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Aga Khan IV

Shāh Karīm al-Ḥussaynī, The Āgā Khān IV, KBE, CC, GCC, GCIH (Template:Lang-ar) (born December 13, 1936) is the 49th and current Imam of the Shia Imami Ismailis.[1] He has held this position under the title of Āgā Khān since July 11, 1957, when, at the age of 20, he succeeded his grandfather, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan. The Āgā Khān is responsible for the interpretation of the faith for his followers and as part of the office of the Imamate, endeavors to improve the quality of their lives and the communities where they live.

The Āgā Khān is a direct descendant of the Islamic prophet Muhammad through his cousin and son-in-law, Ali, the first Imam, and his wife Fatimah, Muhammad’s daughter,[2][3] and is referred to by members of his community as Mawlana Hāzir Imām (حاضر إمام, "Present Imām"). Since his ascension to the Imamate, the Āgā Khān has been involved in complex political and economic changes which have affected his followers, including the independence of African countries from colonial rule, expulsion of Asians from Uganda, the independence of Central Asian countries such as Tajikistan from the former Soviet Union and the continuous turmoil in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Āgā Khān is particularly interested in the elimination of global poverty; the advancement of women; the promotion of Islamic culture, art, and architecture; and promoting pluralistic values in society. He is the founder and chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network, one of the largest private development networks in the world, which toils towards social, economic, and cultural development in Asia and Africa.


Early life

File:Aga Khan IV 1959.jpg
Aga Khan IV receiving a gift of Trinitite while visiting the Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1959.

Born Prince Karim Aga Khan, the Aga Khan IV is the eldest son of Prince Aly Khān, (1911–1960) and his first wife, Princess Tajuddawlah Aly Khan, formerly the Hon. Joan Barbara Yarde-Buller (1908–1997), the eldest daughter of the 3rd Baron Churston.[4] Born in Geneva, Switzerland on December 13, 1936, Prince Karim was declared healthy despite being born prematurely.[5] The Āgā Khān's brother, Prince Amyn, was born less than a year later. Their parents divorced in 1949 and Prince Aly Khān later married Rita Hayworth, with whom he had a daughter, Princess Yasmin Āgā Khān, half-sister of the Āgā Khān. He also has a stepbrother, Patrick Guinness, from his mother's first marriage.

The Āgā Khān spent his childhood in Nairobi, Kenya,[6] where his early education was done by private tutoring. His grandfather, Āgā Khān III, engaged Mustafa Kamil, a scholar from Aligarh Muslim University, for both Prince Karim and Prince Amyn. The Āgā Khān later attended the Institut Le Rosey in Switzerland for nine years. He graduated from Harvard University in 1959 with a BA honors degree in Islamic history. Significantly, Aga Khan skied for Turkey and Iran at the 1960 and 1964 Olympic Games.


The Āgā Khān married his first wife, Sarah "Sally" Frances Croker-Poole, who assumed the name HH Begum Salima Āgā Khān, on 22 October 1969 (civil) and 28 October 1969 (religious), at his home in Paris, France. The couple were married for 25 years, during which they had three children: Princess Zahra Āgā Khān (born September 18, 1970), Prince Rahim Āgā Khān (born October 12, 1971), and Prince Hussain Āgā Khān (born April 10, 1974). Their marriage ended by divorce in 1995.

The Āgā Khān married his second wife, née Gabriele Thyssen, who assumed after marriage the name Begum Inaara Aga Khan, "Inaara" (derived from Arabic nur, meaning "light") at his vast walled compound and chateau near Chantilly, France (unrelated to the commune of Aiglemont in the Ardennes) on 30 May 1998. By her, the Āgā Khān has a son, Prince Aly Muhammad Āgā Khān (born 7 March 2000), and a stepdaughter, HSH Princess Theresa of Leiningen, who is in115th in line to the throne of the United Kingdom. On 8 October 2004, an announcement was made that the Āgā Khān and the Begum Āgā Khān were to seek a divorce.[7][8]

Ismaili Imamat

Following the death of his grandfather, Sultan Muhammed Shah Āgā Khān, Prince Karim, at the age of 20, became the 49th Imām of the Ismailis , bypassing his father, Prince Aly Khān, and his uncle, Prince Sadruddin Āgā Khān, who were in direct line of succession.

