[Peace and goodwill] were the dreams, the teachings of the outstanding figures of the past. Such have been the yearnings of most ordinary mortals from time immemorial, and yet what is history except on rare occasions one long, long story of war and warfare? In Islam during the greater part of the golden age of Omiyyas [Umayyads] in Syria and Spain [and] my own ancestors in Egypt [were] periods of peace, in all the odds and ends, made up together some hundred years of peace, but not in one extension. With those rare occasions, 30 to 40 years here and 30 to 40 years there, there has never been peace. In Rome there was a glorious period of some 60 years’ peace. But that is about all. The Middle Ages and the age thereafter consisted of minor and constant struggles. The horrors of the Mogul [sic Mongol] invasion of Western Asia of Genghis Khan and Tamerlaine are well-known facts, which leave us with something like the impression of a nightmare. The bloody battles of the Crusades, which in the name of the noblest, led to untold miseries for East and West are glaring fads.

I must first of all thank you for having invited me here and for having left me to choose the subject that I would like to speak upon. After some consideration I come to the conclusion that if there was not going to be any peace it was worthless and useless to talk about anything else, because we would not know what would happen to any of the schemes that we might have in these days. Now there is one point without which no other scheme for betterment is worth seriously considering, namely, are we or are we not going to have some kind of breathing space, if not permanent peace? This has been a problem in one form or another in the past in a very small way, now it is an all-absorbing question before men.

The desires, dreams and hope, the ideal of all that is best in the spirit of man is peace. What is the practical apart from the theoretical and philosophical teachings of Buddha? Peace to living beings. In a largely Christian gathering, such as I am addressing today, it is not necessary for me to refer to the teaching of the great founder of Christianity and its application to international, inter-racial, inter-continental relations, but I am sure you will agree that the final result of that great Teacher’s work would be, if carried out, peace.

The Holy Prophet of Islam laid down as the rule of life, peace between man and man, peace in thought and in action, and he always insisted on kindliness and gentleness towards all animals and all human beings.

And now about the faith to which I belong. Islam means peace, Muslim means Pacifist. Our salution [sic, salutation] “Assalamu alaikum”, “Peace be with you”, and the reply “Alikum salaam”, “And upon you be peace”. The Holy Prophet of Islam laid down as the rule of life, peace between man and man, peace in thought and in action, and he always insisted on kindliness and gentleness towards all animals and all human beings. Islam frankly accepts the right of other living beings apart from human beings to treatment worthy of not only man’s soul but the spirit which is manifested in all life.

Such were the dreams, the teachings of the outstanding figures of the past. Such have been the yearnings of most ordinary mortals from time immemorial, and yet what is history except on rare occasions one long, long story of war and warfare? In Islam during the greater part of the golden age of Omiyyas [Umayyads] in Syria and Spain [and] my own ancestors’ in Egypt [were] periods of peace, in all the odds and ends, made up together some hundred years of peace, but not in one extension. With those rare occasions, 30 to 40 years here and 30 to 40 years there, there has never been peace. In Rome there was a glorious period of some 60 years’ peace. But that is about all. The Middle Ages and the age thereafter consisted of minor and constant struggles. The horrors of the Mogul [sic, Mongol] invasion of Western Asia of Genghis Khan and Tamerlaine are well-known facts, which leave us with something like the impression of a nightmare. The bloody battles of the Crusades, which in the name of the noblest, led to untold miseries for East and West are glaring fads.

But all these horrors of the past have been put into shade [sic?] in the twentieth century and our own times. In the seventeenth and eighteenth century and perhaps in the early years of nineteenth century, warfare in Europe and Asia had a picturesque and chivalrous appearance, and so limited an extension that perhaps it could mislead men and their imagination to something resembling national [or] international competition for bravery and courage.

These wars were limited in numbers. The civil population practically escaped except on rare occasions, and the rules and regulations of war were so laid down that they might be compared to international duels rather than battles…. Then we had the nightmare through which we lived when for the first time [in World War II] we had the organised murder of civilians and the concentration camps which went with warfare. These then are the glaring facts.

