes Root is a collection of 13 of His Highness the Aga Khan’s principal speeches, made between 2002 and 2006 (links below), along with his important 2006 interview with the CBC’s Peter Mansbridge. Focused on the theme “democracy and pluralism in an interdependent world,” the book — which deserves to be read repeatedly — could arguably be characterised as “The Essential Aga Khan.” The NanoWisdoms Archive is pleased to make this seminal collection available for those who have not yet had the opportunity to read it.

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Ismaili Centre Opening Ceremony (London, United Kingdom)

I am often struck by the imbalance of comprehension between the Christian and Islamic cultures. Of course, in government and well-informed specialised institutions — universities for example — the perception is accurate. But the general public in the West is too often shown the Ummah — the worldwide community of 800 million Muslims — as a monolithic block of believers whose national political disputes are part of their religion.

Such a distorted portrayal of the true background both causes unnecessary misunderstanding of Islamic questions and hinders mature response to them. In reality, certain expressions of political action cannot be considered representative of that faith of peace, which so many millions of people practise every day. Nor, because their majority is rural and isolated, are its feelings reported. The silent majority is indeed silent

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Ibn Zuhr Building for Oncology Services, Aga Khan University, Opening Ceremony (Karachi, Pakistan)

Many of our faculty and trustees come from different parts of the world including the areas of the Western world where Ibn Zuhr worked and carried out his research. There is a symbol here — knowledge can be drawn from any frontier to create strong institutions, if it is drawn wisely.

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Acceptance Address – 2009 Nouvel Economiste Philanthropic Entrepreneur of the Year Award (Paris, France)

The goal [of AKDN’s strategy] is clear: the aim is to create or strengthen civil society in developing countries. This single goal, when it is achieved, is in fact necessary and sufficient to ensure peaceful and stable development over the long term, even when governance is problematic…. The essence of our development strategy is thus to create these where they are lacking or need to be reinforced….

The various organisations within the AKDN fall into two categories which both share the same goal of supporting development: commercial companies (grouped together into the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, known as AKFED) and those non-profit enterprises which I call “para-companies,” that work toward social or cultural goals. The reason for this dual structure is that civil society cannot emerge solely by starting businesses or solely by building hospitals, schools and universities or cultural facilities….

Para-companies are designed to be economically independent…. [They are] conceived to produce a surplus to ensure their survival and development as long as an entrepreneurial philosophy underpins the creation process and later the day-to-day management. This notion of surplus, it should be pointed out, in no way conflicts with the non-profit status of para-companies.

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Corriere della Sera Interview, Massimo Nava, ‘I am amazed by the ignorance on Islam’ (Italy)

[Translation] In fact, in the Shiite credence, one exalts the value of the intellect, of the spiritual guide, therefore of interpretation. But Western thought tends to confuse the bond between spirituality and secularism with a sort of compromise between State and Church. These are different levels, which involve the individual and the community in which one lives, not the political authority of the State. The Qur’an prohibits judging the way in which another Muslim practises faith, but it also prohibits the enforcement of a religious practice or of a faith.

In the world of Islam, which is nearly a fifth of the Earth’s population, there are significant examples of religious practices which conform to a moral concept of the faith. The Qur’an edicts the ethics of responsibility as an obligation for those who have civilian authority, to enhance the well being and the development of their community. This is something which the Taliban have not done and it is because of this that their regime condemns itself. In these conditions, Islam even says that trust in authority must be denied.

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Inauguration Ceremony for the Restoration of Humayun’s Tomb (Delhi, India)

The word “partnership,” in fact, could be the watchword of this celebration. What we honour today, above all else is the spirit of partnership in which this work has unfolded.

In my view, an Ethic of Partnership must be at the centre of any successful project of this sort. Among other things, an Ethic of Partnership means that traditional separations between public and private domains must be set aside, so that public-private partnerships can thrive as an essential keystone for effective development.

The role of governments, including municipalities, is essential, of course, in providing an “enabling environment” for development. But the public sector cannot do this work alone. A creative mix of participants is needed: corporations and development agencies, foundations and universities, faith communities and local community groups.