In his will, the Āgā Khān III explained the rationale for choosing his eldest grandson as his successor:
"In view of the fundamentally altered conditions in the world has provoqued many changes , including the discoveries of atomic science, I am convinced that it is in the best interests of the Ismaili community that I should be succeeded by a young man who has been brought up and developed during recent years and in the midst of the new age, and who brings a new outlook on life to his office."[9]

In light of the request expressed in his grandfather's will, the Āgā Khān has sometimes been referred to by Ismailis as the Imam of the Atomic Age.[10]

Upon taking the position of Imam, the Āgā Khān 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. Takht nashini (installation) ceremonies occurred at several locations over 1957 and 1958. During this time, the Āgā Khān emphasized to his followers the importance of fostering positive relations among different ethnicities; this message was highly appropriate considering the racially tense atmosphere in East Africa. During the installation ceremonies in the Indian subcontinent, he stressed his commitment to improving the quality of life of Ismailis and encouraged cooperation with individuals of other religions and ethics. The main themes that the Āgā Khān emphasized during these first few months of his Imamat were development, education, interracial harmony, and confidence in religion.

The Āgā Khān has described his role as Imam as being a guide to Ismailis in the daily practice of Shia Islam, a duty which requires an understanding of Ismailis and their relationship with their geographic location and their time.[5] He elaborated on this concept in a 2006 speech in Germany stating,
The role and responsibility of an Imam, respectively, to interpret their religion to his community, and to do his utmost to improve the quality, and security of their quotidien.[11]
This engagement is not limited to the Ismaili community but also extends to the people with whom the Ismailis share their lives, locally and internationally.[12]

During the Pope Benedict XVI Islam controversy, he said: "I have two reactions to the pope's lecture: There is my concern about the degradation of relations and, at the same time, I see an opportunity. A chance to talk about a serious, important issue: the relationship between religion and logic"[13]

Golden Jubilee Year

July 11, 2007 marked the 50th Anniversary of the Aga Khan's reign of Imamat. On this occasion, leaders representing the Ismaili Community from all over the world gathered at the Aga Khan's residence to pay homage. As part of the Jubilee Year, Aga Khan made sejourns to various countries.[14]

The countries visited include:

Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Madagascar, Mozambique, United Arab Emirates, the United States of America, Canada, India, Bangladesh, West Africa, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Syria, Tajikistan, Singapore and France.

Aga Khan also organised a sports meet in Kenya, and teams from all over the world came to play this event. [15]

Promotion of Islamic architecture

In 1977, the Aga Khan established the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, an award recognizing excellence in architecture that encompasses contemporary design and social, historical, and environmental considerations. It is the largest architectural award in the world and is granted triennially. The award grew out of the Aga Khan’s desire to revitalize creativity in Islamic societies and acknowledge creative solutions for buildings facilities and public spaces. The prize winner is selected by an independent master jury convened for each cycle.

In 1979, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) respectively, established the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture (AKPIA), which is supported by an endowment from Aga Khan. These programs provide degree courses, public lectures, and conferences for the study of Islamic architecture and urbanism. Understanding contemporary conditions and developmental issues are key components of the academic program.[16] The program engages in research at both institutions and students can graduate with a Master of Science of Architectural Studies specializing in the Aga Khan program from MIT's Department of Architecture.

Aga Khan Development Network

The Aga Khan is founder and chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), one of the largest private development networks in the world, which coordinates the activities of over 200 agencies and institutions, employing a total of 70,000 paid staff. Its partners include numerous governments and several international organizations. AKDN agencies operate in social and economic development as well as in the field of culture, with special focus on countries of the Third World. The network operates in 35 of the poorest countries in the world and is statutorily secular.

