Life – An Exalted Destiny – Aga Khan III
Message to the World of Islam – Aga Khan III
It is my great honor and pleasure to present, on his birthday anniversary which falls on November 2nd, the gems from our beloved 48th Imam Mowlana Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan III, a collage of his wonderful words of wisdom. His life has been a great legacy for humanity.
Here are Mowlana Hazar Imam’s words for him:
“Many many memories come to our minds as we think of him. He achieved in his life, for our community, that which could only have been accomplished normally in a period of many generations. The tributes that the world has paid him bear honest testimony to his great life and work.”
– His Highness the Aga Khan, Takht Nashini, Karachi, January 23, 1958
- Greetings to Pakistan
- Quaid-e-Azam – Man of Iron Will and Lion Courage
- Why Not Now?
- Muslims Awake…!
- Research in Science
- Future of Muslim States
- Free Islamic State Mentality
- Importance of Arabic Language
- Future Development of Muslim States
- True Islamic Charity in Thought
- What Have We Forgotten in Islam?
- Tolerance in Islam
- The Status of Women
- The Last and the Greatest Prophet
- Patriotism and Loyalty
- Peace – Message of Islam
- World of Islam — A Super State
- This I Have Learnt From Life
- Importance of Women
- My Philosophy of Happiness – His Will
H.R.H. Sir Sultan Mohammad Shah Aga Khan III, the forty-eighth Imam of the Ismailis, was born in Karachi on 2nd November 1877. From the age of eight, for over seventy years, he played a leading part in public affairs not only for the Ismaili Muslim community but for the whole Islamic brotherhood.
He activated the Muslims of the sub-continent through the Muslim League, whose President he remained for six years, and also helped raise Aligarh to the status of a Muslim University.
In 1931-32, he led the Muslim delegation, which included the Quaid-e-Azam, to the Round Table conference. Also in 1932, he represented India in the World Disarmament Conference. In 1937, he had the honor of being elected President of the League of Nations.
Throughout his long and eventful life, Prince Aga Khan III worked for the welfare of Muslims and carried the message of Islam to the four corners of the earth.
As we commemorate the centenary of his birth, we recall his own words:
‘Never in my long life have I been for an instant bored. Time has fled for me on far too swift a wing’.
Be no more hypnotized by the dead glories of the distant past or by the misfortunes of the near past.
Message sent by H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan to the People of Pakistan on the eve of creation of Pakistan.
Thanks to the immense and almost miraculous efforts of Governor-General Jinnah, who alone brought about the greatest Muslim State in the world, Pakistan is now an accomplished fact but our work now begins. If the Muslims were depressed by the misfortunes of the last 200 years throughout the world, now, at last, the wheel of fortune has turned and we are no longer justified in being either half-hearted or pessimistic.
We must, with an our energy, heart and soul with faith in Islam and trust in God, work for the present and future glory of Pakistan and give help to the unfortunate Muslims who still suffer under foreign dominion. We must work for a better world, and be no more hypnotized by the dead glories of the distant past, or by the misfortunes of the near past.
Switzerland, August 17, 1947.
H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan’s tribute to the Father of the Nation – Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
“The Quaid-e-Azam was the creator of Pakistan and the Father of the Pakistani Nation. It is inconceivable how this could have ever come about without his iron will and lion courage. While his memory will remain, I am sure, in the hearts of the people of this country as well as the general body of Muslims throughout the world, yet a useful memorial of the kind that will help Pakistan to become what he and Muslims generally dream, is an humble way of our paying homage to his creative works. A simple, dignified marble mausoleum, taking inspiration from the Moti Masjid of Delhi Fort, should be our first objective.
Next to that, a large mosque with plenty of open space, taking inspiration from the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore and worthy of Karachi by its size and proportion. There will also be a Darul Ulum, Islamic Historical and Religious Research Institute based on an Arabic conception. And last but by no means least, is the Institute of Technology.
These four institutions would, in my opinion, form a fitting memorial to Quaid-e-Azam, Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
Allah has given this Leadership to Pakistan
Muslims must strive for protection of faith, independence, and progress in all lands! Allah has given this leadership to Pakistan and Pakistani Muslims. May we be equal to destiny, is my prayer.
– Aga Khan III
In past ages the Muslim peoples have played an important part in world trade and there is no reason why they should not do so again under modern conditions. In fact, in the golden age of Muslim civilization, right up to the sixteenth century, the Muslim peoples took the lead in the world’s economic life.
– Aga Khan III
Take example from the glorious life and the marvelous teachings of the Holy Prophet
The world of Islam today is at a turning point of its history. The middle-ages are over and either Islam must now go forward or be added to the other might-have-beens of history. The Muslims must now awake and, taking their example from the glorious life and the marvelous teachings of the Holy Prophet, build their spiritual and religious faith on Mohammed and work for the development in science, knowledge and political and social advance along the lines of the most progressive races of mankind.
Formalism and verbal interpretation of the teachings of the Prophet are in absolute contradiction with his whole life history. We must accept his Divine Message as the channel of our union with the “Absolute” and the “Infinite” and once our spiritual faith is firmly established, fearlessly go forward by self-sacrifice, by courage and by application to raise the scientific, the economic, the political and social position of the Muslims to a place of equality with Christian Europe and America.
Our social customs, our daily work, our constant efforts, must he tuned up, must be brought into line with the highest form of possible civilization. At its greatest period, Islam was at the head of science, was at the head of knowledge, was in the advanced line of political, philosophic and literary thought
Today we are in our middle-ages. We must get out of it and begin our new era with strength and with will power for the coming development of our people.
The Muslim world can today be divided into two general parts One consists of the vast Muslim population living under European and other non-Muslim rulers. The second part consists of the independent Muslim states of Arabia, of Persia, of Afghanistan, of Egypt of Turkey. Now where we are under foreign rule we can, by imitating as the Japanese have done, also by keeping our own spiritual and our highest intellectual character, just as the Japanese have done, learn directly from the races that rule us those secrets of social and intellectual power which have made Europe so strong and so progressive.
Where we are in an independent position we can promote intensive culture, intensive education of the youth, intensive imitation if you like, but always, as in the case of Japan, keeping our highest moral emotional and spiritual self in our own historical development. With that we can go forward and carry out reforms, carry out political and economic development, carry out above all, scientific culture which will place us on the same level as the European races.
In a case like India, in countries like Java, like Morocco and like North Africa we can learn from our European fellow-subjects, or rulers if you prefer so to call them, those secrets of power over nature, of scientific, economic, and industrial development which has made Europe so powerful.
Along these lines, my fellow-Muslims, I implore you, I beg of you, to work for the advancement of the whole world of Islam, but never forget our intellectual debt to our Holy Prophet.
With these words I hope that progress will become from now onwards, thorough and regular.
There is a right and legitimate Pan-Islamism to which every sincere and behaving Muslim belongs – that is, the theory of the spiritual brotherhood and unity of the children of the Prophet. It is a deep, perennial element in that Perso-Arabian culture, that great family of civilisation to which we gave the name Islam. Islam connotes charity and goodwill towards fellow-believers everywhere from China to Morocco, from Volga to Singapore. It means an abiding interest in the literature of Islam, in her beautiful arts, in her lovely architecture in her entrancing poetry. It also means true reformation a return to the early and pure simplicity of the faith, to its preaching by persuasion and argument to the manifestation of a spiritual power in individual lives, to beneficent activity for mankind. This natural and worthy spiritual movement makes not only the Master and his teaching but also his children of all climes an object of affection to the Turk or the Afghan, to the Pakistani or the Egyptian. A famine or a desolating fire in the Moslem quarters of Kashgar or Sarajevo would immediately draw the sympathy and material assistance of the Muslims of Karachi or Cairo. The real spiritual and cultural unity of Islam must ever grow, for to the follower of the Prophet it is the foundation of the life of the soul.
The spread of this spiritual and cultural Pan-Islamism, this true religion of brotherhood and affection, in our time has been promoted by the facilities of modern civilization, by the growth of the spirit of liberty and by the general awakening of the East which began late in the nineteenth century.
H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan’s foresighted advice given on 6th March, 1946, a year before the establishment of Pakistan, for establishing an Institute of Technology for Muslims at Karachi shows how greatly he concerned himself for the scientific and economic growth of this newborn state of Pakistan to whom Nature has bestowed vast resources untouched and to a greater extent unknown.
