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The Critical Time - interview to 'Al-Mostakbul' newspaper of Cairo, Egypt.

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Event - 1986-12-20
Saturday, 1986, December 20
His Highness The Aga Khan IV



DECEMBER 20, 1986


The Aga Khan

Who is this man called the Aga Khan? One question among dozens of others which invaded my mind while on my way to meeting that "man-riddle" who has pre-occupied the Western world for many years as no other Muslim leader did before him, and stimulated in it as much curiosity as romantic, imperialistic feelings since the days of the British Raj in India and the legends of the Maharajas and Sultans in the days of a thousand and one nights.

But there were a few questions which were more important than the others: What do the Middle Eastern Arabs and Muslims know about him? Who knows him in the Arab world in particular? What kind of Imam is he? Whom does he represent? What constitutes his Community? Is he Asian, European, or Arab or what?

There were many questions awaiting answers when I arrived at Aiglemont - that fenced-forest of one hundred hectares or more near Chantilly and at about one hour's distance from the French capital Paris, where the Aga Khan lives and works through a reduced "united nations" institution with 200 officials belonging to 18 world nationalities of whom no more than 20 are Muslims, who demonstrate efficiency which can be the envy of Perez de Quellar, the Secretary General of the United Nations. From this place in the French countryside, the Aga Khan manages the affairs of the Ismaili Community which spreads all over the world from China to Canada, from India to Kenya, from Syria to Morocco, from Iran to Britain and from Tanzania to the United States of America, and administers its many and various institutions - whether private Aga Khan family projects or public community projects.

While awaiting the arrival of the Aga Khan, I must answer this important question: Who is he? He is Karim Shah El-Hussaini known as Aga Khan the Fourth, the forty-ninth Imam of the Ismaili Community. In July 1957, at the age of twenty, he succeeded his grandfather Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan. He was born on December 13, 1936 in Geneva, son of Prince Aly Khan and Princess Tajuddawla (who is English). He spent his early childhood in Nairobi, Kenya, and then attended Le Rosey School in Switzerland for nine years. He graduated from Harvard University in 1959 with a B.A. Honors in Islamic History. In 1969, he married Begum Salimah, born in New Delhi of English parents and brought up in India. They have three children: Princess Zahra, born in 1970, Prince Rahim, 1971 and Prince Hussein, 1974.

The Ismailis belong to the Shia branch of Islam, one of the two major branches of Islam. As Muslims, they affirm the Shahada, that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is His messenger. They believe that Muhammad was the last and final Prophet of Allah and that the Holy Qur'an, Allah's final message, was revealed through him.

Here we must pause briefly, look back into history in an attempt to clarify this picture. In its origin, the Ismaili Movement called for the Imamat of Ismail Ibn Ja'far As-Sadeck. When Ismail's death was officially announced, the Ismailis acknowledged the Imamat of his son Muhammad who used to travel between Persia, Iraq and Syria and after him they acknowledged a number of his descendants as Imams. It was then that the Ismaili Movement emerged in its organised form.

The Ismaili Movement continued to act discreetly until the emergence of Imam Ubaidullah Al-Mahdi in the Maghreb and his establishment of the Fatimide Dynasty there as the first Ismaili Shi'ite regime in Islam.

After Ubaidullah, the Imamat went to Al-Mansour followed by Al-Mu'izz li-Dini-llah who conquered Egypt in the year 359 A.H. and established the Fatimide Dynasty there. Al-Mu'izz was succeeded in the Imamat by Al-Aziz, Al-Hakim bi-amri-llah, Al-zahir and al-Mustansir bi-llah. After Imam Al-Mustansir's death, his two sons Nizar and Al-Musta'li fell out. Al-Musta'li managed to seize the Khilafat and Imamat by force, assisted by his uncle Al-Afdal Al-Jamali, leader of the armed forces of the Fatimides. The Ismailis were thus divided into two factions: the Musta'lis and the Nizaris.

The Musta'lis continued to assume the affairs of the Khilafat of the Fatimides in Egypt. The Musta'li was succeeded by Al-Amir followed by Al-Taib ibn Al-Amir who is said to have entered the cave of divine secrets. During that period four deputies looked after the affairs of the Khilafat: Al-Hafiz, Al-Zafir, Al-Fa'iz and Al-'Adid. It was during the Khilafat of the latter that Salah Al-Din Al-Ayyoubi seized power causing the fall of Fatimide dynasty and the dispersion of both branches of the Ismaili Movement. From that time on, the Musta'lis have been known as the "good call" or the Bohora as they are called today.