These wars were limited in numbers. The civil population practically escaped except on rare occasions, and the rules and regulations of war were so laid down that they might be compared to international duels rather than battles. Curiously this phenomenon was true both in Europe and Asia and North Africa, as well as the inter-colonial struggles in America. But there was a rude awakening in this century. The First World War was already something so terrible that it had put into [in the] shade with its consequence, namely, the terrible epidemic of 1918, 1919 and 1920, killing more than all the World War No. I itself [sic]. Millions and millions died of influenza and its consequences in India alone in one year. In India alone it wiped out no end of young children and young men, and the same was true of America and Africa. That First World War opened the eyes of men of goodwill throughout the world to the dangers of living in an unorganised society.

Then we had the nightmare through which we lived when for the first time we had the organised murder of civilians and the concentration camps which went with warfare. These then are the glaring facts.

After 1918, a serious and honest effort was made by the victors to give the world an organisation that would prevent a repetition of such horrors and would save mankind from new experiences of a similar kind and make both impossible and unnecessary a repetition of war with its horrors. That led to the League of Nations.

To serve the cause of international peace was then my own main occupation and object in life, and from 1931 to 1938 I was with [the] Disarmament Conference and representing India not only at its main sessions but on nearly all special occasions. I was intimately connected with the Geneva Institute.

But all this did not blind us, I must admit, we, who were, so to speak, the permanent representatives of our countries at headquarters, from realising the serious weaknesses and defects of the [League of Nations].

I was a regular member of the then League of Nations. Of course I believed in it, like so many other millions. Of course, it had all my hopes in it. Of course, up to the end and even in 1938, like so many others, I believed that we would escape the immediate danger, and once that was over we could reorganise and enlarge the then existing organisation and give it strength and power and extensions. But all this did not blind us, I must admit, we, who were, so to speak, the permanent representatives of our countries at headquarters, from realising the serious weaknesses and defects of the institution.

America, after [President Woodrow] Wilson, one of its sponsors, in fact, the chief sponsor, was the first to quit, attracted by isolation and its idealism, dismayed and disgusted by the selfishness of the Continental politics. The idealism of Wilson’s character and confidence was dropped by his countrymen for a mistaken realism of pure Americanism. We did get Russia in and [Maksim Maksimovich] Litvinov, its distinguished representative who was my colleague for many years, made speeches which were unexceptional from the point of view of peace and International Law and Order. I must say in those days Russia stood for world peace in the Geneva institution, with a regularity and firmness that was [sic won] our admiration. But what else took place? Germany, Japan and Italy were in fact leaving and the League had shrunk, in fact, to Britain, Russia and France, the smaller states of the Continent, the Dominions, India, Egypt, Iraq, Iran and some, but by no means the most important, of the South American States.

It had lost such moral influence as it might have had with the non-League powers. These, however, were not its greatest shortcomings. The worst was nominal responsibility for Peace — Yes! Of power it had none: it not only had no air force, army or navy of its own, but no power of inspection and of acquiring knowledge of hostile intentions through organised agencies; no power to really help or be of assistance to the victims of aggression. It could be taken by surprise. No doubt there were some people here and there who gave warnings, but it was difficult to suspect without taking part in an active hostility towards the suspected ones.

Its final collapse in 1939 and 1940 was the inevitable result of its constitutional weaknesses and short-comings. To me, who had hoped against hope, continued against obvious signs, to the country [sic contrary] like so many others, like the majority of people in Britain, to believe in the possibility of its development into a really world peace league, it came as a shock, all the same, when World War No. II proved the inefficiency of the first organisation [sic].

The absence of proper provisions for regional alliances organised under the League itself, for the maintenance of peace, was another, and perhaps the most serious, of the causes of its break-down when it came up against the realities of power politics.