A strong plea for the establishment of a scientific, industrial and technical research institute was made at by H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan, replying to the address presented to him by the members of the Court of the Aligarh Muslim University at Sir Cowasjee Jehangir Hall, Bombay, on Saturday, 9th March, 1946.
His Royal Highness said that it would require a crore of rupees. They could collect Rs. 90,00,000 he would contribute Rs. 10,00,000.
The world of the future, stated His Royal Highness, depended upon science. There were no limits to the possibilities of sciences. He remembered having been told in London years ago that with atomic energy there was no reason why the other planets should not be new Americas. Muslims who were once forward in science were now backward. What they needed, therefore, was a great Research Institute.
He would prefer the institute to be located in Karachi which had always maintained contact with Muslim countries on the Western border of India. It would be advantageous to the people of South Iran, East Africa, Afghanistan and Baluchistan. The natural resources of these areas would also be an asset to the Institute.
It would not be difficult, His Royal Highness thought, to collect RS. 90,00,000 in a year. India was to have Home Rule in 1946. The institute should also be completed in that year. If he were young he would have made the collection himself. This was the opportunity and if they failed he did not know what the future would be for them. Certainly it would not be one in which the Muslims could hold their own.
True Islam was and is dynamic and not static. Do not look to the third century of Islamic History but to the first.
H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan addressed the members of Pakistan Institute of International Affairs on Wednesday 8th February 1950 on the spacious lawns of H.E. Dr. Zahid Hussein’s residence, when H.E. Governor General Mr. Ghulam Mohammad, the then Finance Minister, Mr. Hatim Alavi, Mr. Tamizuddin Khan, President of the Constituent Assembly, H.E. Khwaja Shahabuddin, High Commissioner, Mr. Abdur Rahman Siddiqi, Ex-Mayor of Calcutta, Professor A.R.A. Haleem, Vice-Chancellor of Karachi University Dr. P.H. Hoodbhoy, President lsmailia Association Pakistan, and other distinguished citizens of Karachi were present.
“The importance of the position of Pakistan as an Independent Muslim State cannot be fully understood nor the fundamental issues before her in the future, unless certain historical facts are realized and their consequences courageously faced. Incredible as it may seem, there has not been before Pakistan a really independent Muslim State since about 1750, i.e., the last 200 years. No doubt the Moghul Empire nominally existed and its autonomous Subas that had become in fact States, had a certain form of national independence but one and all were in a precarious position vis-a-vis the expanding colonial forces of Europe as represented by England and France. Nor had they such prestige and popularity amongst their subjects as to give them that self-assurance and self-reliance without which outside dangers cannot be faced.
Turkey then had a vast and potentially powerful Empire which had gradually become so weak in relation to Russia, Austria, England and France that already at that period and much more so as time went on, her very existence depended on the mutual jealousies of Christendom. In the 19th century she was known as the ‘sick man’ of Europe and Asia. Province after province including Muslim Egypt was lost, Her Government’s policy both externally and internally was one long struggle against total collapse and to save what she could from day to day. Iran after Nadirshah had been so weakened by internal divisions and intellectual decay and had also fallen like Turkey to dependence on European jealousy for her survival. The same was true of Morocco and North Africa generally. The vast African and Asiatic dominions of Sultan of Muscat were just British protectorates. Though since the time of Ahmed Shah Abdali an Afghan National State existed, it too owed her independence to the policies of her neighbors rather than to her strength. None of these Muslim States had the national population sufficiently important to stand up against European encroachment.
On paper Turkey, indeed, did possess a powerful Empire. But its internal, racial and religious divisions and sub-divisions rendered her a comparatively easy prey to the ambitions of her avowed and secret enemies.
I think this is a fair picture of the world of Islam from the middle of the 18th century till our own times. But there are natural forces greater than the wisdom of the West. Pride and folly are often fellow travelers. The enmity of England and Germany brought about in the 20th century a new world in which the birth of a truly independent, Muslim State with all the advantages that can give a nation trust in her own destiny was made possible. That mighty infant is the Pakistan of today.
As a member of the Commonwealth which I, for one, hope in her own interests she will remain, she belongs to a confederation that is not limited to what was once known as the British Empire, but includes inevitably the most powerful nation in the world, the United States of America and behind her sooner or later the rest of the new world. The days of foreign intervention and interference are gone. Her numbers, her resources, her geographical position, the fundamental unity of her population in sentimental aspirations give Pakistan all the advantages, which the Muslim world lost some 200 years ago.
The prospect is indeed attractive and we should have every confidence in the future but destiny as represented must be understood and its dangers avoided. There were other Muslim independent states in the past with even far greater might than Pakistan can ever have and they gradually degenerated to utter helplessness in the 19th century. What was the cause?
Our critics of the West and the East alike maintain that Islamic society carried with it by its static character the germs of decay and death. According to them the disease is congenital and not acquired. Easy optimism and just ostrich-like disregarding the lessons of the past is to play into the hands of our enemies, secret and open.
The soul of our Nation is ultimately more important than its other resources. I have long pondered over the causes of the downfall of the Muslim Empires and am convinced that the disease was acquired and was not congenital. Just as in the life of the individual, the difference between youth, health and vigor and old age and illness is ultimately adaptability to the changes brought about by environment, so no society that allows its spirit to be limited by convention and custom can have that dynamic quality without which society and later the State will decay.
Ladies and Gentlemen, believe me, true Islam was and is dynamic and not static. It was dynamic, simple, clear during the glorious Omaiyyad period when the foundations of Islam were laid wide and deep – so wide and deep that in spite of all its later weaknesses it survived the terrible Mongolian invasions and the far more terrible enemy of Europe later. Ladies and Gentlemen, ask your historians, ask your thinkers to concentrate on that glorious 100 years of Omaiyyad rule and take that for example with its simple faith and open mind, with its dynamic qualities without scholasticism and its legal servitudes. Muslim histories were mostly written by their enemies under the Abbaddes and yet with all its bitter prejudices, they cannot help glorifying not in words but by facts that period of simple faith and activity. Some of the very greatest of Muslim saints like the Khalifa Umar Ibne Abdul Aziz, the greater Hassan Basri, the Spanish ruler Hisham Ibne Abdur-Rahman, brilliant saints of Islam, were the children of that period. Unfortunately it fell and with it the certainty of the Islamisation of Europe and with it of the world.
While Damascus looked to the open world through the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, Baghdad was land bound. History’s lesson, the supremacy of water over land was lost to the Muslim world. It is now a well-known fact that the small isolated Muslims of Spain did actually sail to, the new world and the Cape of Good Hope but when they returned home, the then weak and isolated Muslim Spain without help from Asia and North Africa had not the resources behind it to complete the work of the sailors as Christian Spain and Portugal did a century later. With the fall of Damascus, Baghdad became the center of Islam. The very people whose Mobeds and Dasturs by narrowness and verbal and legal squibbles had weakened and destroyed first the Faith of Zoroaster and then the empire of Iran, took the helm of Islam and played the same disastrous part over again.
Two simple examples may be quoted. The free social and intellectual part played in the life of Arabia by Imam Hussain’s daughter, Sakina, and by the daughter of Talha and the great grand daughters of Khalifa Abu Bakar can be contrasted with the position of women in the 19th century. Again we know what high standard of music and art had been attained in Mecca and Medina as early as the Khilafat of the early Omaiyyads and compare it with the disdain with which art is looked upon by some misguided Muslims today.
When mind and spirit in the people are bowed down and limited by subtleties and reservations by turning every custom into law as in Magian Persia as the Mobeds and Dasturs had done in Iran, downfall was only a question of time. The Muslim world vas so handicapped in Baghdad that inspite of its advance in science and philosophy from its very nature, could not go forward as Europe did two or three centuries later from the same science and philosophy acquired from the Muslims.
You have many problems in this country, economic, military and scientific. I am sure you will overcome your material difficulties but be careful of the soul and the spirit of the people. Do not look to the third century of Islamic history but to the first.
The late Syed Amir Ali rendered many great services to Islam. His book, “The Spirit of Islam” is a great monument but as I often told him, his greatest service was a small concise explanation of Islam which he published and which has now been forgotten. I wish the people of Pakistan could find it again and make it a compulsory subject in religious training in all Muslim schools whatever the sect or sub-division. Take care of all your resources but the greatest of all resources is the mind and spirit of man.
