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Glimpses from past and present: The Aga Khans and Queens Victoria and Elizabeth II

Compiled and prepared by ABDULMALIK MERCHANT
Publisher-Editor, Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos

Victoria Day

Victoria Day is a federal Canadian public holiday celebrated on the last Monday before May 25, in honour of Queen Victoria’s birthday. Queen Victoria was born on May 24, 1819. Following the death of three uncles and her father, she became Queen of the United Kingdom on June 20, 1837 and reigned for 63 years until her death on January 22, 1901. In 2019, Victoria Day falls on Monday, December 20.


Queen Victoria and family. Copyrighted by Boussod Valadon & Co. Painting by John Philip. Date created/published c.1897. Credit: USA Library of Congress Collection

The Ismaili Imamat’s deeply rooted historical partnership with the British Monarchy and the United Kingdom

Mawlana Sultan Mahomed, His Highness the Aga Khan III (1877 – 1957), 48th Imam of Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, who was born in Karachi on November 2, 1877, set out from Bombay in 1898 to see the world. His journeys took him to France, England, Germany, Russia, East Africa, Egypt and Japan, not necessaritly in that order. In England he was received by Prime Minister Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, popularly known as Lord Salisbury, the Secretary of State for India, Lord George Hamilton, and other prominent men in high places.

On a royal invitation he stayed with Queen Victoria (1819 – 1901) at Windsor Castle, when she decorated him with his first British Title, the Order of the Knight Cross of the British Empire (K.C.I.E). Queen Victoria also bestowed him with the title His Highness. 

Queen Victoria expired on January 22, 1901, and Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah attended her funeral in London on February 2, 1901. He was the personal guest of emperor Edward VII at his coronation in August 2, 1902 and he was promoted from the rank of Knight to that of Grand Commander of the Order of Indian Empire (G.C.I.E.). He returned to India in November, 1902. The viceroy of India, Lord Curzon appointed him to a seat of his Legislative Council of India.

Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah was succeeded by Mawlana Hazar Imam Shah Karim al-Hussaini on July 11, 1957 after a reign of 72 years, the longest in Ismaili history.

Queen Elizabeth II conferred the style of “His Highness” on him on July 26th, 1957, two weeks after he became the 49th Imam. According to a letter from the secretary of state for the colonies, it was granted “in view of his succession to the Imamat and his position as spiritual Head of the Ismailis.”

In his 1954 autobiography, “Memoirs of Aga Khan: World Enough and Time,” Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah described how he was received by Queen Victoria, forged a friendship with Winston Churchill, befriended King Edward VII and lived through the apex of British imperial might and decline in colonial India.

We produce below Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah’s quotes but begin with excerpts from a speech made by Mawlana Shah Karim during his Golden Jubilee in 2008 in which he alludes to his family’s and community’s close partnership with the United Kingdom. 

1573_Queen Hosts Aga Khan at Buc kingham Palace for his Golden Jubilee

His Highness the Aga Khan with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II during a dinner hosted by Her Majesty in honour of  the 49th Ismaili Imam at Buckingham Palace on the occasion of his Golden Jubilee in July 2008. Photo: AKDN/Gary Otte.

(Golden Jubilee Banquet in London, UK, July 3, 2008)

Over a century ago, my grandfather, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan, worked closely with Her Majesty Queen Victoria and her governments in the pursuit of common ideals. These ties were further strengthened by the strong presence of the Ismaili community – initially in places which later became Commonwealth countries, and later, here in the United Kingdom.

It is striking to me that in 1957, there were only about 100 Ismaili residents in this country, and most of them were students. Today, there are fourteen thousand Ismailis permanently living here and of all ages and walks of life.

In 1957, there was only one Ismaili space here for congregational prayer — and that was on leased premises! Creating places of prayer as centres for community life was fundamental to ensuring the cohesion of the community, and there are now over 40 such places. Among them, of course, a central focal point is The Ismaili Centre, located in South Kensington.

