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

Featured Item  »»  Happy New Year, 2015

The NanoWisdoms Archive of Imamat Speeches, Interviews and Writings wishes all happy New Year (click on the image to view the card).

Over the past 57 years, His Highness the Aga Khan has, time and time again, emphasised the critical importance of new ideas for solving the pressing problems of our times — whether communal, local, national, regional or global. Albert Einstein said “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions” and also that “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” While Maria Montessori — of early childhood education fame — said “Imagination does not become great until human beings, given the courage and the strength, use it to create.” And Peter Drucker — the famous American management consultant — said “If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.”

And it is in “wanting something new” where the Aga Khan has not just dreamed great ideas, but “dared to act” and executed on his ideas, making them real. One of these is the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. Outside the world of architecture, planning and habitat, the AKAA is perhaps the least understood, least appreciated facet of the Aga Khan Development Network, yet the raison de etre of the AKAA was to create a forum for the development of ideas, for the discussion of ideas and for their reward. The Aga Khan explains:

The goal was to create an intellectual space — something we might think of as a beautiful bustan in which there would be no possibility of suffocation from the dying weeds of dogma, whether professional or ideological; where the flowers of articulation and challenging ideas could grow without restraint; where the new plants of creativity and risk-taking could blossom in the full light of day. — 2001 Aga Khan Award For Architecture Prize Ceremony (Syria)

In other words, in creating the AKAA, the Aga Khan created a laboratory where not only can the intellect engage in unfettered experimentation and exploration, but a laboratory from where valuable principles and lessons can be learned and used by all who truly have that inborn sense of courage and spirit of adventure to explore, discuss and implement new ideas, to embrace new paradigms, to push the envelope.

In keeping with the theme of our card, we would like to share with you some of the Aga Khan’s important quotes — drawing partially on lessons learned from the AKAA — on ideas and innovation: on nurturing, respecting and harnessing them from whomever they may come.

Click here for: His Highness the Aga Khan on on ideas and innovation: on nurturing, respecting and harnessing them from whomever they come.

Featured Item  »»  Salgirah Mubarak, 2014

The NanoWisdoms Archive of Imamat Speeches, Interviews and Writings wishes all Salgirah Mubarak (click on the image to view the card).

Although birthdays are a time for celebration, they are also a time for reflection. Reflection on what one has accomplished in the previous year, and in life generally. While the accomplishments of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s life are beyond tabulation — almost beyond comprehension, perhaps in that itself there is a lesson for us as we celebrate his 78th birthday.

In his 2006 Aga Khan University speech, Hazar Imam said, of his plans for the university, that “the path we have chosen is not easy to chart — and it is certainly not risk free. But it is both a necessary and an exciting road — filled with the promise of high adventure.” And 7 months later, at the Aga Khan Academy in Mombasa, he said “we must infuse our students with [a] spirit of adventure.” Adventure takes courage. Courage to act. But then acting is where the thrill of life lies, for as Hazrat Ali said “the coward has no enjoyment of life” echoing US President Theodore Roosevelt, who wrote in his book Strenuous Life: “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though chequered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

Whether as young Imams — like Hazar Imam in his 20s planning and developing the billion pound (in today’s currency) project at Sardinia or what would become the future Aga Khan University — or as older Imams, decisive, bold courage, the courage to act, the courage to act on their visions and “dare mighty things” is a consistent hallmark of our Imams. Never for a moment are they nonchalant because, as Hazrat Ali says, “to give yourself up to nonchalance is to lay up regrets” and of regret, at Brown University this year, Hazar Imam said “never regret [mistakes], but correct them.” And so perhaps, on Hazar Imam’s birthday, we should resolve to chart a new course, a course that commits us to act, to “make a dent in the universe” as Steve Jobs said, so on our next birthday we can count ourselves not among those who just dream, but among those who “dare mighty things”. Among those who Dare to Act.

In keeping with the theme of our card, we would like to share with you some of our favourite quotes from the Imamat on confidence, courage and the spirit of adventure:
Click here for the Imamat on confidence, courage and the spirit of adventure

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

Press Conference (Kampala, Uganda) ·· incomplete

The message I will always give is that humanity cannot deal with present day problems without a basis of religion.

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Aga Khan Development Network and Government of Zanzibar ‘Agreement of Co-operation’ Signing Ceremony (Zanzibar, Tanzania)

Collaboration with governmental and other partners can help create considerable economic opportunity, as well as social and environmental benefits, as we continue to preserve and make productive valuable cultural assets.

