“The present condition of mankind offers surely, with all its dangers and all its challenges, a chance too — a chance of establishing not just material peace among nations but that better peace of God on earth. In that endeavour Islam can play its valuable constructive part, and the Islamic world can be a strong and stabilising factor provided it is really understood and its spiritual and moral power recognised and respected.”— (Excerpt from The Memoirs of Aga Khan: World Enough and Time)
In the golden history of Pakistan’s Freedom Movement, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan III will always be remembered as one of the most distinguished and well-reputed leaders and diplomats. Throughout the freedom struggle, Sir Aga Khan proved to be a very responsible and productive mediator between the western world and leaders of the subcontinent. With his vast experience and a personality of international stature, he always believed that education was the ultimate tool with which Muslims of the subcontinent could be empowered and taken on the path of prosperity.
Taking forward his firm belief, he helped Muslims to build institutes of educational excellence for their intellectual, social and economic development. In 1902, at the young age of 25, in recognition of his tireless commitment to the cause of the educational development of the Muslims in the subcontinent, he was unanimously nominated as a member of the Imperial Legislative Council by the Viceroy, Lord Curzon.
One of Sir Aga Khan’s great contributions for the Muslims of the subcontinent was his remarkable contribution in the establishment of Aligarh University; he shouldered the responsibility of collecting funds for setting up this important centre of learning and excellence. He had high expectations from Sir Syed Ahmed Khan’s Aligarh Movement and that encouraged Sir Aga Khan not to leave any stone unturned in supporting his dream of establishing the Aligarh University, which played a significant role in the freedom movement of Pakistan.
From his personal wealth, he graciously donated an amount of Rs100,000. With his sincere efforts and fervour, he was able to collect Rs3 million and succeeded in laying the foundation for the future Aligarh University. As chairman of the collection fund, it was inspiring for the leaders of the Pakistan movement to see someone of his standing work selflessly for collecting funds and candidly saying, “As a mendicant, I am now going out to beg from house to house and from street to street for the children of Muslim India.”
Many rightly believe that the creation of the Mohammadan Anglo Oriental (M.A.O) College, Aligarh would have remained just a dream without the efforts and dedication of Sir Aga Khan III. Under the dynamic leadership of Sir Aga Khan, the Simla Deputation brought success and confidence for the Muslims of the subcontinent and the Muslim leaders felt the need for a separate platform of their own in their struggle for 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 — from 1906 to 1913.
After World War I, the first Round Table Conference was organised by the British government in London and was attended by Quaid-i-Azam, Sir Aga Khan, Sir Mohamed Shafi, Maulana Mohamed Ali and Maulana Fazlul Huq; Sir Aga Khan was elected as the leader and spokesman of the Muslim delegation. During this meeting, Allama Iqbal graciously spoke of the services of Sir Aga Khan and said, “We have placed these demands before the conference under the guidance of Sir Aga Khan whom we all admire and whom the Muslims of India love.”
Aga Khan III also had the privilege of representing India at the Disarmament Conference and in the League of Nations. Later on, he was unanimously elected as Chairman of the League of Nations — now known as the United Nations Organisation (UNO). Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan was the 48th Imam of Ismaili Muslims and the eminent grandfather of the present 49th Imam, Prince Karim Aga Khan. Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah breathed his last on July 11, 1957 and was laid to eternal rest in Aswan, Egypt. Besides his remarkable services to the world, he has left behind an autobiography of his life entitled “Memoirs of Aga Khan — World Enough and Time”, which is an in-depth reflection of his 80 fulfilling years of life.