The Nizaris, on the other hand, moved to Persia where they established their capital in the Almot Fortress. They were joined there by the Ismailis who had settled in Syria, Persia, India and Sind. Many Imams descended from them down to the Imamat of Shamsud-Din Mohammad when it was divided into two factions.

The first faction acknowledged the Imamat of his elder son Kasem Shah in conformity with the Imami official text. The Imamat went to his descendants until it reached the present Imam Karim Shah known as Aga Khan the Fourth. It was this faction which adopted Aga Khan as name.

The second faction acknowledged the Imamat of Mou'min Shah, the younger son of Shamsud-Din Mohammad. It had a number of followers in Syria but it came to an end, according to historic sources, in the year 950 A.H, following the death of Taher Shah the Third, known as Al-Dakni (see the works of Aref Tamer and Mustafa Ghaleb).

This brief historic resume would indicate that Karim, the present Aga Khan is the descendant of the Fatimides and that he ensures the continuation of the Ismaili Imamat. His grandfather had played throughout his long life, a number of political roles. He was one of the founders of the Muslim League in India which called for the establishment of an independent Islamic State in the Indian sub-continent. Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the Founder of Pakistan, was a "Bohora" Ismaili. The grandfather was also the President of the League of Nations (1937-1938). Karim's father, Aly Khan, was Pakistan's Ambassador to the United Nations. His uncle, Sadruddin Aga Khan, was the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (1965-1977). He is at present Special Adviser to the U.N. Secretary-General and was, in two previous sessions of the General Assembly, candidate to the post of Secretary General.

Traces of the epoch of the Aga Khan's grandfather are still evident in many of the Ismaili traditions. Ismailis, in the past, used to mark the Jubilees of their Imams with public celebrations which are symbolic affirmations of the ties which link the Ismaili Imam and his community. Although the Jubilees have no real religious significance, they serve to reaffirm the Imamat's worldwide commitment to the improvement of the quality of the human life. The Jubilees of the late Aga Khan, are well remembered. During seventy-two years of his Imamat (1885-1957), the community celebrated his Golden (1937), Diamond (1946) and Platinum (1954) Jubilees. To show their appreciation and devotion, the Ismailis weighed their Imam in gold, diamond and platinum (symbolically only) respectively and proceeds from these ceremonies were used to develop a number of social welfare and development institutions in Asia and Africa.

But the present Aga Khan discontinued this tradition. Thus, on the occasion of his Silver Jubilee in July 1982, twenty-five years after he had assumed the Imamat, he did not have himself weighed and did not accept voluntary contributions in gold, diamond or platinum but rather launched a number of social and economic development projects, among which the Aga Khan International University, in Karachi, Pakistan, is worthy of special mention.

The adherence to the Shia Imami Ismaili tariqa of Islam according to the guidance of the Imam of the time, and the spiritual allegiance to the Imam, have engendered in the Ismaili Community an ethos of self-reliance, unity and a common identity. Thus the Ismailis (who live in twenty-five countries, mostly in Asia, Africa, and the Arab World) have established economic, educational, health, housing and social institutions open to all citizens, regardless of their race or religion.

During the course of history, the Ismailis have made major contributions to the growth of Islamic civilizations, spanning a whole range of the cultural, intellectual and religious life of Muslims. The University of Al-Azhar and Dar Al-Ilm in Egypt. Indeed, the city of Cairo itself is the work of Jawhar Al-Sequilli (the Sicilian), Al-Mu'izz's General. Other examples include the city of Al-Mahdiya in Tunisia and numerous centres of learning in Yemen and Persia. Among the renowned philosophers, jurists, physicians, mathematicians, astronomers and scientists of the past who flourished under the patronage of the Ismaili Imams are al-Tamimi, Qadi al-Nu'man, al-Kirmani, Ibn al-Djazzar, Ibn al-Haytham (al-Hazen), Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Ibn Yunus, Nasir Khusrow and Nasir al-Din Tusi.

* * * *

Even though the past and the present are inseparable, the arrival of the Aga Khan into the meeting room where I had been awaiting his arrival dissipated the memory of the past from my mind. I looked up at the fine-featured face of the man who entered the room at the precise hour of appointment. A conversation, modern in both content and style, engaged us for the following three hours.

