Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III – Titles, Decorations and Honours Conferred on 48th Ismaili Imam; 72 Year Reign Spanned Six British Monarchs and Seventeen PM's

Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III, 48th Imam of Shia Imami Ismailis, in full regalia. Photo: Jehangir Merchant archives


1. Title of Aga Khan was first granted to Aga Hassanaly Shah, the 46th Ismaili Imam, by the Shah of Persia, in the 1830s (see image of vintage engraving print  of Aga Khan I below)

2. His Highness to Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, 48th Ismaili Imam, by the British Government (1886)

3. His Highness by the Shan-en-Shah of Iran (1949)


MONARCHS (with date of ascension)

Victoria, 20 June 1837

Edward VII, 23 January 1901

George V, 6 May 1910

Edward VIII, 20 January 1936

George VI, 11 December 1936

Elizabeth II,6 February 1952

BRITISH PRIME MINISTERS (party and date of taking office)

Marquess of Salisbury, Conservative, 2 July 1895

Arthur James Balfour, Conservative, 12 July 1902

Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, Liberal, 5 December 1905

Herbert Henry Asquith, Liberal, Coalition, 8 Apirl 1908

David Lloyd George, Coalition, 7 December 1916

Andrew Bonar Law, Conservative, 23 October 1922

Stanley Baldwin, Conservative, 22 May 1923

James Ramsay MacDonald, Labour, 22 January 1924

Stanley Baldwin, Conservative, 4 November 1924

James Ramsay MacDonald, Labour, Coalition, 8 June 1929

Stanley Baldwin, Coalition, 7 June 1935

Arthur Neville Chamberlain, Coalition, 28 May 1937

Winston Spencer Churchill, Coalition, 11 May 1940

Clement Richard Attlee, Labour, 26 July 1945

Winston Spencer Churchill, Conservative, 26 October, 1951

Sir Anthony Eden, Conservative, 6 April 1955

Harold Macmillan, Conservative, 13 January 1957

This vintage engraving depicts the portrait of Aga Khan I (1804 - 1881), the 46th Imam of the Shia Imami Nizari Ismaili Muslims. The engraving was made by an unknown artist after a photograph circa 1870. ©


1. Knight Commander of the Indian Empire (K.C.I.E.) by Queen Victoria, UK (1897)

2. Brilliant Star of Zanzibar by Sultan of Zanzibar (1899)

3. Shamsul Humayun (Star of Persia) by Shah of Persia (1899)

4. Star of Turkey by the Turkish Government (1899)

5. Grand Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (G.C.I.E), by King Edward VII, UK (1902)

6. Status as a Ruling Prince for Life , by King George V, UK (1912)

7. First Class Prince of the Bombay Presidency, by King George, UK (1916); granted with a salute of 11 guns.

8. Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order ( G.C.V.O.), UK (1923)

9. Order of Omayyad’s by the Syrian Government (1951).

A 1902 photo of Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III, with Sir Mancherjee Merwanjee, bearing their signatures. Photo: Copyright, National Portrait Gallery, London


1. Founding member and first permanent President of the All India Muslim League, (1907-1914)

2. Permanent President of the Deccan League. (1908)

3. Life Member of the Club at MOA College (precursor of the Aligarh College) (1910)

4. Vice Chancellor of the Aligarh University, India (1921). Also founding member since 1910’s

5. Chairman of the British-Indian section to the Round Table Conference (1930)

6. Delegate of India to the League of Nations at the fourteenth meeting. (1932) He said:

“The basis of all security is a foreign policy rooted in mutual goodwill and cooperation; a foreign policy in which no country covets its neighbor’s possessions or seeks to infringe its moral and spiritual rights.”

7. First Delegate of India to the Assembly of the League of Nations (15th session (1934). He remarked on the entry of Afghanistan as a member:

“To a Muslim like me, it is no small thing that another Islamic nation is today entering the League, for I am convinced that her entry will strengthen the League in far greater measure than the number of her subjects…”

The following is an eye witness account provided by Sheikh Hussein Kidwai on Afghanistan’s entry to the League of Nations:

….I was thrilled to the bone by what the Aga Khan said when the Muslim State of Afghanistan joined the so-called League of Nations. The Aga Khan was the head of the delegation from India. While welcoming the entry of Afghanistan he said:

“India is proud of her Eastern culture, Eastern traditions, Eastern language, Eastern civilisation and with Afghanistan, eighty million Muslims of India are proud, as I am proud to belong to the Glorious Brotherhood of Islam.”

I was fortunately present on the occasion. The Hall was full with peoples of different nationalities professing different religions. The members of the League itself belonged to over fifty different nationalities. They were all educated, talented men representing their respective Governments. But none was more cultured or enlightened than His Highness the Aga Khan who had assimilated all that was best in the Eastern as well as in the Western culture. He, indeed, was most cultured of them all.

In the presence of so many learned persons who claimed to represent nations scattered all over the world stood up a man – a responsible, thoroughly educated, well-experienced, well-travelled, well-polished man, a gentleman, a nobleman, respected by one and all, – and he proclaimed at the top of his voice that he was proud to belong to the Glorious Brotherhood of Islam. The bold announcement was thrilling. The occasion when it was made was thrilling. The Aga Khan’s words raised the prestige of Islam in an assembly which was almost prejudiced against it. I was overjoyed. I am a man hard to bend before anybody – not even “before a king”. But I would gladly bow before a man who spoke from his heart those thrilling words….

8. Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize (1924, 1925)

9. Imperial Privy Councilor (1934).

10. President of the League of Nations (1937-38).

The election was held on September 13th, 1937 under the presidency of  of M. Negrin of Spain under the following procedure (see table below):

The Chairman:  Translation:The first duty of the Assembly at the present meeting is to elect its President, after hearing the report of the Nomination Committee.I call upon the Chairman of the Committee, M. Hambro, delegate of Norway, who has been asked by the Nomination Committee to lay its conclusions and proposals before the Assembly.

M. Hambro (Norway):


The Nomination Committee has met and has reached unanimity upon all its proposals.

On behalf of the Nomination Committee, I propose His Highness the Aga Khan as President of the Assembly.

The Chairman:


The Assembly has heard the proposal of the Nomination Committee with regard to the Presidency of the Assembly. In conformity with the Rules of Procedure, the voting will be by secret ballot by roll-call.

May I call upon His Excellency M. Guani, delegate of Uruguay, and His Excellency M. Sandler, delegate of Sweden, as former Presidents of the Assembly, to be good enough to act as tellers?

(The votes of the delegations were taken in turn by secret ballot)

The Chairman:


In the first place, I wish to thank the tellers for their kind assistance.

The result of the voting is as follows:

Number of States voting…………………………………. 50

Blank and spoilt voting-papers ………………………….   1

Valid voting papers……………………………………….. 49

Absolute Majority…………………………………………..25

His Highness the Aga Khan, delegate of India, has obtained 49 votes. I have therefore the honour to declare that His Highness the Aga Khan is elected President of the Assembly.

I am particularly happy to congratulate His Highness the Aga Khan on his election as President of the eighteenth session of the Assembly of the League of Nations. It is an honour for the latter to be presided over by so distinguished a personality as His Highness the Aga Khan, representing as he does a country, whose culture has influenced numerous civilisations, including that of Europe.

I call upon His Highness the Aga Khan to take the Presidential Chair, and I wish him every success in the proceedings over which he will preside.

(His Highness the Aga Khan took the Presidential Chair)

At the address to the Assembly, the Aga Khan said:

“With warmth of feeling at heart than I can bring to my lips, I thank you. You have done India, my country, a great honour and my delight is undisguised.”

On  October 6, 1937, in a  speech to the League of Nations in Geneva the Aga Khan said:

Indeed all the problems that fall to the League of Nations may be ultimately reduced to one – that of man, and the dignity of man…The tribulations of one people are the tribulations of all. That which weakens one weakens all. That which is a gain to one is surely a gain to all. This is no empty ideal…

Source: Verbatim record of the 18th ordinary session of the Assembly of the League of Nations, Monday, September 13, 1937, Geneva.

Honorary Degrees

1. LL.D , Oxford University (1918)

2. LL.D. by Dacca University (1951)

Honorary Citizenship

1. Citizenship of Le Cannet, France (1947).

2. Citizenship of Iran (1949)

Other Recognitions

Pakistan First Day Cover for Aga Khan's birth centenary, November 2, 1977

Mint Aga Khan III stamp in Pakistan's "Pioneers of Freedom" series issued in 1990



1. Mr. Azeem Maherali of Atlanta, Georgia, compiled the above details specifically for this series, and Simerg acknowledges with deep gratitude the valuable and interesting contribution he has made.

2. The signed photo of the Aga Khan with Sir Merwanjee is by Sir (John) Benjamin Stone. It is a platinum print in card window mount, and dated July 1902. The actual size of the image is 8 in. x 6 1/8 in. (20.4 cm x 15.7 cm). It was given to the National Portrait Gallery by the House of Commons Library, in 1974.

3. Excerpts of eye witness account by Hussein Kidwai printed from Ilm, November 1977.

A note to all readers:

Please visit the What’s New page for all articles posted in this website (by date). And do visit the Home page if you are coming from an external link.

Other articles in the special Series on Aga Khan III:

Voices: Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III – Historic Photos and Imam’s Recognition of Services Rendered by the Family of Itmadi Kassam Kothari of Jamnagar

Voices: Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III – Portraits from the National Portrait Gallery

Voices: Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III – Eloquent Persian Quatrain by 48th Ismaili Imam Graces a 1923 Invitation For Talk About Imamat

Literary Reading: Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III – Defender of Islam, Activist for Justice and Equality, Confidence Booster, And Deliverer of Joy

Literary Reading: Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III – The Road to Happiness and The Concept of Life

Literary Reading: Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III – Imam’s Message in South Africa Addressed Artificial Barriers, Unity, Education for All, and Damaging Social Habits

Voices: Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III – Recollection of Imam’s Visit to a Family Shop; A Story about the Diamond Jubilee Scale and…Does it (Still) Work?

Literary Reading: Hazrat Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III – A “Mendicant” Who Transformed a Dream into Reality and Stirred the Soul of a Bitter Critic

Literary Reading: Hazrat Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III – Links to Movies at British Pathe

Literary Reading: Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III – A Muslim’s Analysis of Lessons that Can be Learnt from the 48th Ismaili Imam

Literary Reading: Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III – The Imam of the Socio-Economic Revolution

Literary Reading: Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III – Successor and a Son Reflect on Accomplishments of the 48th Ismaili Imam

5 thoughts on “Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III – Titles, Decorations and Honours Conferred on 48th Ismaili Imam; 72 Year Reign Spanned Six British Monarchs and Seventeen PM's

  1. Is there a good map showing the distribution of the Ismailis in Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia?

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