Our beloved 48th Imam, Hazrat Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah (a.s.), His Highness the Aga Khan, was born in Karachi on November 2, 1877. He assumed the Imamat at the age of 7 in August 1885, and became the longest-serving Imam in Ismaili history. He passed away on July 11, 1957, at the age of 79, bequeathing the hereditary throne of Imamat to his grandson, Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini Aga Khan, the current 49th Imam who has been on the throne for 57 years. In his tribute to his grandfather, Mawlana Hazar Imam said, “Through 72 years of Imamat, he guided his spiritual children to happiness and prosperity.”…..Photo Collection
IMAM SULTAN MAHOMED SHAH, HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN (1877 – 1957)
Our beloved 48th Imam, Hazrat Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah (a.s.) was born in Karachi on November 2, 1877. He assumed the Imamat at the age of 7 in August 1885, and became the longest serving Imam in Ismaili history. He passed away on July 11, 1957, at the age of 79, bequeathing the hereditary throne of Imamat to his grandson, Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini Aga Khan, the current 49th Imam who has been on the throne for 57 years. In his tribute to his grandfather, Mawlana Hazar Imam said, “Through 72 years of Imamat, he guided his spiritual children to happiness and prosperity.”…..Read More
IMAM HUSSEIN (626 – 680 CE)
Our beloved second Imam, Hazrat Hussein (a.s.) was born on January 8, 626 AC. He began his reign as the 2nd Ismaili Imam* on the death of his father, Hazrat Ali, on January 27, 661. Imam Hussein was martyred in the Battle of Karbala on the 10th day of the Muslim month of Muharram, or October 10, 680, at the age of 54. He was succeeded to the hereditary throne of Imamat by Imam Zainul Abideen. The Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle, and thus shorter than the 365 day solar calendar. This year (2014), the 10th day of the Muharram falls on or around November 3/4……Read more
*Note: Although Shia Nizari Ismailis consider Imam Hussein (a.s.) as the second Imam, he is generally regarded as the 3rd Imam by other Shia Muslims, who treat his brother Hazrat Hassan (a.s.) as the second Imam.
Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, is pictured above at his enthronement as 48th Imam of the Shia Ismaili Ismaili Muslims in Bombay at the age of seven. His reign lasted for 72 years. In his will, he proclaimed Prince Karim Aga Khan as the 49th Imam with the following words:
“Ever since the time of my first ancestor Ali, the first Imam, that is to say over a period of thirteen hundred years it has always been the tradition of our family that each Imam chooses his successor at his absolute and unfettered discretion from amongst any of his descendants whether they be sons or remoter male issue.
“In view of the fundamentally altered conditions in the world in very recent years due to the great changes which have taken place including the discoveries of atomic science I am convinced that it is in the best interests of the Shia Moslem Ismailian Community that I should be succeeded by a young man who has been brought up and developed during recent years and in the midst of the new age and who brings a new outlook on life to his office as Imam.
“I appoint my grandson Karim, the son of my son Aly Salomone Khan to succeed to the title of Aga Khan and to be the Imam and Pir of all my Shia Ismailian followers.”
Through the special designation (or the Nass) of the late Imam, Shah Karim al-Hussaini became the 49th hereditary Imam of the Nizari Ismailis at the age of twenty.
Shortly after, the newly enthroned Imam met Ismaili leaders and representatives from around the world, and also made the following statement:
“My grandfather dedicated his life to the Imamat and Islam, both of which came first, and above all other considerations. While I was prepared that one day I might be designated the Aga Khan I did not expect it so soon. I follow a great man in a great responsibility and he could have given me no more appreciated honour than to bequeath me this spiritual leadership. My life, as his, will be dedicated to the service of my followers.”
Date posted: July 10, 2014, 23:26 EDT.
Post compiled by Malik Merchant,
Publisher-Editor, Simergphotos.com and Simerg,com
Introduction: Victoria Day is a Federal Canadian public holiday celebrated on the last Monday before May 25, in honour of Queen Victoria’s birthday. Queen Victoria was born on May 24, 1819. Following the death of three uncles and her father, she became Queen of the United Kingdom on June 20, 1837 and reigned for 63 years until her death on January 22, 1901. Queen Victoria is still the longest-reigning monarch of the United Kingdom.
Queen Victoria officially chose Ottawa as Canada’s capital in 1857. Nearly forty years later, a monument to Queen Victoria, intended as part of a lavish celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the sixtieth year of her reign, was proposed for the Hill. The competition for this monument was only open to Canadian sculptors. Louis-Philippe Hébert, a sculptor from Quebec, won the contract. Before being placed on Parliament Hill, the statue was first displayed at the Universal Exposition in Paris in 1900.
Queen Victoria and family. Copyrighted by Boussod Valadon & Co. Painting by John Philip. Date created/published c.1897. Credit: USA Library of Congress Collection
HMS Resolute was a mid-19th-century barque-rigged ship of the British Royal Navy, specially outfitted for Arctic exploration. Resolute became trapped in the ice and was abandoned. Recovered by an American whaler, she was returned to Queen Victoria in 1856. This is an illustration of the visit of Her Majesty Queen Victoria to the Resolute on December 16th, 1856, to whom this engraving is by special permission respectfully dedicated by her obedient servants, P. & D. Colnaghi & Co. Credit: USA Library of Congress
A telegraphic message of Queen Victoria and a reply by US President James Buchanan by trans-Atlantic telegraph cable on 16 August 1858. The Queen’s message congratulates the President for the completion of an electrical cable between the two nations, and wishes prosperity for the United States. In response, President Buchanan says that the accomplishment “is a triumph more glorious, because far more useful for mankind, than was ever won by a conqueror on the battlefield.” He continues, “May the Atlantic Telegraph under the Blessings of Heaven prove to be a bond of perpetual peace and friendship between the kindred nations, and an instrument destined by Divine Providence to diffuse religion, civilization, liberty and law throughout the world.” Date work created/published: 1858. Medium: 1 print : wood engraving. With vignette busts of the principals and scenes of the event; also inscribed are the names of 4 men who made the even possible: [Benj.] “Franklin”, [S.F.B.] “Morse”, [Cyrus] “Field”, and [Hans Christian] “Oersted”. Credit: USA Library of Congress Collection
– I –
“Over a century ago, my grandfather, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan, worked closely with Her Majesty Queen Victoria and her governments in the pursuit of common ideals. These ties were further strengthened by the strong presence of the Ismaili community – initially in places which later became Commonwealth countries, and later, here in the United Kingdom.
“It is striking to me that in 1957, there were only about 100 Ismaili residents in this country, and most of them were students. Today, there are fourteen thousand Ismailis permanently living here and of all ages and walks of life.
“In 1957, there was only one Ismaili space here for congregational prayer – and that was on leased premises! Creating places of prayer as centres for community life was fundamental to ensuring the cohesion of the community, and there are now over 40 such places. Among them, of course, a central focal point is The Ismaili Centre, located in South Kensington.