And finally the fact must be faced that there is either an opal or hidden dash between the conservative and the progressive elements in Muslim society. In Turkey this clash had led to a secular state. In Egypt it is there between the Ikhwan and the Governing classes. It threatens itself in the opposition between the so-called Darul-lslam and the responsible Government in Indonesia. Thank God it is not in Pakistan. But unless a healthy middle way such as existed in the first century is found, the ship may be on the rocks again. Pious Muslim thinkers who face realities in Egypt, North Africa and Iran known all about it. I hope and pray that it may be the destiny of Pakistan whose creator Quaid-e-Azam was essentially a modern man to bring about this spiritual and intellectual unity. Here and now and by not only its example but its mediation and influence prevent it ever again from leading to final break as it did in Turkey, in any other Muslim state and society. With this prayer I wish you every success both in the material, intellectual and the spiritual world.”
In the struggle for existence of future only those will survive who control the forces of nature to the greatest extent.
Message H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan, broadcast on February 19, 1950, from Radio Pakistan, Karachi.
The Aga Khan’s broadcast message is indicative of his deep concern over the future of Muslim society. This broadcast is also characteristic of him for its simplicity, directness and a general awareness of the requirements of Muslims in this modern age, both for their social progress and political advancement.
“Thank God, what a change over the spirit of Karachi. Sleepy Karachi of four years ago is today not only the capital of a great State but of a nation which obviously is almost unique, in these days of pessimism and depression, for its obvious hope and trust to make by its efforts and by its work a better world and its faith in God that this new world of Pakistan will be Islamic and righteous.
Under the leadership of Begum Liaquat Ali Khan, the women too have realized to a great extent, especially amongst the younger generation the part they have to play in nation building. The feeling of responsibility towards the future of the nation and the State will become general amongst the women even of older generation and their eyes will be opened to see that they too must put their weight and energy into the cause of Islamic revival.
There is still time to prevent the repetition here of that clash between the conservative and modernist elements in Muslim society. I know that the educated classes hope that with the general spread of instruction and learning amongst the people, there will be no need to work for a better understanding of dynamic Islam as it prevailed in the first century. But if a middle way is not found now while there is time, there is almost a certainty that the day will come when the progressive elements faced with the dangers of being left far behind amongst the nations of the world, will clamor and demand a secular state, or decay. But now is the time to build up that free Islamic state mentality of toleration, mental and spiritual charity, forgiveness towards each other on one side, and, what Quran and the Tradition both insisted on, namely, that nature is the great daily book of God whose secrets must be found and used for the well-being of humanity. Islam is essentially a natural religion, the miracles quoted in the Quran are the great phenomena surrounding us and we are often told that all these manifestations can be used and should be, with intelligence, for the service of man. Let us never forget that in the struggle for existence of the future only those will survive who control the forces of nature to the greatest extent. You have in Pakistan the great advantage of practically a virgin country, with all its resources not only untouched but to a vast extent unknown. Now is the time to use that hope and faith for this immense work under the leadership of our Government that is fully aware and wide awake – a Government the leading members of which can one and all be taken as an example for the nation.”
Arabic is the language of Islam. The Quran is in Arabic The Prophet’s Hadiths are in Arabic. The highest form of Islamic Culture in Spain was In Arabic Your children must learn Arabic to a certain extent always.
H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan’s address al the session of Motamer-al-alam-al-Islami on Friday the 9th February 1951 at Karachi.
I can assure you that it is not with a light heart that I address you this evening. I fully realize that what I am going to say will make me most unpopular with important sections of the population. However, I would be a traitor to Islam if I let this opportunity pass without placing before the people of this powerful and populous Islamic nation the views which I consider my duty to place before the Muslims with a many of the arguments as I am capable of using in a short address I fear some of my arguments will mortally offend those who under totally different conditions gave so much of their life for the support of the cause which I think today has been passed by, by events far more important than any dreamt of in those days.
I feel the responsibility greater than any I can think of to place my views and arguments before the Muslim population of Pakistan as a whole, each and every province, while what I consider a tragic and deadly step is not yet taken and not added to the constitution of this realm.
The language of a nation is not only the expression of its own voice but the mode of interpretation with all other human societies. Before it is too late, I, an old man, implore my brothers in Islam here not to finally decide for Urdu as the national language of Pakistan but to choose Arabic. Please hear my arguments.
First my argument against Urdu. If what was the other part of the former British Empire of India had made Urdu its national language, there would have been a great argument for Pakistan doing ditto. It could have been a linguistic and important point of contact with the vast Republic of the South. I am the last man on earth to desire to break any bridge of contact and understanding between Pakistan and its immense neighbor Friends, not only Urdu but even Hindustani has been replaced by Hindi throughout Bharat as the national language. The people of Bharat were perfectly justified to choose any language which the majority considered most appropriate and historically justified to be their national language. The majority there had the right to, choose what was most suitable for them as the official language of the country. Your choice in Pakistan of Urdu will in no way ameliorate or help your relations with your southern neighbor nor will it help the Muslim minorities there in and conceivable way. Howsoever you may add Arabic and Persian words to Urdu, there is no denying the fact that the syntax, the form, the fundamentals of the language is derived from Hindi and not from Arabic.
Was Urdu the language of the Muslims of India at the time of their glory? During the long Pathan period, Urdu was never considered the language of the rulers. Now we come to the Moghul Empire in the period of its glory. It was not the language of the educated. I defy anybody to produce a letter or any other form of writing by Emperors Aurengzeb, Shah Jehan, Jehangir, Akbar, Humayun or Babar in Urdu language. All that was spoken at the Court was Persian or occasional Turkish. I have read many of the writings of Aurengzeb and they are in beautiful Persian. Same is true if you go to the Taj Mahal and read what is written on the tombs of the Emperor and his famous consort. Persian was the Court language and the language of the educated and even till the early 19th century in far Bengal the Hindi intelligentsia wrote and used Persian and not Urdu. Upto the time of Macaulay, Persian was the language of Bengali upper classes irrespective of faith and of official documents and various Sadar Adalat.
We must look historical facts in the face. Urdu became the language of Muslim India after the downfall. It is a language associated with the downfall. Its great poets are of the downfall period. The last and the greatest of them was Iqbal who with the inspiration of revival gave up Urdu poetry for Persian poetry. There was a meeting in Iqbal’s honor in London organized by men such as Prof. Nicholson. I was present at that meeting. Iqbal said that he went in for Persian poetry because it was associated with the greatness of the Islamic epoch and not with its misfortunes. Is it right that the language of the downfall period should become the national language of what we hope now is a phoenix like national rising All the great masters of Urdu belong to the period of greatest depression and defeat. It was then a legitimate attempt by the use of a language of Hindi derivation with Arabic and Persian words to find ways and means of better understanding with the then majority fellow countrymen. Today that vast British dependency is partitioned and succeeded by two independent and great nations and the whole world hopes that both sides now accept partition as final.
Is it a natural and national language of the present population of Pakistan? Is it the language of Bengal where the majority of the Muslims live? Is it what you hear in the streets of Dacca or Chittagong? Is it the language of the North-West Frontier? Is it the language of Sind? Is it the language of the Punjab? Certainly after the fall of the Moghul Empire, the Muslims and Hindus of certain areas found in it a common bond, but now today other forms of bridges must be found for mutual understanding.
Who were the creators of Urdu? What are the origins of Urdu? Where did it come from? The camp followers, the vast Hindi-speaking population attached to the Imperial Court who adapted, as they vent along, more Arabic and Persian words into the syntax of their own language just as in later days the English words such as ‘glass’ and ‘cup’ became part of a new form of Urdu called Hindustani.