I said to the Aga Khan, who had sat at the head of the large meeting table as if to preside over the board of directors of one of his institutions:

Q. People see a contradiction between the fact that you are a Muslim leader, the forty-ninth Imam of the Ismailis with an uninterrupted thousand year and more of Islamic history behind you and, on the other hand, the fact that you are a modern man who deals with the present time using its own instruments and concepts. Isn't there a contradiction between the two persons?

The Aga Khan smiled and said:

A. God has favoured me with the blessing of Islam. I think that many religions find it difficult to adapt to or to live in an evolving world. Not so with a Muslim who believes in the omnipresence of God. In Islam, there is no dichotomy between the spiritual and the temporal. I have endeavoured all my life to live and work in accordance with this integrated philosophy. I think that many of us, Muslims who were educated in the West or have been imbued with Western ideas, forget that there are certain Christian traditions which go back to the teachings of Saint Augustine and which sharply separate the religious from the secular. These are not the traditions of Islam. Quite the contrary, Islam forbids the separation between the way you deal with people in society and that in which you discharge your religious duties. The meanings of life, its aims and ethics are part and parcel of the integrated unity of the Muslim environment in which I believe and through which I work.

I said to the Aga Khan:

Q. It's strange, you speak here so vehemently of the unity between the spiritual and the temporal in Islam and claim that it is Islam which lends you this force, whereas there are those who accuse you of being too westernized.

The Aga Khan's smile broadened and he said in an almost quivering voice:

A. Apart from the fact that I live in the West, I fail to see how I can be qualified as western. There are millions of Muslims who live in the West without being westerners. But if you mean my style of work, then you are right since I do adopt a western style of work because I was educated in western schools. Also, it is possible that the type of work I am doing requires that kind of style which is common in the West if it is to achieve effective results. This style includes, among other things, working under pressure and seeking a minimum standard of efficiency. It could be that all these things combined give such an impression of me.

Q. But why do you live in the West? What is the factor which determined this choice since you can afford to live anywhere you choose, particularly as Ismailis are mainly found in Asia and Africa?

A. In the first place, I live in the West so that people may not think that the "Imamat" is an institution belonging to this or that state. In this way , the Imamat will remain a world, non-political institution. It is difficult for a Muslim today not to be associated in his public life with a given state, philosophy or position. In the second place, I am concerned about the effectiveness to which I aspire. In the countries of the developing world, obstacles still stand in the way of efficient work: difficulty of communication and transport, shortages of highly-qualified people, difficult work conditions. This would mean that any decision taken would necessarily be a compromise.

While it is true that there is no such thing as a perfect or an ideal decision and that a certain amount of compromise will be inevitable, our life in Europe has created this problem of interpretation and led people to ask what we are doing here. But if we were in any of the Third World countries, people would ask the same question: What are they doing there? On the other hand, if you ask people in India, Pakistan or East Africa: What is the Aga Khan doing? They will know the answer because I spend each day ninety-nine percent of my time trying to solve some of their problems.

Q. What you have just said may be true of Asia and Africa where it seems most people know what the Aga Khan does. But in the Arab world many people know nothing about you. It is obvious that in spite of the far-reaching activities you undertake in many countries of the developing world, you do not have any significant activities in the Arab world as if you avoid being seen there. Is that an act of will on your part?

A. Let me try to answer your questions generally first. For reasons of my own, I believe that an Imam in my position would not wish to be always in the limelight. There is a certain sense of humility in me which makes me avoid flagrant publicity. Secondly, as regards the projects which we undertake, it may be in the interest of their effectiveness and credibility not to be constantly exposed to the spotlight of publicity as this would inevitably raise discussion about them. I am not one of those who seeks debate for its own sake.

As to the part of your questions regarding the Arab world, there are a number of our activities which concern it, including for example the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. Also, a branch of the Aga Khan Foundation will open in Egypt next month, where it will be possible to develop a number of economic and social projects in the field of rural and agricultural development. We also intend to intensify our activities in the Arab world within the competence and functions of the Foundation, i.e. in the development sector.

Q. Still, there are those who criticize the considerable attention you give to the Indian sub-continent and your intense activity there and the lesser attention you pay to the Arab world, in spite of the fact that you have followers there.

