Saturday, June 04, 2005

A Brif History of The Aga Khans

By Akbarally Meherally
"Aga Khan" Is a Pet Name and not a Royal Title
"Aqa" (also, Agha or Aga) is a word, said to be of Tatar origin, signifying a dignitary or lord. The term was applied by the Turks to the chief of the janissaries. "Khan," now degraded by its overuse, was a title of nobility, and was also used for a local ruler or official. "Aga Khan" is the adopted family name of a hereditary spiritual leader (Imam) of the Shiah Nizari Ismailis. One of the many legends that have circulated about this mysterious religious leader is that the title of "Aga Khan" was conferred by the Emperor of Persia upon the great-great- grandfather of the present Aga Khan, for his dedicated services to the throne. On the contrary, Hassan Ali Shah Mahallati Aga Khan I (1804-81), was an unsuccessful insurgent. A one-time governor of Kirman in Persia, he had "proclaimed an independent government." In the opinion of Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821- 90), a noted orientalist and British spy; the attempt at rebellion against the reigning sovereign was "ridiculous."
In 1905, during a trial in the High Court of Bombay, Hassan's grandson, Aga Khan III, testified before Justice Russell that "Aga Khan" was "not a title but a sort of `alias,' a pet name when Hassan Ali was a young man." The pet name was later adopted as a hereditary family name by the succeeding Imams, who also claim to be the direct descendants of prophet Muhammad (sas).
In his autobiography, `Ibrat-afza, written in Persian and published in Bombay, Hassan narrated his several unsuccessful military encounters in Persia, in which he had been aided by the British Raj. According to Sir Richard Burton, he had received weapons in quantity from John Company (British), including at least two heavy field pieces (cannons).
In 1840, accompanied by a few hundred horsemen, the "adventurous and romantic" Hassan (Aga Khan I), fled Persia. The defeated political refugee, sought and found sanctuary under the protection of the British Raj. Upon his arrival in Afghanistan, Hassan provided the mercenary services of his horsemen to the British army. In his memoirs, Hassan spelled out his reasons for joining the invading army of the British Raj in the conquest of Afghanistan and Sind from Muslim rulers. Hassan (a Muslim mercenary and so called direct descendant of the prophet!) referred to the British as "the people of God" (khalq 'ullah), and to his role of acting as a secret agent for the British general Sir Charles Napier as "for the sake of God's pleasure" (mahd-i rida-yi ilahi).
Nearly a century later, Hassan's grandson, Aga Khan III, was proud to record in his own Memoirs the mercenary services of his grandfather, which he described as "stout assistance" rendered to the British Raj in their process of imperialistic expansion. "Forthese services and for others which he rendered to Sir Charles Napier in his conquest of Sind in 1843-4, my grandfather received a pension from the British Government." Hassan's ambitions of recovering his lost territories from the Shah of Persia, with the help of "the people of God" (the British), were never fulfilled. However, he did receive a hereditary title of "Highness" which the present Karim Aga Khan uses with pride.1866: A British Court Seals the Fate of a Sunni Muslim CommunityUnder the protection of and with aid from the British Raj, Aga Hassan Ali Shah - Aga Khan I, successfully established his religious authority over a small Muslim "Khojah" communityof converted Hindus that lived on the west coast of India. The majority of these converts had adopted Sunni persuasion, the faith of their original converters to Islam. These Sheikhs - the converters, are presently known as "Pirs of Khojahs" by the Ismailis.
Aga Hassan Ali Shah wrote in his autobiography `Ibrat-afza' that he was himself a `Murid' of a Sufi Master Mast `Ali Shah (Haji Zayn al-`Abidin Shirwani), who was a successor to Majdhub `Ali Shah, the thirty-eighth Qutub of the `Ata Alllah Sufi Order. Hassan AliShah initiated a new era in the history of these converted mostly Sunni "Khojah" Muslims. Ismaili history books records that in 1864, he removed the officiating Sunni "Mullah" from the Khojah Mosque in Bombay and replaced him with a Shiah "Maulvi". In 1866, the fateof this "Khojah" Muslim community was sealed when a British judge, Sir Joseph Arnold, passed judgment in favour of the Aga Khan on all points, declaring him the undisputed religious leader of the "Khojah" community giving him the absolute control over allcommunal property, including prayer houses and burial grounds.This was a turning point in the history of the Khojah community.
Historical records and the court documents filed by the Aga Khan's counsel show that prior to the arrival of the Aga Khan, the majority of the Khojahs observed Sunni rites and rituals,with religious ceremonies carried out by Sunni Mullahs. After receiving the necessary mandate, Hassan began proselytizing the Khojah community. These documents also record that Hassan guided them to the creed of his ancestors, which was an Ithna'ashriyyah persuasion of the Shiah sect of Islam. Hassan's autobiography records that he himself believed in the Imamat of Musa Kazim (the younger brother of Ismail) and his descendants. Majority of the historians record that Imam Ismail died within the life time of his father Imam Jaffer as Sadiq. Today, the present Aga Khan claims to be the designated hereditary direct descendant of Imam Ismail. This is a major noteworthy glaring shift, within the last four generations of the Aga Khans.
Ismaili historians have recorded that until as late as 1874 (34 years after his arrival in India), the Aga Khan's authority as a religious leader was sharply opposed by some influential wealthy members of the community. His followers in Bombay objected to "his too great predilection for drinking and intriguing with females," according to Sir Richard Burton.
In 1881, Hassan died and was succeeded by his son Aga Ali Shah. His leadership lasted for a brief period of four years with no major events. His interests in life were horse breeding, racing, and big-game hunting. In 1885, Aga Ali Shah died and his eight-year-old son, Sultan Muhammad Shah, became Aga Khan III and the new leader of the community. The young Imam's mother, Lady Ali Shah, who was a very devoted Ithna'ashri Muslimah, became a trustee and, behind the scenes, acting leader of the community. She was instrumental in the introduction of various Ithna'ashriyyah rituals in the community. Some of these rituals are currently prevailent as a legacy of Lady Ali Shah who died in 1938.Aga Khan III, an International Politician
In 1898, the young Aga Khan undertook his first tour of Europe. On his way, he approached Sultan Abdul Hamid of the Ottoman Empire with "an elaborate plan for colonization." The statement submitted was prepared by Rabbi Kahn. The plan was based upon AgaKhan's Zionist friend Professor Haffkine's masterpiece scheme for the establishment of a Jewish settlement "that could be progressively undertaken in the Holy Land." Dr. Haffkine had suggested before Aga Khan that "the land would be obtained by purchase from the Sultan's subjects" whereas " the capital was to be provided by wealthier members of the Jewish community."
