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 stresses importance of pluralism – Ogden Lecture at Brown University

Aga Khan emphasizes collective responsibility, cracks jokes in talk on tradition and technology

By Caroline Kelly
Christina Paxson President converses with His Highness the Aga Khan after Ogden Speech at Brown University -

Photo  – Brittany Comunale / Herald


There was room for both social media jokes and a thoughtful discussion of modern communication in Prince Karim Aga Khan IV’s lecture yesterday.


Prince Karim Aga Khan IV ’96 hon. P’95 said during a lecture Monday that the hardest part of speaking at Brown again since delivering the baccalaureate address in 1996 was “that you have to explain what you got wrong the first time.” It was hard to imagine that the thorough, well-spoken 49th hereditary imam of Nizari Ismailism would be prone to carelessness.


But he insisted. “I think I actually underestimated what happened in the 18 years ahead,” he said, acknowledging that back then, “you would not have had any Facebook friends, and you would not be following anyone on Twitter, and perhaps more sadly, no one would be following you,” to much laughter from the audience.


Introduced by President Christina Paxson, the Aga Khan’s speech was a Stephen A. Ogden Jr. ’60 Memorial Lecture on International Affairs and focused on the importance of a relevant education.

The Aga Khan is the founder and chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network, whose agencies include the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, founded in 1967 to fight rural poverty and hunger in disenfranchised nations, and the Aga Khan Education Services. The latter include the Aga Khan Academies, residential private schools in Africa and Asia following the International Baccalaureate curriculum, and the Aga Khan Universities, which place an emphasis on pluralism and collective responsibility, according to the event brochure.


The Aga Khan described how his “own education has blended both Islamic and western traditions.” He said his position is “not a political role, as has been mentioned, but let me emphasize that Islamic belief sees the spiritual and material worlds as inextricably connected. Faith should deepen our concern for improving the quality of human life in all its dimensions.”


After his lighthearted foray into social media humor, the Aga Khan adopted a more serious tone. “We often think about technological innovation as a great source of hope for the world, (and) we hear about how the Internet can reach out across boundaries, helping us all to stay in touch,” he said.


But the success of our use of modern communication depends on “how human beings go about using or abusing their technological tools,” the Aga Khan said, fearing “centrifugal forces in our time, the forces of fragmentation” that can “threaten democratic institutions.” He described how technological access to constant information can lead to “more fleeting attention spans, more impulsive judgments and more dependence on superficial snapshots of events.”


In light of the temptation to “live more of our lives inside smaller information bubbles, in more intense and often more isolated groupings,” the Aga Khan stressed that “greater connectivity does not necessarily mean greater connection.” With more room for error, the enriching nature of diversity is lost, he said, noting that “the problem comes when diverse elements spin off on their own, when the bonds that connect us across our diversities begin to weaken.”


He cited the West’s perception of the Islamic world as an area where it is important to “replace fearful ignorance with empathetic knowledge,” describing how “knowledge gaps so often run the risk of becoming empathy gaps,” the topic of his first speech at Brown, which he still sees as pertinent. “The struggle to remain empathetic and open to the other in a diversifying world is a continuing struggle of central importance to all of us,” he said.


To solve these problems, the Aga Khan called for a “thoughtful, renewed commitment to the concept of pluralism” to foster the “essential unity of the human race.” He described the importance of “the capacity to integrate knowledge, to nurture critical thinking and ethical sensitivity” in preparing “well-informed leaders who are sensitive to a wide array of disciplines and conflicts and cultures.”


After his speech, the Aga Khan participated in a question-and-answer session with Paxson, who drew from a list of questions contributed by members of the Brown community.


In response to a question about the Aga Khan’s work “to improve public health,” he said his organization has noted a significant change in disease spread in the developing world. “If you speak to most of the governments in the developing world, they are particularly unhappy about the cost of non-communicable diseases,” he said.


This dissatisfaction means focusing on “hospital beds, tertiary care” and an effort to “use technology to link rural, isolated areas to (their) own networks,” he said.


When Paxson asked what advice he had for students “looking forward to making a difference in the world,” he noted the importance of being able to access the world, saying, “If you speak seven languages, your horizons are widened.


“If you want to be a global citizen, then prepare yourself for that — it’s a different set of goals,” he added.


Lastly, the Aga Khan acknowledged the importance of persevering despite mistakes. “Everybody makes mistakes — never regret them, but correct them,” he said. “There’s no such thing as a perfect world or a perfect life.”



Mirrored from – March 11, 2014


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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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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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