Are you going to make the language of the Camp or of the Court your national language of your new born realm? Every Muslim child of a certain economic standard learns the Quran in Arabic whether he is from Dacca or Quetta. He learns his ‘Alif-Bey’ to read his Quran. Arabic is the language of Islam. The Quran is in Arabic. The Prophet’s Hadiths are in Arabic. The highest form of Islamic culture in Spain was in Arabic. Your children must learn Arabic to a certain extent always. The same is true of your West whether Sind, Baluchistan or the North. From the practical and worldly point of view, Arabic will give you, as a national language, immediate contact not only with the 40 million Arabic speaking people of independent nations on your West but the other 60 million more or less Arabic speaking people who are not independent but who exist in Africa. Right upto the Atlantic, not only in North but as far South as Nigeria and the Gold Coast, Arabic is known to the upper classes of the population. In all the Sudans, on the Nile or under French rule, Arabic is the language right up to the borders of Portuguese West Africa. In East Africa, not only in Zanzibar but amongst the Muslim population of even countries as far apart as Madagascar and Portuguese East Africa, Arabic is known. If we turn to the East on Arabic, Islam has been founded and prospered throughout the 80 million Muslims of Indonesia and Malaya–the 80 million Muslims right up to the Philippines. In Ceylon Muslim children of the well-to-do classes get some knowledge of Arabic Is it not right and proper that this powerful Muslim State of Pakistan with its central geographical position, its bridges between the nearly 100 million of Muslims of the East and 100 million Muslims of the West its position of the East from Philippines and the Great States of Indonesia and Malaya and Burma and then westward with the hundred millions in Africa, right up to the Atlantic, should make Arabic its national language and not isolate itself from all its neighbors and from the world of Islam with a language that was associated with the period of downfall of Muslim State? And finally while Arabic as a universal language of the Muslim world will unite, Urdu will divide and isolate.
Gentlemen, brothers in Islam, people of Pakistan, people of every Province, I appeal to you, before you take the final and what I unfortunately must say, consider the fatal jump down the precipice, please discuss and let all and everyone contribute their views. Take time and think over it.
Once more I appeal to those whom 1 have offended, for Islamic charity in the discussions that inevitably will take place And all others to look facts in the face historically and the present world of today.
I pray that the people of this country may be guided by the Divine wisdom before they decide.
Pakistan and other Muslim nations cannot ignore or passby world events without fatal consequences to their own independence and well-being.
An address delivered by His Royal Highness Prince Aga Khan al the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, Karachi, on 1st February, 1952.
When two years ago I had the honor and pleasure of being amongst you, the whole of my address was taken up with, what I may call in short, the soul of Pakistan. Though your objective is political, economic and of worldly affairs and not religious and spiritual, yet, I felt that it was necessary to place before you the spiritual and religious ideals and principles of conduct which made Islam great in the first century and separation from which, has brought about the general decline and fall of Muslim nations and peoples.
Without a proper spiritual motive power, a great nation is never built. For that reason I was entirely absorbed with what should be the spirit of Islam in Pakistan. According to Muslim ideas, perfection is only reached when body and soul alike, have reached their zenith. So a nation like Pakistan must also think of its material body. Today I will place before you, for your consideration, some observations, as to Pakistan particularly and other Muslim nations generally, for their material development.
The earth is getting smaller and smaller and its countries and people more and more dependent on each other. Some hundred years ago, economic conditions and processes in Northern America or China, though ultimately of influence over the life of the people here and the Middle East, could at least be considered of no immediate importance. Today changes in scientific discoveries, in methods of production, in the use of such primary materials, say, as iron or oil, in one country can very seriously and very soon affect even the life of the individual in another part of the world. Pakistan and other Muslim nations cannot ignore or passby world events without fatal consequences to their own independence and well-being. So, let us look at the world outside. What is the fundamental and what is only a passing phase of the political, economic facts of the present. The fundamental fact is that the only two really independent and master nations in the world the United States and Russia – have one and the same objective though the methods are totally different. The national effort of the time as well as the national effort of the other has one objective capital investment with its inevitable consequences constantly increasing proportionate in production. The end is the same. The method is incredibly different. In the United States and to a lesser extent Canada, this vast and ever growing capital investment has been brought about by free competition, ever taking advantage of mechanization in an effort to increase production. Having been the first in the field of realizing that human effort and contribution directly applied cannot by any process of imagination, increase the fruit of labor to the extent needed, the Americans were the first to try and replace man power wherever possible by machine and to reduce human physical effort in production to its minimum. Certainly today and probably tomorrow, America leads in the race for capital investment which is essential foundation on which modern productivity can be built to constantly increasing and improving standards. After the revolution in 1917, Lenin and his immediate associates brought up in the production theories of Man and Engels and having seen for themselves its consequences in industry and agriculture, what I may briefly call manpowerism, realized that the new idealistic Republic could never survive unless all its efforts were concentrated on capital investment. I believe it was Lenin who said: “Socialism is electricity;” in a nutshell, it puts the case for the concentration of effort on capital investment
Without the historical background of American competitive effort, the rulers of Russia had and have no alternative but a system by which higher authority reduces consumer production and consumer needs to a minimum and makes all effort for one or two generations, for capital investment as the great object of national activity. Capital investment in Russia is going far ahead though at present it is still behind new investments made in America. But neither in one nor the other is the happy go-as-you-please welfare state with the minimum of effort and with a natural man-powers as motive, has remained a possibility. By different methods, the race is being run to attain the highest replacement of paltry human material creative capacity by the use of the forces of nature, under man’s intelligence. Once this race has been started, for those who have not prepared to follow this example, whether in Europe or Asia, there are only two alternatives, of colonialism or communism. Colonialism is not a political process. It is the absence of production proportionate to population, by the absence of capital investment in the past present or future. Nobody dreams of changing the political conditions of certain European countries but if present methods there are continued, they are already on the brink of colonialism, in fact, though not in name.
What about us here? What about the Muslim world? If real independence for Pakistan is desired or for that matter in any Muslim country, then the present generation must be ready to reduce welfarism and consumerism to the very limit and replace it by capital investment. If the whole effort of the nation is conscientiously, as in Russia, brought to the understanding to reduce consumption and to put all its effort on capital investment, you may, in say 20 years, build up the elements, of free system, independent alike of communism and colonialism. Imperialism and colonialism are not brought about by the desire of dominance of one and the sufferance of the other. When the so called imperialist but productively dominating power produces so much and the colonial power produces so little and it has to be ready to receive form the abundance of the one what it cannot produce itself, that day colonialism has come to stay, whether it be in Europe or Asia. Every year that we have peace, there is a profitable balance somewhere in each nation and if and when that profitable balance is constantly used for capital investment and no other, while by sacrifice the amount of that is constantly increased, it will be possible for this country and for the countries of the Middle East to get a new lease of life.
We know that vast plans are being made by Government for development. But unless every man is ready to realize the importance of investment, howsoever small and on the other hand the guidance from the authorities by which such investments are diverted to the production of capital goods either directly or by use of such materials as air and water-power for the production of the essentials of life like food, then only you can build a healthy independent national state. Science must come into industry; industry in which, of course, I include the biggest of all industry, agriculture, must have behind it the conscientious and willing effort of the people. If this willing and conscientious effort is neglected, this higher education of the nation is left to go-as-you-please methods, then the time may come when in very self defense, some form of compulsory investment such as in Russia, may have to be tried, or total economic dependence on either one or the other of the two capital investment countries viz., America or Russia. It is for this reason that the leaders of public opinion, the leaders of our religious life, statesmen and the Ulemas, who as true Muslims, must realize that soul and body are interdependent and they are one in life, may use their influence with the masses to bring about a general awakening to the necessity of constant investment. With the standard of life low and precarious, it is difficult to forego the immediate advantage even though it may mean a future loss. But the choice must be made now. People should be educated not merely to read and write but to realize that howsoever hard it may be, yet power production must be bought by machinery and machinery can only be had by investment.
“Though Ismalis have been always staunch and firm believers in the truth of their own faith in the Imamat Holy Succession, they have never, like some other sects, gone to the other extreme of condemning brother Muslims who have other interpretations of the Divine Message of our Holy Prophet (S.A.S.).
“Ismailis have always believed and have been taught in each generation by their Imams that they hold the rightful interpretation of the succession to the Holy Prophet but that is no reason why other Muslims, who believe differently, should not be accepted as brothers in Islam and dear in person and prayed for and never publicly or privately condemned, leave alone abused.
“I hope that in these days when the Muslims have to hold together in view of all the dangers, external and internal, from all quarters, I hope and believe and pray that lsmailis may show their true Islamic charity in thought and prayer for the benefit and happiness of all Muslims, men, women and children of any sects.”
– Hazrat Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III. (Cairo, 1955)
Islam is fundamentally in its very nature a natural Religion. Throughout the Quran, God’s signs (Ayats) are referred to as the natural phenomenon…
The Aga Khan’s diagnosis in a letter dated 4th April, 1952 to H.E. Dr. Zahid Husain President, Arabiyyah Jamiyyat, Karachi.
First of all I must thank you for so kindly praying for my health. The Almighty has graciously allowed me some further time to be able to serve the great cause which you and I have at heart. I had promised when I made the donation of Rs. 10,000 to send you my views and I take this occasion of doing so.
