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Sultan Mahommed Shah, Aga Khan III, GCSI, GCMG, GCIE, GCVO, PC (November 2, 1877 – July 11, 1957) was the 48th Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims. He was one of the founders and the first president of the All-India Muslim League, and served as President of the League of Nations from 1937-38.

Early life

He was born in Karachimarker (then under British colonial rule), to Aga Khan II and his third wife, Nawab A'lia Shamsul-Muluk, who was a granddaughter of Fath Ali Shah of Persia (Qajar dynasty).

Under the care of his mother, he was given not only that religious and Oriental education which his position as the religious leader of the Ismailis made indispensable, but a sound European training, a boon denied to his father and paternal grandfather. He also attended Etonmarker and Cambridge Universitymarker.


In 1885, at the age of seven, he succeeded his father as Imam of the Shi'a Isma'ili Muslims.

The Aga Khan traveled in distant parts of the world to receive the homage of his followers, and with the object either of settling differences or of advancing their welfare by pecuniary help and personal advice and guidance. The distinction of a Knight Commander of the Indian Empire was conferred upon him by Queen Victoria in 1897 (and later Knight Grand Commander in 1902 by Edward VII) and he received like recognition for his public services from the German emperor, the sultan of Turkey, the shah of Persiamarker and other potentates.

In 1906, the Aga Khan was a founding member and first president of the All India Muslim League, a political party which pushed for the creation of an independent Muslim nation in the north west regions of South Asia, then under British colonial rule, and later established the country of Pakistanmarker in 1947.

In 1934, he was made a member of the Privy Council and served as a member of the League of Nations (1934-37), becoming the President of the League of Nations in 1937.

He was made a "Knight of the Indian Empire" by Queen Victoria, a Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire by Edward VII (1902), and a Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Star of India by George V (1912). He was appointed a GCMG in 1923.


Under the leadership of Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III, the first half of the twentieth century was a period of significant development for the Ismā'īlī community. Numerous institutions for social and economic development were established in South Asia and in East Africa. Ismailis have marked the Jubilees of their Imāms with public celebrations, which are symbolic affirmations of the ties that link the Ismāʿīlī Imām and his followers. Although the Jubilees have no religious significance, they serve to reaffirm the Imamat's worldwide commitment to the improvement of the quality of human life, especially in the developing countries.

The Jubilees of Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III, are well remembered. During his 72 years of Imamat (1885-1957), the community celebrated his Golden (1937), Diamond (1946) and Platinum (1954) Jubilees. To show their appreciation and affection, the Ismā'īliyya weighed their Imam in gold, diamonds and, symbolically, in platinum, respectively, the proceeds of which were used to further develop major social welfare and development institutions in Asia and Africa.

In Indiamarker and later Pakistanmarker, social development institutions were established, in the words of Aga Khan, "for the relief of humanity". They included institutions such as the Diamond Jubilee Trust and the Platinum Jubilee Investments Limited which in turn assisted the growth of various types of cooperative societies. Diamond Jubilee Schools for girls were established throughout the remote Northern Areas of what is now Pakistan. In addition, scholarship programs, established at the time of the Golden Jubilee to give assistance to needy students, were progressively expanded. In East Africa, major social welfare and economic development institutions were established. Those involved in social welfare included the accelerated development of schools and community centres, and a modern, fully-equipped hospital in Nairobimarker. Among the economic development institutions established in East Africa were companies such as 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.

Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah also introduced organizational forms that gave Ismāʿīlī communities the means to structure and regulate their own affairs. These were built on the Muslim tradition of a communitarian ethic on the one hand, and responsible individual conscience with freedom to negotiate one's own moral commitment and destiny on the other. In 1905 he ordained the first Ismā'īlī Constitution for the social governance of the community in East Africa. The new administration for the Community's affairs was organized into a hierarchy of councils at the local, national, and regional levels. The constitution also set out rules in such matters as marriage, divorce and inheritance, guidelines for mutual cooperation and support among Ismā'īlīs, and their interface with other communities. Similar constitutions were promulgated in the South Asia, and all were periodically revised to address emerging needs and circumstances in diverse settings.

Following the Second World War, far-reaching social, economic and political changes profoundly affected a number of areas where Ismāʿīlīs resided. In 1947, British rule in the South Asia was replaced by the sovereign, independent nations of Indiamarker, Pakistanmarker and later Bangladeshmarker, resulting in the migration of millions people and significant loss of life and property. In the Middle East, the Suez crisis of 1956 as well as the preceding crisis in Iranmarker, demonstrated the sharp upsurge of nationalism, which was as assertive of the region's social and economic aspirations as of its political independence. Africa was also set on its course to decolonization, swept by what Harold Macmillan, the then British Prime Minister, aptly termed the "wind of change". By the early 1960s, most of East and Central Africa, where the majority of the Ismāʿīlī population on the continent resided including Tanganyika, Kenyamarker, Uganda, Malagasy, Rwandamarker, Burundimarker and Zairemarker, had attained their political independence.

Race horse owner

He was an owner of thoroughbred racing horses, including a record equalling five winners of the Epsom Derby, and a total of sixteen winners of British Classic Races. He was British flat racing Champion Owner thirteen times. According to Ben Pimlott, biographer of Queen Elizabeth II, the Aga Khan presented Her Majesty with a filly called Astrakhan, who won at Hurst Park Racecoursemarker in 1950.


