Aga Khan’s role in Pakistan’s creation
News desk -
July 11, 2019
Prof Dr Riaz Ahmed
HIGH Highness Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan-III GCSI GCMG GCIE GCVO PC was the 48th Imam of Ismaili Shia Muslims. He was not only the first President of the All-India Muslim League, but did help in promoting the cause of the Muslims of British India whenever he was needed in uniting them and serving as a strong force behind Quaid-i-Azam, the Founder of Pakistan, in the Pakistan Movement. He was born in Karachi on 2 November 1877, but passed away in Versoix, Switzerland on 11 July 1957. After Sir Syed Khan, he played a leading role not only in strengthening the political role of the Muslims of the Indo-Pak subcontinent, the cause of Aligarh Muslim University but the Pakistan Movement also. He was in close liaison with the Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the Founder of Pakistan in all the critical moments of the Movement. On the creation of Pakistan Sir Aga Khan congratulated Quaid-i-Azam in these words: “Thanks to the immense and almost miraculous efforts of Governor-General Jinnah, who alone brought about the greatest Muslim State in the world. Pakistan is now an accomplished fact”. Thus he is also remembered as a Veteran of the Pakistan Movement.
First President of All India Muslim League 1908-1913: First meeting of the All India Muslim League was held at Aligarh on 18-19 March 1908. It was at this session that Sir Aga Khan III was unanimously elected as first President of the All India Muslim League. Actually, Presidents of the Party were of two kinds. First there was the permanent President who was elected for three years. The other pattern was that some prominent Muslim leader of the country was asked to preside over the session, but his position was temporary and honorary. Since 1912, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had started his efforts for the Hindu-Muslim unity. Though he was not member of the AIML before 1913, he was invited to attend the meeting of the AIML Council on instructions from the Aga Khan by the Secretary of the AIML Syed Wazir Hasan. It was at this meeting under the presidentship HH Sir Aga Khan that the AIML adopted its new policy of “self-government suitable to India” on a motion by Quaid-i-Azam. It was ratified by the next session held in March 1913. HH the Aga Khan also attended the next 7th session of AIML held at Agra on 30-31 December 1013 where the Hon. President was Sir Ibrahim Rahimtullah, a Bombay business magnate, who delivered his presidential address.
HH the Aga Khan, as President of the Party, himself moved a resolution for the creation of “Muslim National Fund” whose aim was “political progress and advancement of Musalmans” at provincial level. This resolution was passed with great “acclamation”. Seconding this resolution the Raja of Mahmudabad appreciated the vision of HH the Aga Khan. In matters of discussion on other resolutions also, the presence of HH Aga Khan had sobering effect on the proceedings of the Muslim League. Thereafter, HH the Aga Khan resigned from the presidentship of the AIML. Despite his resignation from the AIML, HH the Aga Khan had close contact with Jinnah especially during his efforts for the Hindu-Muslim unity during 1914-1916. His contribution in the Pakistan Movement: Sir Aga Khan was also the president of the All Parties Muslim Conference held in 1928-29. During 1930-33, he also attended the Round Table Conferences held in London for settling the future of the Muslims as delegate.
Quaid-i-Azam was also attended the first two conferences in London. Both jointly pleaded the cause of the Muslims. They were very close to each other and were in regulation private and confidential correspondence, apart from the participation in the committees of the RTCs in London. They share a lot of private consultation regarding the future of the Muslims. Sir Aga Khan’s letters of 20 January 1931, 29 March 1931, 20 June 1931 and many others indicate the kind of consultation both had regarding the future of the Muslims before going to different sessions of the RTC. This showed that both the leaders were highly confiding with each other and jointly making strategy regarding the future of the Muslims in British India. Sir Aga Khan was nominated to represent India at the League of Nations in 1932, where he continued to work until the outbreak of the World War II. He was an excellent statesman and was elected President of the League of Nations (now known as the United Nations Organization) in July 1937. He was the only Asian to have been appointed to this high office. During the Pakistan Sir Aga Khan signally contributed towards the Pakistan Movement. Quaid-i-Azam and Sir Aga Khan were regularly in contact with each other for the furthering of the Pakistan Movement.
