Posted: Sun May 16, 2004 9:12 am Post subject: Prince Alykhan Anecdote
I have heard many interesting anecdotes involving Prince Alykhan. One of these is as follows.
Once he was travelling with a Mukhi in East Africa. Initially the Mukhi was the driver. Prince Alykhan took up the wheels at a certain stage of the journey. As we all know, he was a very fast driver. At one point they hit a very rough patch and the Mukhi was frightened that something catastrophic might happen and called "Ya Aly" for help, to which Prince Alykhan remarked "I am Aly!!".
I have another anecdote herard from Mukhi Shamshu Murji who was Mukhi of Shinianga Jamat in 1966 during Didar and who lives in Toronto [Etobicoke JK] - he has the names of all the people involved, unfortunately I don't remember.
One day Prince Aly khan took the stearing of the car to go to Mwanza. One person sat in the front near Prince Aly khan and 2 sat in the back of the car. The road from Shinianga to Mwanza was full of bumps and pot holes at that time so one of the person sitting in the back said in Katchi to the person sitting near Prince that because the Prince has a very speading driving, please when there is a big bump coming, just tell me "Acheto" and I will hold my seat.\
It so happen that Prince Alykhan was driving so fast that before the person in the front could inform the persons in the back of the coming bump, Prince Alykhan shouted"Achetooooo!!!!"
Does anyone have speeches of Prince AlyKhan made to the Jamat (if any)?
Ya Ali Madad bigmak
I had the following speeches by H.R.H. Prince Aly Khan handy which might interest you:
Speeches by H. R. H. Prince Aly Khan
The Middle East
Lecture by His Serene Highness Prince Aly Khan under the chairmanship of His Worship the Major, councillor Abdulkarim M.L.C., Vice - President of the Dar es Salaam Cultural Society.
30 January 1951
It is indeed ironical that here, in Dar es Salaam, "Haven of peace", I must speak of war.
That I may speak of war and yet hold bright hopes for peace is due to my strong conviction that growing strength of the Mohamedan world, it staunchly united with Christianity in defence of freedom, may yet prevent, or if not prevent, bring to a victorious conclusion, any war which might be imposed upon us.
The Mohamedan world, the Middle East and Pakistan, is, I submit the hub of the free world's "wheel of fortune". obscure as the international situation may be, the strategic importance of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Iran, because of their geographical situation and resources, stand out in bold relief against a clouded and troubled sky.
In spite of this fact, the Western powers have never given sufficient importance to the Muslim world. They have always been inclined to treat it as a big backward and lethargic child. That is the view they have generally adopted towards all Eastern peoples. It is only the reverses of the Korean war that have made the Western powers realise that the Eastern nations can and do produce good soldiers.
The Korean War has also show quite clearly that in a major conflict manpower is as important as horsepower. Advanced designs in war planes and other mechanical devices cannot win a decisive victory without occupying forces to consolidate initial victories.
It is the contention of the peace-loving world that the over whelming issue of the day is communism versus humanity. It is certainly true that the architects of Communist expansion are taking every possible measure to impose their dogmas upon the world.
The recent events of Berlin, Korea, and Indo-China, indicate that the Russians were not slow in appreciating the need of a strong foothold in the Middle Eastern countries, and it would not be surprising if the next move was made in the direction of Azarbaijan. This might not take the form of an attack, but more probably of some local rebellion, obviously incited and supported by Russia.
Some of the Middle Eastern countries, owing to foreign domination, have failed to progress to anywhere near the extent of their possibilities-others, owing to dissension amongst the Mohamedan sects, have also lagged behind. After the second World War, a great political, economic and social awakening has been taking place but the understanding, the friendship, and the material assistance of the West is needed now, as never before, if the peoples and nations of the Middle East, are to approach their full stature, as allies, in the cause of peace and justice.
And while it is true that the middle East and the world's fifth largest nation, Pakistan, with its more than eighty million population have not yet attained anything approaching their real potential strength, either economically, industrially, or militarily, the Christian forces must realise that there exists in fact today a third world block: ISLAM. The Islamic bloc may not, at this moment of history, compare in developed material power with the so-called major blocs; its spiritual power, however, is second to none, and it is this great spiritual force of Islam, with which Christianity must combine, if world aggression is to be halted.
Russia is fully aware of this forward movement in the Middle East countries, and an intense Communist programme of propaganda and infiltration is in operation throughout these areas, conducted by local agents and dissatisfied political leaders guided and abetted by the communist diplomatic representatives. Still another method is employed by playing upon the nationalistic aspirations of the people or members of their Governments. Unless the Western powers fully realise the existence and importance of this third world bloc, and the treats to that bloc from without, and extend a friendly, helping hand to it - then the ideal of equality and democracy for which we stand so firmly united will be in real and grave danger. If this is not done, these countries ideology has any similarity to communism, but because they will be given cause to feel that they are undesired and unwanted by the west, and will automatically turn to the first power who shows them any mark of sympathy, however bogus this may be. I repeat, although the Communist doctrine has no connection with the Muslim faith, the economic needs and, to a large extent, the existing substandard of living suffered by the peoples make these under-developed lands ideals breeding ground for communist propaganda.
It is apparent that Christianity and Islam must come, and come immediately, to a closer understanding, and it is equally apparent that their unity if achieved, will be the most effective defensive measure against Communist expansion. Throughout the past, there has been a lack of intimacy, affection, and regard for Islam by Christianity. This, to a large extent, has been due to a lack of knowledge of the great human and spiritual ideals for which Islam and the teachings of Islam stand. All efforts should now be made by Christianity to bridge this wholly artificial and harmful gap.