Aga Khan, who claimed to be an Imam and a direct descendant of the prophet, wrote in his Memoirs: "As Haffkine propounded it, I thought this sort of Zionism useful and practical." The scheme was turned down by the Sultan. The disappointed Aga Khan wrote: "I must say its rejection has always seemed to me one of Abdul Hamid's greatest blunders." Today, looking at what is happening in Palestine, I but cannot refrain from quoting a passage from the Ismaili Du'a (ritual prayer), with a bewilderment and a doubt. The passage recited is a "fragmented" portion of the verse 36:12 of the Holy Qur'ân. The translation thereof, as it appears in the Du'a book including the words within the parentheses, reads: "And We have vested (the knowledge and authority) of everything in the manifest Imam."
As long as the British Raj ruled in India, "the secret services of the Aga Khan III were in constant demand." He was an "Ambassador without Portfolio" for the British. In his Memoirs, he proudly referred to such services as "secret diplomatic missions." Besides several other titles, he received "the highest decoration which it was possible for any Indian subject of the Crown to receive (K.G.C.S.I.)," records Aga Khan.
In 1930, the Aga Khan led the British Indian delegation to the Round Table conference held in London. In 1934, following the Second Round Table conference, the Aga Khan approached the British Government of India with a request to give him a territorial State so that he could join the company of Indian Maharajahs and Princes. Sultan Muhammad Shah - Aga Khan the third, was greatly disappointed when his offer was rejected by the Mcdonald government. In 1937, he represented the British Indian government in the League of Nations. Thereafter, he was elected president of this prestigious international organization.Aga Khan introduces "Ali is truly Allah" as the Confession of Faith
Aga Khan III enjoyed a long life. During his 72 years of Imamat (leadership), from 1885 to 1957, he changed the course of history for the Khojah community. Socially and economically, Khojah community made great progress, and so did the Aga Khan. He became one of the richest men on earth, and a leading breeder and owner ofthoroughbred horses. Between 1930 and 1936, his horses made history in the racing world by winning several prestigious racing events in Europe. His grandson - Karim Aga Khan, has carried on the family tradition on the turf of horse racing.
During his leadership, Aga Khan III was literally weighed by his followers; in Silver at Bombay, in Gold at Bombay and Nairobi, in the rented industrial Diamonds at Bombay and Dar-es-Salaam, and finally in Platinum at Cairo and Karachi. Aga Khan gave back to thecommunity welfare projects, the money collected for these token ceremonies.
Long before the arrival of the Aga Khans in India, Khojah families had settled in East Africa, especially on the island of Zanzibar. The Aga Khan III, encouraged his followers to emigrate to East Africa in greater numbers. Many of these families became prosperous businessmen. Today, the majority of the descendants of these pioneers have resettled in Europe and North America.
Aga Khan was also successful in changing course of the religious path of the community. The Ithna'ashriyyah rites and rituals that his mother and grandfather had introduced in thecommunity were systematically thrown out by him. The jobs of the Shiah Maulvis were taken over by his close relatives and paid missionaries. Aga Khan introduced new theological concepts and sacred practices. Many of which attributed explicit divinity toHazrat Ali, such as; reciting of "Ali is truly Allah" as an integral part of the Shahadah (Declaration of Faith), in their daily ritual prayers called Du'a. This was the beginning of the third and final proselytization in the history of the Khojah community. Today, Ismailis recite "Aliyyullah" in their ritual Du'a which translates; "Ali, the Allah".
In 1905, the Aga Khan won a major civil suit brought against him by his relatives. One of the significant issues decided by the court was concerning the persuasion of the Khojah community. The judgment document declared the members to be "Shiah Ismailis".During this historic trial, the plaintiff's counsel suggested that the presiding judge Mr. Russell should not try the case, as he was a friend of Aga Khan - the defendant. In his judgment document, Justice Russell admitted: "I had exchanged calls with the Aga Khanand had dined twice with him and had asked him to dinner and he had not been able to come."
In 1906, Aga Khan dismissed the traditionally elected "Khojah Joostis" (jurisprudent committees), of the community. In replacement thereof, Aga Khan established "Ismailia Councils" and appointed office-bearers and members for the Councils. The practiceis prevalent to this day. In 1910, Aga Khan promulgated a legally drafted "Shiah Imami Ismaili Constitution" and ordained it under his personal seal. Thereafter, Aga Khan made a Farman (Royal Decree) commanding the followers to abide by the Constitution. Theopening article 1.1 of the most recent Constitution ordained in 1986 by the Hazar (present) Imam - Karim Aga Khan reads: "Mawlana Hazar Imam has inherent right and absolute and unfettered power and authority over and in respect of all religious and Jamati matters of the Ismailis."
Below are the faithful reproductions of the Arabic transliteration, the English translation and the Gujrati translation (transliterated) of the phrase "Aliyyullah", as they appears in the book of Ismaili Du'a, officially published by `The Shia Imami Ismailia Association for Africa, Kenya', 1963:-The Arabic transliteration: "La ilaha illallaha, Mohammedur-Rasoolullahi, Aliyyun Amirul-mu'mineen Aliyyullah:"The English translation: "There is no deity except Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, Ali, the master of the believers, is from Allah."The Gujrati translation (transliterated) of the phrase "Aliyyullah":Please note the words within the parantheses are NOT mine, they do appear in the book of Dua: "Allah mahthi chhe (ane te ejh chhe)" which means; "Is from Allah (and is the same)".Here is a further clarification of the enigmatic phrase and its paradoxical translations:The phrase "Aliyyullah" is a combination of two words. "Aliyyun" and "Allah". When these two words are joined together, the letter "n" becomes silent and the phrase is read as "Aliyyullah. The word "Aliyyun" translates "The Ali", and the word "Allah" translates "The God". Hence, the phrase "Aliyyullah" means "The Ali, The God". In the Ismaili terminology it signifies "The Aga Khan (The 49th Ali), The God". The English translation which reads in the Du'a book "is from Allah" is just a smoke screen. The Gujrati translation with its elucidation within the brackets, removes that smoke screen. Furthermore, the Arabic word for "from" is "min", which does not appear in the Arabic text of the `Kalimah Shahadah'.Agakhan A Direct Descendant Of The Fatimid Caliphs!!!In 1935, the Aga Khan's department for religious propagation and publications, Bombay, printed and distributed a book in Gujrati `Noorum-Mubin - A Glorious History Of The Ismaili Imams'. Aga Khan's genealogy was designated by the author - A. J. Chunara,as a "Sacred Rope of Allah" (Hab'lillah). During his Golden Jubilee year, Aga Khan the third, highly recommended his followers to read this newly published book.
