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

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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Featured Item  »»  Humayan’s Tomb Site Museum Foundation Stone Ceremony (Delhi, India)

Through the centuries, millions of people have made their way here. They have come to see these architectural achievements, the oldest and largest Indo-Islamic architectural complex. They have come to admire the decorative genius that we have around us and to think about its continuing influence in contemporary life. They have come to enjoy the green spaces that are such an essential part of this complex, reflecting the profound harmony that can ideally unite our natural and our built environments. And now, as a new Museum is born on this site, visitors will be able to learn in greater depth why these legacies were built, how they served the court and society more generally, and what they have meant since.

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Featured Item  »»  Navroz Mubarak, 2015

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

In keeping with the theme of our card — Relativism — we would like to share with you our Editor’s article, Beyond Relativism: The Aga Khan on Personal Search and Universal Ethics, published today on the Ismaili Gnosis website. An excerpt from the introduction appears below.

Relativism — the worldview that suggests there are no “black and white answers” as all points of view are equally valid because knowledge, truth, ethics and morality are not absolute but relative to, and depend on, the individuals, groups or contexts (cultural, religious, societal, historical, civilisational) holding them — is, arguably, one defining facet of contemporary, liberal society. Indeed, it may even be the signature characteristic of a liberal society.

As champion of cosmopolitan ethics, pluralism and of an interpretation of Islam which unequivocally a) upholds the legitimacy of diverse and individual interpretations, b) reprimands bids to normatise, and c) insists on personal search as an essential facet of Islam, it is often assumed that His Highness the Aga Khan, therefore, also embraces relativism, given its air of legitimacy that arises from the “pluralistic equity” it accords to all points of view. However, it may come as a surprise to many — as is often the case when the Aga Khan’s actual remarks are not studied but his position only assumed — that the Aga Khan has emphatically and unambiguously described relativism as “unprincipled.”

… I review below the Aga Khan’s exact remarks on four of the above principles so as to reconcile his disdain of relativism with the apparent relativistic thread common to these principles he holds near and dear to his heart.

Click to read: Beyond Relativism: The Aga Khan on Personal Search and Universal Ethics

His Highness the Aga Khan’s vision for the Aga Khan Academies: ‘What does it mean to be an educated person?’ (Aiglemont)

Education must also make the case for a pluralistic tradition in which other views, ethnicities, religions and perspectives are valued not only because that is just and good, but also because pluralism is the climate best suited for creativity, curiosity and inquiry to thrive. It must also stimulate students to consider a variety of perspectives on some of the fundamental questions posed by the human condition: “What is truth?” “What is reality?” and “What are my duties to my fellow man, to my country and to God?” At the same time, education must reinforce the foundations of identity in such a way as to reinvigorate and strengthen them so that they can withstand the shock of change.

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Address to the National Building Museum’s Scully Seminar/Symposium (Washington D.C., USA)

I profoundly believed that architecture is not just about building; it is a means of improving people’s quality of life…. I am pleased that 28 years later, we have had some success in achieving our original goals [of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture]. We are gratified that so many others now are engaged in the cause. We have created a momentum that has become a self-sustaining and unstoppable force for change in the human habitat of the Muslim world. And I am most pleased the principles we have established are having an impact in much of the developed world as well.

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Heart and Cancer Centre Opening Ceremony, Aga Khan University Hospital (Nairobi, Kenya)

Today’s inauguration of the Heart and Cancer Centre follows in this long tradition — and points the way to broader, future horizons. We are planning for the day when this Faculty will include undergraduate education in medicine, nursing and allied health professions, as well as post-graduate nursing and medical studies — and a 600-bed hospital. We plan to award bachelors and masters degrees in medicine, surgery and nursing, and, in due course, to offer Ph. D. degrees as well….

