Posted: Mon Aug 14, 2006 5:26 am Post subject: The Aga Khan and Pakistan
The Aga Khan and Pakistan
By Khwaja Hussain Bux
Sir Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan III was one of those Muslim stalwarts who believed in Islam as a world religion, and who worked ceaselessly for its triumph and glory throughout their lives. In the struggle for independence of the Indo-Pakistan Sub-continent, he was seen to be in the forefront.
Politics doubtless was his field of action; but his thoughts were basically devoted to the educational advancement of the Muslims. Within the Sub-continent or abroad, in fact wherever he had influence, he aired his thoughts and never for once did he ever lose sight of the educational needs of the Muslims. Health also was one of the subjects which received his attention, and we see that establishments which he founded in several countries include, by and large, institutions for educational advancement as well as benefits.
Aga Khan was born on November 02, 1877 at Karachi He lived a full life of 80 years and contributed his best for the betterment of the Indian Muslims and the humanity at large. No other leader of Muslim India exercised as much influence as the late Aga Khan did on the international affairs of his times. His activities and interest covered a wide field, including social, welfare, education, health, politics and religion and in every sphere he has left deep impressions. Sir Theodore Morison had once said, “I am hopeful that during the next half century, The Aga Khan will play that part in directing the destinies of the world of Islam for which his position and abilities so eminently qualify him.” His position in life and his influence with many outstanding figures of international contemporary scene have succeeded in leaving a legendary memory of his life and work.
Lloyd George said that the Aga Khan was one of the most informed men he had ever met. His general information was astonishing. He was extraordinary well read and possessed an intimae acquaintance with international affairs in all part of the world. He was widely traveled and was always running round the capitals of Europe, in all of which he had influential intimates. His means of information were remarkable. He seemed to have touched upon all branches of literature and to be -versed in science altogether a very extraordinary person.Through his intimate knowledge of eastern as western cultures, he was uniquely placed to play a significant role in the international affairs of his time and his long public career had many dimensions.
Sir Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan III played a pivotal role in making Pakistan Movement a success by inculcating political awareness among the Muslims of the Sub-Continent. He strived hard for cultural renaissance, social regeneration and political rehabilitation of the Muslims. He rendered invaluable services and worked in league with other Muslim leaders to further the cause of Muslim identity by constitutional means. He was elected first president of Muslim League mainly due to his political acumen and sincerity to the noble cause of Muslims. He contributed vast amounts of his personal wealth and energy into making the dream of Pakistan come true. His invaluable contacts with heads of states and the international elite helped gather world support for the Muslims of Sub-Continent. His elder son Prince Aly S. Khan served as the Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
HRH Sir Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan III soon realized that the main cause of the political backwardness of the Muslims was due to their neglect of education, and to spread education among Muslims became the most important part of his life’s mission. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan had started the great Aligarh Movement, and in it, the Aga Khan believed, lay the salvation of the future of Muslims.
In 1902, because of devoted services to the cause of Muslim education, Sir Sultan Mohamed Shah became a member of the Imperial Legislative Council and he was asked to preside over the Mohammadan Education Conference being held in Delhi. In his presidential address he said that the clearest way, by which the decay of political power of the Muslims in India could be halted, was by laying the foundation of a great Central Muslim University at Aligarh. “We want to create for our people an intellectual capital- that shall be a home of elevated ideas and high ideals, a centre from which light and guidance shall be diffused amongst the Muslims of India and out of India too, and shall hold up to the world model standard of justice and virtue and purity of our beloved faith.”
In 1911, The Aga Khan took upon himself the task of collecting funds to start the Aligarh University. A year earlier in reply to an address of welcome by the trustees of the Mohammadan Anglo Oriental College (M.A.O), he had said that he would undertake the responsibility to “build a mighty university worthy of Islam in India.” He increased the annual grant that he had been giving to the collage for the last many years, and promised to contribute a substantial amount to the university funds. He donated money in cash for scholarships to the most deserving students for foreign studies, which the trustees named “Aga Khan Foreign Scholarship.”
The committee that was constituted in 1911 for collecting funds for the University had the Aga Khan as its Chairman. “As a mendicant I am now going out to beg from house to house and from street to street fro the children of Muslim India.”
A year earlier, in reply to an address of welcome by the trustees of the Mohammadan Anglo Oriental College, he had said that he would undertake the responsibility to “build a mighty university worthy of Islam in India”.
While addressing a gathering to collect funds for Aligarh University, people rushed to the dais to lift him on their shoulders in demonstration of their gratitude. “Among the foremost, giving vent to their adoration were young men whose names later became famous in Muslim India, men like the great poet Allama Iqbal and Dr. Ziauddin.” (H.R.H Prince Aga Khan: Qayyum A. Malik pg.63).