Although, many essential historical data were missing, the author had linked the Aga Khan's ancestry with the Grand Masters of the dreaded `Assassins' - a heretical sect of Islam, that flourished in Persia and Syria between 11th and 12th centuries. The current term `assassination' has its root from this community of Assassins. Most of the latter day Grand Masters claimed themselves to be the `Nizari Imams' of the Ismailis. These Nizari Imams were in turn shown as the hereditary physical descendants of the Fatimid Caliphs, who ruled in North Africa, Egypt, and Syria from 909 to 1171. Many western scholars such as Marshall G. Hodgson and Bernard Lewis have doubted the authenticity of the advocated `physical descent' and suggested, it was but a kind of "Spiritual Filiation" (esoteric descent), which, with the succeeding generations became a physical linkage in the fullest sense.
One of the Grand Masters of the Persian Assassins, Jalal al-Din Hasan - the 25th Nizari Imam, had publicly repudiated his grandfather's claim for being a physical descendant of the FatimidCaliphs. He proclaimed himself a Sunni Muslim. Made a complete turnabout from the heretical Nizari doctrines and demanded from his followers a strict observance of the Islamic Shari'ah Laws. In 1210, Jalal died of poisoning. His son, Grand Master Ala-uddinMuhammad - the 26th Nizari Imam, was a "sickly and unbalanced corrupt figure". In 1255, Ala-uddin; "died ignominiously, slaughtered with an axe by the hand of a former homosexual lover" records, Edward Burman of the University of Leeds in his book `TheAssassins - Holy Killers Of Islam' (Aquarian Press, Great Britain).
In 1256, the soldiers of Hulega Khan, razed to the ground all the fortresses and stronghold of the dreaded Assassins. The 27th and the last Imam of the Nizari Ismailis in Alamut "and his followers were kicked to a pulp and then put to the sword; and of him and his stock not trace was left..." writes professor Bernard Lewis, in his book `The Assassins', quoting historian Ata Malik Juvayni (1226-83).
In India, Aga Khan the third, gradually replaced the hitherto popular term "Khojah" with "Imami Ismailis", in the community documents and literatures printed by his department for religious propaganda called "The Recreation Club". The so called "Club" later on became "Ismailia Association". Today, the same organization is known as "The Shia Imami Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board." The term "Ismaili" is derived from Ismail - the eldest son of Imam J'afar as Sadiq. Ismailis consider Imam J'afar as their fifth Imam and the physical descendant of Ali ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) Ismailis only recognize Hadhrat Ali's son - Husayn, as their Imam. The rest of the Shiahs recognize both the sons Hassan and Husayn, as their Imams and therefore they consider Imam J'afar as their Sixth Imam. According to the documents and historical accounts accepted by the vast majority of Shiahs (nearly 90%), Ismail died before his father. His younger brother, Musa Kazim, succeeded Imam J'afar and became the next Imam. Those who chose to depart from the mainstream Shiahs contended that Imam Ismail died after his father. Ismaili historians record that the funeral procession as well as the burial ceremony of Ismail did take place in Medina during the life time of his father, but, those were "mere ruse to mislead the enemies." This minority group became known as the "Seveners". The Nizari Ismailis comprise one group of the Seveners.
Those who accepted Musa Kazim as their Seventh Imam became known as the "Twelvers" (Ithna'ashariyyahs), when their 12th and the last living Imam, disappeared into the cellar of his family home. The Twelvers claim that their last Imam has gone into "occultation." Ismailis on the other hand claim, an Imam never goes into hiding or occultation. Ismailis vehemently contend, if an Imam was to disappear or to pass away without designating his own physical descendant as the next Imam, the world would come to anend. They proudly declare, their Imams have - in spite of political and religious persecutions - survived, and, are ever present (Hazar) to lead the community. They prefer to call the present Aga Khan as "Mawlana Hazar Imam". Having an absolute faith in thedoctrine of `a living Imam' is the absolute prerequisite for being an Ismaili.
Here is the pinnacle of paradox: It is a documented fact that Aga Khan I and II, their ancestors in Persia, the horsemen who accompanied the Aga Khan I from Persia, and the mother of Aga Khan III were all dedicated Twelver Shiahs. They lived and died believing in the Imamate of Musa Kazim and his descendants. This fact is evident from the court documents, from the Memoirs written by two Aga Khans, and also from the inscriptions on the tombs of their ancestors in Persia. Ignoring such incontrovertible evidence, Ismailis continue to acknowledge, as well as recite in their prayers, that Aga Khan I and II were their 46th and 47th Imams, and that their ancestors in Persia were the preceding Imams. In other words, Ismailis assert that these individuals were in fact legitimate descendants of Imam Ismail, but for some inexplicable reason they had accepted the faith of those who had repudiated Ismail's claim to the Imamate. To say otherwise would be to discredit the authors of the Memoirs, their 46th and 48th Imams!A Division Among The Followers Of The Aga Khan
The evidence presented before Justice Russell, in the Haji Bibi Case (Bombay - 1905), shows that Aga Khan the third, had introduced a "Du'a" (ritual prayer in Gujarati), upon hissuccession to the leadership of the Khojah community. Today, it is known as the Old (Gatpat) Du'a. In this daily prayer, the Aga Khan's physical ancestral lineage was devotedly recited. The family tree extended upwards from Hadhrat Ali to Shree Rama and Shree Krishna and continued further to the very First Incarnation (Fish), of the famous "Ten Incarnations" (Das-Avataras) of the Lord Vishnu. Thus, the Aga Khan was worshipped as; a physical manifestation of the `Noor' (Light) of Allah, the Tenth and Final Avatara (`Naklank' or `Kalkin') of the Lord Vishnu and the direct descendant of prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) from Hadhrat Ali (a.s.)
