Prince Shah Karim Al Hussaini, Aga Khan IV, KBE, CC is the 49th and current Imam of Nizari Ismailism, a denomination of Isma’ilism within Shia Islam with an estimated 10–15 million adherents (10–12% of the world’s Shia Muslim population).The Aga Khan is a business magnate with British and Portuguese citizenship, as well as a racehorse owner and breeder. He has held this position of Imam, under the title of Aga Khan IV, since 11 July 1957, when, at the age of 20, he succeeded his grandfather, Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III. It is believed that the Aga Khan is a direct lineal descendant of the Islamic prophet Muhammad through Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, Ali, considered the first Imam in Shia Islam, and Ali’s wife Fatima az-Zahra, Muhammad’s daughter from his first marriage.
On October 4th, 2018, Karen Armstrong, writer and religious historian, delivered the sixth Annual Pluralism Lecture titled “Compassion or Toleration? Two Approaches to Pluralism”.
Each person invited to give the Annual Pluralism Lecture is asked to reflect on how to build and strengthen pluralist societies. The Lecture is hosted by the Global Centre for Pluralism, an independent, charitable organization founded by His Highness the Aga Khan in partnership with the Government of Canada. It is based in Ottawa, Canada.
In her lecture, Ms. Armstrong spoke about the value of religion during what could be the “last gasp” of nationalism: “What the religions all tell us… [is] that enlightenment insists on overcoming the ego, letting the ego go. Nationalism is about ego, it’s about swelling the ego, and often that means excluding the other, as Lord Acton pointed out.”
Citing her current work on the scriptures of three of the world’s great religions, she went on to say that “the scriptures — all, in every tradition — say you have to work for the good of others, all others, not just those in your own camp, practically and creatively. That is the route to enlightenment.”
During his introduction, His Highness the Aga Khan remarked that “I think that one of the greatest challenges for the entire world will be finding ways in which we can all achieve a deeper understanding of the other, and what makes each of us distinct, as human beings and as communities. To achieve this vital goal, reflective, creative and empathetic thinkers and writers will be critically important.”
Over the last 20 years, Karen Armstrong has written more than 20 books on faith and the major religions, including Islam, Judaism and Christianity. She is the author of Islam: A Short History, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life and Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence. She is also the author of two memoirs, Through the Narrow Gate and The Spiral Staircase. Her work has been translated into 45 languages. She is also a former Trustee of the British Museum and a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Literature. Ms. Armstrong was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2015.
The Global Centre for Pluralism is an independent, not-for-profit international research and education centre located in Ottawa, Canada. Inspired by the example of Canada’s inclusive approach to citizenship, the Centre works to advance respect for diversity worldwide, believing that openness and understanding toward the cultures, social structures, values and faiths of other peoples are essential to the survival of an interdependent world.
The First Aga Khan: Memoirs of the 46th Ismaili Imam, by Daniel Beben
This book offers a new Persian edition and the first English translation of the Ibrat-afza, the memoirs of Hasan Ali Shah, the 46th Imam of the Nizari Ismailis and the first Ismaili Imam to bear the title of Aga Khan. The Ibrat-afza was composed in the year 1851, following the Imam’s departure from Persia and his permanent settlement in India.
The text recounts the Aga Khan’s early life and political career as the governor of the province of Kirman in Iran, and narrates the dramatic events of his conflict with the Qajar establishment in Iran and his subsequent travels and exploits in Afghanistan and British India. The Ibrat-afza provides a rare example of an autobiographical account from an Ismaili Imam and a first-hand account giving a window into the history of the Ismailis of Iran, India and Central Asia at the dawn of the modern era of their history. Consequently, the book will be of great interest to both researchers and general readers interested in Ismaili history and in the history of the Islamic world in the nineteenth century.
We have assembled a collection of various trailers to the documentary film AN ISLAMIC CONSCIENCE: the Aga Khan and the Ismailis. We hope you enjoy watching them. We will be announcing full screenings of the film as we learn of them.
“Holy Scripture for Ismailis” are the Farmans, or Decree, made by His Highness the Aga Khan IV, from 1957 – 2009 (the end of his Golden Jubilee). The decrees are the esoteric interpretation of Quran and Islam in general.
1. an official order issued by a legal authority.
According to Aga Khan, the Quran is written in acronym AMPS (Allegory, Metaphor, Parable and Symbol) due to spiritual or esoteric interpretation of Islam and Ismailism.
The Aga Khan has emphasized the view of Islam as a thinking, spiritual faith: one that teaches compassion and tolerance and that upholds the dignity of man, Allah’s noblest creation. In the Shia tradition of Islam, it is the mandate of the Imam of the time to safeguard the individual’s right to personal intellectual search and to give practical expression to the ethical vision of society that the Islamic message inspires.