He announced a personal donation of rupees one hundred thousand, and the committee headed by him, and with Maulana Shaukat Ali as his secretary, visited many cities of India, collecting funds for the University. Where ever they went, they received spontaneous and tumultuous welcome from the Muslims. His untiring efforts bore fruit, and he was able to collect rupees three million for the University, and thus came to be laid the foundation for the future Aligarh University,“The Aligarh University will remain a living monument to Prince Aga Khan’s educational activities in the interest of Islam. One may very well assert that without him, the Mohammadan Anglo Oriental (M.A.O.) College at Aligarh would never have evolved into a Muslim University, and there would have been no adequate means of maintaining Islamic Culture in India.” Later on Sir Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan III became the first Chancellor of Aligarh University.
He extended his valuable financial and moral support to the Aligarh Muslim University at its nascent stage. Paying tributes to the splendid work accomplished by Sir Aga Khan for the establishment of the Aligarh Muslim University, the noted writer of “Seerat-Un-Nabi” Maulana Shibli Nomani once wrote, “That which could not be achieved by six crore (60 Million) Muslims, was accomplish by Prince Aga Khan.
When the Aga Khan visited Aligarh in 1936, Dr. Ziaduddin, the Vice Chancellor, in his welcome address said’ “It must be a matter of real satisfaction to Your Highness that most of the expansion and development of the University are in a large measure due to Your Highness’ patronage and active support." The great founder of this institution, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan had expressed the hope that this institution would develop into a University, but the realization of the founder’s dream is precisely due to Your Highness, who worked for it with the zeal of a missionary, Your Highness’ stupendous efforts that we have since been able to realize a sum of seventy lakh (seven million) from various sources, and by care-fully handling this amount we have been able to build up several important departments of our University.”
In a reminiscent mood, the Aga Khan, recalling his speech delivered at Aligarh some fifty years ago, wrote, “The aspiration which I cherished from the outset on behalf of Aligarh, I have been happy to live to see fulfilled.” (The Memoirs of Aga Khan).The Muslim League, which created the State of Pakistan, was founded in 1906 by the untiring efforts of His Highness Aga Khan III, who remained the organisation’s first President for 6 years, from 1906 to 1913.
On October 01, 1906 His Highness Sir Sultan Mohamed Shah the Aga Khan III led a distinguished delegation of 35 leading Muslims of India to Shimla and presented a memorandum on behalf of the Muslims of the Sub-Continent. He presented an address to the Viceroy wherein it was clearly defined that:
“Muslims of India should not be regarded as a mere minority community 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).
-It must be noted here that work of the deputation led by the Aga Khan bore fruit, and in the Morley-Minto Reforms of 1909 it was conceded that Muslims should henceforth be elected on the basis of separate electorates.
-The principle of separate electorates having been accepted, the demand for a separate homeland for Muslims as a separate nation was to become inevitable in the course of time.
-As a result of Shimla Deputation, a movement towards establishing a Muslim political organization developed, and within three months All-India Muslim League was formed in Dhaka which ultimately created Pakistan. He also played a historic role, as a delegate to the Round Table Conferences convened by the British Government in London in the 1930s.
The years after World War I had ushered in a new era in the field of political awakening among Indians, and by 1930 a stage had been reached when Britain realized that she must concede to India a large measure of political reforms, in order to keep her as a willing partner in the British Empire. To this end the first Round Table Conference was summoned in London and its first sitting took place on 12th November, 1930. The Congress boycotted it, while the other communities of India were represented by delegates selected by the British, among the Muslim leaders being Quaid-e-Azam, the Aga Khan, Sir Mohamed Shafi, Maulana Mohamed Ali and Maulan Fazlul Huq. The entire British Indian delegation, comprising representatives of all communities and parties, elected the Aga Khan as their leader and spokesman, an honour that also fell to his lot at the time of the Second Round Table Conference and the Joint Select Committee.
“At the Round Table Conference, the Muslim leadership was entrusted to His Highness the Aga Khan. He performed his duty remarkably well, and with his suavity of manners and tact, and general attitude of helpfulness kept the Muslim team solidly together-which was an invisible contrast to the many and discordant voices, which spoke from the other camp.” (Makers of Pakistan: Al Biruni p.207)
The Congress sent Gandhi as their sole representative to the Second Round Table Conference. During all these protected deliberations, the Aga Khan rose to great heights as a political leader of consummate skill, a patient and skilful negotiator, and a gifted and far-sighted statesman. Commenting on his work as the leader of the Muslims at the Round Table Conference, Dr. Shafat Ahmed Khan wrote in 1932, “The Aga Khan is the greatest Muslim leader in Asia.”
