In commemoration of Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah, Aga Khan III”s 137th birthday we are pleased to present 3 articles with advices for happiness and long life which are as relevant today as they were when given decades ago:
On Friday, September 12, 2014, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, in the presence of the Aga Khan, performed the the Opening Ceremonies of the Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto. Like the Aga Khan’s address to the Canadian Parliament, we are sure this event will also go down as one of the signature events of this Imamat.
For the tens of thousands Ismailis in North America, and around the world, who were unable to watch the event live, it is our great pleasure to be able to bring you the full video of the 3 hour 20 minute webcast — unedited, from start to finish — together with a time index schedule to let you jump directly to any segment of interest.
Words cannot capture the dignity, the soul stirring, awe inspiring grandeur and majesty of the ceremonies, nor the stately presence of the buildings, and so we will not attempt to offer any. It was a proud moment not only to be an Ismaili, but to just be a member of the human race moved beyond words, witnessing an inspired vision, executed with flawless precision in every aspect, come to life.
Vimeo version if Youtube is not available to you (lower resolution)
Schedule (click on the time to play that segment)
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NOTE: The time links below do not work for Vimeo, but the times are the same.
It is not so often that we have an opportunity of this sort — to come together in a beautiful setting, in a wonderful spirit of friendship, and to dedicate such a splendid architectural accomplishment….
When I mentioned that our planning for this complex began 18 years ago, some of you probably wondered how people sustained their enthusiasm through such a long process. Yes 18 years! My response is to say that throughout these 18 years, we have been inspired by a great sense of common purpose, as we have sought to create places and spaces of true enlightenment. And, in doing so, we have also been strengthened by a pronounced spirit of friendship. And what a joy it is to celebrate that spirit, at a time when so much of the world’s attention is focused on climates of belligerence.
There is one other larger context I would like to mention today — the story of the Serena Hotel Group as a whole. Stretching back now over nearly four decades the Serena Group has contributed significantly to the economic progress of the places where it operates. And we intend that this same thing will happen in this country.
To begin with, attracting visitors to this country — business leaders and leisure travellers alike, one-time visitors and repeat customers — will itself produce foreign exchange at the time of such visits as well as later foreign investment, often as a result of those stays. And in both cases, there will be important multiplier effects for other enterprises, as well as for government revenues.
As the Serena Group has learned in so many other places, world-class travel facilities can be crucial components of what we call an “enabling environment” — a setting in which additional development initiatives can take root and thrive.
[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.
In his remarks [at the signing ceremony] the Aga Khan noted that a distinguishing feature of the AKDN was its overriding emphasis on “investing in human capacities.” He mentioned themes that the Network had identified in Mozambique: human resource development, the economics of rural populations and the need to access resources and technologies for economic diversification within the private sector.
[Google translation] It is necessary to constantly consider the relationship between the Ummah and the knowledge society. One realises that countries that have succeeded in reconciling both develop most quickly. On the other hand, those that reject or limit access to the knowledge society get left behind. My concept of Islam is a faith for all time, not backward looking.
In the Qur’an it is written that one must seek education to know Allah better, and share knowledge for the betterment of society. That is to say that in Islam, the links between faith and knowledge are very strong and we are constantly encouraged to learn. This is an extraordinary message for humanity.
[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.
The Aga Khan Awards, the first of which will be granted in 1980, will be substantial: $100,000 in each of five different categories for a potential total of $500,000 every three years. Their purpose is to make a strong and continuing impact on the architectural profession, on decision makers and on public opinion everywhere.
[Google translation] “The logic of the Network is that of independence, which alone can provide structural strength. Depending on the generosity is not healthy in the long term,” insists Karim Aga Khan, a theorist of self-reliance. …
[Google translation] “[I]t is the market, not government, who is the actor of development.” …
[Google translation] “After various socio-economic studies, I became convinced that the development of Third World or going through urbanisation, neither planning nor by mega but by the development of leadership in rural areas.” …
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 artefacts, 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.
[Mimar Magazine] too elite a voice and a publication for the expression of the concerns of history, tradition and identity raised by the [Aga Khan Award for Architecture]. It quite simply did not reach enough people because it was too expensive.
The new building will stand in strongly landscaped surroundings. It will face a courtyard with foundations and a garden. Its scale, its proportions and the use of water will serve to create a serene and contemplative environment. This will be a place of congregation, of order, of peace, of prayer, of hope, of humility, and of brotherhood. From it should come forth those thoughts, those sentiments, those attitudes, which bind men together and which unite. It has been conceived and will exist in a mood of friendship, courtesy, and harmony.
Underlining the long-term nature of the commitment represented by this agreement, the Aga Khan referred to the beginning of a “partnership for development into the future not constrained by time.” “We look forward to this collaboration,” he said, “so that we can prioritise the greatest necessities where you feel strategies of partnership are most urgent.”
Practically no countries [sic] in Asia, Africa or the Middle East have a political landscape rooted in a strong two-party system as do many Western democracies. The probable consequence is that in many if not most countries of the developing world, coalition government will be omnipresent in the decades ahead. Yet few of these countries have any established experience with coalition governance (this is true of even the most powerful countries of the industrialised world). This critical challenge will become even more complex in countries where functioning compromises must be found between secular and theocratic forces.
A possible common ground could be found if all the political forces accepted over-arching responsibility to nourish a cosmopolitan ethic among their peoples. This would be an ethic for all peoples, one that offers equitable and measurable opportunities for the improvement of their lives, measured in terms of their own criteria for quality living. Clearly, different peoples will have different visions about a desirable quality of life, in urban versus rural areas, for example.
People coming together around a common purpose are much stronger, for example, in eliminating corruption. When an individual faces corruption, that’s a problem. When a village community faces corruption it’s a totally different issue. And in fact, corruption in civil society is probably one of the most damaging forces that we are trying to deal with everyday…. And what we’ve found is that the community organisations, when they come together, what do they look at? It’s very exciting. Their whole basis of hope is built around best practice. They reject all the things that have damaged them individually and they come together and say we want a new future built around new people whom we choose because we trust them. [Emphasis original]
[Translation] As you know I am coming from Burkina and this trip is a trip so see our activities in West Africa, to assess the situation at a time when Africa is in the process of taking very very important global dimensions, so I have come to look and listen…. the Aga Khan Network in Mali is involved in culture, in civil society, which will overtake the economical aspect. So it is the totality of means of development that we wish to bring to Mali.
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.
“Convivencia” — the Spanish word for living together harmoniously — is not a simple concept. It is, of course, the term used to describe the co-existence of different faiths in medieval Spain. The code of “convivencia” was about tolerance and much more. In Toledo, Córdoba and Granada it implied mutual respect as well as an appreciation of science and scholarship, and of different traditions. The acquisition of knowledge was not an end in itself, but rather a way to understand the beauty of God’s creation.
[Translation] I always say this: one cannot change religion overnight. This evolution is a slow thing, and it is, therefore, an everlasting job with its own rhythm, usually a lot slower than the political and economic upheavals of the present time. What takes me the most time is no longer the management of business as the Imam for, as I have told you, it is very decentralized. Above all I give advice.
I would like to emphasise that economic initiatives are only one part of the AKDN initiatives in Mali. We firmly believe that our social and cultural activities are just as important, and intend to have them expand substantially in the future.
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15 Sep 2014FULL EVENT VIDEO (with time index link to each segment!): Aga Khan Museum and Ismaili Centre Opening Ceremonies: http://t.co/P6as4CnsBD
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