Entries with content relating to ‘Society (Ummah)’, in chronological order.

Introductory quotes below may not be reflective of the theme selected.
Click here for extended quotes from the theme selected.
Click here for short quotes from the theme selected.

2007 (10th) Aga Khan Award For Architecture Presentation Ceremony (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

If ignoring the past was a problem on one side, then the opposite danger was an exaggerated submission to the past, so that some creations and creators became prisoners of dogma or nostalgia. There is a danger, in every area of life, everywhere in the world, that people will respond to the hastening pace of change with an irrational fear of modernism, and will want to embrace uncritically that which has gone before. The Islamic world has sometimes been vulnerable to this temptation — and the rich potential for a new “Islamic modernism” has sometimes been under-estimated.

The Aga Khan Award was designed, in part, to address this situation, encouraging those who saw the past as a necessary prelude to the future and who saw the future as a fulfilling extension of the past. In my view, a healthy life, for an individual or a community, means finding a way to relate the values of the past, the realities of the present, and the opportunities of the future. The built environment can play a central role in helping us to achieve that balance.

Read more »

Golden Jubilee Inaugural Ceremony (Aiglemont)

In a world where quality of life is increasingly measured in material terms there is risk that the essential value system of Islam will be eroded, or even threatened with disappearance. Political situations with a theological overlay are also causing disaffection or antagonism between communities of the same faith, and even more so amongst different faiths.

At the centre of this turbulence is Islam. We cannot let this continue. On the other hand, the sheer scale of the problem, added to its complexity, make it an issue which the Ummah, in its entirety, can better address, rather than individual schools of interpretation within it. It will be essential that while respecting their individual identities, various tariqahs within Islam should collaborate to articulate the common social and moral principles of our Islamic value system…. Islam is a faith of tolerance, generosity and spirituality…. Where we can build bridges with other tariqahs around a common Muslim cosmopolitan ethos, we should make this endeavour.

Read more »

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.

Read more »

‘Splendori a Corte’ Opening Ceremony – An Exhibition from the Aga Khan Museum Collection (Parma, Italy)

This exhibition of artistic masterpieces from the Islamic world underlines that the arts, particularly when they are spiritually inspired, can become a medium of discourse that transcends the barriers of our day-to-day experiences and preoccupations. Many questions are currently being raised in the West about the Muslim world, with countless misconceptions and misunderstandings occurring between our contemporary societies. I hope that this exhibition will hold a special significance at a time which calls for enlightened encounters amongst faiths and cultures.

Read more »

2006 Aga Khan University Convocation Ceremony (Karachi, Pakistan)

If we judge from Islamic history, there is much to encourage us. For century after century, the Arabs, the Persians, the Turks and many other Islamic societies achieved powerful leadership roles in the world — not only politically and economically but also intellectually. Some ill-informed historians and biased commentators have tried to argue that these successes were essentially produced by military power, but this view is profoundly incorrect. The fundamental reason for the pre-eminence of Islamic civilisations lay neither in accidents of history nor in acts of war, but rather in their ability to discover new knowledge, to make it their own, and to build constructively upon it. They became the Knowledge Societies of their time.

Those times are over now. They are long gone. But if some people have forgotten or ignored this history, much of the Ummah remembers it — and, in remembering, asks how those times might be recaptured. There may be as many answers to that question as there are Muslims — but one answer which can be shared across the whole of the Ummah is that we must become full and even leading participants in the Knowledge Society of the 21st Century.

That will mean embracing the values of collaboration and coordination, openness and partnership, choice and diversity — which will under-gird the Knowledge Society, learning constantly to review and revise and renew what we think we know — learning how to go on learning. [Emphasis added]

Read more »

American University in Cairo Commencement Ceremony (Cairo, Egypt)

At various times in world history, the locus of knowledge has moved from one centre of learning to another. Europe once came to the Islamic world for intellectual enrichment and even rediscovered its own classical roots by searching in Arabic texts. Astronomy, the so-called “Science of the Universe” was a field of particular distinction in Islamic civilisation, in sharp contrast to the weakness of Islamic countries in the field of Space research today. In this field, as in others, intellectual leadership is never a static condition, but something which is always shifting and always dynamic….