A. This is because I am, by nature, a cautious man.

Q. After several years of dealing with the West, you represent a "success story" there. So much so that there are those who say that you "defeated them in their own game" whereas there are others who failed in their benevolent or commercial enterprises.

A. I do not think that I have "defeated them in their own game" as you say, in order to achieve success in the West. I was lucky to have received a good education which has enabled me to learn the art of dialoguing with people and has given me a true understanding of current affairs. Another factor in my success is that the Aga Khan Foundation has realised a great deal of serious credibility as regards the projects we have undertaken either in the Third World or in the West. We have adopted a wise attitude in our development projects by keeping away from speculations. When you deal with the industrialised world - which is a world keen on development issues, holds its own view of it, is against speculators and theoreticians and is a conservative and traditional world - you have to achieve a very high degree of credibility.

Q. Many people in the West consider you a businessman rather than a spiritual leader. Don't you think that your success in the business field will diminish your prestige as Imam?

A. It may be useful to emphasize two things. The first is that my activities in the field of private business was the result of mere chance. You may be interested to know for example that I had no choice in owning the horses I own. My father died in a car accident leaving behind him three children, two of whom did not want to continue to breed horses. It was left to me to say whether or not I wished to preserve a family tradition which had been passing from one generation to the next. I did not understand anything in horse-breeding; I thought it was a risk, but I invoked the force of God and I succeeded. The second thing I want to point out is the subject of my investment in tourism. Personally, I have invested a modest sum along with others in Sardinia in the mid-Mediterranean. Within twenty years, the project has developed into a big tourist enterprise in the industrialized world. At present we are building bridges between this private enterprise and another project: Tourism Promotion Services in the Third World, which requires that kind of economic activity. However, I was not born to be a businessman in the West. These were accidental enterprises which grew thanks to good management. Those around me have said, since these are successful projects, why not keep them going?

But let me reassure you that the moment I feel there is any objection on the part of my community or the countries of the Third World where these activities are being carried out, or that there is any contradiction between them and my status as Imam, I will give them up immediately. They are not among my functions as Imam; they represent only a small fraction of my activities and as long as they do not exceed the limits allowed... why not? But I do repeat and affirm that I shall give them up the moment they become a burden.

Q. Between your status as a spiritual leader and the fact that you are a businessman, isn't there a political ambition which lurks in your mind - especially that both your father and grandfather performed political roles in the course of their lives?

A. The role entrusted to me does not, in the world of today, permit to cherish any political ambitions. This was appropriate and acceptable fifty years ago: my grandfather was President of the League of Nations, my father was Ambassador to the United Nations and my uncle was the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. The roles of those members of my family were all international roles in the field of politics. They did not serve a specific country; they served a cause with international dimensions. Therefore any political ambition on my part must be in an international and not in a national framework.

Q. Are you prepared to undertake such a role?

A. I have not thought of that nor has there been such an offer.

Q. If you are called upon to undertake an international role, do you think you are qualified for it?

A. I think I am: if it is not a question of a permanent job; if there is a cause to be served or if it is something where I feel I can contribute anything of value, then I would accept the invitation.

Q. Let us assume you are called upon to play the role of international mediator between two Islamic states which have been at war for years.

A. Yes. Yes. If these two Islamic states said they wanted an independent international Muslim mediator with high credibility to help them reach a negotiated settlement, that they did not want to refer the matter to any other institution or organisation, then I would consider the matter and see whether or not I have the qualifications to undertake that role. If I find out that I am not qualified I will decline the offer with regret. In any case I shall not accept a permanent international role.

Q. Do you think that there is at present an Islamic awakening which drives us to reconsider our relations with the rest of the world?

A. This is a question which is raised by many people and I believe that most Muslims all over the world insistently ask themselves questions of this kind: how do we live in this age? How do we interact with the materialism of the non-Muslim world? How do we deal with modern sciences? What is, in our daily life, the relationship between religion and the ever changing society around us? These are questions asked by all Muslims, Ismailis included. The Ismailis who have responded traditionally and throughout the ages to these questions cannot answer them alone even though they may have expressed them in their own way. The ability to search for answers to these questions is a quality which every Muslim has since a Muslim's faith should lead him to deal with such problems.

