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Tajikistan

Five Things To Know About The Aga Khan

Horse-racing enthusiast, the Aga Khan (second from left), is spiritual leader to millions of Ismaili Muslims
Horse-racing enthusiast, the Aga Khan (second from left), is spiritual leader to millions of Ismaili Muslims
By Farangis Najibullah
When an influential warlord at the center of recent bloody clashes in Tajikistan's eastern Gorno-Badakhshan region surrendered to authorities earlier this month, he claimed he did so to comply with a call by the Aga Khan. The religious leader is revered by the region's Ismaili Muslims, but his influence goes far beyond Badakhshan.

RFE/RL has taken a look at the Aga Khan – a religious leader, multimillionaire philanthropist, and a man known for his lavish lifestyle and interest in beautiful women and racehorses. 

Who are the Aga Khan's followers?

The Aga Khan, whose full title is His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan IV, is the current Imam of Ismaili Muslims. 

He has an estimated 15 million followers in more than 25 countries. 

Most Ismailis – also known also Nizari Ismailis – live in African and Asian countries, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Iran. There are also sizeable communities in the United States, Canada, and Britain. 

The 75-year-old Aga Khan, who is believed to be a direct descendant of Islam's Prophet Muhammad, is the 49th Imam or spiritual leader of the Ismailis.

Where do his royal titles come from?

Ismaili Imams style themselves and family members as princes and princesses – a title the family inherited from their royal ancestor, Fath Ali Shah, an 18-century Persian king.

The title has officially been recognized by the British government.  The title "His Highness" was bestowed upon the current Aga Khan by Britain's Queen Elizabeth in 1957, when he succeeded his grandfather at the age of 20. He is a British citizen.

The Aga Khan's "Highness" title is not hereditary.

The family does not preside over any country or geographic territory. 

What is the Aga Khan's source of income?

"Forbes" magazine lists the Aga Khan among the world's ten richest royals with an estimated net worth of $800 million. Other sources estimate his wealth at around $3 billion.

Most of his wealth comes from tithes or voluntary cash donations by Ismaili community members. Ismaili followers reportedly donate at least 10 percent of their gross annual income to the spiritual leader.

But it remains unclear whether the Imam personally benefits from the donations. Aga Khan supporters say most of the money goes to his extensive philanthropy, development, education, and charity projects in developing countries, especially those with large Ismaili communities.

The Aga Khan has reportedly been involved in different business ventures, including exclusive hotel chains. 

A multi-million-dollar horse-racing and breeding operation is believed to be one of the main sources of the Aga Khan's income beyond donations by his followers. He owns horse-breeding farms in France and Ireland.

What makes the Ismaili Imam different to other key spiritual leaders?

The Aga Khan mixes his status as spiritual leader with a jet-setting playboy lifestyle -- he is known for his interest in beautiful women, fast cars, and race horses. 

While his supporters focus on the Harvard-educated Imam's dedication to religion, philanthropy, and world peace, paparazzi frequently focus on the Aga Khan's personal life -- his marriages, divorces, and extramarital affairs.

The Imam divorced his first wife and mother of his three children, Sarah Croker Poole – who assumed the Muslim name Begum Salimah – after 25 years of marriage in 1995. The former model received over $30 million as a divorce settlement, along with some $27 million worth of jewelry.

The Aga Khan went on to marry German-born Gabriele zu Leiningen in 1998, and the couple has a son together.  However, six years into the marriage, his wife – who assumed the Muslim name of Begum Inaara -- filed for divorce citing the Imam's extramarital liaisons.

The couple is now officially separated, while the Imam is contesting Begum Inaara's claim for a divorce settlement worth nearly $80-million.

Why is the Aga Khan treated with caution in some political circles in Tajikistan?

Although the Aga Khan owns numerous estates, houses, and farms and even a private island, he remains a prince without a realm.

Tajikistan's Gorno-Badakhshan is the only predominantly Ismaili region in the world, with an official status of "autonomous province."

There was speculation in the 1990s that the Gorno-Badakhshan Ismailis might seek independence from Tajikistan, exploiting the country's political instability during the 1992-1997 civil war.

Local community leaders vehemently deny that this was considered. 

However, according to Tajik journalist and author Rajabi Mirzo, many in Tajikistan's political circles still treat the Aga Khan with a certain degree of suspicion.

According to Mirzo, "the recent bloody conflict in Gorno-Badakhshan demonstrated once again that the local populations there have more faith in and respect for the Imam Aga Khan than for President Emomali Rahmon."
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Comments
     
by: venky from: USA
August 24, 2012 15:01
Search for "aga khan enamorado" on google. Aga khan is more of a hugh hefner of the muslim world.
In Response

by: James Alford from: United States
August 24, 2012 21:12
Farangis Najibullah you need to have un-biased research. We don't need your personal opinions. Your percentage of fact is very little compare to your own personal opinion published in this article.