Even when the AIML became united about the time when the Pakistan Movement was to be started and 24th session of AIML held in Bombay on 11-12 1936 exhibiting the unity of the Muslim Conference and the All India Muslim League the contribution of Sir Aga Khan was thus recorded: “There was no person in India except His Highness the Aga Khan who could make all the parties unite on one platform”. During 1940-1947 at all the critical times, Quaid-i-Azam and Sir Aga Khan had close contact with each other and had a lot of consultation with each other on the issues such as Gandhi-Jinnah Talks, Cabinet Mission Plan and the Partition issues during May-August 1947. Sir Aga Khan fell ill in 1954 during his visit to Dhaka and from then on struggling with ill health, passed away on 11 July 1957, in Switzerland and is buried in Aswan, Egypt. On the occasion of his birth anniversary on 02 November, we pay tribute to a great Muslim leader by renewing our pledge to make Pakistan a prosperous and advanced country.
—The writer is Ex-Director, National Institute of Historical & Cultural Research, & Prof. Quaid-i-Azam Chair, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.
PM Imran taking tough decisions to break status quo: Dr. Firdous
SLAMABAD: Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan has said Prime Minister Imran Khan is taking tough decisions like institutional reforms and breaking the status quo in the country.
She was addressing a seminar on the 62nd death anniversary of Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III in Islamabad this afternoon.
Paying rich tribute to Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III, the Special Assistant emphasized on protecting national heritage and national heroes of Pakistan, who played a pivotal role in creation of Pakistan .
She said Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III had arranged finances to procure Gwadar Port, which indicates his vision as the port offers greater regional connectivity and has the potential to become economic hub of the area.
Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said the youth should learn from the struggle of national heroes. She said a leader always focuses on long term policies, securing future of the coming generations, and keeps national interest supreme.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan says current challenges being faced by Pakistan are due to attempts of previous rulers to undermine national institutions for their personal interests.
Talking to media in Islamabad this afternoon, she said the government of PTI has been making sincere efforts for rebuilding the damaged institutions.
She said we are taking forward the institutional reforms agenda of the government. She said parliament is a very important pillar of state. Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan said some political pundits want to run the senate according to their wishes. She said the no confidence motion move by the opposition parties against Chairman Senate has raised serious questions in the minds of ordinary people about the designs of these parties. She said government will protect the national institutions from onslaught of opposition.
Referring to upcoming visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to the US, she said this will help strengthen the bilateral relations between the two countries. She said it is first time that peace loving efforts of Pakistan have been recognized by the US. Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan said the international standing of the country has improved due to its visionary leadership and foreign policy. She said the visit will also improve the standing of Pakistan’s passport in the world.
[Aug 17]Today in history: Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah succeeded to the Imamat
Posted by Nimira Dewji
Imam Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III succeeded as Imam on August 17, 1885 at the age of eight years, leading the Nizari Ismailis as Imam for 72 years, longer than any of his predecessors. At the age of nine, he received the honorific title of ‘His Highness’ from Queen Victoria (r. 1837-1901).
In 1892, Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah commissioned the building of what came to be known as the Aga Khan Palace in Poona (modern-day Pune), India, to create employment for the poor who had been devastated by a recent famine. Mahatma Gandhi, his wife, and several dignitaries stayed at the palace during the political uprising from 1942 to 1944.
In February 1969, during a visit to India, Mawlana Hazar Imam donated the Palace to the Indian Government. In 2003, it was declared a monument of national importance by the Archaeological Survey of India (The.Ismaili). The Palace is now Gandhi National Memorial Museum.
Aga Khan palace pune gandhi memorial
Aga Khan Palace, now Gandhi National Memorial
Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah’s commitment to the Islamic ideals of the brotherhood of humanity, peace among nations, and respect for human dignity inspired him to be involved as a statesman on the world scene.
In 1902, when attending the coronation of Edward VII (r. 1901-1910) in London, Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah received the rank of Grand Knight Commander. In the same year, Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of India, appointed him to his Legislative Council at Calcutta. In 1906, he was elected first president of All-India Muslim League, an organisation that was established to support the advancement of Muslims, particularly with respect to their education and legal status in British India.
Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III
Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III arriving to preside over the All India Muslim Conference in Delhi in 1928. Source: Ismaili Mirror, Centenary Issue, November 1977
In 1912, Imam was decorated as Knight Grand Commander of the Star of India by George V during his coronation celebrations in India. Additionally, in recognition of his work in international affairs, Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah was bestowed numerous honours by several countries.
Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III
Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah (seated 5th from far left) and other delegates at the first conference held in London in November 1930. Source: The Ismailis An Illustrated History
Due to his poor health, Imam retreated from political life, spending a few years in Switzerland, where he wrote India in Transition: A Study in political Evolution (1918). In 1920, he re-entered politics, becoming a prominent figure at the All-India Muslim Conference in Delhi in 1928-1929. In 1934, he became a member of the Privy Council, and also served as the delegate for British India at the Disarmament Conference and as chief delegate of India to the Assembly of the League of Nations. In 1937, Imam was elected President of the League and presided over its eighteenth assembly. The League of Nations was an international organisation, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, created after the First World War to provide a forum for resolving international disputes. It was replaced by the United Nations in 1945.
Aga Khan III League United Nations
Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah addressing the Assembly. Source: The Ismailis An Illustrated History
Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah also devoted much of his time and resources to consolidating and organising the Nizari Ismaili communities in the Indian subcontinent and East Africa. He was particularly concerned with introducing reforms that would transform the Ismaili community into a modern self-sufficient one, with high standards of education and welfare. To meet the needs of the community in South Asia and East Africa, he established networks of schools, health clinics, hospitals, and jamatkhanas. On the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of his Imamat, he established scholarship programmes to provide assistance to students.
Imam supported a range of initiatives in East Africa and Asia that had a positive impact on the well-being of Muslim societies and others in the region. In 1945, he founded the East African Muslim Welfare Society, “that aimed to improve the living standards of Muslims in East Africa through education and social welfare initiatives. One such effort culminated in the establishment of Mombasa Institute of Muslim Education (today known as Mombasa Polytechnic), the first post-secondary institutions for Muslims in coastal East Africa.” (The Ismailis An Illustrated History p 227). In 1951, Imam made his first and only visit to the community in Mahallat, Persia (modern-day Iran).
Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan Persia
Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah and Mata Salamat with members of the jamat in Mahallat, Persia. Source: Ismaili Mirror, Centenary Issue, November 1977
The strengthening of the religious and social well-being of Ismaili communities remained the focus of Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah. In 1905, Imam issued a written set of ‘Rules and Regulations’ for the Ismailis of East Africa, which served as the Constitution. This document was revised and printed several times until 1954 when a revised version was issued. Similar rules were also issued for the Ismailis in British India. The ‘Rules and Regulations’ described the organisational structure of the community with a hierarchy of councils and office-bearers, their administrative procedures, and local and regional constituencies. The Constitution also re-affirmed the centrality of the Imam’s absolute authority over the affairs of the community.
In 1952, Imam “called a conference of councillors from East Africa at Evian [France] in order to discuss their future needs, resulting in the revised constitution of 1954, In the same year, he published his autobiography, Memoirs of Aga Khan: World Enough and Time…” (The Ismailis An Illustrated History p 227).
The Ismaili Constitution was issued at Zanzibar in 1905 in Gujarati, under the title Khoja Shia Imami Ismaili Counsilna Kayadani Book: Prakaran Pelu thata Biju (The Rule Book of the Khoja Shia Imami Ismaili Council: Parts 1 and 2). This document was instituted along with the first Supreme Council for Africa.
Ismaili constitution Aga Khan zanzibar
Front inside cover of the Ismaili constitution issued at Zanzibar. Source: The Ismailis An Illustrated History
Within six months of the issue of the rule book in Zanzibar, the Ismaili community based in Gwadur (in modern-day Pakistan) received the Khoja Shia Imami Ismailia Counsilna Kaydani Book: Bhag Pelo thata Bijo, printed in March 1906.
