Welcome to F.I.E.L.D.- the First Ismaili Electronic Library and Database.


Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

"Prince Sadruddin, the son of Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah and the late Princess Andree Aga Khan was born in the American Hospital at Neuilly, outside Paris on January 17, 1933. He received his early education in Switzerland before graduating in 1954 from Harvard University. After three years of post-graduate research at Harvard's Centre for Middle Eastern Studies, he followed a family tradition in international service established by his father, who had served two terms as President of the League of Nations.

In 1958, Prince Sadruddin joined UNESCO, becoming in 1961, Executive Secretary to its International Action Committee for the Preservation of Nubia, which brought together archaeologists from Eastern Europe and the West at the height of the Cold War to save the ancient treasures of Abu Simbel, the temples of Philae and Kalabsha and the Christian churches of Nubia.

He later worked for three years as assistant to the High Commissioner for Refugees before managing the whole Commission for over 12 years 1965-1977) when he retired upon his request. He was 33 when starting the position, the youngest to take that position and he was the longest serving commissioner ever. We should remember that the Bangladesh issue (1971) had put the weight of over 10 million refugees over the shoulder of the organization, and the tensions in Burundi (1972) that has thrown hundreds of thousands of those in Tanzania. Also the issue of the deportees from Uganda during the days of Edi Amin who counted in tens of thousands. In addition to the Palestinian refugees who are spread in the Arab region and others. The human being, especially the "smashed" human being, was the concern of the Prince. He never came short. He was the one who said " If there is worse than being a refugee is to be a refugee without a shelter" After giving up his post working with refugees, Prince Sadruddin continued his work through donation in works related to human rights and public assistance. He nominated himself twice for the position of secretary-general of the United Nation but the Russian Vito prevented him from reaching that position twice.

Prince Sadruddin had, since 1978, been variously: Special Consultant and Charge de Mission to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Special Rapporteur of the Un Human Rights Commission and Convenor and Co-Chairman of the Independent Commission on International Humanitarian Issues and of the Independent Working Group on the UN Financial Emergency. He was, later, Coordinator for United Nations Humanitarian and Economic Assistance Programmes Relating to the People of Afghanistan, Personal Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Humanitarian Assistance Relating to the Crisis between Iraq and Kuwait and Executive Delegate of the Secretary-General for a United Nations Inter-Agency Humanitarian Programme, which dealt with problems of Iraq's border areas.

In 1977, Prince Sadruddin, together with Denis de Rougemont and a few other friends, established in Geneva, a thin-tank, Groupe de Bellerive (names after his Geneva property), and a non-profit organization, the Bellerive Foundation, a leading grassroots action group promoting environment protection, natural resources conservation and the safeguarding of life in all its forms.

A recipient of several honorary doctorates and national decorations from states as diverse as Egypt, Pakistan, Poland and the Vatican, as well as the United Nations Human Rights Award, Prince Sadruddin was a Bourgeois d'Honneur de Geneve, Commandeur de la Legion d'Honneur and Knight Commander of the Order of the British for his services to humanitarian causes and the arts. His decorations and distinctions include the U.N. Human Rights Award and the Dag Hammarskjold Honorary Medal.

Prince Sadruddin was a keen collector since his youth and his knowledge was much respected. His sale, some years ago, of his collection of primitive and African art was considered a milestone. His collection of Islamic art is widely known and admired. Miniatures and other pieces from the collection were recently exhibited in London and Zurich. The collection will be housed in a new museum being established by the Present Imam in Toronto. Prince Sadruddin was also a familiar figure at music festivals and other cultural events, both in Europe and overseas. He was a keen skier and an accomplished sailor throughout his life.

Prof. Anthony Welch catalogued the Islamic collection of Prince Sadruddin, and published it in 1972 from Geneva entitled, Collection of Islamic Art : Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan Collection (Part I-II). Its first volume is devoted to miniatures with all but the first three Persian. Volume II includes examples of calligraphy, manuscripts almost all of which are illuminated or illustrated, pottery and metalwork. It is assumed that the complete collection will be catalogued as these two volumes only include purchases to 1967 and based on a handlist of items are not catalogued.

A rare combination of reflective wisdom and outspoken activism, Prince Sadruddin brought to each of his endeavours a commitment of intellect and passion. Known for a sharp analysis of contemporary affairs, Prince Sadruddin's contribution to diplomacy as well as to the preservation of the environment and cultural heritage drew on deeply rooted ethics. Proud of his Muslim heritage, Prince Sadruddin has said that, "the true message of Islam is about brotherhood and solidarity, as well as care for nature." Ever conscious of his Persian roots, Prince Sadruddin often saw the blend of two worlds in which he lived

Back to top