[Today] in keeping with our past traditions, and in response to our present needs, we must to [sic] go out and find the best of the world’s knowledge wherever it exists. But accessing knowledge, is only the first step. The second step, the application of knowledge, is also demanding. Knowledge, after all, can be used well or poorly, for good or evil purposes. Once we have acquired knowledge, it is important that the ethical guidelines of faith be invoked, helping us apply what we have learned to the highest possible ends. And it is also important that those ends be related to the practical needs of our peoples.

Read more »

Luncheon announcing the merger of the Bellerive Foundation and Aga Khan Foundation (Geneva, Switzerland) ·· incomplete

We need in the “Ummah” to move away from the normative attitudes towards the acceptance of pluralism of the “Ummah”, and that pluralism starts from the time of the Prophet himself and “Hadith” (Sayings of the Prophet Mohammad) as well as the Prophet’s historical footprints show that in the life time of the Prophet himself he knew that there would be pluralism in the interpretation of the faith.

Read more »

Acceptance Address – Royal Toledo Foundation Award Ceremony (Toledo, Spain)

[T]he reality is that our world is pluralistic and multi-cultural, and destined to remain so.

Ought we not, then, to focus our attention on periods of history when pluralism was happily embraced? May we not learn thereby the need to nurture what I have recently called a cosmopolitan ethic? For this is the foundation of a merit-based civil society capable of harnessing the best in all walks of life from all groups of people. This is the only way to manage, and build on, pluralism, the critical test of democracy anywhere.

This brings me to Toledo which has so successfully preserved, over many centuries, the evidence of its three-fold culture: magnificent churches, synagogues and mosques. This was an era when each of these cultures, Christian, Jewish and Muslim, retained its independent identity while all worked and came together in a glorious intellectual and spiritual adventure. The legacy was a truly enabling environment conducive to prosperity, harmony, scientific discovery, philosophical insights and artistic flowering — all the defining features of a thriving civilisation.

Read more »

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.

Read more »

Acceptance Address – National Building Museum’s Vincent Scully Prize (Washington D.C., USA)

Ladies and gentlemen, some 30 years [ago] I began to question why architecture in the modern Islamic world seemed to have lost touch with the great achievements of its past. I began working with leading architects, philosophers, artists, teachers, historians and thinkers — from all religious faiths — to establish an Award for Architecture….

Now some 28 years later, the extent to which we have been successful is due to a multitude of individuals and organisations from all regions, faiths and occupations…. It is on behalf of this broad spectrum of qualified men and women that I accept the Vincent Scully Award this evening…. I know of no process where so many people of such different backgrounds have come together to improve the living conditions of more than one billion people.

Read more »

DD TV (Delhi Doordarshan) Interview, Rajiv Mehrotra (New Delhi, India)

I think one of the specifics of Islam is that you live your faith. And you are not one day in your faith and the next day out of your faith. It is a permanent presence. It is a presence which brings you happiness. It brings you objectives in life and therefore, I don’t think that one can make this sort of dichotomy. It is a permanency of thought, of attitude, of ethics…. It’s not that if you are in a meeting on a given issue, that you forget that behind these decisions you are taking are the ethical principles of your faith. And they have to be there all the time. Whatever you do….

[Democracy] is a form of government is now becoming very prevalent. But it doesn’t mean that it is necessarily good government. It doesn’t mean that it is necessarily government which is effective for the people that it is supposed to serve…. But the bridge between the notion of a modern democracy and issues of public consultation, meritocracy, these are all issues which bridge Islamic ethics and modern governance. And that is a very important area which I have been working in.

Read more »

Times of India Interviews ‘Celebrating Beauty’ & ‘Education has not kept pace with globalisation’ (New Delhi, India)

The past cannot be repeated. By copying it, it proves that one cannot do better. By repeating the past, by designing the same thing is not the solution. Modernity cannot be denied. How do we merge the two? That is continuity. We can’t ask people to live in mud houses. We have to come up with new solutions. The award tries to connect the two. The monuments of the past are important but the monuments of today are also important and they have to be recognised.

Read more »

Ninth Aga Khan Award for Architecture Prize Ceremony (New Delhi, India)

The issues we have been attempting to address through the process of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture are not exclusive to the Muslim world. The non-Muslim world struggles equally with explosive population growth, poverty, environmental degradation, exodus from rural areas, globalisation and the impact on cultural identity of new forms of media. I hope that the lessons learned in the process we have established would be applicable to the many others in similar circumstances. Perhaps these lessons will one day be seen as an important contribution from the Muslim world: A contribution to the broader cause of maintaining and enhancing a multi-cultural, pluralist world and a responsive, appropriate human habitat.

