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

Featured Item  »»  Full Event Video: Aga Khan Museum and Ismaili Centre, Toronto, Opening Ceremonies

On Friday, September 12, 2014, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, in the presence of the Aga Khan, performed the the Opening Ceremonies of the Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto. Like the Aga Khan’s address to the Canadian Parliament, we are sure this event will also go down as one of the signature events of this Imamat.

For the tens of thousands Ismailis in North America, and around the world, who were unable to watch the event live, it is our great pleasure to be able to bring you the full video of the 3 hour 20 minute webcast — unedited, from start to finish — together with a time index schedule to let you jump directly to any segment of interest.

Words cannot capture the dignity, the soul stirring, awe inspiring grandeur and majesty of the ceremonies, nor the stately presence of the buildings, and so we will not attempt to offer any. It was a proud moment not only to be an Ismaili, but to just be a member of the human race moved beyond words, witnessing an inspired vision, executed with flawless precision in every aspect, come to life.

Youtube version

Vimeo version if Youtube is not available to you (lower resolution)

Schedule (click on the time to play that segment)

NOTE: The time links below do not work on i-Pads.
NOTE: The time links below do not work for Vimeo, but the times are the same.

00:00:00 Introduction for the Opening Ceremony of the Ismaili Centre
00:04:45 Video about the Ismaili Centre and Aga Khan Museum
00:10:30 Live performance from the Museum and guest arrivals at the Ismaili Centre
00:23:00 The Aga Khan and his party arrive at the Ismaili Centre
00:26:03 Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrives at the Ismaili Centre
00:29:40 The Aga Khan, his family and Prime Minister Harper enter the hall
00:30:48 Canadian National Anthem
00:33:04 Recitation from the Qur’an (2:255) followed by translations
00:38:25 The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, delivers his address; TEXT
00:46:37 His Highness the Aga Khan delivers his address; TEXT
01:07:47 Commemorative plaque unveiling for the Ismaili Centre
01:08:37 Conclusion of the the Opening Ceremony; Prime Minister Harper, the Aga Khan and his party depart for a private tour of the Centre
01:12:49 The tour party enters the jamatkhana prayer hall
01:17:23 Observing the live choir and photographic tour of the Ismaili Centre’s interior
01:23:50 Video about the other Ismaili Centres
01:35:37 Photographic tour of the Ismaili Centre’s interior continues over live choir
01:39:02 Prince Rahim, Prince Hussain and Princess Salwa on the Ismaili Centre terrace
01:41:28 Prime Minister Harper, the Aga Khan and Prince Amyn on the terrace; Press photo shoot
01:47:41 The tour party leaves the Ismaili Centre for the Aga Khan Museum, via the Aga Khan Park
01:51:17 The tour party arrives at the Aga Khan Museum for the ribbon cutting ceremony
01:54:17 The tour party makes its way to the auditorium to live music in the courtyard
01:56:53 The tour party enters the auditorium for the Opening Ceremony; Canadian National Anthem
02:00:58 Introduction for the Opening Ceremony of the Aga Khan Museum
02:01:48 Recitation from the Qur’an (4:174-175) followed by translations
02:06:47 Prince Amyn delivers his address; TEXT
02:23:46 The Honourable Shelly Glover, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, delivers her speech; text not yet available
02:32:44 Commemorative plaque unveiling for the Aga Khan Museum
02:33:35 Conclusion of the the Opening Ceremony; Prime Minister Harper, the Aga Khan and his party depart for a private tour of the Museum to music in the courtyard
02:35:53 The tour party enters the Bellerive Room
02:41:25 The tour party enters and tours the Museum’s exhibition halls, proper
03:18:43 Memories from an historic day

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Featured Item  »»  Ismaili Centre Opening Ceremony (Toronto, Canada)

It is not so often that we have an opportunity of this sort — to come together in a beautiful setting, in a wonderful spirit of friendship, and to dedicate such a splendid architectural accomplishment….