All of these comments, then, speak to the context in which we gather tonight – a rich history of partnership reaching deeply into the past – and extending, we hope and trust, into an even more productive future….” — Excerpts from a speech by His Highness the Aga Khan at the Golden Jubilee Banquet in London, UK, July 3, 2008.
– II –
“The first deep impression of my life was undoubtedly when I had dinner with Queen Victoria. I was in my 20th year and that was my first visit to London. The queen was fond of Indian potentates and she kindly invited out to Windsor to dine and spend the night. She placed me next to her at the table. The queen was most gracious. She arranged that the food was served by Indians, and she spoke to me about the problems of India, the plague and all that. She was especially interested in the plague. I was young and I was particularly interested by her human element. She was then 79, you know, and the dinner was very long, with three sweet courses at the end, but she ate everything. She was dressed in black, with a white-collar. She wore a huge bracelet having a medallion of her husband, Prince Albert, on it, and one large diamond ring and several smaller diamonds. She did not wear glasses but she saw clearly and she had beautiful hearing — she could hear a whisper. She was a remarkable woman — yes, undoubtedly, I must be one of the few left alive who have dined with her” — His Highness the Aga Khan, quoted in Life Magazine, May 16, 1949.
– III –
“My life in many ways has been a bridge across vastly differing epochs. Looking at it for the moment simply from the Western point of view — I had a full life in the Victorian era, and I am leading now an equally full life in this new Elizabethan era. When I was a young man I sat next to Queen Victoria at a dinner party and talked to her throughout it; the other day I sat next to Queen Elizabeth II at a tea party and talked to her throughout it.
“In my youth the internal combustion engine was in its early, experimental phase, and the first motor cars were objects of ridicule; now we all take supersonic jet propulsion for granted, and interplanetary travel is far more seriously discussed today than was even the smallest flying venture at a time when I was quite grown up and had already lived a full and active life. I had the great honor of knowing Lord Kelvin, in his time the greatest physicist in the world; he assured me solemnly and deliberately that flying was a physical impossibility for human beings and quite unattainable. Even H. G. Wells in his early book, Anticipations, put off the conquest of the air and the discovery of atomic power for two or three centuries. Yet these and much more have come to pass in a brief half century” — His Highness the Aga Khan III, writing in Memoirs of Aga Khan, 1954.
His Highness the Aga Khan received the title “His Highness” from Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II on July 26th 1957. Here he is pictured with Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness Prince Philip when the Queen hosted a dinner hosted to mark the Ismaili Imam’s Golden Jubilee and to acknowledge the close relationship he and his family have had over generations with the British Monarchy and the UK. Photo Credit: Akdn.org
– IV –
“Queen Victoria herself was of course sharply conscious of the responsibilities, not only political but personal and social, which she had assumed with the splendid title of Empress of India. She insisted that Indian Princes and Indian gentlefolk should receive the respect and the dignified status accorded in those days to European princes and gentlefolk. The Duke of Connaught faithfully practiced her principles during his time in India. The Viceroy and Vicereine, Lord and Lady Dufferin, were, like Lord and Lady Reay, people of kind and gentle sensibility, warm hearts and graceful manners. A tone thus set could not be ignored, and Indo-British relationships in general were in this pattern.
“There is an outstanding example that I recall: Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, a notable figure in the Parsee community in Bombay, gave a reception for the Viceroy and Vicereine, Lord and Lady Dufferin, for the Governor of Bombay and his wife, Lord and Lady Reay, and for the Duke and Duchess of Connaught. Sir Jeejeebhoy, as host, offered his arm to Lady Dufferin and went into the supper room, and the Viceroy followed with his hostess, Lady Jeejeebhoy, and everyone else went after in turn. A few years later – and thereafter, until the end of the Indian Empire — it would have been inconceivable that the Viceroy, a Prince of the British Royal House and the Governor of the great province of British India, would have gone to a reception at the house of a Parsee gentleman, however distinguished, and allowed him to lead the Vicereine in first and then have followed with his hostess.” — His Highness the Aga Khan III, writing in Memoirs of Aga Khan, 1954
All photos: Princess Louise, Duchess of Connaught and Strathearn
“In 1896, a year before her Diamond Jubilee, an inventory of Queen Victoria’s jewels was made by Garrard, the crown jeweler. There weren’t many tiaras on the list — only five. But one of the five on the list was this one: the tiara given to her by the Aga Khan.
“The inventory describes the tiara as, ‘A pearl and diamond tiara with 12 Bouton and 12 pear-shaped pearls with a diamond chain to form a necklace, presented by Aga Khan’.
“To my knowledge, there are no images, painted or photographed, of Victoria in this tiara. However, we do know that Victoria bequeathed the tiara to one of her daughters-in-law: Princess Louise of Prussia, the wife of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn — Elia Kay writing in her blog Tiara a Day, please click The Victorian Aga Khan Tiara.
Date posted: Saturday, May 17, 2014, for Victoria Day Holiday Weekend, Canada. The post is repeated with minor updates from an earlier version which appeared at the photoblog, http://www.simergphotos.com.
Also, publishing on Sunday, April 20, 2014: Concepts of Modern Cosmology
and Astrophysics in the Ginans
Compiled and prepared by Abdulmalik J. Merchant Publisher-Editor, Simerg.com
As Canada pays its respect to the volunteers by marking the week of April 6, 2014, as Volunteer Week, we bring you some very rare historical quotations on service and voluntary work which appeared in a special Ismaili Volunteers, Scouts and Guides Souvenir published in 1954 to jointly commemorate the 48th Ismaili Imam’s Platinum Jubilee and the 35th anniversary of His Highness the Aga Khan’s Bombay Volunteer Corps.
“Today I will give you a small motto and that is “Work No Words”. Labour for the welfare of others is the best way of improving ourselves, because results are sure and certain. If you work for yourselves, you are never happy. This is not a new idea, but this is an outcome of the experience of thousands of years of history.” — 48th Ismaili Imam, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan (1877-1957)
My dear Hazar Imam’s Spiritual Child,
I enclose the photo which you ask for the Souvenir Number of the Ismaili Volunteers, Scouts and Guides.
My message to the Volunteers, Scouts and Guides is:
“I ask you all to remember the great opportunities you have for discipline and service in your organization. Discipline is very important in life, and by making good use of the training you now have, you are laying the foundations for useful and happy lives. I send my loving thoughts and best wishes to you all.”
Yours affectionately, Om Habibeh, Mata Salamat The Begum Aga Khan (1906-2000)
“Your patriotism and loyalty must be sincere, active, and productive. Please follow this advice, be industrious and hardworking. The work done for the good of the community is always noble and verily we are taught that all good deeds shall be compensated four-fold.” — His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan (the present 49th Ismaili Imam)
“Itmadi Sabzali has revealed his spiritual power to thousands of people. He was the standard-bearer of the devotees. He passed away leaving a permanent void in this world but his soul has attained salvation.