All of these comments, then, speak to the context in which we gather tonight — a rich history of partnership reaching deeply into the past — and extending, we hope and trust, into an even more productive future.


His Highness the Aga Khan III

The Aga Khan’s Deep Impressions of Queen Victoria

1. Excerpts from Life Magazine, May 16, 1949

His Highness the Aga Khan III in full regalia

His Highness the Aga Khan III in full regalia. Photo: Fidai Magazine.

The first deep impression of my life was undoubtedly when I had dinner with Queen Victoria. I was in my 20th year and that was my first visit to London. The queen was fond of Indian potentates and she kindly invited out to Windsor to dine and spend the night. She placed me next to her at the table. The queen was most gracious. She arranged that the food was served by Indians, and she spoke to me about the problems of India, the plague and all that. She was especially interested in the plague. I was young and I was particularly interested by her human element.

She was then 79, you know, and the dinner was very long, with three sweet courses at the end, but she ate everything. She was dressed in black, with a white-collar. She wore a huge bracelet having a medallion of her husband, Prince Albert, on it, and one large diamond ring and several smaller diamonds. She did not wear glasses but she saw clearly and she had beautiful hearing — she could hear a whisper. She was a remarkable woman — yes, undoubtedly, I must be one of the few left alive who have dined with her.

2. Excerpts from The Memoirs of Aga Khan, 1954

Memoirs of Aga Khan Jacket Medium

My life in many ways has been a bridge across vastly differing epochs. Looking at it for the moment simply from the Western point of view — I had a full life in the Victorian era, and I am leading now an equally full life in this new Elizabethan era. When I was a young man I sat next to Queen Victoria at a dinner party and talked to her throughout it; the other day I sat next to Queen Elizabeth II at a tea party and talked to her throughout it.

In my youth the internal combustion engine was in its early, experimental phase, and the first motor cars were objects of ridicule; now we all take supersonic jet propulsion for granted, and interplanetary travel is far more seriously discussed today than was even the smallest flying venture at a time when I was quite grown up and had already lived a full and active life….

Queen Victoria herself was of course sharply conscious of the responsibilities, not only political but personal and social, which she had assumed with the splendid title of Empress of India. She insisted that Indian Princes and Indian gentlefolk should receive the respect and the dignified status accorded in those days to European princes and gentlefolk. The Duke of Connaught faithfully practiced her principles during his time in India. The Viceroy and Vicereine, Lord and Lady Dufferin, were, like Lord and Lady Reay, people of kind and gentle sensibility, warm hearts and graceful manners. A tone thus set could not be ignored, and Indo-British relationships in general were in this pattern.

There is an outstanding example that I recall: Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, a notable figure in the Parsee community in Bombay, gave a reception for the Viceroy and Vicereine, Lord and Lady Dufferin, for the Governor of Bombay and his wife, Lord and Lady Reay, and for the Duke and Duchess of Connaught. Sir Jeejeebhoy, as host, offered his arm to Lady Dufferin and went into the supper room, and the Viceroy followed with his hostess, Lady Jeejeebhoy, and everyone else went after in turn. A few years later — and thereafter, until the end of the Indian Empire — it would have been inconceivable that the Viceroy, a Prince of the British Royal House and the Governor of the great province of British India, would have gone to a reception at the house of a Parsee  gentleman, however distinguished, and allowed him to lead the Vicereine in first and then have followed with his hostess. 

At Ascot I have had a Royal Household badge for well over fifty years; I was first given my badge by Queen Victoria, and it has successively been re-bestowed on me by King Edward VII, King George V, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II.

[Egypt’s] Prince Mohammed Ali and I have been friends for fifty-five years. When I first went to London in 1898, he and I stayed at the same hotel, the old Albemarle in Piccadilly. He dined at Windsor Castle as Queen Victoria’s guest either shortly before or after I had the same honor. By a curious and delightful coincidence, fifty-five years later, in Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation Year, he and I, who had been Queen Victoria’s guests at dinner, in the same summer were her young great-great-granddaughter’s guests at tea. Across this great stretch of time Prince Mohammed Ali and I have been firm and fast friends.


