Sunday
Mar 20,2011

When one talks about philanthropy, our minds might run straight to Hollywood celebrities, but the spiritual leader of the world’s Ismaili Muslims has a special niche in that category, writes Edwin Nuwagaba.

Aga Khan Leadership

The Aga Khan was born Prince Karim in 1936 in Geneva and declared healthy despite being premature. He is the son of Prince Aly Khan and his wife Princess Tajudaulah (Joan Yarde-Buller), daughter of Lord Churston. After spending his early childhood in Nairobi Kenya, where his early education was done by private tutoring, he attended Le Rosey School in Switzerland and graduated from Harvard University with an honours degree in Islamic history in 1959. Aga Khan IV succeeded his grandfather, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah, to the Imamat on July 11, 1957 at the age of 20.

He is the 49th Imam of the Shia Imami Nizari Ismailis, the largest branch of the Ismaili followers of the Shia faith and is the alleged direct descendant of the Islamic prophet Mohammad through his cousin and son-in-law, Ali, the first Imam, and his wife Fatimah, Mohammad’s daughter.

The Aga Khan, (third right) has not only shown clear headed and focused leadership to his followers, but has stretched out a generous hand to people outside his religion. As soon as he was crowned imam, he founded the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), whose work is mostly in Asia and Africa. The network is a group of development agencies whose interest lies in the environment, health, education, architecture, culture, microfinance, rural development and disaster reduction.

AKDN conducts its programmes without regard to faith, origin or gender and is said to be one of the world’s largest private development agencies. But the Aga Khan has expressed concern about the work of the AKDN being described as philanthropy.

“Reflecting a certain historical tendency of the West to separate the secular from the religious, they often describe the work of the AKDN either as philanthropy or entrepreneurship. What is not understood is that this work is for us part of our institutional responsibility it flows from the mandate of the office of Imam to improve the quality of worldly life for the concerned communities.”

However, this has not stopped him from giving and reaching out to the poorest of communities. But to be able to sustain abilities to give, he conducts his philanthropic work with a business mind.

The Aga Khan married his first wife, the famous model Sarah “Sally” Frances Croker-Poole, who assumed the name HH Begum Salima Aga Khan, on October 22, 1969 (civil) and October 28, 1969 (religious) at his home in Paris. The couple were married for 25 years and have three children: Princess Zahra, born September 18, 1970, Prince Rahim Aga Khan, born October 12, 1971 and Prince Hussain Aga Khan, born April 10, 1974. They divorced in 1995.

The Aga Khan married his second wife, Gabriele Thyssen, (fourth right)who assumed the name Begum Inaara Aga Khan. “Inaara” is derived from Arabic nur, meaning light. They have a son, Prince Aly Muhammad Aga Khan, born 7 March 2000 and a stepdaughter, Princess Theresa of Leiningen.

While he is a Muslim leader, this suave man passes for a moderate one and for that he has been criticised by extreme Muslims. Instead of traditional robes, he often wears suits, a trait that was influenced by his long stay and studying in the western world. But that, in the first place, is the reason his grandfather chose him as leader. In his own words, the old man said that having seen the changes that were taking place in the world and the numerous discoveries most notably of atomic science, it was in the interest of the Ismaili community for him to be succeeded by a man who had grown up and developed in the new age. In fact, his grandfather skipped the Aga Khan’s father, who was in direct line of succession. It is because of this that the Aga Khan has sometimes been referred to as Imam of the Atomic Age by Ismailis.

He has individually contributed donations to human causes more than any individual and most countries. And he is known by economists to take big risks. While other venture capitalists tend to shy away from third world countries, he has invested largely in countries like Uganda, recently investing in hydro electric production at Bujagali Falls.

His other investments in Uganda include Industrial Promotion Services, Kampala Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd, Leather Industries of Uganda Ltd, Uganda Fishnet Manufacturers Ltd, West Nile rural Electrification Co., Diamond Jubilee Investment Trust, Diamond Trust Bank, The Jubilee Insurance Company, The Monitor Publications Ltd, Aga Han Hospital Kampala, Aga Khan schools, and Tourism Promotion Services (Uganda) Ltd (Serena hotels and resorts) among others. Yes, all this may sound like straight business, but the Aga Khan does it differently from popular tycoons. He makes money, but it is not his topmost priority.

