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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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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Philip Jodidio Interview (2nd) published in ‘Under the Eaves of Architecture’, ‘The Processes of Change’ (London, United Kingdom)

The vast majority of buildings in the developing world are not “architectured” buildings in the sense of the Western profession. That does not mean that quality buildings do not happen. They happen through a whole series of different processes, and not just the architectural process. The inherited knowledge of builders is remarkable. There is a whole body of inherited knowledge in developing countries, and in the Islamic world in particular, which is not driven by Western definitions of architecture.

When the Award started, the question arose about whether we were talking about that small window of “architectured” buildings in this enormous environment or whether we were talking about the whole process of change of that environment? … Very early on there was consensus that the Aga Khan Award could not be just for “architectured” buildings, it had to be an award for quality buildings no matter what the process of their creation…. The Award was very definitely an initiative to recognise the processes of building quality….

I think that the Award must evolve. Institutions that do not evolve tend to get marginalised. There are needs ahead of us which must be addressed by the Award. The biggest concern I would have is to recognise the processes of change, and to be certain that the Award plays an appropriate role in working with those processes so that they are not exclusive of quality in design or environmental concerns.

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Humayan’s Tomb Site Museum Foundation Stone Ceremony (Delhi, India)

Through the centuries, millions of people have made their way here. They have come to see these architectural achievements, the oldest and largest Indo-Islamic architectural complex. They have come to admire the decorative genius that we have around us and to think about its continuing influence in contemporary life. They have come to enjoy the green spaces that are such an essential part of this complex, reflecting the profound harmony that can ideally unite our natural and our built environments. And now, as a new Museum is born on this site, visitors will be able to learn in greater depth why these legacies were built, how they served the court and society more generally, and what they have meant since.

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Closing Remarks, Fifth Seminar, ‘Places of Public Gathering In Islam’, The Aga Khan Award For Architecture (Amman, Jordan)

Much has been said at the seminar about influencing decision makers, and there are no more important decision makers in Jordan than the King, the Crown Prince, the Prime Minister and the cabinet ministers who attended the opening session. This is the first time in the five pre-Award seminars that the head of state has personally opened the seminar, and I think this alone demands an expression of gratitude and admiration.

The Crown Prince himself presided over two full days of our meetings, and also took time to speak to us about central issues concerning the conservation of Islamic buildings and the Islamic heritage. I sincerely hope that the example set here in Jordan will be emulated in the Islamic countries in which we hold future seminars.

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Interview (with an unidentified media outlet) featured in AKDN’s ‘Let the Beauty We Love Be What We Do: A Profile of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture’ (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) ·· incomplete

What I’m hoping to achieve [with restoration of historic sites] is the notion that these historic sites are potential economic and social dynamos. They are not frozen, paralysed, historic assets. They are assets that can actually contribute to the quality of life of the people who live in those contexts.

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‘How the world is shaped by the “clash of ignorances”‘ published in the Daily Nation (Nairobi, Kenya)

We are facing years and even decades of continued testing among various forms of democratic governance. At the present moment, we may well be seeing more failures than successes. I feel strongly that students of government from across the world can help address this situation, suggesting a creative range of constitutional options and best practices in places where governmental systems have not yet had time to mature. And educational institutions at all levels should give more attention to the disciplines of comparative government.

This does not mean the imposition of political systems from outside. But it is not enough to replace coercion from beyond one’s borders with coercions from one’s own capital city. Governments everywhere should reflect the will and the aspirations of all their peoples.

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

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

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

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Acceptance Address – Honorary Doctorate, University of Ottawa (Ottawa, Canada)

The history of constitutions can be seen, as an oscillation between the two poles of centralisation and diffusion with new concentrations of power often amplifying the temptation to abuse, while new dispersions of power are often associated with stagnation, paralysis and even more opportunities for corruption. Arrangements that effectively balance power through a federalist approach, for example, are elusive. What is critical is that constitutional arrangements should respect inherited traditions, ensure fairness to minority communities, respond to rural as well as urban concerns and underwrite equitable opportunity for a better life. Reconciling the global and the local, the urban and the rural, the regional and the national, is a formidable challenge, one that calls for the best of our intellectual energies and consistent fine-tuning over time….

In much of the developed world, we have seen the emergence, over time, of two-pronged political structures where one party forms a government and the other constitutes the opposition. This arrangement can foster greater accountability and even a certain stability. But I have to say, I am increasingly sceptical about the emergence of such constructs in many developing countries. To the contrary, I suspect that a continuing multiplicity of widely differentiated parties will mean that some form of coalition government will become the norm.

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Jamati Institutional Leaders Dinner (Paris, France) ·· incomplete

What I want to say to finish this evening, and this wonderful year year which you have given me, is that I intend to build an Ismaili Centre in Paris.

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Aga Khan Academy, Mombasa, Residential Campus, Foundation Stone Ceremony (Mombasa, Kenya)

[A new] World Bank study confirms a central tenet of our Academies planning, our confidence in the value of a residential campus. We believe that students draw valuable life lessons not only from learning together but also from living together — especially if the mix of students is broadly diversified. The laying of this cornerstone symbolises this commitment to a residential experience. In addition, we are also committed to building an international network of similar schools so that those who are enrolled on any one campus will also be able to be study at other Academy sites….

As world affairs have been steadily transformed by the process of globalisation, the ability to command and control has become less important than the ability to anticipate, connect and respond. And educational institutions which can instill and enhance those capacities have become essential to effective development.

Educating effective future leaders is a high responsibility…. We must rise above the antiquated approaches of earlier days and instead infuse our students with what I would call three “A’s” of modern learning — the spirit of anticipation, the spirit of adaptation and the spirit of adventure.

