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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Aga Khan Development Network and Governments of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan ‘University of Central Asia Treaty’ Signing Ceremonies (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan) ·· incomplete

Mountain populations experience extremes of poverty and isolation as well as constraints on opportunities and choice, but at the same time, they sustain great linguistic, cultural, ethnic and religious pluralism, and show remarkable resilience in the face of extraordinarily harsh circumstances. By creating intellectual space and resources this university will help turn the mountains that divide the nations and territories of Central Asia into the links that unite its peoples and economies in a shared endeavour to improve their future well-being.

ALL MISSING: We regret all (or most) of the speeches during this visit are not available in the Archive. Listed below are some events he attended where Mawlana Hazar Imam made or may have made a speech. We would be very grateful if any of our readers who may have these speeches, or others from the visit, would kindly share them with us. Please click here for information on making submissions to NanoWisdoms; we thank you for your assistance.

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Interview with an unidentified media outlet (Australia) ·· incomplete

Do you think the that role of Imam is something everybody exactly understands?

Not in the West

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Address to the Conference on Afghanistan (London, United Kingdom)

Allow me to highlight four areas for consideration [vis a vis Afghanistan’s development]:

First, we must focus on inclusive economic participation….

Second, we must accelerate human resource capacity creation from early childhood to tertiary education, including in particular, market-relevant skills development and vocational training….

Third, women’s participation in society is vital to ensure an improved quality of life….

Fourth, we recognise the importance of regional cooperation and trade. This requires stabilising Afghanistan’s frontiers….

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Sunday Times Interview, Andrew Longmore, ‘Victory in today’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe would crown almost perfect racing season’ (London, United Kingdom) ·· incomplete

Well, [Alamshar] done everything asked of him. In France, he’s never been beaten. He’s run on every ground. He was an excellent two-year-old and he’s an excellent three-year-old. He’s a very complete horse, a very elegant horse and he’s also very calm. These are qualities I identify with and the racing public identifies with, too.

I did say at the time that I thought Alamshar would not be an autumn horse, whereas Dalakhani might be. I’m extremely fortunate to have two very good horses in the same year. Often if you have two like that, they will avoid each other until the Arc, but the careers of these happened to come together at the Irish Derby. In exceptional circumstances, you just have to work out what is the right thing to do.

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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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Acceptance Address – Installation as a Foreign Associate Member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts, Kenzo Tange chair at the Institut de France (Paris, France)

[Google translation]: [Kenzo Tange] founded the “Tange Laboratory”, in which he will advise young architects whose Sachio Otani, Takashi Asada, Taneo Oki, Kisho Kurokawa, Arata Isozaki and Fumihiko Maki. The last two are well known to me. Arata Isozaki was the architect chosen by the University of Central Asia, which I am the chancellor, to build the three campuses of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. As Fumihiko Maki, is the designer of the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto and the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat in Ottawa.

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Public Address (Rushan, Badakhshan, Tajikistan)

As I look to the future of the Ismaili community worldwide, living in many parts of Central Asia, and in more than 25 different countries, and as I look to the future of Tajikistan, with its variegated population, and as I look at the Ummah, I conclude that every and all those peoples, if they wish to achieve a better life for themselves in the generations ahead, must absolutely achieve peace within their societies, and because we are Muslim, conflict must be replaced by a peace which is predicated on the ethics of our faith.

We must not kill to resolve our differences, whatever they may be. They must be resolved, as I have said, within the ethic of our faith through dialogue, through compassion, through tolerance, through generosity and forgiveness. These are the pillars on which to build a strong society in modern times — not through weapons.

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Visit to Earthquake-Hit Areas of Pakistan (Muzaffarabad, Pakistan)

The Aga Khan expressed his solidarity with the people of Pakistan in this most difficult and challenging period. He commended the relief efforts of the Government of Pakistan and the Pakistan Army for their commitment to reconstruction and rehabilitation. He expressed the need to work in partnership and the need to construct seismic proof housing, adding:

“I hope the experience gathered here and the lessons learnt will be useful in similar efforts in the future, not only in the region but also in countries of Central Asia.” “We are with you during this sad episode in your lives, and will do what we can to help you. Looking ahead, it is important that the structures are rebuilt keeping the seismic nature of the region in mind.”

