His Highness the Aga Khan’s vision on Education : Excerpts

Education must also make the case for a pluralistic tradition in which other views, ethnicities, religions and perspectives are valued not only because that is just and good, but also because pluralism is the climate best suited for creativity, curiosity and inquiry to thrive. It must also stimulate students to consider a variety of perspectives on some of the fundamental questions posed by the human condition: “What is truth?” “What is reality?” and “What are my duties to my fellow man, to my country and to God?” At the same time, education must reinforce the foundations of identity in such a way as to reinvigorate and strengthen them so that they can withstand the shock of change.
-His Highness the Aga Khan’s vision for the Aga Khan Academies:
‘What does it mean to be an educated person?’ (Aiglemont)
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Traditions evolve in a context, and the context always changes, thus demanding a new understanding of essential principles.

                                                  -Address at the 25th Anniversary Graduation Ceremony of The Institute of Ismaili Studies

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[The Qur’an says] one must seek education to know Allah better, and share knowledge for the betterment of society … the links between faith and knowledge are very strong and we are constantly encouraged to learn. This is an extraordinary message for humanity.

                                        -L’Express Interview, Eric Chol and Christian Makarian, ‘The ethic of Islam rests on generosity’ (Paris, France)
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 The true test is the ability of students and graduates to engage with what they do not know and to work out a solution…. The ability to make judgements that are grounded in solid information and employ careful analysis, should be one of the most important goals for any educational endeavour.
                               -His Highness the Aga Khan’s vision for the Aga Khan Academies: ‘What does it mean to be an educated person?’ (Aiglemont)
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Pluralist societies do not happen by themselves … They are a product of enlightened education and continuous investment by government and all forces of civil society in developing value and recognition for one of humanity’s greatest assets: [its] diversity.

                                                              -Keynote Address to the Annual Conference of German Ambassadors (Berlin, Germany)
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 I believe, people think of [education] as a mindful of knowledge picked from a hundred various books rather like a mouthful of chewing-gum, chocolates and beetle-nuts washed down with a swill of Coca-cola. I do not wish this for any of my brothers, nor indeed for myself. When I say education, I mean more than acquisition of knowledge, more than mere facts, figures and book work. Education is a life-long experience in which qualities such as integrity, mental discipline, humility and honesty should be formed, particularly during the early years.

-Speech at the Annual General Meeting of  ‘East Africa

Muslim Welfare Society’, 16,11,1957

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You cannot give a child secular education and then expect him not to ask questions about his religion. This is one more reason why [Muslim] schools should have well-qualified teachers giving courses on the background of Islam, its history, theology, philosophy and all the other subjects which pertain to its glorious past.

-Speech at the Annual General Meeting of  ‘East Africa

Muslim Welfare Society’, 16,11,1957

Read Full Speech Here


There is an often quoted ayat [of the Qur’an] which says that you should leave the world in a better environment than you found it. You have a responsibility of legacy of God’s creation of the world, to improve that legacy from generation to generation. So there’s an ethical premise to it.

-Interview featured in PBS/E2 Series’ ‘A Garden in Cairo’ (USA)
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One of the principles of Islam is that on his deathbed every person must try to leave behind a better world.

-Paroquias de Portugal Interview,(Lisbon, Portugal)

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[T]he notion of Islam as being not just a faith but an environment in which the individual is created, is thoughtful, is hard-working — it is a context — [is a notion] in which I am a very, very strong believer.

-AFP Interview (Aleppo, Syria)

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Too often, education made our students less flexible —   confident to the point of arrogance that they now had all the answers —   rather than more flexible, humble in their life-long openness to new questions and new responses….

In the ethical realm, as in the educational realm, one of the great stumbling blocks is arrogance. Even the resurgence of religious feeling — which should be such a positive force — can become a negative influence when it turns into self-righteousness. All of the world’s great religions warn against this excess, yet in the name of those same religions too many are tempted to play God themselves rather than recognising their humility before the Divine…..

A central element in a truly religious outlook, it seems to me, is the quality of personal humility — a recognition that strive as we might, we will still fall short of our ideals, that climb as we might, there will still be unexplored and mysterious peaks above us. It means recognising our own creaturehood, and thus our human limitations. In that recognition, it seems to me, lies our best protection against false prophecies and divisive dogmatism.

            -Address to the Evora University Symposium, ‘Cosmopolitan Society,
Human Safety and Rights in Plural and Peaceful Societies’
(Evora, Portugal + [Canada])
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The conviction that home-grown intellectual leadership of exceptional calibre is the best driver of a society’s destiny, underpins the Ismaili Imamat’s endeavour to create catalytic centres of educational excellence.
   -Aga Khan Academy, Maputo, Foundation Stone Ceremony
(Matola, Mozambique)
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The history of the twentieth century is replete with examples of the danger of the systematic propagation and uncritical acceptance of dogmas, ideologies, and even theologies. More than ever, I believe that universities must shoulder the responsibility for contributing to the process of building the capacity for moral judgement in complex settings.

-Adress at Association of American Universities Centenary Celebration,

(Washington D.C., USA)

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The ability to make judgements that are grounded in solid information, and employ careful analysis, should be one of the most important goals for any educational endeavour [and then, most importantly,] to learn to place such judgements in an ethical framework.
   -His Highness the Aga Khan’s vision for the Aga Khan Academies: ‘What does it mean to be an educated person?’ (Aiglemont)
Read Full Speech Here

In the Third World, where the need is the greatest, many organisations and governments throw in money. I throw in people — dedicated people to train, to educate and to encourage. I believe that there is no such thing as an underdeveloped country — only under-managed countries and for me the most important word is accountability.

-CBC Interview (1st), Man Alive with Roy Bonisteel (Canada)
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If I have placed great emphasis on education, it is because I have faith in the human soul and judgement. I believe that the battle for peace would be in a large measure solved if every one is sufficiently educated to make a sound judgement on … issues. (Aga Khan; MHI)

-Banquet hosted by the Speaker of the Senate (Manilla, Philippines)
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[A] core principle of my own faith — Islam — [is] that learning is ennobling, regardless of the geographic or cultural origin of the knowledge we acquire. Such teachings spurred a spiritually liberated people to new waves of adventure in the realms of the spirit and the intellect …

      -Acceptance Address – Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters,

American University of Beirut (Beirut, Lebanon)

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