The Aga Khan’s Gifts to Queen Victoria 

Aga Khan_tiara gift_ to_Queen Victoria

Photos: Princess Louise, Duchess of Connaught and Strathearn

(writing in her blog Tiara a Day)

In 1896, a year before her Diamond Jubilee, an inventory of Queen Victoria’s jewels was made by Garrard, the crown jeweler  There weren’t many tiaras on the list — only five. But one of the five on the list was this one: the tiara given to her by the Aga Khan.

The inventory describes the tiara as “A pearl and diamond tiara with 12 Bouton and 12 pear-shaped pearls with a diamond chain to form a necklace, presented by Aga Khan.”

To my knowledge, there are no images, painted or photographed, of Victoria in this tiara. However, we do know that Victoria bequeathed the tiara to one of her daughters-in-law: Princess Louise of Prussia, the wife of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn.


His Highness the Aga Khan IV

The Aga Khan attends spectacular equestrian event “All the Queen’s Horses” celebrating Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee

Aga Khan at All the Queen's Horses event in Windsor for Queen Elizabeth Golden Jubilee

His Highness the Aga Khan’s support enabled contingents from four Commonwealth countries to participate in a spectacular equestrian event honouring the Queen on her Golden Jubilee. Photo:

On May 19, 2002, His Highness the Aga Khan, Mawlana Hazar Imam, joined with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, members of the Royal Family and Ambassadors of participating foreign and Commonwealth countriesto for a major equestrian spectacular featuring 1,000 horses and 2,000 participants. Entitled “All the Queen’s Horse” the event was staged in Windsor Great Park where mounted officers from Canada, India, Kenya and Pakistan joined contingents from other countries in a tribute to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, as Head of the Commonwealth, on the 50th anniversary of her accession to the throne.

The presence of the contingents from the four Commonwealth countries was made possible with the support of Mawlana Hazar Imam who noted that the “event serves to acknowledge the Commonwealth’s importance in maintaining relations among countries through both good and less good times in their shared history. The event honours the personal attention that Her Majesty the Queen has accorded to that history and the admirable manner in which she has exercised, and continues to exercise, the challenging role of Head of the Commonwealth.”

It may be noted that Queen Elizabeth received her first racehorse called Astakhan as a wedding present from Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah in 1947. Astakhan went on to win a maiden at Hurst Park as a three-year-old in 1950. However, the Queen’s passion for flat racing developed after her accession to the throne in 1952.


The Aga Khan accompanies Prince Charles to view AKDN projects in Northern Pakistan

Gifts abounded for the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall as they ended their tour of Pakistan against possibly the world’s most spectacular mountain backdrop. In the Hunza Valley, in the small village of Altit, the prince was given a yak; the gift of a yak is the highest honour that can be bestowed on a VIP, in a tradition that dates back many centuries…The couple were accompanied during the day by the Aga Khan…Villagers had risked their lives climbing hundreds of feet up sheer rock face to spell out welcome messages in white stones which read: “Welcome the royal couple” and for the Aga Khan: “Welcome our H Imam and royal guests.” — compiled from The Daily Telegraph.

479_Aga Khan_Prince Charles in Hunza 2006

On November 3, 2006, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall were hosted by His Highness the Aga Khan on a tour of development projects in the Northern Areas of Pakistan. The Prince of Wales viewed restoration work undertaken by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in the traditional settlement of Altit, in the Hunza Valley of Pakistan. Their Royal Highnesses also visited the “organic village” of Nansoq, where a programme supported by the Aga Khan Foundation is designed to demonstrate the viability of organic agricultural production. Photo: AKDN.ORG


The Aga Khan welcomes Prince Charles to Cairo’s Al-Azhar Park

egypt_2006march_2m.Aga Khan welcomes Prince Charles to Al Azhar Park

His Highness the Aga Khan welcomes HRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall to Al-Azhar Park on March 20, 2006. Photo: AKDN/Gary Otte.