What motivates him is embedded in his famous 1983 quote in India: There are those who enter the world in such poverty that they are deprived of both means and the motivation to improve their circumstances. Unless they can be touched with the spark which ignites the spirit of individual enterprise and determination, they will only sink into apathy, degradation and despair. It is for us, who are more fortunate, to provide that spark.” Spoken like a true leader.

Source: Daily Monitor

Sunday
Jul 11,2010

OTTAWA, ONTARIO–(Marketwire – 07/09/10) – The Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, issued the following statement recognizing Imamat Day:

“This coming Sunday is Imamat Day and I am pleased to join Ismailis in Canada and around the world in marking the anniversary of the accession of His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan as Imam of the Shi’a Ismaili Muslims.

“Canada has greatly benefited from members of the Ismaili community who have made, and continue to make, great contributions to Canada’s heritage, culture and society.

“Just over a month ago, we were honoured to welcome His Highness at a foundation ceremony in Toronto for the Aga Khan Museum – a permanent home for his collection of Islamic art, as well as other artifacts relating to the intellectual, cultural, artistic and religious heritage of Islamic communities.

“Sharing the Museum site will be an Ismaili Centre – which upon completion will be the second such community centre in Canada and one of only a handful in the world.

“This initiative exemplifies the vision of the Aga Khan, who has exerted a profound influence both within and far beyond his community, and has become an extraordinary example of compassion and tolerance.

“At the ceremony in late May, in a moment of great pride for Canadians, His Highness was bestowed with honourary Canadian citizenship by Prime Minister Harper.

“As Prime Minister Harper has said, the Aga Khan’s ‘name has become synonymous with humanitarian aid and development in countries beset by conflict and poverty. Just as importantly, he has worked tirelessly as a bridge-builder between faiths and cultures.’

“For all Canadians, Imamat Day provides an excellent opportunity to learn more about the significant and remarkable contributions of the Aga Khan and the Canadian Ismaili community.

“As Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, I extend sincere congratulations to His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan on the 53rd anniversary of his accession as Imam, and sincere gratitude for his continued commitment to Canada.”

Source: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Minister-Kenney-Issues-iw-3498499731.html?x=0&.v=1

Imamat Day Mubarak!

Fifty-three years ago, on the 11th of July 1957, Mawlana Hazar Imam succeeded his grandfather, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, as the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims.

In keeping with the 1400-year old tradition of Muslim leadership, covering all interpretations of Islam, Mawlana Hazar Imam has guided his murids in matters of faith and worked tirelessly to improve the quality and security of their lives. This latter concern extends not only to the Ismailis but all those who share their lives – locally, nationally and internationally.

Mawlana Hazar Imam’s vision, global outlook, and insights into the human condition, as well as the Imamat’s institutional capacity to catalyse human development, have been widely recognised by governments, international organisations and civil society institutions. Today, the Imamat’s privileged relationships with many of these enhance its capacity to contribute to human development on a global scale.

Imamat Day is an occasion to reaffirm our allegiance and gratitude to Mawlana Hazar Imam for his benevolence and guidance, and to renew our commitment to the ethics of the faith. On the occasion of the 53rd anniversary of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s accession to the Ismaili Imamat, TheIsmaili.org extends warmest Imamat Day wishes to all Ismaili Muslims around the world.

Source: http://www.theismaili.org/cms/1032/Imamat-Day-Mubarak

Friday
May 28,2010

He is a jet-setting billionaire, owner of one of the world’s renowned horse-racing stud farms, and an admired philanthropist who briefly called Rita Hayworth his stepmother.

He is also a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed and the spiritual leader of 15 million Ismaili Muslims around the globe.