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Showun Bridge Foundation Stone Ceremony (Showun, Shurobod District, Tajikistan; Khohon Province, Afghanistan) ·· incomplete

What you are doing today is setting a remarkable example of people coming together for a common purpose across frontiers — and that common purpose is to improve the quality of life of every individual in those societies…. These bridges enable people to come together to share best practice in developing human society. Across frontiers, you can build best practice in education, in healthcare, in economic development, in financial institutions, in rural activity, and it is this capacity to bring the best of society together for the benefit of all the people that I think is the most important lesson that we have today.

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Announcement of changes in Imamat Nation Group holdings (Nairobi, Kenya)

[P]utting these NMG shares into an institutional framework will ensure the long term continuity of the Nation Media Group. I shall continue to watch over the future of NMG, to demonstrate my continued personal support for the Group, and to bring to it the same level of thought as I have contributed in the past….

No change in the Board of Directors of the Group is anticipated, nor in its management, nor in its relationships with its staff, its readers, its advertisers or any other institutions or constituencies in Kenya or other parts of the region. The Nation has built a proud record of journalistic excellence — and commercial competence — over the past forty years and I will continue to do everything I can to ensure that its reputation for editorial integrity and for business accomplishment is sustained and enhanced in the years ahead.

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Remarks introducing The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, Chief Justice of Canada, The Global Centre for Pluralism’s Fourth Annual Lecturer (Toronto, Canada)

In her LaFontaine-Baldwin lecture in Toronto, in 2003, the Chief Justice said and I quote, “One problem, more than any other, dominates human history — the problem of how we deal with those who are different than us.” Those words have sharp, continuing relevance as we move further into the 21st century. Whether the challenge involves new waves of migrants moving into European societies, or political participation for the indigenous peoples of Latin America, or working towards democratic change in the Middle East and North Africa, there is a profound need to focus on the values and hopes that unite all human beings.

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Aljazeera Interview, Daniel Lak (Toronto, Canada) ·· incomplete

It’s an extraordinary phenomenon that there’s this enormous knowledge gap and I think it’s the duty of everybody, myself included, to try to fill in that knowledge gap.

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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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Independent Television (ITV) Interview (2nd), Andrew Gardner (London, United Kingdom)

[O]ne of the questions to which I don’t have an answer, but I would like to find one, is, what is happiness — for rural population in the developing world? And unless the definition of happiness, the definition of a sense of purpose is clear to planners in the developing world, they are never going to be able to address the issues that affect the rural population. And what I have discovered — I think in working on these problems — is that the rural populations are remarkably articulate, remarkably hard­working, remarkably thoughtful. But you have got to [have] access to them, you have got to let them tell you, as a decision-maker, what are their concerns, what are their priorities and in that sense, I think that maybe the industrialised world doesn’t deal with the same problems.

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State Banquet (Nairobi, Kenya)

Inter-governmental cooperation in many areas can be a key which unlocks the future in East Africa. This is why both the Imamat and the AKDN support the creation of new federal constructs in the region — including the concept of an East African Community. A federal concept simply means that governments will forge a united approach on matters which call for unity — and will operate in disparate ways when diverse approaches are better. To work of course, there must be a feeling of predictability as to who does what. And there must be a sense of equitable opportunity for all partners.

Federalism at its best need not be limited to governmental arrangements. Even as I commend the concept of a new East African Community on the political front, I would also encourage new region-wide approaches on the economic front, as well as in the civil society arena. Again, the dominant themes should be diversity, variety and experimentation — and an appropriate sharing of responsibilities.

History endorses the value of what I have called federal approaches — including the history of Islam — where some of the greatest chapters demonstrate how people who share a common faith can also embrace a broad diversity of local cultures.

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Remarks introducing Kofi Annan, The Global Centre for Pluralism’s Second Annual Lecturer (Ottawa, Canada)

In welcoming Kofi Annan this evening, I want to emphasise what his personal example has meant to all of us. He has truly been an inspiration, demonstrating the power of patience and persistence, of a willingness always to listen and a refusal to give up hope….

As Kofi Annan has taught us, pluralism requires constant dialogue, a readiness to compromise, and an understanding that pluralism is not an end in itself, but a continuous process.

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10th Annual LaFontaine-Baldwin Lecture, Institute for Canadian Citizenship, ‘Pluralism’, and apres lecture conversation with John Ralston Saul (Toronto, Canada)

The variety of the world is not only more available, it is nearly inescapable. Human difference is more proximate and more intense. What was once beyond our view is now at our side and, indeed, to use the popular expression, “in our face.” … The challenge of diversity is now a global challenge and how we address it will have global consequences….

I believe that the challenge of pluralism is never completely met. Pluralism is a process and not a product. It is a mentality, a way of looking at a diverse and changing world. A pluralistic environment is a kaleidoscope that history shakes every day. Responding to pluralism is an exercise in constant re-adaptation. Identities are not fixed in stone. What we imagine our communities to be must also evolve with the tides of history. As we think about pluralism, we should be open to the fact that there may be a variety of “best practices,” a “diversity of diversities,” and a “pluralism of pluralisms.”

In sum, what we must seek and share is what I have called “a cosmopolitan ethic,” a readiness to accept the complexity of human society. It is an ethic which balances rights and duties. It is an ethic for all peoples.

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Launch of ArchNet.org at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, USA)

Historically, the Islamic world has stood out in the area of design, but if you look at higher education in the Islamic world [there are problems]. This is a historically powerful tool usable on a global scale, a living encyclopedia of knowledge and ideas, of peoples and cultures. (AP, 27 Sep 2002)

As trustees of God’s creation, we are instructed to seek to leave the world a better place than it was when we came into it. If ArchNet can help bring values into environments, buildings, and contexts that make the quality of life better for future generations than it is today, it will have served its purpose.

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