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

Featured Item  »»  New Year’s 2017; Dare Greatly

The NanoWisdoms Archive of Imamat Speeches, Interviews and Writings wishes all Happy New Year.

A New Year brings with it the promise of change and 2017 promises to be memorable year, full of change, for both Ismailis and the world, as a whole. This year we Ismailis will, In’Shah’Allah, celebrate His Highness the Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee — marking 60 glorious years of his Imamat — and eagerly look forward to new directions which his steady, guiding hand may take us. Meanwhile, the world braces for what, by all accounts, appears to be a profound change in direction on the global stage as American President-elect Donald Trump assumes office.

At a personal level, however, New Year’s is a time when we reflect and resolve to change our lives through the time honoured tradition of New Year’s resolutions.

Change and new directions — whether globally, communally or personally — require confidence, courage and conviction. Confidence to assess and chart a new course. Courage to set sail on the journey. And conviction to be true to ourselves and our journey so we continue to have faith in ourselves and don’t lose heart when we face troubled waters — which we will — but, instead, calmly make the course corrections needed to forge ahead.

However, what kind of change should we strive for? What kind of journey should we chart? It is said greatness lies not where we stand but in what direction we are moving and so we could not find a more fitting answer than the powerful words of America’s 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt, who said to “dare greatly.” In 2006, at the Aga Khan University, the Aga Khan himself said the path chosen for AKU was “not easy”, “certainly not risk free” but one “filled with the promise of high adventure.”

So, today, at the start of this New Year, filled with promise, hope and change let us resolve to “dare greatly” so we may feel the satisfaction and pleasure that only one who leaves it all on the field, “who spends himself in a worthy cause,” truly understands. Our theme for our New Year’s card is, therefore, “Dare Greatly.”

Click on the image, or here, to view the card and read both President Roosevelt’s and the Aga Khan’s inspiring remarks.

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

Featured Item  »»  Salgirah, 2016: Wisdom & Education

The NanoWisdoms Archive of Imamat Speeches, Interviews and Writings wishes all Salgirah Mubarak.

Salgirah is an annual Ismaili celebration, commemorated on December 13, in recognition of His Highness the Aga Khan’s birthday. The famous 19th Century playwright, poet and author, Oscar Wilde, once remarked “with age comes wisdom, but sometimes age comes alone” — though in the Aga Khan’s case, of course, wisdom has been the hallmark of his entire life. This year, when we commemorate the Aga Khan’s 80th birthday, it seemed fitting, therefore, to reflect on his wisdom about wisdom itself and so we chose “Wisdom & Education” as the theme for our greeting card.

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 view our introductory video here.

Featured Item  »»  2016 Aga Khan for Award for Architecture Prize Ceremony (Al-Ain, United Arab Emirates)

I think, first, of how great architecture can integrate the past and the future — inherited tradition and changing needs. We need not choose between looking back and looking forward; they are not competing choices, but healthy complements. We can learn valuable lessons from history without getting lost in history; we can look boldly ahead without ignoring what has gone before….

I think of how architectural excellence can integrate the Gifts of Nature and the potentials of the Human Mind. Natural Blessings and Human Creativity are Divine gifts — and it is wrong to embrace one at the expense of the other. The best architecture teaches us to engage with Nature respectfully; not by conquering or subduing it, nor by isolating ourselves away from it.

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Featured Item  »»  2016 Aga Khan Award for Architecture Winner’s Semiar (Dubai, United Arab Emirates) ·· incomplete

We’re beginning to see in many parts of the Muslim world … how global warming is beginning to create situations where life is at risk, where it was not at risk before…. We’re seeing villages are being wiped away by earthquakes, by landslides, by avalanches, we’re seeing people moving to dangerous areas in modern environments…. I would ask you to try to bring this issue forward so that we address it in good time (he said). I see these crises of change as being badly predicted.

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Featured Item  »»  Inauguration of the Naryn Campus of the University of Central Asia (Naryn, Kyrgyzstan)

Students of world history remind us how Central Asia, a thousand years ago, “led the world” in trade and investment, in urban development, in cultural and intellectual achievement. This was the place that leading thinkers from around the known world would look to for leadership. What were the latest breakthroughs in astronomy or mathematics, in chemistry or medicine, in philosophy or music? This was the place to find out. This region is where algebra got its name, where the earth’s diameter was precisely calculated, where some of the world’s greatest poetry was penned.

