Ismaili History 820 - SULTAN MUHAMMAD SHAH AGA KHAN III (1302-1376/1885-1957)

His name was Muhammad Sultan, also known as Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, the Aga Khan, G.C.S.I., G.C.I.E., G.C.V.O., G.C.M.G., LL.D., was born at Honeymoon Lodge in Karachi on Friday, the 25th Shawal, 1294/November 2, 1877 at 5:30 pm. When the news of his birth was routed to the Aga Khan I in Bombay, he said: 'Name him Muhammad Sultan. He would be a Sultan (emperor) in the world. His period would see wonderful events, and would earn distinguished position in the world.'
He grew up under the substle care of his mother. His father had declared him as his successor for the first time in Kamod, a village near Ahmadabad in 1884 before the local Ismailis. About three months before his death, it is learnt from the old manuscript of a certain Khoja Hansraj Sunderji that on May 14, 1885, the Aga Khan II had said to the Bombay jamat that: 'You adore Aga Sultan Muhammad same as you adore me. There is no difference between me and him. We both are from one light (noor), and you believe it as one, so that your worship be accepted in dooms-day. Do not consider us different, both are from one light.'

After his father's death, the Aga Khan III ascended the throne of Imamate at the age of 7 years, 9 months and 16 days on 6th Zilkada, 1302/August 17, 1885. The British empire awarded him the title of His Highness in 1886 in the time of Lord Reay, the then governor of Bombay. On that occasion, the Iranian king had sent him a sword and an ivory stick as presents.

The Aga Khan III as a child, almost from the time he could walk, took a keen interest in various games. He also showed an extraordinary affection for animals and was in the habit of feeding dears, stags and ponies in his home park, often leading them about with a string round their necks. He took great pleasure in riding a wooden horse.

Until the age of 18 years, the Aga Khan III received education in Bombay and Poona. He was deeply indebted to his learned and wise mother, Lady Ali Shah, to whom he owed his liberal and extensive education. Though deprived of the paternal solicitude of his father at the age of 8 years, his mother took abundant parental interest in his education. Besides oriental languages like Arabic, Persian, Urdu and Hindi, he also developed command over English, French and Germany. Alongwith Islamic education, he also studied western thought, sciences, metaphysics, astronomy and mathematics from his three European tutors. Like his mother, he also took interest in the poetical works of Rumi, Hafiz, Sa'adi, Firdausi and Umar Khayyam. Recollecting memory of his childhood, the Aga Khan once said: 'As a child I was very much interested in philosophy and poetry, because anyone who knows Persian literature is naturally inclined to those subjects by the wonderful power, charm and grace of our Persian poets. I came under the influence of Hafiz, Maulana Rumi and others at an early and impressionable age, and they opened my eyes to the wonders of the universe and to the need of constantly keeping abreast of scientific and philosophic speculation and discovery. I have never since lost my interest in these subjects and have tried, as far as one can in the midst of a busy life, to read all the most recent theories and the arguments on which they are founded.'

The Aga Khan III was fortunate to have a gifted and farsighted mother, Lady Ali Shah, who engaged best scholars to teach him Koran, Hadith and oriental languages. She also played a seminal role in the administrative affairs of the Ismaili community through a council. Dr. G.W. Leitner writes in 'Legends, Songs and Customs of Dardistan' (London, 1889, pp. 250-1) that, 'His Highness, Agha Sultan Muhammad Shah is the present hereditary spiritual head. His authority extends from the Lebanon to the Hindukush and wherever else there may be Ismailians, who either openly profess obedience to him, as do the Khojahs in Bombay; or who are his secret followers in various parts of the Muhammadan world in Asia and Africa. The present young, but enlightened, Chief is, as his father and grandfather, likely to exert his influence for good.'

The Aga Khan III started visiting the Ismaili communities outside Bombay in 1312/1894. He made his debut as an educational reformer, and visited The Mohammadan Anglo Oriental College in Aligarh (high fort), about 79 miles south-east of Delhi, on November 22, 1896 and had a productive meeting with Sir Sayed Ahmad Khan (1817-1898), who was a great educationist and socialist. Sir Sayed Ahmad Khan had founded the Aligarh College on November 1, 1875, and was the vice-President of the College Fund Committee as well as its Honorary Secretary. Qayyum A. Malick quotes in his 'Prince Aga Khan' (Karachi, 1954, p. 47) Sir Muhammad Yaqub as saying: 'I happened to see His Highness for the first time in 1896, when the young Khoja leader started his public career by making a pilgrimage to the M.A.O. College Aligarh, the great symbol of Muslim renaissance, and made his acquaintance with the founder of the institution, the late Sir Sayed Ahmed Khan, who was then the foremost Muslim leader of the day. It was perhaps this inspiring inauguration of the Aga Khan's public life which kindled in his heart an unabating fire for the service of his community. The late Nawab Mohsin-ul-Mulk, who arranged this historic meeting, had already perceived the germs of great talent in His Highness, and brought him closer to the Aligarh movement, and the Aga Khan soon appeared on the horizon.' Willi Frischauer also writes in 'The Aga Khans' (London, 1970, pp. 56-7) that, 'How wonderful if Aligarh could become a full university to bring up a generation of young leaders and advance the cause of Islam. Here was a chance to follow in the footsteps of his ancestor who had founded al-Azhar, the first Muslim university, which greatly appealed to the young Aga Khan. He decided to put up money for the cause and persuaded wealthy friends to contribute. It was a long struggle but he missed no opportunity to plead for this cause and when Aligarh finally became a university two dozen years later, it was more to Muslims than a seat of learning. In retrospect it was recognised as the intellectual cradle of independent Pakistan and the Aga Khan's enthusiasm and support which made it possible earned him a place among Pakistan's founding fathers.'

In 1315/1897, a terrible famine had badly shaken the Bombay Presidency, therefore, the Aga Khan III supplied food and seed, cattle and agricultural tools to the needy people, and in order to provide job opportunities, he started the construction of his Yarroda Palace at Poona. In Bombay, a large camp was pitched at Hasanabad, where thousands of people were daily fed at his expense; and to those who were ashamed openly to participate in this hospitality, the grain was provided to them privately for about six months. The famine was followed by the epidemic of bubonic plague and the superstitious people of India refused to be vaccinated against the disease. The Aga Khan III obtained the service of an eminent bacteriologist, Dr. Waldemar Mordecai Wolff Haffkine, the Director-in-Chief of the Government Plague Research Laboratory, Bombay. The Aga Khan was a crusader against meaningless supersitions and traditions, when soon after famine came plague, the people were in a panic and there was a hue and cry against inoculation with anti-plague serum. He therefore collected the people at his Khusaro Lodge, where the doctor was staying and addressed meetings explaining the benefits of inoculation. In front of this gathering he got himself inoculated, so as to dispel their superstitious fears, and strengthen their confidence in scientific methods of cure. This prompted others to follow and many lives were saved as a result. In the meantime, it had been proposed to give a public dinner to the Aga Khan III in Bombay in view of his outstanding services. When he had been informed of it, he wrote to the Secretary of the Reception Committee a letter, which showed his innermost feeling evoked by the distress of the poor people. He wrote: 'I cannot accept any entertainment when thousands of people are dying of starvation. It is almost wicked to waste money on rich food when thousands of people are starving. I would urge that every rupee that could be spared should be given for the relief of sufferers by famine instead of wasting it on the entertainments.'