Of late in Pakistan various people have said that the downfall of the Muslim states during the last 200 or 300 years has been due to forgetting Islamic principles and this is a warning for the people of the new God-given state of Pakistan. Certainly I agree that we forgot Islamic principles in these three hundred years, but here great care must be taken to understand what Islamic principles we forgot and what Islamic principles we did not forget, for, it may be, that the stress is being hid in the popular mind on what we had not forgotten. For instance, the Ulemas in Iran were ever more powerful, more influential, more believed in, more obeyed than in the early part of the 19th century during Fatehali Shah’s reign. The Shariat law was in every way being carried out, rites and ceremonies were exactly obeyed, the poor received regular help and assistance and Zakat was general Yet that was for Iran the most disastrous period because they went to war foolishly trusting on prayers, against Russia and lost the whole Caucasus, Georgia and half Azarbaijan. It is generally said in Iran that the Ulemas assured the troops who had inferior arms that if the prayer Joshaun was read, they could face the superior armament of the Russians. Unfortunately they did and they were massacred and defeated and had to accept finally the humiliating treaty of Turkamanchia.
During the same 18th/19th centuries in Turkey and North Africa also, the rites, ceremonies and alms for poor were carefully carried out and yet those were the years of the disastrous wars with Russia and Austria and regular loss of territory.
Only in India we can say that the downfall was due to the forgetting of our principles of rites and ceremonies and Shariat law, but here apart from such failures, the same forgetting of another fundamental Islamic principle, which had led to the downfalls in Iran and Turkey, also worked and was perhaps the principal cause.
In North Africa, from Egypt to Morocco, rites and ceremonies and the ordinary laws of the Shariat and poor relief were strictly observed and yet year by year throughout the 19th/20th centuries, independence was removed and Europe conquered in one form or other, Morocco being the last which was lost in our time for the same faults. There was another fundamental Islamic principle which the Muslim world during the last 300 years more and more forgot and they lost everything.
Islam is fundamentally in its very nature a natural religion. Throughout the Quran God’s signs (Ayats) are referred to as the natural phenomenon, the law and order of the universe, the exactitudes and consequences of the relations between natural phenomenon in cause and effect. Over and over, the stars, sun, moon, earthquakes, fruits of the earth and trees are mentioned as the signs of divine power, divine law and divine order. Even in the Ayeh of Noor, divine is referred to as the natural phenomenon of light and even references are made to the fruit of the earth. During the great period of Islam, Muslims did not forget these principles of their religion.
Under the Khalif Muavia and the great Omaiyyad Khalifs of Damascus, the Islamic navy was supreme in Mediterranean, better ships, better knowledge of wind and tide were placed at the disposal of the Muslim navy and thus the land conquests of half Western Europe rendered possible and easy.
Even the historian Gibbon says that when the Turks conquered Constantinople, the Muslim artillery was far superior to any other in Europe, and far greater knowledge was known of the consequences of powder and fire than anything that the Greeks had at their disposal. This alone led to the rapid Turkish conquest of the Balkan Peninsula and Constantinople and coming upto Vienna. Just as under the great Omaiyyads they had almost reached Paris.
But at the end of the 17th century and beginning of the 18th, the European Renaissance rapidly advanced in knowledge of nature, namely all those very Ayats of God to which the Quran refers when Muslims forgot the Ayats, namely natural phenomenon, its law and order which are the proofs of divine guidance used in the Quran, but we stuck to our rites and ceremonies, to our prayers and fast alone, forgetting the other half of our faith. Thus during those 200/300 years, Europe and the West got an advance out of all proportion to the Muslim world and we found everywhere in Islam (inspite of our humble prayer, our moral standard, our kindliness and gentleness towards the poor) constant denotation of one form or another and the Muslim world went down. Why? Because we forgot the law and order of nature to which the Quran refers as proof of God’s existence and we went against God’s natural laws. This and this alone has led to the disastrous consequences we have seen.
Today public opinion in Pakistan is standing at a critical moment. If again we look upon Islamic principles as only rites and ceremonies and forget the real Ayats of God’s natural phenomenon, then not only Europe but China and India will go so far ahead of us that either we will become like North Africa, humble protectorates or we may have like Turkey to throw over much that is most valuable and precious in our mental outlook. To avoid this, what are we to do? Any fool can tell you of the disease but what is the remedy, how are we to save both teaching of Islam, knowledge of nature and our daily Islamic life of kindliness, gentleness and prayers? If the present method by which the Ulema being brought up on one line of studies and the scientific youth on a different one continues, then disaster will come because there will be a fundamental misunderstanding in the outlook of intellect and faith in the soul of the nation. We must learn from our enemies what saved Christianity for Europe. It was the fact that as the Universities at the time of the Renaissance and centuries that followed went forward with natural studies at the same time, the same universities had faculties of divinity in which the priesthood was trained. The atmosphere of science permeated the atmosphere of Christian divinity studies and the atmosphere of the Christian divinity students permeated the atmosphere of the scientific studies thus both grew and developed together. Christianity adapted itself to science, though it is any thing but a natural religion being based on fundamental irrational principles which are the break up of natural law and order, while science accepted these extraordinary miracles as temporary breaks of the natural law of the universe.
Alas, Islam which is a natural religion in which God’s miracles are the very law and order of nature drifted away and still drifting away, even in Pakistan, from science which is the study of those very laws and orders of nature.
You, gentlemen, have a great responsibility. The only practical hope I see is that all your universities in Pakistan should have a faculty of Islamic religious and philosophical studies attached to ordinary curriculum for post-graduate students, who alone could be recognized as Ulemas. Something of the kind I know is being prepared in Egypt. A great Muslim divine, alas dead far too soon, the late Sheikh al-Maraghi, insisted in Azhar that natural laws should be taught according to the latest discoveries; but if we turn to Iran, Pakistan, North Africa, outside Egypt, we find that the Ulemas are being still brought up on the same old lines and the modern students on a totally different line. There is no unity of soul without which there can be no greatness.
My voice alone is the voice of an old sick man in the wilderness, but you members of the Jamiyyat are not old members and sick men. Insist, you who have taken up the study of the language of the Quran, to make the spirit of the Quran also the spirit of Pakistan. Remember that in the great first century they knew more about sea and wind than Europe ever did for hundreds of years to come. Today where are you? Unless our universities have the keen graduated Ulema school for men brought up in the same atmosphere as the science students, realizing the fundamental truth that Islam is a natural religion of which the Ayats are the universe in which we live and move and have our being, the same causes will lead to the same disastrous results.
You, members of the Jamiyyat should bravely request the enlargement of our universities and the increase of their numbers on Aligarh lines, and insist on post graduate degrees for Ulema, just as there is for scientists brought up in the same way. I influenced my friend Mohsenul Mulk to do something of the kind in Aligarh. Alas, he died and after his death my direct influence on the powers of Aligarh got less and less, though something of the kind to which I here refer did come up in Aligarh. It did not go the whole way as it would have gone, still if Mohsenul Mulk had lived and I had been able to continue my influence, but it was an improvement and it has given you Pakistan. Without Aligarh no Pakistan would have come, but to live we want many Aligarhs with science and religious philosophy and education blended in one atmosphere realizing that God of the Quran is the one whose Ayats are the universe.
This is my most important message to you, brothers of Jamiyyat. If your prayers have given me life enough to write this letter, your prayers have done some good.
H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan’s reply to TIMES, London, when it attempted to malign Islam.
Even a little knowledge of Islam will show that its religion is not only tolerant of other Faiths, but most respectful, and indeed, fully accepts the divine inspiration of all theistic Faiths that came before Islam. It does not only teach tolerance to its followers, but goes a step further and enjoins on them all to create the godly quality of “Hilm” that is, tolerance, forbearance, patience, calmness, and forgiveness. It is due to the spirit of tolerance of Islam that even the smallest Christian and Jewish minorities survived and kept all their doctrines during the thousand years of Muslim rule. Nothing like what happened to Muslims in Spain after the Christian conquest has ever happened to a non-Muslim Faith in any Islamic dominion.
How, can Europeans be so ignorant as to have forgotten that in the first century of Islam the Khalifs ordered that all that was best in Greek and Roman cultures should be assimilated; that not only the philosophy, medicine and science of Greece, but its poetry and drama, were carefully translated into Arabic and were generally sought not only by the learned but also by the pious!
