[My grandfather] was a most extraordinary leader in the sense that anybody who came in contact with him was immediately … felt very, very close to him. If you spoke to him, he, in a matter of minutes, would know what your problems were and you really felt that he was interested and he could help you. And this went both for his family and for the Ismaili people. They used to come to him with problems and he used to be able to understand them very, very quickly. And he guided all the members of his family. Every time he saw them he would give them advice and see that they were happy and if he could help them he always would. [Emphasis original]

Interviewer: Unknown, perhaps in London

BBC: Your Highness, could we first of all have some facts about your people. Where are they and about how many are there and what in fact is the Ismaili sect?

His Highness the Aga Khan: Well the Ismaili sect is part of the Shia branch of the Muslim religion. They number between 10 and 50 million. We cannot tell exactly how many and the three largest communities would be East Africa, Pakistan and India but there are other communities in Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Kuwait, Madagascar, the Belgian Congo and Mozambique. A very wide spread community.

BBC: In other words, you’re not quite sure how many followers you’ve got?

AK: No, we don’t have a general census of the Ismaili population. There are regions in the world where we cannot even contact the Ismaili leaders.

BBC: You’ve been their new leader now for several months, have you had a chance to decide what are the main problems facing your people.

AK: Well at the moment, they are rather the same problems as the ones which my grandfather faced all his life. They’re education, health and the political side of the community. The health is probably the hardest problem to solve in the backward Middle Eastern countries. In other countries, education is very difficult.

BBC: How do you think you can help them?

AK: Well through education you can send out teachers, you can form night-schools, you can train teachers to go from one country to another and train people on the spot, for children. For health, you can setup hospitals, maternity homes and you do the same thing as for teaching you train nurses and you send them out to show the Ismaili women about health for children — other things like that.

BBC: Can we talk for a moment about your grandfather?

AK: (Smiles) Yes …

BBC: What sort of an inspiration was he to you and what sort of a leader was he to his people and what sort of a family leader was he?

AK: He was a most extraordinary leader in the sense that anybody who came in contact with him was immediately … felt very, very close to him. If you spoke to him, he, in a matter of minutes, would know what your problems were and you really felt that he was interested and he could help you. And this went both for his family and for the Ismaili people. They used to come to him with problems and he used to be able to understand them very, very quickly. And he guided all the members of his family. Every time he saw them he would give them advice and see that they were happy and if he could help them he always would. [Emphasis original]

BBC: Sounds as if you went for advice, you often as you needed it.

AK: Yes, I went to him very often for advice.

BBC: Now what about you? You’ve been at Harvard University for 3 years, are you going to go back and finish whatever you were doing? What was it …?

AK: Well I would like to go back to Harvard if I can. It’s difficult to know if I can carry on university work and fulfil my responsibilities at the moment. If it’s possible I’ll go back in September ’58. There’s a lot that you can learn through university education, particularly from the Islamic point of view …

BBC: What are you studying?

AK: Oriental history. And it’s a wonderful subject to study in college because you get a chance to get a religious background as well the political and social background, whereas if you weren’t studying it from an intellectual point of view it would be harder to get in contact with the different religious ideas that have come out of Islam.

BBC: You’ll go back there if you possible can then and do your final year?

AK: Yes, I will, I will if it is possible for me.

BBC: What about deciding on somewhere to live. Are you going to live amongst to your people?

AK: That’s very hard to say. For the next year I will be travelling. I’ll be trying to cover East Africa, Pakistan, India and the smaller communities. I hope to be able to finish that maybe in June or July of 1958 and then Harvard starts in September. If I go back to Harvard, I will not have any home or any base but I’ll try to live as much as I can with my community in the next years.

BBC: If you don’t settle permanently amongst them…

AK: If I don’t settle, yes …

BBC: … you’ll certainly see as much of them as you possibly can.

AK: I will. Yes. Definitely.

BBC: Thank you very much Your Highness.

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