Read more »

Preface to ‘Cairo, Revitalising a Historic Metropolis’ by Stefano Bianca and Philip Jodidio (Aiglemont)

We stand today confronted with starkly different visions of the future of historic cities. At a time when our heritage, the anchor of our identity and source of inspiration, is being threatened with destruction, by war and environmental degradation, by the inexorable demographic and economic pressures of exploding urban growth, or by simple neglect, there can be no doubt that it is time to act. Will we allow the wealth that is the past to be swept away, or will we assume our responsibility to defend what remains of the irreplaceable fabric of history? My answer is clear. One of our most urgent priorities must be to value, and protect, what is greatest in our common heritage. Breathing new life into the legacy of the past demands tolerance, and understanding and creativity beyond the ordinary.

Read more »

2003 Aga Khan University Convocation Ceremony (Karachi, Pakistan)

[AKU] must continue to expand its programmes of research. The true sign of maturity and excellence in a university is its ability to contribute to the knowledge of mankind, in its own society and beyond. It is equally essential that its faculty be challenged, as a matter of university policy, to expand the boundaries of human knowledge. Any vestige of dependence is cast off, any suspicion of a young scientist or scholar that he or she may sacrifice intellectual excitement by leaving the West is allayed, when a university becomes known for generating new ideas, making new discoveries and influencing events….

Much AKU research, however, will focus on pressing issues of public policy. This naturally follows the precepts of Islam, that the scientific application of reason, the building of society and the refining of human aspirations and ethics should always reinforce one another…. So important is this growing research capacity and informed discourse with policy makers, that the university must strengthen its public policy commitment…. AKU will pledge its energies and imagination to advancing effective public policy.

Read more »

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.

Read more »

Address to the International Colloquium ‘Word of God, Art of Man: The Qur’an and its Creative Expressions’ organised by The Institute of Ismaili Studies (London, United Kingdom)

This programme is also an opportunity for achieving insights into how the discourse of the Qur’an-e-Sharif, rich in parable and allegory, metaphor and symbol, has been an inexhaustible well-spring of inspiration, lending itself to a wide spectrum of interpretations. This freedom of interpretation is a generosity which the Qur’an confers upon all believers, uniting them in the conviction that All-Merciful Allah will forgive them if they err in their sincere attempts to understand His word. Happily, as a result, the Holy Book continues to guide and illuminate the thought and conduct of Muslims belonging to different communities of interpretation and spiritual affiliation, from century to century, in diverse cultural environments….

It is my sincere hope that this colloquium will bring additional insights to an understanding of the Holy Qur’an as a message that encompasses the entirety of human existence and effort. It is concerned with the salvation of the soul, but commensurately also with the ethical imperatives which sustain an equitable social order. The Qur’an’s is an inclusive vision of society that gives primacy to nobility of conduct. It speaks of differences of language and colour as a Divine sign of mercy and a portent for people of knowledge to reflect upon.

Read more »

Public Address (Djenne, Mali) ·· incomplete

Today, we face a delicate situation in which all Muslims of peace need to unite to present to the world a face of an Islam of peace, unity, intelligence and conviction…. As a Muslim, I see the great mosques of the Ummah as symbols of the past but also as hopes for the future. We should not forget the great periods of Muslim history have always been marked by intelligence, by competence and by knowledge — of science, of astronomy — and of everything that was important, at the time, for the quality of life of men and women of the Ummah. We should draw great learning from the past and project it towards the future.

Read more »

Launch of ArchNet.org at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, USA)

Historically, the Islamic world has stood out in the area of design, but if you look at higher education in the Islamic world [there are problems]. This is a historically powerful tool usable on a global scale, a living encyclopedia of knowledge and ideas, of peoples and cultures. (AP, 27 Sep 2002)

As trustees of God’s creation, we are instructed to seek to leave the world a better place than it was when we came into it. If ArchNet can help bring values into environments, buildings, and contexts that make the quality of life better for future generations than it is today, it will have served its purpose.

Read more »

Please answer our new poll, in the margin, and let us know why transcripts of the Imam's remarks are important to you. Thank you.