Flashback into the 1960’s: Admiration for His Highness the Aga Khan by President Senghor and A K Brohi

“The Smile of a Prince”

By President Léopold Sédar Senghor

Léopold Sédar Senghor (9 October 1906 – 20 December 2001) was a Senegalese poet, politician, and cultural theorist who for two decades served as the first president of Senegal (1960–1980). Senghor was the first African elected as a member of the Académie française. Before independence, he founded the political party called the Senegalese Democratic Bloc. He is regarded by many as one of the most important African intellectuals of the 20th century. He was among the Laureates of the Onassis International Prizes which also included the late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan,  uncle of Prince Karim, as well as Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and Helmut Schmidt, Germany’s former Chancellor.

The late Senegalese President, Léopold Sédar Senghor, with His Highness the Aga Khan. Photo: Ismailimail

President Senghor made a speech when proposing a toast to the health of His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan at a dinner given in his honour at the Presidential Palace. The speech was reported in Dakar Matin, 20th March 1968. The following translation of the speech appeared in the September 8, 1968, issue of Ismaili Crescent published by the Ismailia Association for Tanzania in Dar-es-Salaam.



We are particularly happy to receive you in Dakar on an official visit because you are a friend known to us for a long time, because you are a leader of the Muslim religion and finally because you are a modern gentleman.

Yes, it was ten years ago when first we knew you at Chantilly. Already on leaving adolescence behind, you had the seriousness of a man called upon to bear responsibility. But you also had — and you have not lost it — “Smile of a Prince” of which Saint Exupery speaks, that smile which comprises all that is most important, that smile which is the expression of friendship.

However, that we are receiving you here officially and not just as a friend because you are an important leader of the Muslim religion. The members of your faith are counted in their millions. In a sense, therefore, Senegal is your home.

That we are honouring you as a religious leader above and beyond differences of sect and faith is because since culture has been for us the beginning and the end of development, religion as its highest expression must also be so.

What we admire in you above all is the fact not that you have a modernised religion, but that you have been able to integrate a modern outlook with religion so that religion has been allowed its true role which is not merely to provide an all-embracing explanation of the universe but also to furnish the fundamental solutions of the problems which life poses us.

It does not surprise us that your renowned personality is so great in Africa, that heads of state everywhere south of the Sahara greet you as a friend and counsellor. Even before Independence, you were equal to your responsibilities as a religious leader. In our peaceful struggle to recover our liberty, you, though an Asian or rather because an Asian, were always at our side.

I know that Islam, a universal religion which preaches Brotherhood and equality overriding distinctions of race, caste and class has helped you here. But you also asked the member of your faith wherever they were to be found — and this again was long before Independence — to join us, to be ‘Africans with Africans’. And once we had recovered our liberty, you recommended them to become active citizens of the countries which had given them hospitality. You have done more. Everywhere you have helped works of charity to flourish. You have done further. Whenever you could, you have favoured those productive investments which alone makes a modern state.

Prince, Tomorrow, you are going to leave us. We have but one regret, not to have received you as we would have wished. I do not talk of material things, I speak of feeling, of attentions, of Smiles, these things which constitute the truest hospitality.

Believe me, on leaving Senegal, you will leave behind only friends, only regrets and each time you have an occasion to visit us, you will be received as a great friend.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, I call upon you to raise you glasses of drink to the health of His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, to the prosperity of Ismaili Community, and to the co-operation of monotheistic religions throughout the world.


“Thoughtful Discourse and Sincere Utterances”

By A. K. Brohi

Allah Bukhsh Karim Bukhsh Brohi (1915-1987), popularly known as A K Brohi, was a prominent politician and lawyer from Sindh, Pakistan. He was the first partner, and mentor of famous Indian Lawyer Ram Jethmalani as acknowledged in his authorized biography. Brohi held many official positions in the government of Pakistan, including ministerial positions under President Zia’s military rule. His chief contribution was through a number of keynote addresses which have been collected in booklets. These include Islam in the Modern World, A Faith to Live By and Adventures in Self-Expression.

