Posted: Tue Feb 15, 2005 8:37 am Post subject: Mata Salamat Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan
As we mark the birthday of Mata Salamat, I feel it appropriate to reflect on the following recent statement of MHI on the charitable dimension of her life.(PARIS MATCH N° 2907, 3-9 FEBRUARY 2005)
‘If you have the resources, what are you doing with them?’” And the answer lies not in what one owns but, according to the ethics of Islam, how one uses it. The Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan (who died in July 2000) provided a worthy example. Having lived with great restraint throughout her life, my grandfather’s widow, who was French by birth, left all her assets to the Aga Khan Foundation when she died. She bequeathed to the organisation very considerable sums to be used in areas of most critical need, for example to support the most underprivileged populations.
The above should be included in the Today's History page!
Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan (1906 - 2000), philanthropist and fourth wife of Aga Khan III
I grew up in an Ismaili community so we followed the Aga Khan. I always remember people talking about his French wife, Begum Om Habibeh (originally Yvette Blanche), with great compassion.
They came to my parent's wedding in Calcutta -- she was wearing a sari and a mink. I had never seen anyone wear a mink before.
It is extraordinary that a glamorous European woman managed to integrate so well into Ismaili society-- she had such an empathy with the community.
She was an unlikely national treasure but we loved her like Britain loves Kate Middleton -- she was always out in the community helping the poor and elderly and would relentlessly encourage education for women.
Her legacy remains in the Om Habibeh Foundation, whose programs have contributed to health, education and inclusion in some of the poorest areas of Egypt, where her and the Aga Khan are buried.
Yvonne Blanche Labrousse est née le 15 février à Sète. Elle habite alors à Oullins, rue de la gare. Son père Adrien est chauffeur de tramway (il décèdera chez sa fille en 1969, conseiller municipal du Canet) ; sa mère Marie Bouet est couturière. En 1929 cette jolie brune est élue Miss Lyon et l’année suivante Miss France à Paris. Elle part à travers le monde représenter la France et on la remarque du haut de ses 1m80. Huit ans plus tard, au Caire, lors d’une réception dans une ambassade, elle rencontre l’Aga Khan III qu’elle épousera en 1944 à Vevey en Suisse. Pour pouvoir se marier, elle se convertira à l’islam sous le nom de Om Habibeh et deviendra alors la Bégum des ismaéliens.
Yvette Labrousse en 1930
Aga Khan n’en n’est pas à son premier mariage : En 1896 il avait épousé sa cousine, puis en 1908 Cleope Teresa Magliano, une danseuse de l’opéra de Monte-Carlo, et en 1929 à Aix-les-Bains Andrée Joséphine Carron. Yvonne sera enfin la bonne épouse. Elle ne va pas passer inaperçue : Louise de Vilmorin dira d’elle « Elle est très grande. Elle sera très bien comme point de repère sur un champ de courses »… Effectivement on la verra souvent sur les hippodromes, de même que dans les opérations caritatives à Monaco et à Paris.
En 1945 le couple s’installe au Cannet dans la somptueuse propriété « Yakymour ». L’hiver ils sont à Assouan sur les bords du Nil, et voyagent en Inde, au Pakistan, en Afrique là où se rassemblent les ismaéliens. En effet chaque année les fidèles offrent à l’Aga Kahan son poids en or, argent et diamant (il pèse 109 kg) ; il est l’imam le plus riche du monde. Cela jouera un mauvais tour au couple : le 3 août 1949, à midi, ils partent à bord de leur Cadillac du Cannet pour se rendre à l’aéroport ; trois hommes masqués s’approchent et s’emparent du coffre à bijoux où se trouvait un diamant de 22 carats. Le montant du vol fut estimé à 213 millions de francs. Ce serait ce vol qui aurait inspiré Hergé pour « les bijoux de la Castatfiore ».
L’Aga Khan décède en 1957. La Bégum va lui faire construire un mausolée sur les bords du Nil ; elle se retrouve veuve à 53 ans (ils avaient 30 ans d’écart).
