“Coming from Algeria, which is my country, I can tell you that you represent in Muslim world, in Islamic Ummah a very exceptional community, exceptional community for three reasons.” — Arkoun
“Heresiographic literature describes all the sects in Islam from one point of view, the Sunnite point of view, the Shiite point of view, telling that ‘we, we have the truth, and the others don’t have anything’. This is the heresiographic interpretation of Islam which is totally irrelevant for us today.” — Arkoun
Editor’s note: Mawlana Hazar Imam has arrived in East Africa to preside over the Aga Khan University Convocation in Dar-es-Salaam (February 24, 2015), Kampala (February 26) and Nairobi (March 2). We are pleased to publish the following excerpts from his speeches on the profession of nursing.
EXCERPTS FROM MAWLANA HAZAR IMAM’S SPEECHES
I. 1981…Inauguration of the Aga Khan School of Nursing, Karachi, Pakistan
“The School of Nursing’s primary mission is to raise the standards and standing of the profession itself, so that it is accorded the recognition and prestige earned and deserved by the women whose working lives are dedicated to the demanding and honourable task of caring for the sick. We are confident that the nurses in our hospital will be rewarded with respect, appreciation and remuneration that their integrity and loyal commitment justify. The key note to the School’s philosophy is excellence.
“Let me end by addressing directly the first Aga Khan School of Nursing students. Here today, you like me, are at the beginning. You are starting your chosen professional training. The opening of your School is for me the beginning of a new major philanthropic medical complex. My purpose is to make possible the development of your career, but you must achieve. If you fail, I have failed. If you succeed, Pakistan will be rewarded.” 
II. 1996…Baccalaureate Address at Brown University, Providence, USA
“The Aga Khan University was founded thirteen years ago in Pakistan with planning assistance from Harvard. It was the first private self-governing university in that country of 125 million people. Medical Science was the initial field of engagement. As Pakistan had one of the lowest ratios in the world of nurses to doctors, and the nursing profession was mired in mediocrity, social unacceptability and low pay, nursing became our priority. With the assistance of McMaster University in Ontario, a curriculum was designed and a School of Nursing launched. In addition to becoming a leading academic institution, it has transformed the role of women in society by providing them with new educational and professional opportunities.
“This solution to some of Pakistan’s most pressing health care problems, which has also enhanced the social self-worth and professional status of women in the country, may soon be replicated in other areas. Under the university’s international charter, the nursing school now envisages the creation of an Institute of Advanced Nursing Studies in East Africa to extend the same professional and societal opportunities to the women of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and further afield.” 
III. 2001…Archon Award Ceremony, Copenhagen, Denmark
“It is particularly meaningful to receive this recognition from Sigma Theta Tau with its record of focussed dedication to the global advancement of nursing. I have long felt the enhancement of the nursing profession to be absolutely critical to the improvement of health care in the developing world, and the Islamic world. The way forward was to professionalise, to institutionalise, and to dignify this great profession.
“More than twenty-five years ago, these were some of the central concerns that led to the establishment of the Aga Khan University in Karachi and its School of Nursing. Universities have the unique capacity for forming the human resources necessary for all fields of human development.
“The School of Nursing was the first academic programme offered by the Aga Khan University for a combination of reasons, some universal in nature, and others particular to countries like Pakistan. It is generally accepted that high quality health care, both in institutional as well as community settings, cannot be provided effectively without capable nurses to support physicians and other health professionals. But Pakistan suffers from an acute shortage of nurses. Even now, there are four physicians for every nurse whereas the international norm is at least five nurses to every physician. In addition, because women constitute an overwhelming number of nurses in the developing world, the Board of Trustees of the Aga Khan University felt that the School of Nursing could foster the enhancement of nurses, and women professionals more generally, empowering them, and increasing their standing and effectiveness in society.
“Today, the AKU School of Nursing takes pride that:
“More and more women are coming forward to join the profession. By adding programmes that lead to Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Nursing for the first time in Pakistan, the School is providing opportunities for career advancement that were out of reach for nearly everyone in the profession in the country.
“The School of Nursing has become an important resource for policy dialogues with the government and the nation’s Nursing Council. It has assisted in the review and reforming of nursing policies, and the curriculum for nursing education for the country as a whole.
“The School of Nursing is also in the vanguard as the Aga Khan University launches its first programmes outside Pakistan, in fulfilment of the provisions of its charter as an international university. The School is developing an initiative in Advanced Nursing Studies regionally in Eastern Africa, responding to the needs for advanced training in Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya.” 
IV. 2014…House of Commons, Ottawa, Canada
“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.” 
Date posted: Friday, February 20, 2015.
Last updated: February 21, 2015.
 Speech at the Inauguration of the Aga Khan School of Nursing, Karachi, Pakistan, February 16, 1981.
 Baccalaureate Address to the Class of 1996 at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, May 26, in the Meeting House of the First Baptist in America, near the Brown University campus in Providence, Rhode Island, USA.
 Speech by His Highness the Aga Khan at the Archon Award Ceremony of Sigma Theta Tau International, Copenhagen, Denmark, June 7, 2001.