For all of us, the medical frontier represents a compelling priority. A recent study by the International Finance Corporation, working with McKinsey & Company, describes what they call a “global travesty”: the fact that Sub-Saharan Africa — with 11 percent of the world’s population — bears 24 percent of the global burden of disease. And yet Sub-Saharan Africa presently accounts for only one percent of global health expenditures. A “global travesty” indeed! …

Let us put behind us the day when young Africans thought they had to go to other parts of the world for quality medical education … Similarly, let the day also pass when African patients think they must go to other parts of the world to find quality medical care.

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BBC Radio 4 Interview, Michael Charlton (London, United Kingdom)

Well, in what matters then do you specifically intervene? What is your influence and authority?

Long term, long term social programming, long term economic programming, educational development, health, housing, the direction for institutions to go in …

The role of the Imam is to listen — not to talk. There is a big difference in the sense that members of the community must inform me, must tell me what is of concern to them. I do not run a government.

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Visit to Mali (Timbuktu, Djenne & Bamako, Mali)

The ingenuity and imagination of peoples of the developing world continue, unfortunately, to remain untapped resources…. Our experience from Aleppo to Zanzibar has taught us that private initiative, properly applied and encouraged, can help revitalise historic cities of the Islamic world, even in resource-poor environments. Through interventions ranging from micro-finance, skills development, healthcare and sanitation, to investment in high-end tourism and urban development, we have been able to catalyse a process of change which an empowered local population itself will have the capacity to sustain.

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

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

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

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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.

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State Luncheon (Zanzibar, Tanzania) ·· incomplete

During an official luncheon hosted by Zanzibar’s President His Excellency Abeid Amani Karume, [the Aga Khan] described Zanzibar as a “cultural jewel” and expressed readiness to invest in rehabilitation of the Island’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, concentrated in the Old Stone Town.

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Pranay Gupte Interview (United States, United Kingdom) ·· incomplete

In the long run, the question is what is the context in which human society will function and the Islamic community will function? And I think the whole notion of relevance is a massively important issue. It’s going across all faiths. Not just the Islamic faith. Not just the Islamic interpretation. It’s going across all faiths today. There is a clear search for ethical contexts. And my sense is that could be a little bit of a reaction to maybe some of excesses in the material context.

You know, it’s clear that uncontrolled freedom becomes license. It’s an issue that keeps coming up all the time. And it’s one which needs very, very deep reflection. Very deep reflection. It’s probably the most challenging issue that I have to address today. More so since the life sciences have evolved, since communications have evolved.

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

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

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

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‘Closing Africa’s journalism deficit’ published in Jerusalem Post, Jordan Times, Daily Times (Israel, Jordan, Pakistan)

Respect for press freedom grows out of a respect for pluralism as a cornerstone of peace and progress. Pluralism implies a readiness to listen to many voices — whether we agree with them or not — and a willingness to embrace a rich diversity of cultures. When our diversity divides us, the results can be tragic, as we have seen in Rwanda, the Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Sudan. But when we welcome diversity — and the debate and dissent that goes with it — we sow the seeds of stability and progress.

But there is a second important media-related question today concerning the adequacy of journalistic knowledge in an increasingly complicated world. Africa’s leaders appear to have serious misgivings about the depth of that knowledge, and genuine doubts about the breadth of understanding that many journalists bring to difficult issues. Clearly, deeper and broader knowledge will be crucial to the future of African journalism.

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Paris Match Interview (3rd), Caroline Pigozzi (Paris, France)

[Google translation] My greatest emotion I felt when I won my first Epsom Derby with Shergar in 1981, an event that I then won twice more with Shahrastani and Kabyasi, my breeding horses. With five victories, my grandfather still holds the record. All those who, like me, are passionate about breeding and racing thoroughbreds do it for the intrinsic value of the adventure, not the drum around a major event.

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Address to the Annual Meeting of The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (Tashkent, Uzbekistan)

[I]t is not at all clear that the quality of life has a direct, one-to-one relationship with the level of production or even the breadth of access to what an economy produces. Without doubt growth plays a central role in the increasing of human welfare and the dignity of life. But other dimensions and challenges to development play at least an equally important role. Unfortunately, many of them are not easily measured in conventional economic terms, nor addressed through usual economic programmes and policies…. The non-economic dimensions of development often escape the attention they deserve because the degree of risk of not doing something is often under-estimated. Secondly, when dealt with competently and over time, they actually support and sustain the health of the economy as well as other aspects of society.

