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

Featured Item  »»  NanoWisdoms Archive celebrates its third anniversary and publishes a new interview transcript

Three years ago the NanoWisdoms Archive of Imamat Speeches, Interviews and Writings was given special permission by Aiglemont to publish Mawlana Hazar Imam’s speeches. Today, as we celebrate our third anniversary, we are happy to report that the Archive is thriving thanks to the Jamat’s support.

Our third year was, by all measures, a momentous year. Recently, tens of thousands viewed our videos or read our exclusive transcripts of what will surely go down as a signature event of this Imamat: Mawlana Hazar Imam’s historic visit to address to the Canadian Parliament. Making the videos available — and those from the related follow up events, including his visit to Brown University — was possible for us because, in the finest spirit of Islam to share knowledge, the Canadian Government freely allows their webcasts to be republished by not-for-profit organisations such as the NanoWisdoms Archive, and Brown University kindly gave us permission to republish theirs, for which we thank them. We hope the hosts of future live webcasts will be as gracious so we may continue to bring you videos of Hazar Imam’s events and also ensure they are preserved for posterity as part of Archive’s permanent collection.

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2013 Aga Khan Award for Architecture Prize Ceremony (Lisbon, Portugal)

As I think back to the origins of this Award almost four decades ago, I recall my own growing realisation at that time that the proud architectural heritage of the Islamic world was endangered. Here was one of the world’s great architectural traditions, often inspired, as major architectural flowerings are so often, by one of the world’s great religious faiths.

And yet, this flowering had been allowed to decay, and in some cases almost to disappear. Nowhere else, in no other great cultural tradition, had this sort of compromise threatened such a rich inheritance. The result was that, for huge segments of the world’s population, cultural memory was fading, and an enormous cultural disaster seemed to be looming.

One part of the issue had been the effect of the colonial experience on Islamic cultures. But even in post-colonial or non-colonial settings, much of the Islamic architectural practice seemed to be consumed by a growing passion to be truly “modern”, or by a rudderless quest to be fashionably “global”.

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Opening Remarks, Business Leaders Award to Fight Human Trafficking Award Ceremony (Luxor, Egypt)

I am convinced that, over time, the most effective weapon to combat human trafficking will be civil society’s rejection of these vile activities. It will be essential, therefore, to share the knowledge accumulated by the Award’s activities with civil society organisations around the world — including schools which teach about business, and the leisure industry, and the widest possible range of professional associations, NGOs, and community associations, from the cities and the countryside….

As this process of observation and analysis goes forward, we will also be better able to identify those situations which most readily give rise to human trafficking — including extreme poverty, conflict situations of all sorts, civil disorder, and the collapse of the family — and thus to predict areas where human trafficking is most likely to grow, or will be most difficult to eradicate. Predictability, in turn, will allow us to act more pre-emptively in protecting humankind against this scourge.

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Interview with an unidentified media outlet (USA) ·· incomplete

INCOMPLETE AND UNIDENTIFIED: We regret that from this item, only the extracts below are available in the Archive or were made public by the reporter and we would be very grateful if any of our readers who may have a complete copy of the interview would kindly share it with us. Also, we have not been able to identify which media outlet conducted the interview and would therefore appreciate any of our visitors who recognise this interview and/or the media outlet — from the image, audio or text below — would kindly contact us. Please click here for information on making submissions to NanoWisdoms; we thank you for your assistance.

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Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association Awards’ Dinner (London, United Kingdom)

If interpretation is well founded and based on good observation, it can then be used as logic. Measured across the nearly 80 years of my family’s thoroughbred breeding in Europe, and the large number of bloodlines which we have managed and developed, I feel bold enough to say that logic has played a greater role than luck.

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Kampala Serena Hotel Opening Ceremony (Kampala, Uganda)

Our intention is that the model we have adopted elsewhere in the region will also be applied here in this country — so that this major new hotel in the capital city can be followed, as soon as the necessary allocations are granted, by a quality circuit of new resorts and safari lodges in the Ugandan countryside. When that happens, a new East African travel circuit will be completed — featuring world class, state-of-the-art facilities, comprising a unique array of inspiring attractions, and offering a holiday experience “second-to-none”….