Elle passera ensuite sa vie à s’occuper d’actions charitables depuis la Côte d’Azur, surtout pour les problèmes sociaux en Egypte, mais s’intéressera également à la peinture et à la sculpture. Miss France s’éteindra le 1er juillet 2000 à l’âge de 94 ans. Elle aurait donné plus de 10 millions de francs à la commune. Une statue de la princesse en bronze, grandeur nature, a été installée au Cannet, de son vivant.
Below is the extract from Willi Frischauer's The Aga Khans about the funeral of MSMS.
"At Aswan, Prince Karim first went to the Begum's house, where the body of his grandfather was lying in state, and discussed with her the next day's funeral arrangements and the part of the mourners in the ceremony. Muslim tradition required it to be an all-male affair with the ladies remaining in the background: 'According to our custom,' said Mr Zulfikarali C. Valiani, who helped to make the arrangements, 'the men would assemble in one tent while the ladies would be in another tent. . . .'
At twelve-thirty p.m. on the day of the funeral, Prince Karim, accompanied by the Mir of Hunza, Sir Eboo Pirbhai, Mr Amirali Fancy and other Ismaili dignitaries, went to the local mosque for Friday prayers. The funeral procession formed at three p.m. In Aly's absence, the three nearest male relatives—Karim, Amyn, Sadruddin—and the late Aga's long-serving old valet, Solomon Bandely, carried the coffin on the last stage to the fortress-like Mausoleum on the hill overlooking the Nile. As the procession passed the ladies' tent, the Begum emerged. Dressed in a white sari and accompanied by a friend and a maid, she followed the cortege, a break with Muslim custom. The young Imam showed no sign of
his disapproval, and did not utter a word. But when the funeral was over, the coolness between him and the Begum was evident. The Imam of the time had been publicly defied by the widow of his predecessor. The incident caused a rift which was not healed for several years. It certainly put an end to any notion of Prince Karim accepting guidance from the Begum—or anyone else for that matter.
He was Imam in his own right.
As if to underline her own right, the Begum at the head of a large retinue of women paid another visit to the Mausoleum a few weeks later. To reporters she talked with some bitterness about the Aswan incident: 'Prince Karim did not want me to follow the procession on the grounds of Ismaili rites,' she said. ' If I went to the Mausoleum contrary to his wishes, it was only because I was tired and did not want to wait for hours in the gilded armchair in which I was to sit.' Members of her late husband's family, she added, did not speak to her and left the day after the ceremony without taking leave of her: I know that Prince Karim does not have the slightest intention of following his grandfather's wishes so far as I am concerned . . .' Ten years later, when I mentioned the incident, the Aga Khan dismissed it as a minor misunderstanding about religious etiquette which was best forgotten: 'The Begum is European . . . ' was all he said by way of explanation."
Do you think from the above that the Begum could have been a murid of the Imam at that time?
Please make note of few sentences in above paragraph.
1.But when the funeral was over, the coolness between him and abd the begum was evident.
2.The Imam of the time had been publicly defied by the widow of his predecessor.
3.The incident caused a rift which was not healed for several years.
4.It certainly put an end to any notion of Prince Karim accepting guidance from the begum.
5.To reporters she talked with some bitterness about Aswan incident.
6. Members of her late husband,s family, she added , did not speak to her and left the day after the ceremony.
7. I know that Prince Karim does not have the slightest intention of following his grand father's wishes so far I am concerned.
You can feel the bitterness on both sides.
Imam orders his followers and not non Ismailis.
The Imam did not order anyone. He expressed his wish. Mata Salamat said:
'Prince Karim did not want me to follow the procession on the grounds of Ismaili rites,' she said. ' If I went to the Mausoleum contrary to his wishes, it was only because I was tired and did not want to wait for hours in the gilded armchair in which I was to sit.'
There is a big difference between an order and a wish.
In his will MSMS desired (not ordered) that the Begum guide the Imam. Do you think that the Imam would desire his murid to guide the Imam?
