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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PTV Interview, Imran Aslam, ‘A Vision of Hope and Faith’ (Karachi, Pakistan)

But I must tell you very frankly that there is absolutely no hidden agenda other than answering a critical national situation. I would say that this was not specific to Pakistan. Eastern Tajikistan, i.e. the mountain communities in the Pairs have lived the same difficulty. It’s admittedly in a different context because it was the context of the Soviet Union, but the reality is that mountain communities generally are poor, often invisible and isolated. So that’s the background and there is absolutely no hidden agenda. Sometimes I’ve been told that I’m being put forward as a person who wants a State or this sort of thing. I can tell you that idea has never crossed my mind. More than that it is an idea that if were put on the table would last in my view one millionth of a second — not more….

I think that this notion of indigenous culture and respect and enhancement of that culture — continuity with time, making it part of society’s vision — is something which is very, very important indeed and with [the] sort of internationalisation of communications, our societies are at risk and not only as was proven in architecture but is being proven today in entertainment and all the rest. So I hope very much that we can together enhance our own indigenous cultural expressions. They’re free. Export them. Export them in the English language in such a way that the world has direct access to our own expressions of culture.

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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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Luncheon hosted by Governor and First Lady of Georgia (Atlanta, Georgia , USA) ·· incomplete

Georgia is making very, very serious, intelligent commitments to developing forces in the Knowledge Society. When we work in the developing world, we are trying to build new institutions, and our most difficult thing to achieve is to enter that Knowledge Society. And entering into that Knowledge Society is a question of people. It’s not only a question of money, it’s institutions working with institutions.

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Opening Address, Expressions of Islam in Buildings Seminar, ‘Faith, Tradition, Innovation, and the Built Environment’ (Jakarta and Yogyakarta, Indonesia)

The essence of the Aga Khan Award is to premiate outstanding quality in all principal aspects of the built environment for Muslims. We seek to identify excellence in landscaped spaces, restored buildings, social housing, high-tech constructions, and others, all over the world. The single binding theme is that the buildings or spaces be essentially used for those born into, or who have become a part of, the faith of Islam. It is a broad and glorious domain that we have defined. The invisible common thread that runs through it all, the “underlying theme” of that great design, is relevance to the common characteristic of being — in some way — related specially to Muslims….

In this seminar, the Award strives to look to the fountainhead of inspiration on which Muslims and non-Muslims draw to create the spaces and buildings we admire. What aspects of the social or religious backgrounds transpire into their creation? Is it their interpretation of their faith? Is it the ethic of their faith? Is it the rules of social conduct of their faith? And, indeed, the hard question has to be asked, is it their faith at all?

How do they perceive problems of scale, intimacy, regionalism? How do they choose materials, textures, and colours? What use do they make of water, flowers, and scent? Do they relate one or some, all or none, of these considerations to their faith, or to their ethic, or to a secular tradition? Is the secularisation of the modern Western world affecting their professional approach, or, on the contrary, is the search for an Islamic identity encouraging them to learn much more about their history and tradition than what their forefathers knew or learnt? If there is a return to the essence of their background, is it in the form of a search for identity, or is it in the form of a new commitment to their faith?

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Wall Street Journal Europe Interview, Philip Revzin (France) ·· incomplete

[Tajiks] are educated, sophisticated people who suddenly found they had no economic base left. The economic underpinning of society had literally collapsed. It had turned into a barter economy….

Most Ismailis in Central Asia live in isolated villages at high altitudes with poor communications. I hope there will be some possibility to develop some regional plans (that might encompass that part of China). I’m hoping that in time political and social relations might be such that these people could move more freely across frontiers that are in any case pretty ill-defined.

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‘Tolerance a Religious Imperative’ published on newsweek.washingtonpost.com (USA)

[I]t is striking to me how many modern thinkers are still disposed to link tolerance with secularism — and religion with intolerance. In their eyes — and often in the public eye I fear — religion is seen as part of the problem and not part of the solution.

There are reasons why this impression exists. Throughout history we find terrible chapters in which religious conflict brought frightening results. When people speak these days, about an inevitable “Clash of Civilisations” in our world, what they often mean, I fear, is an inevitable “Clash of Religions.” But I would use different terminology altogether. The essential problem, as I see it, in relations between the Muslim world and the West is “A Clash of Ignorance.” And what I would prescribe — as an essential first step on both sides of that divide — is a concentrated educational effort….

Tolerance which grows out of hope is more than a negative virtue — more than a convenient way to ease sectarian tensions — more than a sense of forbearance. Instead, seen not as a pallid religious compromise but as a sacred religious imperative, tolerance can become a powerful, positive force, one which allows all of us to expand our horizons — and enrich our lives.