 Address of His Highness the Aga Khan to both Houses of the Parliament of Canada in the House of Commons Chamber, Ottawa, February 27, 2014.
“To my overwhelming surprise the lift door opened on to the fifth floor where I was in charge. There they were, the Aga Khan and the President. I was honoured and awed. I felt like the luckiest person on earth. I met all the dignitaries and escorted them through the impeccable ward of which we were so proud.” — Kundanben Paatni
“If self-effacement is achieved, the foundation of unity will have been well and truly laid…Be guided by the lives of men like Hasan bin Sabah and Pir Sadar Din.”
“Unity and self-effacement are the greatest contributions we can make individually to the rest of the community.
“By self-effacement, I mean the forgetting of oneself sometimes and making one’s personal interests subservient to those of the largest number. If self-effacement is achieved, the foundation of unity will have been well and truly laid. For, at present, it is the consciousness of one’s self-importance and dignity which is making people forget their duties and responsibilities, and indulge in petty squabbles and bitter trivialities.
“The welfare of the Ismailis is so near and dear to my heart that I cannot light-heartedly bring myself to overlook the weak points of the community. It is by recognizing our own faults that we can hope to improve. Let us realize that in the matter of helping our brethren we have much to learn from our sister communities, and that if we ever hope to achieve what we have set out to, we must resolutely follow the principles of the faith, be guided by the lives of men like Hasan bin Sabah and Pir Sadar Din and concentrate on the two most important principles of life — namely, Unity and Service of the Imam-e-Zaman and Community.” – Ismaili, India, February 2, 1941.
LETTER FROM PUBLISHER
By Abdulmalik J. Merchant
As a young boy with a rudimentary understanding about the planets in our solar system, I was always interested in high-flying objects and space. I often wondered why Mawlana Hazar Imam would have made a reference to Venus during his address in Dar-es-Salaam in 1959, as in the following quote:
“During your lifetime, you and probably more your children are going to face a revolution which will be somewhat like the Industrial Revolution in Britain, but it will be of a far greater consequence. For those in astronomy, geology, mechanics, radio, television, printing, this is such a thorough revolution that if you want to be able to comprehend it and yet to be able to keep for your children the values which you have in life, you have to have a source for these values which your children can live to. When you think that you will be able to leave this world, and spend the weekend on the moon or Venus or something like that, this is a fact which may be very far from you today, but I want you to understand this is not a thought which will be far from your children” — Mawlana Hazar Imam 
A reference to Mars might not have intrigued me, as it has always been the most-talked of all the planets that we earthlings might one day visit, but Venus, I said to myself, seemed to be out-of-place at 500 degrees Celcius, where its scorching heat can melt lead!
However, during the past week, media around the world — including the BBC, CNN and CBC — have carried a story about NASA’s possible future venture into Venus with significant importance. The following excerpt from Sputniknews is one of many reports on the subject, which was first released by the renowned professional scientific organization IEEE :
“Much of the recent focus on interplanetary travel has been on manned missions to Mars. But Venus is much closer — and the upper atmosphere of that planet is remarkably like Earth’s. That’s why NASA scientists are proposing a mission to study our next-door neighbor in giant airships.”
Sputniknews then lightly adds:
“Are you looking to get out-of-town after the holiday season?…If you’re looking to really escape, you might want to consider a trip to Venus. At a mere 38 million kilometers (24 million miles), it’s the closest planet to Earth. But it’s not exactly a vacation destination. With an average temperature of about 860 degrees, you’d burn to a crisp before you had a chance to get your tan on. Still, if you’re really convinced Venus is the place to be, NASA has you covered.” 
Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, our beloved 48th Imam, had once said that when Imams open their mouths to speak, heaps of pearls (moti na dagla) flow. The Imam’s words often carry pointers to what might follow later. As my beloved father often told me, the Imam of the Time can see over a high wall — a distance away that we can never see.
On reading the story about Venus, I thought I might share with readers of this blog some of the images that NASA has put out to show how they intend to build a colony above Venus, which offers an earth-like environment and where one day, perhaps, our great-grandchildren may wander.
For me, at least, the reference to the moon and Venus by Mawlana Hazar Imam, is an affirmation of the Imam’s broader insight and vision, that his knowledge is all-encompassing, and that if we, as his murids, hold strong to the Rope of Imamat we shall always remain on Sirat -al-Mustaqeem (the straight path) regardless of the age and time we live in — the atomic age, the space age or something even beyond that.
With this thought, I wish all contributors, readers and subscribers of Simerg as well as its sister blog, Simergphotos, a Blessed and Happy New Year!
FIVE STEPS IN BUILDING A VENUS COLONY
Date posted: December 28, 2014.
- Precious Gems, Volume 1, Published by His Highness Prince Aga Khan Shia Imami Ismailia Association for Canada, pp 17-18.
- http://spectrum.ieee.org/aerospace/space-flight/nasa-study-proposes-airships-cloud-cities-for-venus-exploration (IEEE)
Please also see:
“…it was quite something to perform in front of him [Mawlana Hazar Imam] and be in his presence. It was truly, truly magical. I think it was one of our most prestigious performances” — Salim Merchant
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