A recent Communist Conference which was held in Batum, and which was attended by representatives of all the Middle Eastern countries proved again, if such proof were necessary, the great importance which Russia attributes to the Middle East. Very little publicity was given to the conference, yet this kind of information would be widely publicised in order to bring home forcefully to the layman of the world the gravity of the dangers with which we are faced.
Russia knows of the vulnerability of her frontiers in this part of the world. In Eastern Europe, she has created a series of buffer states which could take the first shock of any attacks directed against her. But from the direction of the Middle East, her weak under-side, she is far more vulnerable, particularly if you take into consideration the proximity of her principal oil sources: Baku and Ramanian fields. Baku's oil was so vital to Russia in the Second World War, that Hitler saw fit to drive his hordes through the steps of Russia in an attempt to stop its flow. Today, Russia doubtless covets the oil of Iraq, Persia and Saudi Arabia. This lends added significance to Russia in the safeguarding of her frontiers against all possible attacks by air or land, launched from Persia and Saudi Arabia. This lends added significance to Russia in the safeguarding of her frontiers against all possible attacks by air or land, launched from Persia or Turkey. We must remember, too, that the Russian population of the Caucasus are to a large extent Muslims, and the areas such as Georgia which have aspirations of their own.
With a communist drive into Europe, it would be futile to think that Russia could ignore her susceptibilities to attacks from the Middle East. Her eyes have long been turned towards the Persian Gulf, the road to India and an outlet on the Mediterranean always one of her eider ambitions.
Communist propaganda has for some time been advocating a separatist movement in a number of Middle East countries, such as the Kurdish movements in Iraq and Persia; also factions in Azerbaijan (Iran). where already they stirred up trouble a few years ago; as well as the terrorists of the Irgun in Palestine.
All these countries and conditions must be weighed, and weighed again with mature judgement by the leaders of the Western hemisphere. If they fail to appraise the true value of Islam in
the world situation today, if they fail to recognise or fail to endeavour to alleviate the sufferings of its masses, they may well lose the might of its manpower and the goodwill of its people, made cohesive by the faith and consequently lose, for all religions, the war against Godlessness.
Although I have spoken of the imminence of war, I wish to conclude with an invocation to peace...Peace for all men of faith, whatever their creed, whatever their colour.
Islam - The Religion of Equality
Speech by H. R. H. Prince Aly Khan
Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the Council of Islamic Affairs,
New York, May 27th 1958.
The late Prince Aly Khan (d. 1960) was father of the present Aga Khan (IV), and eldest son of the previous Aga Khan (III) - who was also the Chairman of the League of Nations (1933 - 1936).
Mr. Chairman, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you very much for the honour you have done me by inviting me to be your guest at this luncheon and for the kind words you have said about me.
If you feel that you can bear with me for a few minutes, I should like to speak about my country; Pakistan, as a member of the Islamic fraternity of nations.
The Council of Islamic Affairs is doing a great service to the world by promoting a greater understanding in America of the rich heritage of the Islamic peoples and their hopes and aspirations for the future. For centuries, the Moslem and Christian peoples have lived and moved in different worlds. Today the two worlds have become one. This fact alone, if no other, should compel them to get together to meet the challenge of a godless, totalitarian creed, which has pro-claimed as its ultimate purpose the destruction of both.
Despite the ebb and flow of its fortunes, the vicissitudes and calamities of its history, Islam claims nearly four hundred million adherents from the Atlantic to the Far East. As a living force in the lives of one fifth of mankind, it is a political fact of great significance in the world of today. That it has not exhausted its vitality, has been strikingly demonstrated by the emergence of Pakistan as an independent state, as recently as 1947. Faithful to their Islamic heritage, the Moslem people of the subcontinent, under their great leader Mohammed Ali Jinnah, staked their claim for an independent national existence as a people apart from those of the Hindu faith and culture.
Given a right understanding of the foundations of Islam and Christianity, and the spiritual values which they have proclaimed, it should not prove very difficult to build a bridge of mutual respect and co-operation between the two great religions. Unfortunately, it is a fact that the close similarity between the two remains largely unknown to the West.
Both Moslems and Christians believe in the Unity of God, in the revelations of his Divine Message through his chosen messengers - namely the great prophets, and in the spiritual and ethical foundations of a social order based on the principles of equality, liberty and universal brotherhood.
To bring out the closeness of our basic beliefs, let me quote to you from the Holy Quran which sets forth the basic doctrines of Islam:
First, the bedrock of faith - Divine Unity: "And your God is one God; there is no God but He,...there is none like unto Him."
Second, the whole of humanity is one: their division into tribes and nations is but to facilitate human relations: "All peoples are a single Nation."
Third, equality: "The White man is not above the Black, nor the Black above the Yellow, all men are equal before their Maker."
Fourth, dignity of the human person based so often on pride of birth, is rejected.
Fifth, freedom of belief and conscience must be respected.
The Quran says: "There is no compulsion in religion. Wherefore, let him who will believe, and let him who will, disbelieve."
These are the fundamental beliefs of the Islamic peoples. There is no need for me to emphasise the identical precepts to which the Christian world owes allegiance. Indeed, to a religion founded on love -love of God and love of one's neighbour - such as Christianity, the excerpts that I have quoted from the Quran must sound as recitations from the Bible
In the early centuries of Islam, the great schools of Islamic jurisprudence were built upon the above principles. Basic to all their legal systems they developed the doctrine that liberty is the fundamental basis of law.
The science of law was defined as: "The knowledge of rights and duties whereby man is enabled to observe right conduct in the world."