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Address to the Dushanbe Fresh Water Forum (Dushanbe, Tajikistan)

I am struck how often, and in how many different discussions about water, people living in the communities scattered through the high mountains are seen as a problem…. Though essential, the technology is not the important message here. It is that with organisational support and technical inputs, mountain people can become part of the solution to effective watershed conservation and management, while also improving their own circumstances.

[M]ountain communities need support from society and government at the national level. For much of Central Asia, but also in rural areas in Afghanistan and Northern Pakistan, civil society organisations based on principles of broad participation, equity and transparency are still uncommon. Their development needs support and requires legitimacy in the eyes of the government for they are the most capable micro managers of micro water resources.

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AFP Interview (Aleppo, Syria) ·· incomplete

In the Judaeo-Christian world, charity is a notion which evokes generosity with nothing in return. In Islam, the ‘best of charities’, but not the only one, is to help the poor be self-sufficient…. I was born with Islamic ethics, in a Muslim family. There is nothing wrong with being well off as long as money has a social and ethical value and is not the object of one’s own greed. That is why I wanted to set up institutions that can manage everyday problems based on Islamic values.

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PTV Interview, Imran Aslam, ‘A Vision of Hope and Faith’ (Karachi, Pakistan)

But I must tell you very frankly that there is absolutely no hidden agenda other than answering a critical national situation. I would say that this was not specific to Pakistan. Eastern Tajikistan, i.e. the mountain communities in the Pairs have lived the same difficulty. It’s admittedly in a different context because it was the context of the Soviet Union, but the reality is that mountain communities generally are poor, often invisible and isolated. So that’s the background and there is absolutely no hidden agenda. Sometimes I’ve been told that I’m being put forward as a person who wants a State or this sort of thing. I can tell you that idea has never crossed my mind. More than that it is an idea that if were put on the table would last in my view one millionth of a second — not more….

I think that this notion of indigenous culture and respect and enhancement of that culture — continuity with time, making it part of society’s vision — is something which is very, very important indeed and with [the] sort of internationalisation of communications, our societies are at risk and not only as was proven in architecture but is being proven today in entertainment and all the rest. So I hope very much that we can together enhance our own indigenous cultural expressions. They’re free. Export them. Export them in the English language in such a way that the world has direct access to our own expressions of culture.

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Tem Bridge Opening Ceremony (Tem, Tajikistan; Demogan, Afghanistan) ·· incomplete

Bridging the Pyanj River today means creating a corridor of hope and opportunity for this entire region. By facilitating the flow of goods, services, knowledge and technology in both directions, this bridge will allow communities on either side of the frontier, as well as neighbouring countries, to gain from one another and to contribute to one another’s welfare.

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Edmonton Journal Interview, Keith Gerein, ‘Things become possible’ (Edmonton, Canada) ·· incomplete

People’s horizons are governed by their own context, and what is not in their context is outside their notions of perception. Unfortunately, I would say it is crisis-driven situations which are still dominating people’s attention. What we need to do is go into areas of high risk before they become critical. If you go in after they are critical, it’s too late. But the notion that many of these of crises can be reduced or avoided through anticipatory work is not part of strategic thinking in many parts of the world.

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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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Acceptance Address – Investiture as a Foreign Member, Class of Humanities, Academy of Sciences of Lisbon (Lisbon, Portugal)

[During the Golden Jubilee of my Imamat] I visited numerous countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East and I came into contact with men and women who were intelligent, mature, responsible and who were seeking to build nation states … but these builders were seeking to build on the basis of an enormous knowledge deficit….

[The] question is a deficit of what knowledge? What knowledge is necessary in these environments, so that in the decades ahead we can look towards stable nation states around the world?

My conclusion was that the deficit of knowledge is in many areas which are not being offered in education, which are not being taught. Because what have been inherited are curricula of the past, reflections of the past, attitudes of the past, rather than looking forwards, asking what do future generations need to know. And that is the central question which needs to be asked, and on which an academy such as this can have such a massive impact.