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CTV Canada AM Interview, Norm Perry (Ottawa, Canada)

One of the main causes we hear of the strife in Iran is that the Shah wants progress…. Many of the religious leaders in Iran are opposed to that. They think the conservative approach is best. You yourself are a modern man, Harvard educated, very much a Western oriented man in education and learning. So doesn’t that sort of put you and, in that sense, your people, against what seems to be a majority of feeling in Iran?

It might do. It might do. I think the main issue really is how the Mullahs or in my case the Imam, view the compatibility or the incompatibility of Islam with the modern world, and as far as my family is concerned, my community is concerned, we don’t run away from that. We are not prepared to say that there is a basic conflict between the modern world and our practice of Islam. I am not sure that this conflict is seen by all Ithnashri Muslims in Iran. I don’t think it is.

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

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

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Syrian TV Interview, Reem Haddad (Aleppo, Syria)

Your Highness, is there a message that you would like to leave the Syrian people?

Well first of all, the respect and admiration that I have for Syria in its historic role within the Ummah. Secondly the notion that progress does not mean occidentalisation. Progress in the Ummah means moving forward in quality of life, but not giving up your identity, not giving up your value systems. Indeed our values systems are massively important for the future. [Emphasis original]

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Brown University Commencement Ceremony (Providence, USA)

From the seventh century to the thirteenth century, the Muslim civilisations dominated world culture, accepting, adopting, using and preserving all preceding study of mathematics, philosophy, medicine and astronomy, among other areas of learning. The Islamic field of thought and knowledge included and added to much of the information on which all civilisations are founded. And yet this fact is seldom acknowledged today, be it in the West or in the Muslim world, and this amnesia has left a six hundred year gap in the history of human thought….

Little of what was discovered and written by Muslim thinkers during the classical period is taught in any educational institutions. And when it is, due credit is not given. This gap in global knowledge of the history of thought, and the faith, of a billion people is illustrated in innumerable ways, including in such diverse worlds as that of communication and of architecture. Our cultural absence in the general knowledge of the Western world, partially explains why your media sees Islamic world and its thought as an ideological or political determinant in predominantly Muslim cultures, and refers to mere individuals affiliated with terrorist organisations as Muslim first and only then by their national origin or ideological or political goals.

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Paris Match Interview (5th), Caroline Pigozzi (Paris, France)

[Google translation] This magnificent heritage deserved a public-private partnership and specific joint program. My experience of social issues, philanthropy and the fact that I live in the area have prompted various actors ask me to be the president of the Foundation for the Protection and Development of the Chantilly Domain, to manage and restoring the side of the Institut de France in which he will return in 2025.

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Dinner hosted by the Governor and First Lady of Texas (Austin, Texas, USA)

The American ethic and ideal — the Texan ethic and ideal — has always been one of openness to others and openness to the future. It is an ethic of opportunity, which the Ismaili Community deeply shares. This commitment to opportunity is exemplified in the vitality of your diverse multi-ethnic society. It is rooted in a deep respect for the individual human being independent of one’s background or origins.

The Governor has cited words from the Qur’an about the affinity of our religious commitments. The teachings of the Qur’an, like those of the Bible, also resonate with the words that rang out from Philadelphia in 1776: affirming that “all men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” Those words express our common ideal….

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Preface to ‘Treasures of the Aga Khan Museum: Arts of the Book & Calligraphy’ (Istanbul, Turkey)

I am very grateful to the Sakip Sabanci Museum, and to the Chairman of its Board, Ms Güler Sabanci, for hosting this presentation of treasures of the future Aga Khan Museum’s collections …

The choice was made to focus on the arts of the book and calligraphy, themes which have been central to Islamic culture for close to fifteen hundred years. They are the core of the future Aga Khan Museum’s collection, and the works on parchment and paper shown here are complemented by a range of objects (metalwork, ceramics, wooden beams, textiles, jewellery, etc.) bearing examples of fine epigraphy, both Qur’anic and poetic.

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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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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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Philip Jodidio interview (3rd) published in ‘A Racing and Breeding Tradition: The Horses of the Aga Khan’ (Aiglemont)

The idea of entering into an activity that was in no way central to the Ismaili Imamat, an activity in which no member of my family — neither my brother nor my sister nor I — had any understanding, in itself raised a major question mark. Would I have the time, and the capacity, to learn something about an activity with which I was totally unfamiliar? When the leader of a family endeavour disappears, the next generation does not necessarily carry on…. To be the new young owner who would come in and cause the operation to collapse was not exactly what I wanted!