“Itmadi Sabzali has rendered such service to us that after his death we have given him the status of Pir. If others also render like service, they too shall attain such a status. During the period of 54 years of my Imamat, to only one person have I given this status.” — Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan
“Every Ismaili, man and woman, and child should grow up with the feeling and certain knowledge that they are a member of one great family, powerful and respected throughout the world, beyond the hills and across the seas…If each person is aware of this fact, it will give them extra courage and self-assurance.” — Prince Aly S. Khan (1911-1960)
“I would suggest that the richer and more fortunate a man is, the more he should be thinking of others and not himself. It is the duty of rich Ismailis to think of their poor brethren and give them a much-needed lift in life.” — Prince Aly S. Khan
“I have great pleasure in enclosing my photograph and congratulate Pirmahomed V. Madhani and the various members of the Volunteer Corps for the excellent services they have rendered to their Imam and their brother Ismailis.” — Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan (1933-2003)
“The future of Ismailism depends on those of your age and mine. Are we to follow the example of those who in Egypt, in Iran and in Sind, on different occasions by their faith and devotion, raised the banner of the Hazar Imam till the whole world saw its light? I say, Yes. For we young men must not fail where our fathers succeeded so gloriously.” — Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan
“Ismailis under Imams did great things in past. With same devotion, unity, obedience and discipline – and no jealousy – similar occasions will arise for greater deeds.” — Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan
“Everyone must follow the ideal of performing the greatest amount of work and service to the Ismaili faith. I, therefore, expect every Ismaili to consider the work allotted to him his sacred duty to perform to the best of his abilities, and to do utmost. He who serves me most becomes nearer to me.” — Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan
“Young people ought to be explained that besides lucrative jobs, there should be aim of service to the community.” — Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan
A man’s chief capital is time and that if he wastes time, he wastes his greatest asset which can never be recouped.” — Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan
THE FOLLOWING IS THE 1954 VOLUNTEER PLEDGE OF LOYALTY TAKEN BEFORE A CANDIDATE WAS ADMITTED AS AN ISMAILI VOLUNTEER
“Believing in the Omnipresence of God, I hereby solemnly give this pledge To ever remain faithful And leave no stone unturned to serve Mawlana Hazar Imam, our community, our country, and our volunteer corps.”
Date posted: Friday, April 11, 2014.
Note: With the exception of the image of the cover page, the last photo shown, none of the portrait thumbnail photos shown in the piece belong to the souvenir.
All quotations taken from “Ismaili Volunteers , Scouts and Guides Souvenir in Commemoration of His Royal Highness Prince Aga Khan’s Platinum Jubilee and Completion of 35 Years of His Highness the Aga Khan’s Bombay Volunteers Corps” published by Lt. Col. Pirmohamed Madhani, 1954. The rare copy of the souvenir was submitted to Simerg by Mr. Noordin Babul and family, originally of Lourenço Marques (now Maputo), Mozambique, and now residing in Texas.
“As we all know, Canada is home to a well-established and
fast-growing Ismaili community. His Highness has therefore
become an increasingly frequent visitor, and always a welcome one.”
— Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Material compiled and presented by Abdulmalik Merchant
The following are thematic excerpts from His Highness the Aga Khan’s address to the Parliament of Canada on Thursday, February 27, 2014. A collection of selected links to the full speech text, the speech video as well as information related to the events that took place at the Parliament is provided at the end of this piece. Note – several photos are clickable for enlargement. See also new post His Highness the Aga Khan at the Parliament of Canada: Selected Excerpts from the Live English Translation of Remarks Made in French
1. THE ISMAILI IMAMAT REPRESENTS THE SUCCESSION OF IMAMS SINCE THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD
I propose today to give you some background about myself and my role, and then to reflect about what we call the Ummah — the entirety of Muslim communities around the world.
I will comment, as a faith leader, on the crisis of governance in so much of the world today, before concluding with some thoughts about the values that can assist countries of crisis to develop into countries of opportunity, and how Canada can help shape that process.
First then, a few personal words. I was born into a Muslim family, linked by heredity to the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him and his family). My education blended Islamic and Western traditions, and I was studying at Harvard some 50 years ago (yes 50 years ago — actually 56 years ago!) when I became the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims.
The Ismaili Imamat is a supra-national entity, representing the succession of Imams since the time of the Prophet. But let me clarify something more about the history of that role, in both the Sunni and Shia interpretations of the Muslim faith. The Sunni position is that the Prophet nominated no successor, and that spiritual-moral authority belongs to those who are learned in matters of religious law. As a result, there are many Sunni imams in a given time and place. But others believed that the Prophet had designated his cousin and son-in-law, Ali, as his successor. From that early division, a host of further distinctions grew up — but the question of rightful leadership remains central. In time, the Shia were also sub-divided over this question, so that today the Ismailis are the only Shia community who, throughout history, have been led by a living, hereditary Imam in direct descent from the Prophet.
The role of the Ismaili Imam is a spiritual one; his authority is that of religious interpretation. It is not a political role. I do not govern any land. At the same time, Islam believes fundamentally that the spiritual and material worlds are inextricably connected. Faith does not remove Muslims — or their Imams — from daily, practical matters in family life, in business, in community affairs.
Faith, rather, is a force that should deepen our concern for our worldly habitat, for embracing its challenges, and for improving the quality of human life.
This Muslim belief in the fusion of Faith and World is why much of my attention has been committed to the work of the Aga Khan Development Network.
2. COMMUNITY IN 1957 AND NOW, WORLD CONFLICTS AND THE RESILIENCE OF THE ISMAILI PEOPLE
In 1957, when I succeeded my grandfather as Imam, the Ismaili community lived for the most part in the colonies or ex-colonies of France, Belgium and the British Empire, or behind the Iron Curtain. They are still a highly diverse community, in terms of ethnicity, language, culture, and geography. They continue to live mostly in the developing world, though increasing numbers now live in Europe and North America.
Before 1957, individual Ismaili communities had their own social and economic institutions where that was allowed. There was no intent for them to grow to national prominence, and even less a vision to coordinate their activities across frontiers.
Today, however, that situation has changed, and the Aga Khan Development Network has a strong presence in several dozen countries, where appropriate regional coordination is also useful.
The AKDN — as we call it — is composed of a variety of private, non-governmental, non-denominational agencies implementing many of the Imamat’s responsibilities….Most of our AKDN activities have been born from the grass-roots of developing countries, reflecting their aspirations and their fragilities. Through the years, of course, this landscape has changed fundamentally, with the creation of new states like Bangladesh, the horrors of ethnic cleansing in Uganda, the collapse of the Soviet empire and the emergence of new countries with large Ismaili populations such as Tajikistan.