When I mentioned that our planning for this complex began 18 years ago, some of you probably wondered how people sustained their enthusiasm through such a long process. Yes 18 years! My response is to say that throughout these 18 years, we have been inspired by a great sense of common purpose, as we have sought to create places and spaces of true enlightenment. And, in doing so, we have also been strengthened by a pronounced spirit of friendship. And what a joy it is to celebrate that spirit, at a time when so much of the world’s attention is focused on climates of belligerence.

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Featured Item  »»  The Road to Toronto (Collaborative): The vision and rationale behind the Aga Khan Museum’s pre-launch exhibitions

Next month the Ismaili Centre, Toronto, the Aga Khan Museum and their Park are expected to be officially opened. In anticipation of this landmark event, NanoWisdoms is pleased to present The Road to Toronto series in which, each week, we’ll focus on a different aspect of this multi-faceted institution. This week’s instalment, and last of the series, is on the collaborative aspect and the Aga Khan Museum exhibitions.

Between 2007 and 2012, while the Museum’s facilities were under construction, the Museum nevertheless embarked on its mission to bring knowledge of Muslim civilisations to Western audiences, holding eight exhibitions in collaboration with key museums across nine European cities, supplemented by additional exhibitions in three Eastern cities. The Museum will continue to collaborate with Museums across the world to bring this knowledge to greater audiences than just those who visit the Museum in Toronto.

The exhibitions already held were generally thematic, focusing on subjects like architecture, calligraphy and so forth accompanied by lavish catalogues of the exhibits which we commend to everyone to peruse and study. Click on the image, or here, to view the catalogue covers. Each catalogue also featured a short introduction, written by His Highness the Aga Khan, setting out the purpose for the exhibition and we are pleased to bring you selections from these introductions.

Click here to read: His Highness the Aga Khan explains the vision and rationale behind the the Aga Khan Museum’s pre-launch exhibitions

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Featured Item  »»  The Road to Toronto (Societal): The vision and rationale behind the Aga Khan’s passion for parks and gardens

Next month the Ismaili Centre, Toronto, the Aga Khan Museum and their Park are expected to be officially opened. In anticipation of this landmark event, NanoWisdoms is pleased to present The Road to Toronto series in which, each week, we’ll focus on a different aspect of this multi-faceted institution. This week’s instalment is on the societal aspect and the park.

The park is the latest of some two dozen parks and gardens created, or committed to, by His Highness the Aga Khan and illustrated on the graphic. Click on the image, or here, to view it in full size or download as a wall-paper for your computer.

In an interview with Philip Jodidio, the park’s designer, Lebanese architect Vladimir Djurovic, said the Aga Khan has a “passion for gardens which is intoxicating” and that he feels the Aga Khan “is happiest when he is working and discussing the gardens.” Why is this? Why are parks and gardens such a point of focus and happiness for the Aga Khan?

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Featured Item  »»  The Road to Toronto (Intellectual): The vision and rationale behind the Aga Khan Museum

Next month the Ismaili Centre, Toronto, the Aga Khan Museum and their Park are expected to be officially opened. In anticipation of this landmark event, NanoWisdoms is pleased to present The Road to Toronto in which, each week, we’ll focus on a different aspect of this multi-faceted institution. This week’s instalment is on the intellectual aspect and the Aga Khan Museum.

Click on the graphic or here to view the timeline. When opened, the Aga Khan Museum will be a unique museum on the North American continent, and indeed the Western world. To help better understand why, we bring you “His Highness the Aga Khan explains the vision and rationale behind the Aga Khan Museum, Toronto.”

Click here to read: His Highness the Aga Khan explains the vision and rationale behind the Aga Khan Museum

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Featured Item  »»  The Road to Toronto (Spiritual): The vision and rationale behind the Ismaili Centres

Next month the Ismaili Centre, Toronto, the Aga Khan Museum and their Park are expected to be officially opened. In anticipation of this landmark event, NanoWisdoms is pleased to launch The Road to Toronto. Each week we’ll focus on a different aspect of this multi-faceted institution, starting this week with the spiritual and the Ismaili Centre.

