Imam Aqa Ali Shah, Aga Khan II, improved educational opportunities in the Indian subcontinent

The forty-seventh Nizari Imam Aqa Ali Shah was born in 1830 in Mahallat (Persia). He spent some of his early years in Iraq where he studied Arabic and Persian. During his father’s Imamat, he travelled to Bombay (now Mumbai), where he worked with the Khoja communities in Sindh (Karachi) and Gujarat (Kathiawar). Soon after his succession to the Imamat in 1881, he was appointed to the Bombay Legislative Council, a body responsible for governing the region, and was elected to the presidency of the Muhammadan National Association, an organization founded to reform societal issues. Through this and other similar associations, Imam Aqa Ali Shah worked to improve the educational opportunities for Muslims in the Indian subcontinent.

He also established schools for Ismailis in the subcontinent and began to connect with Ismaili communities outside the region, especially those settled in Burma, East Africa, Afghanistan, and Central Asia. As a result of Imam’s policies as well as the growing prosperity of the Nizari Khoja community, Imam earned prestige among the Muslim community. He was elected president of Muhammadan National Association, promoting educational and philanthropic activities for the benefit of all residents.

Imam Aqa Ali Shah also made a special effort to collect and record Ginans, assigning the task to a small group of Indian Nizari Ismailis to acquire the manuscripts. Originally the Ginans were transmitted orally, but were written down during the sixteenth century. The authorship of the Ginans of is attributed to various Pirs whose activities in the Indian subcontinent began around the thirteenth century.

Imam Aqa Ali Shah died in 1885 and was buried in the family mausoleum in Najaf, Iraq.

Dr Farhad Daftary, The Imailis Their history and doctrines, Cambridge University Press, 1992
Dr Farhad Daftary, Dr Zulfikar Hirji, The Ismailis: An Illustrated History Azimuth Editions, 2008

Research by Nimira Dewji

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