First I would place spiritual happiness. A man must be at one with God. This may sound old-fashioned to some people…. That is the fundamental question: Are you in harmony with God? If you are — you are happy.

Next I would place appreciation and enjoyment of the glories of nature. All those sunrises and sunsets — all the intricate miracle of sky colour, from dawn to dusk. All that splendid spend-thrift beauty…. As a very rich man treasures the possession of some unique picture, so a man should treasure and exult in the possession — his individual possession — of the sights of this unique world.

Those glories are his from dawn to dusk, and then — and then comes night — “a night of stars — all eyes.” The fact that Mr. So-and-So has weighed Orion in a scale and mapped beyond a peradventure the path of the Pleiades does not destroy their magic. I look up at night and I know — I know the glory of the stars. It is then that the stars speak to us — and the sense of that mystery is in our blood.

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Interviewer: Unknown

Introduction by Daily Sketch

A large, eager, mobile face. The skin lit up rather than darkened by the glow of the Eastern sun. The eyes like blazing jewels. The body in continual easy movement! The hands active in their eloquence. Every inch of the man, every atom of him, vehemently, joyously alive. A happy man! As the talk turns from point to point of the argument, a flash of the joys he speaks of radiates from his face. A kingly man — so absolute in his kingship that he would talk with the least of his subjects as an equal. Yet for all his ease and charm, you feel that he could be an edged sword when in command.

This is His Highness the Aga Khan Aga [sic] Sultan Mahomed Shah, Indian by birth and attachments, Persian and Arab by immemorial descent, the religious chief of one vast section of the Muslim world — the Ismaili Mohammedans — with countless followers in Central Asia, India and East Africa, and great race­ horse-owner, who did what no other man could have done in the Great European war — kept it from being the universal Armageddon and final twilight of the world.

At his ease in a London hotel, the happy philosopher told the Daily Sketch, what, to his mind, a man needs to be happy.

First I would place spiritual happiness. A man must be at one with God. This may sound old-fashioned to some people. A few may think that they do not believe in God, and some others that it matters little to the individual in his daily life how he stands with regard to Him.

Ruling out the atheist, with whom a believer can no more argue than he can discuss colour with a blind man …

Ruling out the atheist, with whom a believer can no more argue than he can discuss colour with a blind man, it is surely strange that a believer in an omnipotent and ever-present Deity should fail to realise that how we stand this instant and every instant toward Him matters to us more than anything else in the universe.

That is the fundamental question: Are you in harmony with God? If you are — you are happy.

Next I would place appreciation and enjoyment of the glories of nature. All those sunrises and sunsets — all the intricate miracle of sky colour, from dawn to dusk. All that splendid spend-thrift beauty…. As a very rich man treasures the possession of some unique picture, so a man should treasure and exult in the possession — his individual possession — of the sights of this unique world.

Those glories are his from dawn to dusk, and then — and then comes night — “a night of stars — all eyes.” The fact that Mr. So-and-So has weighed Orion in a scale and mapped beyond a peradventure the path of the Pleiades does not destroy their magic. I look up at night and I know — I know the glory of the stars. It is then that the stars speak to us — and the sense of that mystery is in our blood.

There are other more homely delights in an English landscape — twisting lanes with living leafy walls, villages clustered in a nook of the hills, the soft undulation of down or moorland, no more than emphasised by the occasional bold scarp of a rocky peak. But you have grandeur enough in the tall cliffs that look down so proudly on your encircling seas. All that is yours, and mine — ours for the seeing.

With nature I would link painting. Pictures are very useful. If a man cannot get to the countryside, a picture will remind him of it. And the man who has been blind to the beauty of nature may have his imagination quickened by seeing the visions of great artists. He may come to see that dawn and dusk make glorious even the drab pavement of a town.

Then comes literature — above all poetry. Poetry is the voice of God speaking through the lips of man. If great painting puts you in touch with nature, great poetry puts you in direct touch with God.

Then comes literature — above all poetry. Poetry is the voice of God speaking through the lips of man. If great painting puts you in touch with nature, great poetry puts you in direct touch with God. It is not a soft indulgence, you need to be wide awake, with all your wits about you, to share the poet’s joys. And, indeed, happiness is never a negative affair; it is to be won by men who are fully alive, full of the joy of living.

Next I would place the joys of rapid movement such as you get from games like golf, tennis, football, and, they tell me, cricket. As with literature the mind, so with games the body feels itself vividly, happily alive.

Of all sports of rapid movement the riding of a horse is the best.

The legend of the centaur — half man, half horse — was no idle dream; for you and the splendid creature are one. As its limbs gather and stretch out in perfect rhythm, electricity passes from the animal to you. It is a joy of the spirit as of the body. Through us speak the souls of our ancestors, who have ridden horses from the beginning of time. Yes, we may well believe that the horse was with man from the beginning.

No doubt we who have ridden horses get a touch of that great happiness when English thoroughbreds, the exiles of Arabia, fly down the course like winged messengers of speed.

Of course you cannot get a comparable feeling from the utmost Horse-Power (save the mark!) of a machine. No! No!

These are the independent means of happiness. Any man may worship God, wonder at the miracles of nature, exult when he hears (in literature) the sons of God shouting for joy, and give praise for the perfection of his body in rapid movement. But there is a dependent means of the first importance.

When I speak of marriage, I need not emphasise the joys of a happy marriage and fortunate parentage…. He who refuses that venture because of the risk is refusing life. No. I have no liking for hermits and other solitaries who refuse all responsibilities.

When I speak of marriage, I need not emphasise the joys of a happy marriage and fortunate parentage. They are inextricably interwoven — warp and woof of the same pattern, and the pattern is the whole of life in miniature.

He who refuses that venture because of the risk is refusing life. No. I have no liking for hermits and other solitaries who refuse all responsibilities. They may live in a town as likely as in a desert, and their avowed purpose may be to lead holy lives; but, in fact, if they have ecstasies, they are the ecstasies of self-indulgence. My concern is not with them.

Those who accept the normal responsibilities of life, with all the chances of minor annoyance and utter catastrophe, may know many small griefs and much great sorrow — that is why I called their joys dependent — but, if they are at one with God and have lived manfully, behind the mask of sorrow, bitter though it may be, their souls will be at peace.

His Highness the Aga Khan III

NOTES

  1. See also: ‘My Philosophy of Happiness’, W. R. Titterton interview (London, United Kingdom)
    http://www.nanowisdoms.org/nwblog/10494/

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 II, pp 866

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

  • Daily Sketch, London, 2 November 1931

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