The Muslim attitude towards the absorption of ideas was based on the principle of Islam which enjoins to acquire knowledge wherever available, and there is a well-known and authentic saying of the Prophet that “his followers should seek learning even if they have to go to China.” Islam, by its geographical position, suffered the terrible Mongol invasions one after the other, just at the time when it was weakened by the long and immense efforts with which it had mastered the many successive crusades. It should not be forgotten that the Tartar invasions came one generation after the other. In fact, in the interest of the universal unification of mankind the Quran ignores the minor differences and says: “Come, let us unite to what is common to us all,” which obviously encourages Muslims to assimilate ideas and even customs from others.
Full Message is below, above is the edited version which appeared in “Message to the World of Islam”:
When The Times of London made unfair allegations against Islam and the Muslims in a leading article on 22 October 1951, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah, Aga Khan III sent a spirited reply which was published in The Times 6 November 1951 issue.
‘The Tolerance of Islam’, Reply to The Times of London (London, United Kingdom)
6 November 1951
In your leading article of October 22  under the heading “The Middle East” you have stated that “in the Muslim countries the second tendency (a violent reaction against the West) is exaggerated by an intolerant religion which teaches the duty as shunning foreign influences.” This sweeping generalisation, not only against Muslims but against their faith and Islam itself, is both untrue and unfair, and, indeed, shows a lamentable dearth of knowledge regarding Islam and its legal and religious principles, even among leading writers of the leading journals of the West.
Even a little knowledge of Islam will show that its religion is not only tolerant of other faiths, but most respectful, and, indeed, fully accepts the divine inspiration of all theistic faiths that came before Islam. It does not only teach tolerance to its followers, but goes a step further and enjoins on them all to create the godly quality of Hilm, that is, tolerance, forbearance, patience, calmness, and forgiveness. It is due to the spirit of tolerance of Islam that even the smallest Christian and Jewish minorities survived and kept all their doctrines during the thousand years of Muslim rule. Nothing like what happened to Muslims in Spain after the Christian conquest has ever happened to a non-Muslim faith in any Islamic dominion.
How can Europeans be so ignorant as to have forgotten that in the first century of Islam the Khalifas ordered that all that was best in Greek and Roman cultures should be assimilated; that not only the philosophy, medicine, and science of Greece but its poetry and drama were carefully translated into Arabic and were generally sought not only by the learned but also by the pious?
The Muslim attitude towards the absorption of ideas was based on the principle of Islam which enjoins to acquire knowledge wherever available, and there is a well-known and authentic saying of the Prophet that “his followers should seek learning even if they have to go to China.” Islam, by its geographical position, suffered the terrible Mongol invasions one after the other, just at the time when it was weakened by the long and immense efforts with which it had mastered the many successive crusades. It should not be forgotten that the Tartar invasions came one generation after the other. In fact, in the interest of the universal unification of mankind the Qur’an ignores the minor differences and says: “Come, let us unite to what is common to us all”, which obviously encourages Muslims to assimilate ideas and even customs from others.
It is, of course, true that Muslim countries, like modern European races, have acquired in this century a stron sense of nationalism which has no connexion with their religion. As such, if there has been violent reaction against the West in some of the Muslim countries, the reason is to be found in the attitude and behaviour of the Westerners, their ignorance and want of respect for the faith and culture of Islam, of which the reference to that faith in your leading article is a typical and usual example. Only recently I was in all the Muslim States where there is a so-called anti-Western agitation, and I have no hesitation in saying that if the Atlantic nations and the West generally wants better relationship with the Muslims, the solution lies in their own hands, and this can be done only if they change their mental attitude and cultivate better understanding of the Muslims’ material needs and loyal recognition of the high quality of their national culture and the purity of their faith.
His Highness the Aga Khan III
The Tolerance of Islam, The Times, London, 6 November 1951, Cannes, Alpes-Maritimes
Text (secondary source): Aga Khan III, Selected Speeches and Writings of Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Edited by K.K. Aziz, Kegan Paul International, 1997, pp 1282
It was not for nothing that the Prophet’s first convert was a woman.
H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan’s message to lsmailia Women’s Association, March 1953.
The Prophet of Islam (who has been so cruelly libeled in the Western world, by ignorance or malice) was wont to say that men can but follow in the footsteps of their mothers towards Paradise. And it was not for nothing, according to Muslim belief that his first convert was a woman.
Biologically the female is more important to the race than the male. While average women are capable of earning their own livelihood like men, they are the guardians of the life of the race, and only through their natural constitution are they able to bear the double burden. Experience shows the strong probability that the active influence of women on society, under free and equal conditions, is calculated not only to bring about practical improvement in the domestic realm, but also a higher and nobler idealism into the life of the state. Those who know Moslem society from within readily admit that its higher spiritual life owes a great debt to the example and influence of women. Today, as in the lifetime of the Prophet, probably the majority of devout and reverent followers of his teaching are women.
No progressive thinker of today will challenge the claim that the social advancement and general well-being of communities are greatest where women are least debarred, by artificial barriers and narrow prejudice, from taking their full position as citizens.
The progressive modernization which depends on co-operation and understanding will be impossible unless women are permitted to play their legitimate part in the great work of national regeneration on a basis of political equality.
The Holy Prophet of Islam is to us Muslims, the last and greatest messenger from the Creator, and through him man is to find salvation in both this world and the next. The great religious teachers before and since Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) have all limited the area of truth by excluding either some or all of their predecessors. Prophet Muhammed, on the other hand, by a full recognition of all his predecessors and by admitting that no people, race or nation had been left without some kind of divine illumination, gave his Fatih universality in the past, and in fact made it coexistent with human history.
If, now we turn from its historic background to its doctrine and to its possibility of development in the future, we will find the potential universality. Take the central principle of ‘Allah-o-Akbar’. Here we find on one side divinity, on the other side infinity. For what is, the greater time, space, the starry heavens, intelligence, knowledge – whatever existence goes there His greatness extends. Greatness here, means that everything else is within the womb of the greater – everything else is maintained and sustained by Divine Power, including the furthest spaces of imagination.
Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) told mankind first that the infinite sustainer and container of all existence had justice, mercy, and love as well; secondly, that man through these qualities and through gentleness and kindness, prayer, awe or wonder could get, in howsoever infinitesimal proportion, direct communion with the all-embracing power in which he lived and moved and had his being.
I submit that this doctrine will have a universality that can be accepted as long as man is man and as long as intelligence as we understand it services on earth. We maintain that the Prophet only ordered prayer, fasting, and gentleness in all human relations, kindness and consideration for all beasts and animals from the smallest worm to the largest mammal.
By the institution of the ‘Ulu’l-Amr’, who can be interpreted as Imam and Caliph, and by placing obedience to ‘Ulu’l-Amr’ immediately after that to God and Prophet, he ensured that the Faith would ever remain living, extending, developing with science, knowledge, art and industry.
– Hazrat Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III (Sept. 1934)
Extracts from ‘lrshad’ of H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan delivered on the unique Platinum Jubilee Celebrations of 70 years of his Imamat at Karachi on 3rd February 1954.
“…I am proud and happy that I was born in Karachi the city which had the honor of being the birth place of the Father of the Nation, the late Quaid-e-Azam, whose untimely and early death we all so deplore and whose loss I particularly feel with personal grief, for shortly before his death, he had asked me to take up the general direction and supervision of Pakistan representation in Europe and America, which alas, then my health was so bad that not only myself but all my doctors and family expected my death before his.
“You Ismailis know perfectly well that it is a fundamental point in your religion that wherever you be whatever the state where life and honor are protected, you must give your entire loyalty and devotion to the welfare and service of that country. You who have the honor of being citizens of Pakistan, to you, I give this advice: do not interpret your citizenship purely in a passive form but patriotism and loyalty must be active and productive. I realize fully that the overwhelming majority of the population have to look after their means of livelihood and the up-bringing of your children, but work if carried out intensively, is service to God and Fatherland. Make your daily labor, a labor of love howsoever difficult and hard it may be. Do remember that in democracy, voting and the rights of citizenship should be used with care and attention with serious thought howsoever humble with the full realization to the best of your ability that not personal, parochial or provincial interests are to be served but the greater good and the welfare of the population as a whole and the security of the state as such. If the people of a nation are united and self-sacrificing, any amount of difficulties and overwhelming misfortunes can be overcome. We have seen how Turkey has come out stronger than ever after a hundred years of misfortunes and disasters. There are two other cases which should be an example and should not discourage anyone in the face of difficulties. Germany and Japan after the greatest defeats known to history have by hard work and devotion raised themselves to be honored, respected and powerful members of the comity of nations. If every Ismaili living in Pakistan remembers and interprets his citizenship, howsoever humble his contributions may be, with the spirit of courage and devotion, then indeed I am happy to think that after many years of surgical operations and illnesses, I am still alive to give you this fatherly advice.