Ismaili History 821 - First visit of Europe

In 1316/1898, the Aga Khan III set out from Bombay on his first journey to Europe, and visited France and Britain, where he had an audience with Queen Victoria at Windsor Palace. In the state banquet at Windsor Palace, he was sitting next to the Queen on her right side. No ruling prince from India who held great temporal power would have been treated with greater honour and respect like the Aga Khan. He was invested the honourable title of Knight Commander of the Indian Empire (K.C.I.E.). He also met the future king Edward VII. The 'Saint Gazette' (London, dated July 22, 1898) published the following report to this effect:-
'Her Majesty Queen Victoria had held a Levy, which was attended by Consuls of all countries, and His Highness the Aga Khan was also invited at the occasion. When the Aga Khan went there, the Queen herself went to receive him at the door and welcomed him with great respects and made him sit on the Throne of their Pope. As soon as the Aga Khan sat on the Throne, the Queen said to all the Consuls, 'What is the reason of your surprise, and what you all are thinking of?' The Consuls replied, 'Upto now, many Indian Kings have come to Europe, but you have given more honours to Aga Khan, and even made him sit on the Throne of our Pope; what is the reason of this?' The Queen in reply said, 'You are all wise, prudent and learned, and you know better than I the reason of this. In short, I must tell you that we have never seen our religious leader Jesus Christ, and without doubt, the Aga Khan is our same leader, and considering this, I have made him sit on our Pope's Throne.' On hearing this, all Consuls were greatly surprised, and wired to their respective countries about the above fact. Consequently, the Rulers of France, Germany, Italy, Belgium etc. sent telegrams to Aga Khan from all over, requesting him to give them honour of visiting their countries, which the Aga Khan accepted.'

Ismaili History 822 - First visit of East Africa

The Aga Khan III paid his first visit to East African countries in 1317/1899, where the Sultan of Zanzibar granted him the title of Brilliant Star of Zanzibar. On his second visit to Europe in 1900, the Aga Khan III held a meeting with Muzaffaruddin Shah Qajar (1313-1324/1896-1907) of Iran in Paris, who awarded him the title of Shamsul Hamayun or Star of Persia. He had also a meeting with Turkish Sultan Abdul Hamid II in Istanbul, who granted him the title of Star of Turkey. The German emperor Kaiser William II also awarded the title of First Class Prussian Order of the Royal Crown at Potsdam.
On January 22, 1901, the Queen Victoria expired, therefore, the Aga Khan III attended the funeral at London on February 2, 1901. He was the personal guest of emperor Edward VII at his coronation in August 2, 1902, who promoted the Aga Khan from the rank of Knight (K.C.I.E.) to that of Grand Commander of the Order of Indian Empire (G.C.I.E.). He returned to India in November, 1902. The viceroy of India, Lord Curzon appointed him to a seat of his Legislative Council of India.

Ismaili History 823 - Movement of Aligarh University

The Aga Khan believed that the root cause of Muslim backwardness in India was illiteracy, and therefore, education was the panacea for their ills. He thought that education should be a medium of service to others and a tool for modernization. He also considered the aim of education to be character building. According to Islamuddin in 'The Aga Khan III' (Islamabad, 1978, p. 22), 'It was he, who, translated the dream of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan into reality, by raising the status of Aligarh College into a great Muslim University.' Sirdar Ikbal Ali Shah states in 'The Prince Aga Khan' (London, 1933, p. 65) that, 'It was Sir Syed Ahmed who founded Aligarh College, but it was the Aga Khan, an ardent enthusiastic promoter of the ideal of education, who has been mainly responsible for the raising of its status to that of a University.'
After the death of Sir Sayed Ahmad Khan in 1316/1898, the Aga Khan III advised Mohsin al-Mulk (1837-1907), the Secretary of Aligarh College, to tour India to procure public opinion for the cause of Muslim University. His interest in the Aligarh College dates from the time when he was called upon to preside at an Educational Conference held at Delhi at the time of Lord Curzon's proclamation Durbar in 1319/1902. He used the platform of Muslim Educational Conference to bring home to the Muslims, the importance of education, and Muslim University at Aligarh. In his Presidential address to the Muslim Educational Conference, the Aga Khan said: 'If, then, we are really in earnest in deploring the fallen condition of our people, we must unite in an effort for their redemption and, first and foremost of all, an effort must now be made for the foundation of a University where Muslim youths can get, in addition to modern sciences, a knowledge of their glorious past and religion and where the whole atmosphere of the place, it being a residential University, nay, like Oxford, give more attention to character than to mere examinations. Muslims of India have legitimate interests in the intellectual development of their co-religionists in Turkey, Persia, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, and the best way of helping them is by making Aligarh a Muslim Oxford .... We are sure that by founding this University we can arrest the decadence of Islam, and if we are not willing to make sacrifices for such an end, must I not conclude that we do not really care whether the faith of Islam is dead or not? .... We want Aligarh to be such a home of learning as to command the same respect of scholars as Berlin or Oxford, Leipzig or Paris. And we want those branches of Muslim learning, which are too fast passing into decay, to be added by Muslim scholars to the stock of the world's knowledge.' (vide 'Khutbat-i Aliyah', Aligarh, 1927, Part I, p. 206).

Addressing the annual session of Muslim Educational Conference in 1904 at Bombay, the Aga Khan III said: 'The farsighted among the Muslims of India desire a University, where the standard of learning should be the highest and where with the scientific training, there shall be that moral education, that indirect but constant reminder of the eternal difference between right and wrong, which is the soul of education .... I earnestly beg of you that the cause of such a University should not be forgotten in the shouts of the market place that daily rise amongst us.'

The plan for the Muslim University had by 1910 taken on the complexion and force of a national movement. The session of the All India Muslim Educational Conference at Nagpur in December, 1910 gave the signal for a concreted, nation-wide effort to raise the necessary funds for the projected University. In moving the resolution on the University, the Aga Khan III made a stirring speech. He said, 'This is a unique occasion as His Majesty the King-Emperor is coming out to India. This is a great opportunity for us and such as is never to arise again during the lifetime of the present generation, and the Muslims should on no account miss it...We must make up and make serious, earnest and sincere efforts to carry into effect the one great essential movement which above all has a large claim on our enegery and resources...If we show that we are able to help ourselves and that we are earnest in our endeavours and ready to make personal sacrifices, I have no doubt whatever that our sympathetic government, which only requires proper guarantees of our earnestness, will come forward to grant us the charter. `Now or never' seems to be the inevitable situation.'

To make a concerted drive for the collection of funds, a Central Foundation Committee with the Aga Khan III as Chairman with Maulana Shaukat Ali (1873- 1938) as his Secretary; and prominent Muslims from all walks of life as members was formed at Aligarh on January 10, 1911. The Aga Khan III accompanied by Maulana Shaukat Ali, who was still in government service and had taken a year's furlough, toured throughout the country to raise funds, visiting Calcutta, Allahabad, Lucknow, Cawnpore, Lahore, Bombay and other places. According to Willi Frischauer in 'The Aga Khans' (London, 1970, p. 76), 'His campaign for the Aligarh University required a final big heave and, as Chairman of the fund raising committee, he went on a collecting tour through India's main Muslim areas: `As a mendicant', he announced, `I am now going out to beg from house to house and from street to street for the children of Indian Muslims.' It was a triumphal tour. Wherever he went, people unharnessed the horses of his carriage and pulled it themselves for miles.'

