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

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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CBC Interview (1st), Man Alive with Roy Bonisteel (Canada)

One of the most difficult questions I ask and, and I’ve asked it I don’t know how many times, is simply “What is the definition of happiness for a peasant in Asia or Africa?” If we can’t answer that question we don’t know what are the elements that contribute and the priorities of those elements, we certainly will never be able to deal with the development issues in a manner which is going to be shared by the people who we are working with — taken over, and made, there….

Always remember whose needs are being fulfilled. Are they yours or are they the persons you are trying to help. In the Third World, where the need is the greatest, many organisations and governments throw in money. I throw in people — dedicated people to train, to educate and to encourage. I believe that there is no such thing as an underdeveloped country — only under-managed countries and for me the most important word is accountability. We must be accountable at all times to the organisations we serve and to the people we serve.

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Riad Naguib El-Rais Interview, ‘The Critical Time’ (Al Mustaqbal, Cairo, Egypt)

God has favoured me with the blessing of Islam. I think that many religions find it difficult to adapt to or to live in an evolving world. Not so with a Muslim who believes in the omnipresence of God. In Islam, there is no dichotomy between the spiritual and the temporal. I have endeavoured all my life to live and work in accordance with this integrated philosophy. I think that many of us, Muslims who were educated in the West or have been imbued with Western ideas, forget that there are certain Christian traditions which go back to the teachings of Saint Augustine and which sharply separate the religious from the secular. These are not the traditions of Islam. Quite the contrary, Islam forbids the separation between the way you deal with people in society and that in which you discharge your religious duties. The meanings of life, its aims and ethics are part and parcel of the integrated unity of the Muslim environment in which I believe and through which I work.

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Preface to ‘The Aga Khan Museum’ by Philip Jodidio (Aiglemont)

It is important to note that what happens in North America, culturally, economically and politically, cannot fail to have worldwide repercussions — which is why the Museum will aim to contribute to a deeper understanding among cultures and to the strengthening of cultural pluralism: essential to peace, and to progress, in our world.

The developing political crises of recent years, and the considerable lack of knowledge of the Muslim world in many Western societies, are surely related. This ignorance spans all aspects of the peoples of Islam: their pluralism, the diversity of their interpretations of the Qur’anic faith, the chronological and geographical extent of their history and culture, as well as their ethnic, linguistic and social diversity….

This lack of knowledge manifests itself in a particularly serious way in Western democracies, where the public is often ill-informed about the Muslim world — an ignorance which then impacts the formulation of national and international policy vis-a-vis the Muslim world.

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BBC Radio 4 Interview, Michael Charlton (London, United Kingdom)

Well, in what matters then do you specifically intervene? What is your influence and authority?

Long term, long term social programming, long term economic programming, educational development, health, housing, the direction for institutions to go in …

The role of the Imam is to listen — not to talk. There is a big difference in the sense that members of the community must inform me, must tell me what is of concern to them. I do not run a government.

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L’Expansion Interview, Roger Priouret, ‘Face to Face with the Aga Khan’ (Paris, France)

[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.

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State Luncheon (Zanzibar, Tanzania)

During an official luncheon hosted by Zanzibar’s President His Excellency Abeid Amani Karume, [the Aga Khan] described Zanzibar as a “cultural jewel” and expressed readiness to invest in rehabilitation of the Island’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, concentrated in the Old Stone Town.

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Round Table Discussion with the Press at al-Azhar Park’s opening (USA, United Kingdom, Canada)

The message of [Cairo’s] skyline is the question of whether the inherited institutions and the presence of places of worship are important, or whether it is the urban growth that is going to dominate people’s perception of city life?

The Western world has gone through the same process: church towers became insignificant buildings. That may not be a healthy way of going about things; it may send a message about the wrong values. Here if you look around, you see the mosques, the places where the dead are buried, you see new glass and concrete buildings that are not very good. I think it is important to protect what one has; that is urban planning.

For example, at Bagh-i Babur [Babur Gardens] looking towards Kabul, you say to yourself, God forbid that the skyline should change; it has kept its human dimension; its symbolic spaces are visible. There are ways to modernise cities while keeping their historic values. The West is also working on this, fortunately.

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‘A Life in the Service of Development’ published in Politique Internationale (Paris, France)

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.

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2015 Aga Khan University Convocation Ceremony (Kampala, Uganda)

As the President has said, we plan to open a new campus in Arusha in just four years. It will be home for our new Faculty of Arts and Sciences plus two Professional Graduate Schools and a variety of other training and research facilities. We are also planning a new campus in Dar es Salaam for our Institute for Educational Development. Other AKU initiatives that will serve the entire region include new undergraduate medical and nursing programs in Kenya as well as our Graduate School of Media and Communications, opening this year in Nairobi. Seven other Graduate Schools will follow, designed to advance healthy Civil Society in specific African contexts. They will include Schools of Leadership and Management; Hospitality, Leisure and Tourism; Architecture and Human Settlements; Government, Civil Society and Public Policy; Economic Growth and Development; Law; and Education. It is our belief that developing graduate schools is one of the quickest ways in which universities can impact the improvement in the quality of life of people in developing countries.

