António Marujo and Faranaz Keshavjee

Courteous, ever smiling, those who are close to him say he is demanding. That is what happens in the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), a group of agencies working in fields such as micro-finance, rural development or even in lucrative sectors such as tourism, aviation, banking or industry. Shah Karim Al-Husseini. Aga Khan IV, as he designated by the Ismailis, took on the role of 49th hereditary Imam of the Time (since Prophet Muhammad), on July 11th 1957.

He was in Portugal , some days ago, to mark the conclusion of his Golden Jubilee.

PÚBLICO – In 1976, you mentioned that Prophet Muhammad understood the importance of new solutions for the daily lives that would not affect the principles of Islam. Does this motivate the undertakings of the AKDN?

Definitely. Firstly, the notion of dealing with poverty. Islam has a group of very strong orientations on how to help people, which is different (no more or less better) from the Christian world. For example, in Islam, we do not use the terms philanthropy or charity [as in Christianity] .

Islam says that the best form of charity, to use the term, is by helping people to become self-sufficient. It is to give in such a way that the person becomes master of one’s own destiny. This is a very clear affirmation to all Muslims, and it underlies our health programmes, educationt it is helping people to help themselves. The same is applicable to micro-finance. Whatever the need of the poor, one should help to resolve it. One does not specify material poverty, disease, or divisions within the family.

Does daily life carry the same importance as eternal life?

In Islam, they are the same thing. One cannot separate faith from the world. This is one of the greatest difficulties that the non-Muslim world has, because the judaic-christian societies developed with that notion of separation. For the Muslims, that separation is not possible. We are expected to live our faith every day, in every hour.

One of the difficulties that we are facing in the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds, is the articulation of the difference in values in a comprehensive form. However, this does not mean that we are in conflict. They are just different values.

One of the differences is laicality, debated in countries such as as Portugal , Turkey , France . For many, faith should remain confined to a private space. You mentioned that Islam doesn’t separate faith from the world. How do you perceive this notion?

I would like the non-Muslim societies to accept the values of Islam. If Islam says that we do not separate the world from faith, the Western world should accept that. I would go further and say: it is a wonderful way to live! It is an extraordinary blessing to be able to live our faith everyday! Making ethic the way in which you live your daily life, and not only in occasions such as death, a marriage or a birth.

I am not criticising anyone. I am saying that secular society, by the nature of secularity and the demands of time, provokes in people the need to first place the world and faith after. This is not a part of Islam.

Upon receiving the Award for Tolerance from the Tutzing Evangelic Academy , in Germany , you stated: “Instead of shouting at one another, we should listen to each other and learn from each other”.

You said that “fear is the source of intolerance”. In spite of your words and those of several religious leaders, many believers do not listen to this message. What is yet to be done?

There will always be limits in inter-religious dialogue, when religions, in their essence, cannot attain a consensus above a common platform, when proselytism is, therefore, worth more.

There are several forms of proselytism and, in several religions, proselytism is demanded. Therefore, it is necessary to develop the principle of a cosmopolitan ethic, which is not an ethic oriented by faith, or for a society. I speak of an ethic under which all people can live within a same society, and not of a society that reflects the ethic of solely one faith. I would call that ethic, quality of life.

I have serious doubts about the ecumenical discourse, and about what it can reach, but I do not have any doubts about cosmopolitan ethics. I believe that people share the same basic worries, joys, sadness. If we can reach a consensus in terms of cosmopolitan ethics, we will have attained something which is very important.

The Qu’ran has a very important ayat [verse], in which God says: “I have created you” – “you” means mankind – “male and female, from one sole, only one soul”. This is the most extraordinary expression on the unity of the human race. It is within this context that we must work.


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