"I DESIRE that my successor shall during the first seven years of his Imamate be guided on questions of general Imamate policy by my said wife YVETTE called YVE BLANCHE LABROUSSE, the Begum Aga Khan, who has been familiar for many years with the problems facing my followers and in whose wise judgement I place the greatest confidence."
. . .'
The Imam never followed that desire of MSMS as per Willi Frischauer.
Yvette ‘Yvonne’ Blanche Labrousse born, in 1906, of a father who was a tramway driver and a town councillor for Le Cannet, and a mother who was a seamstress. Nothing in her modest upbringing told anything of the glorious destiny that was to be hers.
Yvette Labrousse (Click photo to enlarge)
Today, 110 years ago, Yvette Labrousse was born Yvonne Blanch Labrousse in the small town of Sète, near Marseilles, France, on 15 February 1906. She was the daughter of Adrien Labrousse and Marie Brouet, a seamstress. When she was only six months old her family soon move to Cannes, where they lived in a flat in the Rue d’Antibes, and later on to Lyon where the young Yvette spent most of her childhood.
Yvette Labrousse (Click photo to enlarge)
Yvette grew up tall, more than six feet, and vèry beautiful. Having stricktly raised, however, she showed no disposition to accept the film and modelling offers that cameher way, instead, she went to work with her mother, who was running a dress shop that time. She always told that her parents were very warm, kind and always openminded.
Yvette Labrousse (Click photo to enlarge)
After being elected Miss Lyon in 1929, then Miss France in Paris in 1930, she joined the Miss Europe 1930 pageant in Paris, at the Paris Opera. The streets outside the hall were packed with people eager to see the beautiful participants from all over Europe… It was one of the most talked about events in the press.
Miss France, Yvette Labrousse, she was always full of great story’s about ‘her time’ as Miss France, about the girls, the fashion of that time, the make-up and the travels (Click photo to enlarge).
Yet Yvette Labrousse was no longer a provincial. As a beauty queen and a representatieve of France, she traveled to many countries around the world. She found herself particulary taken by Egypt and, in the late thirdies she moved to Egypt.
Yvette Labrousse, Paris, 1930’s
She started to travel around the world and settled in Cairo. There Yvette Labrousse met her future husband, the Sultan Aga Khan III, 48th Imam of the Nizari Shia Ismaili community, and they fell in love at first sight when they met at a royal dancing party in Egypt in 1938. They married thirteen months after the Aga Khan III and his third wife were divorcedby mutual consent, on 9 October 1944 in Switzerland. Then she took the name of Om Habibeh (Little Mother of the Beloved) and became Begum, fully Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan. In 1954, Om Habibeh was given the title of ‘Mata Salamat’, which literally means serene or peaceful mother. She was the foutyh woman in Islamic history with that title!
I have at last been granted the real and wonderful haven of finding in and with my wife a true union of mind and soul
Sir Sultan Mohammed Shah, Aga Khan III, in his Memoirs ‘World Enough & Time’, page 275
They settled in the Avenue Victoria villa at Le Cannet, in the hills above Cannes, on a hillside wich she had once looked on to from the flat in the Rue d’Antibes, for which planning permission applications had been submitted in 1937. They named it Yakymour: Y for Yvette, ak for Aga Khan, mour for amour. The French word for love. As is clear from such indications , the couple was very close and the two loved each other dearly.
Yakymour, Le Cannet, France
Within this property surrounded by parkland, Her Higness La Bégum used to assemble the members of the Cannes film festival jury, and many national and international movie stars. Some of them became friends for live. She wasn’t only Kees van Dongen’s muse, but with her husband’s encouragement, she also developed an active interest in painting and sculpture, herself becoming an accomplished artist and sculptor. She was also interested in the arts including classical music, opera and ballet.
She rarely left his side, and nursed him devotedly through the pains of old age until his death in 1957. But her duty was also a delight. She never ceased to be grateful for the manner in which he had widened her horizons, especially in music and in the arts. “Enjoy yourself”, he told her. Ït’s later then you think”.
Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan by
Before his death, the Aga Khan III chose a location on the on the West Bank of the Nile as his final resting place. The location was highly symbolic, for centuries earlier the Aga Khan’s ancestors had founded the Fatimid dynasty with its capital in Cairo. The Fatimids represented one of the apogees of culture, being patrons of the arts, liteature, achitecture, pluralism (the acceptance of racial, ethnic, cultural and intra-religious differences) and scientific endeavors, all fields that were equally dear to the Aga Khan III an Om Habibeh. The Begum was very supportive of her husband in his work during their thirteen years together. They both took a particular interest in issues affecting women’s welfare.
When her husband died in 1957, he had stated in his will that his successor, his grandson Karim, would have Om Habibeh as advisor for the first seven years of his reign. because she had been familiar for many years with the issues facing his followers and he had the confidence in her wise judgment. Immediatly, with the help of architect Farid El-Shafie and contractor Hassan Dorra, Om Habibeh started building at Aswan, on top of the hill above there house, a mausoleum to her husband, a task that took 16 months.
Her gesture of daily placing a red rose on her husband’s tomb while in Egypt (every day for 43 years, either the Begum or when she was away in Europe, Sheikh Ahmed Ibrahim, whom she hired in 1963 to spend eight hours a day chanting verses from the Koran over her late husband’s tomb, laid a fresh red rose there) enforced the reputation of the legendary romance between the Aga Khan III and Om Habebeh. After the death of her husband, she continued to live at Yakymour, though she always spent three months a year in the villa at Aswan, the site of her husband’s mausoleum.
Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan
As a widow, she travelled widely both for charity and for pleasure. She was a regular face at Ascot (she herself owned several horses), where she always caught the eye. In the 1950’s and 60’s she was a true fashion icon, and was a countless times on the cover of big magazines. Her advice on fashion was typically sensible: “Don’t choose what you like, but what suits you. To be elegant one must have discretion. The secret is in the details”. Often she was sitting front-row at the Paris fashion shows from Christian Dior, Lanvin, Jaques Faith and many others
Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan by Gyenes
She was dearly loved by her people because of her generosity to the poor, childern, women and the elderly, and, by her own husband as well. She had a big heart for everybody. Also for people outside the Shia Ismaili community. No matter what kind of religion, man or women, or even sexual oriantation, she was véry openminded, Yakymour and Nour el-Salam were both an open house.
She also loved annimals a lot. Over the years she had several dogs and cats. ‘Every person and every animal should be loved, we are all creations from Allah. When a person is not good for animals, he can not be good to humans’. ‘We should take care of eachother, everybody should be loved!, We are here on earth to do good, and not to harm or judge people, so lets love’…. And that’s what she did!
It was not in her nature either to forget, or to try to hide, her humble orgins. Her legacy remains in the Om Habibeh Foundation, whose programs have contributed to health, education and inclusion in some of the poorest areas of Egypt
Beauty was not only on the outside. It came from the heart. Highly popular, Her Highness La Bégum showed great generosity throughout her life. She made many donations to schools (‘education is the most impotant thing in life after being loved’ and ‘The highest result of education is tolerance’ she always said) and hospitals. But also donations to women’s shelters, Alzheimer foundation, and… Aids foundation.
Over four decades of widowhood (she never thought of remarrying) she was always out in the community helping the poor and elderly and would relentlessly encourage education for women. For over forty years, banquets were offered to the town’s elderly inhabitants. The Begum also ran a charitable foundation, the Om Habibeh Foundation, which tackled poverty in Aswan, Egypt, where she inherited her husband’s villa by the Nile. At home in Le Cannet, she established a home for the elderly. It was not in her nature either to forget, or to try to hide, her humble origins. In the last years of her life, she made an outstanding donation to the town, enabling it to renew its school property.
Begum Om Habibeh, Le Cannet, Jardin Des Oliviers, Avenue Thiers, Le Cannet, 1997
She also contributed to the creation of the Jardin des Oliviers, for which the town showed its gratitude by erecting a bronze statue by Charles-Louis La Salle, unveiled by the mayor of Le Cannet Rocheville, in her image. She last appeared in public for the inauguration of this garden in 1997. She was also vèry happy that she could be present at the wedding of Princess Zahra Aga Khan with the businessman Mark Boyden, June 21, 1997 in Paris.