All this is of the past. What about the future? There [is] one fact beyond which we cannot look for any lesson in history, in fact, I may almost say in [the language of] material science, similar causes lead to similar results. The absence of proper provisions for regional alliances organised under the League itself, for the maintenance of peace, was another, and perhaps the most serious, of the causes of its break-down when it came up against the realities of power politics.

What are the lessons for future? I feel that the ideological constitution for a world parliament, however, well made, will not have that basis of national inspiration and interest for which great people are ready to lay down their lives.

Let us look at the facts of international and inter-racial institutions on this beautiful but perhaps unfortunate planet. No amount of constitution, which has not behind it the vital living, constant interest of great nations to sacrifice all in its higher national interest, without that backing no amount of paper guarantees will give us peace. Can anyone doubt that if we really wish to have a permanent central power for good to lead mankind not front to back but hand in hand we must look forward for a time and hope for an absolute permanent, loyal and comprehensive central unit that will be, by its ideological as well as material and economic interest, the centre, the guardian, the champion of peace for its centre.

And that central unit can only be the union of Great Britain and the daughter dominions on one side with the United States.

I go further — it seems to me the only hope for permanent peace. And it is essential that the people of the United States and Great Britain and daughter dominions should not look upon each other as foreign countries but as sister associates. I hope and believe that whatever the difference in form, in nomenclature and in variety of interest, that union will become a reality.

I look forward that the reign of George VI will undo the disaster for mankind that took place under George III. However excellent the paper guarantees of U.N.O. [United Nations Organisation], its written constitution, its aspirations, but [sic] without a common peace policy of these two central world powers — namely, Great Britain and the daughter nations and the United States — we will be building on the sands of the seashore. Once this central world-wide confederation of the United States, Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa has in fact taken a permanent common policy of peace and guardianship of world peace and is ever ready to stop aggression at its very first signs of a revival of that aggressive spirit in international relations — then naturally peaceful countries of the world will be inevitably drawn and attracted into being junior partners in this greatest and most powerful of all the central societies.

The world of Islam — peaceful, wishing only to live and let live, true to the principles of the Prophet, Egypt, the Arab States and Arab League, Turkey and Iran and Afghanistan can have no other foreign policy or desire or ambition than attachment alike for ideal and practical reasons to the Anglo-American central peace power.

On the Continent, leaving Russia and the East out, France will be the leading — in fact by far the leading — individual nation, and can anyone doubt that if England and America are united in a peace policy, that the overwhelming majority of the French people will not heartily join in with it!

Holland and Belgium, the Scandinavian States will be fast drawn towards that centre and sooner or later the fast growing and essentially healthy daughter nations of Spain and Portugal in the new world, which are certainly not going to be the creators of adventure and aggression, but will play an ever more important part in world economy and advancement.

[T]here has been internal strife in China but it has been, from time immemorial, essentially peaceful, still essentially Confucian, and has for thousands of years never shown any spirit of aggression and has been one of the bastions of moral peace and live and let live in the world.

Now what about the great Chinese, the immense Chinese world, for it is a world of its own, the peaceful — there has been internal strife in China but it has been, from time immemorial, essentially peaceful, still essentially Confucian, and has for thousands of years never shown any spirit of aggression and has been one of the bastions of moral peace and live and let live in the world. Is it now going to look out for adventure! Has it any interest to risk the little amount of goodwill and leisure and happiness that nature gives to its vast and overcrowded populace in gambles of the kind that brought disaster to Germany and Japan? No, China’s natural place will be a position of equal and honoured association with America, Britain, Dominions and the Muslim world.

I, for one, am convinced that Italy, Germany and Japan have now learnt their lesson provided always that Anglo-American guardianship of peace is awake and constant, provided they realise that the solidity of Anglo-American guardianship of peace will not be a matter of passing fashion, but the permanent unity of these two essential centres of world power. There and then only they will try to win back respect and self-respect by supporting the world peace ring.

Now we come to one of the last possibilities of warfare by that dangerous but comprehensive [sic comprehensible] cupidity of the “have-nots”.

