Entries with content relating to ‘Ismailism’, in chronological order.

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Samuel L & Elizabeth Jodidi Lecture and apres lecture conversation with Diana L. Eck, Harvard University (Cambridge, USA)

For a very long time, as you know, the term most often used in describing the search for human understanding was the word “tolerance.” In fact, it was one of the words that was used in 1955 text to describe one of the objectives of this Jodidi Lecture. In recent years our vocabulary in discussing this subject has evolved. One word that we have come to use more often in this regard is the word “pluralism.” And the other is the word “cosmopolitan.”

You may know that our AKDN Network, a decade ago, cooperated with the Government of Canada to create a new Global Centre for Pluralism based in Ottawa, designed to study more closely the conditions under which pluralist societies can thrive.

A pluralist, cosmopolitan society is a society which not only accepts difference, but actively seeks to understand it and to learn from it. In this perspective, diversity is not a burden to be endured, but an opportunity to be welcomed.

A cosmopolitan society regards the distinctive threads of our particular identities as elements that bring beauty to the larger social fabric. A cosmopolitan ethic accepts our ultimate moral responsibility to the whole of humanity, rather than absolutising a presumably exceptional part. Perhaps it is a natural condition of an insecure human race to seek security in a sense of superiority. But in a world where cultures increasingly inter-penetrate one another, a more confident and a more generous outlook is needed. What this means, perhaps above all else, is a readiness to participate in a true dialogue with diversity, not only in our personal relationships, but in institutional and international relationships also. But that takes work, and it takes patience. Above all, it implies a readiness to listen. What is needed, as the former Governor General of Canada Adrienne Clarkson has said, and I quote, is a readiness “to listen to your neighbour, even when you may not particularly like him.” Is that message clear? You listen to people you don’t like!

A thoughtful cosmopolitan ethic is something quite different from some attitudes that have become associated with the concept of globalisation in recent years. Too often, that term has been linked to an abstract universalism, perhaps well-meaning but often naïve. In emphasising all that the human race had in common, it was easy to depreciate the identities that differentiated us. We sometimes talked so much about how we are all alike that we neglected the wonderful ways in which we can be different.

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Ismaili Centre Opening Ceremony (Toronto, Canada)

It is not so often that we have an opportunity of this sort — to come together in a beautiful setting, in a wonderful spirit of friendship, and to dedicate such a splendid architectural accomplishment….

When I mentioned that our planning for this complex began 18 years ago, some of you probably wondered how people sustained their enthusiasm through such a long process. Yes 18 years! My response is to say that throughout these 18 years, we have been inspired by a great sense of common purpose, as we have sought to create places and spaces of true enlightenment. And, in doing so, we have also been strengthened by a pronounced spirit of friendship. And what a joy it is to celebrate that spirit, at a time when so much of the world’s attention is focused on climates of belligerence.

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CBC Interview (4th), One-on-One (2nd) with Peter Mansbridge (Toronto, Canada)

What are the continuing consequences of the situation in Iraq?

Well I think one of them obviously is crisis between the Shia and Sunni communities. I think that crisis is now extending throughout the region, and I mentioned today [in my speech to Parliament], that it’s actually active in nine countries. I mean, if you make a parallel with the Christian world, what would have been the Christian world’s reaction if the Irish crisis had been active in nine countries. (Pause) It would have been a very, very serious issue. That’s what we’re facing today. That crisis is in nine countries and it is likely to expand further. (Emphasis original)

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Golden Jubilee Closing Message (Aiglemont)

Because our institutions are growing very quickly, it is my hope and prayer that, 10 or 15 years from now, the Jamat’s capacity in most of the countries where it is living, will be very significant indeed, and that is what the Shia Ismaili Tariqah of Islam should achieve in the world.

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Ismaili Centre Foundation Stone Ceremony (Khorog, Tajikistan)

The congregational space incorporated within the Ismaili Centre belongs to the historic category of jamatkhana, an institutional category that also serves a number of sister Sunni and Shia communities, in their respective contexts, in many parts of the world. Here, the Jamatkhana will be reserved for traditions and practices specific to the Shia Ismaili tariqah of Islam. The Centre on the other hand, will be a symbol of confluence between the spiritual and the secular in Islam….

