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Aga Sultan 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 India are
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 below


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 social solidarity.

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 distinguished the
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 largely fulfilled.

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 figure
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 Rector.

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 of Aligarh".

 

 

 

 

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