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 repeatedly 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.


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 splendor 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. Theresa Magliano, one of the 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 1930, 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 Imam 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 Imam".

Within 27 years, the infallible Mowlana Hazar Imam realized that his 'Holy Farman' had to be recanted. The beloved "Wali-ahad" did not live a life expected of a future Imam. 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 a mention 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 Imam 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 son alive", be broken? According to the deep rooted Ismaili tradition and uncompromising conviction, Hazar Imam'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 Imam"; 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 loyalty to 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 Imam of the community and 'Aga Khan the Fourth' to carry on the family tradition.


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, Princess 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. Khan was 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 Imam of the Shiah Imami Ismailis and the fourth Aga Khan. The new Imam 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 Imam 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 Imam to whom they attributed "Divinity". When the body of the late Imam 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." Further more, the Constitution also defines that Karim Aga Khan's "Farman" ("Any pronouncement, direction, order or ruling made or given by Mawlana Hazar Imam") "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 half million 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.


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 Imamate. 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 graduated from Harvard in 1959, the young Prince Karim who had by then become the 49th Imam 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 Imam 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 Imam. The followers refused to recognize the appointment of a grandson as their "Hazar Imam", 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 their 49th "Hazar Imam". 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 had chosen 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, had curtailed 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 practiced 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 stop paying 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 Imam. 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 Imam'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 Prophet hood 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 Imam to be explained as the 'mazhar' of God, related to varying levels of inspiration and communication from God to man."
Note: The Arabic word `mazhar' means image; copy. 
Karim Aga Khan thus became the image/copy of God.

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 
religious head of an Islamic State.


It is reported that Karim Aga Khan had been articulating; the worst thing that could happen to an individual was to be 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 the name 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 Imams which originated from Arabia and had relocated in Persia during the post Fatimid period, was now being established in Europe via British India. During his trip of British East Africa, in one of his religious pronouncements ("Farmans"), the 48th Ismaili Imam 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 anglicized Imam 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 were in 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 ointed. The concept if made public, was not easy to defend if declared "heretic" by the Grand Mufti of Pakistan or the 
religious head of an Islamic State.


It is reported that Karim Aga Khan had been articulating; the worst thing that could happen to an individual was to be 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 the name of his bride Sally tseries 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 red for the past few years, owed nearly half a billion pounds to various international banks. When they failed to pay theinterest on the loans, the creditors moved-in in May 1993 to seize the assets. That was no ordinary setback as it caused 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 honors 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 summit meeting 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 invasion of 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 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 Imam wwwho 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.

(To be Continued)

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