More recently, of course, we have faced the conflicts in Afghanistan and Syria. But through all of these experiences, the Ismaili peoples have demonstrated an impressive capacity to persevere and to progress.
3. COMMON DENOMINATORS OF THE HUMAN RACE,
CANADA’S LEADERSHIP AND COLLABORATIVE WORK
Our work has always been people-driven. It grows out of the age-old Islamic ethic, committed to goals with universal relevance: the elimination of poverty, access to education, and social peace in a pluralist environment. The AKDN’s fundamental objective is to improve the quality of human life.
Amongst the great common denominators of the human race is a shared aspiration, a common hope, for a better quality of life. I was struck a few years ago to read about a UNDP survey of 18 South American states where the majority of the people were less interested in their forms of government, than in the quality of their lives. Even autocratic governments that improved their quality of life would be more acceptable for most of those polled than ineffective democratic governments.
I cite that study, of course, with due respect to governmental institutions that have had a more successful history — including certain very distinguished parliaments!
But the sad fact behind so much instability in our world today is that governments are seen to be inadequate to these challenges. A much happier fact is that, in the global effort to change this picture, Canada is an exemplary leader.
One of our earliest collaborations was to establish the first private nursing school in Pakistan, in cooperation with McMaster and the CIDA of that time. It was the first component of the Aga Khan University — the first private university in that country. The nursing school’s impact has been enormous; many of those who now head other nursing programmes and hospitals in the whole of the region — not just Pakistan — are graduates of our school. Canada was also one of the first donors to the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme in Northern Pakistan, tripling incomes in this remote, marginalised area….
I could speak about our close ties with Canadian universities also, such as McMaster, McGill, the University of Toronto, and the University of Alberta, enhancing our own institutions of tertiary education — the Aga Khan University and the University of Central Asia.
The latter institution has resulted from the Imamat’s unique, tripartite treaty with the governments of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. It serves some 22 million people who live in Central Asia, in hillside and high mountain environments, areas of acute seismic and economic vulnerability.
I could list many more examples in cultural development and in scientific research. And we are especially proud of the Global Centre for Pluralism here in Ottawa, a joint project of the Imamat and the Canadian government.
4. CANADA’S 150TH ANNIVERSARY AND THE IMAMAT PARTNERSHIP WITH CANADA
In just three years, Canada will mark its 150th anniversary, and the whole world will be ready to celebrate with you. Sharing Canada’s robust pluralistic history, is a core mission of our Global Centre, and 2017 will be a major opportunity for doing so, operating from its headquarters in the former War Museum on Sussex Drive. Perhaps 2017 and the celebrations can be a catalyst with our neighbours to improve the entire riverfront area around that building.
Our partnership in Canada has been immensely strengthened, of course, by the presence for more than four decades of a significant Ismaili community. Like most historic global communities the Ismaili peoples have a variegated history, but surely our experience in Canada has been a particularly positive chapter.
I happily recall the establishment of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat here in 2008 and the Prime Minister’s description that day of our collaborative efforts to make Canada “the headquarters of the global effort to foster peace, prosperity, and equality through pluralism.”
We are deeply pleased that we can sign today a new Protocol with your Government — further strengthening our ongoing platform for cooperation.
As we look to the next 25 years of the AKDN, we believe that our permanent presence in the developing world will make us a dependable partner, especially in meeting the difficult challenges of predictability.
5. THE ISLAMIC UMMAH AND INCLUSIVENESS OF OTHER FAITHS DURING THE ABBASID AND FATIMID ERAS
Against this background, let me move on to the broad international sphere, including the role of relations between the countries and cultures of Islam — what we call the Ummah — and non-Islamic societies. It is central to the shape of global affairs in our time.
I would begin by emphasising a central point about the Ummah often unseen elsewhere: the fundamental fact of its immense diversity. Muslim demography has expanded dramatically in recent years, and Muslims today have highly differing views on many questions.
Essential among them is that they do not share some common, overarching impression of the West. It has become commonplace for some to talk about an inevitable clash of the industrial West and Islamic civilizations. But Muslims don’t see things in this way. Those whose words and deeds feed into that point of view are a small and extreme minority. For most of us, it is simply not true. We find singularly little in our theological interpretations that would clash with the other Abrahamic faiths — with Christianity and Judaism. Indeed, there is much that is in profound harmony.
The complexity of the Ummah has a long history. Some of the most glorious chapters in Islamic history were purposefully built on the principle of inclusiveness — it was a matter of state policy to pursue excellence through pluralism. This was true from the time of the Abbasids in Baghdad and the Fatimids in Cairo over 1,000 years ago. It was true in Afghanistan and Timbuktu in Mali, and later with the Safavids in Iran, the Mughals in India, the Uzbeks in Bukhara, and Ottomans in Turkey. From the 8th to the 16th century, al-Andalus thrived on the Iberian Peninsula — under Muslim aegis — but also deeply welcoming to Christian and Jewish peoples.
Today, these Islamic traditions have been obscured in many places, from Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
6. AGA KHAN TRUST FOR CULTURE
AND THE AGA KHAN MUSEUM
The work of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture….is to revive the memory of this inclusive inheritance. Another immediate initiative is the Aga Khan Museum which will open this year in Toronto, an important testimonial in a Canadian setting to the immense diversity of Islamic cultures.
7. SUNNI AND SHIA TENSIONS AND IMPORTANCE FOR NON-MUSLIMS TO COMMUNICATE WITH BOTH PARTIES
Perhaps the most important area of incomprehension, outside the Ummah, is the conflict between Sunni and Shia interpretations of Islam and the consequences for the Sunni and Shia peoples.
This powerful tension is sometimes even more profound than conflicts between Muslims and other faiths. It has increased massively in scope and intensity recently, and has been further exacerbated by external interventions. In Pakistan and Malaysia, in Iraq and Syria, in Lebanon and Bahrain, in Yemen and Somalia and Afghanistan it is becoming a disaster. It is important, therefore, for non-Muslims who are dealing with the Ummah to communicate with both Sunni and Shia voices. To be oblivious to this reality would be like ignoring over many centuries that there were differences between Catholics and Protestants, or trying to resolve the civil war in Northern Ireland without engaging both Christian communities. What would have been the consequences if the Protestant-Catholic struggle in Ireland had spread throughout the Christian world, as is happening today between Shia and Sunni Muslims in more than nine countries? It is of the highest priority that these dangerous trends be well understood and resisted, and that the fundamental legitimacy of pluralistic outlooks be honoured in all aspects of our lives together — including matters of faith.
8. THE WORLD HAS TO PAY MORE ATTENTION TO CIVIL SOCIETY
By Civil Society I mean an array of institutions which operate on a private, voluntary basis, but are motivated by high public purposes. They include institutions devoted to education, culture, science and research; to commercial, labor, ethnic and religious concerns; as well as professional societies in law, accounting, banking, engineering and medicine. Civil Society encompasses groups that work on health and safety and environmental matters, organisations that are engaged in humanitarian service, or in the arts or the media.