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Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre Foundation Stone Ceremony (Dhaka, Bangladesh)

There will, of course, be facilities here for congregational gathering and for administrative functions. There will also be places for welcoming the larger community here at seminars, lectures, cultural and educational events and other programmes. But we also see the new Jamatkhana as a place which will make an important statement symbolising an important message. We see it as a place of peace and tranquillity, filled with a spirit of humility and prayer. It will not be a place for conceit or self-satisfaction, but rather a place for search and enlightenment. It will be a place where men and women in this pluralist country can help strengthen those common bonds which reflect our common challenges and which will shape our common destiny.

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Ismaili Centre Opening Ceremony (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)

This new Centre is itself a profoundly spiritual place. Its defining symbolism is inspired by the Fatimid tradition stretching back over 1000 years and widely shared with sister traditions throughout the Islamic world from Baghdad to Bokhara. As its architects have so effectively realised, this building exists fundamentally as a place for peaceful contemplation, but one that is set in a social context. It is not a place to hide from the world, but rather a place which inspires us to engage our worldly work as a direct extension of our faith.

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L’Express Interview, Eric Chol and Christian Makarian, ‘The ethic of Islam rests on generosity’ (Paris, France)

[Google translation] It is necessary to constantly consider the relationship between the Ummah and the knowledge society. One realises that countries that have succeeded in reconciling both develop most quickly. On the other hand, those that reject or limit access to the knowledge society get left behind. My concept of Islam is a faith for all time, not backward looking.

In the Qur’an it is written that one must seek education to know Allah better, and share knowledge for the betterment of society. That is to say that in Islam, the links between faith and knowledge are very strong and we are constantly encouraged to learn. This is an extraordinary message for humanity.

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Message to The International Islamic Conference (Amman, Jordan)

Our historic adherence is to the Jafari Madhhab and other Madhahib of close affinity, and it continues, under the leadership of the hereditary Ismaili Imam of the time. This adherence is in harmony also with our acceptance of Sufi principles of personal search and balance between the zahir and the spirit or the intellect which the zahir signifies.

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Institute of Ismaili Studies 25th Anniversary Graduation Ceremony (London, United Kingdom)

[It] is not a simple matter for any human society with a concern and appreciation of its history to relate its heritage to its contemporary conditions. Traditions evolve in a context, and the context always changes, thus demanding a new understanding of essential principles. For us Muslims, this is one of the pressing challenges we face. In what voice or voices can the Islamic heritage speak to us afresh — a voice true to the historical experience of the Muslim world yet, at the same time, relevant in the technically advanced but morally turbulent and uncertain world of today? …

One of the challenges that has concerned me over many years, and which I have discussed with leading Muslim thinkers, is how education for Muslims can reclaim the inherent strengths that, at the height of their civilisations, equipped Muslim societies to excel in diverse areas of human endeavour…. Today, any reasonably well-informed observer would be struck by how deeply this brotherhood of Muslims is divided. On the opposite sides of the fissures are the ultra-rich and the ultra-poor; the Shia and the Sunni; the theocracies and the secular states, the search for normatisation versus the appreciation of pluralism; those who search for and are keen to adopt modern, participatory, forms of government versus those who wish to re-impose supposedly ancient forms of governance.

What should have been brotherhood has become rivalry, generosity has been replaced by greed and ambition, the right to think is held to be the enemy of real faith, and anything we might hope to do to expand the frontiers of human knowledge through research is doomed to failure for in most of the Muslim world, there are neither the structures nor the resources to develop meaningful intellectual leadership.

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Pranay Gupte Interview (United States, United Kingdom) ·· incomplete

In the long run, the question is what is the context in which human society will function and the Islamic community will function? And I think the whole notion of relevance is a massively important issue. It’s going across all faiths. Not just the Islamic faith. Not just the Islamic interpretation. It’s going across all faiths today. There is a clear search for ethical contexts. And my sense is that could be a little bit of a reaction to maybe some of excesses in the material context.

It’s clear that uncontrolled freedom becomes license. It’s an issue that keeps coming up all the time. And it’s one which needs very, very deep reflection. Very deep reflection. It’s probably the most challenging issue that I have to address today. More so since the life sciences have evolved, since communications have evolved.

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Centro Ismaili, Lisbon, Opening Ceremony (Lisbon, Portugal)

Although my faith and office place upon me a distinctive perspective and role, I am most certainly not alone in my concern about the pace and direction of change at this moment in history. In recognition of the critical problems of human welfare confronting today’s world, and the role faiths can play in contributing to their resolution, Dr. George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Mr. James D Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, convened a Dialogue on “World Faiths and Development” earlier this year. Leaders of nine world faiths participated: Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Tao.