The followers of Aga Khan also used to recite, on the night of the New Moon (Chandrat), as well as on various occasions, a very devotional `Hymn in Gujarati' (Ginan), entitled "Das-Avatar". It was believed that mere listening to this Ginan, at the end moment of an Ismaili, would assure him/her of `Mok'sh' (Salvation) and the `Noorani Deedar' (Spiritual glimpse) of Noor Mawlana Hazar Imam Shah Sultan Muhammad Shah-Aga Khan the third, in the hereafter. Today, the Du'a has been changed. Before the western media, the present Aga Khan vehemently denies "Divinity". The fact that the Du'a had to be changed, the "Divinity" had to be denied publicly, indicates the growing influence of the Islamic Shariyya Laws on the world stage. Yet, to say otherwise would not only go against all the Ismaili religious practices, but even expose the "religion" to the charge of hypocrisy. HOW COULD A GOD CEASE TO BE A GOD? The present Aga Khan has yet to throw out `Ginans' recited in the Jamatkhanas, which even today attributed "Absolute Divinity" to Ali and thereby to him. One such popular Ginan is entitled "Haq tu- Paktu".
The introduction of the innovated `Shahadah' in the Gujarati Du'a which declared "Ali, truly Allah", became the basis of a major division among the followers of Aga Khan. In 1901, a small group of reprimanded followers, who had been admonished by the Ithna'ashriyyaMullahs during their visitation of Karbala, approached the Aga Khan with a special request. These followers were advised by the Iraqi Mullahs that the worship of Ali or Aga Khan as an Incarnation, Manifestation and/or Associate of Allah (SWT) nullifies their prayers, voids their fasting, pilgrimages, zakah, etc., and the eternal hell would be their place of abodein the hereafter. The special request was to replace the enigmatic "Declaration of Faith" from the newly introduced Gujarati Du'a, with the one that declared Ali to be "the beloved of Allah" ("Ali-un-Wally-Allah"). Such a Declaration was professed by the rest of the Shiahs. The young Aga Khan was adamant and refused to amend or discard the "heretic" Declaration. He insisted, if the phrase that attributed "Divinity" to Ali (there by to himself, the 48th Ali) was to be discarded, then the entire Du'a should be throw out by his followers. The enlightened followers, having failed in their mission, decided to revert back to the original Ithna'ashriyya persuasion of their ancestors. A persuasion which was practised and professed by Aga Khan the first. The splinter group renounced the leadership of Aga Khan and established the Khojah Ithna'ashriyya Jama'at in Bombay. From there it spread to the rest of India and Africa. Due to this split many Khojah families in India and Africa were divided. They continue to remain so, until now. Today, Khojah Ismailis say; "Ithna'ashri Khojahs are the Dissidents." The Khojah Ithna'ashris say; "Ismaili Khojahs are the one who have abandoned the faith of their forefathers."
The frustrated Aga Khan made a religious pronouncement (Farman), ordering his followers to sever all social and religious contacts with these so called Dissidents. Any of his follower, taking part in the marriage, or mourning of a Dissident could be excommunicated by the Ismailia Council, under the Rule Number 142 of the `Ismailia Constitution', ordained by the Aga Khan. The hatred between the two groups took a violent turn. Aga Khan's Mukhi (Chief Priest) for Bombay - Hassan, was stabbed with a knife by anIthna'ashri named Killu. Earlier, some Ismaili fanatics had severely beaten Killu and made him temporarily invalid. Killu admitted to the killing and was sentenced to death by hanging. The court trials, as well as the subsequent funeral procession and burial of Killu, brought the Dissident Khojahs out in the open. In 1901, two Ismaili `Fida'is' (the terminology has its root in the `self sacrificing' Nizari Ismailis of the 12th century, known as the `Assassins of Alamut') attacked three Dissidents. Two Ithna'ashris died and one survived.
Aga Khan's deep rooted hatred for the faith of his parents and grand parents (Ithna'ashrism) is glaringly visible in the quoted `Farman' made by him from Zanzibar on July 13, 1899. "Within ten, twenty or thirty years, the Ithna'ashri religion will be worn out. After 100 years the Ithna'ashri religion will not exist at all. It will not exist in Iran either because that religion's base is not on Aq'l (the power of reasoning). Our religion's base is on Aq'l." (Translation is from the Book of Farmans in Gujarati).Note: In the next four years, it will be 100 years to the above Farman. Today, the trend among the enlightened Ismailis is to revert back to the ancestral Tariqah of their forefathers. The one that was practised before the arrival of the Aga Khans in India,which was the Sunni Tariqah of Islam.
Mohammed Ali Jinnah (1876-1948), the founder of Pakistan, was also by birth an Ismaili Khojah. He and the most of his family members joined the groups of the so called Dissident Khojah Ithna'ashris and remained so until their last days. Mr. Jinnah's closest associate and a prominent Pakistani industrialist, Mr. M.A.H. Isphani, wrote: "Qaid-e-Azam (Mohammed Ali Jinnah) told me that...when he was twenty-one, decided to quit the ranks of the Ismailis and join the Ithna Ashari fold. ...that he tried to persuade the Aga Khan himself to abandon his headship of Ismailis and to join the ranks of the Ithna Asharis, to which sect most of the members of the Aga Khan's own family belonged."Aga Khan becomes the Imaam of Muhammad Shahi Syrian Ismailis
Rashid al-Din Sinan was a personal friend and a chief Da'i of Hassan II. Hassan, the Grand Master of Persian Assassins, had fraudulently declared himself an Imaam. In 1166, Hassan was stabbed to death by his own brother-in-law for making the factitious claim. Hassan's son Muhammad II, developed enmity with the chief Da'i Sinan. Muhammad's attempt to kill Sinan failed. Sinan who had moved to Syria, now established his own domain and became the Grand Master and Imaam of the Syrian Assassins.