His Highness the Aga Khan being received by A K Brohi during a dinner hosted in his honour at the Karachi residence of the Brohi family on February 14, 1970. Photo: Ismaili Mirror, Special Number, 1970 Pakistan Visit.

The following account by A. K. Brohi has been adapted from the March and April 1962 issues of Platinum, published by the Ismailia Association for Tanganyika.


In the summer of 1961 when I was in Europe, in response to an invitation I received from the young Aga Khan, I took a week-end off to see him at Cannes in the South of France.

It was in the magnificent Chateau de l’Horizon that I was to have dinner with him and thereafter to sit with him “as long as I liked” to discuss problems in which both of us were interested. Dinner over, we sat down to a 3-hour long conversation. Our discussion had a wide range: international politics, nuclear diplomacy, the resurgent nationalism and allied developments in Asia and Africa, the present situation and the future of Muslims in the world-order…..

The young Aga Khan, who is barely 26 years of age, told me that he was engaged in writing a thesis for his Ph.D. which he was proposing to submit to Harvard University. He showed a great deal of grip over the details of current world affairs and, what was more, he appeared to possess an intricate knowledge of the economic-political situation as he saw it developing in the new nations of Asia and Africa. By and large, he seemed to be sanguine that soon, very soon, the world of Islam was going to play a decisive role in shaping the course of contemporary, world history.

It is proper, I suppose, that I should recount the details of the conversation that we had, for much of this must remain a zealously guarded secret, if only because many things that he and I talked about were uttered in utmost confidence and cannot be on that account made available for a public presentation. In what follows, therefore, I would like to set forth only my impression of the personality of the Aga Khan as I came to discover it as a result of my talk with him that evening.

Good Listener

To begin with, I noticed that the young Aga Khan was anxious to listen more and talk less about the things that formed the subject-matter of our conversation. This capacity to listen is rare indeed! It is my experience that with most men, particularly those who are political and religious leaders, it is difficult to carry on a conversation, for soon it becomes a one-way traffic, a sort of dull monologue and a dreary, soliloquy. So much are they in love with their voice that for them it is indeed a difficult task to learn how to listen. The young Aga Khan, on the other hand, appears to have taken seriously the advice tendered upon the subject by William Pann: “Be humble and gentle in your conversation and of few words, I charge you; but always pertinent when you speak.”

His discourse was thoughtful and his utterances sincere — in fact, every word he spoke was in itself a manifestation of a deep desire within him to say nothing in respect of which he did not feel completely convinced himself. Indeed, throughout the conversation he showed a sober self-restraint in the articulation of his opinions and made a sincere and honest attempt to analyse the problem which was under discussion, rather than take sides in regard to any controversial aspect of it. For his comparatively young age, it is remarkable indeed that he should be able to show so much maturity of thought and precision in its presentation. When I specially asked him as to how he had come to acquire that much accuracy and precision in the art of expressing himself on such nebulous subjects as sociology and politics he told me with his characteristic humility that it had perhaps something to do with his academic background.

To begin with, the subjects he had chosen at the University were mathematics and science, and it was later on, and that too at the insistence of his grandfather, the late Aga Khan, that he changed them to history, sociology and international politics. No wonder that I found in his utterances, an under-current of a desire to be precise, a kind of scientific impartiality — at drawing deductions from the evidence available for the purpose.

Unique Advantage

As we all know, the Aga Khan has traveled extensively during the last four years that he has been the Imam of his community and has had the unique advantage of observing for himself some of the important events of recent history from a close range.

He has met almost all the leaders of thought and action in Asia and Africa. Much of his time has been taken up even since he became the leader of the Ismailia Community with the problem of understanding its organisational set-up and of knowing the influential leaders of the community which consists of over 20 million followers, spread over all the globe.