On 15th December, 1932, the National League held a meeting in London in Committee Room No. 10 of the Parliament building. In this meeting Allama Iqbal, speaking on the role of the Aga Khan at the Round Table Conference, said, “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 the veins.” (Letters and Writings of Iqbal: B.A Dar, Iqbal Academy, Karachi 1967, p. 72)
On 26th November, 1933, the annual session of the Muslim League, meeting in Delhi, considered a letter of some Muslims leaders of the Punjab addressed to its President, suggesting that a convention of all Muslim leaders be held, with the help of Quaid-e-Azam and His Highness who were about to come to India from England. It was resolved. “That advantage should be taken of the expected presence in this country of H.H. the Aga Khan and Mr. M.A Jinnah to hold a convention at some suitable place for the purpose of bringing about unity and to accept at, all times and under all circumstances, the guidance and advice of such renowned and trusted leaders of the country as the two above named gentlemen, and authorizes the Council to take such steps in this direction as may be possible and desirable in consultation with H.H the Aga Khan and Mr. M.A Jinnah.”
Before the conquest of Sindh by the British, Sindh constituted a separate political entity, with Muslims having a preponderant proportion of population in that province. But, to suit their own imperial designs in India, the British ceded Sindh to the then Bombay Presidency, making Sindh a dependency of Bombay for administrative and development purposes. To the rulers in Bombay, wherein the Legislative Assembly Sindh was inadequately represented, the interests of Sindh were either subordinated to those of Bombay or were completely overlooked. Progressive deterioration set in all spheres of life in Sindh, where education, economic prosperity, and social welfare were low ebb, particularly among the Muslims of Sindh.
The state of affairs pricked the political conscience of the Muslims of Sindh, and soon voices were heard, muffled at first, bur more voluble and determined with the passage of time, demanding the separation of Sindh from Bombay. The Hindus of Sindh, ably supported by their co-religionists of other provinces of India, opposed this just demand of Sindh. The outcome of this was that separation of Sindh from Bombay became always a point of debate and disagreement between the Hindus and the Muslims, between the point of debate and disagreement between the Hindus and Muslims, between the Congress and the Muslim League, throughout all the political landmarks in the field of political reconciliation between the two nations, in the decade and a half, 1920 to 1935.
His Highness the Aga Khan III was the representative for India in the Disarmament Conference as well as in the League of Nations and in 1937 he was unanimously elected as the Chairman of League of Nations (Now United Nations Organisation). It was due to his special efforts that the membership of the League of Nations was accorded to Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan and Egypt. Due to His Highness’ Services to many a Muslim land, countries like Turkey, Iran, Syria and Indonesia awarded him innumerable high titles in gratitude.
His Highness Sir Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan III has been the patron of the Muslims of East Africa in their religious, educational and in their social and material progress. He appealed to the Muslims of East Africa to struggle untidily for their progress forgetting their differences of colour and caste. He urged the Muslims to unite the Africans, Arabs, Somalis and Swhahilis for the defence of Islam.
In order that women make progress and came forward in society, His Highness gave a significant guidance in this field. He pointed out in one message, “No person with progressive views today can dare challenge the fact that only such nations can achieve not curtail the rights of women with narrow-mindedness and false barriers.”
His Highness Aga Khan III established Education and Health institutions in the Sub Continent and annual grant of millions of rupees was being given by him. All the institutions such as Maternity Homes, Hospitals, Schools, Hostels and other philanthropic institutions were all due to the efforts and blessings of His Highness Aga Khan III.
-These institutions are not only being maintained but tremendously expanded and developed to the international level by the present Aga Khan Prince Karim.
-Today, the network of Aga Khan Education and health institutions are spread all over Pakistan and these services are open to all and sundry without any discrimination of creed, caste, color, language, race or religion.
-Any student if otherwise qualified can get the admission in any of the Aga Khan educational institutions. Similarly any patient can avail of the facilities provided by the Aga Khan Health institutions.
