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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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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American University in Cairo Commencement Ceremony (Cairo, Egypt)

At various times in world history, the locus of knowledge has moved from one centre of learning to another. Europe once came to the Islamic world for intellectual enrichment and even rediscovered its own classical roots by searching in Arabic texts. Astronomy, the so-called “Science of the Universe” was a field of particular distinction in Islamic civilisation, in sharp contrast to the weakness of Islamic countries in the field of Space research today. In this field, as in others, intellectual leadership is never a static condition, but something which is always shifting and always dynamic….

[Today] in keeping with our past traditions, and in response to our present needs, we must to [sic] go out and find the best of the world’s knowledge wherever it exists. But accessing knowledge, is only the first step. The second step, the application of knowledge, is also demanding. Knowledge, after all, can be used well or poorly, for good or evil purposes. Once we have acquired knowledge, it is important that the ethical guidelines of faith be invoked, helping us apply what we have learned to the highest possible ends. And it is also important that those ends be related to the practical needs of our peoples.

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Address to the Conference on Afghanistan (London, United Kingdom)

Allow me to highlight four areas for consideration [vis a vis Afghanistan’s development]:

First, we must focus on inclusive economic participation….

Second, we must accelerate human resource capacity creation from early childhood to tertiary education, including in particular, market-relevant skills development and vocational training….

Third, women’s participation in society is vital to ensure an improved quality of life….

Fourth, we recognise the importance of regional cooperation and trade. This requires stabilising Afghanistan’s frontiers….

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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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Acceptance Address – National Building Museum’s Vincent Scully Prize (Washington D.C., USA)

Ladies and gentlemen, some 30 years [ago] I began to question why architecture in the modern Islamic world seemed to have lost touch with the great achievements of its past. I began working with leading architects, philosophers, artists, teachers, historians and thinkers — from all religious faiths — to establish an Award for Architecture….

Now some 28 years later, the extent to which we have been successful is due to a multitude of individuals and organisations from all regions, faiths and occupations…. It is on behalf of this broad spectrum of qualified men and women that I accept the Vincent Scully Award this evening…. I know of no process where so many people of such different backgrounds have come together to improve the living conditions of more than one billion people.

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Irish Times Interview, Alison Healy, ‘Jubilee for an imam among equals’ (Maynooth, Ireland) ·· incomplete

He is interested in the current debate on whether the hijab, the Muslim headscarf, should be worn in Irish schools and cautions against the issue being used to create division. “My own sense is that if an individual wishes to associate publicly with a faith, that’s the right of that individual to do that, whether he’s a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim. That is, to me, something which is important.” But he says that people should not be forced to wear the hijab. “To go from there to an imposed process by forces in society, to me is unacceptable. It’s got to be the choice of the individual who wishes to associate with his faith or her faith. I have great respect for any individual who wants in the right way to be associated with his own faith. I accept that totally and I would never challenge it.”

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Ottawa Citizen Interview, Chris Mikula and Hayley Mick (Ottawa, Canada) ·· incomplete

I don’t believe that societies are born pluralist. Pluralism has to be omnipresent in civil society … it’s got to be part of the way a society is constituted.

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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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Elle Magazine Interview, Paul Giannoli, ‘Mystery of the Aga Khan’ (France)

[Google translation] [A] question I posed to a Christian philosopher: technology, according to you, it does not compete with God? With advances in science, people who were dying, they prolonged twenty years. Contraception prevents planned for unborn human beings come into the world. We transplant hearts, we add the kidneys, livers. Man competes with God?

No. There is no limit to the power of God. Even the successes of modern medicine are additional proofs of the unlimited power of Allah. It is He who wishes to give to mankind a chance to prolong their worldly life, in so far as it is not illusory. Landing on the moon shows less the power of man than the power of God. Allah has put in the universe much more than what humans have thought to see. It is for this reason existence is exciting and one should act fully, participating as much as possible in everything of life that represents dignity and eternal hope. (2)

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Connoisseur Magazine Interview, Paul Chutkow, ‘The Aga Khan’s Vision’ (London, United Kingdom)

I think the second thing the award has done has been to bring together not only architects, but also thinkers, sociologists, archaeologist, economists. The award has demonstrated that a good building isn’t only a structure. A good building has an impact on people’s perception of their cultural heritage. It has an impact on social balance or imbalance….

Yes, I do [see architecture as an instrument of social change]. I would prefer to call it an instrument for improving the quality of life. And I think you put your finger right on it. I genuinely believe that generations that are born, brought up, and live in better-quality surroundings have a different outlook on life. Architecture is, in my view, a method of creating development, well-being. And I think architecture, if it goes wrong, can be a source of conflict or destabilisation.

