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

Featured Item  »»  Acceptance Remarks – Honorary Doctorate, Universidade NOVA de Lisboa (Lisbon, Portugal)

I have always felt at home in Portugal, and now ever more so since the signing in 2015 of an historic Agreement between the Ismaili Imamat and Portuguese Republic to establish the Seat of the Ismaili Imamat in this country — an important milestone in the 1,400-year history of the Ismaili Imamat. It marks the culmination of our long and deep relationship here and one that will now deepen further. While we work in 30 countries, we hold an enduring affinity for Portugal and its institutions, its history and its people. And the historic Palacete Henrique Mendonca will become the most fitting host for the Seat. Underpinning this partnership with Portugal is our admiration for the country’s pluralism and bridge-building initiatives with people from disparate cultures and faiths…. Our commitment to Portugal reflects our deep respect for this country and our deep affection for its people.

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Featured Item  »»  Diamond Jubilee Mubarak, 2017: Dare to Imagine

The NanoWisdoms Archive of Imamat Speeches, Interviews and Writings wishes all belated Diamond Jubilee Mubarak!

Although thought of as an architectural endeavour, the Aga Khan Award for Architecture — established forty years ago by His Highness the Aga Khan — has deeper intellectual and philosophical roots. As the Aga Khan explained, in 2001, the “goal was to create an intellectual space” for “seeking diverse solutions.” A space where “challenging ideas could grow without restraint” and “creativity and risk-taking could blossom,” free from dogma and timidity. A space for “debate” and “broad participation on a basis that … provides freedom for full exchange.” In sum, he said, the goal was to create an “intellectual trampoline to generate ideas.”

While milestones, like the Diamond Jubilee, are times when we review progress made on ideas, hopes and dreams imagined at prior milestones, such as the Golden Jubilee, their real benefit and importance may well be to remind us to, once again, dare to imagine boldly the new future we wish to create for ourselves, our families and community. Albert Einstein said “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” And, in 1989, the Aga Khan advised the community to “listen to ideas, develop ideas, create ideas and bring them forward …” And so, in that vein, perhaps one worthy objective for this Diamond Jubilee — which could carry our community for generations — would be to imagine how we can help our community more effectively create that intellectual space, that intellectual trampoline, the Aga Khan spoke of. That special environment which not only values, but actually protects and encourages intellectual pluralism, at all levels of activity and administration.

The theme for our Diamond Jubilee Mubarak card is, therefore, “Dare to Imagine.”

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Featured Item  »»  Diamond Jubilee Inauguration Interview (Aiglemont, France) ·· incomplete

When I inquired as to what role can Islam play in promoting social peace, especially in a region like South Asia, the Aga Khan was unequivocal: “Social ethic is a strong principle in Islam and I think that Muslims would be well advised to respect that as a fundamental ethic of our faith and to live by that, which means that we have to be what I would call an empathetic society, a welcoming society, peaceful society, a generous society.”

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Featured Item  »»  Acceptance Remarks — Architectural League of New York 2017 President’s Medal (New York, USA)

There are many, many challenges and we know all about that, but challenge is part of human life and I don’t think you or I will bend our knees in front of a challenge. I don’t like bending knees. I dissuade people who have knee problems to work for me. And I still try to ski at my old age.

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

As people living in a given time, we are observers of that time. We have the ability to affect the future and one of the exciting aspects of this Award, I think, is, particularly, that precise opportunity to build for the future, to look forward to processes of change which are thought through, which are evaluated, which are affected upon in terms of impact on society, impact on cultural history, impact on personal enjoyment in public spaces or private spaces. So, this Award really has, as its objective, to cause people to think about the processes of change in our world, and see how we could best influence them.

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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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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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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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Pranay Gupte Interview (United States, United Kingdom) ·· incomplete

In the long run, the question is what is the context in which human society will function and the Islamic community will function? And I think the whole notion of relevance is a massively important issue. It’s going across all faiths. Not just the Islamic faith. Not just the Islamic interpretation. It’s going across all faiths today. There is a clear search for ethical contexts. And my sense is that could be a little bit of a reaction to maybe some of excesses in the material context.