Ismaili constitution zanzibar aga khan
Front inside cover of the constitution issued to Gwadur Ismaili community, printed in March 1906 in Bombay. Source: The Ismailis An Illustrated History
First Supreme Council for Africa
Ismaili aga khan constitution
First Supreme Council for Africa. Left to right: Top, standing: Mohamed Bhanji, Gulamhusein Harji Sumar Muhamed Rashid Alana, Ali Valli Issa, Gulamhussein Karmali Bhaloo Middle, seated: Pirmohamed Kanji, Visram Harji, President Vizier Mohamed Rahemtulla Hemani, Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah al-Husayni Aga Khan III, Fazal Essani, Gulamhusien Bhaloo Kurji. Bottom row, seated: Mukhi Rajabali Gangji, Vizier Kassam Damani, Janmohamed Hansraj, Rai Mitha Jessa, Juma Bhagat Ismail, Kamadia (Itmadi) Jiwan Laljee, Salehmohamed Walli Dharsee, Janmohamed Jetha, Kamadia Fazal Shivji. Source: The Ismailis An Illustrated History
On the occasions of the Diamond and Platinum Jubilees of his Imamat, Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah founded the Jubilee Investment Trust and the Platinum Jubilee Investments Limited, which have assisted the growth of various co-operative societies. Diamond Jubilee Schools for Girls were established throughout the remote northern areas of Pakistan and in India. Companies such as the Diamond Jubilee Investment Trust (now Diamond Trust Bank of Kenya ) and the Jubilee Insurance company, which are today quoted on the Nairobi Stock Exchange, have become important national economic institutions. The scholarship programmes, founded during his Golden Jubilee, were progressively expanded.1
Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah died on July 11, 1957 and was buried at Aswan, Egypt. He was succeeded by Mawlana Hazar Imam.
Aga Khan III Aswan
Mausoleum of Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah in Aswan, Egypt. Photo: via Pinterest.
Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III SUltan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III
Sultan Muhammd Shah Aga Khan III Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III
The Ismaili Community, The.Ismaili
The Ismaili Imamate
Ismaili Mirror, Centennial Issue, November 1977
Farhad Daftary, Zulfikar Hirji, The Ismailis, An Illustrated History, Azimuth Editions in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London, 2007
The Ismaili Imamat: Contemporary Period, The Institute of Ismaili Studies
Imam Hasan Ali Shah Aga Khan I began the modern phase in the history of the Nizari Ismailis
Imam Hasan Ali Shah Aga Khan I began the modern phase in the history of the Nizari Ismailis
In "Imamat and Imams"
Imam Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, a notable visionary and statesman
Imam Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, a notable visionary and statesman
In "Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah"
[April]This month in history: Imam Aqa Ali Shah Aga Khan II succeeded to the Imamat
[April]This month in history: Imam Aqa Ali Shah Aga Khan II succeeded to the Imamat
Aga Khan IIIEast AfricaIndiaTIHZanzibar
TODAY on the occasion of the 142nd birthday of Sir Aga Khan III, we should remember this great man, who was among the prominent Muslim leaders of the world during the 19th century. At a very young age, he showed the signs of being a promising leader. At the age of 25 he was appointed as a member of the Imperil Legislative Council. As an advocate of Muslims’ rights at the global level, he worked for improving the quality of life of Muslims in the subcontinent.
He brought political awareness among Muslims by leading the Simla deputation and later on being instrumental in forming the All India Muslim League and was unanimously appointed its first president.
In 1937, he was also appointed chairman of the League of Nations. His contribution to Aligarh University made him a great figure in the history of the Subcontinent. In recognition of his services to education he was appointed chancellor of Aligarh University.
In 1946, he suggested that Arabic should be Pakistan’s national language. A network of Aga Khan schools and healthcare institutions was set up by him. A part from being a dynamic political figure, he was also the spiritual leader of the Ismaili community, following in his footsteps, his grandson and successor Prince Karim Aga Khan established a network of social, cultural and economic institutions which is now serving are more than 25 under developing countries.
