Life – An Exalted Destiny – Aga Khan III

Life - An Exalted Destiny - Aga Khan III Life is a great and noble calling; not a mean and grovelling thing to be shuffled through as best as we can, but a lofty and exalted destiny.

Aga Khan Receives Doctor of Sacred Letters Degree from Trinity College University of Toronto

Toronto, 25 November 2013 — The University of Toronto’s Trinity College held a special convocation this evening, to bestow upon Mawlana Hazar Imam the degree of Doctor of Sacred Letters, honoris causa.

Chancellor Graham confers the honorary degree upon His Highness the Aga Khan

Chancellor Graham confers the honorary degree upon His Highness the Aga Khan – Photo: Moez Visram



In a glowing citation, the Right Honorable Adrienne Clarkson, an alumna and Honorary Fellow of the College, presented Mawlana Hazar Imam before the Honourable William C. Graham, Chancellor of Trinity College, and the convocation.


“We are welcoming you into a place that combines the sacred with the secular with educational values that have seen its graduates take their place in the modern world and in Canada in a meaningful and committed fashion,” said Madame Clarkson in her address.


Trinity College is reputed today for the strength of its programmes in International Relations, Ethics and Society and Law. But its roots are to be found in the Anglican Christian tradition, whose values have continued to guide it since its founding in 1851 by John Strachan, the first Anglican Bishop of Toronto.


“In this College the ideal and the beliefs we hold dear are held within the same ethical framework as that of His Highness,” said Madame Clarkson.


“He is the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims. He is a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him), through the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law Ali, the first Imam, and his wife Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter.”


She went on to describe the long tradition of service to humanity that Mawlana Hazar Imam’s family has upheld for generations, recalling that Hazar Imam’s grandfather, Hazrat Sultan Mahomed Shah, was President of the League of Nations; that his father, Prince Aly Khan, served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Nations; that the Imam’s uncle, Prince Sadruddin, was the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; and that Prince Amyn, the Imam’s brother, served at the UN prior to his work with the AKDN.


She also looked back upon the history of the Ismaili Muslim community.


“Historically, the Ismailis developed a state that concentrated on arts, science and trade centered in Cairo for a number of centuries. But in the 13th century, the Ismailis were dispersed, a diaspora that spread to Persia, Central Asia, Syria, India, and eventually Africa.


“Through the physical dispersal of their community through the centuries, their spiritual allegiance to the Imam and their adherence to the Shia Imami Ismaili branch of Islam was their greatest strength.”


Clarkson also serves on the Board of Directors of the Global Centre for Pluralism, a partnership between Mawlana Hazar Imam and the Government of Canada that is based in Ottawa. The Centre and the forthcoming Aga Khan Museum in Toronto were cited as examples of the ways in which the Imam has enriched the country.


The convocation ceremony took place in the presence of a number of distinguished guests, including the current Anglican Archbishop of Toronto, the Most Reverend Colin Johnson, and Professor Cheryl Regehr, Vice-President and Provost of the University of Toronto, who congratulated Mawlana Hazar Imam on receiving the Trinity College honour, his second honorary degree from the University of Toronto.

The special convocation ceremony took place at Trinity College’s Seeley Hall

“By your peerless example of tolerance and compassion, we are proud to have you count as a member of the University of Toronto family,” she said. “Your life work exemplifies the core values which unite all of us — values that we in particular aspire to by our academic admission.”



Themes of interfaith dialogue, mutual respect and understanding between peoples resonated throughout the evening. The gathering enjoyed a performance of the opening movement of Creeds from Constantinople, a multimedia theatrical work that celebrates cultural diversity, spirituality and pluralism. Performed by Maryem Tollar, Patricia O’Callaghan and the Gryphon Trio, it brought together voices of Islam and Christianity, demonstrating the shared strengths and passions of the faiths in their embrace of the universal spiritual quest.



“In this place which all of us here who call ourselves Trinity graduates so treasure,” said Clarkson, “it is deeply moving and appropriate for us to welcome as an honorary graduate a man who is perhaps the only person in the world to whom everyone listens.”



Members of the procession pose for a group photo ahead of the convocation ceremony at Trinity College. Photo: Moez Visram
Members of the procession pose for a group photo ahead of the convocation ceremony at Trinity College. Photo: Moez Visram

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Quran, 13:28

ألا بِذِكْرِ اللهِ تَطمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ

“Verily! In the remembrance of Allah do hearts find contentment.” - Quran, 13:28

Prophet Muhammad

Prophet Muhammad:

‘Ali is ‘as my own soul’ (ka-nafsi).

He said to ‘Ali, ‘You are from me and I am from you (anta minni wa ana minka).’

‘Truly, ‘Ali is from me and I am from him (inna ‘Ali minni wa ana minhu), and he is the wali (patron/spiritual master) of every believer after me.’

Hazrat Ali

12. When some blessings come to you, do not drive them away through thanklessness.

13. He who is deserted by friends and relatives will often find help and sympathy from strangers.

Imam Ali Sayings

Imam Jaffer Sadiq

لاَ يَكُونُ شَيْءٌ فِي اْلاَرْضِ وَلا فِي السَّمَاءِ إِلاَّ بِهذِهِ الْخِصَالِ السَّبْعِ: بِمَشيئَةٍ وَ إِرادَةٍ وَقَدَرٍ وَقَضَاءٍ وَ إِذْنٍ وَكِتابٍ وَأَجَلٍ. فَمَنْ زَعَمَ أَنَّهُ يَقْدِرُ عَلى نَقْضٍ وَاحِدَةٍ، فَقَدْ كَفَرَ.

“Nothing occurs in this earth and in the heaven except with the following seven stages: Will, intention, destiny, decree, permission, book and implementation. Then whoever thinks that he can reduce any of these stages, then indeed he has disbelieved.”

- Imam Jaffer Sadiq, Usul al Kafi, vol. 1, p. 149

Rumi on Ramadan

The month of fasting has come, the emperor’s banner has arrived; withhold your hand from food, the spirit’s table has arrived. The soul has escaped from separation and bound nature’s hands; the heart of error is defeated, the army of faith has arrived. Fasting is our sacrifice, it is the life of our soul; let us sacrifice all our body, since the soul has arrived as guest. Fortitude is as a sweet cloud, wisdom rains from it, because it was in such a month of fortitude that the Koran arrived. …Wash your hands and your mouth, neither eat nor speak; seek that speech and that morsel which has come to the silent ones.


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99 Beautiful Names

Asma-ul Husna


Aga Khan jokes

Aga Khan Speech Brown University May 1996:

"Looking around this colorful gathering, I recall helping in the choice of the Aga Khan University's regalia. Our research into Islamic traditions of academic dress revealed that an academic's rank determined the height of his hat. The higher the rank, the taller the hat. The senior most professors therefore appeared taller than their students even when sitting down. I have just learnt that my friend Neil Rudenstein, the President of Harvard has given instructions that all Harvard hats are to be heightened by at least a foot. This has caused havoc in the Ivy League which is now debating resolution MAHH96, standing for Maximum Allowable Hat Height. My academic standing and that of President Gregorian, should be evident from the hats that we are presently wearing!"

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