Why did this happen then? Why did it happen here? Above all, I would suggest, it was because of the quality of “openness.” By that I mean openness to new ideas, openness to change, and openness to people from many backgrounds and with a variety of gifts. The people of the cities here, even all those centuries ago, joined hands with the people of the steppes, and together they reached out to people who were far, far away. That kind of openness can again be the key that unlocks the doors to the future.

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Featured Item  »»  Brussels Conference on Afghanistan (Brussels, Belgium)

Since 2001, AKDN and its partners have channelled over $1 billion to enhance self-reliance and improve the quality of life of Afghans. Between now and 2020, AKDN plans similar investments in cultural heritage, education, energy, health, and poverty alleviation…. I would reiterate my profound belief in the power of sustained, long-term, multi-dimensional development that empowers individuals and communities to improve their quality of life.

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Featured Item  »»  Acceptance Remarks and apres speech Conversation with the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson — Accepting the Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship (Toronto, Canada)

These are just a few thoughts as I look to the future of Global Citizenship. The challenges, in sum, will be many and continuing. What will they require of us? A short list might include these strengths: a vital sense of balance, an abundant capacity for compromise, more than a little sense of patience, an appropriate degree of humility, a good measure of forgiveness, and, of course, a genuine welcoming of human difference. It will mean hard work. It will never be completed. But no work will be more important….

I have been very impressed since 1957, in developing countries, when elections had to be held or were held in circumstances where you would assume that the population didn’t have access to the information they would’ve, in our view, needed to express themselves rationally and competently. Well, I got it wrong. They are very, very wise. Public wisdom is not dependent on education.

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Archon Award Ceremony of Sigma Theta Tau International (Copenhagen, Denmark)

More than twenty-five years ago, these were some of the central concerns that led to the establishment of the Aga Khan University in Karachi and its School of Nursing…. Given the state of health services in Pakistan at that time, I felt it particularly important to create an institution in the country that could offer education in the health professions at international standards. This would ensure that the teaching and research programmes would be of the highest quality, but would also be grounded in local needs and realities, and that, if properly funded and led, could make a distinctive contribution on a permanent basis. In addition, a successful national institution would have the potential to provide leadership directly and through its graduates that would be felt in the professions and also in society more generally.

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

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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Opening Address, Expressions of Islam in Buildings Seminar, ‘Faith, Tradition, Innovation, and the Built Environment’ (Jakarta and Yogyakarta, Indonesia)

The essence of the Aga Khan Award is to premiate outstanding quality in all principal aspects of the built environment for Muslims. We seek to identify excellence in landscaped spaces, restored buildings, social housing, high-tech constructions, and others, all over the world. The single binding theme is that the buildings or spaces be essentially used for those born into, or who have become a part of, the faith of Islam. It is a broad and glorious domain that we have defined. The invisible common thread that runs through it all, the “underlying theme” of that great design, is relevance to the common characteristic of being — in some way — related specially to Muslims….

In this seminar, the Award strives to look to the fountainhead of inspiration on which Muslims and non-Muslims draw to create the spaces and buildings we admire. What aspects of the social or religious backgrounds transpire into their creation? Is it their interpretation of their faith? Is it the ethic of their faith? Is it the rules of social conduct of their faith? And, indeed, the hard question has to be asked, is it their faith at all?

How do they perceive problems of scale, intimacy, regionalism? How do they choose materials, textures, and colours? What use do they make of water, flowers, and scent? Do they relate one or some, all or none, of these considerations to their faith, or to their ethic, or to a secular tradition? Is the secularisation of the modern Western world affecting their professional approach, or, on the contrary, is the search for an Islamic identity encouraging them to learn much more about their history and tradition than what their forefathers knew or learnt? If there is a return to the essence of their background, is it in the form of a search for identity, or is it in the form of a new commitment to their faith?

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Address to the Asia Society, ‘The Physical Structure of Islam’, ‘Islamic Architecture: A Revival’ (New York, USA)

I told our [hospital] architect … that his idiom should reflect the spirit of Islam. How was this to be done? I did not want him to succumb, through nostalgia, to mimicry of the past, adding minarets and domes to his renderings — the sort of bogus orientalism that has produced Alhambra hotels and Taj Mahal bars around the world. Surely, we, as Muslims, must do better than that….

Should we allow future generations of Muslims to live without the self-respect of our own cultural and spiritual symbols of power, to practise their faith without also being reminded of that sense of scale in relation to the universe around us which is so particularly ours?

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Presidential Address at the First Anniversary of Mindanao University (Manilla, Philippines)

During the two Caliphates, the Muslim Universities were producing the best scholars, doctors, astronomers and philosophers. Today where are we? Have we institutions of learning which can compare with the Sorbonne, Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, Oxford, M.I.T.? Throughout my journeys I have been deeply pained to see the lack of initiative which my brother Muslims have shown in educational matters. In some circles there may have been a fear that modern education would tend to lessen the sharpness and deepness of our faith. I am afraid that I must reject this with vehemence.

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Globe and Mail Interview (3rd), John Stackhouse and Patrick Martin (Toronto, Canada)

I have to tell you this is my own direct experience, many, many of these situations [of conflict] can be avoided [if] addressed in good time. Many of them. And I really assure you that this is the case. These pockets of extreme poverty, of frustration, of fear of some of these minorities, can be addressed by a direct, focused programme to bring them back into civil society so that they understand that they are not isolated and thrust outside the context of national mainstream.

And it is amazing how much can be done if you will go in with economic support, social services, dialogue, bringing communities together, focusing on hope in the future rather than looking backwards in despair. That looking backwards in despair is probably one of the most divisive forces that you will ever find in Third World countries….

I think that when you look at the development process, its strength is based on the people’s will to work for themselves. That’s clear. And we’ve seen that.

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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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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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Featured Item  »»  Inauguration of the Naryn Campus of the University of Central Asia (Naryn, Kyrgyzstan)

Students of world history remind us how Central Asia, a thousand years ago, “led the world” in trade and investment, in urban development, in cultural and intellectual achievement. This was the place that leading thinkers from around the known world would look to for leadership. What were the latest breakthroughs in astronomy or mathematics, in chemistry or medicine, in philosophy or music? This was the place to find out. This region is where algebra got its name, where the earth’s diameter was precisely calculated, where some of the world’s greatest poetry was penned.

Why did this happen then? Why did it happen here? Above all, I would suggest, it was because of the quality of “openness.” By that I mean openness to new ideas, openness to change, and openness to people from many backgrounds and with a variety of gifts. The people of the cities here, even all those centuries ago, joined hands with the people of the steppes, and together they reached out to people who were far, far away. That kind of openness can again be the key that unlocks the doors to the future.

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Vanity Fair Interview, James Reginato, ‘The Aga Khan’s Earthly Kingdom’ (USA) ·· incomplete

We have no notion of the accumulation of wealth being evil … It’s how you use it. The Islamic ethic is that if God has given you the capacity or good fortune to be a privileged individual in society, you have a moral responsibility to society.

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Address to the XIIIth International Meeting of Peoples and Religions, Special Session ‘Africa’s Rebirth’ (Lisbon, Portugal) ·· incomplete

A shared social ethic, underwritten by Africa’s faiths, can help resolve many of the problems afflicting Africa today…. I am unaware of a single situation where the faiths of Africa have sat down and asked themselves what policies and strategies are in place to offer long-term availability of health and education.

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

[In India] the track record of an urban housing finance institution has been so good that the creation of a specialised agency for the financing of rural housing is being envisaged. We all know the problems which Indian agriculture has had to face. If it is realistic to envisage institutional private sector financing for rural housing there, then three conclusions are obvious

Firstly, there is more wealth in agricultural communities than is often recognised, whether its source is easily identifiable or not. Secondly, if Indian agricultural areas appear able to justify a viable specialised housing finance agency, could the same not be true of Egypt? Thirdly, anything which is done to improve the quality of life in rural areas, such as the provision of housing, must contribute to stemming the flow of people from the countryside to the cities.