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Ismaili Centre Opening Ceremony (London, United Kingdom)

I am often struck by the imbalance of comprehension between the Christian and Islamic cultures. Of course, in government and well-informed specialised institutions — universities for example — the perception is accurate. But the general public in the West is too often shown the Ummah — the worldwide community of 800 million Muslims — as a monolithic block of believers whose national political disputes are part of their religion.

Such a distorted portrayal of the true background both causes unnecessary misunderstanding of Islamic questions and hinders mature response to them. In reality, certain expressions of political action cannot be considered representative of that faith of peace, which so many millions of people practise every day. Nor, because their majority is rural and isolated, are its feelings reported. The silent majority is indeed silent

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50th Anniversary of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), (London, United Kingdom)

[I]t was not until a century later that the Institut [de France] made it a priority to revitalise the Domaine. And I was invited to become a part of the response. The Institut and I quickly agreed that a short-range burst of attention was not the answer. We needed a long-term plan. And we also agreed to build on the principle of public-private partnership. Increasingly, we realised the success of cultural projects in the developed world and the developing world alike requires a variety of actors animated by a robust spirit of cooperation and an overriding “ethic of partnership.” …

Planning ahead for long-term sustainability is critical. At Chantilly and elsewhere, our plans have included permanent service facilities — a museum perhaps, or a scholarly research centre, a children’s library, or a training workshop — so that their eventual income streams, along with public access fees, can provide re-investable income. But the real requirement, the sine qua non, is building a constituency for sustainability, including an engaged local community.

Let me conclude by underscoring my conviction that the work of cultural heritage is more critical today than ever before. In the developing and the developed worlds alike, societies are plunging into an increasingly bewildering future at an ever-accelerating pace. At such a time, and on occasions such as this, it is important that we commit ourselves ever more ardently to the essential work of cultural heritage as a powerful contributor to improving the quality of life for the entire human community.

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Aga Khan Hospital Expansion, Second Phase Launch (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)

Through linkages between the Schools of Medicine and Nursing of the Faculty of Health Sciences of the Aga Khan University, and the Aga Khan teaching hospital in Nairobi, we are building here in Dar-es Salaam a regional hub of quality medical and nursing services. This hospital will be part of what amounts to a regional teaching hospital network….

Post Graduate Medical Education programmes are already in place between here and the Aga Khan teaching hospital in Nairobi. The family medicine post graduate programme has been placed at this hospital, in part because of the important links to our five up-country community health clinics. Other post-graduate medical programmes will be established here in future. These programmes will be opened to physicians from our own and other hospitals to gain greater regional synergies. The hospital already has a partnership with the Muhimbili College of Health Sciences at the University of Dar es Salaam. Rotations for specialising physicians help them gain valuable clinical experience.

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Introduction to ‘Splendori a Corte (Splendours at Court)’ (Parma, Italy)

[Google translation] Rarely, if ever, as in this moment, we have witnessed so many misconceptions and misunderstandings between our two companies. My deepest hope is that events of this magnitude encourage and enhance the interest and appreciation of the heritage of civilization that we share and increase knowledge and respect between peoples and cultures.

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UK Press Interview, ‘Aga Khan IV and the London Newspapermen on television: 115 Questions answered with artistry and insight’ (London, United Kingdom)

Tell us how this money is collected? I mean is it a system of taxation or is it really entirely voluntary?

No — it is entirely voluntary and the Imam uses the money either to grant scholarships to students, to grant capital to a school or a hospital. We have got on hospital in Nairobi at the moment which will have cost about 400,000 pounds and my grandfather gave a very large sum to that hospital.

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Address to the Afghanistan Conference (Paris, France)

In Afghanistan, we have brought together the multiple capacities of the AKDN, through which we combine activities in micro-finance, health, education, culture and rural development. Our multi-faceted approach has contributed to a 74% decline in poppy cultivation in the north-east of the country, improving the quality of life of over one million people. I quote this figure not to be self-congratulatory but to substantiate that significant processes of change are feasible

Since 2001 the Aga Khan Development Network (the AKDN) has been an active and committed partner in the development process. Our financial pledge of $75 million in 2002 has been nearly doubled. In our roles as investor, financial backer and implementer, we have mobilised nearly 750 million dollars for the reconstruction of Afghanistan. We take this opportunity to express our deep gratitude to our national and international partners, who have enabled us to achieve these results…. The AKDN’s commitment to Afghanistan is for the long-term. Today, we pledge $100 million over the next five years, made available through AKDN’s agencies …

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Address at the ‘Musée-Musées’ Round Table Conference, Louvre Museum (Paris, France)

[The Islamic world’s view of its own future] is a world split into two tendencies: on the one hand, modernisers and believers in progressive change, on the other, traditionalists who might even be described as hidebound…. In this context, we thought it essential, whichever choice Muslim populations may indicate to their governments, to clarify certain aspects of the history of Muslim civilisations in order that today’s two main tendencies, modern and traditional, can base their ideas on historical realities and not on history that has been misunderstood or even manipulated….