A tribute to Aga Khan III on 142nd birth anniversary
November 2, 2019
By Faiza Virani
Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah, Aga Khan III, born on November 2, 1877, was the 48th hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims. A prime advocate of modern education, his contributions to society spanned healthcare, education, political reform, social development as well as the economic upliftment and development of Muslims in the subcontinent.
A tribute to Aga Khan III on 142nd birth anniversaryEducated at Eton and Cambridge, he was well-versed in Eastern and Western literature, as well as ancient and modern history. Speaking Persian, Arabic, English and French, he was well-informed on religious philosophy and politics, making him adept in speaking on matters of the state.
Under the leadership of Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah, numerous institutions for social and economic development were established across the Indian subcontinent. The foundation of the current education and healthcare system being run by the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) were created by Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah, where the work carries forward today by His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan IV. Today, the Aga Khan Education Service, Pakistan operates 156 schools enlightening over 44,000 students all across Pakistan. Health initiatives undertaken almost a century ago have grown in size and stature the past few decades with the establishment of the Aga Khan Health Services and the Aga Khan University Hospital.
Presently,numerous agencies of the AKDN network work to improve the welfare and well-being of the people of Pakistan. Their valuable contributions across education, health, natural and built environments, food security, access to financial services and economic opportunity, as well as the cultural areas of traditional music, architecture and art are lauded globally.
An advocate of modern education,Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah strived for educational advancement in the subcontinent, attesting the primary cause of political weakness of Muslims to a lack of education. Committed to providing and improving access to quality education for all Muslims throughout his life,he gave it the same priority as national defense – stating that it was only through education that eminent literary men and women would ultimately emerge to develop every facet of human life–intellectual, spiritual and religious.
He established over 200 schools during the first half of the 20th century, the first in 1905 in Zanzibar, Africa and in Gwadar, Pakistan. That era also gave birth to the Diamond Jubilee schools for girls, throughout the remote northern areas of present-day Pakistan.Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah’s greatest contribution to the Muslims of the subcontinent was his role in the establishment of the Aligarh Muslim University through the provision of funds, leadership and guidance. He not only advocated the role of higher education but also emphasized the importance of primary education. In 1911, the Aga Khan himself raised funds to realize Sir Syed Ahmed Khan’s vision of improving Aligarh Muslim University. He increased the annual grant that he had been giving to the college for many years, and promised to contribute a substantial amount to University funds including donating money for the “Aga Khan Foreign Scholarship.”
At the young age of 25, because of his devoted services to the cause of Muslim education, he was appointed as a member of the Imperial Legislative Council. In his Presidential address at the Mohammadan Education Conference in Delhi, he stated that this goal was to establish an institution capable of providing young Muslim individuals with not only the finest education that can be provided in India, but one that was globally competitive.
He is remembered today for playing a pivotal role in making the Pakistan Movement a success by inculcating political awareness among the Muslims of the subcontinent. On the 1st of October 1906, he led a distinguished delegation of 35 well-known Muslim leaders to Simla, where he presented a memorandum on behalf of the Muslims of the subcontinent. In a historical address, he urged the British Viceroy to accept and recognize Muslims as a separate nation and grant sufficient rights of representation both on the Local Bodies and in the Legislative Council. Following the success of the Simla Deputation, the Muslim leaders enacted an independent platform of their own leading to the formation of the All India Muslim League in 1906. Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah was elected its first president, which he served for seven years, from 1906-1913.
“[The] Muslims of India should not be regarded as a mere minority but a separate nation, whose rights and obligations should be guaranteed by statue, and this was sought to be achieved through adequate and separate representation for Muslims both on Local Bodies and in Legislative Councils.”(The Memoirs of Aga Khan)
Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah also had the privilege to be the representative for India in the Disarmament Conference. Recognizing the statesmanship of His Highness, he was unanimously elected as the chairman of the League of Nations,now known as the United Nations.