We see it expanding in many places, from Sub-Saharan Africa to Tunisia and Egypt, from Iran to Bangladesh. At a time of extreme danger in Kenya a few years ago — the beginnings of a civil war — the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, led the way to a peaceful solution which rested heavily on the strength of Kenya’s Civil Society.
Increasingly, I believe, the voices of Civil Society are voices for change, where change has been overdue. They have been voices of hope for people living in fear.
They are voices that can help transform countries of crisis into countries of opportunity. There are too many societies where too many people live in a culture of fear, condemned to a life of poverty. Addressing that fear, and replacing it with hope, will be a major step to the elimination of poverty. And often the call for hope to replace fear will come from the voices of Civil Society.
9. UNDERPINNINGS OF A QUALITY CIVIL SOCIETY
I believe that Canada is uniquely able to articulate and exemplify three critical underpinnings of a quality Civil Society — a commitment to pluralism, to meritocracy, and to a cosmopolitan ethic.
A cosmopolitan ethic is one that welcomes the complexity of human society. It balances rights and duties, freedom and responsibility. It is an ethic for all peoples, the familiar and the Other, whether they live across the street or across the planet.
Quality education is fundamental to the development of a meritocratic Civil Society, and thus to the development of pluralistic attitudes.
The history of Canada has a great deal to teach us in this regard, including the long, incremental processes through which quality civil societies and committed cultures of pluralism are built. One of the watchwords of our new Global Centre for Pluralism is that “Pluralism is a Process and not a Product.” I know that many Canadians would describe their own pluralism as a “work in progress,” but it is also an asset of enormous global quality.
What more will a quality Civil Society now require of us? Sadly, the world is becoming more pluralist in fact, but not necessarily in spirit. “Cosmopolitan” social patterns have not yet been matched by “a cosmopolitan ethic.” In fact, one harsh reality is that religious hostility and intolerance seems to be on the rise in many places — from the Central African Republic, to South Sudan, to Nigeria, to Myanmar, the Philippines and other countries — both between major religious groups and within them.
Again, Canada has responded in notable ways, including the establishment — just one year ago — of the Office of Religious Freedom. Its challenges, like those facing the Centre for Global Pluralism, are enormous and its contributions will be warmly welcomed. And surely it will also serve as a worthy model for other countries.
In sum, I believe that Civil Society is one of the most powerful forces in our time, one that will become an increasingly universal influence, engulfing more countries, influencing, reshaping and sometimes even replacing ineffective regimes. And I also believe that Civil Society around the world should be vigorously encouraged and wisely nurtured by those who have made it work most successfully — Canada first amongst all.
10. THANK YOU PRIME MINISTER
The Aga Khan Development Network has worked over five decades to assist in the enhancement of Civil Society. And as we look to its future, we are honoured that Canada views us as a valued partner. Thank you Prime Minister. One key to Canada’s success in building a meritocratic Civil Society is your recognition that democratic societies require more than democratic governments.
11. “ENLIGHTENED FULFILLEMENT”
THROUGH VOLUNTARY SERVICES
I have been impressed by recent studies showing the activity of voluntary institutions and not-for-profit organisations in Canada to be among the highest in the world. This Canadian spirit resonates with a cherished principle in Shia Ismaili culture — the importance of contributing one’s individual energies on a voluntary basis to improving the lives of others.
This is not a matter of philanthropy, but rather of self-fulfillment — “enlightened self-fulfillment.”
During my Golden Jubilee — and this is important — six years ago Ismailis from around the world volunteered their gifts, not only of wealth, but most notably of time and knowledge, in support of our work. We established a Time and Knowledge framework, a structured process for engaging an immense pool of expertise involving tens of thousands of volunteers. Many of them traveled to developing countries as part of this outpouring of service — one third of those were Canadians. Their impact has been enormous in helping us to achieve best practice standards in our institutions and programmes, making us we hope an even better partner for Canada!
The Aga Khan University in Karachi and East Africa are expanding to create a new Liberal Arts faculty, and to establish eight new post-graduate schools in collaboration with several Canadian universities.
12. SALUTING FRASER MUSTARD FOR HIS WORK
ON EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT
We also share with Canada a deep appreciation for the potential of early childhood education. It is the period of the greatest development of the brain. This education is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve the quality of life for rural as well as urban populations. Congratulations, Prime Minister, for your initiative on this.
In this regard, let me take a moment to salute the late Dr Fraser Mustard, whose work in Early Childhood Development will impact millions of people around the world. The AKDN has been fortunate to have been inspired and counselled by this great Canadian scientist and humanist.
13. THE OPPORTUNITY TO ADDRESS TO THE PARLIAMENT
I am most grateful to the Prime Minister and to you who have given me this opportunity to share — from a faith perspective — some of the issues that preoccupy me when looking ahead. I hope I have explained why I am convinced about the global validity of our partnership for human development.
14. A BEAUTIFUL EXPRESSION FROM THE HOLY QUR’AN
Let me end with a personal thought. As you build your lives, for yourselves and others, you will come to rest upon certain principles. Central to my life has been a verse in the Holy Quran which addresses itself to the whole of humanity. It says:
‘Oh Mankind, fear your Lord, who created you of a single soul, and from it created its mate, and from the pair of them scattered abroad many men and women.’
I know of no more beautiful expression about the unity of our human race — born indeed from a single soul.
Date posted: Saturday, March 1, 2014. Copyright.
Date last update: Sunday, March 2, 2014, 09:30 EST (new related links, below)
For non-comparable referral links to all things Ismaili as well as material about His Highness the Aga Khan’s recent official visit to Canada, please visit ismailimail. For past and recent speeches of Ismaili Imams please visit www.nanowisdoms.org.
Also click on the following links for some extraordinary official coverage of the visit including photographs, videos and speeches:
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Compiled and presented by Abdulmalik J. Merchant
His Highness the Aga Khan is the direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) and also the current 49th Imam of a religious office, the Imamat, that he has inherited and which has its origins in the earliest history of Islam. He will be addressing both the Houses of the Canadian Parliament on Thursday, February 27, 2014 at the invitation of the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. As a precursor to this week’s historical event, the aim of this piece is to introduce readers to the Imamat and to highlight its vision and precious work under the leadership of His Highness. This is done with the assistance of short excerpts from articles as well as speeches and interviews given by the Ismaili Imam.
(Please also see His Highness the Aga Khan to Become 5th Muslim Since 1939 to Address Joint Session of Canadian Parliament on February 27, 2014: The ABC’s of the Event Including Past Distinguished Speakers)
By Azim Nanji
The last in the line of the Abrahamic family of revealed traditions, Islam emerged in the early decades of the seventh century. Its message, addressed in perpetuity, calls upon people to seek in their daily life, in the very diversity of humankind, signs that point to the Creator and Sustainer of all creation. Revealed to Prophet Muhammad in Arabia, Islam’s influence spread rapidly, bringing into its fold, within just over a century of its birth, the inhabitants of the lands stretching from the central regions of Asia to the Iberian Peninsula in Europe.
During his lifetime, Prophet Muhammad was both the recipient and the expounder of Divine revelation. His death marked the conclusion of the line of prophecy, and the beginning of the critical debate on the question of the rightful leadership to continue his mission for the future generations. In essence, the position of the group that eventually coalesced into the majority, the Sunni branch, which comprises several different juridical schools, was that the Prophet had not nominated a successor, as the revelation contained in the Qur’an was sufficient guidance for the community.
The Party of Ali
The Shi‘at ‘Ali or the ‘party’ of ‘Ali, already in existence during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad, maintained that while the revelation ceased at his death, the need for spiritual and moral guidance of the community, through an ongoing interpretation of the Islamic message, continued. For them, the legacy of Prophet Muhammad could only be entrusted to a member of his own family, in whom the Prophet had invested his authority through designation. That person was ‘Ali, the Prophet’s cousin, and the husband of his daughter and only surviving child, Fatima. ‘Ali was also the Prophet’s first supporter who devoutly championed the cause of Islam.
In common with all major Shi‘a groups, the Ismailis believe that the Imamate is a divinely sanctioned and guided institution, through whose agency Muslims are enabled to contextualize the practice of their faith and to understand fully the exoteric and esoteric dimensions of the Qur’an. The Imamate exists to complement prophethood and to ensure that the divine purpose is fulfilled on earth at all times and in all places. — Background Excerpts, Azim Nanji 
THE ISMAILI DOCTRINE OF IMAMAT
“In accordance with Shia doctrine, tradition, and interpretation of history, the Holy Prophet (s.a.s.) designated and appointed his cousin and son-in-law Hazrat Mawlana Ali Amiru-l-Mu’minin (a.s), to be the first Imam to continue the Ta’wīl and Ta‘līm of Allah’s final message and to guide the murids, and proclaimed that the Imamat should continue by heredity through Hazrat Mawlana Ali (a.s) and his daughter Hazrat Bibi Fatimat-az-Zahra, Khātun-i-Jannat (a.s).” — Ismaili Constitution 
SUCCESSION OF IMAMAT
“Succession of Imamat is by way of Nass [designation], it being the absolute prerogative of the Imam of the time to appoint his successor from amongst any of his male descendants whether they be sons or remoter issue.” — Ismaili Constitution 
THE PUBLIC INSTALLATION VS THE INSTANCE OF BECOMING THE IMAM
“Well the ceremony [of enthronement] is a public installation of the Imam. The Ismailis pay homage to the Imam and that is when you are recognised by the world at large as the Imam. I will probably wear the robes that my grandfather wore during his last jubilee and I will receive a sword which is the sword of justice of the Imamat. I will be given these robes and the sword by the leading members of the community and they will present an address at the same time.
“Officially as soon as one Imam passes away, his successor takes on from the very minute that the Imam has passed away.” — Aga Khan 
THE NATURE OF IMAMAT
“As Imam of the Ismaili sect, I am in a position to adapt the teachings of the Qur’an to the modern condition. On the question of modernity the issue is essentially whether one is affecting the fundamental moral fabric of society or whether one is affecting the fundamentals of religious practice. As long as these two aspects are safeguarded the rest can be subject to adjustment.” — Aga Khan 
“In Islam, imams whether they are Shia or Sunni, they have a duty to serve people. That is the nature of Imamat and, therefore, in countries where the Ismaili Imamat can bring support and help, it is our duty to do so and we’re very happy to do so in Central Asia, like we are doing so in the Indian sub-continent, we’re doing so in East Africa, in West Africa. So it’s part of the mandate of any Imam. But it’s a big mistake to think that you can do development only for Muslim communities. Many countries have mixed communities and therefore you have to do development for all the people within a given area whether they are Muslim or Christian or Jewish or Hindu or Sikh. You have what I would call a civil responsibility.” — Aga Khan 
THE ALLEGIANCE TO THE IMAM OF THE TIME
“The authority of the Imam in the Ismaili Tariqah is testified by Bay‘ah [allegiance] by the murid [follower] to the Imam which is the act of acceptance by the murid of the permanent spiritual bond between the Imam and the murid. This allegiance unites all Ismaili Muslims worldwide in their loyalty, devotion and obedience to the Imam within the Islamic concept of universal brotherhood. It is distinct from the allegiance of the individual murid to his land of abode.” — Ismaili Constitution 
THE GOVERNANCE OF THE IMAM OVER HIS COMMUNITY
“Historically and in accordance with Ismaili tradition, the Imam of the time is concerned with spiritual advancement as well as improvement of the quality of life of his murids. The Imam’s ta‘lim lights the murid’s path to spiritual enlightenment and vision. In temporal matters, the Imam guides the murids, and motivates them to develop their potential….By virtue of his office and in accordance with the faith and belief of the Ismaili Muslims, the Imam enjoys full authority of governance over and in respect of all religious and Jamati matters of the Ismaili Muslims.” — Ismaili Constitution 
THE LIVING IMAM –
MAWLANA HAZAR IMAM, HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN
“Mawlana Hazar Imam Shah Karim al Hussaini, His Highness Prince Aga Khan, in direct lineal descent from the Holy Prophet (s.a.s.) through Hazrat Mawlana Ali (a.s.) and Hazrat Bibi Fatima (a.s), is the Forty-Ninth Imam of the Ismaili Muslims.” — Ismaili Constitution 
“Well the Shia history has followed the same sort of historical developments all hereditary offices have followed, where there have been differences of opinion on who was the legitimate successor to the predecessor, whether it was a secular or religious office. In the case of the Shia Muslims, the Shia branch of Islam split and one branch of the Shia Muslims accepted the concept of the Imam in hiding, the invisible Imam, because the twelfth Imam disappeared as a very young child, and our branch of Shia Islam, in that particular generation of the family, accepted the legitimacy of the eldest son, Ismail, as being the appointed Imam to succeed and that is why they are known as Ismailis. And that branch of the family has continued today hereditarily and that is why there is a living Imam for the Ismaili Muslims.” — Aga Khan 
COLLABORATION WITH OTHER COMMUNITIES
“It is the desire and Hidāyat of Mawlana Hazar Imam that the constitutions presently applicable to the Ismaili Muslims in different countries be superseded and that the Ismaili Muslims worldwide be given this constitution in order better to secure their peace and unity, religious and social welfare, to foster fruitful collaboration between different peoples, to optimise the use of resources, and to enable the Ismaili Muslims to make a valid and meaningful contribution to the improvement of the quality of life of the Ummah and the societies in which they live.” — Ismaili Constitution 