In 1926, the Aga Khan gave a cup (the Aga Khan Trophy) to be awarded to the winners of an international team show jumping competition held at the annual horse show of the Royal Dublin Societymarker in Dublin, Ireland every first week in August. It attracts competitors from all of the main show jumping nations and is carried live on Irish national television.

Marriages and children

  • He married, in 1908 (Mutah form of marriage) and 1923 (legally), Cleope Teresa Magliano (1888-1926), a dancer with the Ballet Opera of Monte Carlo. They had two sons: Giuseppe Mahdi Khan (d. February 1911) and Ali Solomone Khan (1911-1960)

  • He married, on December 7, 1929 (civil), in Aix-les-Bainsmarker, France, and December 13, 1929 (religious), in Bombaymarker, India, Andrée Joséphine Carron (1898 - 1976). A co-owner of a dressmaking shop in Paris, she became known as Princess Andrée Aga Khan. She did not convert to Islam. By this marriage, he had one son, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, in 1933-2003. The couple were divorced in 1943.

  • He married, on October 9, 1944, in Genevamarker, Switzerland, Yvonne Blanche Labrousse (February 1906 - July 1, 2000). According to an interview she gave to an Egyptian journalist, her first name was Yvonne, though she is referred to as Yvette in most published references. The daughter of a tram conductor and a dressmaker, she was working as the Aga Khan's social secretary at the time of their marriage. She had been "Miss Lyon 1929" and "Miss France 1930". She converted to Islam and became known as Umm Habiba (Little Mother of the Beloved). In 1954, her husband named her "Mata Salamat"


He wrote a number of books and papers two of which are of immense importance namely (1).India in Transition, about the prepartition politics of India and (2).The Memoirs of Aga Khan, his autobiography.

Death and succession

The Aga Khan was succeeded by his grandson Karim Aga Khan, as 'Aga Khan' and is the present Imam of the Ismaili Muslims. At the time of his death on July 11, 1957, his family members were in Versoixmarker. A solicitor brought the will of the Aga Khan III from London to Geneva and read it before the family:

"Ever since the time of my ancestor Ali, the first Imam, that is to say over a period of thirteen hundred years, it has always been the tradition of our family that each Imam chooses his successor at his absolute and unfettered discretion from amongst any of his descendants, whether they be sons or remote male issue and in these circumstances and in view of the fundamentally altered conditions in the world in very recent years due to the great changes which have taken place including the discoveries of atomic science, I am convinced that it is in the best interest of the Shia Muslim Ismailia 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 as Imam.
For these reasons, I appoint my grandson Karim, the son of my own son, Aly Salomone Khan to succeed to the title of Aga Khan and to the Imam and Pir of all Shia Ismailian followers."

He is buried in Aswanmarker, Egyptmarker at the Mausoleum of Aga Khan.

See also


  1. "Aga Khan, Fashionable Londoner, Holds Enormous Power in Islam", The New York Times, July 8, 1923, p. XX5.
  2. The Aga Khan Trophy, Dublin Horse Show, accessed July 9, 2007
  3. According to "Memoirs of Aga Khan: World Enough and Time" (London: Cassel & Company, 1954), "In the year One thousand nine hundred and eight I was married to CLEOPE TERESA MAGLIANO according to the Muta form of marriage...". According to Anne Edwards' history of the Aga Khans ("Throne of Gold: The Lives of the Aga Khans", NY: William Morrow, 1996), Ali Solomone Khan's birth certificate states that his mother was considered single at the time of his birth, which was recorded as illegitimate. However, Islamic law states that a child born from a Muta marriage is considered legitimate. According to the Aga Khan's memoirs, he legally married Teresa Magliano in 1923, after the death of his first wife. Teresa, who reportedly had converted to Islam prior to the legal wedding in North Africa and was known as Princess Aga Khan, died in 1926, following an operation on December 1, 1926 ("Aga Khan's Wife Dies As He Buys Big Gem", The New York Times, December 2, 1926, p. 2).
  4. "The Memoirs of Aga Khan" Aga Khan III, p. 207, Cassell & Co Ltd, 1954.
  5. "Aga Khan Again a Father", The New York Times, January 18, 1933, p. 9.
  6. "Princess Andrée", The New York Times, December 30, 1976, p. 19.
  7. "The Aga Khan Marries", The New York Times, October 10, 1944, p. 20.
  8. "The Begum Aga Khan III", Daily Telegraph, Issue 45115, July 3, 2000.

Additional reading

  • Daftary, F., "The Isma'ilis: Their History and Doctrines" Cambridge University Press, 1990.
  • Naoroji M. Dumasia, A Brief History of the Aga Khan (1903).
  • Aga Khan III, "Memoirs of Aga Khan: World Enough and Time", London: Cassel & Company, 1954; published same year in the United States by Simon & Schuster.
  • Edwards, Anne (1996). "Throne of Gold: The Lives of the Aga Khans", NY: William Morrow, 1996
  • Naoroji M. Dumasia, "The Aga Khan and his ancestors", New Delhi: Readworthy Publications (P) Ltd., 2008

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