Following World War I, the first Round Table Conference organised by the British government in London was attended by Quaid-i-Azam, the Aga Khan Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah, Sir Mohammed Shafi, Maulana Mohammed Ali and Maulana Fazlul Huq. During this conference, the delegation of Muslim leaders elected the Aga Khan as their leader and spokesman at which Allama Iqbal graciously spoke about the services rendered by the Aga Khan for the Muslims and the Round Table Conference stating,“We have placed these demands before the conference under the guidance of His Highness the Aga Khan, that worthy of statesman whom we all admire and whom the Muslims of India love for the blood that runs through his veins.” (Letters and writings of Iqbal: B.A Dar, Iqbal Academy, Karachi 1967, p. 72)
Throughout his life, the Aga Khan remained markedly committed to furthering the cause of Islam and Muslims. He called Islam “the greatest unifying, civilizing, and fraternizing influence in the world” and “a great cultural and spiritual force for the unity of the world and the fraternity of the nations.” Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah passed away on the 11th of July 1957 at Villa Barakat, in Versoix, Geneva and was laid to rest in Aswan, Egypt.
Pioneering role of Aga Khan III in promotion of education
November 2, 2018
Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah: Enriching lives through education
By HENNA TAJANI on November 2, 2019
While making the inaugural speech at the All India Mohammedan Educational Conference of 1911, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah stated, “In order to raise our people to their legitimate sphere of power, influence and usefulness, we must have a serviceable and extended system of education…If our people take to science and scientific education in the right spirit, the industrial and economic future of our community will no longer be in doubt."
A firm believer in the necessity of education and its role in human society, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah did not think of education as merely a medium of instruction and training but rather as a force that could uplift the human condition. As a highly regarded political figure, religious leader and stalwart supporter of humanitarian causes across the world, he was strongly positioned to drive progress in the field of education and his efforts made a lasting impact that resonates to this day.
Born in Karachi on 2 November 1887, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah was a prominent Muslim leader in pre-partition India who believed that the problems being faced by the Indian Muslim community were caused by their neglect of education. He advocated that education was the means through which the Muslims of India could develop a strong political presence and the Muslim community at large could establish themselves as a valuable and prosperous community on the world stage. He worked tirelessly from a young age to increase access to education by establishing schools across India and East Africa, including remote and neglected areas. In recognition of his efforts to impart modern education to the Muslims of India, he was appointed to the Imperial Legislative Council by Viceroy Lord Curzon at the age of 25, making him the youngest member on the Council.
The founding of the Aligarh Muslim University in India was made possible by his passion and dedication to establish a centre of learning for the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent. As Chairman of the Funds Collection Committee, he collected three million rupees besides making significant contributions from his own wealth. After the university was founded, he was named its first Chancellor and remained actively involved in its progress and development.
Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah sought to establish Islamic centres of learning that would propagate Islamic culture, history and values. He envisioned Aligarh Muslim University as a modern educational institution that would emulate the standards of the leading universities of the time and play the same role in retaining Islamic heritage that Western universities had played in preserving the tradition of their cultures.
Furthermore, he expressed his desire that Muslim educational institutions embody the spirit of Islam so that students could gain an understanding of Muslim values. He found education to be incomplete without a sense of morality saying, “The far-sighted amongst the Muslims of India desire a university where the standard of learning shall be the highest and where with 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." He believed that if Muslims were not taught to uphold Islamic values, the Muslim community would be unable to achieve lasting success and prosperity.
In a time where the education of the female child was not considered a matter of importance, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah fervently advocated for female education and asserted that educating women was not only important but also vital for the progress of Muslim society, stating, “How can we expect progress from the children of mothers who have never shared, or even seen, the free social intercourse of modern mankind?… The body of Muslim society will be poisoned to death by the permanent waste of all the women of the nation."
Evidence of Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah's commitment to education and the impact of his contributions are not difficult to uncover. In the 1940s, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah, the 48th Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, dedicated the gifts he received from his followers on his Diamond Jubilee to the development of education and healthcare in the Indian subcontinent and East Africa. The money was used to establish schools, hostels, medical centres and maternity homes.