The problem of understanding the situation of the community of which he is the Head, in so far as the economic, the political, and the social environment in which it is functioning is in itself by no means an easy task. Nevertheless, despite his busy life, he has found time to read not only important periodicals and books on current affairs but also standard works and treatises on these subjects. He has developed an attitude to historical studies which to me, at any rate, appeared to be both original and striking.

For instance, when he discoursed to me on the main features of that phase of world history which we associate with the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire, he seemed to show a clear comprehension of the nature of Muslim impulse in human history. He is fully posted with the grammar of the response which the various Muslim communities and nations all over the globe are making to the challenge of the twentieth century. Islam for him is a decisive factor in the making of modern history, and considered as an ideology, as he put it to me, it contains “an answer to the predicament in which the mid-twentieth century man finds himself.”

Effective Role

He finds enough justification on the basis of what he has seen for himself to come to the conclusion that the Muslim people are everywhere on the march and, before long, they would begin to play an effective role in the shaping of modern history.

Although I share his optimism about the ultimate triumph of the Muslim way of life, I was not so sure that resurgence of Muslim people of which he was talking to me, was so very near, as if around the corner. From my point of view, I thought that for us, the Muslim people of the twentieth century, there was going to be a big and bitter struggle and that many a dark and difficult days lay ahead for us to live through before we could hope to secure that much recognition for ourselves and our faith about which the young Aga Khan was aspiring.

This difference in our general approach to the problems we discussed, however, did not in any manner detract from my admiration and respect for the intellectual vigour with which he set forth the truth of the historical perspective from which he was looking at the political predicament of the Muslim people in the mid-twentieth century.

Unyielding Faith

It was as far as I recollect, the eighteenth night of the harvest moon, and as we sat under its silver light, looking at the wide expanse of the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean that lashed against the western wall of the Chateau de l’Horizon, both of us at the end of our conversation found ourselves sunk deep into a kind of reverie. For myself, I could say that I was contemplating the imponderables of man’s history and musing over the insignificant measure of the reach of his feeble powers of prevision and judgement.

Who knows what the tomorrow has in store for any of us? For me it was not possible to believe that any one was qualified to cast the horoscope of Islam not only for the next day or the ensuing year but far ahead on the scale of time. I felt that in all these matters all we needed was the light of Faith. Not by cold calculation but by a hazard of unyielding faith shall we be helped to face the coming struggle! And as to what the young Aga Khan was thinking all this while, against the background of that awful silence that was occasionally broken by the casual rhythm of the beating of the gentle ripples of the sea, I am not qualified to make a statement.

Before I took my leave of him, both of us prayed together: for me, at any rate, it was an amazing experience indeed to feel one with him, even though that was to be for a few moments. As we sat down to pray, the mystery that lies at the back of all things began to take on a more mystifying colour.

And of that mystery, how shall one speak!

Date Posted: Saturday, August 25, 2012.


Please also click: H.H. THE AGA KHAN IV

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5 thoughts on “Flashback into the 1960’s: Admiration for His Highness the Aga Khan by President Senghor and A K Brohi

  1. Can anybody advise me of Hazar Imam’s visit to Mbarara, Uganda, in the 60’s. In what year did the visit take place?

    Thank you.

  2. I had the honour of meeting Mr. Brohi many years ago. I met him first in Lahore and then again for the second and their times in Karachi. Very few people probably knew about his astonishing spiritual experiences; one was a Hakeem in Lahore, who was also an expert in astrology. He owned a big shop, where he also met people whom he mentored. Mr. Brohi kept his experiences to himself, and did not disclose . I am of the opinion that hardly anyone knew Mr. Brohi really well, with the exception of the Hakeem.

  3. Towards the conclusion of that meeting, the Late A. K. Brohi had the privilege of a momentary orphic spiritual experience to reach the heights of and touch the Universal Spirit.

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