I know many Ismaili's and have work on various project for Aga Khan Development He is far more better than all Muslim leaders I have seen.



In Response

by: Aftab Kazi from: Washington DC
August 25, 2012 14:10
During 2006, while serving as a visiting professor at the American University of Central Asia, the German Ambassador in Bishkek, who had become aq very good friend, told me that Prince Agha Karim Khan was among the most enlightened person he ever met. He asked me to meet him as well. But, I haven't had such an opportunity yet.
In Response

by: Tajik from: Tajik
August 24, 2012 21:33
Not a single person in Tajikistan have trust in the President. They show people/concerts on Tajik TV praising the president out of fear, similar situation to North Korean. History has shown that Living in fear won't last long, while the Pamirians has shown throughout history they faith in The Aga Khan out of love, which will last forever.
In Response

by: Haza from: Dubai
August 27, 2012 23:41
he is a sham who has mislead a bunch of 20 million sheep, swallowing their money for his lavish life style
In Response

by: Abner from: USA
August 30, 2012 17:34
@Haza.....Your Arab Shiekhs and the Monarchs has led to cowing all rest of Muslim...So every rat can cow their milk and produce flithy minded off springs...


In Response

by: Curious2
August 28, 2012 03:00
You Venky Hundai are a certified idiot on the Internet. You have littered the photo-shopped photographs of the Aga Khan, superimposing them with your idiotic filthy mind and then you go around on the Internet publicizing your fake creation.

by: Musa Qaradagli from: North America
August 24, 2012 22:08
I understand that you persians can't help it; you have to distort something somehow and anyhow. I'd like to remind you the true history: Fath Ali Shah, was a Qajar-Turkic king, not a "persian king as you are well aware Qajars-Gajars are TURKS not persians. So, please make necessary corrections.

Regards,
Musa

by: Anony Moose
August 25, 2012 16:31
There are numerous facts that could be considered "need to know" about the Aga Khan.
- His family founded the Fatimid Empire and in 969 founded the City of Cairo and Al-Azhar University, arguably the oldest continuously operating university in the world.
- The first summit between Reagan and Gorbachev in 1985, with outcomes that changed the planet, was held at the Aga Khan's Geneva home. Just one example of his silent peace making.
- When Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau passed away, the four honourary pallbears were President Jimmy Carter, a Governor General of Canada, President Fidal Castro, and His Highness the Aga Khan.
- In the history of Canada, there have only been two individuals who are recognized as both Honourary Citizens and Honourary Companions of the Order of Canada. These two are Nelson Mandela and High Highness the Aga Khan.
- The present Aga Khan's grandfather, Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III was twice President of the League of Nations, pre-cursor to the United Nations.
- The present Aga Khan's uncle, Prince Sadruddun Aga Khan, was the youngest and longest serving UNHCR in the United Nation's history, and it was during his period of service that the UNHCR received the Nobel Peace Prize.
- The Aga Khan Award for Architecture is the largest and arguably most prominent architecture related prize in the world.
- The Aga Khan Development Network, encompassing the Aga Khan Foundation, Aga Khan Trust for Culture, Aga Khan Education Services (with its hundreds of schools), Aga Khan Health Services (with its hundreds of clinics), Aga Khan University (with multiple university hospitals and campuses in eight countries), FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance, Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard and MIT, Industrial Promotion Services, Tourism Promotion Services, Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, etc., cumulatively forms the largest private development networks in the world.
- Of all the Shia Muslim communities, it is only the Ismailis led by the Aga Khan who continue to have a hereditary Imam, a continuous chain from the time of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). This is critical in context of the following Hadith of the Prophet: "I leave behind me two weighty things. "One of them is the Book of God and the other one is my select progeny, that is family. Beware of how you behave (with) them when I am gone from amongst you, for God, the Merciful, has informed me that these two shall never separate from each other until they reach me at the paradisial pool.
In Response

by: Abner from: USA
August 30, 2012 17:35
True Facts!
In Response

by: Amin from: Atlanta
September 08, 2012 05:32
@Anony Moose really true

by: Rick from: Milan
August 25, 2012 21:14
I do not know this person very well
although if in the Italian life he was always present.

Naming Aga Khan in Italy
immediately spring to mind some important facts

The first is certainly the tourism development project
and its concrete realization (1962)
of the coast of Sardinia, known as the "Emerald Coast"

The second, when for give greater impetus to the development of tourism in the poor and backward Sardinia
he founded an airline ("Alisarda", now known as "Meridian")

HAS done much more, in my country, especially in the tourism sector, such for exemple foundation of the hotel chain CIGA

In short,
a person who certainly never been with folded hands

So, I don't know if he is a person with no stains,
but we say that
" who has clean hands
is because always kept them in the pocket"

by: ali khan from: Berlin
September 07, 2012 14:56
In first look, I think that this RFERL might be an authentic and reliable news source but after reading this article, Sorry to say how low standard its reporting and research, Completely baseless information and rubbish.

by: Noor from: Pakistan
September 07, 2012 22:47
What a shame that the Radio Free Europe has taken the "liberty" to publish crap about a personality whose services go beyond rhetoric and self-projection.

