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

Featured Item  »»  Eid Mubarak, 2014

The NanoWisdoms Archive of Imamat Speeches, Interviews and Writings wishes all Eid Mubarak (click on the image to view the card).

In keeping with the theme of our card, we would like to share with you some of our favourite quotes from the Imamat on moral courage and character:
The Imamat on moral courage and character

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

Featured Item  »»  Aiglon College Graduation Ceremony (Chesières, Switzerland)

As I look around me, my deep sense is that today the strongest human force, sadly, is fear…. At this time, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees believes that there are some 50 million people who are either refugees or internally displaced persons. Far more than ever before. Practically every one of them — women, men, children, the sick — have been touched by fear and many still live in fear. At no time in human history has a percentage of human population living in fear and who has been uprooted [been] as great as it is today. And this issue is affecting the whole of our world with all the consequences we see …

So you may be asking yourselves, if fear is omnipresent — as I believe it is, what does that mean about the world in which the graduands of l’Aiglon will enter? And you will be asking yourselves how, as nano-players on the global scene, you could cause positive change to happen for yourselves, your families, your peoples. My answer is: hope. Fortunately, just as fear can be infectious, so hope is infectious…. Governments and institutions must create an Enabling Environment in which hope can flourish.

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

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

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

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Gulf News Interview, Ashfaq Ahmed, ‘Aga Khan: The architect of universal good’ (Dubai, United Arab Emirates) ·· incomplete

Do you think the world is heading towards a “clash of capturing natural resources”? … I think we are seeing a concentration of wealth in a number of countries. There is a search for new resources to exploit for national or strategic purposes. The situation can be changed by making a move towards using nuclear power, as it has the potential to change the global economic scenario. (1) …

Any message for the community? The spirit of Islam is to share knowledge and I always tell the community not to think in material terms. Think in terms of knowledge and think what you can offer our institutions in various parts of the world. Raise our performance in healthcare, education, financial services and in civil society. Many minorities from the Middle East countries are living in the West. Just think how wonderful it would be if young women and men return to their respective countries to strengthen institutions and do voluntary work for their countries.

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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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Deutsche Welle Interview, Günter Knabe, ‘There’s No Conflict Between Islam and Democracy’ (Berlin, Germany)

I see no conflict between the faith of Islam and democracy. There was a consultation process. The consultation process occurred in the Muslim community at the time and two notions were retained. One was consultation and the other was hereditary continuation of religious authority, as well as secular authority. The second issue that occurred, is [that] it was consultation to achieve what? To achieve the best qualified people to lead the community.

Now I think that democracy is founded on those two concepts. It’s founded on the concept of consultation and it’s founded on the concept of consultation for the purpose of merit — of finding the people best qualified to lead. So I see no conflict at all if I go back to the original construct of the Muslim community and how they dealt with the issues of leadership.

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Sports Illustrated Interview, Paul Evan Ress, ‘Prince Karim Aga Khan’ (USA) ·· incomplete

I don’t drink alcoholic beverages for several reasons. For one thing, I am a Muslim. For another, I am an athlete in year-round training. Thirdly, I just don’t like the taste of the stuff….

([A] cause of embarrassment is the numbered jersey he must wear while racing. It often displays an ad for some alcoholic aperitif — this being a ski-race sponsor’s right.) I do not like the thought that the Ismailis may see a newsreel film of some competition and think their Imam was drinking, or urging other people to do so.

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CNN Main Sail Interview, Shirley Roberston (USA)

This year was the 40th anniversary of the yacht club, Costa Smeralda. What’s been your highlights during that period?

Two I would recollect, which was the first challenge for the America’s Cup. Italy had never challenged and as you know it’s a challenge done by clubs. So the yacht club, Costa Smeralda, was the first boat to challenge with Azzura [in 1983]. I think the other one was to win the Blue Ribbon of the Atlantic with Destriero [in 1992], the first large, high-speed, mono-hull.

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ZDF ( 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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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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Jamati Institutional Leaders Dinner (Damascus, Syria) ·· incomplete

I would like you to know that this visit has brought me great happiness and it will remain in my memory for many, many, many years to think of the happiness I have had in this historic country, with these historic links to our Jamat for centuries and centuries.

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Massachusetts Institute of Technology Commencement Ceremony, ‘Encounters’ (Cambridge, USA)

The religious diversity of Islam is important, and misunderstood by most non-Muslims…. But, for many in the West, the first awareness that there were two major branches of Islam — Shia and Sunni — came only with the Iranian revolution. That represents a superficiality of understanding that would be as though we Muslims only just learned that there were two branches of Christianity — Protestant and Catholic — and had no understanding of the Reformation, the authority of the Church or the ideas that led to the proliferation of Protestant sects in the 16th and early 17th century. Or as though we thought that most Americans were Branch Davidians.