In 1256, almost all of the Persian Assassins were massacred by the Mongolian army. In 1273, the Syrian Assassins were also annihilated by the army of Mamluk Sultan Baybars. Thus, the Nizari Ismailis in Persia and Syria, who were better known as the heretic Assassins, lost their political power. "Ismailism stagnated as a minor heresy in Persia and Syria, with little or no political importance", writes Bernard Lewis in his book `Assassins'.
In the realm of religion, nearly two centuries after their political downfall, the community of Nizari Ismailis split into two branches. Those who chose to follow Muhammad Shah, the elder son of the late Imaam Mu'min Shah, became known as the "Muhammad Shahi Nizari Ismailis". The others who opted for the younger son named Qasim Shah were known as the "Qasim Shahi Nizari Ismailis". The Agakhans claim to be the descendants of Imaam Qasim Shah. After this major split, there came the period of hiding (Dawr-i-Satr) for the Nizari Imaams. The Ismaili historians say; the period of hiding lasted for nearly three centuries. The historians have practically no records of the descendants of Imaam Qasim Shah, from 1480 to 1722 A.D. The majority of Syrians who had become Muhammad Shahi Ismailis, also lost contact with their fortieth Imaam, Amir Muhammad al Baqir, who had been living in southern India. They were desperately looking for a successor.
In 1888, a delegation of Sheikhs, representing a small group of exploring Syrians called Hajjawis came to India. In Bombay they met the young Aga Khan. The desperate Sheikhs accepted the Imamate of Aga Khan, who was claiming to be a descendant of the rival branch. In the archives of the Ismailia Council in Salamiyya, Syria, there is a letter bearing the seal of Aga Khan, written in 1307 A.H. (1890 A.D.).
In 1895, Aga Khan commanded his newly converted Syrian followers to substitute the Islamic Salah with the Gujarati Du'a, which he had introduced to his followers in India and Africa. Dick Douwes and Norman N. Lewis write in `The Trial of Syrian Ismailis'; "Some of the main innovations concerned the `salat', or ritual prayer: the Isma'ilis were now bidden to meet for prayer only twice a day, around a table on which a portrait of the Imaam was placed and towards which the worshippers were to turn, instead of in the direction of Mecca. Many of the prayers were to be said in Urdu. Among the formulae to be pronounced were the words, "Ali Allah, sahi Allah" (`Ali is God, truly God)." (p.218). Nauzbillah!
The Aga Khan appointed two Sheikhs from his Syrian followers, as his accredited representatives to collect Zakat, Khums and other donations. In 1901, three Syrian Ismailis were arrested in Tripoli as they were leaving for Bombay. They were carrying letters and money collected by these Sheikhs for the Aga Khan. The Sheikhs were arrested from Salamiyya on the charges of illegal "money-laundering". These leaders were charged with murder, attempted murder, and the use of violence for collecting money for the Aga Khan, records Douwes and Lewis. In 1903, the prisoners were tried in Damascus. In 1905, the Court issued a verdict condemning all the accused to life imprisonment.
In 1919 and 1920, the Syrian Ismailis suffered another major setback. They were repeated raided by the bands of Nusseirys, led by Sheikh Saleh El-Ali. The heretics (Ismailis) were obliged to surrender all their possessions. Nusseirys killed the males. "The Ismaili women and children, left the town bared-foot, and semi-naked" records a Syrian Ismaili scholar, Moustapha Ghaleb in `The Ismailis of Syria."
Six years ago in 1989, United States Federal Agents arrested three groups of Agakhani Ismailis in Dallas, Seattle and New York on the charges of illegal money-laundering. A total of thirteen Ismailis, eleven men and two women were charged. Five pleaded guilty. The illegal money-laundering operation stretched from United States to London and Switzerland, as well as from United States to Canada, London and Belgium. This was the largest money-laundering operation ever uncovered in North Texas and one of the largest in USA.
Vincent Perini, a lawyer representing one of the Ismaili Mukhis (the chief representative of the community), who had illegally taken more than US$ 30 million in currency out of USA,between 1985 and 1987, said; the sect's members are required to give 12 percent to 25 percent of pre-tax income to the Aga Khan, a billionaire resident of Paris. "Traditionally, members of the community literally take the money in the form of cash to the Aga Khan, and traditionally there was secrecy involved," added Perini.Aga Khan's three Marriages and one Mut`ah
At young age, Aga Khan fell in love with his uncle's beautiful daughter, Shahzadi Begum. In 1896, the marriage between Shahzadi and Sultan (A.K.III) was celebrated with grandeur and splendour in Poona (India). Mihir Bose records in his much publicized book `The Aga Khans'; "The Aga was seeking to make his mark as an Anglicized Indian in Western society, and his wife, brought up in strict Jenana quarters could hardly follow there. As the Aga moved into the wide world, his wife languished in the closed world, full of `resentment and reproach'."
In 1908, Aga Khan who had left his beautiful wife back home, lost his heart to a pubescent teenage ballerina "Ginetta" (Miss Magliano), during his visit to France. In his `Memoirs' Aga Khan wrote: "I made the acquaintance of Mlle. There is a Magliano, one ofthe most promising young dancers of the Ballet Opera of Monte Carlo, a ballerina..." In his Will document, Aga Khan wrote: "In the year One thousand nine hundred and eight I was married to CLEOPE TERESA MAGLIANO according to the Muta form of marriage..."In `The Concise Encyclopedia of Islam' under the heading Mut`ah, one reads; "Mut`ah: A marriage stipulated to be temporary, sometimes called a `marriage of pleasure'."
Out of this union of a French Ballerina and a Persian Imam, two sons were born. Giussepe Mahdi Khan the eldest, died in 1911.Aly Salomone Khan who lived to be a legendary playboy, was the second. In the archives of the Turin town hall (Italy), there exists a record of the birth of Aly Salomone from the union of an unmarried 22 years old Teresa, with 34 years old His Highness the Aga Khan.
