11th July 2007 marks a landmark in the history of the Ismaili Muslim community, as this day marks the completion of the 50th year of Imamate of the leader of the Ismaili Muslim community, Prince Karim Aga Khan 1V. He is the current (49th) Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims. His contribution in the field of education, medicine, architecture, social work, institution building, relief work, etc., is spectacular. He always tried to bring the positive image of Islam in front of others. His attractive personality has influenced many Muslim brothers to work for the welfare of the people. He is the direct descendant of Sir Aga Khan 111, whose contribution for the establishment of Pakistan can never be forgotten.
Prince Karim Aga Khan, the Aga Khan IV is the eldest son of Prince Aly Salman Khan and his wife, Princess Tajudowlah. He was born in Geneva, Switzerland on December 13, 1936. His brother name is Prince Amyn, and sister name is Princess Yasmin Aga Khan. The Aga Khan spent his childhood in Nairobi, Kenya, where his early education was done by private tutoring. The Aga Khan later attended the Institute le Rosey in Switzerland. He graduated from Harvard University in 1959 with a BA Honors Degree in Islamic history. As a modern leader of Islam, he always tried to emphasize to improve the lives of the Muslims.
Following the death of his grandfather, Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan, Prince Karim, at the age of 20, became the 49th Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims on 11 July 1957.
Upon becoming the Imam, the Aga Khan stated that he intended to continue the work his grandfather had pursued in building modern institutions to improve the quality of life of the Ismaili community. The main themes that the Aga Khan emphasized are development, education, interracial harmony, and faith in religion. He elaborated on this concept in a 2006 speech in Germany stating,
“The role and responsibility of an Imam, therefore, is both to interpret the faith to the community, and also to do all within his means to improve the quality, and security of their daily lives.” Throughout the early years of his Imamate, the Aga Khan continued his grandfather’s work through the establishment of institutions such as the Aga Khan hospital in Nairobi in 1958, and primary and secondary schools in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda in the 1960s, The Aga Khan Hospital in Pakistan, and numerous educational institutions throughout the world. We can say that he is the leader of a common man. He is the King of the Muslim community. He always work for the betterment of the lives of the people of the third world country.
The Aga Khan has been particularly interested in the elimination of global poverty; eradication of illiteracy; the advancement of the status of women; the promotion of Islamic culture, music, art, and architecture, upgrading the economical status of the third world country, etc.
Prince Aga Khan always believes in building bridges between religions. He always tried to restore peace in the world and brought the positive image of Islam in the modern world.
In 1977, the Aga Khan established the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, a premier award recognizing excellence in architecture that encompasses contemporary design and social, historical, and environmental considerations. It is the largest architectural award in the world.
He is the founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network, one of the largest private development networks in the world, which works towards social, economic, and cultural development in Asia and Africa. The establishment of the AKDN brought under the same umbrella a number of development agencies and institutions that The Aga Khan’s humanitarian endeavors draw inspiration from ethics of compassion, generosity, sincerity, etc.
Few of the agencies of AKDN are as under:
Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance (AAKAM) Aga Khan Education Services (AKES) Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) Aga Khan Health Services (AKHS) Aga Khan Planning and Building Services (AKPBS) Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) Aga Khan University (AKU) The University of Central Asia (UCA) Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS), an affiliate of the AKDN, is responsible handling disasters. Recent example includes the massive earthquake in Pakistan, Oct 8, 2005. Prince Aga Khan team handled the prevailing problematic situation effectively.
He is also the Chairman of The Institute of Ismaili Studies, which he founded in 1977. This institute is one of the best Institutes, where different Islamic degrees programmes for our younger generations are being offered. The objective of IIS is to promote scholarship and learning of Muslim cultures and societies, historical as well as contemporary, and a better understanding of their relationship with other societies and faiths.
The Aga Khan has been recognized by several national and international organizations for his service to humanity. Few of them are as follows:
The Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has awarded him the title of His Highness on July 26, 1957. On August 12, 1957, the Sultan of Zanzibar invested the title of Brilliant Star of Zanzibar. It was his first visit to Pakistan with his wife when the President of Pakistan granted the title of Nishan-e-Imtiaz on January 15, 1970.
The World Monuments Fund honored the Aga Khan IV with its prestigious Hadrian Award for his vigorous and fruitful efforts to preserve and revitalize historic cities in Islamic world on October 28, 1996 at New York.
In 2003, he was named Knight Commander in the Order of the British Empire (KBE) “for services to international development, especially in Asia and Africa, and to UK-French relations.” In 2005, he was awarded the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Philanthropy, the 2005 Die Quadriga and the 2005 Vincent Scully Prize. He was also named Honorary Companion of the Order of Canada. His Highness has been awarded honorary degrees by universities in Pakistan, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. He has also received numerous awards and prizes from various professional organisations in recognition of his work in architecture and the conservation of historic buildings. There are around more than 18 million followers of Prince Aga Khan throughout the world. Whatever he has done for boosting the economy of Pakistan by investing in to various sectors like hotel industry, banking, etc., are laudable. His Highness the Aga Khan donated $50-million to support rehabilitation, socio-economic development, and earthquake-preparedness in areas of the North West Frontier Province and Azad Jammu and Kashmir affected by the 8 October 2005 shock. Prince Aga Khan provided a combination of financial and technical support to the urban and rural communities in high-mountain, seismically sensitive areas in Pakistan, Afghanistan and parts of Central Asia. There are many schools, colleges and universities in Pakistan as well, which were created by him for the development of intellects in Pakistan.
Scholars have called his community, the Shia Ismaili Muslims, the most progressive, organized, schooled and financially well-off sect within Islam.
Today, he is working all over the world to eradicate the social problems. His basic concern is of Muslim brothers and sisters, for whom he works day and night for their upliftment. He is creating a positive image of Islam globally for which we salute him.
He is truly the leader of Islam in this modern world. Wish him a very happy Golden Jubilee.