Thus, Islamic jurisprudence was developed to respect and promote the rights of men. The contribution of Islam to history and modern civilization is the product of the efforts of peoples of many races and tongues which came to accept its way of life. It is not the contribution of any one single race or nation. Although in the early centuries of Islam, Arabic was the common vehicle of _expression, such as Latin was in Europe in the Middle Ages, the Persians, Turks and other peoples, as well as the Arabs, contributed immensely to the flowering of the unique culture which for many centuries governed the lives of a large section of mankind.
It is not necessary to dwell on the political and social principles of Islam, to underline how close they also are in spirit to the concepts of human rights which govern the political and social systems of the West.
It is one of the paradoxes of history that the West and the Islamic world which have so many beliefs and values in common, should have lived in antagonism for centuries. When we consider the great contribution of the Islamic peoples to modern Western civilization, particularly in the realm of scientific enquiry, philosophic thought, and mysticism, wherein the religious spirit is lifted to the sublime, the paradox of conflict becomes all the more striking. Perhaps the key to it lies in the statecraft of princes, who found in the appeal to religion a force, of tremendous power which could be exploited to serve their ambitions.
Fortunately, historians are now beginning to recognise the historic role of Islam as a liberating force for peoples oppressed by the burdens of unjust social systems. Islam challenged the contemporary societies of Asia and Europe, which rested on absolu-tism, intolerance and the privilege of birth and race. Instead it offered equality. Swami Vivekanananda, the distinguished Hindu savant, had this to say of its impact on India: "To Muslim rule we owe that great blessing, the destruction of exclusive privilege ...The Muslim conquest of India came as a salvation to the down-trodden, to the poor. That is why one-fifth of our people have become Muslim....''
The emergence of Pakistan, a decade ago, was an act of protest against the existence of privilege in the social order of the subcontinent of India. It reflects the will of the Muslims of the subcontinent to escape from the fear of being reduced, in course of time, by the inexorable facts of the situation in which they found themselves, to the status of second class citizens. It is a symbol of their determination to ensure for themselves an existence based on human dignity and equality in accordance with the social concepts of Islam.
If I may be forgiven a reference to my family, the origin of this protest goes back to the beginning of this century, when my revered father, the Aga Khan, won for the Moslems of the subcontinent, recognition of their right to separate representation in the political life of India, then under British rule. For fifty years, he strove for the rights of Moslems and lived to see the day when his efforts finally led to the creation of the largest Moslem State in the world. As a founding-father of the new nation, he played a decisive role in the fortunes of the Islamic world, with which my ancestors have for many centuries been intimately linked.
Pakistan, with a personality of its own in the Moslem world, calls itself an Islamic Republic, in the sense that the overwhelming majority of its people, are of the Moslem faith and aspire to a social and political order based on justice and equality, in accordance with the spirit of the injunctions of Islam that I have quoted.
The appellation "Islamic" however, does not imply that Pakistan is a theocratic State, run by religious fanatics who seek to reduce the non-Muslim minorities in Pakistan to the status of inferior citizens. The relevant provision of our Constitution, under which Pakistan became a democratic Republic on the 23rd of March 1956, lays down: "Section 5 (1): All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law."
The Constitution further nullifies as void, any law, custom, or usage, which is inconsistent with the fundamental right to equality under the law, which is an enforceable right under an independent judiciary, the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
This means that non-Moslems are guaranteed equality with Moslems under the laws of Pakistan.
With the exception of the Presidency, all governmental offices in Pakistan, including that of Prime Minister, are open to all citizens alike, regardless of their caste or creed.
While it is true that the President of Pakistan must be a Muslim, he is in fact the symbol of the State, and the executive powers are vested almost exclusively in the Prime Minister and his cabinet. Pakistan is not unique in basing its political institutions on fundamental religious concepts. For example, a number of European nations, such as Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Ireland, Greece and the United Kingdom restrict the office of the head of state to those who profess the predominant religious beliefs of their countries.
Although Moslems, the Chiefs of State that Pakistan has had in succession, have made it their special concern to assure to religious minorities the full protection of their equal rights under the Constitution. President Iskander Mirza, the present Chief of State, has pledged his personal responsibility to guarantee to them the exercise of all their human rights. In this great man, the people of other religions have a sincere friend and champion.
The leaders of the Government of Pakistan are liberal and enlightened men, responsible to a freely elected Parliament in accordance with the popular will. They function entirely within the framework of the Constitution and laws of Pakistan.
I am well aware that the people of the United States are deeply committed to the doctrine of separation of church and state. We, in Pakistan do not have an established church as such. Basically, the fundamental values and virtues which you cherish and try to practice in the United States, are virtually identical with those we believe in and try to practice in Pakistan.
Turning now to a broad consideration of Pakistan's international relations, the foundations of our foreign policy rest on the Purposes and Principles of the Charter of the United Nations.
Among the most important questions which are debated in the United Nation are those concerning the self-determination of peoples and their freedom from colonial rule.
The rising nationalism, which we see today in Asia and Africa, is a continuation of the same tide of freedom which was loosed in Europe and America in the 18th century. It is now in full flow. -It presents a great challenge to the world. Those who have a sense of history will see in this historic process, element of necessity which in the end will remove the evil of exploitation of one people by another.
Asia has shaken herself free almost completely of colonial rule. The emancipation of all Africa is not far distant. The Bandung Conference of 29 Asian African nations held in Indonesia in 1955 and the Conference of the independent African State last month in Accra, capital of Ghana, are historic landmarks in the march of the two Continents towards freedom, equality and the assertion of an Asian and an African personality in the counsels of the world.