[O]ur goal is not merely to build an attractive building or to fill its rooms with visitors, but also to make a strategic investment which many private investors might be reluctant to make, but which promises to produce a magnificent multiplier effect as its impact ripples through the local communities….

AKFED is ready to take justified investment risks — to a greater extent than many other investors. We are ready to be patient investors, with a far-ranging vision. We are long-term players, maintaining our presence even during periods of economic or political turbulence.

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Interview by Pierre Dumayet (Chantilly, France)

FRENCH VIDEO ONLY: We regret that neither a transcript nor translation of this French interview video is available in the archive. We would be very grateful if any of our French speaking visitors would be kind enough to transcribe and/or translate the 11 minute video at the link below. Please click here for information on making submissions to NanoWisdoms; we thank you for your assistance.

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Aga Khan Academy, Dar es Salaam, Foundation Stone Ceremony (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)

The students at this institution will be distinguished not only for their academic capacity, but for their character and their commitment to citizenship….

The students who come here will be exceptional because they will have capabilities and character that make them stand out from their peers. And we will ensure through scholarships that exceptional students will be admitted even if they do not have the financial means….

The faculty of the Academies will do more than teach our students. They will also reach out to schools and teachers in the surrounding community to share their knowledge through formal Professional Development Programmes and informal guidance and mentoring. In this way, the imprint of the Academies will reach far beyond their physical facilities….

One hundred years from now, I believe that our successors will look back at the founding of the Aga Khan Academies as an important milestone in the development of Tanzania and East Africa.

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Le Monde Interview, Henri Tincq (Paris, France)

[Google translation] Indeed, military intervention [in Afghanistan] may not be limited. In a country like Afghanistan where the Taliban decided to resist mountain by mountain, valley by valley, the war may last longer. But I repeat that the reconstruction work must begin now. It passes through the country’s liberation, but also by establishing a sort of safety belt around Afghanistan. The challenge is to stabilise the whole region. From Pakistan to Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan, all its neighbours are in danger of destabilisation, religious radicalism and have an equal interest in the restoration of a legal situation. Tajikistan has only to end the civil war. The regional impact of pacification and stabilisation of Afghanistan can be considerable.

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Life Magazine Interview, Margot Dougherty and Richard B. Stolley, ‘In Him, East and West Meet’ (New York, USA)

Many parts of the Islamic world, and in this, the Ismailis certainly agree, perceive an American imbalance involving excessive emphasis on material comfort. I should go further than comfort, I think perhaps the concern of wealth and the way wealth is used rather than comfort. In Islam there is nothing wrong in the search for comfort, but the accumulation of wealth for the specific purpose of accumulating wealth or personal power is something which Islam does not like to see. If you are fortunate enough to go past what you personally need then share what you have.

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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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Kyrgyzstan AKDN Rural Support Program Announced (Osh, Kyrgyzstan)

We hope to bring to areas that are amongst the poorest and least served, our experience of strengthening communities living in other high mountain regions with similar economic and ecological environments. As in those other regions, we see this as a long-term initiative whose success will be determined by the commitment of the beneficiary population and the continued collaboration of the government.

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State visit to Canada (Ottawa, Canada)

Expressing his gratitude to the Canadian Government for what he termed “an outstanding partnership,” the Aga Khan observed that the programmes on which the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the AKDN had worked together in Africa and South Asia could now be extended further in Central Asia. “The capacity that we have been able to build together and our joint experience,” said the Aga Khan, “can help minimise the fragility of the start-up situation in Afghanistan.”

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Address to the Enabling Environment Conference (Kabul, Afghanistan)

The term “Enabling Environment” has two implications which I would underscore today. First, it reminds us that the conditions which enable progress can be extremely complex, that an entire “environment” of interacting forces must come together if development is truly to take root — and to take off.

