Hindustan Times | Faith & Social Work – AKDN is ‘underpinned by the ethical principles of Islam’

Some of the greatest social work has come from people of faith and organisations that have a religious leaning.

The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), for example.

The AKDN is well-known for its work in various sectors like health, rural development, education, etc in Asia and Africa. While it does not ‘restrict its work to a particular community, country or region’, the AKDN is ‘underpinned by the ethical principles of Islam’.

World of AKDN  (Image via AKDN Report - http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/cca7caf9#/cca7caf9/1)
World of AKDN (Image via AKDN Report – http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/cca7caf9#/cca7caf9/1)

Mother Teresa’s Christian faith does not undermine her social work

By Viju Cherian, Hindustan Times, New Delhi Updated: Feb 26, 2015 11:36 IST

Mother Teresa (Image via The Manila Times)
Mother Teresa (Image via The Manila Times)

… Mother Teresa was a Roman Catholic by faith and as a nun spreading the Christian faith was her raison d’etre. She chose to serve the most underprivileged and outcast people in society and opened her arms to lepers, TB patients and terminally ill people at a time when the government and society had abandoned them. Her work in this field, no doubt, is without parallel.

To accept that Mother Teresa was a great social worker and at the same time an ardent Christian is not at odds, but at a certain level complement each other. Some of the greatest social work has come from people of faith and organisations that have a religious leaning. The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), for example. The AKDN is well-known for its work in various sectors like health, rural development, education, etc in Asia and Africa. While it does not ‘restrict its work to a particular community, country or region’, the AKDN is ‘underpinned by the ethical principles of Islam’. The Ramakrishna Mission is a spiritual movement that has a worldwide presence, and its philanthropic and educational endeavours have brought succour to many people.

Being affiliated to a particular religious thought need not undermine the social work done by the individual or organisation

Read more  about this interesting perspective at

Reader comment to The Manila Times | Mother Teresa’s Christian faith does not undermine her social work

Anony Moose says:
February 27, 2015 at 5:50 am

The touchstone of the AKDN in this case is inappropriate. Not only is the AKDN completely non-denominational in every way and completely equal access, and deals with best practice in a global sense, it also does not proselytize. It does not “baptize” anyone. That means the AKDN, which is supported by international institutions and government around the world, is a better touchstone for UN agencies, the WHO, and perhaps even the Red Cross and Red Crescent, but is quite different from the Catholic church institutions, which have always had missionary work and proselytize as a central driver. When you go to an Aga Khan Hospital or an Aga Khan School, you will never have services delivered by religious officers. Nor will they make medical or schooling decisions based on religion (consider Mother Teresa’s institutions in the past kept elements of healthcare away from the needy, as part of the process of “saving the soul” as she as a Catholic understood it).

To be clear, I’m not making a comment on what India should do on this matter, but I did want to provide clarity on the Aga Khan Development Network. They are a pristine organsation, and instead of making the false touchstone, perhaps these other entities should be asked to run more like the AKDN such as to gain acceptance in the great country that is India.


About Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN)

His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan (Image via AKDN.org)
His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan (Image via AKDN.org)

His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, the founder and chairman of the AKDN, is the 49th hereditary Imam (Spiritual Leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims and a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) through his cousin and son-in-law, Ali, the first Imam, and his wife Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter.

The Aga Khan has emphasised the view of Islam as a thinking, spiritual faith, one that teaches compassion and tolerance and that upholds the dignity of man, Allah’s noblest creation. In the Shia tradition of Islam, it is the mandate of the Imam of the time to safeguard the individual’s right to personal intellectual search and to give practical expression to the ethical vision of society that the Islamic message inspires.

In Islam’s ethical tradition, religious leaders not only interpret the faith but also have a responsibility to help improve the quality of life in their community and in the societies amongst which they live. For His Highness the Aga Khan, this has meant a deep engagement with development for over 55 years through the agencies of the AKDN.

AKDN is a contemporary endeavour of the Ismaili Imamat to realise the social conscience of Islam through institutional action. Its ten agencies address complex development issues, including the provision of quality healthcare and education services, cultural and economic revitalization, micro-enterprise, entrepreneurship and economic development, the advancement of civil society and the protection of the environment.

The agencies of the AKDN are private, international, non-denominational development organisations. AKDN brings together, under one coherent aegis, institutions and programs whose combined mandate is to help relieve society of ignorance, disease and deprivation, and in the process improve the welfare and prospects of people in the developing world, particularly in Asia and Africa, without regard to faith, origin or gender. The AKDN works in 30 countries around the world. It employs approximately 80,000 people, the majority of whom are based in developing countries. The AKDN’s annual budget for non-profit development activities is approximately US$ 600 million.

AKDN: An Ethical Framework

  1. Ethic of Inclusiveness
  2. Ethic of Education and Research
  3. Ethic of Compassion and Sharing
  4. Ethic of Self-Reliance
  5. Ethic of Respect for Life and Health Care
  6. Ethic of Sound Mind
  7. Ethic of Sustainable Environment: Physical, Social and Cultural
  8. Ethic of Governance

Discover, Explore & Learn more, read the ethical framework that informs the AKDN’s work.


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