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Le Monde Interview, Henri Tincq (Paris, France)

[Google translation] Indeed, military intervention [in Afghanistan] may not be limited. In a country like Afghanistan where the Taliban decided to resist mountain by mountain, valley by valley, the war may last longer. But I repeat that the reconstruction work must begin now. It passes through the country’s liberation, but also by establishing a sort of safety belt around Afghanistan. The challenge is to stabilise the whole region. From Pakistan to Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan, all its neighbours are in danger of destabilisation, religious radicalism and have an equal interest in the restoration of a legal situation. Tajikistan has only to end the civil war. The regional impact of pacification and stabilisation of Afghanistan can be considerable.

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ZDF (heute.t-online.de) Interview (1st), Peter Frey (Berlin, Germany)

From what I can see [in Afghanistan], I would sense immense relief. Relief after decades of conflict, of poverty, of extremism and these are people who are tired and they are looking for a new future. And I think that is the greatest sense I have of what’s happening and it’s upto the international community, the Afghans, organisations such as mine, to turn this fatigue into a process of hope.

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Preface to ‘The Museum of the Horse’ edited by Philip Jodidio (Aiglemont)

I have become convinced that the human and economic action implied in the conservation or rehabilitation of cultural heritage is closely related, no matter where they occur…. The renewal or restoration of a place of culture always implies the necessity of considering the economic potential destined to ensure the sustainability of the effort in the long term. The concept is simple. The complexity lies in the need to develop a strategy and a management model that will ensure sustainable economic development over the long term….

The whole idea is to give Chantilly new life, to put it back on the map; indeed, to put it on the map as one of France’s great cultural centres. It probably has the second best collection after the Louvre of various types of works of art…. The idea was to show Chantilly, as the Duc d’Aumale had asked, to the largest number of people possible. It was necessary to wake up this city, to coordinate the action of those responsible for the racecourse, the Chateau, the buildings and the park, the city, and the Ministry of Culture. The Museum of the Horse is an integral part of this scheme. The kings of France came to Chantilly to hunt, the Grandes Ecuries are the rival of the Royal Stables at Versailles, and the Hippodrome saw the birth of horse racing in France.

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First Aga Khan Award for Architecture Prize Ceremony (Shalimar Gardens, Lahore, Pakistan)

We may well ask whether the premiated projects truly represent the great traditions of Islamic architecture. There are no mosques among them, no madrasah, no palace, no garden, no mausoleum, none of the monuments which are visited by millions of tourists, cherished by those who live near them, and utilised by historians to define the Muslim past. The paradox, however, is more apparent than real.

For, great though the celebrated monuments of the past are as works of art, they were only part of the built environment of the past. They were the creations of great and wealthy patrons, often made no doubt for the use and the pleasure of the masses but rarely lacking in personal or dynastic vanity. All too frequently the settings developed by the masses themselves have been lost or changed out of recognition.

In the contemporary world, the Awards have recognised that other part, perhaps now much more important than in the past, the part of the common man creating for himself and his neighbours a setting for life and health, preserving and utilising what nature has created, developing ways to maintain his identity rather than accepting the elephantine massiveness of so much of today’s world.

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Alamshar’s Irish Derby and Ascot Victories (United Kingdom)

I am very pleased indeed! Alamshar and Dalakhani both had logical reasons to run in the Irish Derby and before that race I did say that I was aiming Alamshar at this race. Dalakhani is having an autumn campaign. The two horses had a programme that was going to clash in the Irish Derby but probably not after that but who knows…. Good horse’s programmes need to be developed race by race and that is what I am trying to do. It does bring back memories of Shergar’s victory in this race. What is exciting is the continuation of the breeding stock which is able to produce horses and of course this horse goes back to Mumtaz Mahal.

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Aga Khan Academy, Dhaka, Foundation Stone Ceremony (Dhaka, Bangladesh)

Let me reflect for a moment on the matter of ethics and the importance of ethical commitments not only in government but throughout society. Competent civil society is a major contributor to development particularly where democracies are less well established, or where governmental efforts are inadequate. The absence of corruption or fraud in government is not enough. Fraud in medicine, fraud in education, fraud in financial services, fraud in property rights, fraud in the exercise of law enforcement or in the courts, are all risks which can have a dramatic impact on social progress. This is especially true in rural environments, where fraud is often neither reported nor corrected, but simply accepted as an inevitable condition of life….

