I. THE ROAD TO HAPPINESS
Be One and Harmonious with God
First, I would place spiritual happiness. A man must be at one with God. This may sound old-fashioned to some people. A few may think that they do not believe in God, and some others that it matters little to the individual in his daily life how he stands with regard to Him.
Ruling out the atheist, with whom a believer can no more argue than he can discuss colour with a blind man, it is surely strange that a believer in an Omnipotent and Ever-Present Deity should fail to realise that how we stand this instant and every instant toward Him matters to us more than anything else in the universe.
That is the fundamental question:- Are you in harmony with God? If you are – you are happy.
Treasure the Glories of Nature With the Blessing of the Sight
Next I would place appreciation and enjoyment of the glories of nature. All those sunrises and sunsets – all the intricate miracle of sky colour, from dawn to dusk. All that splendid spendthrift beauty… As a very rich man treasures the possession of some unique picture, so a man should treasure and exult in the possession – his individual possession – of the sights of this unique world.
Those glories are his from dawn to dusk, and then – and then comes night – “a night of stars – all eyes.” I look up at night and I know – I know the glory of the stars. It is then that the stars speak to us – and the sense of that mystery is in our blood.
There are other more homely delights in an English landscape – twisting lanes with living leafy walls, villages clustered in a nook of the hills, the soft undulation of down or moorland, no more than emphasised by the occasional bold scarp of a rocky peak. But you have grandeur enough in the tall cliffs that look down so proudly on your encircling seas. All that is yours, and mine – ours for the seeing.
With nature I would link painting. Pictures are very useful. If a man cannot get to the countryside, a picture will remind him of it. And the man who has been blind to the beauty of nature may have his imagination quickened by seeing the visions of great artists. He may come to see that dawn and dusk make glorious even the drab pavement of a town.
Let Great Poetry Put You in Touch with God
Then comes literature – above all poetry. Poetry is the voice of God speaking through the lips of man. If great painting puts you in touch with nature, great poetry puts you in direct touch with God. It is not a soft indulgence, you need to be wide awake, with all your wits about you, to share the poet’s joys. And, indeed, happiness is never a negative affair; it is to be won by men who are fully alive, full of the joy of living.
Make the Body Feel Alive With Rapid Movements…and Let the Electricity Flow
Next I would place the joys of rapid movement such as you get from games like golf, tennis, football, and, they tell me, cricket. As with literature the mind, so with games the body feels itself vividly, happily alive. Of all sports of rapid movement the riding of a horse is the best.
The legend of the centaur- half man, half horse – was no idle dream; for you and the splendid creature are one. As its limbs gather and stretch out in perfect rhythm, electricity passes from the animal to you. It is a joy of the spirit as of the body. Through us speak the souls of our ancestors, who have ridden horses from the beginning of time. Yes, we may well believe that the horse was with man from the beginning.
No doubt we who have ridden horses get a touch of that great happiness when English thoroughbreds, the exiles of Arabia, fly down the course like winged messengers of speed. Of course you cannot get a comparable feeling from the utmost Horse-Power ( save the mark! ) of a machine. No ! No !
These are the independent means of happiness. Any man may worship God, wonder at the miracle of nature, exult when he hears (in literature) the sons of God shouting for joy, and give praise for the perfection of his body in rapid movement.
But there is a dependent means of the first importance.
Marriage and Parentage – Venture Into (It) Despite Risks
When I speak of marriage, I need not emphasize the joys of a happy marriage and fortunate parentage. They are inextricably interwoven – warp and woof of the same pattern, and the pattern is the whole of life in miniature.
He who refuses that venture because of the risk is refusing life.
Do not Shirk Life’s Responsibilities Like a Hermit
No. I have no liking for hermits and other solitaries who refuse all responsibilities. They may live in a town as likely as in a desert, and their avowed purpose may be to lead holy lives; but, in fact, if they have ecstasies, they are the ecstasies of self-indulgence. My concern is not with them.