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Jamati Institutional Leaders Dinner (Vancouver, Canada) ·· incomplete

I am infinitely proud, infinitely proud of the leadership that is coming from Canada, or from communities that have left their homelands in difficult circumstances, built a new future for themselves here in Canada, empathised with Canadian values and are able today to bring back to their home countries not only new knowledge, new competencies, but also Canadian values.

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Acceptance Address – Grand Mécène (Grand Patron) and Grand Donateur (Grand Donor) from the French Ministry of Culture (Paris, France)

[Google translation] For my part, beyond the affection for France as my family has expressed for generations, I want, personally being involved in this project, thank your beautiful country for welcoming me so warmly. In fact, my personal and institutional links with France are of such quality that over the years, France is becoming the centre of my activities, including policy development to benefit the poorest people on the planet.

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2015 Aga Khan University Convocation Ceremony (Nairobi, Kenya)

As we expand our work in Kenya, one of our highest priorities is to achieve international standards of healthcare especially for non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Another special focus will be neuro-science, where the promises of stem cell technology must be brought massively and competently to Africa. Our overall plan is for a nationally integrated health system, built on the strong foundations already in place at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi. And our overall goal can be simply stated: we believe that no Kenyan should have to leave the country to seek quality medical care.

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50th Anniversary of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), (London, United Kingdom)

[I]t was not until a century later that the Institut [de France] made it a priority to revitalise the Domaine. And I was invited to become a part of the response. The Institut and I quickly agreed that a short-range burst of attention was not the answer. We needed a long-term plan. And we also agreed to build on the principle of public-private partnership. Increasingly, we realised the success of cultural projects in the developed world and the developing world alike requires a variety of actors animated by a robust spirit of cooperation and an overriding “ethic of partnership.” …

Planning ahead for long-term sustainability is critical. At Chantilly and elsewhere, our plans have included permanent service facilities — a museum perhaps, or a scholarly research centre, a children’s library, or a training workshop — so that their eventual income streams, along with public access fees, can provide re-investable income. But the real requirement, the sine qua non, is building a constituency for sustainability, including an engaged local community.

Let me conclude by underscoring my conviction that the work of cultural heritage is more critical today than ever before. In the developing and the developed worlds alike, societies are plunging into an increasingly bewildering future at an ever-accelerating pace. At such a time, and on occasions such as this, it is important that we commit ourselves ever more ardently to the essential work of cultural heritage as a powerful contributor to improving the quality of life for the entire human community.

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Alltex EPZ Limited Opening Ceremony (Athi River, Kenya)

AKFED [is] neither a charitable foundation, nor a vehicle for the personal wealth of the Ismaili Imam of the time. It is a for-profit, international development agency that, because of its institutional background and social conscience, invests in countries, sectors and projects, on criteria far different from those of a straightforward commercial investor. Investment decisions are based more on the prospects for better lives for the constituencies of people that will be impacted by the investments and their results rather than on bottom line profitability. AKFED does seek to generate profits, but they are entirely reinvested in future development initiatives….

The approach of the Imamat has always been to respond to the development challenges and priorities of the countries in which it is engaged…. It has often meant taking courageous but calculated steps to create opportunity in environments that are fragile and complex at the same time. For AKFED, this has frequently meant giving a lead where others might have feared to tread.

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2005 Aga Khan University Convocation Ceremony (Karachi, Pakistan)

Many countries, nations at widely diverse stages of economic and social development, are expressing grave doubts about the effectiveness of their systems of education to develop the intellectual and moral talent they need to function in the modern world — and to engage all levels of their societies.

This vital work in education must be highly sensitive to local conditions, gain the confidence of parents and children and communities and draw upon the best research into brain development, nutrition, and learning theory. But it must also grasp the role and the importance of local values, for educational change is also a deeply moral enterprise. It will only flourish as part of a revitalisation of our societies.

A great risk to the modernisation of the Islamic world is identity loss — the blind assumption that we should give up all our essential values and cultural expressions to those of other civilisations.

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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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