[T]he Muslim world has always been wide open to every aspect of human existence…. The Qur’an itself repeatedly recommends Muslims to become better educated in order better to understand God’s creation. Our collection seeks to demonstrate the openness of Muslim civilisations to every aspect of human life, even going so far as to work in partnership with intellectual and artistic sources originating in other religions….

While some North American museums have significant collections of Muslim art, there is no institution devoted to Islamic art. In building the museum in Toronto, we intend to introduce a new actor to the North American art scene. Its fundamental aim will be an educational one, to actively promote knowledge of Islamic arts and culture. What happens on that continent, culturally, economically and politically, cannot fail to have worldwide repercussions — which is why we thought it important that an institution capable of promoting understanding and tolerance should exist there.

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Golden Jubilee Closing Message (Aiglemont)

Because our institutions are growing very quickly, it is my hope and prayer that, 10 or 15 years from now, the Jamat’s capacity in most of the countries where it is living, will be very significant indeed, and that is what the Shia Ismaili Tariqah of Islam should achieve in the world.

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CNN Interview, Judy Woodruff (USA)

I think there is a much better understanding of the sensitivity of these conflicts and how they become internationalised, how they go far beyond the frontiers of the area. I’m thinking of places like Sri Lanka, and I’m thinking even Northern Ireland. It’s not just the Islamic world. It’s these conflict situations which pollute and the disease just grows and grows and grows. And I think the lesson is that the civilised world today has to be a lot quicker to go into those areas and try to find workable solutions.

I am talking about diplomatic and economic solutions. Many, many of [these] issues or these areas are caused by communities who feel victimised who feel they are unable to achieve justice and so they turn to rebellion. Armed rebellion. And many of them really have historical roots. If you look at the Philippines, that situation’s been there since the mid-60s. You look at Kashmir, you look at the Middle East, you look at Northern Ireland — these are all situations which have been there for much too long, in my view.

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Paris Match Interview (4th), Caroline Pigozzi, ‘The Confessions Of The Aga Khan’ (Paris, France)

[Translation] I confess that I am obsessed with time and each day I remind myself that my rare free moments must be devoted to preparing for the future. After all, life is fragile. God calls us whenever He sees fit. If I had to take stock of my life, my feeling would be that I have structured the Ismaili Imamat, for which I was given responsibility nearly 50 years ago, in such a way as to provide it with the institutional means to work for the good of Ismaili communities and the countries in which we are involved. However, there is still a great deal to do and in order to be both effective and reactive I try always to acquire new knowledge in all sorts of areas.

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Jamati Institutional Leaders Dinner (Kampala, Uganda) ·· incomplete

And what is the nature of a strong institution? It is the quality of its leadership. And in that sense, my happiness this evening it to be able to say to you that is through the quality of your leadership, your efforts, your endeavours, your commitment that this jamat in Uganda [and] in other countries of the world has built international credibility, and is very, very highly regarded around the world. That is not the Imam’s doing, that is the jamat’s doing.

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Globe and Mail Interview (2nd), Michael McDowell, ‘Prince with purpose’ (Toronto, Canada) ·· incomplete

Unless a continuous, problem-oriented discussion about the practical issues of development of the Third World continues and unless good, effective solutions are found, the majority of the world in the next 10 to 25 years is going to be increasingly instable and demanding.

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Jamati Institutional Leaders Dinner (Singapore) ·· incomplete

I thought that you would be pleased to know that I have selected Singapore as one of our partners in looking at development opportunities in the future, not only in the Far East, but globally…. What do we share with Singapore? First of all, I think we share a very strong commitment to human knowledge. To the notion of competence. To the notion of quality. To the notion of developing human society around value systems which are strong. Secondly, we share the notion of a pluralist society where peoples of different backgrounds come together to work towards a common goal. So we have many aspects of our principles of development which we share with Singapore and I am happy to tell you that it is my intention to develop a permanent base here in Singapore.

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Acceptance Address – Grand Mécène (Grand Patron) and Grand Donateur (Grand Donor) from the French Ministry of Culture (Paris, France)

[Google translation] For my part, beyond the affection for France as my family has expressed for generations, I want, personally being involved in this project, thank your beautiful country for welcoming me so warmly. In fact, my personal and institutional links with France are of such quality that over the years, France is becoming the centre of my activities, including policy development to benefit the poorest people on the planet.

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