The network includes the Aga Khan University (AKU), the University of Central Asia (UCA), the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED), the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF), the Aga Khan Health Services (AKHS), the Aga Khan Education Services (AKES), the Aga Khan Planning and Building Services (AKPBS), and the Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance (AKAM). The Aga Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA)is the largest architectural award in the world.

Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS), an affiliate of the AKDN, is responsible for emergency response in the face of disaster. Recent examples include the massive earthquake in Pakistan (AKDN earthquake response) and the South Asian Tsunami.

He is also the chairman of the Board of Governors of the Institute of Ismaili Studies, which he founded in 1977. He is also a Vice-President of the Royal Commonwealth Society.

Significant recent or current projects led by the Āgā Khān include the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat and the Global Centre for Pluralism (GCP) in Ottawa, the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, the Al-Azhar Park ([1]) in Cairo, the Bagh-e Babur restoration in Kabul, and a network of full IB residential schools known as the Aga Khan Academies (AKA). See [2] Since 2001, the Aga Khan Development Network has mobilized over $700 million in Afghanistan. His personal contribution has been larger than any single donor and more than most countries.

The Aga Khan has expressed concern about the work of the AKDN being described as philanthropy. In his address to the Tutzing Evangelical Academy in Germany, he described this concern:
Reflecting a certain historical tendency of the West to separate the secular from the religious, they often describe [the work of the AKDN] either as philanthropy or entrepreneurship. What is not understood is that this work is for us a part of our institutional responsibility -- it flows from the mandate of the office of Imam to improve the quality of worldly life for the concerned communities.[17]


The title of ‘His Highness’ was granted by Her Majesty the Queen of the United Kingdom (1957),[18] and ‘His Royal Highness’ by His Imperial Majesty the Shah of Iran (1959).[19]


  • Commander of the Order of Merit, Mauritania (1960)
  • Grand Cross of the Order of Infante D. Henrique, Portugal (1960)
  • Grand Cross of the National Order, Ivory Coast (1965)
  • Grand Cross of the National Order, Upper Volta (1965)
  • Grand Cross of the National Order, Madagascar (1966)
  • Grand Cross of the Order of the Green Crescent, Comoros, (1966)
  • Grand Cordon of the Order of the Crown of Iran, Nishan-i-Taj-i-Iran (1967)
  • Nishan-i-Imtiaz, Pakistan, (1970)
  • Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (1977)
  • Grand Officer of the National Order of the Lion, Senegal (1982)
  • Nishan-e-Pakistan (1983)
  • Grand Cordon of Ouissam-al Arch, Morocco (1986)
  • Knight of Labour, Cavaliere del Lavoro, Italy (1988)
  • Commander of the Legion of Honour, France (1990)
  • Grand Cross of the Order of Civil Merit, Spain (1991)
  • Grand Cross of the Order of Merit, Portugal (1998)
  • Order of Friendship, Tajikistan (1998)
  • Order of Bahrain (First Class) (2003)
  • Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE), United Kingdom (2004)[20]
  • Honorary Companion of the Order of Canada (2005)[21]
  • Grand Cross of the Military Order of Christ, Portugal (2005)
  • Chief of the Order of the Golden Heart, Kenya (2007)[22]
  • Grand Cross of the National Order of Mali (2008)