It’s clear that uncontrolled freedom becomes license. It’s an issue that keeps coming up all the time. And it’s one which needs very, very deep reflection. Very deep reflection. It’s probably the most challenging issue that I have to address today. More so since the life sciences have evolved, since communications have evolved.

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Golden Jubilee Inaugural Ceremony (Aiglemont)

In a world where quality of life is increasingly measured in material terms there is risk that the essential value system of Islam will be eroded, or even threatened with disappearance. Political situations with a theological overlay are also causing disaffection or antagonism between communities of the same faith, and even more so amongst different faiths.

At the centre of this turbulence is Islam. We cannot let this continue. On the other hand, the sheer scale of the problem, added to its complexity, make it an issue which the Ummah, in its entirety, can better address, rather than individual schools of interpretation within it. It will be essential that while respecting their individual identities, various tariqahs within Islam should collaborate to articulate the common social and moral principles of our Islamic value system…. Islam is a faith of tolerance, generosity and spirituality…. Where we can build bridges with other tariqahs around a common Muslim cosmopolitan ethos, we should make this endeavour.

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Jamati Institutional Leaders Dinner (Singapore) ·· incomplete

I thought that you would be pleased to know that I have selected Singapore as one of our partners in looking at development opportunities in the future, not only in the Far East, but globally…. What do we share with Singapore? First of all, I think we share a very strong commitment to human knowledge. To the notion of competence. To the notion of quality. To the notion of developing human society around value systems which are strong. Secondly, we share the notion of a pluralist society where peoples of different backgrounds come together to work towards a common goal. So we have many aspects of our principles of development which we share with Singapore and I am happy to tell you that it is my intention to develop a permanent base here in Singapore.

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Ismaili Centre Foundation Stone Ceremony (Khorog, Tajikistan)

The congregational space incorporated within the Ismaili Centre belongs to the historic category of jamatkhana, an institutional category that also serves a number of sister Sunni and Shia communities, in their respective contexts, in many parts of the world. Here, the Jamatkhana will be reserved for traditions and practices specific to the Shia Ismaili tariqah of Islam. The Centre on the other hand, will be a symbol of confluence between the spiritual and the secular in Islam….

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Preface to ‘Architecture in Islamic Arts’ (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Singapore; St. Petersburg, Russia)

At the height of Islamic civilisations came a magnificent flowering of the arts and architecture: the buildings created by the great Islamic dynasties rank among the finest monuments of world culture. To focus one’s attention on material details of these creations and on their representation in the pictorial arts of the time makes one understand better how they reflect the all-encompassing unity of man and nature, central to Muslim belief. The aesthetics of the environment we build and of the arts we create are the reflections of our spiritual life, and there has always been a very definite ethos guiding the best Islamic architecture and artistic creation.

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Featured Item  »»  Acceptance Remarks – Honorary Doctorate, Universidade NOVA de Lisboa (Lisbon, Portugal)

I have always felt at home in Portugal, and now ever more so since the signing in 2015 of an historic Agreement between the Ismaili Imamat and Portuguese Republic to establish the Seat of the Ismaili Imamat in this country — an important milestone in the 1,400-year history of the Ismaili Imamat. It marks the culmination of our long and deep relationship here and one that will now deepen further. While we work in 30 countries, we hold an enduring affinity for Portugal and its institutions, its history and its people. And the historic Palacete Henrique Mendonca will become the most fitting host for the Seat. Underpinning this partnership with Portugal is our admiration for the country’s pluralism and bridge-building initiatives with people from disparate cultures and faiths…. Our commitment to Portugal reflects our deep respect for this country and our deep affection for its people.

Read more »

The Ismaili Imamat and the Province of Alberta ‘Agreement of Co-operation’ Signing Ceremony (Edmonton, Canada)

[I]n the last decades I have come to an important conclusion about governance, about the fragility of governance in the developing world, and what people can do to protect themselves from governance which is not effective. And I think that history is beginning to show that civil society, in its complexity but also in its ability to impact the way people live, is probably the most important, single feature that I know. And building civil society is a complex exercise, needs multiple input and that multiple input, again, I hope we develop with your institutions in Alberta.