“From the religious point of view, though you must firmly stick to the tenets of your Faith, yet you should not forget what I have always considered the most beautiful of all Muslim prayers namely, that Allah Almighty in His infinite mercy may forgive the sins of all Muslims.”
What is the practical apart from the theoretical and philosophical teaching of Buddha? Peace to living beings. In a largely Christian gathering such as I am addressing today it is not necessary for me to refer to the teaching of its great founder and its application to international, interracial intercontinental relations with its final result, peace, which is the only legitimate solution of the world troubles. And now about the Faith to which I belong. Islam means Peace. Our salutation ‘As-Salaamu-alaykum, ‘Peace be with you’ and the reply ‘Alaykum-as Salaam’, ‘And upon you be Peace’. The Holy Prophet of Islam laid down as the rule of life, peace between man and man, peace in thought and in action and he always insisted on kindliness and gentleness towards all living beings. Islam frankly accepts the right of other living beings to treatment worthy of not only man’s soul but the spirit which manifested in all life. Such were the dreams, the teachings of the outstanding figures of the past world.
The following message of H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan was read out by Begum Aga Khan at an honor at Hotel Metropole on 5th February 1954 by the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs. Prince Aga Khan was to address the Institute but be could not attend owing to indisposition. President of the function, Chowdari Mohammed Zafarullah, the then Foreign Minister, Government of Pakistan, paying glowing tributes to H.R.H. for the great services rendered to Islam said that Prince Aga Khan was a great beacon of light for the Muslims and prayed that it would continue to shine for a long time to come to the guidance of the world of Islam. He added that Prince Aga Khan by his noble actions had set an example before all who had been endowed by God with intellectual , moral and material gifts.
“Man proposes and God disposes. I am sorry to inform you that after a bad cold I have now a slight temperature and you can well understand that at my age I cannot go out with the temperature.
I am very sorry not to be with you as on two previous occasions. I had the honor of addressing you on what I believe to be the most important subjects of a man, a community, a state or a super state like the Muslim world, for the spiritual and material health and vigor.
As I consider the spiritual and mental being superior to the material body, my first address to you was a call to the Muslim world to study and take example from the first century of the great Ommayads period, before Islam was swaddled by a number of customs and inhibitions borrowed from Sassanian Iran by the Abbasides.
My second address to you dealt not only with your material well being but even with conditions without which in the modern world, survival is impossible, namely a serious attempt to increase production to its utmost by means based on modern and progressive discoveries of science.
Today feel I cannot do better than to draw your attention to the two addresses which I have had the honor of delivering. I am glad to hear that this institution is to be put upon a healthy financial basis with a building of its own, a library, a reading room, with all kinds of journals, magazines, reference books, etc. Allow me to contribute my little help to this excellent cause and subscribe Rs. 20,000. Wishing you every success and hoping that you will soon be in a position to tell the world that in Karachi we have a body established for the serious and continuous study of international affairs.”
Is the Muslim world at last going to turn its thought and culture to what is fundamental teaching of the Holy Quran? It is for the public of Pakistan and indeed for the Muslim world to adjust its cultural foundations of knowledge to the study and ultimate victory over the forces of nature ever at our disposal through science.
When an individual’s health deteriorates, when a strong healthy body begins to lose its various powers, all physicians worthy of their salt search for its cause by careful diagnosis. Only then when the process of analysis has brought to light the underlying causes and not the symptoms can real cure be found and when the diagnosis has been successful the cure is facile and usually rapid.
Society consists of individuals and when we find civil societies that were once upon a time vigorously their own and indeed with obvious superiority amongst other organized social bodies, and are then left behind while others progress far beyond even the imagination, leave alone the knowledge of their former supervisors, then indeed, unless we want to commit suicide, it is necessary to look deeper and to ask questions and find answers.
And the greater is the necessity for our search because the societies that have remained stationary have had one thing in common namely, what we call Islamic culture and those that have gone forward have drawn their force from other intellectual sources. Yet this world phenomenon is of comparatively recent date. Only 250 years ago towards the end of the 17th century, all European travelers and indeed general opinion as well as the remains of architecture prove beyond question that the Islamic world was superior to the Western in civilization and the amenities of life.
European travelers records leave no doubt that cities such a Isfahan, Istanbul, Cairo and Delhi were healthier with far better sanitary arrangements, cleaner with better quality water, light, law and order than their contemporary rivals in Europe. If we can judge a nation by cleanliness, then the Muslim world was far ahead according to all contemporary evidence, specially from European sources.
In medicine and armaments, two totally different but necessary indications of national power and vigor, the Muslim world had nothing to learn from either the non-Muslim East or the West. Yet today, 250 years later, how different! Can we really compare the atomic power of America and Russia with our few survived Muslim free countries? Even, in spite of the birth of Pakistan, independent Indonesia, when we turn to the Muslim world we find either colonialism as in Africa or vast industrial economic and military weakness compared even with Europe or Japan, leave alone America.
What has brought about between say the year 1650 and 1950, this immense reversal of positions? When I had the honor of presiding at the Muslim Educational Conference early in 1903 at Delhi, I referred to some of what I then described as the causes of the downfall. But the greatest and by far the most important indeed the mother of all the other causes direct or indirect is the intellectual and spiritual revolution that took place in the West soon after the Renaissance but which unfortunately for us, we misunderstood it that time and have suffered from it ever since. This revolution led to immense power over the force of nature. The control of nuclear energy today is the latest example of that which the West gained and which we failed to realize. Until soon after the Renaissance both East and West looked for their philosophy of nature, for their explanation of phenomena to what I may call the classic interpretation of the facts of the Universe.
This classical interpretation had various minor sources, some of them from China and India; but the principal and indeed its foundation was mainly Greek modified by Arab thought. The natural philosophy was the foundation of both Eastern and Western nations and technology plus their means of production were based on the same until some 400 years ago, then the West under the influence of certain men of genius such as Leonardo de Vinci and Bacon, and a good many others, began to question the truth of the Greeco-Arabian explanations and finally broke away with classical traditions and turned directly to nature. Observation of natural phenomena and questionings by experiment became the foundations and the guiding stars of the mind and thought of the West.
Alas, at the critical time in the Muslim East more and more thought and concentration was given to further study of the classical discoveries of the past. The “Allama” theory of knowledge in which the past was given complete wisdom and the future was to follow rather than go forward, put a stop to what was most important for political, economic and indeed cultural life.
Both East and West are agreed that the Greco-Arab period produced some of the greatest intellectual giants of the human race. But while we were satisfied to look at the world through the eyes of our giants, the West insisted on more and more pigmies sitting one over the other on the top of the giants’ shoulders till their accumulated height was infinitely greater than that of the original giant on whom they had built their foundations.
What has been the result? All through the 13th and 19th centuries right up to the middle of the 20th century, we find Europe and America constantly getting greater and greater power over nature and thus their ability to conquer and indeed, when necessary, to crush those who had turned their back on the possibility of progress; and it is all the more extraordinary that this should have happened to the Muslim world. Islam is fundamentally a natural religion. An its dogmas and doctrines of whatever sect or school are ultimately based on the regularity and order of natural phenomena, on the natural inclination of human beings for survival and reproduction, while the religion of the West, Christianity, is based on a miraculous event and faith in miracles, that is to say, a break in that very regularity to which the Holy Koran refers on a thousand occasions.
Today perhaps we are farthest away from control over nature while the West from America to Russia increases its great and overwhelming power over natural forces. Towards the end of the 19th century two men of genius among Indian Muslims, with one of whom I had just the honor of being acquainted, but the other was my intimate friend and collaborator during the early years of the century, Sir Syed Ahmed and Mohsin-ul-Mulk, were the first to realize that it was this command over nature and its forces that gave power and strength to human beings and that if we searched for power and strength, for uplift, it could only come if we also acquired by the same methods those very powers that led to more and more improved means of production and its obvious result – greater and greater mastery over the forces at our disposal.
