Imam Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan III succeeded as Imam on August 17, 1885 at the age of 8 years and reigned for 72 years. At the age of 9, he received the honorific title of ‘His Highness’ from Queen Victoria.
Imam’s commitment to the Islamic ideals of the brotherhood of humanity, peace among nations, and respect for human dignity impelled him to be involved as a statesman on the world scene, and was bestowed numerous honours by many countries.
During the early twentieth century, Imam Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah developed organization structures for the Ismaili communities in East Africa and the Indian subcontinent, emphasizing education and involvement in civic duties, founding numerous schools for the education of both girls and boys; these schools were open to everyone.
Upon completion of 60 years as Imam, the Ismaili community commemorated Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah’s Diamond Jubilee by weighing the Imam against diamonds. The first commemoration ceremony took place March 10, 1946 in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, followed by one in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on August 10, 1946.
The value of the diamonds was returned to the community to create trust funds for educational and economic projects. Diamond Jubilee Schools for girls were established throughout the remote Northern Areas of what is now Pakistan. In India, the Diamond Jubilee High School for Girls and Diamond Jubilee High School for Boys, both in Mumbai, and Diamond Jubilee School, Hyderabad were founded.
During his Golden Jubilee visit to India, Mawlana Hazar Imam visited the Diamond Jubilee School in Mumbai, which was established in 1947. Mawlana Hazar Imam had visited the school in 1958. In 2007, it moved to a new site which was inaugurated by Princess Zahra.
In addition, scholarship programmes, established at the time of the Golden Jubilee to give assistance to needy students, were progressively expanded. In East Africa, social welfare and economic development institutions were established including a modern hospital in Nairobi.
Among the economic development institutions established in East Africa were the Diamond Jubilee Investment Trust (now Diamond Trust of Kenya) and the Jubilee Insurance Company, which are quoted on the Nairobi Stock Exchange and have become major players in national development.1
During his Imamat, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah had established over 200 schools, the first in 1909 in Mundra and Gwadur in India and another in Zanzibar, followed by more schools in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, India, Pakistan, and Syria (a number of schools were subsequently nationalised following independence).
These school are now part of the Aga Khan Education Services that currently provides educational programmes for pre-school, primary, secondary, and higher secondary students in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Kenya, the Kyrgyz Republic, Uganda, Tanzania, and Tajikistan.
Farhad Daftary, Zulfikar Hirji, The Ismailis, An Illustrated History, Azmimuth Editions in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London, 2007
Ismaili Mirror, Centennial Issue, November 1977
Ismaili Community, History, Aga Khan Development Network
Aga Khan Education Services
Compiled by Nimira Dewji