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Peshawar University Convocation Ceremony (Peshawar, Pakistan)

Material progress apart, I do not think it should ever be assumed that only the smaller, poorer nations are faced by apparently insoluble problems. Western Europe and North America possess much that can be envied. They also face social and moral conflicts which are far more daunting than known in Asia or Africa…. The pressure of an acquisitive society has made quite frightening demands on family life. Mothers with younger children go out to work in the millions. The juvenile crime rate soars upwards, homes are broken, and the family unit itself is undermined at its source.

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

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

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

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

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The Sunday Times Interview, Part I, Nicholas Tomalin, ‘The Ruler Without A Kingdom’ (London, United Kingdom)

In all Christian societies the Churches are having to cope with increasing scepticism, particularly among the young. Some are modifying their doctrines, some are becoming more authoritarian. What happens with the Ismailis? If one’s faith is to be part of one’s life then it has to come under questioning. The essential is that it should be understood, that’s what would justify questioning. This way it is an integral part of one; there is no choice between leading a normal life or a faithful life. In some ways, as I have said, it is easier for Muslims than for Christians. We do not have any hostility towards scientific knowledge. But in other ways it can be more difficult.

With all these tensions and anomalies, have you ever felt your own faith threatened? No, Not at all.

Never a moment of doubt? No, never a moment. In fact if anything I think my faith has become stronger and stronger.

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Address to the National Building Museum’s Scully Seminar/Symposium (Washington D.C., USA)

I profoundly believed that architecture is not just about building; it is a means of improving people’s quality of life…. I am pleased that 28 years later, we have had some success in achieving our original goals [of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture]. We are gratified that so many others now are engaged in the cause. We have created a momentum that has become a self-sustaining and unstoppable force for change in the human habitat of the Muslim world. And I am most pleased the principles we have established are having an impact in much of the developed world as well.

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

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

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Preface to ‘Cairo, Revitalising a Historic Metropolis’ by Stefano Bianca and Philip Jodidio (Aiglemont)

We stand today confronted with starkly different visions of the future of historic cities. At a time when our heritage, the anchor of our identity and source of inspiration, is being threatened with destruction, by war and environmental degradation, by the inexorable demographic and economic pressures of exploding urban growth, or by simple neglect, there can be no doubt that it is time to act. Will we allow the wealth that is the past to be swept away, or will we assume our responsibility to defend what remains of the irreplaceable fabric of history? My answer is clear. One of our most urgent priorities must be to value, and protect, what is greatest in our common heritage. Breathing new life into the legacy of the past demands tolerance, and understanding and creativity beyond the ordinary.

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Ismaili Centre, Toronto, the Aga Khan Museum and their Park Foundation Stone Ceremony (Toronto, Canada)

As our plans began to take shape, we came to realise that the Museum’s focus on the arts of Islam will make it a unique institution in North America, contributing to a better understanding of Islamic civilisations — and especially of the plurality within Islam and of Islam’s relationship to other traditions. It will be a place for sharing a story, through art and artifacts, of highly diverse achievements — going back over 1,400 years. It will honour the central place within Islam of the search for knowledge and beauty. And it will illuminate the inspiration which Muslim artists have drawn from faith, and from a diverse array of epics, from human stories of separation and loss, of love and joy — themes which we know reverberate eloquently across the diverse cultures of humanity.

In a world in which some speak of a growing clash of civilisations, we believe the Museum will help address what is not so much a clash of civilisations, as it is a clash of ignorances. The new Museum will have a strong educational vocation: it will be a place for active inquiry, for discussion and research, for lectures and seminars, and for an array of collaborative programs with educational institutions and with other museums.

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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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Letter to architect Fumihiko Maki setting out notions of Light as the design theme for the Aga Khan Museum, Toronto (Aiglemont) ·· incomplete

For the Aga Khan Museum, I thought that ‘light’ might be a concept around which you could design an outstanding museum….

I hope that the building and the spaces around it will be seen as the celebration of Light, and the mysteries of Light, that nature and the human soul illustrate to us at every moment in our lives. I have explained at the beginning of this letter why I think Light would be an appropriate design direction for the new museum and this concept is of course particularly validated in Islamic texts and sciences: apart from the innumerable references in the Qur’an to Light in all its forms, in nature and in the human soul, the light of the skies, their sources and their meaning have for centuries been an area of intellectual inquiry and more specifically in the field of astronomy. Thus the architecture of the building would seek to express these multiple notions of Light, both natural and man-made, through the most purposeful selection of internal and external construction materials, facets of elevations playing with each other through the reflectivity of natural or electric light, and to create light gain or light retention from external natural sources or man-made internal and external sources.

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