He is the man who created the Aga Khan University, Pakistan top center of medicine and education.

He is the man who created the University of Central Asia (UCA).

He is the man who founded the Global Center for Pluralism.

He is the man who founded the Islamic Museum of Canada.

He is the man who has established schools, health facilities and water-and-sanitation projects in some of the most vulnerable and most ignored parts of the world.

He is the one who talks of peace, pluralism, justice and development.

He sees all development projects as an extension of the Islamic belief that it is human kind's duty to help the vulnerable and the impoverished, so that they are able to find hope and improve their lives.

He is the one who has transformed the lives of millions of people, by spending his personal wealth and by ably managing the money of his community - taking from the rich and giving to the poor, establishing housing societies, hospitals, parks and sports facilities, to improve the quality of life of people who would otherwise have lived under perpetual poverty.

He is the one who is trying to the bridge the West and the East, negating the falsehood of "clash of civilizations", by diagnosing it as a clash of ignorance, on both sides.

The list of his honours and awards, which he has received not because he is rich, but because he is a visionary, who has moved beyond words and dedicated his life for uplift of human dignity.

He is not just a dreamer, he is a doer. He is not just a doer, he is an enabler, helping communities and people realize their true potentials.

And you, Mr. Frangis Najibullah, have found filth littered on the internet by the "paparazi" and posted it here, not to inform the readers, but to misinform them. Not to guide them, but to misguide them and not to educate them, but to push them into the realm of ambiguity and doubt and suspicion.

And the Radio Free Liberty Europe has not done justice with the profession by handing over such valuable webspace to such an idiot.

Lastly, had Begum Inara Aga Khan doubted the sincerity of his former husband, she would never have kept his name. Divorce is purely in line with Sharia and Islam and the laws of the land, so instead of unnecessarily scandalizing the life of an honest, upright and dedicated leader, and offending those who look at him as a Messiah, you should fill some sense in your skull and put it to a better use. Don't waste your time in journalism.

by: Nazar from: Canada
September 11, 2012 04:44
Assalomu Allaykum,

Dear Farangis Najibullah,

Good job for bringing to the light that who His Highness Prince Agakhan is. And I believe that most part of the article is based on facts but I believe not that everything you wrote is true.
I have read almost every speech the Aga Khan makes arould the world at Universities in Muslim Countries and the West. He always talks about Islam and the Unity of Ummah and all Humanities. He is known as a " bridge builder between Faiths and Cultures" by great Intellectuals of the World.
And how could you and others assume that he wants to divide a Nation, I think you are mistaking him with a very narrow minded and radical person. I mean someone else.
" The Ismailis are a Transnational community who are first and foremost active and loyal citizens of the country where they live." Excerpt from the speech made at the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat year 2005.
Second, you mentioned that he likes beautifull women and he is rich. Honestly, who in the entire World does not like a beautiful woman or beautiful women (try it for yourself).
A saying is attributed to prothet Muhammad (s.a.s)," Allah/ God is beautifull and he loves beauty." But I think it has more to do with his father Alykhan (maybe the reason he could not be an Imam) then his son Shah Karim al-Hussaini The Aga Khan 4.
His Highness married his wifes according to principle of Islam. And both his wifes converted to Islam and bear the Muslim names ( Begum Salimah and Begum Innara). Their children were born Muslim.
Unfortunately, most media and papparazi portray him a womenizer becuse they understand our human weaknesses that most of us like Gossiping and Backbiting. And most of us believe them or even know that is not true still spread the rumour. And I think that is the grave mistake.
What I believe that both of his wifes were jelious/ suspitious of and blamed him for no reason. What I heared that they did not agry with his long hours work. After all His Highness was and still is a very good looking, very Intelligent, very Charming and very rich man. Of course any women would like him and even get attracted to him. It is our human nature.
Third, he inherited some of his wealth from his ansestors( one example horses), but most of the wealth he has, he worked hard for it. And having wealth is not sin in Islam( it is the blessing of Allah) as long as you spend it in healthy way. And His highness is spending his wealth according to concience of Islam. Again what person of the earth would reject the wealth, but most of us would become inviuos of our brothers wealth.
In sum, the favour that His Highness Agakhan has done for the World of Islam none of us could do ever.
Now, I would like to provide you with some official website for the Agakhan Foundation and Ismaili Muslim Institutions, if you like to visit and get the information: www.akdn.org and www.theismaili.org and www.iis.ac.uk
You can also search google or youtube, you can type : His Highness the Aga Khan. You would know not only five things about Aga Khan, but hundreds of positive things and some negatives too.
All of us, and by us I mean Muslim should be proud of ouselves and of His Highness the AgaKhan for being such great Man of Islam.
Sincerely,
Nazar

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