Q. If this is so, how should Muslims deal with - or confront - the industrialised world?

A. In the course of this dialogue, you have wondered about the way of life amidst the industrialised society in the West and the issues raised by such life for each Muslim. Take the Ismailis for example: more of them live in the industrialised world today than ever before throughout their history. I believe their numbers will continue to increase and that their Imam should consider these issues. Therefore, my life in the West would give me the experience of dealing with them and confronting them through constant research and dialogue with other Muslims living in the West. We are all confronted with the same problems.

Q. But this confrontation takes place at a time when the industrialized world sees nothing in Islam but liabilities and negative aspects. In the eyes of the West, Muslims are terrorists, revolutionaries or saboteurs. Do you see for the Ismailis, and for yourself in particular - as the Muslim leader who has lived longest in the West and has had the longest experience in dealing with the industrialized world - a role to play in correcting this image?

A. I believe that the first problem facing every Muslim living in the industrialized world, is that Muslim children will be born in the West for two or three generations to come. They will be young people having no personal contact with their family traditions, cultural background, or country of origin. Most likely, they will not speak their mother tongue: Arabic, Urdu or Persian for example. They will have no contact with their language, its culture or its civilisation. Here in particular there is a series of basic questions to be answered: how will these Muslims deal with their culture and traditional background? How will they deal and associate themselves with the industrial society in which they live, its culture, its civilization, its language? All Muslims, be they Sunnites or Shiites, are confronted with this problem. From this viewpoint we should ask ourselves: how can we combine our Islamic traditions and culture with the traditions and culture of the industrial society without losing both?

Here we can, myself, the Ismailis and all Muslims, play a role through what I may call "humanistic infiltration" of the industrial society in such a way that Islam may be looked upon not only as a religion, but also as a way of life, as a history of rare intensity, as a tradition and as a total culture. They will then have to integrate one way or the other with the cultural stream and with the humanistic tradition that remains in this industrial society: they will have to penetrate its core and not remain in the margin. They will be able to do that because Muslims amount to eight hundred, nine hundred million people representing cultures with infinite variety and splendour which the world cannot afford to ignore, and because Muslims represent an infinite variety of traditions, ways of life and economic experience.

There remains the more important question: how can we manage to make these traditions an essential part of the industrial society?

Q. All these are good intentions which do not constitute a practical approach. How do you expect the industrial society to allow you to proceed with your humanistic infiltration?

A. If we manage to show Islam in its true light, I have no doubt whatsoever in our ability to infiltrate the industrial society. However, such success will depend on Muslims in the West and Muslims outside the Western world. Both categories should present our traditions, cultures, philosophy and virtues in a way that would enable people to understand them and interact with them - in a way that would make people not only appreciate them but also seek to know more about them.

Q. But the West, by virtue of its imperialistic history and political philosophy, is hostile to us as Muslims and consequently cannot take a neutral stance and allow you to infiltrate it.

A. By what you have said just now, you have put your finger on the crux of the matter: there must be a consensus representing the unity of purpose amongst Muslims - a consensus which so combines wisdom, honour, and greatness of objective as to drive Muslims to common action. If there are political or other differences or disagreements between Muslims we must not show them as representing Islam or Muslims. Of course, there is an amount of risk in that. No matter, since my firm belief is that there is no fundamental hostility between Islam and the other monotheistic religions.

Q. I must insist on my question: how can we translate this into practical language when we know that confronting three Muslims together would lead to the formation of four political parties? (An allegoric question. Translator)

A. The transposition of this idea into practice would begin with education and education begins with the pre-school child. It is through education that the message should be transmitted. We all know that all the main religions are taught in the schools of the West - all except Islam. It follows from that, that Westerners and non-Muslims have no knowledge of the world of Islam. This in itself is unbelievable. It also follows that our humanistic traditions, our architecture, our literature are totally unknown in the West - except perhaps through colourful publicity catalogues. Thus we have failed in our task of showing our culture as a living, creative and reasoning culture. This is probably the main motive behind the establishment of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. The magnificent monuments shown in such colourful publicity catalogues are great in themselves, but they are not the Islamic culture as it lives with us nowadays. Therefore I have endeavoured to transmit one integrated image of the world of Islam in its pluralism and variety, with its many languages and several interpretations of religion, with its numerous racial and geographical backgrounds.