The response to the touching appeal of the Aga Khan III was spontaneous. On his arrival at Lahore, the daily 'Peace' of Punjab editorially commented and called upon the Muslims 'to wake up, as the greatest personality and benefactor of Islam was in their city.' The paper recalled a remark of Sir Sayed Ahmad Khan prophesying the rise of a hand from the unseen world to accomplish his mission. 'That persoanlity' the paper said, 'was of the Aga Khan III.' On that day, the 'London Times' commenting upon the visit, regarded him as a great recognised leader of Muslims. The significant aspect of the Aga Khan's fund collection drive was not the enthusiastic welcome accorded to him, but the house to house collection drive. Qayyum A. Malick writes in 'Prince Aga Khan' (Karachi, 1954, p. 64) that once the Aga Khan on his way to Bombay to collect funds for the university, the Aga Khan stopped his car at the office of a person, who was known to be his bitterest critic. The man stood up bewildered and asked, 'Whom do you want Sir?' 'I have come for your contribution to the Muslim university fund,' said the Aga Khan. The man drew up a cheque for Rs. 5000/-. After pocketing the cheque, the Aga Khan took off his hat and said, 'Now as a beggar, I beg from you something for the children of Islam. Put something in the bowl of this mendicant.' The man wrote another cheque for Rs. 15000/- with moist eyes, and said, 'Your Highness, now it is my turn to beg. I beg of you in the name of the most merciful God to forgive me for anything that I may have said against you. I never knew you were so great.' The Aga Khan said, 'Dont worry! It is my nature to forgive and forget in the cause of Islam and the Muslims.' The drive received further great fillip from the announcement of a big donation by Her Highness Nawab Sultan Jahan Begum of Bhopal. The Aga Khan III was so moved by her munificence that in thanking her, he spoke the following words: Dil'e banda ra zinda kardi, dil'e Islam ra zinda kardi, dil'e qaum ra zinda kardi, Khuda'i ta'ala ba tufail'e Rasul ajarash be dahadmeans, 'You put life in the heart of this servant; you put life in the heart of Islam; you put life in the heart of the nation. May God reward you for the sake of the Prophet!' In sum, the Aga Khan collected twenty-six lacs of rupees by July, 1912 in the drive and his personal contribution amounted to one lac rupees.

On October 20, 1920, the Aligarh University was granted its official Charter. In spite of several obstacles, the Aga Khan continued his ceaseless efforts for the Muslim University, and further announced his annual grant of Rs. 10,000/- for Aligarh University, which was subsequently raised. The Ismaili individuals also made their generous contributions to Aligarh University. For instance, Mr. Kassim Ali Jairajbhoy gave Rs. 1,25,000 to found chairs of Philosophy and Science in the Aligarh in memory of his father.

It must be noted on this juncture that in January, 1857, Lord Canning (1856-1862) had passed the Acts of Incorporation in India which provided for the establishment of universities in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. The fourth university was then established in 1882 by a Special Act of Incorporation in Pujnab and the fifth was that of Allahabad University in 1887. Thus, by the end of 1902 there were five universities in India, and Aligarh University was the sixth one.

It will remain as a historical reminder of the fact that the Aga Khan gave continuity to the traditions of his ancestors as pioneers of education in Egypt and elsewhere - traditions associated with the foundation of Al-Azhar, the oldest existing university in the world, which to this day is crowded with students from all parts of the globe. The Aga Khan III instituted the Aga Khan Foreign Scholarship programme for the promising students. It is worth mentioning here that Dr. Ziauddin was one of the students of the Aga Khan in the sense that the Aga Khan paid for his years of study at Cambridge. Among other great Muslim scholars, who benefited from the munificent help were Dr. L.K. Hyder, the well known economist, Mr. Wali Muhammad, a great physicist, Dr. Zafarul Hasan, a learned theologian, and Dr. Zaki etc. 'The Movement of establishing a Muslim University' writes Mumtaz Moin in his 'The Aligarh Movement' (Karachi, 1976, p. 184), 'is an important chapter of our history. Initiated by Waqar al-Mulk it soon became a live issue under the patronage of the Aga Khan.' Islamuddin writes in 'Aga Khan III' (Islamabad, 1978, p. 27) that, 'Thus it would not be an exaggeration to say that without Aga Khan, there would have been no Aligarh University, and without Aligarh, Pakistan would have been a near impossiblity.' The Aga Khan himself said in his 'Memoirs' (London, 1954, p. 36) that: 'We may claim with pride that Aligarh was the product of our own efforts and of no outside benevolence and surely it may also be claimed that the independent sovereign nation of Pakistan was born in the Muslim University of Aligarh.'

The Aga Khan III paid another visit of Europe in 1904, and for the second time, he went to see his followers in East Africa in the following year.

In 1324/1906, the Aga Khan III liquidated the traditional jurisprudent committee, known as justi in the community. In replacement thereof, he founded the Council in Bombay, and appointed the Mukhis and Kamadias and other 20 persons as members. In 1327/1910, the Aga Khan III promulgated a legally drafted Constitution for the Shia Imami Council and ordained it under his personal seal. Ibrahim Muhammad Rawji had been appointed as its first president.

The Aga Khan III highly abhorred injustice and fought actively for both human and civil rights at a time when it was hardly a fashionable pursuit. He resigned from the exclusive St. Cloud Golf Club near Paris when some members objected to Sugar Ray Robinson, the black boxer playing on the links. In Aix-les-Bains, one day, he rubuffed the pompous head waiter of the Hotel Splendide who refused to seat a large group of Senegalese students and promptly invited them to a three-star lunch. The Aga Khan III was also deeply shocked by the ruthless and arrogant discrimination practised by whites in United States, India and China. During his brief visit to China in 1906, he remarked: 'Within the foreign settlements the general attitude towards the Chinese was little short of outrageous. All the better hotels refused them entry. From European clubs they were totally excluded. We hear a great deal about the colour bar in South Africa today. In China, in the early years of this century, the colour bar was rigidly imposed - not least offensively in discrimination against officials of the very government whose guests, under international law, all foreigners, were supposed to be. Is it any wonder that the China intelligencia long retained bitter memories of this attitude?'

Ismaili History 824 - Foundation of All-India Muslim League

The year 1324/1906 marks the cleavage and culmination of Muslim politics in the subcontinent, when the Aga Khan III led the Muslim delegation and met Lord Minto (1845-1914), the Viceroy of India from 1905, at Simla to demand the political rights of the Muslims of India. Simla was 1170 miles away from Calcutta, in the hills of northern India, above Delhi. It was the Anglo-Indian Olympus, where the British had been coming every summer since 1860, and by 1906 there were more than 1400 European dwellings, built on a series of ridges with the native town. At the centre of this was the Viceregal Lodge, five storeys high, furnished by Maples of Tottenham Court Road.
The deputation to the Viceroy consisted of the most influential leaders, such as Mohsin al-Mulk, Hakim Ajmal Khan, Sir Ali Imam, Sir Muzammallah Khan, Sir Rafiquddin Ahmad, Sir Muhammad Shafi, Sir Abdul Rahim, Sir Salimullah, Justice Shah Din, etc. Syed Razi Waste writes in 'Lord Minto and the Indian Nationalist Movement 1905-1910' (Lahore, 1976, pp. 69-70) that, 'Minto received the Muslim Deputation on October 1, 1906. Thirty-five prominent Muslim leaders from all over India gathered in the Ball Room of the Viceregal Lodge at Simla. Their leader was a young man of twenty-nine years, H.H. Aga Sir Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan from Bombay, who besides being the head of the rich Ismaili sect of Muslims had close and friendly relations with prominent British people.' Accordingly, a memorandum was submitted to the Viceroy, insisting that the position accorded to the Muslim community in any kind of representation direct or indirect, and all other ways affecting their status should be commensurate not merely with their numerical strength but also with their political importance. Lord Minto gave them a patient hearing, assuring that their political rights and interests as a community will be safeguarded in any administrative organisation. The Aga Khan realized that the Muslims should not keep themselves aloof from politics because the Congress was already proving incapable in representing the Indian Muslims. At length, the demands of separate electorate and weightage in number in representation to all elected bodies were accepted by the Viceroy Lord Minto, and incorporated in the Minto-Morley Reforms of 1909.