One such initiative was the Diamond Jubilee schools founded in the northern areas of Pakistan. In the remote and treacherous terrain of Northern Pakistan, where quality education was hard to come by, this initiative propelled communities forward and began a wave of progress which continues to this day. The message imparted by Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah- that of the importance of education – has been passed down to younger generations. In the Northern Pakistan valley of Hunza, almost every child, boy or girl, is given an education, which is considered a necessity and priority. In a country with an overall literacy rate of 55%, the valley of Hunza boasts a literacy rate of 95%. This is due, in no small part, to the movement started by Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah with the Diamond Jubilee schools.
Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah passed away in 1957 after spending his last days in Villa Barakat in Versoix, Switzerland and was laid to rest in Aswan, Egypt. His legacy has been carried forward by his grandson and successor Prince Karim Aga Khan, founder of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). AKDN is global network of development agencies with a mandate that encompasses social, cultural and economic development. Under the present Aga Khan's leadership, it operates a widespread network of schools – 156 schools in Pakistan alone, the Aga Khan Academies in India, Kenya and Mozambique, the Aga Khan University and the University of Central Asia.
Among the many historical documents collected by the Heritage Society, there is a letter written by Mowlana Sultan Muhammad Shah to his cousin, the prince of Persia on 26 July 1946 in perfect French.
All of the documents written, signed or containing the seal of Mowlana Sultan Muhammad Shah, in French, English, Persian, Arabic and even Khojki script will be made available with their English translation once catalogued.
However, as this one is handy, I am posting it here. Remember this is in 1946 and the letter is written from Nairobi in Kenya..
At the age of 20, Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah was instrumental in the development of the vaccine for the bubonic plague
Posted by Nimira Dewji
In his Memoirs, Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah states:
“During the previous year  there had been sinister rumours that an epidemic of bubonic plague was sedulously and remorselessly spreading westwards across Asia. There had been a bad outbreak in Hong King; sporadically it appeared in towns and cities farther and farther west. When in the late summer of 1897 it hit Bombay there was a natural and general tendency to discredit its seriousness; but within a brief time we were all compelled to face the fact that it was indeed an epidemic of disastrous proportions. Understanding of the ecology of plague was still extremely incomplete in the nineties. The medical authorities in Bombay were overwhelmed by the magnitude, and (as it seemed) the complexity, of the catastrophe that had descended on the city. Their reactions were cautious and conservative. Cure they had non, and the only preventative that they could offer was along lines of timid general hygiene, vaguely admirable but unsuited to the precise problem with which they had to deal. Open up, they said, let fresh air and light into the little huts, the hovels and the shanties in which hundreds of thousands of the industrial and agricultural proletariat in Bombay Presidency lived; and when you have let in fresh air, sprinkle as much strong and strong-smelling disinfectant as you can. These precautions were not only ineffective; they ran directly counter to deep-rooted habits in the Indian masses. Had they obviously worked, they might have been forgiven, but as they obviously did not, and the death-roll mounted day by day, it was inevitable that there was a growing feeling of resentment.
It was a grim period. The plague had its ugly, traditional effect on public morals. Respect for law and order slipped ominously. There were outbreaks of looting and violence. Drunkenness and immorality increased; and there was a great deal of bitter feeling against the Government for the haphazard and inefficient way in which they were tackling the crisis. …
Now it happened that the Government of Bombay had at their disposal a brilliant scientist and research worker, Professor Haffkine, a Russian Jew, who had come to work on problems connected with cholera, who had induced the authorities to tackle cholera by mass inoculation and had had in this sphere considerable success. He was a determined and energetic man. He was convinced that inoculation offered a method of combating bubonic plague. He pressed his views on official quarters in Bombay without a great deal of success. Controversy seethed around him; but he had little chance to put his views into practice. Meanwhile people were dying like flies – among them many of my own followers.