From the perspective of forty years of work, and the experience of the agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network, institutional development stands out as critically important to broad-based sustainable change. By institutional development, I mean the strengthening and refocusing of existing institutions, as well as the creation of new institutions and policies to support them…. No country to my knowledge can achieve stable continuous growth if its civil society is constrained by inherent institutional instability.

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Presidential Address at the First Anniversary of Mindanao University (Manilla, Philippines)

During the two Caliphates, the Muslim Universities were producing the best scholars, doctors, astronomers and philosophers. Today where are we? Have we institutions of learning which can compare with the Sorbonne, Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, Oxford, M.I.T.? Throughout my journeys I have been deeply pained to see the lack of initiative which my brother Muslims have shown in educational matters. In some circles there may have been a fear that modern education would tend to lessen the sharpness and deepness of our faith. I am afraid that I must reject this with vehemence.

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Jamati Institutional Leaders Dinner (Lisbon, Portugal) ·· incomplete

[T]he agreement that was signed during this visit [to Portugal], concerning collaboration in the diplomatic field, is a very, very important agreement.

For an institution of faith to enter into a formal, diplomatic relationship is extremely important in the sense that that agreement has to function within the faiths of both communities.

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Aga Khan Development Network and State of Texas ‘Agreement of Co-operation’ Signing Ceremony (Austin, USA)

The agreement that we are signing today opens for us the opportunity to build bridges to the best of civil society in Texas and in the United States and in that sense it is a partnership which we want to now translate into effective action in various parts of the world. (akdn.org)

In order to bridge [the gap between the developed and developing world] we come to you in humility and we ask for help. And we ask for that help on the basis that it is good for the improvement of the quality of life of people around the world. (theismaili.org)

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Closing Remarks, Eleventh Seminar, ‘Architecture of Housing’, The Aga Khan Award For Architecture (Zanzibar, Tanzania)

I wish to express my admiration to the Government of Zanzibar for having taken the initiative to sustain and enhance and support the Stone Town. This is an exciting initiative, one which I would hope to see replicated with success throughout the Islamic world. The restoration of these historic cities should not be an exercise exclusively in cultural continuity but an exercise in economic rehabilitation and the provision of new economic opportunities for people who did not have that opportunity before.

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Architecture, The American Institute of Architects Journal, Interview, ‘The prince and the paupers’ (USA)

Some of the buildings we restore will have a direct commercial impact. Others will be cultural symbols that we hope will be self-sustaining, but may not be profit-generating. After all, many of these buildings are more important as symbols of historical social structure. It would be foolish to try to change that or to pretend it didn’t exist. In the developing world, you can’t just take any historic building and do anything you want with it. How you choose to re-utilise those buildings has to be acceptable to the society in which they are located. That notion of social responsibility for reuse of historic buildings is very important for us.

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Remarks at the White House Conference on Culture and Diplomacy (Washington D.C., USA)

At present there is a great deal of apprehension about the future of local and national cultures in most countries in the developing world. What can the cultural diplomacy of the United States do to address these anxieties and replace them with a sense of confidence through new and shared initiatives? …

Cultures that do not or cannot communicate become increasingly isolated, inward-looking, and, in due course, marginalised. Some would argue the United States’ dominance of global communications systems is, because of what has been called the digital divide, a contributor to this problem. I would offer a different perspective. It seems to me that by a purposeful effort, the United States could play a significant role not only in making the cultures of Asia and Africa available globally. Doing so would also make a massive contribution to the full acceptance to the legitimacy and value of social and cultural pluralism, something that is urgently needed in most parts of the developing world.

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Syrian TV Interview, Reem Haddad (Aleppo, Syria)

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

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

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