November 15, 1994


Sahabzada Yaqub-Khan, Members of the Board of Trustees of the Aga Khan University, Donors and Volunteers

This is a day of considerable happiness and joy for me, and I want to share with you this evening some of the reasons why today is such a significant day in my life, Inshallah in your lives, Inshallah in the lives of the Muslim Ummah, and indeed of the aspirations which we share for the future.

If you reflect upon the time in which we are living, we are living through a unique time in history where mutation is rapid; where search for direction is omnipresent in all societies; where the Muslim Ummah is seeking its position in the community of nations; where young people are asking themselves what should we believe in? What are the ethics which should be ours? How should we reflect on our future, and the discipline and the aspirations that will guide us in our lives?

I looked at higher education in the Muslim world, and the picture I saw was very sad indeed. Higher education in the Muslim world has been eroded decade after decade after decade, and yet if you compare that erosion with the great times of Muslim history, what do you find? Those great times were predicted on knowledge; on knowledge which was concentrated in places of learning in the Muslim world. When you make that comparison, you can immediately understand why the concept of a university of quality, in an important Muslim country, with whom we have such historic relations, appeared to me a unique and highly desirable objective with which all of us could associate in this generation, and in future generations.

In thinking about the development of this institution, there were many questions that had to be asked, and had to be answered. But first of all was the willingness of the Government of Pakistan, the willingness of the Jamat, and willingness of academies and intellectuals, to come together around a concept -- the concept of building a strong institution of learning and research in the Muslim world, serving the Muslim world, and even serving one day Inshallah further afield. I was immensely happy to find that answers to those questions were affirmative from the Government of Pakistan, from the academies and people of learning, from the Muslim world, from outside the Muslim world, and from the Jamat; who for centuries have had a special relationship between faith and intellect and therefore this aspiration, this hope, this prayer, became a reality in my mind. And when I look to the future, I say to myself that this institution might Inshallah, over the decades ahead, with support and wisdom and hope and prayer, achieve the goals that have been set for it.

We are living in a time of vacuum, we are living in a time of search, and I do not believe that it is wealth, or military power, that will bring the Muslim world back to what you and other Muslims and I aspire for it to be. What will bring it back? Only one thing, the quality and the capability of the people of the Muslim world. That is what will bring it back, and if in some small way you and I can contribute to this objective, then I think we, and future generations, will have made a small contribution to bringing the Muslim world back to a position of standing and respect and esteem in the community of nations, which I think we deserve. That therefore is the objective that I have envisaged for this Institution, and I feel that you and I are honoured by the fact that outstanding intellects from outside the Muslim world have joined us, and are assisting you and me in building this situation. It is difficult for me, in a few words this evening, to explain to you what is their contribution, but I would like you to know that it is massive.

Many centuries ago the non-Muslim world looked to the Muslim world for knowledge and intellectual leadership, and it was shared. It was shared by the Muslim world and its institutions, and it was shared willingly and happily and without constraint. I therefore have no shame in saying thank you to the non-Muslim world today. These men and women of outstanding capability are your and my guarantors that this institution Inshallah will become the one that you and I hope it will be. It would be wrong for you and me to contribute time and energy and resources to an institution as challenging as a modern university, unless we were secure in the knowledge that we would be able to benefit from those who have been so successful in the past, and who stand by us in developing this institution. It is my hope that during the decades ahead the Aga Khan University, which is a small and a young university, will nonetheless succeed in educating leadership, and that this leadership will have a genuine and significant impact on the quality of life of Muslims in the Ummah, and those who wish to benefit from it outside. This is my hope.

The generosity which you have shown is absolutely remarkable, and I want you to be aware that I look at this generosity not only with admiration, but frankly with amazement. Because it comes at a time in the world economic situation where you have lived through severe recession, when each and every one of you at some time in recent years has lived through economic constraint, where you have certainly asked yourselves, what is the economic future ahead of us? That is true of practically every part of the world where mureeds and others have donated. So this generosity is not to be seen against an expansionist economic time of wealth ad prosperity. It it to be seen against a time of concern, instability, and worry. And that is why I can say tonight with such happiness, how much I admire your generosity in this institution. There is a provost of a very famous university, I will not say which one, who not very long ago wrote a book about his university. It is a great university, with a faculty of Arts and Sciences, an undergraduate faculty of Arts and Sciences, and a number of graduate schools. And the question he asked was, who owns this university? And the answer he gave "the undergraduates". He then went on to explain why the undergraduates owned that university. Tonight, I dedicate the Aga Khan University to you, for the support that you have given it, for the understanding with which you sustain it, and for the hope that you and I, all of us, share for its future.

Thank you.

Please use the back arrow to go back to the previous page

Back to timeline 1994