What about India, the British Crown colonies, the Colonies of France and Holland, Portugal and Belgium? These vast, rich, varied areas, and let us call “a spade a spade,” — foreign owned areas. What is the part they are going to play? What of the future? If in fact — whatever the nominal relationship with the owing [sic owning?] countries — they are to be the plantations of the so called protecting powers, then sooner or later they will become inevitably the apples of discord. Perhaps they will lead to misunderstanding even between Britain and America.

About one quarter of the human race, about one third of the richest lands on earth, however you may sugarcoat the pill, cannot remain plantations and plantation workers for long without raising those very sentiments which are the opposite of pacificism [pacifism?] among non-plantation owners.

About one quarter of the human race, about one third of the richest lands on earth, however you may sugarcoat the pill, cannot remain plantations and plantation workers for long without raising those very sentiments which are the opposite of pacificism [pacifism?] among non-plantation owners.

No! No! these areas, even populations, must be, whatever the name, whatever the form, must in fact, be open to all that is best in modern political idealism if they are to become the pillars of peace instead of breeding ground for future world warfare. They must first of all be, as soon as possible, as soon as conditions will permit, brought into a form of Government that will satisfy their indigenous population and the sentiments of self-respect and honour.

Secondly the present beneficiary plantation owners must give in trade and commence to worldwide and equal economic activity on which alone real world prosperity and peace of the world can be built. That good old Free Trade doctrine, now out of fashion, must, at least for these and not self-governing areas, be looked upon as the best antidote to dangerous ambitions that lead to warfare.

It is a hopeful sign that India at last has now a chance, if only its nations rise to the occasion, to become a powerful confederation of states within the World States organisation to free itself from even suspicion of being the greatest plantation property of all. India has at last the chance of taking its place among the great nations of the world, and it depends on its sons whether it takes the message. There are signs that Indo-China, and let us hope Indonesia, will also move forward along a similar line, the only line that could give security and prosperity on a permanent basis to such areas.

[T]hese other areas will take time but some form or other of trusteeship … not only for its own immediate objective and advantages but to prevent those rich and yet semi-virgin lands from being objects of international jealousy, suspicion and ambition and cupidity.

Near, where we are now, these other areas will take time but some form or other of trusteeship, whether guaranteed by written or unwritten laws, whether of one country or of the world, something of that nature must be attempted, not only for its own immediate objective and advantages but to prevent those rich and yet semi-virgin lands from being objects of international jealousy, suspicion and ambition and cupidity.

In such a world, as I have now tried to adumbrate, on howsoever vague and general a basis — in a world in which England and America and the daughter nations are united as one for peace, standing with their ever-readiness to sacrifice all and realising that peace is indivisible, the first true doctrine which, alas we let go in Geneva — if England and America make it their permanent first principle of life and policy, this indivisibility of peace, then I am certain that in such a world Russia will have every reason to be satisfied and proud of her immense, in fact unique position, and she will join in as one of the greatest and most important of the world powers. She will be impregnable, not only by her own strength but by the fact of being surrounded everywhere by peace-loving nations united in a union on the solid facts of each country’s self-respect and vital needs being satisfied by world commerce and trade. Only then and then [sic] will the new world peace league, whatever its written constitution, be free from the danger of fears and from the internal and external weaknesses of our first world attempt at world organisation. Only then will men also be free to give time to that peace of God on earth for which alone we ought to labour and strive and to bring up our families.

His Highness the Aga Khan III

SOURCES

  • Text (secondary source): Aga Khan III, Selected Speeches and Writings of Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Edited by K.K. Aziz, Kegan Paul International, 1997, Vol I, pp 1238

    [Text verified and/or corrected from this source by NanoWisdoms]

  • Special Golden Platinum Jubilee Day Number, Ismailia Association for Tanganyika, Dar es Salaam, n.d. (?1956), pp. 1-14. The pamphlet was edited by Ismail H. Ebrahim and issued by the Literature Section, Dar es Salaam Committee, Shia Imami Ismailia Association for Tanganyika.

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