To all such movements, Pakistan, faithful to her own historical past, has committed its full moral and political support.
The concept of the United Nations is based on the rule of law in international relations. If the hopes and aspirations of the peoples of the world, for an international order based on justice and the principles of international law, and not on force, to be fulfilled, law must be the same for all. No nation, great or small, may claim immunity.
Therefore, nothing made us happier than the declaration of President Eisenhower, in the Suez crisis in 1956, that there cannot be one code of law for friends and another for opponents... In that great decision, we saw a powerful nation uphold the principles of international law and justice, where a weaker and smaller power was concerned, even to the extent of an agonising break with its historic and trusted allies.
As you are aware, Pakistan is aligned with the West in regional defence pacts. That these alliances, namely, the South East Asia Collective Defence Treaty and the Baghdad Pact, are purely defensive, and are recognised by the Charter of the United Nations as based on the right of legitimate self-defence, has not made them immune from onslaughts by those, who for reasons of their own, are opposed to such groupings. The two instruments of regional security that I have mentioned are not mere military organisations. Under their aegis, member countries are pledged to international cooperation in the political, economic and cultural fields; also to promote the well being of a large part of the populations of South East Asia and the Middle East. Nothing would be more welcome than a greater emphasis on the economic and cultural aspects of their cooperation rather than on their purely military effort. But this does not depend on ourselves alone. To permit this evolution, international danger and tension must first abate.
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, I have taken much of your time. One thought more and I will conclude. On the plane of ideals and morals, we find in Islam and the Quran, a perennial source of inspiration and guidance. One of the basic teachings of this faith is Divine Unity and the oneness of humanity. The Quran says:
"And your God is one God."
"This your community is one community."
"All people are a single nation."
If we, the people of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan are to remain loyal and obedient to the commandments of our faith, we have no choice but to cast away all thoughts of East and West, of Asian, American or European and of all those barriers which alienate man from man, and people from people, so that we may join together to promote universal brotherhood under God.
Posted: Mon Apr 17, 2006 7:22 am Post subject: Prince Aly Khan - our Imam?
I heard today that Imam SMS had actually appointed Prince Aly Khan our Imam and that Prince Aly Khan use to come and give us Deedar. But then later, since Prince Aly Khan became uninterested in Imamat activities or for watever reason, Imam SMS change His mind and appointed Karim Hazar Imam our next Imam. Is this accurate? If so then I am very confused. According to our faith, Imam's are pure and perfect. Therefore, the idea of being appointed Imam and then later being stripped of that title seems very contradictory to the fact that Imam's are perfect.
If anyone can shed some light on this I would very much appreciate it.
There can never be 2 Imams at the same time. Prince Alykhan was never appointed Imam. He was asked to perform some rituals on behalf of Sultan Muhammad Shah but even when the Jamat started calling Prince Alykhan as "Wali Ahad" SMS sent a talika to tell the Jamat not to use that title for Prince Alykhan. There is no space for confusion in this regard.
The following are some interesting facts about Prince Alykhan as related in connection with the life of Waras Chhotubhai Jaffer that is given in 101 Ismaili Heroes, Vol.1, Islamic Book Publisher, Karachi, January 2003, p 088 by Mumtaz Ali. It can be referenced at:
His service to the Imam’s family is legendary: As Prince Aly Khan’s personal secretary, he travelled with him in India, Burma and the Middle East. He also accompanied Lady Aly Shah to Syria and Lebanon in 1930-31, sought his counsel and support from the early 1930s till her demise.
Lady Aly Shah was prescient about Chhotubhai’s leadership role in life, as over the years, the Imam and Prince Aly Khan relied on his intelligence, dedication, hardwork, and discretion over and over again. In serving the Imam, his family and the jamat, Varas Chhotubhai undertook many trips: A few years after his East African trip, in April 1930, Varas Chhotubhai was called upon accompanying Lady Aly Shah to Damascus, Palestine and other historical cities, as her personal secretary. Later, she settled into a bungalow perched on a picturesque hill in Sofar, near Beirut.
And when Prince Aly Khan’s steamer, the Merietta Pasha, dropped anchor at Beirut on July 22, 1930, Varas Chhotubhai was the first one to go aboard to welcome the Prince. He then re-emerged with him and introduced the Prince to the governor of Salamia, Mir Mirza Varas Suleman and other dignitaries.
Soon after, Prince Aly Khan and Varas Chhotubhai were on their way by car to see Lady Aly Shah in Sofar. They continued on to Homs, where 400 Ismaili horsemen gave Prince Aly Khan a rousing welcome. As befitted as a beloved Prince, they entered Salamia in a procession, making their way to the Jamatkhana, where a darbar was held for this historical event. In front of the devout Ismailis who waited patiently to catch a glimpse of the heir-apparent, the Ismaili governor of Salamia read this poignant message from Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah: “I am sending my beloved son to you, and you should consider him as equivalent to my own coming. I am sending the Prince in the capacity of my heir-apparent.” Prince Aly Khan used the occasion to bestow the title of Alijah on Kamadia Mir Mirza Haji Mustapha, with the help of a wooden stick.
Although Prince Aly Khan was born and raised in Europe, he felt completely at ease riding horses in Salamia, adorned in Arabian sartorial splendor, which prompted Varas Chhotubhai to remark, “How elegant you look in an Arabian dress,” to which Prince Aly Khan quipped, “Of course! Although I was born in Europe, the Arabian blood of the Holy Prophet nevertheless flows in my veins.” Major A.J. Lakhpati (1884-1947) was so touched by this charming exchange that he ended up composing a beautiful poem to praise the Prince.