When opened, the Ismaili Centre, Toronto will be the sixth such Centre (click on the image, or here, to view the graphic), with more planned for Houston, Los Angeles and Paris. To help better understand the Ismaili Centres, we present “His Highness the Aga Khan explains the vision and rationale behind the Ismaili Centres.”

Click here to read: His Highness the Aga Khan explains the vision and rationale behind the Ismaili Centres

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Jamati Institutional Leaders Luncheon (Singapore) ·· incomplete

You can always achieve results over a long period of time, but every time you do that you damage a generation and every time you move more quickly you bring hope to an earlier generation. This is the reason for which, this notion of time, is so important in my mind and I believe now is well shared by the Jamati leaders around the world.

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Urban Park Announcement Ceremony (Bamako, Mali)

[Google translation] [W]hen one has a unique project like this, you have no right to be wrong. If it is unique, it must meet the needs of all segments of the population can not afford a kind of intellectual vanity, assuming we can know what all the needs of different users who will be attending this Park in the future. And so I want there to be, above all, an extremely broad consultation of all the people of Bamako, sports clubs, NGOs, diplomats, teachers, bankers, all those who may be interested in coming One day in the park. We want to know beforehand what they want to be offered, so we can build the programme for the park from a really deep understanding and consensus with the widest possible population of Bamako on what we must do.

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Visit to Kazakstan (Tekeli, Kazakhstan)

Speaking to the media after his meeting with the President [of Kazakhstan], the Aga Khan explained that the University of Central Asia was a regional institution “intended to give students and faculty real capacity to think on a regional basis.” Underlining the secular nature of the University, the Aga Khan said that “it will teach civilisation — in the widest context. It will not teach religion as theology.”

“We started with the programme of extended education — this programme is for those people, for specialists who already work, and posses a profession,” (Khabar News, Kazakhstan, 1 May 2003)

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Golden Jubilee Inaugural Ceremony (Aiglemont)

In a world where quality of life is increasingly measured in material terms there is risk that the essential value system of Islam will be eroded, or even threatened with disappearance. Political situations with a theological overlay are also causing disaffection or antagonism between communities of the same faith, and even more so amongst different faiths.

At the centre of this turbulence is Islam. We cannot let this continue. On the other hand, the sheer scale of the problem, added to its complexity, make it an issue which the Ummah, in its entirety, can better address, rather than individual schools of interpretation within it. It will be essential that while respecting their individual identities, various tariqahs within Islam should collaborate to articulate the common social and moral principles of our Islamic value system…. Islam is a faith of tolerance, generosity and spirituality…. Where we can build bridges with other tariqahs around a common Muslim cosmopolitan ethos, we should make this endeavour.

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Jamati Institutional Leaders Dinner (Atlanta, Georgia, USA) ·· incomplete

I think that there probably isn’t an area of human endeavour in which we do not have today a Murid who is exceptional in his or her own field.

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Aga Khan Development Network and Government of Afghanistan ‘Agreement of Co-operation for Development’ Signing Ceremony (Kabul, Afghanistan)

Referring to “exploratory work for investments in telecommunications and in tourism,” the Aga Khan saw these as “stimulating a multiplicity of ancillary industries at the same time as serving an urgent need in the hospitality industry.” A major national initiative in micro-credit to promote entrepreneurship and build capital is under consideration with the possible involvement of the International Finance Corporation.

“[I]n each of these areas where we feel the greatest need for capacity building, we have been extremely conscious of the fact that opportunities must be created for women. This is why we are targeting women as major beneficiaries with regard to the income generation activities related to agriculture, the training of nurses, the professional education of teachers and for receipt of micro-credit.”

