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.

Read more »

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.”

Read more »

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.”

Read more »

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.

Read more »

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.

Read more »

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.

Read more »

University of Sind Convocation Ceremony (Hyderabad, Pakistan)

It is through the creation of such a new elite, inspired by, and widely read in everything related to our heritage, that there must come about a revival in Muslim thought. The whole approach to education, without becoming archaic, should begin now to re-introduce, as widely as possible, the work and thought of our great Muslim writers and philosophers. Thus, from the nursery school to the university, the thoughts of the young will be inspired by our own heritage and not that of some foreign culture.

Again, let there be no misunderstanding: I am not in any way opposed to the literature or the art or the thought of the West. I simply maintain that the Islamic heritage is just as great and that it is up to us to bring it to the forefront again. When our nursery school children first begin to read, why should they not let their imaginations build upon the prowess of the Great Khaled rather than Wellington or Napoleon? And if the student of philosophy seeks a degree, should he not be encouraged to read about even Al-Hallaj rather than Hegel or Kierkegaard?

Read more »

Associated Press Interview on the ‘Aga Khan Express’ (Sultanabad, Pakistan) ·· incomplete

INCOMPLETE: We regret that from this interview, only limited portions made public by the reporter are available below. We would be very grateful if any of our readers who may have the complete transcript would kindly share it with us. Please click here for information on making submissions to NanoWisdoms; we thank you for your assistance.

Read more »

Opening Remarks, Seventh Seminar, ‘Reading the Contemporary African City’, The Aga Khan Award For Architecture (Dakar, Senegal)

It is quite logical to presume that it is easier at the periphery of the vast experience of Islam to identify those ways in which, and the degrees to which, this experience has inserted itself into such highly differentiated socio-cultural milieux as China and Black Africa How does each national culture, and even each regional culture, manage not only to express but also to flower by means of the Muslim faith and the works of Islamic civilisation? This is the great question that has particularly concerned the historians and the sociologists, but which must now be a focus of attention for the architects and the city planners in Islamic countries.

Read more »

Acceptance Remarks – 2011 University of California San Francisco Medal (San Francisco, USA)

[I]n much of the world where we work, our problem is volatility — volatility in economics, in governments and so on and so forth. I think what we’ve learned is that the best answer to this volatility, in the countries where we are, is civil society and very often civil society is not an expression everyone is comfortable with. But I’ll try synthesise it by saying it is really the sum of human endeavour in structured, non-governmental organisations, that aim to impact positively all the key forces which condition people’s quality of life…. Now in developing civil society we are not trying to bring mediocrity to the Developing World. We’re trying to do exactly what UCSF is doing, which is to bring quality and excellence.

Read more »

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

Major public buildings and spaces are often large, easily identifiable and have considerable symbolic and physical presence within the environment. They are generally designed to last, and may involve a substantial commitment of public funds. Their design therefore constitutes an important demonstration of the architectural and planning principles that lie at the heart of the Award programme.

Public buildings, more than any other building type, are a major force in creating taste in a given locality or country. They are complicated structures which combine diverse functions and services in a single complex. They may be technologically sophisticated, and can often be designed to meet stringent performance standards. Architectural excellence in this area will thus demand much more than formal brilliance of conception or limited functional success.

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.

Read more »

Restored Forodhani Park Opening Ceremony (Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania)

The accomplishments we celebrate today, then, are a part of an ongoing story — and it is a story which has counterparts in many places around the world. In Cairo, in Damascus and Aleppo, in Delhi and Lahore, in Kabul and Bamako, in Mopti, Djenne and Timbuktu, and along the ancient Silk Route, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, through its Historic Cities Programme, has worked to restore a series of major cultural landmarks.

We undertake these projects, in part, because they can reinforce a sense of identity within proud communities, providing gateways to cultural understanding for local citizens and for visitors alike. But there is more to the matter than that. These cultural initiatives, in each case, have also been accompanied by a social and economic rationale, so that the entire project works to improve the well being of the people who live in these areas. How does this happen? It happens when many components come together — like pieces of a complex puzzle….

Our mandate is that no such project should require future support from government or any other institution, but should stand on its own, as an entirely independent engine of community progress.

Read more »

Closing Remarks, Sixth Seminar, ‘The Changing Rural Habitat’, The Aga Khan Award For Architecture (Beijing, People’s Republic Of China)

Perhaps the first issue [about rural habitat highlighted by this seminar] is the absence of communication between those who live in the rural areas and those who work for its betterment. What I mean by communications is the ability of the rural population to express itself in a clear manner to the people who are planning the development of the rural areas, to participate fully in the processes which contribute to the development programme of the rural areas, and then having a chance to evaluate the response that these developments produce. I think this may well be due to the nature of rural society. It is more widely spread; it is less vocal in many cases, and it is more difficult for urban technocrats to penetrate the thought processes, the responses of rural society than if you are building for programmes in an urban development. I think it is also true that international planners and architects communicate more easily among themselves than they do with the urban population as a whole.

Read more »

Aga Khan Development Network and Government of Germany ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ Signing Ceremony (Berlin, Germany)

Pluralism must become part of a society’s ethical and institutional framework including the structures of government. A fundamental requirement, therefore, is investment in sustainable public and private institutions as well as in future leadership rooted in those societies…. Pluralism is essential to successful development as it offers a practical means of managing diversity, mitigating conflict, fostering social inclusion and laying the foundation for equitable human development: all fundamental values and principles of the German development policy.