Second — the term recognises that even the right environment is still only an enabling condition — not a sufficient one. Our conference title does not talk about an environment which “solves” or “cures” or “progresses” or “prevails” — but rather about an environment which “enables”. In the end, human progress must grow out of the human heart and soul. The environment enables — but it is the human spirit, guided and supported by the Divine Will, which eventually triumphs. What a sound Enabling Environment must do is to create a favourable framework in which human creativity can flourish….

Laying the State’s political foundation is a necessary first step for an Enabling Environment, but even effective government can take us only so far. And that is why we have been talking more in recent years about two other sectors: first, what I often call the role of “civil society” and, secondly, the capacities of the private sector.

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Centro Ismaili, Lisbon, Opening Ceremony (Lisbon, Portugal)

Although my faith and office place upon me a distinctive perspective and role, I am most certainly not alone in my concern about the pace and direction of change at this moment in history. In recognition of the critical problems of human welfare confronting today’s world, and the role faiths can play in contributing to their resolution, Dr. George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Mr. James D Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, convened a Dialogue on “World Faiths and Development” earlier this year. Leaders of nine world faiths participated: Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Tao.

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Aga Khan Academy, Maputo, Foundation Stone Ceremony (Matola, Mozambique)

The conviction that home-grown intellectual leadership of exceptional calibre is the best driver of a society’s destiny, underpins the Ismaili Imamat’s endeavour to create catalytic centres of educational excellence….

Adopting internationally proven but flexible curriculum frameworks, the residential schools will evolve over time into an integrated system through which advanced students and faculty will be required to study at other campuses, and to be exposed to different social, ethnic and cultural environments. Students will specialise in the fields of knowledge most required for the development of their own and their neighbouring societies, within the context of a broad and meaningful education….

The Academy in Maputo, like its counterparts elsewhere, will seek to demonstrate the instrumental role that education can and must play in building strong civil societies across the developing world. It is institutions such as the one whose foundations we are laying today that will be a driving force for progress and betterment around the world.

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Luncheon announcing the merger of the Bellerive Foundation and Aga Khan Foundation (Geneva, Switzerland) ·· incomplete

We need in the “Ummah” to move away from the normative attitudes towards the acceptance of pluralism of the “Ummah”, and that pluralism starts from the time of the Prophet himself and “Hadith” (Sayings of the Prophet Mohammad) as well as the Prophet’s historical footprints show that in the life time of the Prophet himself he knew that there would be pluralism in the interpretation of the faith.

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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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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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Dhaka Jamatkhana Foundation Stone Ceremony (Dhaka, Bangladesh)

There will, of course, be facilities here for congregational gathering and for administrative functions. There will also be places for welcoming the larger community here at seminars, lectures, cultural and educational events and other programmes. But we also see the new Jamatkhana as a place which will make an important statement symbolising an important message. We see it as a place of peace and tranquillity, filled with a spirit of humility and prayer. It will not be a place for conceit or self-satisfaction, but rather a place for search and enlightenment. It will be a place where men and women in this pluralist country can help strengthen those common bonds which reflect our common challenges and which will shape our common destiny.

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Sunday Times Interview, Andrew Longmore, ‘Victory in today’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe would crown almost perfect racing season’ (London, United Kingdom) ·· incomplete

Well, [Alamshar] done everything asked of him. In France, he’s never been beaten. He’s run on every ground. He was an excellent two-year-old and he’s an excellent three-year-old. He’s a very complete horse, a very elegant horse and he’s also very calm. These are qualities I identify with and the racing public identifies with, too.

I did say at the time that I thought Alamshar would not be an autumn horse, whereas Dalakhani might be. I’m extremely fortunate to have two very good horses in the same year. Often if you have two like that, they will avoid each other until the Arc, but the careers of these happened to come together at the Irish Derby. In exceptional circumstances, you just have to work out what is the right thing to do.

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