Q. But how can we persuade the West to introduce the study of Islam in their school curricula?

A. I shall be frank. This is one of our rights - a right which we must exercise through student movements and our representatives therein - only by the democratic means available to us. However, the way in which our cause is presented is more important. This should stress the fact that it is not our intention to act as missionaries in order to convert Christians to Islam. We should not do anything that could be interpreted as such. Our aim is to see Islamic traditions represented in the school curricula of the West on equal footing with other similar traditions.

Q. But it is inevitable that the West will resist our endeavours even though they represent the exercise of our democratic rights with the industrialised world.

A. It may be true that there is traditionally in the West a hostile religious attitude towards Islam, and a corresponding political attitude going back to the Crusades. But this is the past and the Western world must abandon this mentality wherever it persists. The fear of the West is that the introduction of a new culture and a new religion into their curricula may have political objectives, rather than the fear of Islam as a threat to Christianity. What they fear is politics not religion, and that explains why they hesitate to open the door for us at a time when they are obliged to open similar doors for all other racial and religious minorities in their countries. Yet, frankly, it all depends on us, on our ability to present our case in a just and correct manner. We may not succeed everywhere, we may succeed here and fail there. But then the door will have been opened for us and time is on our side. The world of today can no longer afford to ignore the world of Islam. The wind of change has blown and our duty is to help change to move forward.

Q. Are you prepared to collaborate with other Muslim leaders, belonging to different countries and tendencies, in laying the foundations for the promotion of this idea?

A. I have no hesitation whatsoever in this regard. I am ready to work with any Muslim leader willing to do so with an open mind and a cooperative spirit. I believe that our cause is in need of a common endeavour. The essential thing which we should demonstrate to the industrialized world is that we represent a common culture free from any political ambitions - in the sense that we do not aspire to changing the political situation of these countries. We must mark a dividing line between the political situation of the western countries and the question of calling for the Islamic civilisation and thought to be introduced into the school curricula. We must allow the democratic game in the West to be played to the utmost and exercise our right through it by giving expression to all our views. We must also correct the image they have of Islam: it is neither a political instrument of change, nor is it a revolutionary means of conversion. We must restore balance to this image. The Muslim world does not see Christianity through, for example what the Irish Liberation Army represents - a political, pseudo-religious movement with political aims. Reciprocally the Europeans and the Americans should not see Islam through what similar movements represent.

Q. How can you change this double image?

A. By attacking on all fronts.

Q. Are you prepared to carry out such an attack?

A. Have you ever heard of a one-man army?

Q. Do you mean that you are prepared to collaborate with other Muslim personalities to reach your objectives and subsequently to expand the activities of your institutions?

A. In all honesty I say yes, because I am convinced that this is the only way for the Arab nation to recover its balance and to ensure its presence in the industrialized world.

Q. What are your conditions?

A. It would be stupid to claim that a small minority of Muslims could alone bring about the required changes in the industrialised world. The situation requires the combined efforts of all Muslims. Therefore my only condition is that there should be consensus as to the cause and aims which we seek to serve. There should also be consensus as to the method or approach to be adopted. Lastly there should be consensus as to the means of implementation.

Q. Have you taken any steps in this direction?

A. Frankly, we are still at a very early stage. The reasons for this are many: the Muslim world covers an immense area including the Arab world, Asia and Africa and today, the industrialized world as well. It has different traditions and a variety of methods of communication - which renders matters extremely complicated. Often, I fear that if I take the initiative, I will receive adverse responses. You know that the Muslim world and the Arab world are divided, politically, ideologically and economically. Therefore we must look for a common denominator which would represent a consensus on the long term objectives, methods and means. But I do not wish - if I take the initiative, to be a factor of division in the Muslim and the Arab world over and above already existing factors. On the other hand, if I can be an agent of conciliation, I am all ready to move in this direction immediately, In'Sha'allah.

* * * *

With the pronunciation of the worlds In'Sha'allah, it was time for this long dialogue to take another direction and to go off the record. Afterwards, when I was about to take leave of the Aga Khan at the doorstep of Aiglemont in the midst of that forest of tall trees, I said to His Highness: while I appreciate the fact that you are a cautious man, I have also discovered that you are at the same time an optimistic man. How can you achieve a consensus of opinion in that nation even if it were a consensus on wisdom or a consensus on aspiration and hope?

The Aga Khan laughed while extending his hand towards mine and said: "Allah has power over all things".

It began to rain. It was a cold winter day. I felt warm.

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