In the Judaeo-Christian world, charity is a notion which evokes generosity with nothing in return. In Islam, the ‘best of charities’, but not the only one, is to help the poor be self-sufficient…. I was born with Islamic ethics, in a Muslim family. There is nothing wrong with being well off as long as money has a social and ethical value and is not the object of one’s own greed. That is why I wanted to set up institutions that can manage everyday problems based on Islamic values.

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: Unknown

The majestic citadel atop Syria’s ancient city of Aleppo, the Masyaf fortress of the sinister order of the Assassins and the castle of Arab conqueror Saladdin have all been given a new lease on life as part of a project by the Aga Khan to promote Islamic sites. “We don’t do enough to illustrate to the peoples of our world the greatness of Islamic civilisations,” the 71-year-old billionaire spiritual leader of the world’s 15 million Shia Ismaili Muslims told AFP in an interview.

The Aga Khan, who last year celebrated 50 years as head of his community, said at a recent ceremony capping work in Aleppo that his goal is to educate the world on the wealth of Muslim culture.

Because they don’t know our history, they don’t know our literature, they don’t know our philosophy, they don’t know the physical environment in which our countries have lived, they view the Ummah (the Muslim nation) in terminology which is completely wrong.

The 13th century citadel is in the heart of Aleppo — one of the world’s oldest inhabited cities at the crossroads of ancient trade routes — and is a World Heritage Site along with Saladdin’s castle…. General conservation work was carried at the rugged site, and part of an outer wall was rebuilt. The Aga Khan Trust for Culture carried out the work in close collaboration with Syria’s antiquities department, and also revamped the landscape around all three sites to make it more tourist-friendly.

My interest in working in Syria is to take the various lead countries of the Ummah and say, let’s start, let’s move together, let’s revive our cultures so that modernity is not only seen in the terminology of the West, but in the intelligent use of our past.

His visit to Syria was part of a tour of some 35 nations that began in July last year to mark his Golden Jubilee, or 50 years since the Aga Khan became leader of the community in July 1957, succeeding his grandfather….

Helping the poor to improve their lives is also high on the Aga Khan’s agenda. As a youth he dreamt of becoming an architect before graduating instead from Harvard University with a degree in Islamic history.

In the Judaeo-Christian world, charity is a notion which evokes generosity with nothing in return (the Aga Khan told AFP on the sidelines of his visit to Syria). In Islam, the ‘best of charities’, but not the only one, is to help the poor be self-sufficient.

I was born with Islamic ethics, in a Muslim family. There is nothing wrong with being well off as long as money has a social and ethical value and is not the object of one’s own greed. That is why I wanted to set up institutions that can manage everyday problems based on Islamic values.

One of the principles of Islam is that on his deathbed every person must try to leave behind a better world.

Restoring Islamic sites in Syria was also central to his goal of building bridges between religions and cultures.

Syria wants to be a secular state where all religions co-exist, even if the majority of the Syrian people are Sunni.

His Ismaili sect split from mainstream Shia Islam in the 11th century and its followers live today in some 25 countries across Africa, West and Central Asia, the Middle East, North America and Western Europe.

SOURCES

POSSIBLY RELATED READINGS (GENERATED AUTOMATICALLY)