On October 24, 1906, the Aga Khan wrote a letter to Mohsin al-Mulk regarding a need to form a Muslim organisation what had been achieved at Simla. The letter reads: 'It may well be that provincial associations should be formed with the aim of safeguarding the political interests of Muslims in various portions of India and similarly some central organisation for the whole.' In the meantime, The All-India Muslim Educational Conference met at Dacca on December 30, 1906 and the letter of the Aga Khan was circulated among the delegates. The Conference unanimously resolved that a political association styled as the All-India Muslim League be formed to promote among the Muslims the loyalty to the British government, to protect and advance the political rights and interests of Muslims, and to prevent the rise among Muslims of India of any feeling of hostility towards other communities. The Aga Khan III was thus elected permanent President of the All-India Muslim League and Sayed Hussain Bilgrami was made the Honorary Secretary. M. Abdul Aziz writes in 'The Crescent in the Land of the Rising Sun' (London, 1941, p. 140) that, 'It is well known that His Highness the Aga Khan was the first President of The All-India Moslem League and the way in which he took a keen and sympathetic interest in the organisation and development of the League, is shown from his letter of appreciation in his capacity as its first President.' According to 'The Foundations of Pakistan' (ed. by Sayed Sharifuddin Pirzada, Dacca, 1969, 1st vol., p. 33), 'In tracing the origins of Pakistan, some commentators give decisive importance to the separate electorates secured by the Muslim Deputation which was received by the Viceroy Lord Minto at Simla on Ocotber 1, 1906. The event has been described in the Diary of Lady Minto as `an epoch in Indian history.'' According to 'The Encyclopaedia Americana' (U.S.A., 1980, 1st vol., p. 327), 'The delegation established the Muslim League, which carried the seeds of Muslim separation and eventual creation of Pakistan.' Aziz Ahmed also writes in 'Islamic Modernism in India and Pakistan' (London, 1967, p. 66) that, 'One of the chief promoters of this design of Muslim separatism in subcontinent was the Agha Khan.'

At the sixth annual session of Muslim League held on March 22-23, 1913 at Lucknow, the Aga Khan resigned from the presidency. He hinted a numerous reasons, but did not propose to cut himself away from the League. 'Resignation' he said, 'frees me from that necessarily judicial character that attaches to the presidency. The League does not need a leader but leaders.' According to 'Encyclopaedia of Asian History' (ed. Ainslie T. Embree, London, 1988, 1st vol., p. 47), 'The Ismaili leader, Agha Khan, who presided over the League's destiny from 1906 to 1913, and resigned on November 3, 1913.' On the seventh session of the League at Agra, held on December 30-31, 1913, Sayed Wazir Hasan (1874-1947), the Secretary of League from 1912 to 1929, announced the resignation of the Aga Khan in the meeting, expressing, according to the 'Foundations of Pakistan' (Dacca, 1969, 1st vol., p. 323) that, 'it would be a calamity for Muslims when His Highness resigned.' Sir Ibrahim Rahimtullah appealed to the Aga Khan not to place his resignation in their hands today and to continue as President till the rules of the League were altered. The Aga Khan said that he would remain President for the time suggested. He said also that in no case, it would severe his connection with the League as Vice-President. In a meeting of the Council of the League, held on February 25, 1914, the Aga Khan was declared the Vice-President of Muslim League, and Sir Ali Muhammad Khan (1879-1931), the Raja of Mahmudabad was elected as the second President of Muslim League in the eight session at Bombay on December 30, 1915.

Ismaili History 825 - Haji Bibi Case of 1908

While the Aga Khan III was on tour of East African countries, a suit was filed against him at Bombay High Court on 1st Muharram, 1326/February 4, 1908 by Haji Bibi, the daughter of Aga Jhangi Shah and the widow of Muchul Shah (d. 1321/1903) with her son Samad Shah and Kutchuk Shah and 13 others. They claimed rights from the property of the Aga Khan I. Haji Bibi demanded for monthly allowance, servants salaries, fooding, furniture, maintenance and car along with Rs. 9010/- per year at the rate of 6%. The court started the proceeding from January 4, 1908. The statements of the renowned persons had been recorded by court, and the history and the doctrines of the Ismailis were investigated to ascertain whether Pir Sadruddin and the early Khoja Ismailis were Ithna Asharis or not as had been claimed by them, and thus, almost 128 issues to this context had been examined. The statement of the Aga Khan was also taken in the court on July 28, 30 and 31, 1908. Justice Louis Pitman Russell ruled against the plaintiffs on September 3, 1908, confirming the Aga Khan's rights to the estate of his grandfather and to the offerings made to him by his followers. The ruling also established that the Nizari Ismailis were distinct from the Shias of the Ithna Ashari school.
From 1325/1907 onwards, the Aga Khan III visited Europe almost every year, therefore, he established his chief residency in Europe. In 1330/1911, emperor George V visited India and invested him the title of Grand Commander of the Order of Star of India (G.C.S.I.). In 1332/1914, the British government is reported to have offered the Aga Khan two times to become the king of Egypt in place of the dethroned king Khedive Abbas II Hilmi (1892- 1914), but he disregarded the offer. In 1332/1914, the Aga Khan went to Europe and offered his services to the British government during the First World War (1914-1919), urging his followers to help the British authorities in their regions. He was given an eleven gun salute in 1916 in Britain for his contribution towards the Allied War efforts, which was a rare occurrence in diplomatic history. He was also accorded the status of a First Class Ruling Prince of Bombay Presidency. Suffering from illness, the Aga Khan took rest more than 18 months in Switzerland under the treatment of Dr. Kocher, and then proceeded to Paris for further medical examination from Prof. Pierremarie.

In 1339/1920, the Aligarh University came into existence with the untiring efforts of the Aga Khan, and he was appointed its first Vice Chancellor in 1340/1921.

Ismaili History 826 - Foundation of Recreation Club Institute

In 1330/1912, an enthusiastic group of the young Ismailis had formed The Young Ismaili Vidhya Vinod Club (or V.V. Club) at Bombay for literary, missionary and other communal activities. In 1337/1919, it wanted to add certain tinge of manliness to its activities. Thus, Lt. Col. Itmadi Pirmahomed V. Madhani (1916-1919), Major Abdullah Jafar Lakhpati, Major Alijah Rehmatullah V. Charnia, Abdullah Ismail Modi and Kassim Ali Muhammad Dawoodani, alongwith four other prominent members held a meeting and had thought of adding the aspect of heroism and bravery, and as a result, the V.V. Club inaugurated an organisation of disciplined Volunteer Corps from among the youths of the community, known as The Young Ismaili Vidhya Vinod Corps under the presidentship of Lt. Col. Itmadi Pirmahomed V. Madhani. The Aga Khan III changed its name as H.H. The Aga Khan's Young Volunteer Corps in 1920. With these changes, the literary activities of V.V. Club were also handed over to the newly formed The Recreation Club in 1919-20 under the headship of Huzur Wazir Ali Muhammad Rehmatullah Mecklai (1894-1971).
In its embryonic stage, the activities of the Recreation Club were carried on in a house at Dhupelia Building, near Bhindi Bazar, Bombay. The Khoja Ismaili Missionary Mandal established in 1910 under the headship of Bhagat Juma Bhai Ismail of Karachi was also merged with it. They were asked to discuss such subjects as religion, history, education, social and cultural affairs of the community. With this new mandate, the name of the Recreation Club was changed to the The Recreation Club Institute on February 10, 1921 under the Presidentship of H.W. Ali Muhammad (1922-1935), with the Chief Secretary Alijah Hasan Lalji Devraj (1922-1934). It was given the name of Recreation Club Institute, said the Aga Khan to the members, 'so that you can work for the world at day time, and for the religious at night honour.' Later, they were authorized to train regular missionaries, waezeens and religion teachers. Many eminent missionaries joined the Institute, some as paid, and some as honorary, such as the Chief Missionary Hussain Pir Mohammad, Pir Sabzali Ramzan Ali, Ibrahim Jusab Varteji, Alidina Mamoo, Muhammad Murad Ali Juma, Ali Bhai Nanji, Jamal Virji, Manji Bhai Lalji Nayani, Muhammad Abdullah, Abdul Hussain Bachal, Khuda Bakhsh Talib, Hakam Ali Ishaq Ali, Jafar Ali Gokal, Haji Muhammad Fazal, Muhammad Jamal Babwani, Ghulam Hussain Gulu and many others.