Queen Elizabeth hosts the Aga Khan at Buckingham Palace for his Golden Jubilee

aga-khan-iv-at-buckinghma-palace_with Queen and Prrince Philip_Golden Jubilee

His Highness the Aga Khan together with Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh at a dinner hosted in July 2008 in the Aga Khan’s honour at Buckingham Palace to commemorate his Golden Jubilee. Photo: AKDN/Gary Otte.

aga-khan-iv-at-buckinghma-palace_with Queen and Prrince Philip_Golden Jubilee 3

His Highness the Aga Khan presents his second son, Prince Hussain, to Her Majesty the Queen. His brother, Prince Amyn, and his oldest son Prince Rahim prepare to be greeted by His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh and the Duchess of Cornwall, as Princess Yasmin, the Aga Khan’s sister, looks on. Photo: AKDN/Gary Otte.


Queen Elizabeth hosts the Aga Khan at Windsor Castle for his Diamond Jubilee

6mhi_Aga Khan with Queen Elizabeth at his Diamond Jubilee celebration at Windsor Castle

Her Majesty the Queen in conversation with His Highness the Aga Khan at a dinner hosted on March 8, 2018 by Her Majesty at Windsor Castle. The Aga Khan was accompanied by members of his family — his brother Prince Amyn Aga Khan, his daughter Princess Zahra Aga Khan, his eldest son Prince Rahim Aga Khan, Prince Rahim’s wife Princess Salwa, and the Aga Khan’s younger sons, Prince Hussain Aga Khan and Prince Aly Muhammad Aga Khan. The event acknowledged historic linkages between the Ismaili Imamat and the British Monarchy and longstanding connections between the Ismaili Community, the institutions of the Aga Khan Development Network and the United Kingdom. Photo: AKDN/Gary Otte

Court Circular

March 8

Buckingham Palace

8th March, 2018

The Queen gave a Dinner Party for The Aga Khan at Windsor Castle this evening to mark His Highness’s Diamond Jubilee at which The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, The Duke of York, The Princess Royal and Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, and Members of The Aga Khan’s Family were present.

The Duke of Edinburgh this morning received Mr Martin Palmer (Secretary General, Alliance of Religions and Conservation).

The Prince of Wales, on behalf of The Queen, held an Investiture at Buckingham Palace this morning.

Note: The Court Circular is the official record of royal engagements and appears daily in the London Times. 


Aga Khan introduces Prince Aly Muhammad to Queen Elizabeth

His Highness the Aga Khan introduces Her Majesty the Queen to members of his family including Prince Rahim, Princess Salwa, Prince Hussain and Prince Aly Muhammad. Photo: AKDN/Gary Otte.


Prince Charles and the Aga Khan inaugurate the Aga Khan Centre in London’s King Cross

Your Highness, the extraordinary work that you have done throughout your lifetime, in the service of humanity and in the name of Islam, is as remarkable as it is invaluable. For that, you are owed the greatest debt of gratitude and I did just want to take this opportunity to thank you on behalf of us all, if I may…..It is clear to me that in holding dear the values of humility, honour, magnanimity and hospitality, the Ismaili Community takes its inspiration from you, Your Highness, and from your extraordinary “Greatness of Soul.” Prince Charles, Aga Khan Centre Opening, June 26, 2018.

dsc_4132_Aga Khan and Prince Charles inaugurate Aga Khan Centre

On Tuesday, June 26, 2018, HRH The Prince of Wales opened The Aga Khan Centre in King’s Cross in the presence of Mawlana Hazar Imam. Situated at the heart of London’s Knowledge Quarter, the Aga Khan Centre, designed by Maki and Associates, led by Fumihiko Maki, one of Japan’s most distinguished contemporary architects, provides a new home for a number of UK based organisations founded by His Highness the Aga Khan: The Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS), the Aga Khan University Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations (AKU-ISMC) and the Aga Khan Foundation UK (AKF UK).