Read more »

Remarks to villagers during visit to Ambalafary (Sofia, Madagascar) ·· incomplete

I hope in the years ahead, we can grow our partnership to have an even greater impact on the quality of life of the populations of Sofia and elsewhere. Microcredit must be sustained, increased and developed, and it should bring you additional support, in new activities, in health, in education, in commerce, in infrastructure. I look to the future with great confidence, confidence because this partnership, which you chose to join, is unfolding into a partnership which is victorious. And I think that in victory, we can all be very, very happy and I congratulate you and I thank you.

Read more »

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.

Read more »

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.

Read more »

The Sunday Times Interview, Part I, Nicholas Tomalin, ‘The Ruler Without A Kingdom’ (London, United Kingdom)

In all Christian societies the Churches are having to cope with increasing scepticism, particularly among the young. Some are modifying their doctrines, some are becoming more authoritarian. What happens with the Ismailis? If one’s faith is to be part of one’s life then it has to come under questioning. The essential is that it should be understood, that’s what would justify questioning. This way it is an integral part of one; there is no choice between leading a normal life or a faithful life. In some ways, as I have said, it is easier for Muslims than for Christians. We do not have any hostility towards scientific knowledge. But in other ways it can be more difficult.

With all these tensions and anomalies, have you ever felt your own faith threatened? No, not at all.

Never a moment of doubt? No, never a moment. In fact if anything I think my faith has become stronger and stronger.

Read more »

Aga Khan Development Network and European Commission (EU) ‘Joint Declaration’ Signing Ceremony (Brussels, Belgium)

Our Joint Declaration represents a commitment to go beyond our common concerns about poverty and the need to improve living conditions in the developing world. We now look to enhancing our two-decade long partnership to contribute towards creating stability, mitigating conflict, fostering greater social inclusion and enabling equitable and sustainable human development.

Read more »

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.

Read more »

Jamati Institutional Leaders Dinner (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania) ·· incomplete

I also want to thank you for the most lovely gift that you have given me. These gifts are very meaningful. They’re chosen with care and they are chosen in such away that they know they will please me.

Read more »

State Banquet (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)

The commitment to cooperate is not only essential among peoples of different ethnic or religious backgrounds, or different classes, or philosophies. We must also build stronger bridges of cooperation between different sectors of social and economic leadership. I am pleased, for example, to be hearing more and more these days about “public/private partnerships. As we learn to work across the public/private dividing line, we can do things together we could never do separately….

I am pleased to announce the Aga Khan University’s decision to build a major new campus in East Africa — and to locate that campus in Arusha…. It is the biggest expansion step for the Aga Khan University since it opened in Pakistan almost 25 years ago. This new campus will be built over a period of fifteen years with a total investment of some 450 million dollars. It will include a new Faculty of Arts and Sciences and several graduate professional schools. It will be committed to teaching and research of world-class standards.

Read more »

Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International Interview (Aleppo, Syria and Lebanon)

[Translation] Why is it that we have that impression — and it’s good, I think it is an advantage — that they [the Ismailis] are more modern, modern in the Western sense?

I think that it comes to the same question we discussed previously. Let’s go back. How did the Westerners learn about culture, about Greek philosophy? How did they learn it? They searched amongst philosophers, scientists, theologians. They went looking amongst the Muslim intelligentsia of that time, for translations, which had disappeared from their original state and, the Muslim world became a world of transition so that the West relearned its own history.

All right! What is happening today? I am saying to myself, that the Muslim World, at least the Ismaili community, we should not live outside the realities of our world. On the contrary, we have to absorb them make them work for us and to our advantage. And if there are organisational systems in the human society that work well today, or at least better than others, we would lack intelligence, not to say more, not to see what we can learn, what we can integrate, what we can remodel. Because we do not have to take everything. We should take what helps us. And that’s where that relation with the West looks important to me. One does not lose his identity; one does not lose his religion …

Read more »

Supporting Syria and the Region Conference (London, United Kingdom)

AKDN’s development and humanitarian work in Syria began many years before the war. In the present situation, we have committed resources and efforts to ensure that Internally Displaced People receive humanitarian assistance, and are supported to sustain their livelihoods. We are taking two approaches: First, we are supporting local community leaders, teachers, doctors, engineers and others to foster stability, protecting their families and their communities. We are thus building and strengthening civil society to take as much responsibility as possible for their own future. Second, we are investing in communities, by supporting agriculture, income generation, early childhood education, schools, and hospitals. We also provide vocational training to create skills. Our goal is to sustain hope.

Read more »

Ishkashim Bridge Opening Ceremony (Ishkashim, Tajikistan; Afghanistan)

In the recent past, in this region, bridges have opened at Tem, Darwaz and Langar. Like them, the Ishkashim Bridge is a concrete expression of cooperation amongst the Governments of Tajikistan and Afghanistan and the Aga Khan Development Network….

Each of the bridges I have mentioned has had a considerable moral and symbolic value, inspiring a spirit of confidence, progress and hope. But these projects also have a very concrete economic value, allowing for a substantial expansion of productive exchange. People in both countries are granted unprecedented access to markets beyond their immediate frontiers. Goods originating in Pakistan can now make their way to Tajikistan. Products from China now have a fast road transit to Afghanistan….

Links and meeting places created by the bridges do more than simply facilitate commerce. We exchange questions and answers. We trade in products, but we can also trade in ideas. Communities on each side of the border will know one another better and be better able to help one another grow, prosper and share the lessons of life.

Read more »