DONORS TEA PARTY
November 17, 1994
Sahebzada Yaqoub 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 and Inshallah in your lives, Inshallah in the lives of the Muslim Ummah, indeed of the aspirations which we share for the future.
If you reflect upon the time in which we live, 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 of 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 that 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 predicated on knowledge, on the 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 historical 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 Pakistan, the willingness of the Jamat, the willingness of academics and the intellectuals to come together around a concept, the concept of building a strong institution of learning and of research in the Muslim world, serving the Muslim world, and even serving one day Inshallah, further afield.
I was immensely happy to find the answers to those questions were affirmative from the government of Pakistan, from the academics and the people of learning from the Muslim world and 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 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 because we are living in a time of vacuum, we are living in 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 capability of the people of the Muslim world and that is what we aspire....(applause).
And if in some way, you and I could contribute to this objective, then I think we and future generations will have made a small contribution to bringing the Muslim world back to the 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 institution. And it is difficult for me in a few words that I can 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 constraints. And therefore, I have no shame in saying "thank you" to the non-Muslim world today. These men and women of outstanding capabilities are your and my guarantors that this institution, Inshallah, will become one that you and I hope it would 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 the leaders, and that this leadership will have a genuine, significant impact in 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 that generosity not only with admiration, but, frankly, with amazement because it comes at a time in the world economic situation when you have lived through severe recession, when each and everyone at some time in recent years has lived through economic constraints, where you have certainly asked yourselves what is the economic future ahead of us. And that is true of practically every part of the world where Murids and others have donated from today.
So the generosity is not to be seen against an expansionist economic time of wealth and prosperity. It is to be seen against the time of concern, instability and worry. And that is why I can say tonight with such happiness how much I admire your generosity to 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 - and it is a great university with a faculty of arts and sciences, 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 was - the undergraduates. And he then went on to explain why the undergraduates own that university.
Tonight I dedicate the Aga Khan University to you for the support 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 it.
*Presentation of cuff-links by a very young boy*
I do not have a shirt under my Shalwani so I cannot wear the cuff-links you have offered me. But I want to say how grateful I am for the really meaningful and beautiful gifts that you have given Me. They will stay with Me and remind Me of ten years, or first ten years of this university and the shared hopes and aspirations that we have for it.
To all of you I convey My deep, deep gratitude for your putting this institution on stable foundation and enabling it to grow much faster than I had expected at a time of immense need in the Muslim world and in Pakistan. What you have done is to enable this institution to move ahead infinitely faster than the trustees or I had ever, ever hoped and that is a most magnificent gift that you have made to all those who go through this institution and serve it the years ahead.
I convey to you my deep, deep gratitude and I hope that you and future generations, every time a graduate from the Aga Khan University performs well, will say to yourselves, I had some participation in that young man or that young woman's success.
Click here for Speeches from 1981 - todate
Back to F.I.E.L.D