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Aga Khan,

Pronunciation: [ä´gä khän]

the title of the religious leader and imam of the Ismaili Nizari sect of Islam, originally bestowed by the Persian shah Fath Ali on Hasan Ali Shah (1800–81), the 46th Ismaili imam, in 1818. The first Aga Khan was also appointed as the governor of the province of Kirman, a position he lost as a result of political intrigues following Fath Ali's death. In 1839, he moved to India where he aided the British during the first Anglo-Afghan war (1839–42) and in the conquest of Sind (1842–43). He was succeeded by his eldest son Ali Shah, Aga Khan II, who died in 1885. In turn, his son, Sultan Muhammad (1877–1957), assumed the title of Aga Khan III, and played an instrumental role in attempting to secure Muslim support for the British rule of India. A founder of the All-India Muslim League (later the Muslim League), he served as its president between 1909 and 1914. His visibility in international circles increased when he served as the chairman of the British Indian delegation to the imperial conference in London in 1930–31. He also represented India at the Geneva disarmament conference (1932) and in the League of Nations (1932, 1934–37), where he was president of the General Assembly (1937). Later he played a significant role in the movement to establish the Muslim state of Pakistan. He was succeded by his grandson, Prince Karim (1937–), who assumed the title Aga Khan IV and devoted a substantial part of the wealth of the Ismaili community to development projects in countries with a significant Ismaili population. His uncle, Prince Sadruddin, was UN High Commissioner for Refugees (1965–77), and has been active in other international humanitarian causes.


See The Collected Works of Aga Khan III (1991); Willi Frischauer, The Aga Khans (1970).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, Fifth Edition Copyright ©1993, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Inso Corporation. All rights reserved.

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