Before Prince Aly Khan returned to Sofar, a six-hour drive from Salamia, where Varas Chhotubhai was to join him in a hunting expedition. But the Prince, who had a penchant for driving fast cars, made it to Sofar in just one hour! From Beirut, Prince Aly Khan returned to Europe, while Varas Chhotubhai went back to Salamia with Lady Aly Shah. He went on to visit Damascus and Palestine before returning to Bombay with Lady Aly Shah on October 3, 1930.
After arriving in India on November 21, 1930 on the mail steamer Ranchi of P & O Co., Prince Aly Khan toured Northern India by rail. The “Punjab Mail” stopped at Kalyani before arriving at Gwalior on December 8, 1930. Accompanying the Prince, as his guests were N. M. Dumasia, the author of “The Aga Khan and his Ancestors” (Bombay, 1939), M. S. Jassani, and the Syrian officer Haji Mustapha. Captain Majid Khan (d. 1956), his bodyguard, was helped by Lt. Col. Pir Muhammad Madhani and Major A.J. Lakhpati; Varas Chhotubhai went along as his private secretary.
By December 10, they arrived in Agra to visit the legendary Taj Mahal. Another 23-mile drive brought them to the fascinating Fatehpur Sikhri. The next day in Delhi, they toured the Delhi Fort, Grand Mosque and the enchanting Kutb Minar. Then it was off to Jalandar, where Capt. Dass was waiting to welcome them on behalf of Kapurthala State. Two days later, on December 13, after a short 14-mile drive, their caravan reached Kapurthala, where Maharaja Sir Jagjit Singh welcomed them to Jagjit Palace. Their days were filled with sailing and hunting waterfowls, as well as deer in the jungle. Two days later, on December 13, after a short 14-mile drive, their caravan reached Kapurthala, where Maharaja Sir Jagjit Singh welcomed them to Jagjit Palace. Their days were filled with sailing and hunting waterfowls, as well as deer in the jungle.
Taking their leave after two days, they drove to Amritsar, and from there another 28 miles to Lahore, where more historical sights captivated them, including the Shalimar Gardens, Emperor Jahangir’s tomb, and Shahi Masjid.
After getting to Ratlam by train, they drove another 84 miles to Indore, where Mukhi Nur Mohammad Somji of the Ratlam jamat welcomed them. However, as guests of H.H. Maharaja Dhiraj Raj Rajeshwar, they spent the night at his palace before returning to Indore, where they were met by Vazir ad-Dawla, the Prime Minister of Indore. Then they left for Dharampore by the Punjab Express. After Pir Sabzali joined them at the Godhra station, they reached Surat on December 20. In Dharampore, they stayed at the Narshih Vilas as special guests of Suryawanshi Maharana Shri Vijaydevji. The next day, on a hunting trip in the jungle, Prince Aly Khan managed to hunt down a 71/2-foot long panther and a deer. The magnanimous Maharaja of Dharampore, who presented Prince Aly Khan with a fine robe, also gave a gold ring to N. M. Dumasia, gold buttons to Varas Chhotubhai and Capt. Majid Khan, and robes of filigree to the others.
All too soon, Prince Aly Khan’s Northern Indian tour came to an end, and he and his party returned to Bombay on December 24, 1930 by the Kathiawadi Express. Prince Aly Khan then departed for Europe on January 17, 1931. As his personal secretary, Varas Chhotubhai had remained by the Prince’s side during the entirety of his month-long tour.
At the completion of his successful and eventful Indian tour, on Prince Aly Khan’s return to Europe, the Imam sent the following telegram to his Bombay jamats:
Children - Bombay
My son arrived. He sends his best affectionate thoughts and I, my paternal blessings to all the councils, jamats, ladies volunteers, punjebhais, boys, and girls for so much loving attention during his short visit . Our affectionate thoughts always with you.
In 1908, when other Indian communities benefited from their co-operative institutions, the Muslim community had none. In 1930, Varas Chhotubhai was instrumental in the establishment of a co-operative institution to help the Ismaili victims of economic depression and unemployment that eventually became a leading financial institution, registered under the Government Co-operative Act by twelve promoters. It was the first of its kind, not only amongst the Ismailis, but amongst the Muslims of Bombay as well.
Prince Aly Khan, who visited the office of The Ismailia Co-operative Bank Ltd. on December 15, 1933, was warmly received by the community leaders, and after inspecting the bank premises, he asked many questions. Varas Chhotubhai singled out by the President for his meritorious service, as the steady progress of the bank was mainly due to Chhotubhai’s hard work and persistence, was presented with a shawl by Prince Aly Khan.
After Prince Aly Khan’s departure, Hussain Ali M. Rehmatullah, the Mayor of Bombay commented in the visitor’s book: “During my visit I was pleased to see the fine progress made during only a few years, and the efficient manner in which its affairs are managed. I congratulate the Committee on their achievement and wish the Institution a long life of still greater utility.”
On December 14, 1933, Sultan Mohamed Shah together with Mata Salamat and Prince Aly Khan stepped off the Rajputana of P & O Co. to a welcoming thunderous applause. Varas Chhotubhai once again served as Prince Aly Khan’s private secretary during this visit, and accompanied him by air to Ahmedabad, Nagpur, Agra, Jubblepore, and other cities. They also visited Rangoon, Burma from January 7 to January 17, 1934. On the way back from Mahableshawar by car on December 25, 1933, when the Imam and Mata Salamat stopped briefly at the sanatorium at Panchgani, Varas Chhotubhai welcomed them warmly. As the Imam inspected the premises, he asked Dr. Ghulam Ali Chandu and Jusab Allana Manji many questions, and after blessing them, he returned to Bombay.
