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.

The Middle East — Prince Aly Khan

H. R. H. Prince Aly Khan -

Speech by Prince Aly Khan in 1951

Lecture by His Serene Highness Prince Aly Khan under the chairmanship of His Worship the Major, councillor Abdulkarim M.L.C., Vice – President of the Dar es Salaam Cultural Society.

30 January 1951

It is indeed ironical that here, in Dar es Salaam, “Haven of peace,” I must speak of war.

That I may speak of war and yet hold bright hopes for peace is due to my strong conviction that growing strength of the Mohamedan world, is staunchly united with Christianity in defence of freedom, may yet prevent, or if not prevent, bring to a victorious conclusion, any war which might be imposed upon us.

The Mohamedan world, the Middle East and Pakistan, is, I submit the hub of the free world’s “wheel of fortune”. obscure as the international situation may be, the strategic importance of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Iran, because of their geographical situation and resources, stand out in bold relief against a clouded and troubled sky.

In spite of this fact, the Western powers have never given sufficient importance to the Muslim world. They have always been inclined to treat it as a big backward and lethargic child. That is the view they have generally adopted towards all Eastern peoples. It is only the reverses of the Korean war that have made the Western powers realise that the Eastern nations can and do produce good soldiers.

The Korean War has also shown quite clearly that in a major conflict manpower is as important as horsepower. Advanced designs in war planes and other mechanical devices cannot win a decisive victory without occupying forces to consolidate initial victories.

It is the contention of the peace-loving world that the overwhelming issue of the day is communism versus humanity. It is certainly true that the architects of Communist expansion are taking every possible measure to impose their dogmas upon the world.

The recent events of Berlin, Korea, and Indo-China, indicate that the Russians were not slow in appreciating the need of a strong foothold in the Middle Eastern countries, and it would not be surprising if the next move was made in the direction of Azarbaijan. This might not take the form of an attack, but more probably of some local rebellion, obviously incited and supported by Russia.

Some of the Middle Eastern countries, owing to foreign domination, have failed to progress to anywhere near the extent of their possibilities – others, owing to dissension amongst the Mohamedan sects, have also lagged behind. After the second World War, a great political, economic and social awakening has been taking place but the understanding, the friendship, and the material assistance of the West is needed now, as never before, if the peoples and nations of the Middle East, are to approach their full stature, as allies, in the cause of peace and justice.

And while it is true that the middle East and the world’s fifth largest nation, Pakistan, with its more than eighty million population have not yet attained anything approaching their real potential strength, either economically, industrially, or militarily, the Christian forces must realise that there exists in fact today a third world bloc: ISLAM. The Islamic bloc may not, at this moment of history, compare in developed material power with the so-called major blocs; its spiritual power, however, is second to none, and it is this great spiritual force of Islam, with which Christianity must combine, if world aggression is to be halted.

Russia is fully aware of this forward movement in the Middle East countries, and an intense Communist programme of propaganda and infiltration is in operation throughout these areas, conducted by local agents and dissatisfied political leaders guided and abetted by the communist diplomatic representatives. Still another method is employed by playing upon the nationalistic aspirations of the people or members of their Governments. Unless the Western powers fully realise the existence and importance of this third world bloc, and the threats to that bloc from without, and extend a friendly, helping hand to it – then the ideal of equality and democracy for which we stand so firmly united will be in real and grave danger. If this is not done, these countries’ ideology has any similarity to communism, but because they will be given cause to feel that they are undesired and unwanted by the west, and will automatically turn to the first power who shows them any mark of sympathy, however bogus this may be. I repeat, although the Communist doctrine has no connection with the Muslim faith, the economic needs and, to a large extent, the existing substandard of living suffered by the peoples make these under-developed lands ideal breeding ground for communist propaganda.

It is apparent that Christianity and Islam must come, and come immediately, to a closer understanding, and it is equally apparent that their unity if achieved, will be the most effective defensive measure against Communist expansion. Throughout the past, there has been a lack of intimacy, affection, and regard for Islam by Christianity. This, to a large extent, has been due to a lack of knowledge of the great human and spiritual ideals for which Islam and the teachings of Islam stand. All efforts should now be made by Christianity to bridge this wholly artificial and harmful gap.

A recent Communist Conference which was held in Batum, and which was attended by representatives of all the Middle Eastern countries proved again, if such proof were necessary, the great importance which Russia attributes to the Middle East. Very little publicity was given to the conference, yet this kind of information would be widely publicised in order to bring home forcefully to the layman of the world the gravity of the dangers with which we are faced.

Russia knows of the vulnerability of her frontiers in this part of the world. In Eastern Europe, she has created a series of buffer states which could take the first shock of any attacks directed against her. But from the direction of the Middle East, her weak under-side, she is far more vulnerable, particularly if you take into consideration the proximity of her principal oil sources: Baku and Ramanian fields. Baku’s oil was so vital to Russia in the Second World War, that Hitler saw fit to drive his hordes through the steps of Russia in an attempt to stop its flow. Today, Russia doubtless covets the oil of Iraq, Persia and Saudi Arabia. This lends added significance to Russia in the safeguarding of her frontiers against all possible attacks by air or land, launched from Persia and Saudi Arabia. This lends added significance to Russia in the safeguarding of her frontiers against all possible attacks by air or land, launched from Persia or Turkey. We must remember, too, that the Russian population of the Caucasus are to a large extent Muslims, and the areas such as Georgia which have aspirations of their own.

With a communist drive into Europe, it would be futile to think that Russia could ignore her susceptibilities to attacks from the Middle East. Her eyes have long been turned towards the Persian Gulf, the road to India and an outlet on the Mediterranean always one of her older ambitions.

Communist propaganda has for some time been advocating a separatist movement in a number of Middle East countries, such as the Kurdish movements in Iraq and Persia; also factions in Azerbaijan (Iran) where already they stirred up trouble a few years ago; as well as the terrorists of the Irgun in Palestine.

All these countries and conditions must be weighed, and weighed again with mature judgement by the leaders of the Western hemisphere. If they fail to appraise the true value of Islam in the world situation today, if they fail to recognise or fail to endeavour to alleviate the sufferings of its masses, they may well lose the might of its manpower and the goodwill of its people, made cohesive by the faith and consequently lose, for all religions, the war against Godlessness.

Although I have spoken of the imminence of war, I wish to conclude with an invocation to peace…Peace for all men of faith, whatever their creed, whatever their colour.

Aga Khan


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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 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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