In 1903, Aga Khan sent Aly Khan to Syria to visit his followers with his special `Holy Farman'. The Farman pronounced; "We are sending our son to you. Consider his arrival as my arrival. We are appointing our Prince as our `Wali-ahad' meaning, the successor to our throne." Members of the Syrian Jama'at took Bay'ah (oath of allegiance) at the hand of their future Imaam and offered Nazrana (gifts). Almost every magazine and home of Ismailis in India and Africa had a photo of young Prince dressed in white Arab dress riding a white Arabian horse, taken during his visit to Syria, with captions "H.S.H. Prince Aly Khan Heir Apparent to Mowlana Hazar Imaam".
Within 50 years, the infallible Mowlana Hazar Imaam realized that his `Holy Farman' had to be recanted. The beloved "Wali-ahad" did not live a life expected of a future Imaam. In the June 1995 issue of an American magazine `Vanity Fair', there is a spellbinding twelve page article `The Goddess and the Playboy' describing the "relentless pursuit of speed, sport, and women" by Prince Aly Khan. Aga Khan by his Will document, without making amention of his earlier pronouncement, made Aly Khan's son Karim as his successor to the throne of Imamate.
This recantation surprised his followers all over the world.They began asking questions; Did the infallible Mowlana Hazar Imaam really erred? Can the 1400 years old Ismaili tradition and the Shiah Law "that the issue of a son is not an heir if there be a sonalive", be broken? According to the deep rooted Ismaili tradition and uncompromising conviction, Hazar Imaam's "Holy Farmans" are to be reckoned as the verses of the "Speaking Qur'an". At any given time and place they can supersede the verses of the so called "Silent or Book Qur'an". Based upon this conviction, the majority of the Agakhani Ismailis have done away with most essential basic Qur'anic Laws, such as; performing of greater or lesser ablutions before praying, facing towards qiblah while praying, takbir al-ihram, qiyam, ruku, salat al-jum'ah, physical fasting during the month of Ramadhan, hajj as well as the "Oneness" of Kalimah Shahadah.
Biographer Willie Frischauer records in his book `The Aga Khans'; "Bettina (one of Aly's several girl friends) wrote: `To Aly it seemed that his father's preference for his son was a kind of public humiliation for him...He was never quite the same from that day on." When Aly Khan declared that he too had taken the Bay'ah of his own son Karim as his "Hazar Imaam"; Karim became the spiritual father of his own father, according to the Ismaili tradition. In 1960, the mortified Aly Khan was killed in a tragic car crash. He suffered crushed chest, fractured skull, broken neck and legs in that fatal accident.
Aga Khan's third marriage in 1929 was with a French brunette, Andree Carron. Aga Khan's wealth and persuasion failed to convert this Roman Catholic girl to accept Islam. Out of this Muslim and Catholic union was born Aga Khan's third son Sadruddin Khan. In 1938, Aga Khan who was nearly 60, met a tall French beauty contestant named Yvette in Cairo. Six years later, Aga Khan divorced his third wife Andree and married Yvette Lebrusse - "Miss Lyon" 1930 and "Miss Universe" contestant 1931. Aga Khan converted his fourth wife to Islam and named her "Umme Habibah". She accompanied the weak and ailing Aga Khan at all social and religious gatherings.
In 1953, during his visit of Africa, there was "a subversive campaign among members of the sect calling for his and Aly's abdication from their spiritual leadership" records, `Vanity Fair' (June 1995). The campaign grew to such a proportion that at a special meeting of the Ismailia Council, held at the hotel suite of the Aga Khan, a decision was taken that "all members of the East African communities be requested to sign a declaration of loyaltyto the Aga Khan, or be excommunicated if they refused." This was too much of a shock for the old and weakened Aga Khan.
In 1954, Aga Khan was virtually crippled suffering from lumbago and sciatica. He could barely walk two yards, writes Mihir Bose. Three years later, the debilitated and ailing Aga Khan, who was now also suffering from a prolonged cancer, died. His grandson Karim became the 49th Hazar Imaam of the community and `Aga Khan the Fourth' to carry on the family tradition. A follower forgives sins of the deceased 48th Imam
On November 4, 1935, the High Court of Justice at Strand, London, pronounced a decree nisi dissolving the marriage between Thomas Guinness, a member of the British Parliament, and, his wife Honourable Joan Guinness. Joan later became the mother of Karim Aga Khan the fourth. The grounds mentioned in the divorce petition filed before the High Court were that "the Respondent (Honourable Joan) had frequently committed adultery with Prince Aly S. Khan (father of the unborn Karim) from the 17th day of April 1935 until the 20th day of April 1935 at Hotel Ritz, Place Vendome, Paris."Note: The words within the parentheses are mine. Aly Khan was declared a co-respondent and had to pay the costs.
Prince Aly eagerly waited for the High Court's decree nisi to be made absolute. On May 11, 1936 the decree became absolute and Joan, the daughter of a former ADC to the Viceroy of India and a mother of one male child, was free to remarry. Within eight days, on May 18, Aly and Joan got married in a Town Hall of Paris. The couple got remarried at the Paris Mosque. At the wedding an announcement was made that the couple would remarry in India. The idea of the third marriage ceremony, to be performed before the followers, had to be abandoned because the Honourable Joan, who was now Princess Joan, was already pregnant, records Mihir Bose.
In less than seven months of their marriage, Prince Joan gave birth to Karim. The historical records differ as to the place and date of Karim Aga Khan's birth. A history book published in 1960 by the Ismailia Association for India records Karim son of Aly S. Khanwas born in Paris. Biographer Willi Frischauer records, he was born in Geneva, Switzerland. Historian Mihir Bose records in his book 'The Aga Khans', Karim was born on 17th December 1936. Ismailis all over the world celebrate their Imam Karim Al-Husseini's birthday on December 13.
