Sir Mohammed Shah, Aga Khan III
By Shah N. Khan
Aga Khan III (1877-1957) was born in Karachi and became head of the
Ismaili sect in India beginning in 1885. He gained worldwide fame as he
persuaded his followers and other Muslims to side with the Allies during
World War I (1914-1918). In the 1930s he headed the Indian delegation to
the Assembly of the League of Nations. His services for the Muslims of
remembered with admiration and respect.
His son Prince Ali Khan served UN and various missions for rehabilitation
of refugees. He was a well known figure in socialites in the West and had
married American actress Rita Hayworth which did not last long.
Aga Khan IV
Aga Khan III appointed his grandson Prince Karim (born 1936) to succeed
him as Aga Khan IV. He is one of the richest men and like his grand father
takes great interest in social welfare of not only his community but also
Muslims at large. He founded Aga Khan Medical University and a modern
hospital in Karachi. Besides that his medical foundation provides health
care facilities to
poor people in Northern Areas of Pakistan.
The 1981 English Derby winner, Shergar, was kidnapped from Aga Khan IV's
stud farm in County Kildare in the Republic of Ireland by five armed men.
A £2 million ransom demand was made, but Aga Khan IV being a man of
principles refused to pay, and the horse was never seen again.
Mr. Shaboodin Ali has posted a fine article and we are reproducing it
Aga Khan and Aligarh
By Prof. Sharif al Mujahid
If Sir Syed (1817-98) was the father of Muslim education in India, the Aga
Khan III (Sir Aga Sultan Mohammad Shah) (1877-1957) was its foster father.
Indeed, the energetic, zealous and philanthropic Aga Khan was primarily
responsible for the realization of the founder's dream in respect of the
M.A.O. College at Aligarh.
The Aga Khan had first visited Aligarh in 1896. Sir Syed, ever so anxious
to associate Muslim nobility and intelligentsia with the institution,
availed the occasion to present him with an address, in Persian. Sir Syed,
after all, had a penetrating eye: he found the young visitor enthusiastic,
full of praise and fervor for the cause. Reminiscing five decades later,
the Aga Khan writes in his Memoirs, "Did I realize then, young as I
was, that it had in it to become a great power house of Muslim thought and
culture and learning, in full accord with Islamic tradition and teaching,
yet adapted to the outlook and the techniques of our present age?"
The Aga Khan gave an annual grant to the college and instituted several
scholarships to enable promising young students acquire higher education
abroad. He also become closely associated with the All India Muslim
Educational Conference (AIMC), founded by Sir Syed in 1876, in order to
provide the unevenly scattered Muslim population in the sprawling
subcontinent with an integrated intellectual orientation and a vibrant
ideology, foster cultural coherence and self-awareness, and bring about
In 1902, as President of the AIMC Delhi session, the Aga Khan conceived
Aligarh as a Muslim Oxford or Cambridge, and made a fervent appeal for
Rs10 million to raise a Muslim University at Aligarh. "The Muslims of
India", he reminded his audience, "have a legitimate interest in
the intellectual development of their co-religionists in other lands, and
the best way of helping them is by making Aligarh a Muslim Oxford, where
they can all send their best students not only to learn modern sciences,
but to develop that honesty and sense of self-sacrifice which
Muslims of the first century. Such a university would restore the faded
glories of our people". He also pled for developing Aligarh as an
"intellectual capital". In his memoirs he notes with
satisfaction that he lived long enough to see this cherished aspiration
At the AIMC Nagpur (1910) session, the proposal to convert the Aligarh
College into a university was mooted and accepted in principle. But the
proposal was hamstrung by two challenges. The external challenge came from
British officials who considered it "particularist" and, hence,
"undesirable". This was compounded by the internal challenge of
collecting a huge sum. On both the counts the Aga Khan's guidance and
support was sought. He immediately went about countering criticism,
emphasizing the role of Aligarians and of Muslim education. He also headed
the fund-raising committee.
During his first trip to Aligarh, the young Aga Khan had tried to suggest
some short-cuts to raise funds. "Why not," he said, "... go
to some American philanthropist - Mr. Rockefeller or Mr. Carnegie - and
ask for a substantial grant?" But, for now, the Aga Khan, in his
mid-thirties, was a much wiser man: he pledged to go out, as a mendicant,
"to beg from house to house and from street to street for the
children of Muslim India".
And he lived up to this claim. With Maulana Shaukat Ali as his secretary,
he pounded the length and breadth of India, and for days on end, he
virtually lived in railway trains. He went to Muslim leaders, great and
small, to the rich and the poor, to princes and peasants. He would even
approach his avowed "enemies" and opponents, dramatically take
off his hat, and say, "As a beggar, I beg from you something for the
children of Islam. Put something in the bowl of this mendicant". No
wonder, his campaign raised a sum of three million rupees, an astronomical
for the age. On his part, he made a personal donation of Rs100,000.
After a few setbacks, when the University was finally set up in 1920, the
Aga Khan was elected the first Pro-Chancellor. This office he held for a
whole decade (1921-30), setting a new record. He was also elected
President of the Muslim University Association. In 1938 he was elected
In 1936, he was welcomed at Aligarh "as the most respected, the most
accomplished, and the most trusted leader of the Muslim community".
Dr Ziauddin Ahmad also lauded his "stupendous efforts" in
raising Rs7 million "from various sources". In 1938, the Aga
Khan made a generous contribution for providing technical education in the
university, and in 1946, on the occasion of his diamond jubilee, he
offered to contribute one million rupees towards the initial expenditure
of setting up a scientific, industrial and technical research institute.
He recommended that it be located at Karachi, in the neighborhood of the
Muslim states of the Middle East. In 1950, again, he made a donation of
Rs25,000 for the advancement of technical education.
The Aligarh idea of self-help and of combining religious and liberal
education with the sciences
appealed to the Aga Khan a good deal, and he wished to see several
Aligarhs in Pakistan. After all, as he argues in his Memoirs, "The
independent sovereign nation of Pakistan was born in the Muslim University