In the final analysis, the Academies project will face an age-old challenge as it moves ahead — the challenge of balancing the universal and the particular, the global and the local as influences in human life. It is a challenge which becomes more important with every passing year. It has been said that the most important fact about modern communication technology is that it “universalises the particular and particularises the universal” which simply suggests that local and global experiences are increasingly intermixed. Such an inter-mixture can give us the worst of both worlds: hostile, defensive localism on one side and a superficial, homogenised mega-culture on the other. Or it can give us the best of both worlds: proud local identities living side by side with creative international cooperation.

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‘Spirit & Life’ Opening Ceremony – An Exhibition from the Aga Khan Museum Collection (London, United Kingdom)

This exhibition is designed to give us a glimpse into the future. What we see here today is the nucleus of the Islamic art collections of the future Aga Khan Museum in Toronto. This museum, which is being designed by the renowned Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki, is conceived as a primarily educational institution in the field of Islamic art and culture, a specific mandate that is not fulfilled so far by other North American museums. We hope and trust it will contribute to a deeper understanding among cultures — to the strengthening of true cultural pluralism — which is increasingly essential to peace, and to progress, in our world….

If I could express one hope for all of you, as you leave this place today, it is that you will appreciate even more deeply how much culture matters in Muslim societies, and how deeply culture is entwined for Muslims with matters of faith. This is why we call this exhibition: ‘Spirit and Life’.

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

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

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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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2015 Aga Khan University Convocation Ceremony (Nairobi, Kenya)

As we expand our work in Kenya, one of our highest priorities is to achieve international standards of healthcare especially for non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Another special focus will be neuro-science, where the promises of stem cell technology must be brought massively and competently to Africa. Our overall plan is for a nationally integrated health system, built on the strong foundations already in place at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi. And our overall goal can be simply stated: we believe that no Kenyan should have to leave the country to seek quality medical care.

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Masters of Public Affairs Programme, Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po), Graduation Ceremony (Paris, France)

The question that must be asked, I believe, is not whether democracy is a good thing in the abstract, but rather how to help democracy perform better in practice. Do we really know what is going wrong? And why? Do we know what corrective steps should be taken? And by whom? These are massive questions, and I do not claim to know the answers. But I do believe that significantly more thought must be given to these issues, by the intelligentsia of our world, yourselves included….

As history demonstrates, so-called backward places can move forward over time. It is not unrealistic to plan for progress…. One of the reasons that I am more optimistic than some about the future of the developing world is my faith that a host of new institutions can play a larger role in that future. I am especially enthusiastic about the potential of what I call “civil society”….

Bringing a new sense of peace and order to [the complex situation of Islamic-Western relations] will require great subtlety, patience, understanding and knowledge. Sadly, none, I repeat none, of these requirements are sufficiently available amongst the main players today. There is clumsiness, not subtlety, there is impatience, not patience, there is a massive deficit in understanding and an enormous knowledge vacuum.

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Launch of ArchNet.org at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, USA)

Historically, the Islamic world has stood out in the area of design, but if you look at higher education in the Islamic world [there are problems]. This is a historically powerful tool usable on a global scale, a living encyclopedia of knowledge and ideas, of peoples and cultures. (AP, 27 Sep 2002)

As trustees of God’s creation, we are instructed to seek to leave the world a better place than it was when we came into it. If ArchNet can help bring values into environments, buildings, and contexts that make the quality of life better for future generations than it is today, it will have served its purpose.

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CNN Interview on the inauguration of The Museum of The Horse, Francesca Cumani (Chantilly, France)

The mayor came to me and said, ‘Would you join us in financing the saving of Chantilly’s race course?’ And I said, ‘But I’m not interested in only saving the race course. I’d like to widen the spectrum to the whole of Chantilly.’ …

It’s an exciting project and I think it will be one of the few museums totally dedicated to the horse in all its aspects in life.

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