Karim, the "ultimate cosmopolite" was born in Europe, raised in Africa, educated in United States and presently resides in France and Switzerland. He is half English aristocrat through his mother, one-quarter Italian through his father's mother and one-quarter Iranian through his grandfather. On July 13, 1957, Karim the Harvard-educated bachelor, by-passed his father and became the 49th Mawlana Hazar Imaam of the Shiah Imami Ismailis and the fourth Aga Khan. The new Imaam took an oath of allegiance from each of his followers that were present in Geneva for the ceremony.The sprinkling of holy water upon the face of a dead Ismaili and forgiving of his/her sins is an important ritual called "Chhantas". The ceremony is usually carried out before the burial, by a religious leader (Mukhi) of the local Jamatkhana to which the individual belongs. When the deceased Aga Khan was alive he used to collect a small donation, sprinkle the holy water and forgive the sins of his spiritual followers. The present Aga Khan has carried on the family tradition. In Aswan (Egypt), one of the several "Mukhis" that were present for the burial of their late 48th Imaam performed the traditional ceremony. The Qur'an reveals; "...And who can forgive sins except Allah?" 3/135.Strange it may sound, when the old Aga Khan was suffering from cancer, his wife Begum Ummeh Habibah sent a message to Ismailis the world over, to pray every day in the Jamatkhanas for the recovery of their Imaam to whom they attributed "Divinity". When the body of the late Imaam was to be laid to rest, another message came asking Ismailis the world over, to assemble in their respective Jamatkhanas, precisely at the time when the body was to be lowered in the grave in Aswan, and pray for the departed soul.On December 13, 1986, Karim Aga Khan ordained a legally drafted Constitution from Geneva which gave him "inherent right and absolute and unfettered power and authority over and in respect of all religious and Jamati matters of the Ismaili Muslims." Furthermore, the Constitution also defines that Karim Aga Khan's "Farman" ("Any pronouncement, direction, order or ruling made or given by Mawlana Hazar Imaam") "shall prevail over this Constitution, and a later Farman shall prevail over the earlier."One has but to admit the fact that unlike the divided and disintegrated Islamic Ummah of our era, the Ismailia community which is duty bound by the Ismailia Constitution has apparently and perceivably remained united in spite of all the enigmas and allegations. But, on the other hand the comparison is between a tiny group of less than one and halfmillion Ismailis with the Brotherhood and Sisterhood of 1.2 billion Muslims that is spread from one end of the world to another. The media project figure of between 15 and 18 million followers of Karim Aga Khan is a `ten fold exaggeration' of the actual number. Karim Agakhan resolves: "Imaam is the mazhar (image/copy) of God"
During the World War II, the late Aga Khan who was living in Europe had sent his two grandsons - Karim and Amyn, to Kenya as a precautionary measure. When the war was over, the cautious Aga Khan would not let his grandsons travel together in the same airplane. In the event one was to meet an accident, the other could carry on the genealogical chain of the Ismaili Imaamate. At the age of seven, Prince Karim who feared darkness, lead the Eid Salat (ritual prayer) of the Jama'at in Nairobi, Kenya. It was a significant event for the followers. The vast majority of whom do not know how to recite the Islamic Salat. Agakhani Ismailis recite "Du'a" instead of the Islamic Salat, facing any direction, in their Jamatkhanas.After completing his studies in Europe, Karim joined Harvard University in the United States of America. Karim did not do very well in the subjects of Mathematics and Science so he switched to the Middle-Eastern History and Islamic Studies. Before he graduatedfrom Harvard in 1959, the young Prince Karim who had by then become the 49th Imaam of Ismailis and His Highness Aga Khan the fourth, gave a gift of $50,000 to the University. Harvard matched the student's generous contribution with an equal amount and established a scholarship program.Following the accession of Karim in 1957 as an Imaam of the atomic age, the troubles began to erupt in the community. In the parts of Punjab, Pakistan and almost all of Syria there was an internal revolt against the new Imaam. The followers refused to recognize the appointment of a grandson as their "Hazar Imaam", when a designated "Wali-ahad" (successor to the Imamate) and the eldest son of the late Imam was yet alive. These Syrian and Pakistani Ismailis recognized Prince Aly S. Khan (father of Karim) as their49th "Hazar Imaam". Seeing that the split may widen and ultimately divide the Agakhani Ismailis into two sects, Prince Aly decided to intervene on behalf of his son. Aly Khan went to Syria, met the leaders of the revolting Ismailis and declared that his father hadchosen his eldest son Karim as the next Imam. Aly Khan also made a similar declaration when he met the leaders of the revolting Pakistani Ismailis in Karachi. Prince Aly died in a car accident in France in 1960. He is remembered by many Ismailis for his generosity to accept the personal humiliation without a note of protest. Some of his contemporaries expressed; if Aly - who was married to the leading Hollywood actress Rita Hayworth, hadcurtailed his relationships with other glamorous girls and celebrities, namely Kim Novak, Gene Tierney, Juliette Greco and Lise Bourdin Bettina, he would not have lost the throne of Imamate to his son.In 1953, the late Aga Khan had appointed one of his distant cousin Amir Khalili as his new Wazir (Chief Minister) for Iran. Four years later, when Karim acceded to the throne of Imamate, Wazir Khalili began pronouncing orders which instructed the followers to revert back to Ithna'ashriyya persuasion - the faith of their ancestors and the one that was devotionally practised by Aga Khan the first and his ancestors. Historian Farhad Daftary,also a distant relative of the Aga Khan, writes in his book `The Ismailis, their history and doctrines'; "During the 1960s, several clashes occurred between Agha Khan IV and Shah Khalili. Agha Khan IV finally decided to remove Shah Khalili... He sent two trusted Khoja Nizaris to Persia with a `firman' dismissing Shah Khalili and ordering his followers to stoppaying their tithes until further notice." Today, no one knows how many Ismailis are left in Iran and out of these how many follow the leadership of Karim Aga Khan.In the early 1970s, the issue of fundamental beliefs of the Ismailis became a cause of animosity between the community leaders from the Islamic States and the non-Islamic States. The subject at heart was the "Divinity" of Hazar Imaam. The former group preferred a more subtle approach that could be harmonized with the Islamic beliefs. The later wanted to carry on with the traditional concept of "Aly, sahi (truly) Allah". When the Hazar Imaam's highest ranking international leader - the late Sir Eboo Pirbhai of Kenya, failed to resolve the issue from his headquarters in Nairobi, an international conference of the world Ismaili leaders and high ranking Ismaili scholars was called in Paris. Karim Aga Khan chaired the renowned International Conference held in March 1975. The report of the Resolutions passed at the Paris Conference, under the chairmanship of Karim Aga Khan the 49th Hazar Imam, was published by the Ismailia Association Central Co-ordination Office at Nairobi in May 1975. The concepts of Prophethood and the Imamate resolved were as under:The concepts of Nabuwah and Imamah:
"These concepts to be explained and understood in the general perspective of God's communication to man. The Imaam to be explained as the `mazhar' of God, related to varying levels of inspiration and communication from God to man."Note: The Arabic word `mazar' means image; copy. Karim Aga Khan thus became an image/copy of God by the above resolution.The delegates from the Islamic States were disappointed. The concept if made public, was not easy to defend if declared "heretic" by the Grand Mufti of Pakistan or the religous head of an Islamic State. "Creditors Chip Away At Aga Khan's Lustre" New York Times.
