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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Keynote address to the International Union of Architects and the American Institute of Architects Congress of Architects (Chicago, USA)

[To the architects:] Do not only set the example, share it in a generous and deliberate way, so that it reaches all those who build in every part of the world. Your skills have a meaning and an impact which can become vital. The results of your efforts, for good and ill, are felt far beyond the responses of your clients or your peers. This impact is a challenge, without precedent or parallel, to your profession and to its schools. The challenge is for all to raise, through the thoughtful practise of your profession, the well-being of the planet and its people of today and tomorrow. There are a series of specific questions I urge you to take up to meet this challenge:

  • Because there is nothing so powerful as tested knowledge and judgement, I urge you to ask how you can better learn from each other in debate and constructive criticism.
  • Because you are privileged with this knowledge, I urge you to ask how you can share what you learn, by deliberate efforts, with the many millions who wilt build without the benefit of an architect’s advice.
  • Because your actions will set standards and expectations, I urge you to imagine that your example will be followed by millions of others who build in this world and therefore to ask how you can exercise greater care in setting that example.
  • Because we share the burden of stewardship of the earth, please ask how the design and technology of buildings can minimise the call on non-renewable resources.
  • Because the resources we pass on to future generations are cultural as well as material, I urge you to ask how better to recognise and honour the requirement that both be enriched, and finally,
  • Because the most pressing environmental and human risks are to lie found in the developing world, I urge you to turn a serious part of your attention to questions confronting the creation of the built environment in that world: to rural areas where the greatest risks to the world’s ecology and human opportunity reside; and to the great and small cities that will emerge in the twenty-first century, where enterprises must be guided with far greater respect to physical and cultural resources than this century has shown.

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India Today Interview (1st), Aroon Purie (??, India)

As Imam of the Ismaili sect, I am in a position to adapt the teachings of the Qur’an to the modern condition. On the question of modernity the issue is essentially whether one is affecting the fundamental moral fabric of society or whether one is affecting the fundamentals of religious practice. As long as these two aspects are safeguarded the rest can be subject to adjustment.

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H.H. The Aga Khan Platinum Jubilee Hospital Opening Ceremony (Nairobi, Kenya) ·· incomplete

[F]rom the initial phase of the project would come a major contribution to the medical services of East Africa, but it is from the improvement of the communities health, the training of nurses and doctors that my spiritual children will find their greatest reward.

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Aga Khan University and McMaster University ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ Signing Ceremony (Toronto, Canada)

I view this as an agreement of a much wider spectrum of importance and outcome than you might think, simply by talking about the profession of nursing. In the past years we have seen a number of countries in the developing world enter into the dimension of what I call failure of competent democratic government. A number of countries have run into difficulty; constitutional management, economic management, the management of pluralist societies. When governments are fragile, it is civil society which comes in and sustains the development process. Professional nursing, educating women, is an absolutely fundamental pillar to the building of society.

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Interview with an unidentified media outlet, #2 (Cairo, Egypt) ·· incomplete

[Darb Al-Ahmar] was one of the poorest areas of Cairo. An area where social development had no horizons whatsoever therefore, you had more and more people coming in because these historic cities are transit areas very often for newly urbanised populations so you get more and more degradation. So we wanted to try and make sure the population in this area saw a strong economic future for themselves so there was no temptation to leave.

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

The agreement that we are signing today opens for us the opportunity to build bridges to the best of civil society in Texas and in the United States and in that sense it is a partnership which we want to now translate into effective action in various parts of the world. (akdn.org)

In order to bridge [the gap between the developed and developing world] we come to you in humility and we ask for help. And we ask for that help on the basis that it is good for the improvement of the quality of life of people around the world. (theismaili.org)

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Ismaili Imamat and Government of Portugal ‘Protocol of Co-operation’ Signing Ceremony (Lisbon, Portugal)

The Protocol of Co-operation between the Government of the Portuguese Republic and the Ismaili Imamat, which we signed this evening, is the first such Agreement that the Ismaili Imamat has signed with a Western Government, and I am deeply convinced that it will bring clear benefits to our peoples and to many others. For the Ismaili Imamat, the Ismaili Community worldwide and me, this is a highly important day. I, therefore, wish this evening, to illustrate the full significance which it has in our eyes …

The Government and municipalities, the European Commission, leading civil society and business organisations are our partners in this moral enterprise, [AKDN’s Urban Community Support Programme in Portgual], known by its local name of Kapacidad, reflecting the conviction that people are inherently capable to look after themselves.

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Restored Polana Serena Hotel Opening Ceremony (Maputo, Mozambique)

There is one other larger context I would like to mention today — the story of the Serena Hotel Group as a whole. Stretching back now over nearly four decades the Serena Group has contributed significantly to the economic progress of the places where it operates. And we intend that this same thing will happen in this country.

To begin with, attracting visitors to this country — business leaders and leisure travellers alike, one-time visitors and repeat customers — will itself produce foreign exchange at the time of such visits as well as later foreign investment, often as a result of those stays. And in both cases, there will be important multiplier effects for other enterprises, as well as for government revenues.

As the Serena Group has learned in so many other places, world-class travel facilities can be crucial components of what we call an “enabling environment” — a setting in which additional development initiatives can take root and thrive.