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Ismaili Centre Foundation Stone Ceremony (Khorog, Tajikistan)

The congregational space incorporated within the Ismaili Centre belongs to the historic category of jamatkhana, an institutional category that also serves a number of sister Sunni and Shia communities, in their respective contexts, in many parts of the world. Here, the Jamatkhana will be reserved for traditions and practices specific to the Shia Ismaili tariqah of Islam. The Centre on the other hand, will be a symbol of confluence between the spiritual and the secular in Islam….

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Keynote Address to the Annual Conference of German Ambassadors (Berlin, Germany)

I would like to focus today on what I believe are three essential pre-conditions for the successful transition of the poorest areas of the world into modern, peaceful societies. They are:

  • First, stable and competent democratic governance;
  • Second, an environment that respects and encourages pluralism;
  • And third, a diverse and engaged civil society.

In my view, these must be critical components of any global development policy. Not only are they mutually reinforcing, they also permit developing societies to gradually become masters of the process and to make that process ultimately sustainable.

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The (Manchester) Guardian Weekly Interview, Akbar Ahmed, ‘The quiet revolutionary’ (London, United Kingdom) ·· incomplete

Those who wish to introduce the concept that you can only practise your faith as it was practised hundreds of years ago are introducing a time dimension which is not part of our faith today. It is a very delicate issue, whether it is in science, in medicine, in economics.

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Deutsche Welle Interview, Günter Knabe, ‘There’s No Conflict Between Islam and Democracy’ (Berlin, Germany)

I see no conflict between the faith of Islam and democracy. There was a consultation process. The consultation process occurred in the Muslim community at the time and two notions were retained. One was consultation and the other was hereditary continuation of religious authority, as well as secular authority. The second issue that occurred, is [that] it was consultation to achieve what? To achieve the best qualified people to lead the community.

Now I think that democracy is founded on those two concepts. It’s founded on the concept of consultation and it’s founded on the concept of consultation for the purpose of merit — of finding the people best qualified to lead. So I see no conflict at all if I go back to the original construct of the Muslim community and how they dealt with the issues of leadership.

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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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Address at the launch of the Sorbonne’s New Series on Islam (Paris, France)

His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam (spiritual leader) of the Ismaili Muslims, today expressed the hope that more initiatives such as well-researched publications, exhibitions and scholarly exchanges by academic and cultural institutions in the West, “could help deepen public understanding of Islam and its intellectual and artistic heritage.”

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Acceptance Address – 2009 Nouvel Economiste Philanthropic Entrepreneur of the Year Award (Paris, France)

The goal [of AKDN's strategy] is clear: the aim is to create or strengthen civil society in developing countries. This single goal, when it is achieved, is in fact necessary and sufficient to ensure peaceful and stable development over the long term, even when governance is problematic…. The essence of our development strategy is thus to create these where they are lacking or need to be reinforced….

The various organisations within the AKDN fall into two categories which both share the same goal of supporting development: commercial companies (grouped together into the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, known as AKFED) and those non-profit enterprises which I call “para-companies,” that work toward social or cultural goals. The reason for this dual structure is that civil society cannot emerge solely by starting businesses or solely by building hospitals, schools and universities or cultural facilities….

Para-companies are designed to be economically independent…. [They are] conceived to produce a surplus to ensure their survival and development as long as an entrepreneurial philosophy underpins the creation process and later the day-to-day management. This notion of surplus, it should be pointed out, in no way conflicts with the non-profit status of para-companies.

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‘Aga Khan: Look beyond the cities’ published in the Globe and Mail (Toronto, Canada)

Nation-building may require centralised authority, but if that authority is not trusted by rural communities, then instability is inevitable. The building of successful nation states in many of the countries in which I work will depend — as it did in the West — on providing significantly greater access for rural populations, who are generally in the majority.

If these reflections are well-founded, then what is urgently needed is a massive, creative new development effort aimed at rural populations. Informed strategic thinking at the national level must be matched by a profound engagement at the local level…. The very definition of poverty is the absence of such quality of life indicators in civil society among rural populations.

