…it is with deepest admiration that I thank the person whose guiding hand has been so important at every stage of this project: a member of my family, my brother, Prince Amyn Aga Khan — Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, Opening of Ismaili Centre, September 12, 2014.
Seven years ago on September 12, 2014 during the inauguration ceremony of the Ismaili Centre, I had an opportunity to take a photo of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the rooftop terrace of the Ismaili Centre with the Aga Khan Museum as the backdrop. The media event at the rooftop was very brief. Then, shortly after the inauguration of the Ismaili Centre, we were led across the Aga Khan Park to witness another inauguration — that of the Aga Khan Museum, where Prince Amyn Aga Khan, who celebrated his 77th birthday on the same say, delivered a powerful and insightful speech, excerpts from which are published below. Today, September 12, 2021, we fondly think of him on his 84th birthday, and this is our humble tribute to Mawlana Hazar Imam’s beloved brother.
I remember Prince Amyn from the time I was a volunteer at the newly opened Karimabad Jamatkhana in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He visited the Jamatkhana one evening in 1970. As the Prince passed me, our eyes met each other. In that rarest of moments for me, my respect and affection for Prince Amyn grew manifold, and has remained so ever since. In 1969, Mawlana Hazar Imam announced during his visit to India that Prince Amyn was accompanying him, and that he had left the United Nations to work for him. Prince Amyn’s devotion and loyalty to Mawlana Hazar Imam has been phenomenal and a blessing to the Jamats around the world. His name is etched in virtually every Imamat project and he has worked incessantly and tirelessly for the implementation of countless Imamat projects with humility and grace. Mawlana Hazar Imam rarely compliments the work members of his family do, but I came across a few remarks that I think should be mentioned on the occasion of Prince Amyn’s 84th birthday. We fondly pay our humble tribute to him on his birthday.
Mawlana Hazar Imam on the Contribution of His Brother Prince Amyn Aga Khan
To my brother Prince Amyn, and everyone who has worked with him, I express my sincerest thanks and my deep respect for the hard work, tenacity and will-power they have shown over many long months to develop another Serena Hotel of outstanding beauty and which, Inshallah, will meet the highest professional standards of service,” — Mawlana Hazar Imam, March 16, 1989, opening of Serena Hotel, Quetta, Pakistan
I would like to express my gratitude and admiration to members of our own organisation and community here in Portugal and my secretariat in France for the care and attention they have given to this project, spread over many, long, working days. I want to acknowledge — and forgive me as it is a member of my own family — the contributions of my brother, Prince Amyn Aga Khan, whose taste and talent I salute and rely upon, for his special attention to design issues, tiles, fountains, soft and hard landscape.” — Mawlana Hazar Imam, July 11, 1988, opening of Lisbon Ismaili Centre
…. it is with deepest admiration that I thank the person whose guiding hand has been so important at every stage of this project: a member of my family, my brother, Prince Amyn Aga Khan — Mawlana Hazar Imam, September 12, 2014, opening of Ismaili Centre Toronto
Excerpts from Prince Amyn Aga Khan’s Speech Made on September 12, 2014, at the Inauguration Ceremony of the Aga Khan Museum
1. Inauguration of the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre
What a pleasure it is to welcome you to this exceptional place on this most special day. Exceptional because we are inaugurating today not one but two new and unique buildings, facing each other across a new and unique park, two utterly unusual pieces of architecture housing surprising reflections of beauty — Prince Amyn Aga Khan
2. Role of the Aga Khan Museum – Gateway into the History and Artistic Traditions of the Muslim World
This is also a special moment because of the special role that we expect the Aga Khan Museum to play, as a gateway into the history and artistic traditions of the Muslim world — nearly a fifth of humanity — for those non-Muslims and even Muslims who wish better to understand that world. The Aga Khan Museum will play this role at a time when such a gateway is profoundly needed. All across the planet, political and economic developments, the forces of globalisation, are connecting Muslim and non-Muslim societies ever more intimately and yet, at the same time, misunderstandings between those worlds are becoming an increasingly dangerous threat — Prince Amyn Aga Khan
3. Impact of Art and Culture
I believe strongly that art and culture can have a profound impact in healing misunderstanding and in fostering trust even across great divides. This is the extraordinary purpose, the special mandate, to which this Museum is dedicated — Prince Amyn Aga Khan
4. The Aga Khan Museum – A Rare Institution
The Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, that we are opening today, will differ slightly from the many famous institutions that currently have impressive collections of Islamic art in the Western world. For this Museum will be one of the very few institutions in the Western world, and indeed the only one in the Western hemisphere, that will be entirely devoted to the acquisition, preservation, study and display of the arts of Muslim civilisations.