Honorary degrees

  • LL.D. (honoris causa) University of Peshawar, Pakistan (1967)
  • LL.D. (honoris causa) University of Sindh, Pakistan (1970)
  • LL.D. (honoris causa) McGill University, Canada (1983)
  • LL.D. (honoris causa) McMaster University, Canada (1987)
  • D. Litt. (honoris causa) University of London, United Kingdom (1989)
  • LL.D. (honoris causa) University of Wales, United Kingdom (1993)
  • LL.D. (honoris causa) Khorugh State University, Tajikistan (1995)
  • LL.D. (honoris causa) Brown University, USA (1996)
  • Honorary Professorship of the University of Osh, Kyrgyzstan (2002)
  • LL.D. (honoris causa) University of Toronto, Canada (2004)
  • Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, American University of Beirut, Lebanon (2005)
  • Honorary Doctorate, University of Évora, Portugal (2006)
  • Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, American University in Cairo, Egypt (2006)
  • Honorary Doctorate, University of Sankoré, Mali (2008)
  • LL.D. (honoris causa) Harvard University, USA (2008)
  • LL.D.(honoris causa), National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Ireland (2008)
  • LL.D.(honoris causa), University of Alberta, Canada (2009)
  • Honorary Doctorate of Divinity, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, (2009)

He is the first Muslim in the World to be conferred with this degree.[3]


  • Honorary Membership, Pakistan Medical Association, Sindh, Pakistan (1981)
  • Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Medal in Architecture, University of Virginia, USA (1984)
  • Institute Honor of the American Institute of Architects, USA (1984)
  • Honorary Fellowship of the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan (CPSP), Pakistan (1985)
  • Gold Medal of the Consejo Superior de Colegios de Arquitectos, Spain (1987)
  • Honorary Citizen of Granada, Spain (1991)
  • Honorary Fellowship, Royal Institute of British Architects, United Kingdom (1991)
  • Silver Medal of the Académie d'Architecture, France (1991)
  • Honorary Member of the American Institute of Architects, USA (1992)
  • Honorary Citizen of the City of Samarkand, Uzbekistan (1992)
  • Hadrian Award, World Monuments Fund, USA (1996)
  • Key to the City of Lisbon, Portugal (1996)
  • Gold Medal of the City of Granada, Spain (1998)
  • Archon Award, International Nursing Honour Society, Sigma Theta Tau International, Sweden (2001)
  • Insignia of Honour, International Union of Architects, France (2001)
  • State Award for Peace and Progress, Kazakhstan (2002)
  • Honorary Citizen of the Islamic Ummah of Timbuktu, Mali (2003)
  • Vincent Scully Prize, National Building Museum, USA (2005)
  • Honorary Citizen of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (2005)
  • Key to the City of Ottawa, Canada (2005)
  • Die Quadriga Award, Germany (2005)
  • Andrew Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy, (2005)
  • Tolerance Prize of the Evangelical Academy of Tutzing, Germany (2006)
  • Key to the City of Austin, USA (2008)
  • Citizen of Honour of the Municipality of Timbuktu, Mali (2008)
  • Associate Foreign Member, Académie des Beaux-Arts, France (2008)
  • Honorary Citizen of Canada (2009)
  • Nouvel Economiste Philanthropic Entrepreneur (2009)

Thoroughbred horse racing

At his Aiglemont estate, at Gouvieux in the Picardie region of France, about 4 kilometres west of the Chantilly Racecourse, he operates the largest horse racing and breeding operation in the country. In 1977, he paid £1.3 million for the bloodstock owned by Anna Dupré and in 1978, £4.7 million for the bloodstock of the late Marcel Boussac.[citation needed]

The Aga Khan owns Gilltown Stud near Kilcullen, Ireland and Haras de Bonneval breeding farm at Le Mesnil-Mauger in France. In March 2005, he purchased the famous Calvados stud farms, the Haras d'Ouilly in Pont-d'Ouilly and the Haras de Val-Henry in Livarot. Haras d'Ouilly had been owned by such famous horsemen as the Duc Decazes, François Dupré and Jean-Luc Lagardère.

In 2006, the Aga Khan became the majority shareholder of Arqana, a French horse auction house.[citation needed]

On October 27, 2009 it was announced that the Epsom Derby (Eng-G1), Coral Eclipse Stakes (Eng-G1), Juddmonte International Stakes (Eng-G1), Tattersalls Millions Irish Champions Stakes (Ire-G1), and $5.8 million Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Sea The Stars will stand stud at the Aga Khan's Gilltown Stud in Ireland.