I knew that something must be done, and I knew that I must take the initiative. I was not, as I have already recounted, entirely without scientific knowledge; I knew something of Pasteur’s work in France. I was convinced that the Surgeon-General’s Department was working along the wrong lines. I by-passed it and addressed myself direct to Professor Haffkine. He and I formed an immediate alliance and a friendship that was not restricted solely to the grim business that confronted us. This, by now, was urgent enough, I could at least and at once give him facilities for his research and laboratory work. I put freely at his disposal one of my biggest houses, a vast, rambling palace not far from Aga Hall (it is now a part of St. Mary’s College, Mazagaon); here he established himself, and here he remained about two years until the Government of India, convinced of the success of his methods, took over the whole research project and put it on a proper, adequate, and official footing.
Meanwhile, I had to act swiftly and drastically. The impact of the plague among my own people was alarming. It was in my power to set an example. I had myself publicly inoculated, and I took care to see that the news of what I had done was spread as far as possible as quickly as possible. My followers could see for themselves that I, their Imam, having in full view of many witnesses submitted myself to this mysterious and dreaded process, had not thereby suffered. The immunity, of which my continued health and my activities were obvious evidence, impressed itself on their consciousness and conquered their fear.
I was twenty years old. I ranged myself (with Haffkine, of course) against orthodox medical opinion of the time – among Europeans no less than among Asiatics. And if the doctors were opposed to the idea of inoculation, what of the views of ordinary people, in my own household and entourage, and in the public at large? Ordinary people were extremely frightened. Looking back across more than half a century, may I not be justified in feeling that the young man that I was showed a certain amount of courage and resolution?
At any rate it worked. Among my own followers the news circulated swiftly, as I had intended it to do, that their Imam had been inoculated, and that they were to follow his example. Deliberately I put my leadership to the test. It survived and vindicated itself in a new and perhaps dramatic fashion. My followers allowed themselves to be inoculated, not in a few isolated instances but as a group. Within a short time statistics were firmly on my side; the death-rate from plague was demonstrably far, far lower among Ismailis than in any other section of the community; the number of new cases, caused by contamination, was sharply reduced; and finally the incidence of recovery was far higher.
A man’s first battle in life is always important. Mine had taught me much, about myself and about other people, I had fought official apathy and conservatism, fear, and ignorance. My past foretold my future, for they were foes that were to confront me again and again throughout my life.
Sultan Muhammad Maoimed Aga Khan III
Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah. Photo: Aga Khan Studs
By the time the crisis was passed I may have seemed solemn beyond my years, but I possessed an inner self-confidence and strength that temporary and transient twists of fortune henceforth could not easily shake. A by-product of the influence and the authority which I had exerted was that others than my own Ismaili followers looked to me for leadership.”
The Memoirs of Aga Khan, Cassell and Company Ltd., London, 1954, p36-39
Shi‘a Isma‘ilis, Aga Khan III, and the Broader Discourse for Islamic Reform
Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III was known and revered as the 48th hereditary Imam of the Isma‘ili Muslims. He was also an important Muslim reformer who championed the cause of socioeconomic progress and the status of women. His politico-religious career was marked by a prominent position in international affairs and dedication toward the advancement of education among Muslims. As a prominent Muslim leader, Aga Khan III favored a “this-worldly” interpretation of Islam, inspired by ethico-religious principles. His interpretive tendency was also influenced by the Sufi concept of wahdat al-wujud. A closer examination of Aga Khan III’s legacy and efforts further contribute to understanding the broader Muslim reformist debates of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III November 1877 – 11 July 1957 was the 48th Imam of the Nizari Ismaili religion. He was one of the founders and the first permanent president of the All-India Muslim League (AIML). His goal was the advancement of Muslim agendas and protection of Muslim rights in India. The League, until the late 1930s, was not a large organization but represented the landed and commercial Muslim interests of the British ruled 'United Provinces.He shared Sir Syed Ahmad Khan's belief that Muslims should first build up their social capital through advanced education before engaging in politics. Aga Khan called on the British Raj to consider Muslims to be a separate nation within India, the so-called 'Two Nation Theory'. Even after he resigned as president of the AIML in 1912, he still exerted major influence on its policies and agendas. He was nominated to represent India to the League of Nations in 1932 and served as President of the League of Nations from 1937–38.The Documentary Pioneer covers his whole life history and explains the remarkable achievements of Sir sultan Muhammad shah.
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