Our Holy Koran so often refers to the fact that we are surrounded by so many God-given gifts which we should understand and profit from. Alas, we Muslims, who should have been the first to realize it, have become the last. Sir Syed and Mohsin-ul-Mulk were abused for they were misunderstood. Today the Muslim world is almost at the last stage, almost at the last hour between a final collapse and revival. The birth of Pakistan is undoubtedly the result of that very revolt of Sir Syed and Mohsin-ul-Mulk. The birth of Indonesia, the phoenix-like revival of Turkey, can all give us hope. But the essential weakness is everywhere in the Muslim world. Production per head of population is still far behind not only the West but even parts of the East.
Is the Muslim world at last going to turn its thought and culture to what is the fundamental teaching of the Holy Koran and the meaning of all Muslim sectarian interpretations of our Holy Book namely, knowledge gained by the observation and questionings of the world which Allah Almighty has given to us and in which we live and move and have our being? Is that blessing to remain in the hands of others to be further developed? Incredible new powers are attained while we remain humble followers and in truth condemned even to lose our individuality. It is for the public of Pakistan and indeed of the Muslim world, to adjust its cultural foundation of knowledge to the study and ultimate victory over the forces of nature ever at our disposal through science and thus once more as in the first thousand years of Muslim history, we should all be in the vanguard of mankind.
Clarion Call to Muslim Women
I do not think you realize yourselves and I am sorry to say, certainly the men of Pakistan, and a few other Muslim countries, do not realize the importance of women taking an equal rank with men in the welfare, in the Government and in the general activity and prosperity of the country. Only the other day, the Minister of Wakfs, one of the leading “ulemas’ of Egypt responsible for religious affairs, was telling me that a country is like a human body, men and women are two lungs, if you reduce the power of women, you crush them with inhibitions and imaginary restrictions based ultimately on man’s superior physical power, in a nation, it is exactly like a human being who has one lung perforated by tuberculosis and only one lung to work.
Ladies believe me, if Pakistan does not rise to the modern idea of the equal position of women, you will find not only Europe but all the other countries of Asia going ahead of you. I am heartbroken when I see how little so many of our men realize what it is, and how little the women contribute, compared to what they could contribute to the moral and material happiness and prosperity of the country.
To begin with, the women here, to my horror, are forbidden in taking part in the religious life of the country. In practically every Muslim country the women are allowed to go to mosques for Friday prayers and there are proper wings divided by ‘purdahs’ from the men where they conduct Friday prayers. Perhaps the greatest blot in Pakistan is the neglect of Friday prayers by Muslims generally but above all, not giving women occasions for participating in these most important prayers. If you are forbidden even prayer what can you expect! The first thing to agitate for, is to get your right for your prayers, which women enjoy in practically every Muslim country. In Cairo, there are special mosques, like the Mohammedali Mosque, where galleries are reserved for women. In North Africa, in the Paris mosque and the London mosque at Woking, in Iran and in Turkey, women have their own special place for Friday prayers. When you do not allow the women to pray, how can you expect them to do any lay service for the country.
Right to Prayers
First of all you must win the right to prayers, then win your right to equality in production, industrial service and in office work. I am an old man and I can expect very little in this world but my message to you women is: organize yourselves, resist and fight for your rights.
One last word, some of our champions of inhibitions fear that liberty will lead to sexual immorality. Believe me, when women from childhood and adolescence have seen men, then there is very little likelihood of that, except in naturally bad characters who will be bad always under any conditions, either of freedom or restrictions.
I have lived in most European and American countries, and I have no hesitation in saying that only one out of 1,000 families is broken up by sexual misdemeanor and the other 999 go through happy life bringing up children, living perfectly moral lives in which little thought is given to sexual relations and the whole life is taken up for service to the children, to the family, to the husband and to the country.
My dear Muslim sisters. One result of this is that some of your men who lock up their women, when they go to Paris, rush to indulge in their horrible instincts and for that go to places where (like in every great city, even in Muslim countries) there are prostitutes and shows for encouraging sexual depravity. But that is not the life of the people. The overwhelming life of the people is happy family relations and far more devotion to children than you can possibly get out of “purdah nashin.”
Oh my sisters, agitate. Leave no peace to the men till they give you religious freedom by opening mosques for prayers not side by side with men but in reserved quarters attached to all the mosques, so that the habit of praying in public and self respect and self-confidence becomes general amongst women. On that foundation of religious equality, you can then build social, economic, patriotic and political equality with men.
I pray Allah Almighty to open the eyes of our benighted men and some of our still more benighted women.
I should, first of all, advise my heirs to learn to desire the thing that happens, and not try to mould events to their desires. It was silly of the poet Omar to write:
‘Ah love, could you and I with Him conspire, to grasp this sorry scheme of things entire. Would we not shatter it to bits, and then remold it nearer to the heart’s desire?’
That way lies unhappiness, destruction. It is not sorry scheme of things, and the business, the duty of man, is to get himself into harmony with it.
I would counsel my heirs to seek satisfaction, not in the flux of circumstances, but within themselves; I would have them resolute, self-controlled, independent but not rebellious. Let them seek communion with that Eternal Reality which I call Allah and you call God! For that is the twin problem of existence…to be at once entirely yourself and altogether at one with the Eternal.”
I say that you should endeavor to suit your desire to the event and not the event to your desire. If a wall tumbles down and crushes my foot I must say: “That is the best thing that could happen to me.”
An uncle of mine had a son who was killed. The father gave thanks to Allah for the event. You think that he did not love his son! You are wrong. He loved him dearly. I confess that I may not yet have risen to such a spiritual height. But I believe that I shall rise to it. I know that this is the way to happiness.
I should have a word to say to those who deem themselves unfortunate from a worldly point of view. I should say to them, do not look up and lament that you are not as well off as those above you, look down and congratulate yourself that you are better off than those below you.
To a man who looks with such eyes upon the world it is not a prison but a garden. A marvelous garden – the garden of the Lord. I shall invite my heirs to feast their eyes on the miraculous beauty of the earth; rivers and seas to slake the earth’s eternal thirst, hills like the tents of a great encampment, forests like an army with banners; wide open spaces, dawns and sunsets the indomitable arch of the sky.
All these great gifts are freely given to the man with open eyes, open hands and open heart. But the eyes must be clear, the hands and heart be strong. I would impress upon my heirs the absolute need to be healthy. If they neglect their body, they will be at odds with the universe.
Aim at Absolute Fitness
Therefore I say: Keep your bodies clean – bathe them frequently, wear clean clothes, eat clean food, drink clean water breathe clean air. I know that society may make it difficult for some of its citizens to get these things. Instead it should make it easy.
But we are not, as individuals, to put the onus on society. As I have said, it is our business to “use” events, conditions, limitations. If we cannot be as fit as an as Achilles champion, we may aim at absolute fitness and be well content with the fitness we achieve.”
Never forget this: The society in which we live cannot give a man happiness. If we miss that you miss my point altogether. Society can give a man space to breathe and freedom to move in it; it can afford him the means of keeping himself healthy and making himself strong. But happiness never depends on one’s surroundings; it depends altogether and exclusively on oneself.
Of course, health is not static, but dynamic. I can only judge a race horse for example when I have seen it in motion. Therefore I shall speak to my heirs of the vital importance of exercise. And since to take joy in your activities is one of the secrets of health, I should counsel them to play games.
Naturally my heirs will be riders of horses. That is in the blood. The ‘Horse and the rider’ have been the sign manual of my race for a thousand years. But I speak of concerted games.
Knowing something of tennis and a little golf I can advise them to play those games. Knowing very little of cricket except as a spectator, I must be content to regard that great game with benevolent neutrality. But play games! Play them joyfully, vehemently, with all your heart.
My final word would be to civilized society at large. I have already suggested that society should give a man space and means to make himself healthy. Now pursue the implication and tell society that it should give the individual peace. That is what a government is for, it is the final test; if a government cannot give us that, it is not worth having. I am a pacifist.
I would have the whole world unite to defend itself against aggression. Your nationalist instincts may be opposed to this. But see what those instincts have done for you! You have broken Germany. Yes! but you have broken yourselves. I don’t say that you were at fault, I don’t say that you could have avoided doing what you did. For the pre-war Prussian was – no, not criminal, impossible. But I do say that war is always a ghastly mistake, and that this last war was almost the death-blow to civilization.
And so in my testament I should say to the rulers of the earth. Prove yourselves: Prove that you are worth having: give the world peace!
Source: Ismailia Association of Pakistan, 1977
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