By HH Begum Salima Āgā Khān (formerly Sarah (Sally) Croker-Poole);

  • Princess Zahra Āgā Khān (b. September 18, 1970)
  • Prince Rahim Āgā Khān (b. October 12, 1971)
  • Prince Hussain Āgā Khān (b. April 10, 1974)

By HH Begum Inaara Aga Khan HSH (formerly Dr Gabriele Princess of Leiningen (née Gabriele Thyssen));

  • Prince Aly Muhammad Āgā Khān (b. March 7, 2000)
  • Princess Theresa zu Leiningen (stepdaughter)

See also

  • Aga Khan
  • Begum Aga Khan
  • Nizari
  • Ismailis
  • Hotel Cala di Volpe
  • Nation Media Group

References and notes

  1. "His Highness the Aga Khan". http://www.theismaili.org/cms/14/The-Aga-Khan. Retrieved 2009-08-31. 
  2. "Khoja Case before Justice Sir Joseph Arnould, High Court of Bombay, 1886". http://ismaili.net/Source/khoj.html. Retrieved 2006-12-01. 
  3. "Haji Bibi Case before Mr. Justice Russell, 1905 - Bombay Law Reporter". http://ismaili.net/hajibibi.html. Retrieved 2006-12-01. 
  4. http://thepeerage.com/p3145.htm#i31448
  5. 5.0 5.1 Frischauer, Willi (1970). The Aga Khans. London: The Bodley Head Ltd. 
  6. G. Pascal Zachary, "Do Business and Islam Mix? Ask Him", New York Times, July 8, 2007
  7. Princess Inaara Foundation
  8. "Aga Khan faces the $1 billion divorce". London: The Sunday Times. 2004-11-21. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article393552.ece. Retrieved 2008-11-21. 
  9. "Aly Khān's Son, 20, New Āgā Khān", The New York Times, 13 July 1957, p. 1
  10. Thobani, Akbarali (1993). Islam's Quiet Revolutionary: The Story of Aga Khan the Fourth. Vantage Press. 
  11. Address by His Highess the Āgā Khān to the Tuting Evangelical Academy Upon Receiving the "Tolerance" Award. Germany: www.akdn.org/speeches/200506_Tutzing.htm. 20 May 2006. 
  12. Address by His Highess the Āgā Khān at Graduation Ceremony of the Masters of Public Affairs Programme at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris. Paris: www.akdn.org/speeches/2007June15_en. 15 June 2007. 
  13. SPIEGEL interview with Aga Khan - Der Spiegel. 12 October 2006
  14. "Golden Jubilee". http://www.theismaili.org/goldenjubilee. Retrieved 2009-12-22. 
  15. "Golden Jubilee Games". http://www.theismaili.org/gjg. Retrieved 2009-12-22. 
  16. Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. AKPIA (Academic Brochure). 
  17. Address by His Highess the Aga Khan to the Tuting Evangelical Academy Upon Receiving the "Tolerance" Award. Germany: www.akdn.org/speeches/200506_Tutzing.htm. 20 May 2006. 
  18. Patrick Montague-Smith (1970) Debrett’s Correct Form. Debrett’s Peerage Ltd. ISBN 0-905649-00-1. Page 106.
  19. "Aga Khan Development Network - About us: Awards and Honours". http://www.akdn.org/about_honours.asp. Retrieved 2009-04-28. 
  20. London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 57155, p. 24, 31 December 2003. Retrieved on 2007-11-15.
  21. "Aga Khan, C.C. - Order of Canada". http://www.gg.ca/honours/search-recherche/honours-desc.asp?lang=e&TypeID=orc&id=8642. Retrieved 2006-12-07. 
  22. allAfrica.com: Kenya: Country Honours Aga Khan (Page 1 of 1)

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