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

Featured Item  »»  NanoWisdoms Archive celebrates its third anniversary and publishes a new interview transcript

Three years ago the NanoWisdoms Archive of Imamat Speeches, Interviews and Writings was given special permission by Aiglemont to publish Mawlana Hazar Imam’s speeches. Today, as we celebrate our third anniversary, we are happy to report that the Archive is thriving thanks to the Jamat’s support.

Our third year was, by all measures, a momentous year. Recently, tens of thousands viewed our videos or read our exclusive transcripts of what will surely go down as a signature event of this Imamat: Mawlana Hazar Imam’s historic visit to address to the Canadian Parliament. Making the videos available — and those from the related follow up events, including his visit to Brown University — was possible for us because, in the finest spirit of Islam to share knowledge, the Canadian Government freely allows their webcasts to be republished by not-for-profit organisations such as the NanoWisdoms Archive, and Brown University kindly gave us permission to republish theirs, for which we thank them. We hope the hosts of future live webcasts will be as gracious so we may continue to bring you videos of Hazar Imam’s events and also ensure they are preserved for posterity as part of Archive’s permanent collection.

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Jamati Institutional Leaders Dinner (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania) ·· incomplete

And I am very excited by the prospects that I see ahead of our institutions in Africa and elsewhere, because I do genuinely feel convinced that the decades ahead can be very, very exciting for our Jamat world-wide if we are able to build in the various parts of the world where we are … continue to invest in intelligence, in knowledge, because that, after all, has been the sign of success throughout the history of the Ummah.

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Aga Khan Development Network and Government of Afghanistan ‘Agreement of Co-operation for Development’ Signing Ceremony (Kabul, Afghanistan)

Referring to “exploratory work for investments in telecommunications and in tourism,” the Aga Khan saw these as “stimulating a multiplicity of ancillary industries at the same time as serving an urgent need in the hospitality industry.” A major national initiative in micro-credit to promote entrepreneurship and build capital is under consideration with the possible involvement of the International Finance Corporation.

“[I]n each of these areas where we feel the greatest need for capacity building, we have been extremely conscious of the fact that opportunities must be created for women. This is why we are targeting women as major beneficiaries with regard to the income generation activities related to agriculture, the training of nurses, the professional education of teachers and for receipt of micro-credit.”

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Luncheon announcing the merger of the Bellerive Foundation and Aga Khan Foundation (Geneva, Switzerland) ·· incomplete

We need in the “Ummah” to move away from the normative attitudes towards the acceptance of pluralism of the “Ummah”, and that pluralism starts from the time of the Prophet himself and “Hadith” (Sayings of the Prophet Mohammad) as well as the Prophet’s historical footprints show that in the life time of the Prophet himself he knew that there would be pluralism in the interpretation of the faith.

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H.H. The Aga Khan Platinum Jubilee Hospital Opening Ceremony (Nairobi, Kenya) ·· incomplete

[F]rom the initial phase of the project would come a major contribution to the medical services of East Africa, but it is from the improvement of the communities health, the training of nurses and doctors that my spiritual children will find their greatest reward.

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Opening Remarks, Third Seminar, ‘Housing Process and Physical Form’, The Aga Khan Award For Architecture (Jakarta, Indonesia)

The present seminar, which has gathered some of the most eminent thinkers and policy makers in the field of housing, must address a much wider problem. We are looking to the seminar discussions for ways in which the Award for housing can encourage planners to seek new means of solving this great contemporary dilemma.

It is my hope that these four days will be as fruitful for the seminar participants as they will be for the Steering Committee. However, the dilemma is greater than this. We want to identify specific housing problems and solutions which are appropriate to contemporary Islamic societies, and develop models which could be replicated in concept if not in design elsewhere in the Islamic world.

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The Peterson Lecture, Annual Meeting of the International Baccalaureate (Atlanta, USA)

[T]he great problem of humankind in a global age will be to balance and reconcile the two impulses … the quest for distinctive identity and the search for global coherence. What this challenge will ultimately require of us, is a deep sense of personal and intellectual humility, an understanding that diversity itself is a gift of the Divine, and that embracing diversity is a way to learn and to grow — not to dilute our identities but to enrich our self-knowledge….

As we move into that future, we would like to collaborate with the International Baccalaureate movement in a challenging, but inspiring new educational adventure. Together, we can help reshape the very definition of a well educated global citizen. And we can begin that process by bridging the learning gap which lies at the heart of what some have called a Clash of Civilisations, but which I have always felt was rather a Clash of Ignorances….