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Centro Ismaili Lisbon Foundation Stone Ceremony (Lisbon, Portugal)

Although Ismailis have lived in the West since the late 1950s, only two other Ismaili centres of this importance and magnitude have been built in the Occident to reach these goals. Through lectures, presentations, conferences, recitals, and exhibits of art and architecture, alone or joined by other national or international entities in the cultural field, these centres have become ambassadorial buildings which today reflect and illustrate much of what the Shia Ismaili community represents in terms of its attitude towards the Muslim faith, its organisation, its discipline, its social conscience, the effectiveness of its community organisations and, more generally, its attitude towards modern life and the society in which it lives.

This Centre in Lisbon, like its predecessors in the West, will strive to be not only a place of gathering for prayer, but a space for articulation of thought and positive impact on the wider community.

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Independent Television (ITV) Interview (2nd), Andrew Gardner (London, United Kingdom)

[O]ne of the questions to which I don’t have an answer, but I would like to find one, is, what is happiness — for rural population in the developing world? And unless the definition of happiness, the definition of a sense of purpose is clear to planners in the developing world, they are never going to be able to address the issues that affect the rural population. And what I have discovered — I think in working on these problems — is that the rural populations are remarkably articulate, remarkably hard­working, remarkably thoughtful. But you have got to [have] access to them, you have got to let them tell you, as a decision-maker, what are their concerns, what are their priorities and in that sense, I think that maybe the industrialised world doesn’t deal with the same problems.

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Khaleej Times Interview, Maruf Khwaja, ‘Aga Khan stresses “investment in people”‘ (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)

On the whole, though the Ismaili community wherever it exists is well tolerated by the majority community. Is it because a low profile is deliberately maintained? Or that it does proselytise [sic]?

I think there may be a number of reasons for that. First of all, we don’t seek to proselytise. We don’t seek to tell others that what they practise is wrong or right. There is another aspect which is that whereas these men and women are loyal to their country, they have a faith which is guided by Iman [sic? Imam?]. I don’t think that they have, to my knowledge, ever acted as a monolithic political pressure group. Every individual is free to choose his political outlook, his convictions. The fact that we have consistently remained outside or independent of political pressure situations, that also has meant something that has been desirable. Perhaps the issue that you mentioned at the beginning of our discussion — the fact that we now are more outward than we’ve ever been. Its meant that a lot of our institutions are better understood and hopefully better appreciated. In recent years, there has been a tendency I am very thankful for, of countries welcoming our people and our institutions.

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Ismaili Centre Foundation Stone Ceremony (Burnaby, Canada)

The new building will stand in strongly landscaped surroundings. It will face a courtyard with foundations and a garden. Its scale, its proportions and the use of water will serve to create a serene and contemplative environment. This will be a place of congregation, of order, of peace, of prayer, of hope, of humility, and of brotherhood. From it should come forth those thoughts, those sentiments, those attitudes, which bind men together and which unite. It has been conceived and will exist in a mood of friendship, courtesy, and harmony.

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BBC Radio 4 Interview, Michael Charlton (London, United Kingdom)

Well, in what matters then do you specifically intervene? What is your influence and authority?

Long term, long term social programming, long term economic programming, educational development, health, housing, the direction for institutions to go in …

The role of the Imam is to listen — not to talk. There is a big difference in the sense that members of the community must inform me, must tell me what is of concern to them. I do not run a government.

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The Age Interview, Geoffry Barker, ‘Aga Khan: Enigma of East and West’ (Melbourne, Australia; Nairobi, Kenya)

You make no claim to be divine. But do you believe you are divinely guided?

Divinity is a very difficult thing to define in verbal terminology. Therefore I would object to anything which uses the term divine in my context. I have inherited an office and I seek to fulfil that office to the best of my judgement. To tell you what inspires that judgement … I don’t think any individual can answer that question. You seek within yourself that which tells you what is the right thing to do.

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L’Expansion Interview, Roger Priouret, ‘Face to Face with the Aga Khan’ (Paris, France)

[Translation] I always say this: one cannot change religion overnight. This evolution is a slow thing, and it is, therefore, an everlasting job with its own rhythm, usually a lot slower than the political and economic upheavals of the present time. What takes me the most time is no longer the management of business as the Imam for, as I have told you, it is very decentralized. Above all I give advice.

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