In 1928 the Muslims of India stood at the crossroads of history. The unity forged by Muslim stalwarts had been broken, and two warring parties came to the forefront, each claiming to speak on behalf of the Muslims of India. The situation was fraught with dangerous and far-reaching consequences. Frantic telegrams were sent to the Aga Khan, who was sick in bed, but he could not refuse to do his duty and so in December 1928, he rushed back to India from Europe. The All-Parties Muslim Conference met in Delhi on 1st January, 1929 with the Aga Khan in the chair. The All-Parties Muslim Conference was probably the most representative, Muslims gathering since the Shimla Deputation and included the representatives amongst others, of the Khilafat Conference, the Jamiat-ul-Ulema, and the All India Muslim League (Makers of Pakistan: Al Biruni. P.206)
In his presidential address the Aga Khan advised Muslim league to close their ranks, to sink their differences, and join hands in the cause of protecting the interests of their country. He said, “India as a whole cannot be a prosperous or self-governing country, if such a large and important section to the community as the Muslims remain in doubt as to whether their cultural entity is safe or not….you must avoid forcing your own preferences, when they clash with what we believe to be the real wishes of the mass of our people…. I can safely say that the overwhelming majority of India is determined to maintain their cultural unity and remain culturally interrelated with the Muslims of the world.”
The Armistice, terminating the First World War, was signed in 1918, and it was evident that not only Turkey but some other Muslim states were threatened with dismemberment. The Aga Khan, realizing this threat to Islam, did everything in his power to arrest this disaster. “The part he played at this most critical juncture in the history of Europe as a champion of peace and of the Islamic States drew by his great courage and independence the admiration of right thinking men.” (The Aga Khan and his Ancestors)
The Aga Khan had established that he was among the foremost fighters for the cause of the Muslims of India and the world. His efforts continued unabated to prevent the recurrence of a second war with Turkey, and this won him the admiration of Muslim India. At this period of history, the Aga Khan was in the forefront of all causes that championed the claims of sovereignty of Muslim countries. He believed that the Muslims of world was bound by a common bond of brotherhood, and that they must help one another in case of need and difficulty.
In short, His Highness Sir Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan III had championed the cause of Muslims of the world throughout his life. He was totally dedicated to Islam - in mind, body and soul. This extraordinary personality of the Muslim world passed his last days in his Villa Barakat, at Varsoix on the lake of Geneva and breathed his last on July 11, 1957 and was laid to eternal rest at Aswan in Egypt.
We can pay real tribute to the memory of this great leader of the Muslim world by making Pakistan stronger and prosperous. In one of his messages he had described Pakistan as the rising star of Islam and considered the future of the country as bright. He had invoked the young nation to forge closer unity and eschew internal violence. Let us live up to his ideals and convert Pakistan into a fortress of Islam. This we can ensure only by defending the ideological frontiers of this country and by evolving a truly Islamic Welfare State free from hunger, poverty and disease. (Article dispatched by Munira Anjani)
Posted: Thu Nov 02, 2006 5:00 am Post subject: Birth anniversary of SSMS -Aga Khan III today
Birth anniversary of Aga Khan III today
KARACHI: His Royal Highness Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan III was born in Karachi on November 2, 1877 and became the 48th Imam and Spiritual Leader of Shia Imami Ismaili Community at the young age of 8 years in 1885, after the sad demise of his father, Aga Ali Shah.
The Ismaili community celebrates his birth anniversary with due respect and fervour. The title of His Highness was bestowed upon him at the age of 9 years. Though politics was one of the fields of action of His Highness Sir Aga Khan but his thoughts were basically devoted to the educational advancement of the Muslims.
He had established network of educational institutions throughout the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent. Even in small villages and far-flung areas of the sub-continent he had established schools.
In 1905 he had opened a school in Gwadar which in those days was a small village of fishermen. Health was also one of the subjects which received his attention and he had opened health institutions like Maternity Homes, Dispensaries etc. in the sub-continent, Africa and other countries wherever he had influence. In 1902, at the age of 25, to commemorate his devoted services to Muslims education, the Viceroy Lord Curzon nominated him as a member of the Imperial Legislative Council and His Highness thus became the youngest member of the Council.
Friday, May 22, 2015
From Print Edition
[Pakistan of the Ismailis] The past is another country, and 1906 is located at a distance of more than a century. In that eventful year, the imam of the small Ismaili Muslim community led the process of forming a political platform for South Asian Muslims at a meeting of the All-India Muhammadan Educational Conference in Dhaka. Sir Sultan Muhammed Shah Aga Khan III suggested the name of the party – All India Muslim League – and was elected its first president.
Seven years later, a young Mumbai based lawyer, also belonging to the Ismaili community, left the Indian National Congress and joined the party founded by his spiritual leader. We know how this charismatic lawyer turned the party into the voice of Indian Muslims and changed the course of history by founding a new state 34 years later when he was a terminally ill old man.