“If I had to take stock of my life, my feeling would be that I have structured the Ismaili Imamat, for which I was given responsibility nearly 50 years ago, in such a way as to provide it with the institutional means to work for the good of Ismaili communities and the countries in which we are involved.” — Aga Khan 
THE ISMAILI COMMUNITY – 50 YEARS AGO AND NOW
“I was still a student at Harvard when I inherited the responsibilities of the Ismaili Imamat from my grandfather, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah. It seemed inconceivable then that there would ever be substantial communities in the West. The Ismailis were too deeply rooted in their ancestral homes, indeed frozen there by the Cold War in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. But dislocations in the wake of decolonisation, and more recently the collapse of the Soviet Union and the prolonged difficulties in Afghanistan, have caused a number of Ismailis to seek new lands and homes. These migratory movements over the last half-century have resulted in a substantial Ismaili presence in Russia, in Western Europe, the United Kingdom and Portugal, and particularly in the United States and Canada. In these settings Ismailis have found themselves rejoicing with new opportunities, but also confronted by new challenges. Bolstered by a long tradition of self-reliance, and a strong system of community organisations, Ismailis have established themselves quickly as productive members of society in their new homelands.” — Aga Khan 
MATERIAL COMFORT AND BALANCE BETWEEN MATTER AND SPIRIT
“In Islam there is nothing wrong in the search for comfort, but the accumulation of wealth for the specific purpose of accumulating wealth or personal power is something which Islam does not like to see. If you are fortunate enough to go past what you personally need then share what you have.” — Aga Khan 
“I have been involved in the field of development for nearly four decades. This engagement has been grounded in my responsibilities as Imam of the Shia Ismaili Community, and Islam’s message of the fundamental unity of “din and dunia”, of spirit and of life. Throughout its long history, the Ismaili Imamat has emphasised the importance of activities that reflect the social conscience of Islam, that contribute to the well-being of Allah’s greatest creation — mankind, and the responsibility which Islam places on the fortunate and the strong to assist those less fortunate.” — Aga Khan 
THE NOTION OF QUALITY OF LIFE
“The quality of life is determined by a number of different factors that are, in my view, not limited to the World Bank indicators on longevity, or health, or the economic welfare of an individual, or a community. To the Imamat, the meaning of “quality of life” extends to the entire ethical and social context in which people live, and not only to their material well-being, measured generation after generation. Consequently, the Imamat’s is a holistic vision of development, as is prescribed by the faith of Islam. It is about investing in people, in their pluralism, in their intellectual pursuit, and search for new and useful knowledge, just as much as in material resources. But it is also about investing with a social conscience inspired by the ethics of Islam. It is work that benefits all, regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, nationality or background.” — Aga Khan 
“A new president comes to power. What does he do? He contacts me immediately and tells me ‘Come back and help me rebuild my country.’ So, if you want, time changes situations, makes them different. Thus the institution that I represent, the Imamat, has to adapt according to the needs. It has to go beyond, it should anticipate situations. It has to be in a position to say that such and such area of the world is at great social, economic, political risk, whatever. Other areas are stable. These are areas where people live in acceptable conditions.” — Aga Khan 
“There was a time, earlier in my Imamat, when mediocrity was considered tolerable here because it was “good enough for Africa”. I remember my apprehension at the time, my concern that among all the goals that were set for Africa in those days, the achievement of normal world-class standards was not seen as realistic. But in the rapidly globalising world of the 21st century, the progress of every country and continent will depend on its ability to meet universal standards. To settle for less is an increasingly dangerous decision.” — Aga Khan 
“Education has been important to my family for a long time. My forefathers founded al-Azhar University in Cairo some 1,000 years ago, at the time of the Fatimid Caliphate in Egypt. Discovery of knowledge was seen by those founders as an embodiment of religious faith, and faith as reinforced by knowledge of workings of the Creator’s physical world. The form of universities has changed over those 1,000 years, but that reciprocity between faith and knowledge remains a source of strength.” — Aga Khan 
“The conviction that home-grown intellectual leadership of exceptional calibre is the best driver of a society’s destiny, underpins the Ismaili Imamat’s endeavour to create catalytic centres of educational excellence.” — Aga Khan 
THE UNITY OF MANKIND – A GIFT OF GOD
“I would turn to those words from my grandfather which were quoted in two earlier Peterson Lectures. He included them in a speech he gave as President of the League of Nations in Geneva some 70 years ago. They come originally from the Persian poet, Sadi, who wrote:
‘The children of Adam, created of the self-same clay, are members of one body. When one member suffers, all members suffer, likewise. O Thou, who art indifferent to the suffering of the fellow, thou art unworthy to be called a man’.
“You will readily understand why such words seem appropriate for a Peterson Lecture. They speak to the fundamental value of a universal human bond — a gift of the Creator — which both requires and validates our efforts to educate for global citizenship. I would also like to quote an infinitely more powerful statement about the unity of mankind, because it comes directly from the Holy Qur’an, and which I would ask you to think about. The Holy Qur’an addresses itself not only to Muslims, but to the entirety of the human race, when it says:
‘O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from one single soul and from it created its mate and from them twain hath spread abroad a multitude of men and women’.
“These words reflect a deeply spiritual insight — a Divine imperative if you will — which, in my view, should under gird our educational commitments. It is because we see humankind, despite our differences, as children of God and born from one soul, that we insist on reaching beyond traditional boundaries as we deliberate, communicate, and educate internationally.” — Aga Khan 
HOMOGENIZATION VS DIVERSITY
“Why would homogenization be such a danger? Because diversity and variety constitute one of the most beautiful gifts of the Creator, and because a deep commitment to our own particularity is part of what it means to be human. Yes, we need to establish connecting bonds across cultures, but each culture must also honour a special sense of self. The downside of globalisation is the threat it can present to cultural identities.
