I should, first of all, advise my heirs to learn to desire the thing that happens, and not try to mould events to their desires…. I say that you should endeavour to suit your desire to the event, and not the event to your desire….

I would counsel my heirs to seek satisfaction, not in the flux of circumstances, but within themselves; I would have them resolute, self-controlled, independent, but not rebellious. Let them seek communion with that Eternal Reality which I call Allah and you call God! For that is the twin problem of existence to be at once entirely yourself and altogether at one with the Eternal.

INCOMPLETE: We regret that from this interview, only limited portions made public by the reporter are available below. We would be very grateful if any of our readers who may have the complete transcript would kindly share it with us. Please click here for information on making submissions to NanoWisdoms; we thank you for your assistance.

Interviewer: W. R. Titterton

Introduction accompanying the published text

“Learn to wish for the thing that happens and not try to mould the event to your desire.” In these words the Aga Khan gave his last Will and Testament in an interview to Mr. W. R. Titterton.

He thinks that war is a ghastly affair and that the last war was almost the death-blow to civilisation.

Published text

I should, first of all, advise my heirs to learn to desire the thing that happens, and not try to mould events to their desires. It was silly of the poet Omar to write:

Ah love, could you and I with Him conspire
To grasp this sorry scheme of things entire,
Would we not shatter it to bits, and then
Remould it nearer to the heart’s desire?

That way lies unhappiness, destruction. It is not a sorry scheme of things, and the business, the duty of man, is to get himself into harmony with it.

I would counsel my heirs to seek satisfaction, not in the flux of circumstances, but within themselves; I would have them resolute, self-controlled, independent, but not rebellious. Let them seek communion with that Eternal Reality which I call Allah and you call God! For that is the twin problem of existence to be at once entirely yourself and altogether at one with the Eternal.

I say that you should endeavour to suit your desire to the event, and not the event to your desire. If a wall tumbles down and crushes my foot, I must say: ‘That is the best thing that could happen to me.’

An uncle of mine had a son who was killed. The father gave thanks to Allah for the event. You think that he did not love his son? You are wrong. He loved him dearly. I confess that I may not yet have risen to such a spiritual height. But I believe that I shall rise to it. I know that this is the way to happiness.

I should have a word to say to those who deem themselves unfortunate from a worldly point of view I should say to them: do not look up and lament that you are not as well off as those above you; look down and congratulate yourself that you are better off than those below you.

I should have a word to say to those who deem themselves unfortunate from a worldly point of view I should say to them: do not look up and lament that you are not as well off as those above you; look down and congratulate yourself that you are better off than those below you. (1)

To a man who looks with such eyes upon the world it is not a prison but a garden. A marvellous garden — the garden of the Lord. I shall invite my heirs to feast their eyes on the miraculous beauty of the earth — rivers and seas to slake the earth’s eternal thirst, hills like the tents of a great encampment, forests like an army with banners; wide open spaces, dawns and sunsets, the indomitable arch of the sky. (1)

All these great gifts are freely given to the man with open eyes, open hands and open heart. But the eyes must be clear, the hands and heart must be strong. I would impress upon my heirs the absolute need to be healthy. If they neglect their body, they will be at odds with the universe.

Therefore I say: Keep your bodies clean — bathe them frequently — wear clean clothes — eat clean food, drink clean water, breathe clean air. I know that society may make it difficult for some of its citizens to get these things. Instead it should make it easy.

But we are not, as individuals, to put the onus on society. As I have said, it is our business to ‘use’ events, conditions, limitations. If we cannot be as fit as an Achilles champion, we may yet aim at absolute fitness, and be well content with the fitness we achieve.

But we are not, as individuals, to put the onus on society. As I have said, it is our business to ‘use’ events, conditions, limitations. If we cannot be as fit as an Achilles champion, we may yet aim at absolute fitness, and be well content with the fitness we achieve.

Never forget this: The society in which we live cannot give a man happiness. If we miss that, you miss my point altogether. Society can give a man space to breathe and freedom to move in it; it can afford him the means of keeping himself healthy and making himself strong. But happiness never depends on one’s surroundings; it depends altogether and exclusively on oneself.

Of course, health is not static, but dynamic. I can only judge a racehorse for example when I have seen it in motion. Therefore I shall speak to my heirs of the vital importance of exercise. And since to take joy in your activities is one of the secrets of health, I should counsel them to play games.

Naturally my heirs will be riders of horses. That is in the blood. The ‘horse and the rider’ have been the sign manual of my race for a thousand years. But I speak of concerted games.

Knowing something of tennis and a little golf, I can advise them to play those games. Knowing very little of cricket except as a spectator, I must be content to regard that great game with benevolent neutrality. But, play games! Play them joyfully, vehemently, with all your heart.

My final word would be to civilised society at large. I have already suggested that society should give a man space and the means to make himself healthy. Now pursue the implication and tell society that it should give the individual peace. That is what a government is for, it is the final test; if a government cannot give us that it is not worth having. I am a pacifist.

I would have the whole world unite to defend itself against aggression. Your nationalist instincts may be opposed to this. But see what those instincts have done for you! You have broken Germany. Yes! but you have broken yourselves. I don’t say that you were at fault. I don’t say that you could have avoided doing what you did. For the pre-war Prussian was — no, not criminal — impossible. But I do say that war is always a ghastly mistake, and that this last war was almost the death-blow to civilisation.

And so in my testament I should say to the rulers of the earth: Prove yourselves; prove that you are worth having; give the world peace!

His Highness the Aga Khan III

NOTES

  1. Additional passages published in Message to the World of Islam, Karachi, 1955 (click here)
  2. See also: Daily Sketch Interview, ‘My Personal Life — What a man needs to be happy’ (London, United Kingdom)
    http://www.nanowisdoms.org/nwblog/10471/

SOURCES

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