The Aga Khan, a beloved figure who is both the spiritual guide and secular role model for Canada’s 100,000 Ismailis, is in Toronto on Friday to lay the foundation for an Islamic museum and cultural centre. The construction on Canadian soil of the largest Islamic museum in the English-speaking world marks a significant milestone for a community that arrived here, nearly destitute, 38 years ago. In the last four decades, Ismailis have emerged as a remarkable success story. Their smooth integration is seen as one of the reasons the Aga Khan, a keen admirer of this country, promotes Canadian-style pluralism as a model for the world.

It was not long before Idi Amin expelled Asians from Uganda in 1972 that the Aga Khan first called prime minister Pierre Trudeau to plan a possible escape route for his people. The two leaders were friendly with one another, and the Aga Khan recognized that the situation for Ismailis in East Africa was growing more precarious by the day. When the axe fell and Mr. Amin began appropriating Ismaili businesses and property, Mr. Trudeau didn’t hesitate to offer safe haven, according to his biographer, John English.

About 5,000 Ismailis came to Canada in that initial phase, and a further 5,000 Ismaili Asians from other East African countries arrived not long after. The community has since grown across Canada as members of the Ismaili diaspora from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and elsewhere have relocated here. In a short time, Ismailis have become leading figures in politics, business and the professions, with prominent people including Rogers CEO Nadir Mohamed and Senator Mobina Jaffer.

Ali Shallwani, who owns a teaching-supply store in Oakville, Ont., came to Canada from Pakistan in 1976. He said one of the most influential moments of his life was when, in the early 1990s, he heard the Aga Khan say to Canadian Ismailis, “Make Canada your home.” Mr. Shallwani had just been granted a U.S. work permit, but returned to Canada within a year.

“His saying played a significant role in my decision to return,” Mr. Shallwani said. “I think [the Aga Khan] finds Canadian society to be more tolerant, which I agree with.”

That command, to make Canada home, is a phrase many other Ismailis describe as resonant, according to Shamir Allibhai, producer of a documentary about the spiritual leader. The Aga Khan encouraged Ismailis to engage with their new society, to emphasize education, integrate into the community and volunteer for the common good. They attribute much of their success in Canada to his leadership, he said.

“His emphasis on Canada is not found anywhere else in the Ismaili world,” Mr. Allibhai said. “The Aga Khan sees Canadian civil society as one that can be exported to other countries.”

The Ismailis belong to a relatively small Shia Muslim sect, one that for the last 150 years has had fairly close ties with the West. The Aga Khan’s grandfather passed the Imamat directly to the current Aga Khan in 1957, when he was just a 20-year-old undergraduate at Harvard University. His father, who had married film star and sex symbol Rita Hayworth a few years before, was bypassed because it was felt that a young leader was needed for the atomic age.

Thrust into the spotlight, the Aga Khan emerged as both a moderate, thoughtful leader and a charismatic figure of some international celebrity. He skied for Iran in the Olympics and, though he devotes most of his attention to his foundation and development projects, he also owns one of horse racing’s most successful breeders. His greatest horse, Shergar, valued at close to $20-million, was kidnapped from a farm in Ireland in 1983 and never seen again.

Shafique Virani, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Toronto, describes the Aga Khan as “one of the very forward-looking leaders of the Muslim world.”

“He’s very much involved with the concept of pluralism,” Prof. Virani said. He added that the leader’s fascination with Canada stems from the impression that the country, thanks in part to its policy of official multiculturalism, has created a society where people of different backgrounds can get along, and where that ideal is taught, absorbed and passed on.

The tensions of the post-9/11 world, with its often oversimplified and false impressions of Islam, have been an ongoing concern for the Aga Khan. He has also been heavily involved in development projects in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where much of the violent fallout from the Sept. 11 attacks is still unfolding.

“Our world is really torn apart right now, and there’s this concept of the clash of civilizations,” Prof. Virani said. “He’s put forward a thesis that says it’s not really a clash of civilizations that we have, but a clash of ignorance.”

Source: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/
muslim-leader-seeks-to-make-canada-a-model-for-the-world/article1583737/

Joe Friesen Demographics Reporter

From Friday’s Globe and Mail
Published on Thursday, May. 27, 2010 11:14PM EDT
Last updated on Friday, May. 28, 2010 8:34AM EDT