Although Aga Khan III, Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah (1877–1957), is perhaps most widely known as the 48th hereditary Imam of the Ismaili Muslims, his highly distinguished and multi-faceted public career bears witness to his services for all Muslims and, indeed, for the world at large.
Born in Karachi on 2nd November 1877, it was apparent that even as a young man he was gifted with the qualities of a statesman and leader. Sir Aga Khan’s efforts towards the promotion of Muslim interests in India, and elsewhere, are legendary. He led his fellow-believers in politics, education, social reform and other arenas. He was one of the founders and then became the first president of the All-India Muslim League. He played a critical role in the creation of Aligarh Muslim University. In times of war and religious conflict, he actively championed the cause of peace and advocated communal harmony. His innate and deep concern for the betterment of human condition is best reflected in his election as President of the League of Nations in 1937.
For the Ismailis, he was more than a spiritual leader; he guided his followers in such wide-ranging spheres as social welfare, education, economic matters, as well as in religio-ethical concerns. Perhaps, the most salient feature of his legacy as a leader of the Ismaili community was to restructure it along modern lines, preparing his followers to cope with the challenges of a new era.
By weaving together the many and different threads of Sir Aga Khan’s life and career, Dr Momin will show just how important and influential a Muslim leader he was during the twentieth century and how his legacy lives on in his successor.
Dr Wafi Momin holds a doctorate in South Asian Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago. His research interests include Islam and the interaction of religious ideas in South Asia. He is currently Head of Ismaili Special Collections Unit at the Institute of Ismaili Studies, and in this role he has the overall responsibility for the Institute’s collections of special materials, their development and preservation, as well as for conceptualizing and overseeing research projects and educational activities pertaining to these materials. In addition, he teaches within the Institute’s educational programmes, dealing especially with the topics of Ismaili history, and Islam and Muslims in South Asia.