In similarly inspiring this Centre, you have set it on a path to serve the world with great distinction, just as Your Highness has yourself done throughout your remarkable life. My wife and I have been fortunate enough to see just what an inspiration you are to your community when we accompanied you to Altit years ago. Never will we forget that occasion nor, for that matter, the magnificently shampoo-ed bull yak with which I was presented and which, very sadly, I was unable to transport back to Highgrove to graze in my Islamic Garden! Prince Charles, Aga Khan Centre Opening, June 26, 2018.


Prince Charles names the Aga Khan as Global Founding Patron of The Prince’s Trust’s work

We are immeasurably grateful to His Highness the Aga Khan for his contribution to our work and are delighted to welcome him as Global Founding Patron. — Dame Martina Milburn

Prince's Trust International Dinner

His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales named His Highness the Aga Khan as Global Founding Patron of The Prince’s Trust’s work. The Aga Khan met with The Prince of Wales at a dinner at Buckingham Palace, where he was thanked for his support. As Global Founding Patron, His Highness will support the delivery of The Trust’s work in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and through local partners in India, Jordan, Pakistan, Malta, Barbados and Greece.

Date posted: May 19, 2019 (Note: It is hoped to update this post with additional material and photographs over the coming weeks and months).

Before departing this website, please click Barakah’s Table of Contents for links to more than 150 pieces dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam and his family.


The following sources were used to compile the post:


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Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s holistic view of the world and his words of wisdom to Ismailis

In our first installment, In memory of Prince Aly Khan and Prince Sadruddin: Two brothers who passed away on same day 43 years apart, we carried excerpts of a speech on Islam made by Prince Aly Khan, father of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

In this second and final installment, we produce a tribute to Mawlana Hazar Imam’s late uncle, Prince Sadruddin (January 17, 1933 – May 12, 2003), by William M. Johnson, editor of the on-line journal The Monachus Guardian, who accompanied the Prince on several of his visits to Greece in order to secure the survival of the critically endangered Mediterranean monk seal and their threatened habitats. Mr. Johnson’s superb piece, reproduced originally on Simerg with his permission, is followed by Prince Sadruddin’s remarks made to Canadian Ismailis about their responsibilities as Canadian Citizens as well as their role as ambassadors of the community. 


1. Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s Holistic View of the World

“Sadruddin Aga Khan was a source of inspiration to conservation, human rights and animal welfare – just some of the key areas that composed his holistic view of the world”  – William M. Johnson

“He was vocal on numerous subjects, ranging from the plight of monk seals on the Sporadean island of Alonissos to nuclear disarmament, and from the spectacle of a wretched panda trained to play a trumpet in a circus to the detrimental impact on the planet of mass deforestation.” – The Times, 16 May 2003

Prince Sadruddin with orphaned monk seal pup Efstratia

The late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan (1933 – 2003) with the orphaned monk seal pup Efstratia on Alonissos. Photo: Copyright © Matthias Shnellmann/The Monachus Guardian.


Prince Sadruddin served as UN High Commissioner for Refugees between 1965-1977, and would almost certainly have been appointed UN Secretary General in 1981 had it not been for a Soviet veto. He was appointed coordinator of UN humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan in 1988 and assumed similar responsibilities for Iraq and Kuwait after the Gulf War in 1990. From 1992 until his death [in 2003] he acted as chargé de mission to Kofi Annan.

Outside the UN, the Prince was equally at home campaigning for nuclear disarmament as he was fighting against the exploitation of dolphins in captivity, deforestation, or the cruelties of the fur trade. In 1977, he founded the Geneva-based Bellerive Foundation, which came to reflect his own passionately-held holistic philosophy.

