Address by Mr Firoz Rasul
Bismillahir Rehmanir Rahim
The Chairman and Members of the Board
The Principal of the School, Mr. Wrigley
Parents and Guests
And, of course the students
Assalam o Alaikum
I am honoured to be invited to be the Chief Guest at the school‟s Speech Day. My sense of honour does not just come from speaking at the premier school in Karachi or in perhaps, Pakistan, but also because our late Chairman of the AKU Board of Trustees, Ambassador Saidullah Khan Dehlavi attended this school, and in fact was the Chief Guest at Speech Day a few years ago. If this school produces great men like Said Dehlavi, then it must be a great school. Of course, many great women have also been schooled at Karachi Grammar.
How do I know that? Because we admit many of them each year to the Aga Khan University. By the way, we also admit boys who make the mark. In fact, last year we took 19 successful applicants, girls and boys, from this school as part of our admitted class of 100. That is more than from any school!
So you can imagine my disappointment, Principal Wrigley, when I saw in your letter to me a list of all the great universities around the world to which your graduates are admitted and it didn‟t not mention AKU. In fact, we know that several of your graduates turned down offers at Cambridge, Columbia and McGill to attend AKU.
In 2013 the Aga Khan University celebrated its 30th anniversary as it was founded in 1983 by our Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan. It was established initially in Pakistan with a very powerful purpose; the development of human capacities through the discovery and dissemination of knowledge, and its application through service to humanity.
Although, the Aga Khan University is only 30 years old, did you know its history harkens back almost 1,000 years, to the Fatimid Dynasty that ruled northern Africa, the Mediterranean and parts of southern Europe. Educational institutions such as the Al-Azhar University and the Dar al-Ilm or House of Knowledge and the intellectual tradition were central to the Fatimid dynasty, ancestors of our founder and Chancellor. These two institutions were founded in Cairo in the 10th and 11th century AD. They taught a system of Islamic jurisprudence, offered free public lectures including special classes for women and provided research facilities for scholars in medicine, astronomy, mathematics, and logic. At its height, Al-Azhar University housed the largest number of reference books on the continent. This was 250 years before Oxford and Cambridge or 700 years before Harvard.
Why establish the Aga Khan University in Pakistan? Universities have played a pivotal role throughout history in the development of knowledge and the facilitation of important social discussions. For example, Oxford University was central to the debate between Royalists and Parliamentarians during the English Civil War. Through the centuries, the creation and dissemination of knowledge has spurred the development of democratic systems ofgovernment, social and healthcare policies, medical advances and scientific discoveries.
As our Chancellor has noted, “An important goal of quality education is to equip each generation to participate effectively in what has been called „the great conversation of our times.‟ This means, on the one hand, being unafraid of controversy. But it also means being sensitive to the values and outlooks of others.”
Each of you should ask yourself, what great conversations of your time should you be having? What about your role in helping solve the great problems facing the world? Great problems such as multi-generational poverty, political apathy, corruption in society, religious chauvinism, inequality of economic opportunities, lack of basic human rights such as access to clean water, education, health and food security. And what will be the impact of technology on solutions for these big questions.
Questioning, critical thinking, incisive inquiry and clear expression are what we would like our graduates to have as we become a liberal arts university with the addition of a Faculty of Arts and Sciences, graduate schools of media, leadership and management, architecture and human settlements, law, government and public policy, to name a few.
I hope you will be students or teachers or researchers in some of these new and exciting disciplines at AKU.
Every speaker at such an occasion is expected to give some sage advice to the graduating students. I would like to share an aphorism or saying that I have found to be simple and yet incredibly powerful.
The Eight Blunders of Society
Wealth without Work
Pleasure without Conscience
Knowledge without Character
Science without Humanity
Worship without Sacrifice
Politics without Principle
Rights without Responsibilities
Commerce without Morality