5. The 1000 or more Treasures of the Aga Khan Museum
The thousand and more treasures gathered here come from Spain, the Maghreb, the Arab near-East, from the Iranian world that stretched through Afghanistan and Central Asia, from the courts of Hindustan, now India and Pakistan, and the Muslim communities of China. As I reflect on this diversity, the word “connection” comes to mind for it will be the special opportunity of this Museum to connect a broad array of Muslim cultures with one another, while also connecting visitors from other cultures to the richness of the Muslim past — Prince Amyn Aga Khan
6. Dialogue Between Civilisations
Cultural connection will be at the heart of the Museum’s mission: to increase and illuminate the dialogue between different Muslim civilisations themselves and between those civilisations and non-Muslim civilisations — Prince Amyn Aga Khan
7. Intellectual Enquiry and Education
The work of the Museum will follow in the best tradition of the venerable Islamic cultural centre where great libraries and other collections became prodigious centres for a continuing process of intellectual and artistic enquiry — a process of exploration and edification, of dialogue and discovery. It is my hope and expectation that this Museum will play an active and effective educational role, helping visitors to appreciate, understand and empathise with an aesthetic and a culture new but no longer foreign or alien to them — Prince Amyn
8. Cultural Expressions and Broad Definition of Arts
…..the Museum will focus its attention not only on the acquisition, preservation and display of visual artistic creations, but also on a wide range of other cultural expressions, including poetry, philosophy and literature, music, architecture, science and social organisation. This is a Museum of Islamic Arts with a broad definition of all that the arts include, and presenting these arts as best we can within their full cultural context — Prince Amyn Aga Khan
9. Museum and Institutions of the Ismaili Imamat
An asset for the Museum in the fulfillment of its many-faceted mandate will be its close association with other institutions of the Aga Khan Development Network, many of which are represented here today. Among them are the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, The Historic Cities Program, the Aga Khan University, the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations, the University of Central Asia, the Institute of Ismaili Studies, and the Aga Khan Award for Architecture — Prince Amyn Aga Khan
10. Praise for Architects
Professor Maki’s inspiring building that we are opening today faces the new Ismaili Center, designed by Charles Correa, across the Aga Khan Park designed by Vladimir Djurovic. As a whole, this entire site speaks to the unity in Islamic thought — the profound unity — of three great dimensions of human life: the cultural, the spiritual and the natural. There must also be symbolic value in the fact that the three architects who took the lead in designing these spaces come from Japanese, Indian and Lebanese backgrounds — brought together here in the spirit of international partnership which is also such a proud part of Canadian culture — Prince Amyn Aga Khan
11. Hope for the Aga Khan Museum: “Enlightenment”
……if I were looking for a single word to sum up my intention and hope for the Aga Khan Museum, it would be the word “enlightenment”. It is a word which has both cultural and spiritual significance. The history of the thought and the creations of man can perhaps be said to be a long path from one period of enlightenment to another. I would hope that this Museum will contribute to a new period of enlightenment, helping visitors from around the world to rediscover the common symbols that unite us all across the globe, across all civilisations, across time — Prince Amyn Aga Khan
To read Prince Amyn Aga Khan’s full speech and other material pertinent to the Aga Khan Museum’s opening day, please visit the AKDN website page by clicking HERE.
Date posted: September 12, 2021.
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