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Closing Remarks, Eighth Seminar, ‘Development and Urban Metamorphosis’, The Aga Khan Award For Architecture (Sana’a, Yemen)

Generally speaking, there is a very deep communication gap between decision makers and populations, rural or urban. The reports from the workshops were also unanimous in stating that unless the people were genuinely and continuously involved in the restoration of these beautiful parts of Yemeni cities, there would be very little chance of restoration being successful. In my mind this is now an established fact.

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Telegraph Interview after accepting the Horse of the Award for Zarkava at the Cartier Racing Awards, Marcus Armytage (London, United Kingdom)

Yes [Zarkava] really is an exceptional filly in a very, very good year of race horses…. [H]er trainer, really had identified that quality very, very early on and that’s why he took the decision to run her from a maiden and go straight into a group 1 race.

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

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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Closing Remarks, Second Seminar in the Series, ‘Conservation as Cultural Survival’, The Aga Khan Award For Architecture (Istanbul, Turkey)

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.

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Ismaili Centre Opening Ceremony (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)

This new Centre is itself a profoundly spiritual place. Its defining symbolism is inspired by the Fatimid tradition stretching back over 1000 years and widely shared with sister traditions throughout the Islamic world from Baghdad to Bokhara. As its architects have so effectively realised, this building exists fundamentally as a place for peaceful contemplation, but one that is set in a social context. It is not a place to hide from the world, but rather a place which inspires us to engage our worldly work as a direct extension of our faith.

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CNN Interview, Judy Woodruff (USA)

I think there is a much better understanding of the sensitivity of these conflicts and how they become internationalised, how they go far beyond the frontiers of the area. I’m thinking of places like Sri Lanka, and I’m thinking even Northern Ireland. It’s not just the Islamic world. It’s these conflict situations which pollute and the disease just grows and grows and grows. And I think the lesson is that the civilised world today has to be a lot quicker to go into those areas and try to find workable solutions.

I am talking about diplomatic and economic solutions. Many, many of [these] issues or these areas are caused by communities who feel victimised who feel they are unable to achieve justice and so they turn to rebellion. Armed rebellion. And many of them really have historical roots. If you look at the Philippines, that situation’s been there since the mid-60s. You look at Kashmir, you look at the Middle East, you look at Northern Ireland — these are all situations which have been there for much too long, in my view.

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Aga Khan Development Network and Government of Afghanistan ‘Memorandum of Understanding to establish Academy of Excellence’ Signing Ceremony (Kabul, Afghanistan)

The Afghan Academy will significantly enhance the efforts of the government to rebuild and strengthen the Afghan education sector. It will empower future generations of educated men and women with the qualities, attitudes and knowledge that they will require when seeking to establish a peaceful and progressive civil society for the country.

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Aga Khan Development Network and State of California ‘Agreement of Co-operation’ Signing Ceremony (Sacramento, USA)

We have seen over the developing world in Africa and Asia, that when politics are fragile, what continues to sustain development is civil society. If you build a strong civil society, then you have a country that continues to progress even if governments are unstable.

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Toronto Star Interview (2nd), Haroon Siddiqui, ‘Selling a Canadian idea to the world’ (Toronto, Canada)

We have seen, in the last quarter of a century, many pluralistic nations pay a horrible price because they were unable to manage conflicts between different communities. (Canada, on the other hand) has a long and highly successful track record of pluralism. It is a sophisticated democracy where people of different backgrounds feel they have an equitable voice in the country and have achieved positions of real leadership.

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Interview with an unidentified media outlet 9 days prior to the first Takht Nashini (Enthronement) Ceremony in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (London, United Kingdom?)

Well the [installation] ceremony is a public installation of the Imam. The Ismailis pay homage to the Imam and that is when you are recognised by the world at large as the Imam. Officially as soon as one Imam passes away, his successor takes on from the very minute the Imam has passed away.

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Introduction to ‘Treasures of the Aga Khan Museum: Masterpieces of Islamic Art’ (Berlin, Germany)

No one can deny that today, there are distressing and even dangerous tensions between the Muslim world and the West. With its history and cultures, and indeed its different interpretations of Islam, the Muslim world is still little known in the West, as are its contributions to global cultural heritage and patrimony. This lack of knowledge is a dramatic reality which currently manifests itself in a particularly serious way in many Western democracies, through widespread attitudes and approaches to Muslim societies and countries. Be that as it may, the two worlds, Muslim and non-Muslim, Eastern and Western, must, as a matter of urgency, make real efforts to get to know one another better, for I fear that what we have is not a clash of civilisations, but a clash of ignorance on both sides.

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