The Aga Khan III took his first visit in the Recreation Club Institute on August 5, 1923 and inspected its activities. He also wrote a Persian verse in the diary of Ali Muhammad Mecklai with his own hand, the only known verse written by the Aga Khan III, which is as under:-

Aatish bejan afrokhtan, az bahree jaanan sukhtan, Az man baist amukhtan, en karha karee man ast.

means, 'How to kindle a fire in the soul and burn oneself for one's beloved, should be learnt from me as this is one of my jobs.'

The Aga Khan III also visited the Institute on November 24, 1923 and February 23, 1924 and was satisfied while inspecting its working and donated one lac rupees. During his next visit on March 12, 1924, he said in presence of about 900 members as under:-


I spoke here last year when I had given as a motto a well known Persian verse which I am sure you have not forgotten. Today I will give you a small motto and that is 'work no words.' Labour for the welfare of other is the best way of improving oneself, because its results are sure and certain. If you work for yourself, you are never happy. This is not the new idea but this is an outcome of the experience of thousand years of history. Gentlemen, come and take interest in this Institute; give your ideas, advice, and help to this Institute more especially to its Industrial Department which will bring bread and butter and happiness to many and will be an enjoy big many of you. With these few words, I will ask the President to announce the gifts made by different persons to this Institute.'

The Recreation Club Institute launched a Subjects Committee during a grand missionary conference on September 28, 1923 and passed a resolution that the missionaries should be taught the doctrines of world religions. It also framed a syllabus to this effect. It was also resolved that the test of the missionaries would be taken in every year and then their grade would be fixed. In its 7th resolution, it was decided to give training to the young boys of 14 years.

The Recreation Club Institute also started the publication of the well-known weekly magazine, 'Ismaili.' The first issue of the 'Ismaili' came out on Sunday, the 25th Safar, 1342/October 7, 1923 both in English and Gujrati into 12 pages. Valibhai Nanji Hooda was appointed as its organiser and Wazir Ali Mahomed Jan Mahomed Chunara as the editor under its Educational Department. The Institute also started its own printing press on January 1, 1924 under Hussain Sharif, Rehmatullah Virji and Abdullah Kassim Mewawala of the Press Department. The Institute provided the missionaries in different quarters of India, and helped the new converts under its Industrial Department, and gradually became a leading institution in the community. On November 22, 1923, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Maulavi Hakim Sayed Abul Yousuf Ispahani took visit of the Recreation Club, and it was followed by the visits of Maulana Muhammad Ali on November 24, 1923, Maulana Azid Subhani on April 21, 1924, the Palestinian Delegation on May 1, 1924, Maulvi Muhammad Abdul Bari Firangi Mahl Lucknowi on May 21, 1924, etc.

The old records reveal that the well-known paid missionaries in 1923 in the Institute Club were Hussain Pir Muhammad and Alidina Mamu (for Bombay district), Jamal Virji (for Bhalzalavad district), Khuda Bakash Taleb (for Burma), Hamir Lakha (for Sind division), Hakim Ali Ismail and Ghulam Hussain Hashim (for Punjab and North-west Frontier), Ibrahim Yousuf Varteji (for Kathiawar), Din Muhammad Dayal (for Gujrat district), and Thavar Ghulam Hussain, Abdul Hussain Bachal, Nur Muhammad Javair, Hyder Kassim Ali etc. Besides, Pir Sabzali Ramzan Ali (Karachi), Moloo Kanji (Jamnagar) and Bande Ali Juma Bhagat (Bombay) were prominent honorary missionaries.

During the new appointments on April 1, 1924, the Institute created new cells, such as Mission, Finance, Foreign, Provincial, Home, Publicity and Literature, Indurstrial and Commerce, General, Press, Audit, Educational, Ginan Mandal, Suburb, Helping, Hall and Office, Cloth Sales, Library, Employment and Refreshment departments. Each department was looked after by an Incharge, secretary and members. Besides, Ghulam Ali G. Merchant was made the legal advisor, Abdullah B. Pir Muhammad as honorary engineer and Ali Muhammad Juma Jan Muhammad as honorary doctor.

In sum, the Institute Club covered major fields in the orbit of the then available resources.

In 1936, Rai Ismail Muhammad Jafar as a President and Itmadi Rehmatullah Virji as Chief Secretary rendered their services for one year in the Recreation Club. H.W. Ali Muhammad Mecklai was appointed once again as the President in 1938 until 1946, with Itmadi Rehmatullah Virji (1935-37), Alijah Ghulam Hussain Virji (1937-1941), Alijah Rajab Ali Muhammad Dandawala (1941-42), Itmadi Rehmatullah Virji (1943-45), Kassim Ali F. Thanawala (1945) and H.M. Yousuf Ali E. Dossa (1946-48) and Rai Abbas Ali Muhammad as Chief Secretaries. In view of his long selfless services, the Aga Khan III granted the titles of Huzur Wazir (minister in attendence) and Commander in Chief to H.W. Ali Muhammad Rehmatullah Mecklai, who was followed by Itmadi Abdullah Sumar Shivji as the President from 1946 to 1948.

In 1940, the Recreation Club Institute was given a new name of the Ismailia Association. During the Mission Conference in Dar-es-Salaam on July 21, 1945, the Aga Khan III had said that, 'You must establish an Ismailia Association that of Bombay. Mr. Mecklai, the President of Ismailia Association in Bombay has too much served the community, and spread the light of the Ismaili faith. His name shall be ever remembered in history on account of his services.' In the following year, the Ismailia Association came into existence in Nairobi.

During his visit to the African countries in 1948, the Aga Khan III declared a new constitution of the Ismailia Association, and accordingly, H.W. Ali Muhammad Rehmatullah Macklai was appointed as World Head of the Ismailia Association for India, Pakistan, Kenya, Tanganyika and Uganda. Huzur Wazir Mecklai died at the age of 77 years on Wednesday, the July 21, 1971 at Bombay. In appreciation to his long and illustrious services, the Aga Khan IV had sent a telegram to the Ismailia Federal Council for India, in which, after bestowing blessings for his soul and prayer for his eternal peace and sympathy to his family in their great loss, said: 'Wazir Mecklai's devoted service to the jamat will always be remembered by my jamat and by myself and he will be deeply missed by all.'

Speaking at the audience to the Ismailia Association for Pakistan at Karachi on January 25, 1958, the Aga Khan IV said: 'You as my chief spiritual children should go through your own history and try to understand the development which has happened, so that you can explain to your children what is the meaning of Imam and what is the meaning of Faith.' In a message to the Ismailia Association for Madagascar on May 28, 1958, he said: 'Remember that you have most heavy duties - duties that must be fulfilled intelligently and carefully.' In a letter to the President of the Ismailia Association for India on September 25, 1964, the Aga Khan IV said: 'I am sure you will never forget that our faith is based on thousands of years of history, and that we should learn from history and not to think that our past is of no use to us now and that it can therefore be rejected, abbreviated or altered.'In a special message sent to the Ismailia Association for Pakistan at Dacca on December 5, 1964, the Aga Khan IV said: 'I do not want my spiritual children to have faith against logic. Islam is the only religion where there is reconcilable.'

Finally, the name of the Ismailia Association had been changed to The Shia Imami Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board in accordance with the new Constitution effective from July 11, 1986, whose primary architect was the Recreation Club Institute.


Notes as received on 4 May 2017:

Aliya Mohamed sent a message using the contact form at

Ya Ali Madat,
I was reading about the 'Ismaili History 826 - Foundation of Recreation
Club Institute' and the Mandal Missionaries and noticed that my great
grandfathers name does not appear.
His name was Meghji (Maherali) Missionary and he served Sultan Mohamed
Shah (sas) as part of the Mission Mandal in 1905.
I have written documentation of my great grandfather's service and I know
our Beloved Imam (sas) Knew of his service (Shukar).
I just do not want my families legacy to be forgotten from the pages of history.