Le Cannet, Le Jardin Des Oliviers, Avenue Thiers, bronze statue of Om Habibeh by Charles-Louis La Salle
Before her death, the late Begum arranged for Yakymour, the home of which she and her husband were so fond, to be retained for use by the Aga Khan family. She also planned that a large part of her estate be donated to two foundations closely associated with the family: The Aga Khan Foundation, Geneva, a non-profit organisation established by the current Aga Khan in 1967, which oversees and supports major international programmes in health, education and rural development, in some of the poorest regions of Asia and Africa, and the Bellerive Foundation in Geneva, established by Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan in 1977, which is devoted to the protection of the environment, conservation of natural resources and the safeguarding of human and animal rights.
There was no doubting her enduring devotion. “Now all I have left to hope for”, she said shortly before her death, “is that Allah will take me to his side”. Begum Om Habibeh ‘Mata Salamat’ aka Yvette Labrousse died on 1 July 2000, in Le Cannet, near Cannes, at the age of 94 years, and is buried next to her beloved husband at the Aga Khan’s sandstone mausoleum in Aswan. The couple had no children. She was survived by her stepson, Sadruddin Aga Khan, and three step-grandchildren, Karim Aga Khan the current Aga Khan, Amyn Aga Khan and Yasmin Aga Khan, who are the children of the late Prince Aly Khan, who died in 1960 and who was the eldest son of the late Aga Khan.
The jamat will recall with fondness and affection her support for the work of My late beloved grandfather, and also her devoted care and attention to Him particularly in the later years of His life. Throughout her lifetime Mata Salamat retained an abiding interest to the progress and well-being of the jamat world-wide
Mawlânâ Hazar Imam Karim Aga Khan IV
She has now been reunited with her husband, who has been resting, since 1957, in a mausoleum built on their Nour es-Salam property, near the river Nile, in Aswan, Egypt. ‘Till today she is very respected and loved. For her eternal love, her honesty, her help (she hated the word ‘charity’!) and being só openminded…..
by Jean Amr
The Om Habibeh Foundation was established by the Aga Khan’s late step-grandmother, Om Habibeh, the Begum Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan. It is an Egyptian, not-for-profit organisation of long-standing that has been contributing to, and supporting, a number of institutions, in the Aswan area, which are involved in healthcare, education and income generation for disadvantaged communities. The Foundation draws on the support and technical expertise of the agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network to advance the newly announced initiatives.
The Aga Khan Foundation
For more information:
Aga Khan Foundation
Tel. +20 (22) 506 1570
56 project submissions for Om Habibeh Foundation’s first entrepreneurship competition in Aswan
10 winners will be announced early November 2018
The Om Habibeh Foundation revealed in press statement that the business projects that were selected to participate in the first business entrepreneurship competition, is organised by the Aswan Skills Development Programme, and implemented by the Om Habibeh Foundation, in cooperation with the Aga Khan Foundation and Global Affairs Canada.
This competition is one of the activities within the ASDP’s entrepreneurship fields which primarily focuses on spreading the entrepreneurship culture, and empowering young innovators and entrepreneurs from Aswan in various fields.
The competition was attended by selected experts and those interested in entrepreneurship and youth empowerment in the governorate of Aswan.
The number of projects submitted for the first competition reached 56 projects competing for the prizes.
The projects submitted by the young entrepreneurs in Aswan will be subject to arbitration by a special jury committee, where the entrepreneurs will present their business projects during the semi-finals, before the selection of the winning projects. The 10 winning projects will be announced in early November 2018.
The total value of prizes offered by the Om Habibeh Foundation, in cooperation with the Aga Khan Development Network and Global Affairs Canada is EGP 1m, with the value of prizes ranging from EGP 10,000 to EGP 100,000 per project.
Meanwhile, the foundation revealed in press statement that it plans to organize the second competition for entrepreneurs in Aswan during the first quarter of 2019, noting that all the application details will be announced after declaring the first competition’s winners.
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