“But there is also a second great challenge which is intensifying in our world. In some ways it is the exact opposite of the globalising impulse. I refer to a growing tendency toward fragmentation and confrontation among peoples. In a time of mounting insecurity, cultural pride can turn, too often, into an endeavour to normatise one’s culture. The quest for identity can then become an exclusionary process — so that we define ourselves less by what we are for and more by whom we are against. When this happens, diversity turns quickly from a source of beauty to a cause of discord.I believe that the coexistence of these two surging impulses — what one might call a new globalism on one hand and a new tribalism on the other — will be a central challenge for educational leaders in the years ahead. And this will be particularly true in the developing world with its kaleidoscope of different identities.As you may know, the developing world has been at the centre of my thinking and my work throughout my lifetime. And I inherited a tradition of educational commitment from my grandfather. It was a century ago that he began to build a network of some 300 schools in the developing world, the Aga Khan Education Services.” — Aga Khan 
TOWARDS A PEACEFUL WORLD: A MESSAGE TO MUSLIMS AND NON-MUSLIMS
“What some describe as a clash of civilisations in our modern world is, in my view, a clash of ignorances. This is why education about religious and cultural heritage is so critically important — and why we will continue to invest in these institutions. We deeply believe that scholarship, publication and instruction — of high quality and generous breadth — can provide important pathways toward a more pluralistic and peaceful world.” — Aga Khan 
“From the seventh century to the thirteenth century, the Muslim civilisations dominated world culture, accepting, adopting, using and preserving all preceding study of mathematics, philosophy, medicine and astronomy, among other areas of learning. The Islamic field of thought and knowledge included and added to much of the information on which all civilisations are founded. And yet this fact is seldom acknowledged today, be it in the West or in the Muslim world, and this amnesia has left a six hundred year gap in the history of human thought….” — Aga Khan 
“As I look to the future of the Ismaili community worldwide, living in many parts of Central Asia, and in more than 25 different countries, and as I look to the future of Tajikistan, with its variegated population, and as I look at the Ummah, I conclude that every and all those peoples, if they wish to achieve a better life for themselves in the generations ahead, must absolutely achieve peace within their societies, and because we are Muslim, conflict must be replaced by a peace which is predicated on the ethics of our faith. We must not kill to resolve our differences, whatever they may be. They must be resolved, as I have said, within the ethic of our faith through dialogue, through compassion, through tolerance, through generosity and forgiveness. These are the pillars on which to build a strong society in modern times — not through weapons.” — Aga Khan 
RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION – THE HIJAB
(a) Individual Expressions…
“My own sense is that if an individual wishes to associate publicly with a faith, that’s the right of that individual to do that, whether he’s a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim. That is, to me, something which is important.” — Aga Khan 
(b) vs. Compulsion
“To go from there to an imposed process by forces in society, to me is unacceptable. It’s got to be the choice of the individual who wishes to associate with his faith or her faith. I have great respect for any individual who wants in the right way to be associated with his own faith. I accept that totally and I would never challenge it.” — Aga Khan 
ENVIRONMENT – MAN’S RESPONSIBILITY
“There is an often quoted ayat [of the Qur’an] which says that you should leave the world in a better environment than you found it. You have a responsibility of legacy of God’s creation of the world, to improve that legacy from generation to generation. So there’s an ethical premise to it.” — Aga Khan 
“Islam does not deal in dichotomies but in all-encompassing unity. Spirit and body are one, man and nature are one. What is more, man is answerable to God for what man has created. Since all that we see and do resonates on the faith, the aesthetics of the environments we build and the quality of the interactions that take place within them reverberate on our spiritual lives. As the leader of a Muslim community, and particularly one that now resides in twenty-five countries on four continents, the physical representation of Islamic values is particularly important to me. It should reflect who we are in terms of our beliefs, our cultural heritage and our relation to the needs and contexts in which we live in today’s world.” — Aga Khan 
A MESSAGE TO HIS FOLLOWERS
“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. Where we can build bridges with other tariqahs around a common Muslim cosmopolitan ethos, we should make this endeavour.” — Aga Khan 
“Encounters. When two people meet. Or two particles. Or two cultures. In that crucial moment of interaction the results of an encounter are determined. In the simplest of encounters — say, with two billiard balls — the outcome is a predictable result of position, velocity and mass. But the encounters that interest me most are not so simple. In the encounters of people and cultures, much depends on the path that each has taken to that point. These are not stochastic processes. The subjects have histories. The encounter has complexity and rich dimensionality. The result of an encounter between two people or between two cultures is shaped by the assumptions of each, by their respective goals and — perhaps most directly relevant to a university — by the repertoire of responses that each has learned. Encounters therefore have aspects of both the general and the specific. What makes our current time distinctive are the new combinations of people and cultures that are participating in these encounters.” — Aga Khan 
THE ROLE OF THE NEW GENERATION
“As the young men and women from this Aga Khan Academy, and over time from its sister schools, grow and assume leadership in their societies, it is my hope that it will be members of this new generation who, driven by their own wide knowledge and inspiration, will change their societies; that they will gradually replace many of the external forces that appear, and sometimes seek, to control our destinies. These young men and women, I am sure, will become leaders in the governments and the institutions of civil society in their own countries, in international organisations and in all those institutions, academic, economic and artistic that create positive change in our world.” — Aga Khan 
THE ISMAILI IMAMAT’S OPERATIONAL STRUCTURE
“In Islamic thought and practice, the world of the spirit and the world of daily life are inseparably intertwined. This is why, over a half century, my role as a spiritual leader has also required me to act in a host of social, economic and cultural endeavours, in order to secure and enhance the well-being of the Ismailis and the communities amongst which they live….The approach we take in the Aga Khan Development Network is non-denominational and holistic. It encompasses both the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors. We seek to catalyse the creation of necessary basic infrastructure, together with the provision of good quality education and healthcare. We are concerned with ensuring access to appropriate credit for the poor at the same time as we are working to sustain the arts and culture.” — Aga Khan 
Date posted: Sunday, February, 24, 2014.
Last updated: February, 24, 2014, 18:15 EST (footnote corrections)
This piece is subject to frequent updates (ed.)
Excluding the background material taken from Dr. Azim Nanji’s articles and clauses from the Preamble of the Ismaili Constitution, the numerous excerpts of His Highness the Aga Khan are taken from the following sources available at Nanowisdoms, an excellent website dedicated to speeches, interviews and writings of Ismaili Imams:
Note that several speeches made by the Aga Khan can also be read by clicking on www.akdn.org.
We welcome feedback/letters from our readers on the essay. Please use the Comments LEAVE A REPLY box which appears below. Your feedback may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.
Please visit the Simerg Home page for links to articles posted most recently. For links to articles posted on this Web site since its launch in March 2009, please click Table of Contents. Sign-up for blog subscription at top right of this page.
The following image is a copy of the original message sent to Ismaili youth by the 48th Ismaili Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan (1877 – 1957) on the occasion of the Students’ Rally held in Nairobi, and appeared in the Diamond Jubilee Souvenir, 1946. Another version of the image along with the cover page of the souvenir issue can be viewed by clicking on Historical Images: The 48th Ismaili Imam’s “Never-to-be-Forgotten” Message to Ismaili Youth or on the following image.
“To My Spiritual children taking part in The Rally
Blessings and Welcome – I am sorry my health does not permit me to be with you but I have followed your programme with great interest. Remember that according to our Ismailia Faith the body is the Temple of God for it carries the soul that receives Divine Light so great care of body its health and cleanliness are to guide you in later life care of your inside and outside cleanliness – mouth, eyes, ears and on first signs of infection to the dispensary. Later in life sports will become difficult for you but you can do much by going about your business, shopping etc on foot and carrying yourselves straight. The times of prayer should not be forgotten if you can do go to Jamatkana, if not say your Tesbih wherever you be. So keep clean soul in a clean body Blessings Aga Khan”
Date posted: Sunday, January 19, 2014.