The Aga Khan’s “Cosmopolitan Ethic in a Fragmented World” a worthy read for all

Aga Khan IV, 49th Ismaili Imam, at Harvard

June 5, 2008: His Highness the Aga Khan received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is seen speaking to fellow honorary degree recipient British author J.K. Rowling who received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree. Photo Credit:

His Highness the Aga Khan shared his decades long experience as the 49th hereditary Imam of Shia Ismaili Muslims in an address he delivered at Harvard University on November 12, 2015 in which he focused on building a better world through the notion of the Cosmopolitan Ethic. In an analysis of  the term and what it means to him, he also emphasized that it resonates with the world’s great ethical and religious traditions. The address that he delivered is one which every Muslim and non-Muslim should reflect on and hold true to their hearts because, as His Highness said, each one of us is born of a single soul.

The following are concluding remarks from the address, but we recommend that  readers click on to read the complete speech. Also, Simerg prepared and published a thematic version of the speech at Two Absolutely Essential Messages in His Highness the Aga Khan’s Harvard Lecture: “The Cosmopolitan Ethic” and the Timeless Truth that “Humanity is Born of a Single Soul”


Aga Khan Jodi Lecture Harvard

His Highness the Aga Khan spoke at Harvard on November 12, 2015 as part of the Samuel L. and Elizabeth Jodidi Lecture series, which provides for “the delivery of lectures by eminent and well-qualified persons for the promotion of tolerance, understanding and good will among nations, and the peace of the world. Photo: AKDN

“…I would emphasise that a cosmopolitan ethic is one that resonates with the world’s great ethical and religious traditions.

“A passage from the Holy Qur’an that has been central to my life is addressed 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…”

“At the very heart of the Islamic faith is a conviction that we are all born “of a single soul.” We are “spread abroad” to be sure in all of our diversity, but we share, in a most profound sense, a common humanity.

“This outlook has been central to the history of Islam. For many hundreds of years, the greatest Islamic societies were decidedly pluralistic, drawing strength from people of many religions and cultural backgrounds. My own ancestors, the Fatimid Caliphs, founded the city of Cairo, and the great Al Azhar University there, a thousand years ago in this same spirit.

“That pluralistic outlook remains a central ideal for most Muslims today. There are many, of course, some non-Muslims and some Muslims alike, who have perpetrated different impressions.

“At the same time, institutions such as those that have welcomed me here today, have eloquently addressed these misimpressions. My hope is that the voices of Islam itself will continue to remind the world of a tradition that, over so many centuries, has so often advanced pluralistic outlooks and built some of the most remarkable societies in human history.


“Let me repeat, in conclusion, that a cosmopolitan ethic is one that will honour both our common humanity and our distinctive Identities — each reinforcing the other as part of the same high moral calling.

“The central lesson of my own personal journey — over many miles and many years — is the indispensability of such an ethic in our changing world, based on the timeless truth that we are — each of us and all of us — “born of a single soul.”

Date posted: December 7, 2015.


Who is His Highness the Aga Khan? Learn more about him and the Ismailis at The Preamble Of “The Constitution of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims”

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