It is in this context that I must share my concern that too much of the developmental effort — especially in the fields of health and education — has been focused on urban environments. I wholeheartedly support, for example, the goal of free and universal access to primary education. But I would just as wholeheartedly challenge this objective if it comes at the expense of secondary and higher education. How can credible leadership be nurtured in rural environments when rural children have nowhere to go after primary school? The experience of the Aga Khan Development Network is that secondary education for rural youth is a condition for sustainable progress.

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Dalakhani’s victory at Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp (Paris, France)

He has got to be an outstanding horse, as a two-year-old, as a three-year-old and over all distances and all goings. He has speed, he has stamina. He has everything…. If he hadn’t have been beaten by Alamshar in the Irish Derby, he would be unbeaten, but they are two very good horses…. He is a beautiful mover. I was worried about the ground as he hadn’t won on it since he was a two-year-old, but he proved he could handle anything…. It is always difficult to make comparisons between horses. This horse possesses a concentration of unusual talents…. That is what gives him the ability to accelerate when he needs to accelerate, to follow a pace when he needs to do that, and to handle all goings equally…. Breeding is the basis of what my family has been doing for generations and this win puts him among the best.

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Documentary and Interview, ‘Pacemakers: A Man of the World – The Aga Khan’ (London, United Kingdom) ·· incomplete

What I wanted to do was to avoid turning [the Costa Smeralda development] into a business prospect, where one got everything out of it possible. I wanted to try to contain the development to make something really attractive, as far as one’s own judgement can do that, and avoid having the place completely swamped. We are trying here to stay in the background in the tradition of the island as far as possible….

The construction which will go with this tourism must justify industries, people coming to work here. They were all originally farmers or cattle breeders in the area and were scratching a living out of a land which was practically barren. Now with tourists as a reason for the income of money, the local population have regular salaries, their means of communication have improved, at least they all have now scooters and cars, they dress better, they have electricity in their houses and many modern facilities which I honestly don’t think could have been dreamt of before this project was started.

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Preface – The Azhar Park Project in Cairo and the Conservation and Revitalisation of Darb al-Ahmar (Aiglemont)

The history of this multi-faceted project, reaching back over a decade, has been an exhilarating process of discovery and opportunity. While at the beginning the idea was to provide the metropolis with a much-needed green space at the heart of its historic agglomeration, the progressive uncovering of 1.3 kilometres of historic wall led to another major task — giving a new “face” to the historic city as seen from the Park. Eventually, the conservation project for the wall itself, being inseparable from the abutting historic city fabric, led AKTC to consider a third, equally important priority, i.e., launching a combined physical and social rehabilitation process in the neighbouring area of the Park, the Darb al-Ahmar district.

In keeping with the general strategy for HCSP projects, it was clear that the Park construction, as well as the Historic Wall conservation, could and should also act as stimuli for the rehabilitation of Darb al-Ahmar. Accordingly, the Trust has initiated a range of community-based urban upgrading projects that contribute to the improvement of living conditions in the vicinity of the Park by providing cultural, social, economic and institutional support.

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Ismaili Centre Foundation Stone Ceremony (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)

In the tradition of Muslim spaces of gathering, the Ismaili Centre will be a symbol of the confluence between the spiritual and the secular in Islam. Architect El Dahan has drawn inspiration from the Fatimid mosques in Cairo. Like its functions, the Centre’s architecture will reflect our perception of daily life whose rhythm weaves the body and the soul, man and nature into a seamless unity. Guided by the ethic of whatever we do, see and hear, and the quality of our social interactions, resonate on our faith and bear on our spiritual lives, the Centre will seek to create, In’sha’Allah, a sense of equilibrium, stability and tranquillity. This sense of balance and serenity will find its continuum in the wealth of colours and scents in the adjacent Islamic garden which the Aga Khan Trust for Culture will help to develop as a public park.

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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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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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