When Prince Aly Khan visited the “Ismail House,” which Varas Chhotubhai had built at Sandhurst Road, Bombay, on December 14, 1933 at 10.15 a.m., he was warmly received by Varas Chhotubhai, Dewan Mohammad Ibrahim Mohammad Rawjee, and Ramzan Ali Machiswala, along with other distinguished guests. Entering the study, Prince Aly Khan smiled as he looked at a photo of Chhotubhai’s late father, and noted: “The shadow of the central part of your father’s image is seen in your face.” Prince Aly Khan then entered the main hall where he accepted the family mehmani, and talked freely with all those present.
A few weeks later, the Imam accepted Chhotubhai’s invitation to visit Ismail house as well. In preparation for the Imam’s visit to “Ismail House” on January 9, 1934, a brightly decorated tent was pitched at Sandhurst Road (East) for a grand banquet, and Varas Chhotubhai, Pir Sabzali, Ramzan Ali Machiswala and Alijah Ghulam Hussain Bandali Somji welcomed the 1500 guests at the main gate. When the Imam arrived at 10.30 a.m., he granted the family a private audience and accepted their mehmani on the first floor, and lauded Varas Chhotubhai’s significant and considerable services.
At the reception, where the Imam stayed for 45 minutes, he presented Chhotubhai with a gold medal with the Imam’s image on one side and an English inscription on the other, on behalf of the Ismailia Cooperative Bank’s directors. And before the entire audience, he also pledged the sum of one thousand rupees for the Fidai Boarding on Varas Chhotubhai’s behalf.
So on January 20, 1934, when the Imam and Prince Aly Khan visited the Fidai Boarding, Varas Chhotubhai translated Prince Aly Khan’s speech into Hindi for the audience. As he approached the microphone, he blurted out, “This is the first time I have ever used a microphone,” to which Wazir Ghulam Hussain H. Thavar (1907-1963) remarked, “But it is one of the best opportunities to do so.” Overhearing their little exchange, Prince Aly Khan cheerfully added, “Yes, it is a very fine opportunity.”
After the Imam’s departure from India, The Central Panjibhai Club of Bombay hosted a grand reception at the Recreation Club Institute to honor the new title-holders and leaders on March 17, 1934. The programme began with a stirring speech by Huzur Wazir Ali Muhammad R. Mecklai, as one by one, he highlighted the meritorious services of the distinguished leaders. Referring to the services of Varas Chhotubhai, he said, “Alijah Ismailbhai Mahomed Jaffer, known as Chhotubhai, is Prince Aly Khan’s personal secretary, and the Imam casts a graceful eye on him at all times. He was destined to serve the community and religion since his childhood, and became a leader at a very young age. He has served with great sacrifices, travelling to Syria with Prince Aly Khan, where his services were highly valued. And he has recently been appointed a member of the Bombay Council.”
In 1955, Prince Sadruddin visited him at his home in Nairobi, as did Prince Aly Khan in April 1956.
After attending the Imam’s didar in London on May 4, 1960, he was blessed with a personal audience with the Imam in Paris, where he also met the President of the Ismailia Association for Kenya, Wazir Lutfali Merali, who was touring Europe. They took this opportunity to hold a meeting and dined at the residence of Mukhi Mohammad Pirbhai in Paris.
Just a few days later when Prince Aly Khan was tragically killed in a car accident near Paris on May 12, 1960, Varas Chhotubhai was still in Paris. But his final burial took place on July 10, 1972 in Salamia, Syria, as Prince Aly Khan had willed. In deference to the Imam’s wishes, only 36 delegates from India, Pakistan, Africa, Europe, the United States and South East Asia were able to attend the ceremony. Additionally, four special guests were also invited: Varas Chhotubhai (Nairobi), Dewan Ghulam Hussain Jindani (Mombasa), Tutti Hussain (London), and Varasiani Gulzar Muller.
The delegates and guests first met in Nice. The embalmed body of Prince Aly Khan was transported to Damascus on July 10, 1972 by a chartered Air France plane. Next, the coffin was taken by helicopter to Salamia from Damascus, accompanied by Prince Amyn Muhammad, six delegates, and four special guests, while Prince Sadruddin traveled in another helicopter with the other delegates. The coffin was lowered into its final resting-place on the same day.
The Imam commissioned Mr. Kamal Khan, his estate agent for Syria, and Varas Chhotubhai to devise a plan for a mausoleum, which was successfully completed, after many challenges, at a cost of 15,000 British pounds.
Prince Aly Salman Khan’s visit to Sidhpur district
In February, 1956 Prince Aly Khan visited India on behalf of Mawlana Sultan Muhammad Shah (salawatu’llahi `alayhi) to commemorate the Platinum Jubilee of the 48th Imam. During this time, Prince Namdar paid a visit to the M’umin Jamat of Sidhpur District. From Sidhpur he travelled by jeep along the bank of the Kakoshi river to Methan.
Some of the local people who were inimical to the Jamat and were bent on causing trouble and discomfort to the Prince decided to open up a dam situated on the river.
This caused the water to flow with great force down a 12 foot wide channel to the extent that the bridge to cross over to Methan was completely submerged.
Prince Aly Khan was accompanied by some Council members and other amaldars (leaders) who suspected the trouble makers had deliberately done this in order to show disrespect for him. They were extremely worried and anxious and looked at the Prince, who was driving the vehicle at his usual fast pace, regardless of the water ahead of him. The leaders urged that they should seek another route to their destination. However Prince Aly said to them: “Don’t you know that this is Ali’s jeep
and that Ali is driving it?”