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BBC Interview (London, United Kingdom)

[My grandfather] was a most extraordinary leader in the sense that anybody who came in contact with him was immediately … felt very, very close to him. If you spoke to him, he, in a matter of minutes, would know what your problems were and you really felt that he was interested and he could help you. And this went both for his family and for the Ismaili people. They used to come to him with problems and he used to be able to understand them very, very quickly. And he guided all the members of his family. Every time he saw them he would give them advice and see that they were happy and if he could help them he always would. [Emphasis original]

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2006 Aga Khan University Convocation Ceremony (Karachi, Pakistan)

If we judge from Islamic history, there is much to encourage us. For century after century, the Arabs, the Persians, the Turks and many other Islamic societies achieved powerful leadership roles in the world — not only politically and economically but also intellectually. Some ill-informed historians and biased commentators have tried to argue that these successes were essentially produced by military power, but this view is profoundly incorrect. The fundamental reason for the pre-eminence of Islamic civilisations lay neither in accidents of history nor in acts of war, but rather in their ability to discover new knowledge, to make it their own, and to build constructively upon it. They became the Knowledge Societies of their time.

Those times are over now. They are long gone. But if some people have forgotten or ignored this history, much of the Ummah remembers it — and, in remembering, asks how those times might be recaptured. There may be as many answers to that question as there are Muslims — but one answer which can be shared across the whole of the Ummah is that we must become full and even leading participants in the Knowledge Society of the 21st Century.

That will mean embracing the values of collaboration and coordination, openness and partnership, choice and diversity — which will under-gird the Knowledge Society, learning constantly to review and revise and renew what we think we know — learning how to go on learning. [Emphasis added]

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2003 Aga Khan University Convocation Ceremony (Karachi, Pakistan)

[AKU] must continue to expand its programmes of research. The true sign of maturity and excellence in a university is its ability to contribute to the knowledge of mankind, in its own society and beyond. It is equally essential that its faculty be challenged, as a matter of university policy, to expand the boundaries of human knowledge. Any vestige of dependence is cast off, any suspicion of a young scientist or scholar that he or she may sacrifice intellectual excitement by leaving the West is allayed, when a university becomes known for generating new ideas, making new discoveries and influencing events….

Much AKU research, however, will focus on pressing issues of public policy. This naturally follows the precepts of Islam, that the scientific application of reason, the building of society and the refining of human aspirations and ethics should always reinforce one another…. So important is this growing research capacity and informed discourse with policy makers, that the university must strengthen its public policy commitment…. AKU will pledge its energies and imagination to advancing effective public policy.

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Reuters Interview, Penny MacRae (USA) ·· incomplete

Baghdad is one of the greatest historic cities of our globe and therefore what was there [and lost in the war] was totally irreplaceable…. [T]here are few cities in the Islamic world (than Baghdad and Damascus) that you could damage which would be more painful [to Muslims].

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Institute of Ismaili Studies 25th Anniversary Graduation Ceremony (London, United Kingdom)

[It] is not a simple matter for any human society with a concern and appreciation of its history to relate its heritage to its contemporary conditions. Traditions evolve in a context, and the context always changes, thus demanding a new understanding of essential principles. For us Muslims, this is one of the pressing challenges we face. In what voice or voices can the Islamic heritage speak to us afresh — a voice true to the historical experience of the Muslim world yet, at the same time, relevant in the technically advanced but morally turbulent and uncertain world of today? …

One of the challenges that has concerned me over many years, and which I have discussed with leading Muslim thinkers, is how education for Muslims can reclaim the inherent strengths that, at the height of their civilisations, equipped Muslim societies to excel in diverse areas of human endeavour…. Today, any reasonably well-informed observer would be struck by how deeply this brotherhood of Muslims is divided. On the opposite sides of the fissures are the ultra-rich and the ultra-poor; the Shia and the Sunni; the theocracies and the secular states, the search for normatisation versus the appreciation of pluralism; those who search for and are keen to adopt modern, participatory, forms of government versus those who wish to re-impose supposedly ancient forms of governance.

What should have been brotherhood has become rivalry, generosity has been replaced by greed and ambition, the right to think is held to be the enemy of real faith, and anything we might hope to do to expand the frontiers of human knowledge through research is doomed to failure for in most of the Muslim world, there are neither the structures nor the resources to develop meaningful intellectual leadership.

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