My Beloved Grandfather
by His Highness the Aga Khan
He achieved in his life, for our community that which could only have been accomplished normally in a period of many generations.
Today, l am speaking to you in a city and in a country which have a particular meaning to my family and myself. On 2nd November, 1877 my beloved grandfather was born here in Karachi. Through 72 years of Imamat, he guided his spiritual children to happiness and prosperity. (Karachi, August 4, 1957)
Many many memories come to our minds as we think of him. He achieved in his life, for our community that which could only have been accomplished normally in a period of many generations. The tributes that the world has paid him bear honest testimony to his great life and work. (Takht Nashini, Karachi, January 23, 1958)
My grandfather was a most gifted person, and amongst his many qualities, one of them had always particularly impressed me. While the past was a book he had read and re-read many times, the future was just one more literary work of art into which he used to pour himself with deep thought and concentration. Innumerable people since his death have told me how he used to read in the future, and this certainly was one of his very great strengths. As a child I used to listen to him for many hours on end and I think, in fact I am convinced, that it was his inspiration which has created in me such a strong interest in the future, while at the same time, guiding me to learn from the teaching books of the past. (Karachi, May 12, 1964)
The Ismaili Community’s Magnificent Transformation in a 100 Years
by the late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan
(17 January 1933 – 12 May 2003)
It (the Ismaili Community) was largely unknown, it was largely concentrated in but a few countries and, generally, it had not yet adapted itself to all the changes, all the development of the historical revolution of the world and then a short one hundred years during the Imamat of my late father, look what the Ismaili community has become.
My Dear Chairman, Distinguished Members of the Council, Mukhi/Kamadias, My Brothers and Sisters,
I would like to express our heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to all of you for the wonderful welcome which you have extended to us here this evening. I know that I reflect the view of my wife and of our guests when I say that we are so happy to be here in Mombasa with all of you tonight. You know that for us it is always a moment which we look forward to, to be able to return to Bahati, to enjoy the peace and quiet of this beautiful country and to meet so many old friends with whom we have a very warm and a very personal friendship.
I would like to thank our Chairman, Mr. Lutaf Merali, for his kind words and also thank the Council members for giving us this splendid gift on the occasion of my birthday, which is going to be on 17th of January.
You mentioned, Mr. Chairman, that the year which just elapsed  was a very special year. Indeed, during the week of the 2nd of November 1977, which was the day of the Centenary of my late father’s birth, Sultan Muhammad Shah, my wife and I had the privilege of being with the Ismaili community in New York City. That day happened to co-incide with my annual visit to United Nations for the General Assembly, and since we wanted very much to be with the Ismaili Jamat on that occasion and since we had to be in New York, we arranged to spend the evening with the New York Jamat in a hall which was specially rented for that occasion and I could not help but think back to what the Ismaili community was 100 years ago.
It was largely unknown, it was largely concentrated in but a few countries and, generally, it had not yet adapted itself to all the changes, all the development of the historical revolution of the world and then a short one hundred years during the Imamat of my late father, look what the Ismaili community has become.
Wherever the Jamat has settled, they have established a wonderful reputation for itself. They have always been respected for the peaceful and progressive manner in which they have succeeded in establishing good relation with their neighbours. They have been given credit – the credit they deserve – by the Governments of the countries where they have lived, they have been able to adapt themselves to change, to modern times; the younger generations have understood the need for modern education, they have learnt new languages, when they have become up-rooted because of circumstances, sometimes when they have become refugees even they (the younger generations) have succeeded in adapting themselves to new continents, to new ways of life and at the same time they have not lost their sense of unity, their sense of belonging, their sense of history and their religious faith, and I am absolutely convinced that this is what has made the Ismaili Community strong. This has made it resilient, this has allowed it to prosper and to develop. These are the qualities which the Ismailis are well known for.
So, in a 100 years a great deal has been accomplished and I think we are fortunate indeed to be able to have the guidance, the advice of the young, able and so International Imam as the Present Imam, Shah Karim al-Husseini - someone who has an understanding for the challenge of the 1980’s and who can be relied upon to give the Ismaili Community the guidance which it needs in this particular day and age. These are the traditions of which we are proud and this is one of the reasons why I am so happy again to be with all of you here this evening.
The portrait shown above is © William Hustler and Georgina Hustler, National Portrait Gallery (NPG), London. The portrait was done by Dorothy Wilding. The original size is 9 1/4 in. x 7 1/2 in. (23.5 cm x 18.9 cm). It was given to the gallery by the photographer’s sister, Susan Morton, in 1976.
1. “My Beloved Grandfather” reprinted from Ilm, November 1977, Volume 3, Number 2, (special issue marking the centenary of Aga Khan III) published by His Highness the Aga Khan Shia Imami Ismailia Association for the UK.
2. Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s speech was made at the Aga Khan Club, Mombasa, Kenya, on Saturday, January 7, 1978. The above are excerpts; the full speech was printed in Hikmat, Volume 1, Number 7, April 30, 1978, and Roshni, Issue Number 1, March 21, 1980, published by His Highness the Aga Khan Shia Imami Ismailia Association for Canada and the USA respectively.
Note: The Ismailia Association is now known as the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board.
November 2, 2009 marks the 132nd birth anniversary of the 48th Ismaili Imam, Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III (November 2, 1877 – July 11, 1957), whose Imamat lasted for seventy two years – the longest in Ismaili history. Throughout the month of November, we shall be presenting a special series of articles dedicated to his life which will afford the reader an understanding of the breadth and scope of his contributions for the welfare and well-being of the Ismailis and Muslims at large as well as his accomplishments on the world stage. The series will also include selected excerpts from his speeches and writings, inspiring anecdotes as well as some unique portraits and photographs celebrating his Imamat.
We invite readers to contribute their own personal recollections or anecdotes that they have of the Imam. Those who were too young or not yet born should seek out interesting stories from their parents and grandparents and email them to firstname.lastname@example.org (or complete the reply form below). Please provide a correct email address, so that we may contact you for clarification if necessary. All anecdotes will be subject to editing for language and brevity. Readers may also submit scanned (quality) images from their personal collections. We shall endeavour to publish your contributions during the month of November.
Note to the reader:
Special Series on Aga Khan III