Sometime before Jinnah returned triumphantly to the city of his birth as the father of the new nation, some Hindu families in my village in District Muzaffargarh were facing a dilemma. Like hundreds, perhaps thousands of Hindu families in India, they had revered Ismaili imams as their spiritual mentors. Keeping with the tradition of mysticism in India, Aga Khan had never asked them to convert. But these were different times, and Aga Khan had finally ordered them to convert to Islam if they wanted to keep the connection. They found it easier to leave their religion than disobey their spiritual mentor. With the help of local Muslims, they converted to Islam in a simple ceremony held at a Sunni mosque, though they chose to embrace the Ismaili denomination.
As a schoolgoing boy, I would meet some men from these families at the Deobandi Jamia mosque where they used to pray every Friday with other Muslims. Everyone knew that Ismails were required to say their prayers at the largest Muslim mosque in the area if a mosque of their own denomination was not available. These Ismaili families later shifted to Multan where they became part of the thriving Ismaili business community.
Multan, the historic city they shifted to, was itself once a centre of Ismaili dawat (preaching). In fact, Ismailis had set up a Muslim state in the area more than a thousand years ago that was terminated violently in 1010 AD by Mahmud Ghaznavi, revered in our textbooks for desecrating a Hindu temple. One of the major shrines in Multan also belongs to a 13th century Ismaili saint, Pir Shams Sabzwari, visited by Muslims of all denominations.
Going back to my own Deobandi mosque, I saw Ismailis praying there till the 1980s, the decade when the Middle East, with its heavy baggage of violent sectarian history, arrived in this part of South Asia. In 1990, a 14-year-old boy killed a crippled Shia worshipper at a Sunni mosque in Muzaffargarh considering his regular presence an abomination for the sacred place. Incidentally, the mosque was built by the Shia owners of a nearby factory.
I went to interview the boy at the district prison. He appeared unrepentant and told me that he was inspired by speeches of a sectarian religious leader based in Jhang. A local lawyer explained to me how leaders of the sectarian organisation patronising the boy had easy access to the district administration and received half a dozen arms licences every day.
Starting its journey as an Islamic state, Pakistan by now had become a sectarian state where Ismailis, along with Shias and non-Muslim minorities, were misfits. Takfiri fatwas, that declare individuals and rival sects to be infidels, are a very old hobby of our religious entities. Some clerics used to call Jinnah Kafir-e-Azam – the Great Infidel – as a retort to his popular title. In the case of Iqbal, clerics had gone much further with Maulvi Abu Muhammad Didar Ali, khateeb of the Wazir Khan mosque in Lahore, issuing a proper fatwa declaring Iqbal an infidel. Interestingly, in the case of His Highness Aga Khan, it was Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who raised the question of him not being a perfect Muslim while Iqbal defended his teachings through an article.
For South Asian Muslims, such confrontations were more of an amusing sideshow, not something that affected their day to day lives. Unlike the Middle East where empires with rival sectarian allegiances had created much bad blood, in South Asia there was enough space for Lal Shahbaz Qalandar to turn himself into an eagle and fly unhindered and for Shah Waliullah to carry out his scholarly work.
What changed things in Pakistan for Ismailis – and for everyone else – was the attitude of the state. Over time, the Pakistani state has assumed a sectarian character and its religious institutions have become blatantly sectarian. Take the example of the so-called International Islamic University in Islamabad. How this university employs followers of one sect and promotes teachings of that specific sect to its students has never been a secret. A recent report of an intelligence agency leaked to the media points out that the university “intentionally promotes sectarian doctrine at its campus”. And we are talking of a state-owned and run ‘premier centre of Islamic learning’ with the president of Pakistan as its chancellor.
On the more practical side, the state has patronised militant jihadi organisations belonging to a small number of sects. Thanks to these organisations, some of whom have fallen from grace while others remain precious assets, the takfiri fatwas are no longer empty edicts; they are backed by the firepower of extremist organisations that can easily cow down state institutions and functionaries. No wonder the attack on Ismailis in Karachi was preceded by a fatwa against the whole denomination from one of the country’s largest and most influential madressahs. The head of the same madressah has also issued a fatwa against a federal minister who has been forced to explain his position like a chastised schoolboy.
Violent extremism is only a fruit of the tree the state itself had planted. Perhaps the biggest challenge of our times is to de-sectarianise the Pakistani state and return it to the joint ownership of all Muslims denominations and followers of other faiths. The way Ismailis have maintained stoic silence over the brutality wreaked on the community says a lot about the environment of fear that surrounds them.
Once upon a time, His Highness Aga Khan and Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah gave voice to the aspirations of all Muslims of South Asia. It is now our turn to speak on behalf of our Ismaili brothers and sisters.
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