There will be a strong temptation for us to regard these new frontiers as places to which we can bring some special gift of accumulated knowledge and well seasoned wisdom. But I would caution against such an emphasis. The most important reason for us to embrace these new opportunities lies not so much in what we can bring to them as in what we can learn from them.

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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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‘Tolerance a Religious Imperative’ published on newsweek.washingtonpost.com (USA)

[I]t is striking to me how many modern thinkers are still disposed to link tolerance with secularism — and religion with intolerance. In their eyes — and often in the public eye I fear — religion is seen as part of the problem and not part of the solution.

There are reasons why this impression exists. Throughout history we find terrible chapters in which religious conflict brought frightening results. When people speak these days, about an inevitable “Clash of Civilisations” in our world, what they often mean, I fear, is an inevitable “Clash of Religions.” But I would use different terminology altogether. The essential problem, as I see it, in relations between the Muslim world and the West is “A Clash of Ignorance.” And what I would prescribe — as an essential first step on both sides of that divide — is a concentrated educational effort….

Tolerance which grows out of hope is more than a negative virtue — more than a convenient way to ease sectarian tensions — more than a sense of forbearance. Instead, seen not as a pallid religious compromise but as a sacred religious imperative, tolerance can become a powerful, positive force, one which allows all of us to expand our horizons — and enrich our lives.

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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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Ismaili Centre Opening Ceremony (Houston, Texas, USA)

Islam does not deal in dichotomies but in all encompassing unity. Spirit and body are one, man and nature are one. What is more, man is answerable to God for what man has created. Since all that we see and do resonates on the faith, the aesthetics of the environments we build and the quality of the interactions that take place within them reverberate on our spiritual lives. As the leader of a Muslim community, and particularly one that now resides in twenty-five countries on four continents, the physical representation of Islamic values is particularly important to me. It should reflect who we are in terms of our beliefs, our cultural heritage and our relation to the needs and contexts in which we live in today’s world.

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Dinner hosted by President of Côte d’Ivoire (Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire) ·· incomplete

[Google translation] The Aga Khan Development Network has started its activities in West Africa, at the request of President Houphouet in the economic field but we do not want to stay only in the economic field we now want to engage in social in the cultural field and that is why our next major initiative will be the micro-credit because micro-credit is an absolutely exceptional to help the poorest in society to build a future.

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Address to the Evora University Symposium, ‘Cosmopolitan Society, Human Safety and Rights in Plural and Peaceful Societies’ (Evora, Portugal + [Canada])

A deepening sense of spiritual commitment, and the ethical framework that goes with it, will be a central requirement if we are to find our way through the minefields and the quick sands of modern life. A strengthening of religious institutions should be a vital part of this process. To be sure, freedom of religion is a critical value in a pluralistic society. But if freedom of religion deteriorates into freedom from religion, then societies will find themselves lost in a bleak and unpromising landscape with no compass, no roadmap and no sense of ultimate direction.

What I am calling for, in sum, is an ethical sensibility which can be shared across denominational lines and which can foster a universal moral outlook.

In conclusion, then, I would ask you think with me about these three requirements: a new emphasis on civil institutions, a more rigorous concern for educational excellence, and a renewed commitment to ethical standards. For these are all ways in which we can encourage a climate of positive pluralism in our world and thus help meet the current crisis of democracy.

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Zarkava’s victory at Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp (Paris, France)

My family has been breeding racehorses for five generations. Two generations in India and three in Europe, and I believe this moment is the apogee of that effort.

This is one of the most important moments in my life. I’m not just a racehorse owner and breeder, I have many other responsibilities, but in the racing world, with all that my family has done, I really feel this is one of the most important times we have lived through.

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Opening Remarks, Ninth Seminar, ‘The Expanding Metropolis: Coping with the Urban Growth of Cairo’, The Aga Khan Award For Architecture (Cairo, Egypt)

[T]he poor can display considerable ingenuity in improving their own environment and in utilising locally available materials. I was delighted when Hassan Fathy’s work of a lifetime in this direction, reflecting his profound understanding of the virtues and possibilities of vernacular architecture, was recognised by the Chairman’s Award in 1980. People are the Islamic world’s greatest single resource. If we are to harness their latent abilities then we have to understand ordinary citizens’ aspirations — which may be far removed from architectural or planning ideals — and we have to persuade them of the value of what we are attempting to do. But, I ask again, are we starting from the correct premise? Have we successfully identified our long-term objectives?