If You Have Small Griefs, Great Sorrows – Be one with God and Live Manfully For the Peace of the Soul
Those who accept the normal responsibilities of life, with all the chances of minor annoyance and utter catastrophe, may know many small griefs and much great sorrow – that is why I call their joys dependent – but, if they are at one with God and have lived manfully, behind the mask of sorrow, bitter though it may be, their souls will be at peace.
Source: The above are excerpts from an interview the Aga Khan III gave to Daily Sketch, London, on November 2, 1931 (the day happened to be the Imam’s 54th birthday).
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II. THE CONCEPT OF LIFE
As we have seen in the readings that have been presented in this series so far, the seventy two year Imamat of the late Aga Khan III, known to his followers as Hazrat lmam Sultan Muhammad Shah, was one of the most progressive periods in the history of Ismailis. The 48th Ismaili Imam dedicated his life for the progress of his community and the Muslim world in every aspect that one can think of.
It is evident that he lived a full life. Indeed, he wrote in his Memoirs that in his entire life, he had never once been bored. He not only enjoyed life to the full but also accomplished so much in his life that his successor, Prince Karim Aga Khan, said that such accomplishments would normally have taken several generations.
The late Aga Khan possessed a philosophy of life which anybody who wishes to he happy should adopt (see also Road to Happiness, above).
One of the most quoted messages of the late Aga Khan appears at the very beginning of his Memoirs  which he published in 1954 . In the quote, the Imam clearly defines life as the most precious gift granted by God to human beings. He wrote:
“Life is a great and noble calling, not a mean and grovelling thing to be shuffled through as best as we can but a lofty and exalted destiny.”
His approach to one’s perception of failures or disenchantment in life was that of keeping hope alive and rejecting the very thought of despondency. He said:
“You must remember that life will have for you many disappointments. If one-fifth of one’s hopes are realised, one is extremely lucky and fortunate, so do not be discouraged by disappointments.
“Failures should be forgotten and new efforts made. Despondency is a sin, and hope, a necessary part of iman (faith) both for material wealth and, above all, for progress to spiritual enlightenment.”
The idea of this faith based hope resonates with the following important teaching from the Holy Qur’an:
“Despair not of the Spirit of Allah. Lo ! None despaireth of the Spirit of Allah save disbelieving folk.” (Chapter 12, Verse 87).
Rather than looking at an unfortunate event on hindsight, the Aga Khan recommended that one should not only accept the event, but try and accept it wholeheartedly.
“I should first of all advise my heirs to learn to desire the thing that happens, and not try to mould events to their desires….I say that you should endeavour to suit your desire to the event and not event to your desire. If a wall tumbles down and crushes my foot, I must say ‘that is the best thing that could happen to me’.” 
To individuals who consider themselves in a hopeless situation in worldly terms and draw a comparison of their plight with those deemed to be in a better situation, the Aga Khan gave the following advice:
“I should have a word to say to those who deem themselves unfortunate from a worldly point of view. I should say to them, ‘Do not look up and lament that you are not as well off as those above you. Look down and congratulate yourself that you are better off than those below you’. To a man who looks with such eyes upon the world, it is not a prison but a garden. A marvelous garden – the garden of the Lord.” 
Finally for him the primary message of Islam – that of Submission to the Will of Allah – was by very nature the key to happiness in this world.
This is not to suggest that human beings should become completely passive and just drift through life without attempting to improve their circumstances. On the contrary, the Ismaili Imam paid great emphasis on human endeavour and struggle, and had even sent the following message to his followers:
“Struggle is the meaning of life; defeat or victory is in the hands of God. But struggle itself is man’s duty and should be his joy.” 
1. The Memoirs of Aga Khan, Cassel and Company Limited, London, 1954.
2. My Philosophy of Happiness by Hazrat Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah.
4. Messages of Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah – Message No. 1 published by Shia Imami Ismailia Association for Africa, 1955.
Reading adapted from Hazrat Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah’s Concept of Life by Kamaluddin A. Muhammad, Ilm, Volume 3, Number 2, November 1977.
A Note to the Reader:
Other articles in this special series on Aga Khan III: