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HRH Aga Khan IV and Muslim Ummah

The Aga Khan's birthday is being celebrated today 13 Dec 06.

His Highness the Aga Khan became Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims on July 11, 1957 at the age of 20, succeeding his grandfather, Sir Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan. He is the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims and a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (peace is upon him) through his cousin and son-in-law, Ali, the first Imam, and his wife Fatima, the Prophet's daughter.

Son of Prince Aly Khan and Princess Tajuddawlah Aly Khan, the Aga Khan was born on December 13, 1936, in Geneva. He spent his early childhood in Nairobi, Kenya, and then attended Le Rosey School in Switzerland for nine years. He graduated from Harvard University in 1959 with a BA Honors Degree in Islamic history.

Like his grandfather Sir Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan before him, the Aga Khan has, since assuming the office of Imamat in 1957, been concerned about the well-being of all Muslims, particularly in the face of the challenges of rapid historical changes. Today, the Ismailis live in some twenty-five countries, mainly in West and Central Asia, Africa and the Middle East, as well as in North America and Western Europe. Over the four decades since the present Aga Khan became Imam, there have been major political and economic changes in most of these areas. He has adapted the complex system of administering the Ismaili Community, pioneered by his grandfather during the colonial era, to a new world of nation-states, which even recently has grown in size and complexity following the newly acquired independence of the Central Asian Republics of the former Soviet Union.

Today Dec 13/2006, all over the world, Ismaili's are celebrating the 70th birthday of their beloved 49th Hazir Imam. Khushali Mubarak to all Ismaili's, all over the world.

The services of HRH Aga Khan for the Muslim Ummah in particular and the humanity in general are indescribable and unforgettable. He got these golden values from his ancestors through generation to generation. If we looked though the history, the Fatimid period refers to a caliphate ruled by the Ismili imams that made a significant contribution to the growth Islamic civilization and to the cultural religious and intellectual life of Muslim Ummah for over two centuries. The Fatimid domain centered in Egypt, extended westward to North Africa, sassily and other Mediterranean islands and eastward to the red sea cost of Africa, Palestine as well as Syria, Yamane and Hejaz. Cairo, the capital of Fatimid caliphate, was founded by the Fatimid Imams in 629 AD. According to a leading, germen historian, H. Halm, “the region of the Fatimid imam- khalifa, as one of the most brilliant periods of Islamic history both politically and in terms of his literacy, economic, artistic and scientific achievements … Under the Fatimid and through there efforts, Cairo became one of the centers of Islamic culture, civilization and art, and a focus of scholarship and science.

The Muslim perspective on faith, which accords due respect to the great monotheistic religions of the Abrahamic tradition, provided the intellectual from work for the participation of the followers of the different faiths in the affaires of the Fatimid state. Within the Fatimid judiciary and in other branches of the govt. meritocracy were the final criteria for any appointments. Christians and Jews, as much as Sunni and Shia Muslims, were able to rise to the highest echelons of state office on grounds of competency. Reflecting the policy of religious tolerance, the Fatimids pioneered the practice of encouraging private patronage of mosques and other pious buildings by Muslims of different persuasions.

A Tradition of International Service

In recent generations, the Aga Khan's family has followed a tradition of service in international affairs. The Aga Khan's grandfather was President of the League of Nations and his father, Prince Aly Khan, was Pakistan's Ambassador to the United Nations. His uncle, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, has been United Nations' High Commissioner for Refugees, United Nations' Coordinator for assistance to Afghanistan and United Nations' Executive Delegate of the Iraq-Turkey border areas. The Aga Khan's brother, Prince Amyn, entered the United Nations Secretariat, Department of Economic and Social Affairs following his graduation from Harvard in 1965. Since 1968, Prince Amyn has been closely involved with the governance of the principal development institutions of the Imamat. The Aga Khan's eldest child and daughter, Princess Zahra, who graduated from Harvard in 1994 with a BA Honors Degree in Third World Development Studies, has coordination responsibilities relating to specific social development institutions of the Imamat and is based at his Secretariat. His elder son, Prince Rahim, who graduated from Brown University (USA) in 1995, has similar responsibilities in respect of the Imamat's economic development institutions. His younger son, Prince Hussain, who graduated from Williams College (USA) in 1997, has recently joined the Secretariat and is involved in the cultural activities of the Network.

In consonance with this vision of Islam and their tradition of service to humanity, wherever Ismailis live, they have elaborated a well-defined institutional framework to carry out social, economic and cultural activities. Under the Aga Khan's leadership, this framework has expanded and evolved into the Aga Khan Development Network, a group of institutions working to improve living conditions and opportunities in specific regions of the developing world. In every country, these institutions work for the common good of all citizens regardless of their origin or religion. Their individual mandates range from architecture, education and health to the promotion of private sector enterprise, the enhancement of non-government organisations and rural development.

Al- Azhar University

The most unique and the first Islamic university in the map of the world and still smoothly functioning for the thirsty of quality education was build by the Fatimid Imam, Al-Moizz-uddin in 972.

The Fatimid also actively patronized intellectual pursuits. The culture of encouraging scientific thought attracted, he finest minds of the age to the Fatimid court, whatever their religious persuasions: mathematicians and engineers like Ibn al Hatim, astronomers such as Ali b. Yunus, physicians like al-Tamimi, and Ibn Ridwan. Al- Azhar was a great center of learning, which was generously endowed by the Fatimid Imam – Khalifs. Subsequently, it led to the establishment of the al-Azhar university. Dar-al-llm, the house of knowledge, established, in Cairo in 1005 by Imam Al- Hakim – Bi- Amr- Allah, was the first medieval institution of learning, a precursor of the modern university, which combined in its programme of studies a full range of the major academic disciplines, from the study of the Quran and prophetic traditions, jurisprudence, philology and grammar to medicine, logic, mathematics and astronomy.

Aligarh University

The chancellor of the Aligarh University, Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III's life of seventy-two years as Imam, the longest in history, spans a remarkably crowded era of momentous significance. It was an era that saw a far-reaching transformation in the human condition that affected all areas of human Endeavour: social, political, cultural, intellectual and scientific. It was an era that witnessed both the peak and the dismantling of the European imperial adventure. His pre-occupation throughout was the welfare of his diverse, far flung community, but his compass also extended to Muslim progress in India and elsewhere, as well as to the plight of the ordinary person everywhere, summed up in his all-pervading concern for respect for human dignity.

The latter half of the nineteenth century was a period of great anxiety and fear for Indian Muslims. They were ill-prepared to face the new challenges or to take advantage of the new opportunities of social uplift and political representation that were beginning to emerge. A recent government report had described Muslims as educationally backward. To safeguard their interests, the Aga Khan led a long and successful campaign for the principle of separate Muslim representation in the Indian legislature. However, as with other Muslims of forethought, it was the fight against ignorance that became his passionate priority.

From every platform, he advocated free, universal, practically oriented primary education; improved secondary schools for Muslims, and a generous provision of government and private scholarships to enable talented Muslim students to study in Britain, Europe, America and Japan so that "they may learn the various processes in the lives of the great industrial commonwealth".

He strove hard to ensure that the benefits of education were equally enjoyed by Muslim men and women. When a family's economic resources were constrained, he placed greater emphasis on the education of the daughter. An educated mother would educate the family. He likened men and women to the two lungs in a body. To weaken one lung was to weaken the entire body.

It was in pursuit of his educational vision that the Aga Khan successfully dedicated himself to the project of transforming the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh into a leading Asian University. He envisaged Aligarh University as "an intellectual and moral capital" for Muslims, a university which would "preach the gospel of free inquiry, of large-hearted toleration and of pure morality".

In 1931 during the round table conference in London which led by (Aga khan III). He said

“In view of Indian vast extend and its ethnological division, the only from of govt. suitable to Indian conditions, is a federal system with complete autonomy and residuary powers vested in the constituent States.

The right of Muslims to elect their representative in the, various Indian Legislative is now the law of the land, and Muslims cannot be deprived of that right without their constant.

In the provinces in which Muslims constitute a minority, they shall have a representation in no case less than that’s enjoyed by them, under the existing law ( a principle known as weightage).

It is essential that Muslims shall have their dues share in the central and provincial cabinets


The Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi (AKUH) was established in 1985 as the primary teaching site of the Aga Khan University’s (AKU) Faculty of Health Sciences. Founded by His Highness the Aga Khan, the hospital provides a broad range of secondary and tertiary care, including diagnosis of disease and team management of patient care. The hospital’s multidisciplinary approach to diagnosis and care ensures a continuum of safe and high quality care for patients - with all services under one roof.

The hospital promotes the University's objective of promoting human welfare in general and the welfare of the people of Pakistan in particular, by disseminating knowledge and providing instruction, training, research, and service in the health sciences. It is Pakistan's largest private medical institute and hospital.

On the occasion of 16th Convocation of the University in 2003, His Highness the Aga Khan said…"When people of a distinctive faith or culture feel economically powerless or inherit clear injustice from which they cannot escape, or find their traditions and values engulfed culturally, and their societies maligned as bleak and unjust ...they risk becoming the victims of those who would gain power by perverting an open, fluid, pluralistic tradition of thought and belief into something closed and insular."

"It would be wrong to see this as the future of the Ummah."

His Highness the Aga Khan, Chancellor of the Aga Khan University, today recast the role of a modern university rooted in a centuries-old tradition of learning as it faces the contemporary challenges of the Muslim world.

"There are those," said the Aga Khan, "who know their history and deeply value their heritage, but who also...realize how erroneous and unreasonable it is to believe that there is an unbridgeable divide between their heritage and the modern world." The Aga Khan felt that those with an educated and enlightened approach are "of the firm and sincere conviction that their societies can benefit from modernity while remaining true to tradition." "They," said the Aga Khan, " will be the bridge which can eliminate forever today's dangerous 'clash of ignorance' ... where peoples of different faiths or cultural traditions are so ignorant of each other that they are unable to find a common language with which to communicate."

"Muslim universities," said the Aga Khan, "have a unique responsibility: to engender in their societies a new confidence ... based on intellectual excellence, but also on a refreshed and enlightened appreciation of the scientific, linguistic, artistic and religious traditions that underpin and give such global value to our own Muslim civilizations - even though it may be ignored or not understood by parts of the Ummah itself." He recalled that even as their to one of the greatest civilizations the world has known, the Muslim world "has inherited from history not of its own making, some of the worst and longest conflicts of the last hundred years, those of the Middle East and Kashmir."

Speaking of a "sense of vulnerability that is especially powerful in the Muslim world," the Aga Khan observed that it was "especially at times when ignorance, conflict and apprehension are so rife, that universities, in both the Muslim world and in the West, have a greater obligation to promote intellectual openness and tolerance and to create increased cultural understanding."

In the face of "perils, and voids of understanding," the Aga Khan spoke of a duty to tackle new challenges with particular urgency. Insisting that "faculty be challenged as a matter of university policy to expand the boundaries of human knowledge," he said that research at AKU would focus on "fields that will contribute much to the quality of human life in the coming century." "This naturally follows the precepts of Islam that the scientific application of reason, the building of society and the refining of human aspirations and ethics should always reinforce one another." He cited, in particular, AKU's applied research strengths in community health sciences and its productive relations with scientists and federal and provincial policymakers in fields such as nutrition, educational testing, maternal and child health, immunization strategies and vaccine development and epidemiology.

"Large problem areas from human development, and bio-ethics, to economic growth, and human settlements, desperately need systematic thought and information," said the Aga Khan, " and, whether through an Institute of Public Policy, or through policy units in existing departments, or even fully developed new faculties, AKU will pledge its energies and imagination to advancing effective public policy."

Providing an overview of AKU's internationalization, the Aga Khan referred to the University's expansion into six countries and its collaboration with the University of Central Asia. These include Advanced Nursing Studies Programs in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania and collaboration with Intermediate Medical Education Institutes in Afghanistan and with the Ministry of Education in Syria. The Aga Khan also referred to a planned Institute for Educational Development in East Africa which would support a new network of schools of excellence beginning in the region and extending elsewhere in Africa and Asia.

The Aga Khan warned of the consequences of the fact that "there is too little public sustenance for and debate about contemporary Muslim architecture and literature - and relatively little of the cinematic and musical talent from Turkey, Egypt and Iran that is now beginning to be recognised. These would mean "a younger successor generation that is intellectually unchallenged and culturally undernourished." Beyond that, he said there was "a one-way flow of scholarship and popular culture from the West, which in turn, receives all too little that, is creative and interpretative, scholarly and artistic, from the Muslim world." It was to help "become a magnet and a concentration of Muslim scholars" that the AKU's Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilizations had begun its work in London.

Aga Khan Award for Architectures

The Aga Khan Award for Architecture was established in 1977 by His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismailis Muslims, to enhance the understanding and appreciation of Islamic culture as expressed through architecture. Its method is to seek out and recognize examples of architectural excellence, encompassing concerns as varied as contemporary design, social housing, community improvement and development, restoration, reuse, and area conservation, as well as landscaping and environmental issues. Through its efforts, the Award seeks to identify and encourage building concepts that successfully address the needs and aspirations of societies in which Muslims have a significant presence.

The selection process emphasizes architecture that not only provides for people's physical, social, and economic needs, but that also stimulates and responds to their cultural and spiritual expectations. Particular attention is given to building schemes that use local resources and appropriate technology in an innovative way and to projects likely to inspire similar efforts elsewhere.

The Award is organized on the basis of a calendar spanning a three-year cycle, and is governed by a Steering Committee chaired by the Aga Khan. (Members of the 2004 Award Steering Committee will be announced during the course of 2002.) Prizes totaling up to US$ 500,000 - the largest architectural award in the world - are presented every three years to projects selected by an independent Master Jury. The Award has completed eight cycles of activity since 1977, and documentation has been compiled on over 7,000 building projects located throughout the world. To date, the Master Juries have identified eighty-four projects to receive Awards. The Ninth Award Cycle covers the period from 2002 to 2004.

Over the years, the Aga Khan has received numerous decorations, honorary degrees, and awards in recognition of the various dimensions of his work. He has received civilian decorations on one or more occasions from the governments of France, Portugal, Côte d'Ivoire, Upper Volta, Madagascar, Iran, Pakistan, Italy, Senegal, Morocco, Spain, and Tajikistan. In October 1998, on the occasion of the Award Ceremony of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, he was presented with the Gold Medal of the City of Granada.

His Highness has been awarded honorary degrees by universities in Pakistan, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. He has also received numerous awards and prizes from various professional organizations in recognition of his work in architecture and the conservation of historic buildings.

Gul Jee

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