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

He has got to be an outstanding horse, as a two-year-old, as a three-year-old and over all distances and all goings. He has speed, he has stamina. He has everything…. If he hadn’t have been beaten by Alamshar in the Irish Derby, he would be unbeaten, but they are two very good horses…. He is a beautiful mover. I was worried about the ground as he hadn’t won on it since he was a two-year-old, but he proved he could handle anything…. It is always difficult to make comparisons between horses. This horse possesses a concentration of unusual talents…. That is what gives him the ability to accelerate when he needs to accelerate, to follow a pace when he needs to do that, and to handle all goings equally…. Breeding is the basis of what my family has been doing for generations and this win puts him among the best.

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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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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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Foreword to the Daily Nation 50th Anniversary Special Supplement, ‘After 5 decades, the future depends on ability to adapt’ (Nairobi, Kenya)

My own role in the Nation Media Group has also evolved considerably. Seven years ago I gave my personal shares in NMG to the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) — the economic development arm of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). The move not only gave NMG a new source of corporate strength but it also anchored the company in a broader development philosophy designed to bring excellence and best practices to societies in the developing world. It also allowed NMG to benefit from the Network’s significant experience in East Africa.

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

All cultures naturally influence each other to a greater or lesser degree; the strongest are those in which the dominant elements remain dominant and refuse to be overwhelmed by external forces. They become stronger still when they retain the ability to select, to absorb that which invigorates and enriches and to reject that which is inimicable. This is what the Western world did in building upon the stronger Muslim civilisation to pull itself out of the Middle Ages. I venture to suggest that this be the process by which Islamic architects and designers develop a physical environment, one which will make of their institutions, their work places, their houses and gardens something which future generations may look upon as a true reflection of the spirit of Islam….

We are not looking for a facade of Islamic architecture, hiding the new behind a shallow imitation of the old. Nor are we looking for an Islamic city which conforms to an outdated and unrealistic system of organisation and human relations….

I would like to formally open this meeting by expressing a deep personal wish: that our objectives not be considered simply in terms of the survival of the Islamic heritage in building forms, but as an attempt to stimulate in the architectural profession and among its teachers an exciting and fulfilling thought process, one which will develop a momentum of its own and become an almost instinctive manner of expression for any architect designing anywhere in the Islamic world.

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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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State Banquet (Dhaka, Bangladesh)

Technology is also transforming our economic lives. Economic value is no longer tied to how much land one controls or how many machines or factories one owns. Within our lifetimes, predominantly “Agricultural Societies” and “Industrial Societies” of the past have been joined, and sometimes supplanted, by what many call the “Knowledge Society,” propelled by the digital revolution, and focusing on the creation and management of information. In a Knowledge Society, the most productive investments we can make are investments in education. And education is another priority we share with the Bangladeshi people.

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Xinhua News Agency and Xinkiang Gizetti Interview, (Urumchi, Xinjiang, China)

As a result of my building exercises, I started asking, what were the correct elements, what were the correct issues that anyone responsible for a large amount of building should keep in his mind when he makes these decisions. You can completely eliminate the social roots, the cultural roots. You can weaken the economic strength of the community by bad development, by bad building.

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CNN Inside Africa/Design 360 Interview, Sylvia Smith (USA) ·· incomplete

Modernity is part of the concern of the award and our objective is to permeate good architecture, not to freeze it any time. The symbols of the past may be re-utilised in modern architecture, they may be dropped, new symbols may come forward — we need continuity, particularly in conservation, but, no, we’re not going to stymie creativity of the Islamic world. [Emphasis original.]

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Acceptance Address – Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, American University of Beirut (Beirut, Lebanon)

The university’s fidelity to its founding notion that disciplined, objective inquiry is the property of all humanity, attracts faculty and students of high calibre from dozens of countries and cultures, challenged not only to excel in their chosen fields, but to place their knowledge in the wider context of humanity’s pluralist heritage. This is a core principle of my own faith — Islam — that learning is ennobling, regardless of the geographic or cultural origin of the knowledge we acquire. Such teachings spurred a spiritually liberated people to new waves of adventure in the realms of the spirit and the intellect …

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Aga Khan Development Network, The Ismaili Imamat and Government of Mali ‘Agreement of Co-operation’ Signing Ceremony (Bamako, Mali)

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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