Mohammed Wajihuddin: Aga Khan to address 40,000 followers at Mumbai University’s Kalina campus

Mumbai-based Ismailis have produced many eminent citizens like oncologist Dr Sultan Pradhan, business tycoon Azim Premji, banker Nasser Munjee, solicitor Suhail Nathani, bureaucrat Reshma Lakhani and politician Amin Patel and musical duo Salim and Suleiman Merchant. The Aga Khan may take pride in the fact that his followers are doing so well.

Mohammed Wajihuddin: Aga Khan to address 40,000 followers at Mumbai University’s Kalina campusMUMBAI: Fair, tall and fit in a smart suit, the 81-year-old Prince Karim the Aga Khan IV, 49th Imam or spiritual head of the Shia Ismaili Muslims and founder-chairman of Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), looks down benignly from multiple hoardings in Mumbai. The Aga Khan, who is on a 10-day visit to India as part of the diamond jubilee celebrations of his leadership, will on Thursday meet the governor, chief minister, management committee of Mumbai University (MU) and later address around 40,000 followers at MU’s Kalina campus.

Apart from addressing the community, the suave, soft-spoken Paris-based Imam may also recall the bond the Shia Ismaili Imamat has maintained with Mumbai for centuries.

While Shia Ismaili Imams trace their origins to Hazrat Ali, the Prophet’s son-in-law and first Imam of Shiism, it was Hasan Ali Shah, the 46th Imam of the Ismailis who became the Aga Khan I in 1817 after he married the then Shah of Iran Fatehali Shah Kachar’s daughter and the Shah bestowed the title Aga Khan (commanding chief) on him. The Aga Khan I emigrated to India in the early 1840s and settled in Mumbai (then Bombay) in 1848 and for nearly a century, the Imamat remained here till Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah the Aga Khan III the current Aga Khan’s grandfather moved to Europe, where he died on July 11, 1957. The Shia Ismaili Imamate is hereditary.

Prince Karim was 20 and a student at Harvard when he learnt that his grandfather, on his death, had designated him as Imam.

Mumbai: His Highness Aga Khan meets Maharashtra Governor
September 23, 2013: His Highness Aga Khan and Princess Zehra Aga Khan with Maharashtra Governor K Sankaranarayanan at Raj Bhawan in Mumbai on Sept.23, 2013.

“His work is often mistaken for philanthropy. As Imam, he believes he is mandated with the responsibility to improve human condition, to improve quality of life. This is very different from charity,” said Semin Abdulla of AKDN Foundation. Unlike many spiritual leaders, the Aga Khan is clean-shaven and dons contemporary attire. “It is his action which speaks eloquently,” said Munna Javeri, a senior community member.

Headquartered near Paris, the Aga Khan’s office, through AKDN initiatives, has reached out to countless people. India and Mumbai remain close to the heart of the Aga Khan. Out of 200 schools AKDN has helped establish worldwide, eight schools, a residential hostel, 17 early childhood development (ECD Centres) and two Aga Khan pre-schools are in India (2 schools in Mumbai). Mumbai’s Prince Aly Khan Hospital (named after the current Aga Khan’s father) has served the city for decades.

The community’s Development Credit Bank (DCB), initiated as a small credit society, is a huge financial institution. “His Highness has always stressed on empowerment through partnership with government agencies, international organisations, educational institutions,” explained Ashish Ramzan Ali Merchant, President, Aga Khan Shia Ismaili Council for India, the community’s apex governance body in the country.

The Aga Khan III was based in Mumbai when he, during the devastating famine of 1890s, announced the construction of the Aga Khan Palace at Yerawada in Pune to provide jobs to the needy. A bubonic plague hit Mumbai following the famine of the 1890s. Crusading against superstitions, the Aga Khan III got himself inoculated.

Mumbai-based Ismailis have produced many eminent citizens like oncologist Dr Sultan Pradhan, business tycoon Azim Premji, banker Nasser Munjee, solicitor Suhail Nathani, bureaucrat Reshma Lakhani and politician Amin Patel and musical duo Salim and Suleiman Merchant. The Aga Khan may take pride in the fact that his followers are doing so well.

Source: Mumbai News: Times of India / Mohammed Wajihuddin / Feb 28, 2018

 

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Author: ismailimail

Independent, civil society media featuring Ismaili Muslim community, inter and intra faith endeavors, achievements and humanitarian works.

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