The leaders repeated that the water was flowing fast and across a 12 foot channel and further there would be a lot of mud in it. Prince Sahib asked where the water had come from and why had the river overflowed in this way. They replied that since he was from the Imam’s family and his representative he must be aware of everything. He replied that he knew that this was the plot of people who were against the Imam, however he would not turn the jeep around. He would continue on this very route.
Whilst the leaders were wondering what to do next, Prince Sahib reversed the jeep a little and then pressed the accelerator so hard that it leapt forward like a horse and flew across the 12 foot channel and reached the other side. The leaders were speechless with amazement and fear!
Prince Namdar gave didar to the Jamat of Methan and blessed them on behalf of the Imam. Whilst he was sitting amidst the Jamat his eyes travelled up to the roof and fell on a number of several big hives there. He asked: “What are those?” The reply was that they were beehives. He said: “How marvellous! Honey!” His attention was focussed on the hives for sometime. Then he enquired if the bees cause the Jamat any
problems. He was told that the Jamat were afraid of being bitten by the bees. He further asked if the Jamat disturbed the bees, to be informed that they did not. Prince Sahib advised them not to disturb the bees. He said: “These bees are the Jamat of my grandfather. They will not bite you. I will ask them to leave the Jamatkhana and build their hives outside, Don’ t disturb them and they will not give you trouble.” Prince Aly Khan was referring to one of the titles of Hazrat Mawlana Ali, Amiru’ n-
Nahl, that is, Prince of the bees, which was given to him by Hazrat Nabi Muhammad Mustafa (sallallahu `alayhi wa alihi wa sallam). The Prophet once said to the people that just as the honey produced by bees is sweet and has medicinal properties to cure ailments, in the same way Mawlana Ali possesses the secrets of haqiqat and ma`rifat, which are medicines for the spiritual sicknesses of his followers.
To conclude this story, it is recorded that from that time the bees moved their hives to the roof of the Methan Jamatkhana and occasionally lumps of honey would fall off the roof on the members of the Jamat, but the bees never bit any mu’min.
Prince Aly Salman Khan
Source: “Shah-i Zaman-ni Sundar Wato” (Gujerati) by Missionary Mawlai Sairab
Abu Turabi. pp. 43-49
It is reported that once Mawlana Sultan Muhammad Shah told somebody that: “Horses and horse riding are a tradition (sign) of our family”.
The author also refers to Surah Adiyat (Surah 100), verses 1-2 in which God swears by the snorting horses, whose hooves strike sparks of fire.
This story is about the Prince of Light (see the reference to Pir Shihabuddin Shah’s words: O the son of light and O the family of light)
Once Chief Mukhi Vazier Kassamali Hasanali Zaveri submitted to Mawlana Sultan Muhammad Shah that Prince Sahib drove his car very fast and flew his plane fast. Mawla smiled and said: “Do not worry about him. He is Ali. Do you understand? He is Ali! Ali!”
On 29th March, 1949 Prince Aly had visited the town of Talhar on the banks of the Sindh River. He had travelled from Hyderabad by car and was putting up at the Dak Bungalow.
The local Ismailis hoped that Prince Sahib would ride a horse from the Dak Bungalow to the Jamatkhana. However, Vazier Allana who was Prince Sahib’s attendant refused their request on the grounds that the horse in question was wild and had not been broken. Further, there were some members of a sister community who had declared in a challenging way that only if Prince Aly could ride that particular horse would they be willing to accept that he was from the family of the ‘Rider of Dul Dul’ (i.e. Hazrat
Prince Namdar arrived whilst this discussion was going on and asked: “What is the matter?” On being informed he smiled and his eyes sparkled and he said: “I shall surely ride.” On being informed that the horse was so wild that he could not be held still by four people, Prince Sahib changed into riding dress and went up to where the horse was flailing and jumping wildly. He took the reins in his hands and called out
loudly to the horse: “Don’t you know that Aly is riding upon you?” Immediately the horse quietened down and became as docile as a cow. Prince rode the horse towards the Jamatkhana, leaving all the leaders behind at the Dak Bungalow.
The story now turns to a family in the town of Talhar. It used to be an Ismaili family, unfortunately they had left the faith but the old mother still retained her faith and pronounced to her sons that on that day she intended to stand outside the Jamatkhana and catch a glimpse of Prince Namdar. Her two sons became furious and that morning they locked her inside her room and left for work. The poor old lady stood at the window and strained her eyes in the direction of the Jamatkhana, but it was
impossible to see anything. She stood there crying and yearning for didar in this way, when suddenly she saw Prince Aly Khan on a horse in front of her window. He asked her where the Jamatkhana was. She was dumbfounded and could not reply. Her mind went back 70 years to when she was a 10 year old girl. Imam Aga Aly Shah had come to give didar to the Jamat of Talhar. She had stood there wishing that Mawla had
come on horseback! When Mawla was leaving the Jamat he patted the little girl on her back and told her: “My child, one day I shall certainly give you didar on horseback!”
That incident had taken place in 1877 and seventy years later, that is, in 1949, Prince Aly Khan had fulfilled that promise. He said to her: “Mother, you had the yearning to receive our didar on horseback, so here I am to fulfil that pledge!” He smiled and then made his way to the Jamatkhana.
Getting off his horse, Prince Namdar said: “Well you are a lucky one and I have got no time to teach you more. Anyway, you may remember this ride!”
