The Ismaili Imamat is a supra-national entity, representing the succession of Imams since the time of the Prophet… Today the Ismailis are the only Shia community who, throughout history, have been led by a living, hereditary Imam in direct descent from the Prophet.
The role of the Ismaili Imam is a spiritual one; his authority is that of religious interpretation. It is not a political role. I do not govern any land.
Address to both Houses of the Parliament of Canada in the House of Commons Chamber,
Ottawa, Canada (27 February 2014)
That spiritual role, however, … does not imply a separation from practical responsibilities. In fact for Muslims the opposite is true: the spiritual and material worlds are inextricably connected. Leadership in the spiritual realm for all Imams, whether they are Sunni or Shia implies responsibility in worldly affairs; a calling to improve the quality of human life.
Samuel L. and Elizabeth Jodidi Lecture at Harvard University,
Cambridge, MA, USA (12 November 2015)
I was studying at Harvard some 56 years ago when I inherited the Ismaili Imamat. It is not a political role… but let me emphasise that Islamic belief sees the spiritual and material worlds as inextricably connected. Faith should deepen our concern for improving the quality of human life in all of its dimensions.
Stephen Ogden Lecture at Brown University,
Providence, Rhode Island, USA (10 March 2014)
The Imamat is a Muslim institution with a history going back over 1400 years. As Imam of the Ismaili Muslims, I am to be concerned with the quality of life of the Community and those amongst whom it lives… To the Imamat the meaning of “quality of life” extends to the entire ethical and social context in which people live, and not only to their material well-being measured over generation after generation. Consequently, the Imamat’s is a holistic vision of development, as is prescribed by the faith of Islam.
Opening of Alltex EPZ Limited at Athi River,
Athi River, Kenya (19 December 2003)
As you know, the Shia divided from the Sunni after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. Hazrat Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet, was, in Shia belief, named by the Prophet to be the Legitimate Authority for the interpretation of the faith. For the Shia today, all over the world, he is regarded as the first Imam.
Upon receiving the "Tolerance" award at the Tutzing Evangelical Academy,
Tutzing, Germany (20 May 2006)
Whenever and wherever it may have been, in the Middle East, or South, or Central Asia, or Northern Africa, the most brilliant periods in Islamic history were marked by an expansive quest for intellectual excellence.
It was this tradition that I inherited from my grandfather – and it was not a static tradition, but one that was built around the power of new knowledge and the great adventure of learning how to go on learning.
Aga Khan University Convocation,
Karachi, Pakistan (19 December 2013)
From the very beginnings of Islam, the search for knowledge has been central to our cultures. I think of the words of Hazrat Ali ibn Abi Talib, the first hereditary Imam of the Shia Muslims, and the last of the four rightly-guided Caliphs after the passing away of the Prophet (may peace be upon Him). In his teachings, Hazrat Ali emphasized that “No honour is like knowledge.” And then he added that “No belief is like modesty and patience, no attainment is like humility, no power is like forbearance, and no support is more reliable than consultation.”
Commencement Ceremony of the American University in Cairo,
Egypt (15 June 2006)
My forefathers, the Fatimid Imam-Caliphs of Egypt, who founded Al-Azhar University and the Academy of Knowledge in Cairo a thousand years ago, viewed the acquisition of knowledge as a means to understanding, so as to serve better, God’s creation.
University of Evora Honorary Doctorate, Evora,
Portugal (12 February 2006)
The Holy Quran addresses itself not only to Muslims, but to the entirety of the human race, when it says:
“O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from one single soul and from it created its mate and from them twain hath spread abroad a multitude of men and women.”
These words reflect a deeply spiritual insight – A Divine imperative if you will which, in my view, should under gird our educational commitments. It is because we see humankind, despite our differences, as children of God and born from one soul, that we insist on reaching beyond traditional boundaries as we deliberate, communicate, and educate internationally.
Annual meeting of the International Baccalaureate, Atlanta,
Georgia USA (18 April 2008)
It is a great honour to be among the distinguished recipients, past and present, of an award which celebrates the four virtues of harmony, friendship, valour and state wisdom. An enduring foundation of societal welfare, these values are at the heart of the ethics of Islam that guide the institutions of the Ismaili Imamat.
Remarks by His Highness the Aga Khan upon receiving Die Quadriga 2005 Prize,
Berlin, Germany (3 October 2005)
The ethics of Islam bridge the realms of Faith and World — what we call Din and Dunya. Accordingly, my institutional responsibilities for interpreting the faith are accompanied by a strong engagement in issues relating to the quality of life, not only for the Ismaili community but also for those with whom they share their lives — locally, nationally and internationally.
His Highness the Aga Khan: a life in the service of development, Politique Internationale (English edition of special issue on Agence française de développement),
n°134 - Winter 2011-2012
In the Islamic tradition, the conduct of one’s worldly life is inseparably intertwined with the concerns of one’s spiritual life – and one cannot talk about integrity without also talking about faith.
For Islam, the importance of this intersection is an item of faith, such a profound melding of worldly concerns and spiritual ideals that one cannot imagine one without the other. The two belong together. They constitute “a way of life.”
Graduation ceremony at the School of International and Public Affairs,
USA, New York, USA (15 May 2006)
I was born into a Muslim family, linked by heredity to Prophet Muhammad (May peace be upon him and his family). It was exactly fifty years ago that I became the 49th Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims.
Graduation ceremony at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po),
Paris, France (15 June 2007)
Since succeeding to this office as the 49th imam in 1957, I have been concerned with the development of the Ismailis and the broader societies in which they live. The engagement of the Imamat in development is guided by Islamic ethics, which bridge faith and society. It is on this premise that I established the Aga Khan Development Network.
Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference on Leadership and Diversity,
Gatineau, Canada (19 May 2004)