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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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Closing Remarks, Second Seminar in the Series, ‘Conservation as Cultural Survival’, The Aga Khan Award For Architecture (Istanbul, Turkey)

The Aga Khan Awards, the first of which will be granted in 1980, will be substantial: $100,000 in each of five different categories for a potential total of $500,000 every three years. Their purpose is to make a strong and continuing impact on the architectural profession, on decision makers and on public opinion everywhere.

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Commemoration of the 25th Anniversary of the Madrasa Programme (Mombasa, Kenya)

From the seed that was planted here in the Coastal Region some 25 years ago — when Bi-Swafiya Said received her grant from the Aga Khan Foundation — the East African Madrasa Programme has grown to include 203 pre-schools, with nearly 800 teachers, reaching some 30,000 households and serving more than 54,000 children. This is truly an inspiring story.

It is also important to note some additional distinctions concerning this programme. One is the Programme’s pluralistic, inclusive approach — embracing Muslim and non-Muslim children alike — and helping all of them to learn important lessons about diversity. Indeed, it is good to see that parents of different faiths are represented on the School Management Committees. It is striking that modern neuro-sciences have demonstrated that long before the age of 6, children are aware of the different cultural backgrounds amongst each other in their classes. It is thus before that age that pluralism can be instilled as a life value.

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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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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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Radio Pakistan Interview ‘Islam and Work’ (Karachi, Pakistan)

I certainly like to see most friendly relations between all the Muslim states of the world. I think one of the most important factors in this is that most Muslim States have a major problem which is to raise the standard of living of their people, and so long as they have this common problem perhaps they could unite around it to find a solution which would be practicable in many of these States or to get a number of States to help each other out in facing this problem. And that is why I tend to emphasise the economic ties to begin with, ties which can be of use to any State which is to reach an agreement along those lines — something where it is in the interest of both Muslim States to work together. And then afterwards the other things, cultural exchanges etc. can take place. Certainly one could argue that they should be hand in hand but I think the question of interest and reaching a common denominator which is the desire to progress, is important and I think if one keeps that in mind, one could reach fairly encouraging solution.

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Grant to the Om Habibeh Foundation (Aswan, Egypt)

Aswan and the people of Aswan, have a place of deep affection in my heart and within my family…. The programmes announced today intend to both continue, and also to build significantly on, the work begun by Begum Sultan Mahomed Shah. Our objective is to strengthen civil society at the grassroots by helping to improve community development organisations and by bringing to bear on critical needs in this area, the panoply of experience and resources of the Aga Khan Development Network.

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Ismaili Centre Foundation Stone Ceremony (London, United Kingdom)

The Ismaili Centre being designed for a Muslim Community must reflect, even if only discreetly, an Islamic mood whilst being sympathetic to the character of its surroundings….

It is my conviction that the building of this Centre is symbolic of a growing understanding of Islam. For some centuries past, the Muslim world has lived in shadow as far as the West was concerned. Muslim civilisation and society were poorly understood, or not understood at all. Apart from a few exceptional and dedicated men, there was no communication and almost no desire to be informed. Now we see that conditions have changed. This building, and the prominence of the place it has been given, indicate the seriousness and the respect the West is beginning to accord Muslim civilisation of which the Ismaili Community, though relatively small, is fully representative. May this understanding so important for the future of the world, progress and flourish.

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Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Opening Ceremony (Ottawa, Canada)

One of the principal reasons, I believe, for the great rapport between the Ismaili and Canadian communities through the years is our shared commitment to a common ethical framework — and especially to the ideals of pluralism. By this I mean not only social pluralism, which embraces a diversity of ethnic and religious groups, but also pluralism in our thinking about government, and pluralism in our approach to other institutions. One of the reasons governments have failed in highly diverse settings around the world is that dogma has too often been enshrined at the price of more flexible, pluralistic approaches to political and economic challenges….

The spirit of pluralism, at its base, is a response to the realities of diversity — a way of reconciling difference on the one hand with cooperation and common purpose on the other. It is an attitude, a way of thinking, which regards our differences not as threats but as gifts — as occasions for learning, stretching, growing — and at the same time, as occasions for appreciating anew the beauties of one’s own identity.

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Jamati Institutional Leaders Dinner (Mumbai, India) ·· incomplete

As you know I attach great importance to Indian history and to the great caliphates, the great empires of the Muslim world, because I believe there’s always something to learn. The past is a place to learn, even if the future is different, and this is why I have spent considerable time in trying to enhance in India the Mughal history and to learn how the Mughals achieved global leadership.

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