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Le Nouvel Economiste Interview (1st), Billionaire Activists (Paris, France) ·· incomplete

[Google translation] “The logic of the Network is that of independence, which alone can provide structural strength. Depending on the generosity is not healthy in the long term,” insists Karim Aga Khan, a theorist of self-reliance. …

[Google translation] “[I]t is the market, not government, who is the actor of development.” …

[Google translation] “After various socio-economic studies, I became convinced that the development of Third World or going through urbanisation, neither planning nor by mega but by the development of leadership in rural areas.” …

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Bujagali Hydropower Project Inauguration Ceremony (Jinja, Uganda)

The second point I would make is that this project has not stopped at the delivery of energy. It is investing in education, it is investing in healthcare, it is investing in social development, it is investing in all those aspects which improve the quality of life of people who live within the ambit of the project. And I think this is an important lesson to be learnt, because ultimately the goal is to improve the quality of life of people in the most complete manner possible.

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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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Aga Khan Academy, Hyderabad, Foundation Stone Ceremony (Hyderabad, India)

What we begin here may not have its full impact in any of our lifetimes. But the beginnings we undertake today may well be among the most important things we will ever do….

I would like to speak initially about the logic behind the Aga Khan Academies programme — to look at its philosophical underpinnings…. At the very heart of our conclusions — is one, central conviction: the key to future progress in the developing world will be its ability to identify, to develop, and to retain expert and effective home-grown leadership….

As the pace of history has accelerated, agility and adaptability have become more important qualities than mere size or strength, and the race of life has gone increasingly to the nimble and the knowledgeable. As the economic arena has been globalising, openness and flexibility have become prerequisites for progress, and success has gone more and more to those who can connect and respond.

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

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

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

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

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Preface to the book ‘Syria, Medieval Citadels Between East and West’ by Stefano Bianca (Aiglemont)

Such deep and abiding affinities [between Christendom and the Muslim world] demonstrate that so-called conflicts between East and West — whether past or present — are political or ideological constructs that have no real basis in deeper cultural and religious fact. Beyond and apart from the controversies highlighted by contemporary observers (and acerbated by modern nationalistic concepts originally alien to Islam) there has always been a tradition of cultural exchange, tolerance and mutual understanding — even during conflictual situations such as the invasion by the Crusaders. It is this ‘subterranean’ tradition of multicultural symbiosis and of tolerant pluralism, as exemplified by the cultural history of Syria, which needs to be brought to light again, in order to overcome stereotypical prejudices that aggravate any real or imaginary conflicts that may still exist.

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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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Signing Ceremony for three agreements: 1) The First MicroFinance Institution the Central Bank of Portgual. 2) The Aga Khan University and Ministries of Health and Higher Education of the Government of Syria. 3) The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development and City of Damascus (Damascus, Syria)

I believe that Islamic cultures have immense power and immense opportunity. It is up to us Muslims to illustrate those civilisations, those cultures of the past and the present. And one of the ways to do so is to revive the effectiveness of cultural assets in communicating to people. And historic buildings do not need to be thought of only as unproductive buildings.

Cultural assets can and should become contributors to cultural dialogue, cultural understanding, pride in one’s heritage and make an economic contribution to the country. And this is why it is so important to develop the leisure industry not only in terminology of modern buildings, but cultural assets speak to people. And if we want to bridge the gulf of misunderstanding between many countries in the Ummah and other countries outside the Ummah, one of the ways to do so, I believe, is to have our cultural assets speak for our history, speak for our traditions, speak for our values, speak for our ethics.

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Acceptance Address – Cartier Racing Awards’ Horse of the Year for Zarkava (London, United Kingdom) ·· incomplete

Sometimes we are associated with fast ladies and this is a case when I am very happy to be associated with a fast lady! …

I want to say that, as a traditional breeder, Zarkava is probably the greatest reward that any breeder could ever have. If you are in this industry and you like breeding and not only racing this is the greatest, greatest reward that any owner could have because whether we admit it or not — and men can be kind of macho — we depend on the ladies in this game. They are the ones who produce the winners. And some of them we try to make faster than others.

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Introduction to ‘The Worlds of Islam in the collection of the Aga Khan Museum’ (Madrid and Barcelona, Spain)

The Umayyad Caliphate integrated the Peninsula to a vast transcontinental empire which, from Baghdad to Cordoba, was the focal point of human civilisation during a period of European obscurity. Muslim Spain transmitted to the West many of the literary and scientific works of antiquity, which had been lost at the fall of the Roman Empire. Classical texts, recuperated in the Alexandria Library, were rendered into Arabic and then translated into the Romance languages by the school of Toledo. It was also from al-Andalus that the works of the great Muslim humanists and scientists spread to Europe, contributing decisively to the development of medieval knowledge in a great number of subjects: astronomy, geometry, mathematics, natural history, medicine, geography, technology, philosophy …

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Signing Ceremony for the agreement between the Republic of Portugal and Ismaili Imamat to establish the Global Seat of the Ismaili Imamat in Portugal (Lisbon, Portugal) ·· incomplete

[This] a uniquely important occasion, where we will have for the first time in our history the opportunity to work with a partner with whom we share so many values, and so many hopes, and so many wishes.

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Visit to Madagascar (Antananarivo, Madagascar)

A fresh approach to ethics in public life and in the private sector, an improved recognition of the inherent pluralism of contemporary societies, and increased opportunity to build high competence in the sectors of greatest need, are features of the new horizons that I see in Africa today.

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