Ismaili History 827 - Khilafat Movement

In 1341/1923, the Aga Khan III took a leading part in the Khilafat Movement with the Indian Muslims, and raised his voice through articles in newspapers and letters to British authorities. This was indeed a critical time that his loyalty to the West and his unbounded love for Islam directly clashed, but the Aga Khan decidedly championed the cause of Islam. He wrote a historic letter in association with Right Hon'ble Sayed Ameer Ali (1849- 1928), a member of the Privy Council of England, addressed to Ghazi Ismet Pasha, the Prime Minister of Turkey on November 24, 1923, insisting not to liquidate the symbol of Islamic unity, and pleading that the matter of Turkey be given considerable hearing at the conference table. This letter was published in 'The Times' (London) on December 14, 1923. Aziz Ahmed writes in 'Islamic Modernism in India and Pakistan' (London, 1967, p. 138) that, 'The letter influenced and possibly precipitated the decision of the Turkish National Assembly taken on Marach 3, 1924 to abolish the caliphate and to exile Abd al-Majid. This marked the end of a centuries-old institution and of an era in the history of Islam.'
For a decade after First World War (1914-1919), the Aga Khan III stayed away from the international and Indian political affairs, devoting mainly to the affairs of the Ismailis. Having established permanent homes in Switzerland and the French Riviera, he now visited India every year.

His global popularity as a man of peace found expression in a resolution moved in the Indian Council of State on February 5, 1924, recommending the government of India to convey to the Norwegian Parliament the view of the House that, 'His Highness Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah, the Aga Khan is a fit and proper person to be awarded the Noble Prize for Peace in this year, in view of the strenuous, persistent and successful efforts that he had made to maintain peace between Turkey and the Western Powers since the armistice.'

In 1928, the Aga Khan III presided over the All-India Muslim Conference held in Delhi, where more than 600 delegates represented all provinces of India.

Ismaili History 828 - Round Table Conferences

The Aga Khan III led the Muslim delegation to the first Round Table Conference, held in St. James Palace in London on November 12, 1930, to consider the future of India. There were 57 members of the British Indian delegation, representing all the Indian parties except the Congress. The Muslim Delegation was led by the Aga Khan III and other eminent members, like Mahomed Ali Jinnah, Sir Mohammad Shafi, Maulana Mohammad Ali, Dr. Shafat Ahmad, Sir Zafrullah, Nawab Chhatari and Fazl-ul-Haq. Prominent among the princes were the Maharajas of Bikaner, Alwar and Bhopal, and among the eminent Hindu leaders were Sir Tej Bahadur Supru, Jayakar, Shashtri, Dr. Moonje and others. The Conference was presided over by Lord Sankey. In the delibrations of the Conference, the Aga Khan played a dominating role. At the second Round Table Conference, the British government was keen to secure the co-operation of the Congress, and the Viceroy proposed to nominate Dr. Ansari and Sir Ali Imam. As both were staunch supporters of the Nehru Report, therefore, Sir Fazl-i-Husain (1877-1936) protested and averted all possible dangers to the unity of the Muslim Delegation. The Aga Khan III, as its leader, held at the members together and prevented disruptive tendencies from growing up among the Muslims. Azim Husain quotes a letter of Sir Fazl-i-Husain, addressing to Dr. Shaffat Ahmad Khan on July 28, 1931 in 'Fazl-i-Husain' (Bombay, 1946, pp. 251-2), which reads: 'Whatever lionising may take place of Gandhi in London, you Muslim members of the Delegation, if you played your cards well, would have a pull over all other communities in as much as you have the Aga Khan, who stands pre-eminently in English public life, and no more popular figure, whether English or Indian, exists there. So, if you held together and acted under the Aga Khans's guidance, no harm could possibly come to you.'
The Aga Khan III was better suited than any other Muslim leader for the negotiations that were to ensue. The second Round Table Conference opened on September 7, 1931 and it was attended by the Congress. The distinguished group of newcomers included Gandhi, Sir Mohammad Iqbal, Dr. S.K. Datta, G.A. Birla, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, Mrs. Naidu and Sir Ali Imam. M. Abdul Aziz writes in his 'The Crescent in the Land of the Rising Sun' (London, 1941, p. 146) that, 'The Round Table Conference in London have happily shown us the way how to deal with problems which appeared at first sight to be insoluble, and, in this connection, I desire - and I am sure every Muslim in India desires with me - to pay a tribute to the great services which His Highness the Aga Khan has rendered during the delibrations of the Round Table Conference and the sessions of the Joint Parliamentary Committee to the cause of the Muslims in India.'

After the termination of the conference, the British parliament took its turn to consider the question of the future government of India. Thus, a strong parliamentary committee was set up to go over the matter. The committee was in almost unbroken session of 18 months, holding 159 meetings. The striking feature of this committee was the presence in it of some of the delegates from India, who took part in the examination of 120 witnesses and in the committee's private discussion. The Aga Khan III headed the list of 21 key leaders whom the committee consulted at every step. Under the wise and able leadership of the Aga Khan, the Indian Muslims came up with flying colour from the Round Table Conference. He had piloted the ship with skill and courage and brought it safely into harbour. He played his cards remarkably well and with his inimitable tact. The Aga Khan III had also a meeting with Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) in London. This conference continued until 1934, marked the climax of the Aga Khan's involvement in Indian politics.

Writing his congratulations to the Aga Khan III, Sir Abdullah Haroon had routed a telegram to London on December 27, 1932 that:- 'On behalf of Sind please convey my heartiest thanks to all Round Table Delegates especially Muslim Delegation whose labours crowned with success. Sind and Muslims of India never forget Your Highness services which you are rendering. May Allah reward you.' (vide 'Haji Sir Abdoola Haroon' by Al-Haj Mian Ahmad Shafi, Karachi, 1939, pp. 85-6). In addition, Shafaat Ahmad Khan wrote a letter to Sir Abdullah Haroon on January 17, 1932 from Allahabad, wherein he describes, 'Aga Khan is our greatest Muslim leader in Asia, and Jinnah is also a man of extraordinary vision.' (Ibid. p. 100)

The Aga Khan III had served as India's delegate at the Disarmament Conference since 1932. During the successive sessions of the Assembly of the League of Nations started on February 2, 1932 in Geneva, he had submitted his proposals of peace between China and Japan. In 1934, the British government appointed the Aga Khan as a Privy Councillor, which entitles one to apply the word Right Honorable with his name.

Ismaili History 829 - Separation of Sind

To separate Sind from the Bombay Presidency was a colossal problem. It loomed so large on the political horizon that it eclipsed all others, because Sind separation assumed a communal colour. Long and bitter were those days of uncertainty for Muslims. In 1935, the Aga Khan III was appraised of the benefits that would accrue to Sind after separation. He gave the problem a close and careful consideration. The Muslims of Sind were convinced that their cause was in safe hands. Then came that day of rejoicing when Sind separation was accepted in principle and subsequently confirmed by the Paliament and thus the provincial independence was won for the Muslims of Sind. Muhammad Hashim Gazdat urged the Aga Khan that, 'We people of Sind will be happy and proud if you may arrive in Sind as a first governor.' The Aga Khan replied that, 'My friend, I have no desire to be a governor, but I am a governor-maker.'

It is difficult to sum up the services of the Aga Khan III hitheroto he rendered for the cause of the Indian Muslims. K.K. Aziz however writes in his 'History of the Idea of Pakistan' (Lahore, 1987, 1st vol., p. 94) that, 'He played an important part in the elevation of the Aligarh College to the status of a Muslim university; his role in the Muslim struggle for winning separate representation was vital and extended from the 1906 Simila deputation to the working of the 1935 reforms; his exertions in the direction of uplifting the community were generous, commandable and sincere; his sustained and anxious efforts to extract safeguards for the Muslims from the British government were often successful and brough much security to the community. These are valuable services which every prejudiced historian will acknowledge gladly and readily.'

In this year, the Aga Khan was made the Pre-Chancellor of Aligarh University, and attended its convocation in 1938.