His was an astonishing feat of personality: ‘Aly’s appearance always
sent the marriage rate soaring,’ wrote Leonard Slater. ‘Young men
would speed their courting; young women would overcome their
shyness.’ Sex appeal may have had something to do with it but much
of Aly’s success was spontaneous popular reaction to a warm-hearted,
handsome young man with a genuine affection for people. From Syria
he went on to Bombay and Karachi where he visited jamatkhanas, led
the prayers and performed religious ceremonies with a touch as sure
as that of an experienced mukhi. The tour was a great success.
Since the age of eleven, too, Aly Khan has flown East to visit groups of
the Ismailis in the place of his father. Wearing faultless tropical
suitings and a black Astrakhan cap, Prince Aly would give readings
from the Koran and accept tributes on behalf of his father ranging
from anything between 10,000 and 30,000 a time.
(Gordon Young, Golden Prince, p. 22)
Dressed in the style of a young Indian prince, Aly looked perfectly at
home in the setting of his eastern forebears. And when it came to
visiting the jamatkhana with the Imam, he was well-versed in the
prayers and the ritual for which his Muslim teachers had prepared
him and as familiar with Ismaili history as any Christian boy of his age
with the Bible. But the extravagance with which the ordinary Ismali
venerated his father made a deep impression.
(Willi Frischauer, The Aga Khans, p. 91)
The reality of Prince ‘Ali Khans life is clearly quite different from the distorted and exaggerated stories reported in the Western newspapers. The Isma‘ili community understood and appreciated the Prince in an entirely different manner. For example, an Isma‘ili magazine praised Prince ‘Ali Khan in the following way on the occasion of his forty-third birthday:
Our beloved Prince ‘Aly Khan has completed forty-three years of age.
We join Ismaili Jamats from all over the world in offering felicitations
to His Serene Highness Prince Aly Khan on this happy occasion. His
Serene Highness has inherited the qualities of his illustrious father,
Mawlana Hazar Imam. The jamats have been appreciative of the keen
interest His Serene Highness takes in all the varied activities of the
community in all parts of the world, and of his great contribution to
(The Ismaili, quoted in Gordon Young, Golden Prince, London 1955, p. 148)
The Imam’s Last Will shocked the world when it announced that he had appointed his grandson Prince Karim to succeed him as the 49th Imam of the Shi‘a Isma‘ili Muslims. However, a closer look at this period reveals that this succession was consistent with Isma‘ili history and one observes many elements which resemble the successions of the Fatimid Imams as cited earlier in this article. When looking at the early life of Imam Shah Karim, one observes that he was being prepared to undertake the Imamate from a very young age:
From the moment Karim was born, it was taken for granted that he would one day become Imam, and, unlike Aly, he was educated for the job from the beginning. When he was only seven years old, living in Nairobi, he was dressed in a tiny uniform and taken to the jamatkhana to chant: “We are the direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, may peace of God be on him.”
(Leonard Slater, Aly, Random House, New York, 1965, p. 269)
As a young boy, Shah Karim soon developed a very unique and intimate relationship with his grandfather Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah. These occasions were most likely not in the public view – in which Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah refused to discuss his succession. But the more private moments were observed by the close family members including Shah Karim’s mother, Princess Joan:
When the old Aga returned from Africa and was staying in Lausanne,
the boys were taken to see him: ‘An extraordinary relationship
developed between my father-in-law and my elder son,’ Princess Joan
recalls, ‘K always talked to his grandfather as if they were
contemporaries. There was a powerful bond between them.” It was
probably due to his grandfather’s influence that Karim was mature
beyond his age without forgoing the pleasures of a typical teenager’s
(Willi Frischauer, The Aga Khans, p. 152)
The above account is reminiscent of the earlier mentioned anecdotes about the Isma‘ili Imams of the Fatimid period. It seems that when several generations of Imams were contemporary – such as in the case of Imams al-Mahdi, al-Qa’im, al-Mansur and al-Mu’izz – the grandfather and the grandson Imams shared a special relationship where former would prepare the latter for the formal role of Imamate:
From a young age, [Imam] al-Mu’izz li-Din Allah had a special status
with his grandfather [Imam] al-Qa’im. He used to keep him in his
company, be close to him and confide in him in preference to his
father. Whenever he (al’-Qa’im) was alone, he (al-Mu’izz) was with
him and whenever he was absent, he (al-Qa’im) would send for him.
Similarly, Imam al-Mansur had the same status with his grandfather
al-Mahdi, who was inseparable from him… One day al-Mu’izz
mentioned a similar instance to his situation, saying that al-Mahdi
bi’llah used to nurture him (al-Mansur) with wisdom and prepare him
for the Imamate, just as al-Qa’im did so with him.
(Idris Imad al-Din, Tarikh al-Khulafa al-Fatimiyyin bi’l-Maghrib, transl.
Shainool Jiwa, Anthology of Isma‘ili Literature, pp. 60-62)
The situation at the time of Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah, Prince ‘Ali Khan and Shah Karim resembles the above. Thus, they were following the traditions of their Fatimid ancestors. The historical accounts also mention how Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah would discuss with Shah Karim the deeper meanings of Isma‘ilism:
The old Aga seemed to think highly of the boy. Whenever he was at
Villa Barakat in Geneva he sent for Karim and talked to him at great
length, subtly introducing him into the deeper meaning of the Ismaili
faith and instilling him with the sense of mission which became
apparent to all not many years later. Prince Karim himself
remembers his grandfather asking questions about his religious
instruction, testing his knowledge: ‘He could extract more from a
human being in short conversation than anybody else in a lifetime,” he mused.
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