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Ismaili Centre Opening Ceremony (Burnaby, Canada)

The Ismaili community has sought to create a building here which is both Islamic in its architectural inspiration and of a quality to enhance the overall distinction of Burnaby. The Jamatkhana is designed to be a social and cultural centre, as well as a place of congregation. It expresses the Ismailis’ desire to give of their best to the cultural and economic fabric of Canada. They are proud that it symbolises their commitment both to this country’s future and their ancient heritage. Nor is there any dichotomy in this dual aim. Muslims believe their faith is not for one time, but for all times and so there cannot be conflict between tradition and modernity.

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Visit to Syria (Syria)

Our very fruitful discussions will now enable us to concentrate resources where the AKDN’s experience can address priority needs identified in co-operation with the Syrian Government. These include specific areas of cultural and economic concern, education policy and institutional support in the healthcare sector and the challenges faced by rural populations.

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Financial Times Interview, Rachel Morarjee, ‘Coffee with the FT: His Highness the Aga Khan’ (London, United Kingdom) ·· incomplete

“If you try to put social development ahead of economic support, it doesn’t work. You have to do both together. A community whose economics don’t change is not one that can support community structures, education, healthcare, it doesn’t have the wherewithal.”

I ask whether he thinks this long-term view is key to his success and he says that many projects can take 25 years to come to fruition. He cites a hospital in Pakistan that now produces world class doctors a quarter of a century after it opened. It would be hard to find Western donors who would remain with a project for that long.

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Vist to Kazakhstan; ‘State Award for Peace and Progress’ Presentation Ceremony (Astana, Kazakhstan)

Kazakhstan has the potential to guarantee stability across the Central Asian region. By carefully positioning and investing its human and material resources, the country can help assure both social harmony and economic prosperity in one of the world’s most vulnerable regions…. I firmly believe that peace will be possible only when the pluralistic nature of human society is recognised, seen as a source of strength rather than weakness, and used as a basis for the formulation of policies and structures at all levels of governance.

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University of Central Asia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan Campuses Foundation Stone Ceremony (Khorog, Tajikistan; Naryn, Kyrgyzstan) ·· incomplete

We are talking about something of the order of 40m people who live in the highest mountain ranges in the world, with the Karakorum and the Pamir…. In Afghanistan I think [the univeristy] will have a role. In north-west Pakistan I think it will have a role; in western China also. And Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Turkey — all these countries that have high mountain populations…. (BBC, 5 July 2004)

We are celebrating the foundation of a unique institution. By creating intellectual space and resources, the university will bring the power of education and human ingenuity to the economic and social challenges of mountain societies in Central Asia and elsewhere…. There are two measures of success of any university. The careers of its graduates, and the quality of research, which is carried out in the universities and then is used for the benefit of the communities that the university serves.

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Conversations In Integration: ‘Effective Pluralism requires Concerted Efforts’ published on (Canada)

It has never been easy for people to live together. Wiping away superficial misunderstandings will not by itself allow a spontaneous spirit of accommodation to blossom. To do so will require concerted, deliberate efforts to build social institutions and cultural habits which take account of difference, which see diversity as an opportunity rather than a burden. We can begin by looking at the structures of public governance.

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Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development and Government of Mali ‘Memorandum of Agreement’ Signing Ceremony (Bamako, Mali)

[Google translation] All the commitments I have just signed, will have a significant impact not only on the Malian economy, but especially on the quality of life of people. (l’Essor, Mali, No. 15061, 14 Oct 2003)

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Faculty of Health Sciences of the Aga Khan University Inauguration Ceremony (Nairobi, Kenya)

[The Aga Khan University is] planning a number of new post-graduate schools in Pakistan and Eastern Africa, to meet important needs in both areas. Amongst these Graduate Schools will most probably be “Architecture and Human Settlement”, “Media and Communications”, “Tourism and Leisure”, “Management” and “Government, Public Policy and Civil Society”….

The central challenge of this new [Faculty of Health Sciences in Nairobi] will be to address the crucial health care priorities of the East African population — and indeed all of sub-Saharan Africa — from Sudan to Mozambique, from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic.

The new Faculty of Health Sciences will educate future generations of professional leaders in the evidence-based practise of medicine. Emphasising both teaching and research, it will be accompanied by a major expansion of the Aga Khan University Hospital here, including a new Heart and Cancer Centre, which is scheduled to begin construction this year. What we envision here in the coming years is an institution of some 1,000 students and 175 faculty members, admitting students on a merit basis. Our new facilities, including a teaching hospital of 500 beds, will eventually occupy some 80,000 square meters. The total investment over the next fifteen years will be about 250 million dollars. When the project is complete, the Aga Khan University in Kenya alone will employ over 4,000 people.

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