Ismaili History 830 - President of League of Nations

At the end of the First World War in 1918, a Paris Peace Conference had been formulated by the Allies in 1919, being composed of four leading statesmen, viz. Loyed George representing Great Britain, M. Clemencean France, Signor Orlando Italy and President Wilson, the United States; and finally The League of Nations was founded in Geneva in January, 1920 and M.P. Hymans of Belgium was appointed the first President. The Aga Khan led the Indian delegates in Geneva, and attended the Disarmament Conference, where he delivered a stirring speech on February 19, 1932. He also attended the Third Disarmament Conference and made a speech on February 2, 1933. During the 15th session of the League of Nations, the Aga Khan also gave his speech to the assembly on September 27, 1934. He also addressed the League of Nations in Geneva during its 17th session on September 29, 1936. In sum, the Aga Khan's interest in international affairs in Geneva culminated in his election in the session of July, 1937 as the President of League of Nations in place of the former President, M.P. Van Zeeland of Belgium, and all the 49 votes cast in a secret ballot were found to be in his favour.
Aligarh was in special jubilant at the election of the Aga Khan as President of League of Nations. Dr. Ziauddin Ahmad, the then vice-chancellor remarked that it was a great honour to the Aligarh Muslim University, which owed much of its development and extension to the zealous efforts of the Aga Khan. He further said that towards making Aligarh the greatest Islamic centre of learning in the world, the Aga Khan had made a magnificent contribution. Writing about the Aga Khan III, Mushir Hosain Kidwai of Gadia, Bar-at-Law says: 'In the League of Nations, in the presence of so many learned persons who claimed to represent nations scattered all over the world, but whose mentality was mostly materialistic, stood up a man - a responsible, thoroughly educated, well-experienced, well travelled, well polished man, a gentleman, a nobleman, respected by one and all, - and he proclaimed at the top of his voice that he was proud to belong to the Glorious Brotherhood of Islam. It was indeed thrilling. The bold announcement was thrilling. The occasion when it was made was thrilling. What a slap it was on the face of those cowards who felt shy at the name of Islam. The Aga Khan's words raised the prestige of Islam in an assembly which was almost prejudiced against it. `I was overjoyed. I am a man hard to bend before anybody - not even before a king. But I would gladly bow before a man who spoke from his heart those thrilling words.''

The Aga Khan made his first presidential speech in the League of Nations on September 13, 1937 during its 18th session. Thus, Sir Samuel Hoare, the ex-Secretary of State of India was compelled to remark that, 'The Aga Khan does not belong to one community or one country. He is a citizen of the world par excellence.'

During the Second World War (1939-1945), the Aga Khan once again urged his followers to support the British cause in the war. The Aga Khan presided over the convocation of Aligarh University in 1938, and in its conclusion, he put his resignation from Pro-Vice Chancellorship in favour of Nawab of Rampur. The University was keen to have him associated, therefore, he was elected the Rector of the University. On June 16, 1945, the Aga Khan III presided over the first East African Muslim Public Workers Conference, and also held an historical Mission Conference of the Ismailis in Dar-es-Salaam.

On December 17, 1948, the Aga Khan III completed 65 years, 3 months and 9 days of his Imamate which is the longest record in the history of all the 48 Imams.

In 1949, the Aga Khan III was declared an Iranian citizen and was awarded the distinguished title of Hazratwala, i.e. His Royal Highness by His Imperial Majesty the Shahinshah of Iran. He also visited Pakistan for the first time after independence on February 2, 1950 and was awarded an honorary degree of LL.D. from the Dacca University in 1951. On March 3, 1951, the Syrian government invested him the title of Order of Ommayad. In 1951, the Aga Khan III paid his first visit to Iran to attend the marriage of the Iranian king with queen Sorayya. Arriving in Tehran, he looked up at the sky and the land-scape and exclaimed: 'What a lovely and beautiful country I have. I had been cherishing for years the desire to visit my beloved native land.' On February 11, 1951, one day before the wedding ceremony, His Majesty the King had awarded the Order of the Crown First Class to the Aga Khan. During his visit to Iran, he also went to see Mahallat. Thousands of people lined the roads for a glimpse of one whose ancestors had been the revered and benevolent rulers of the area.

Ismaili History 831 - Islamic services

The Aga Khan used to raise his voice in the defence of Islam, whenever it was under inroad. In October, 1951, the 'London Times' made some unfair allegations against Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. In a spirited reply to the 'London Times' on October 22, 1951, he said that, 'Islam was not only tolerant of other faiths but most respectful and indeed fully accepted the divine inspiration of all theistic faiths that came before Islam.' He further said: 'If there has been violent reaction against the West in some Muslim countries, the reason is to be found in the attitude and behaviour of the westerners, their ignorance and want of respect for the faith and culture of Islam, of which the reference to that faith in your leading article is a typical and usual example.'
His illustrious and outstanding services for the cause of Islam were not confined to newspapers only. As a patron of Western Islamic Society, London, he worked for the educational and social uplift of the Muslims. He built and maintained many mosques, one of them is the Aga Khan Mosque at Cardiff. He had also given Rs. 75,000/- for the repairing of al-Aqsa Mosque, and Rs. 25,000/- for the Nairobi Mosque. He also established the Aga Khan Construction Fund to repair Badshahi Mosque in Lahore. In 1936, the Muslims of Sind had formed a committee led by Sir Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah to erect a memorial for the services of the Aga Khan towards the creation of Sind province. It was decided to build a Grand Mosque and name it after the Aga Khan. When he was informed the plan, the Aga Khan agreed to contribute on rupee by rupee basis for the proposed mosque fund, but said: 'Why name the mosque after me?' He prevailed upon the committee to name it as Muhammad Jamia Masjid. This clearly shows that he did not wish to bask in the sunshine of acclamation and praise. What he wanted was the greater glory of Islam.

Stating about the Aga Khan's uncontrollable love for Islam, Mushir Hosain Kidwai of Gadia quotes an event of an early twenties that: 'When a deputation from India consisting of His Highness the Aga Khan, late Messrs. Chotani and Hasan Imam was selected by the Government of India, and later on Dr. Ansari, and on the most particular insistence of His Highness himself, I was also included in it by Mr. Montague, on our arrival in England, to plead for the return of Thrace and Syrna to Turkey before the British Cabinet. After our spokesman, Mr. Hasan Imam, had put the case, the Prime Minister, Mr. Lloyd George, pertinently asked: 'Now that the Greeks are in military possession of Thrace who will turn them out from there.' Mr. Hasan Imam did not answer. He was in fact given no time to speak. None of us could speak. It was His Highness who enthusiastically jumped up and with a raised finger said: 'Well, Mr. Prime Minister, old though I am, I will go sword in hand and turn them out. We will charter ships. We will do everything. Leave them to us.' Mr. Lloyd George was thunderstuck. He could not give a reply except murmuring: 'No, no, we cannot do that.' My sensitive mind was greatly impressed by the words and the way the Aga Khan spoke. Every word cut deep into my heart. I remember every word upto this day. I confess I wished those words had come out of my mouth so spontaneously as they did from that of His Highness. They revealed the love, sincere and intense love for Islam with which the heart of the man who spoke out his mind. It was wonderful. For that remark he was a true Muslim overpowered by the love of Islam. He was nothing else. The blood of the Prophet in his veins made him speak out those words. They indicated that he was ready, sincerely ready to give up his wealth, his position, his very life, for Islam - yes for Islam, not particularly for that sect or school of which His Highness personally was the highest head.'

The above few instances are only a few drops in the splendid stream with which the Aga Khan III has watered the garden of Islam. Ever green leaves, fragrant flowers and sweetest fruits have come into existence, and Muslim world, while thanking this great champion of Islam shall never forget his noble and outstanding contributions.

During his long Imamate period, the Aga Khan III devoted much of his time and resources in consolidating and organizing the Ismaili community, especially in India and East Africa. He was notably concerned with introducing the socio-economic reforms, transforming his followers into a modern, self-sufficient community with high standard of education and welfare. The development of a new communal organisation thus, became one of the Aga Khan's major tasks.