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University of Central Asia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan Campuses Foundation Stone Ceremony (Khorog, Tajikistan; Naryn, Kyrgyzstan) ·· incomplete

We are talking about something of the order of 40m people who live in the highest mountain ranges in the world, with the Karakorum and the Pamir…. In Afghanistan I think [the univeristy] will have a role. In north-west Pakistan I think it will have a role; in western China also. And Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Turkey — all these countries that have high mountain populations…. (BBC, 5 July 2004)

We are celebrating the foundation of a unique institution. By creating intellectual space and resources, the university will bring the power of education and human ingenuity to the economic and social challenges of mountain societies in Central Asia and elsewhere…. There are two measures of success of any university. The careers of its graduates, and the quality of research, which is carried out in the universities and then is used for the benefit of the communities that the university serves.

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2013 Aga Khan University Convocation Ceremony (Karachi, Pakistan)

We are planning now to build new undergraduate Faculties of Arts and Sciences, one in Karachi and one in Arusha in Tanzania. We plan to achieve this goal progressively as circumstances and resources allow. Yes, it will be a time-consuming exercise, but our planning has been advancing very quickly indeed.

Again, developing a liberal arts capacity will not only fulfil AKU’s founding vision, but it will also follow in the tradition of the great Islamic Universities of past centuries and their effort to expand, and to integrate, a wide array of knowledge. At that time, of course, comprehending the full expanse of knowledge was seen as an achievable goal; today, the explosion of knowledge seems overwhelming. But the knowledge explosion is precisely what makes a liberal arts platform even more valuable. The liberal arts, I believe, can provide an ideal context for fostering inter-disciplinary learning, nurturing critical thinking, inculcating ethical values, and helping students to learn how to go on learning about our ever-evolving universe.

A liberal arts orientation will also help prepare students for leadership in a world where the forces of civil society will play an increasingly pivotal role….

In places where government has been ineffective, or in post-conflict situations, civil society has demonstrated its potential value for maintaining, and even enhancing, the quality of human life. But civil society requires leaders who possess not only well-honed specialised skills, but also a welcoming attitude to a broad array of disciplines and outlooks.

This is why we believe that an investment in liberal arts education is also an investment in strengthening civil society. And this is also true of another, complementary investment we will be making at AKU — the creation of seven new graduate professional schools.

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NBC Interview, Richard Engel, ‘A Hollywood stepson and a Muslim leader’ (USA)

I certainly think the invasion of Iraq was a serious mistake. We had crisis situations before that. We had them in Kashmir. We had them in the Middle East. If you look at the origins of those crises, they were political not religious. At the moment, it’s the horrible conflicts which are dominating the image of the Islamic world and I can say without one iota of fear that is totally wrong, totally wrong. You had wars in the Christian world, you had wars in the Jewish world. But you don’t define them in theological terms anymore, except Northern Ireland.

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Grant to the Om Habibeh Foundation (Aswan, Egypt)

Aswan and the people of Aswan, have a place of deep affection in my heart and within my family…. The programmes announced today intend to both continue, and also to build significantly on, the work begun by Begum Sultan Mahomed Shah. Our objective is to strengthen civil society at the grassroots by helping to improve community development organisations and by bringing to bear on critical needs in this area, the panoply of experience and resources of the Aga Khan Development Network.

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Public Address (Djenne, Mali) ·· incomplete

Today, we face a delicate situation in which all Muslims of peace need to unite to present to the world a face of an Islam of peace, unity, intelligence and conviction…. As a Muslim, I see the great mosques of the Ummah as symbols of the past but also as hopes for the future. We should not forget the great periods of Muslim history have always been marked by intelligence, by competence and by knowledge — of science, of astronomy — and of everything that was important, at the time, for the quality of life of men and women of the Ummah. We should draw great learning from the past and project it towards the future.

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Address at the launch of the Sorbonne’s New Series on Islam (Paris, France)

His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam (spiritual leader) of the Ismaili Muslims, today expressed the hope that more initiatives such as well-researched publications, exhibitions and scholarly exchanges by academic and cultural institutions in the West, “could help deepen public understanding of Islam and its intellectual and artistic heritage.”

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