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Birthday: Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan III: A leader of repute - 2010-10-31

Sunday, 2010, October 31
Mahreen Naqvi

Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan III will always be remembered as one of the most distinguished and well-reputed leaders and diplomats during Pakistan’s freedom movement. Sir Aga Khan, with his vast experience and personality of international stature, proved to be a responsible and productive mediator between the western world and the leaders of the subcontinent.

He strongly believed that education was the ultimate tool with which Muslims could be empowered and taken on the path to prosperity. Taking forward his firm belief in education, he helped Muslims build institutes of educational excellence for their intellectual, social and economic development. In recognition of his tireless commitment to the cause of educational development, in 1902 he was, at a young age of 25, unanimously nominated as a member of the Imperial Legislative Council by the viceroy, Lord Curzon.

He was an advocate of female education and said, "If I had two children, and one was a boy and the other a girl, and if I could afford to educate only one, I would have no hesitation in giving higher education to the girl." He emphasised that a woman’s influence in the family circle was enormous and the future of the generations depended upon her ability to lead the young along the right path and instruct them in the rudiments of culture and civilisation.

One of the great contributions of Sir Aga Khan was his remarkable role in the formation of Aligarh University. With high expectations from the Aligarh movement, Sir Aga Khan did not leave any stone unturned in supporting Sir Syed's dream of establishing the university, which played a significant role in the freedom movement of Pakistan. From his personal wealth, Sir Aga Khan III graciously donated an amount of Rs100,000, and was able to collect Rs3,000,000 for the university. As Chairman of the collection fund, it was inspiring for the leaders of the Pakistan movement to see him work selflessly for collecting funds.

Under the leadership of Sir Aga Khan, the Simla Deputation brought success and confidence for the Muslims of the subcontinent and Muslim leaders felt the need to have a separate platform of their own in the struggle to gain freedom from foreign occupation. To achieve their goals, the first Muslim political organisation, The All India Muslim League, was formed in 1906 and Sir Aga Khan was chosen as its first president for six years.

The first Round Table Conference was attended by the Quaid-i-Azam, the Aga Khan, Sir Mohammed Shafi, Maulana Mohammed Ali and Maulana Fazlul Huq, with the Aga Khan as the leader and spokesman of the Muslim delegation. During this meeting, Allama Iqbal graciously spoke on the services of the Aga Khan for Muslims and said, "We have placed these demands before the conference under the guidance of Aga Khan whom we all admire and whom Muslims of India love."

Aga Khan III also had the privilege to represent India at the Disarmament Conference and in the League of Nations. Later on, he was unanimously elected as Chairman of the League of Nations or the present United Nations Organisation.

Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan was the 48th Imam of the Ismaili community and the grandfather of the present 49th Imam, Prince Karim Aga Khan IV. He breathed his last on July11, 1957, and was laid to rest at Aswan in Egypt. His autobiography entitled Memoirs of Aga Khan - World Enough and Time is an in-depth reflection of his 80 fulfilling years of life.

His birthday is celebrated on November 2.

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