In 1956, Queen Elizabeth of Britain conferred upon the Aga Khan the title of Grand Cross of the Saint Michael and Saint George (G.C.M.G.).

Ismaili History 832 - The Aga Khan III as a writer

The Aga Khan III was a prolific writer, and compiled 'India in Transition', published by Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. in 1918, which he dedicated to the loving memory of his mother. It deals the future political affairs of India. According to 'Muslims in India' (Lahore, 1985, 1st vol., p. 56), 'It contained an elaborate scheme of references for India, urging a federal constitution. He envisaged a great south Asiatic Federation of which Delhi would be the centre.' On October 29, 1952, he declared in an interview with 'New York Herold Tribune', Paris for compiling his autobiographical work, and began to write it on January 3, 1953. It was published in 1954, entitled 'Memoirs of Aga Khan'. Besides, there is a large collection of his speeches, articles and interviews

Ismaili History 833 - Marriages of the Aga Khan III

The first marriage of the Aga Khan took place in 1314/1897 with Shahzadi Begum, the daughter of his uncle Aga Jhangi Shah, at Poona. In 1908, he married to Mlle Theresa Maglioni (d. 1926) in Cairo, who bore Prince Aly Salomone Khan on June 13, 1911 at Turin in Italy. She had visited India with his son in 1923, and died on December 2, 1926 at Paris at the age of 37 years. In 1929, the Aga Khan had married his third wife, Mlle Andree Carron, who bore his second son, Sadruddin on January 17, 1933.
On October 9, 1944, the Aga Khan married his fourth and last wife, Mlle Yvette Labrousse, known as Umm Habiba, the Begum Aga Khan. She was the third to be awarded in 1954 a rare title of 'Mata Salamat' during last 13 centuries. 'The Aga Khan wants to sleep in the hot sand overlooking the waters of the Nile,' explained the Begum Aga Khan 40 years ago, 'and when I die I want to lie beside him. We do not want to be parted.' In her interview of 1953, she said, 'I always appreciated beauty, but he (the Aga Khan) taught me how really to enjoy a lovely sunset, moonlight, to know the stars, the colours and scents of flowers, to like music, ballet and opera, to appreciate everything that is beautiful in life. Most important, he taught me to love Islam.'

Recently, the Begum Aga Khan celebrated her 90th birthday at Aswan in Upper Egypt on February 15, 1996.

Ismaili History 834 - Jubilee celebrations

Donning the mantle of Imamate in 1302/1885, the Aga Khan III had completed 50 years of his spiritual leadership in 1935. His devoted followers, long looking forward to the auspicious day, got feverishly busy to pay a memorable tribute to their Imam, who had so happily guided their destinies through all these years, knit them into a progressive community, and taken them to enviable heights of moral and material glory. Hence, the Ismailis decided that the Golden Jubilee of their Imam should be fitly celebrated by weighing him against gold, and making a present of the gold to him as a mark of their love and gratitude. Bombay was the venue for the Golden Jubilee in India in 1936, and to this great city flocked the Ismailis from all over the subcontinent, from Burma, Ceylon, Malaya, Africa and the Middle East. Finally, on January 19, 1936, the Golden Jubilee of the Aga Khan was celebrated with great pomp at Hasanabad in Bombay, where a crowd of over 30,000 Ismailis was thronged. Among the special guests who also attended were a number of ruling princes, leading government officials, judges of the High Court, foreign diplomats, business magnates, and the elites of the city. His Excellency the Governor performed the ceremony of weighing. The total weight of the Aga Khan III was found to be 3200 ounces valued at about 23,000 British pounds. In sum, the Golden Jubilee was a splendid and memorable occasion in the life of the community. It was most impressive and picturesque ceremony, simple in its nature, but a rare novelty in the life of many a man. The second Golden Jubilee was celebrated on March 1, 1937 at Nairobi amid extraordinary jubilations and scenes of enthusiasm. Once more the precious metal was presented to the Aga Khan III by his followers as a token of their love and affection, and once more it was given back to them with his blessings. Some 30,000 Ismailis had assembled to receive his blessings on his jubilee.
Sixty years of his benevolent rule as spiritual father gave his grateful community a chance to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of his Imamate by weighing him against diamonds. In a special message to the community in January 14, 1946, the Aga Khan III said: 'This unique occasion should be for my spiritual children all over the world a starting point in the heart and conscience of each and every one to further know, understand and obey the history and spiritual doctrines of the Ismaili faith.' The first Diamond Jubilee was held on March 10, 1946 in Brabourne Stadium at Bombay. Over 100,000 Ismailis from various parts of the world had come to see this magnificient spectacle unusual event for Bombay which had witnessed many a scene of pomp and glory. The huge multitude present at the ceremony included fourteen ruling princes, among them the Maharajahs of Kashmir and Baroda and the Jam Saheb of Nawanagar. There were messages of goodwill from King Farouk of Egypt, the King of Afghanistan, the Shah of Iran and other world personalities including Mr. Gandhi. The value of the diamonds was 640,000 British pounds.

The second Diamond Jubilee had been celebrated in the sports ground of the Aga Khan Club at Dar-es-Salaam on August 9, 1946. It was attended by 70,000 Ismailis, including the governors of Kenya, Tanganyika and Uganda. This time the value of the diamonds was 684,000 British pounds. The sum value of the diamonds at each place was again an absolute gift to the Imam from his jubilant followers. This vast sum was again invested by him in a trust meant to enrich the life of the community in the educational and commercial spheres

The platinum jubilee celebration, marking the 70th anniversary of the Imamate of the Aga Khan III was festivated at Karachi with great pomp on February 3, 1954. The celebration culminated in the weighing of the Imam against platinum. On the day of the ceremony, the specially built stadium was packed with 60,000 people, and all the roads leading to it were filled with crowds who could not gain admittance. After the recitation from the Holy Koran, the Aga Khan rose and raised his hands in prayer before resuming his seat. The funds collected at the celebration was used for the implementation of multi-purpose socio-economic projects.

In an article entitled, 'The Aga Khan: from Curzon to Hitler, A Man always at the Centre of History,' Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan writes, 'For my father, education was understandably a priority and his community exemplifies the success of his policies. Ismaili men and women, the latter among the first to shed the veil, are well equipped in this respect. Ismaili institutions have provided a network of social, economic and cultural amenities which are unrivalled in many developing countries. These were made possible to a great extent by the wise administration of funds raised in connection with the traditional jubilee weighing ceremonies.' (vide 'The Times' newspaper, November 5, 1977)

Ismaili History 835 - Death of the Aga Khan III

Sultan Muhammad Shah, the Aga Khan III, the 48th Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims died at his villa in Versoix, near Geneva on 12th Zilhaja, 1376/ July 11, 1957. His son Prince Aly Khan recalling the last days of his father, said: 'Often he would ask me to play the gramophone records containing recitation of the Holy Koran. With the recitation of the Koran, I could see his lips move in silence, repeating the verse of the Koran.' He was buried in a permanent mausoleum at Aswan, overlooking the Nile in Egypt. Labib Habachi writes in 'Aswan' (Cairo, 1959, p. 76) that in 1947, the Aga Khan III visited Aswan, and decided to live some time each year in Aswan, choosing it as his last resting-place. The Begum Aga Khan, in her interview to 'Al- Ahram' (Cairo, April 23, 1992) had however said that, 'We had been coming in Aswan since 1935 when the place was not a touristic location. He (the Aga Khan III) used to say that Egypt was the flag of Islam, and he wanted to be buried there.'
In accordance with his last will, his grandson, Karim was succeeded to the Imamate as the 49th Imam. A fitting tribute was paid to him by daily English 'Dawn' of Pakistan on July 12, 1957 that, 'With the passing away of the Aga Khan, we witness the end of an era.' According to 'New York Times' (July 12, 1957), 'The Aga Khan III's death leaves our contemporary world just a little less colorful than it was.'