It is reported that Karim Aga Khan had been articulating; the worst thing that could happen to an individual was to be got trapped in an unhappy marriage. Well it so happened, in October 1969, the articulator who was then thirty-two, got himself trapped.Karim married Sally Frances Croker Poole, an English divorcee. Sally once modeled coats under the slogan `to catch a sheik', records Mihir Bose. The marriage ceremony was performed according to the French Civil Law in a town hall in Paris. Karim changed thename of his bride Sally to Salimah. Thereafter, the duo visited the followers around the world, who were overjoyed to greet the married couple. Since Karim's grandmother was an Italian, his mother and wife British, one can say that the ancestry of the Ismaili Imaams which originated from Arabia and had relocated in Persia during the post Fatimid period, was now being established in Europe via BritishIndia. During his trip of British East Africa, in one of his religious pronouncements ("Farmans"), the 48th Ismaili Imaam while talking of the straight path ("Siratul Mustaqeem"), advised his followers not to "walk" upon the "talks" of Arabs and Moguls(Persian), who happened to be his progenitors. The reason put forward by the anglicised Imaam was; "Arabs are like donkeys" and "Moguls seek alms in every country", what will they teach you? Aga Khan's followers in British East Africa, whose ancestral roots werein India, became anglicized and proudly adopted the English names for their children, such as, John, Jimmy, Tommy, Sam and Mac. However, their family names remained unchanged. They are mostly derived from the names of Hindu idols, such as, Ramji, Kanji, Samji, Govindji and Shivji. Even today we find the same trend among the followers of Aga Khan.Begum Salimah became a mother to Princess Zahra in 1970; Prince Rahim in 1971 and Prince Hussein in 1974. It is not easy to guess the current financial standing of Karim. By one estimate, during his peak financial period, he was worth 1.5 billion dollars. Aga Khan receives, besides the returns from his personal investments, 12.5 to 25 percent of the gross income of his spiritual followers and other religious contributions that run in millions. Almost all of these collections and contributions are in cash (no receipts issued). Recently, there have been suggestions from the grass root levels that the community could save millions in tax refunds from their respective governments if proper receiptswere to be issued. Furthermore, the Jamaat may not have to face the embarrassment of illegal "money-laundering" as in the recent past. In 1990, a few Ismailis were convicted for running one of the largest illegal money-laundering operation in the Unites States, for the cash collections made in the Jamatkhanas. In 1988, Karim Aga Khan threw a lavish party to celebrate the 18th birthday of his daughter Princess Zahra, in his chateau near Paris. `Daily Express' of London reported that over 800 guests assembled to dine on caviare and smoked salmon, drink vintage champagne and dance to Lester Lanin's band specially flown in from America. The fire display alone was estimated to have cost pounds sterling 200,000. Five years later, Karim Aga Khan was caught in the global recession for making a series of bad decisions concerning his major business investments. His Italian holding company Fimbar was in deep financial trouble. Aga Khan had to give up the control of a chain of nearly 36 most glamorous hotels in six countries. The holding company and the CIGA chain of Hotels, which was running in deep red for the last number of years, owed nearly half a billion pounds to various international banks. When they failed to pay the interest on the loan, the creditors moved-in in May 1993 to seize the assets. That was no ordinary setback and public humiliation for the Aga Khan who was at one time dubbed "King of tourism" by the `Economist'. The `New York Times' reporting the creditors action wrote; "Creditors Chip Away At Aga Khan's Lustre".Karim Aga Khan has received several honours from many world governments and universities. The latest one of this decade was the Commadeur Legion d'Honneur, France, for services to humanity in the third world by the network of his international institutions and foundations. One of the major projects undertaken is The Aga Khan University and Hospital in Karachi, Pakistan. The Aga Khan Foundation and the network of his institutions do receive very huge contributions (in millions of dollars) from various Governments, international Consortiums, major Corporations and individual philanthropists (Ismailis and non-Ismailis), especially from Europe, North America and Pakistan.Karim Aga Khan, the recipient of the Jefferson Foundation Medal, is a frequent visitor to the White House since the Kennedy era. In 1985, president Regan and the first Lady Nancy Regan stayed at the Aga Khan's villa in Geneva during the historical summitmeeting with the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. One wonders why a religious leader of the Muslim community, having such close relationships with the world's greatest power broker the U.S.A., has remained noticeably silent on the issues such as the invasionof Afghanistan, Arab-Israel conflict, Gulf War and the ceaseless embargo upon Iraq, crisis in Somalia, Kashmiris struggle, Algerian election, Serbian atrocities and the continuing sufferings of Bosnian and Chechen Muslims. In the past a request was made to Karim Aga Khan by a source from Pakistan to financially assist the Muslim countries in the purchase of military hardware. There is no evidence of the request being acceded to. A documentary made and shown on the British TV, during the Afghan-Soviet war, showed that the followers of Aga Khan were proud to parade before the camera crew the Soviet Tanks and armaments that the Soviet army had left with them. The leader of the Afghani Agakhanis, Syed Jafferi - a hereditary chief Mukhi of the Imaam who had lived in the United States for sometime, bragged that the members of his Jamaat had repeatedly attacked, killed and captured the Muslim Mujaideens that were passing through their valley - a strategic mountain pass - to fight the Soviet army. When the documentary was shown to the leaders of the Mujaideens in Pakistan, he mentioned before the local media that once the Mujaideens have settled their scores with the Soviets they will take care of Syed Jafferi and his fellow tribesman. In the meanwhile, Karim Aga Khan and his followers are trying to relocate these Afghani Ismailis in Canada with the financial assistance of the Canadian Government and the Jamaat in North America.

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