In 1990, Bellerive became alarmed by reports that a marine circus in the south of France, Antibes Marineland, was about to capture monk seals off the coast of Mauritania. There followed an intense international campaign to thwart the capture plan and, throughout it all, the Prince maintained an avid personal interest in unfolding events, frequently calling from his UN office to check on developments and to offer advice.

In March 1992, Prince Sadruddin made his first face-to-face acquaintance with the Mediterranean monk seal, attending the release of orphaned pup Efstratia on the Aegean island of Alonissos in the Northern Sporades Marine Park. Accompanied by his wife, Princess Catherine, the Greek Environment Minister and a throng of journalists, the visit helped draw worldwide attention to the plight of the species.

The Prince was visibly touched, both by the bewildered monk seal pup snuffling at his fingers in the Steni Vala rescue station, as by the genuine warmth and hospitality shown to him by the local people of Alonissos.

“The question is, Can anything be done? Over the years, I have discussed monk seal conservation with numerous people, from government ministers to businessmen and scientists, from conservation activists to school children. Ironically, it is often the young who have the clearest idea of what needs to be done. It is the young who are impatient for answers, intolerant of delay. Where others find themselves wallowing in bureaucratic quicksand, the young often see common sense solutions and cannot understand why establishment figures are reluctant to seize the initiative. Some might call this naïveté, but one wonders whether this is just the cynic’s way of justifying inaction.” – Excerpt from Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s guest editorial for The Monachus Guardian

Of the shy, once trusting seal of the Mediterranean, he remarked that, in many ways it is “a totemic like symbol for the good side of the human species.”

Later on in Athens, the Prince brought his diplomatic skills to bear, championing the monk seal cause in meetings with ministers, the prime minister, and even the president of the republic.

In June the same year, he returned to Alonissos, where he was awarded Honorary Citizenship in a ceremony attended by the wife of the then Prime Minister, Constantine Mitsotakis.

For the next few days, Prince Sadruddin held “town hall” meetings with local stakeholders, hiked over the archipelago’s uninhabited islands and made the personal acquaintance of that other famous ambassador of the monk seal species, Theodoros, the orphaned seal that had so endeared himself to the local community. 

Later the same year, he donated a new 42-seat community bus to Alonissos in an effort to encourage the island to stake its future on the Marine Park rather than the mass tourism route so common to the Aegean.

At the same time, he spearheaded efforts to establish an Athens-based foundation for the monk seal, encouraging wealthy ship-owners and other industrialists to commit themselves to saving Europe’s most endangered marine mammal. Although it proved an uphill battle, before winding up its activities the foundation had donated some quarter of a million dollars to monk seal conservation efforts in the Aegean.

In 1994, he had Bellerive join forces with the International Marine Mammal Association to defeat yet another attempt by Antibes Marineland to capture monk seals in Mauritania.

Prince Sadruddin Release of Orphaned Monk Seal

Prince Sadruddin and Princess Catherine (second and third from left) attending the release of orphaned monk seal pup Efstratia. Photo: Copyright © Matthias Schnellmann/The Monachus Guardian.

[In 2002] Prince Sadruddin stepped in to save The Monachus Guardian from closure, personally urging other organisations to match his funding commitment. Within weeks, WWF International had reacted positively to his appeal, allowing the Guardian to continue publishing for another year.

“For those who have always felt an instinctive revulsion for the travelling menagerie, it might not seem altogether surprising that cruelty and deprivation lurks behind all the razzmatazz and glitter of the circus world. But I’m pleased to say that this book is not merely content with recounting in abstract the suffering that these animals must endure in order to provide their human audience with a short-lived thrill. Here, we also see the animals as individuals, and in graphic detail, the shadowy enterprises, dealers and showmen who profit from their exploitation.” –  Excerpt from Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s preface in The Rose-Tinted Menagerie. 

“A pair of baby elephants straining feverishly at the heavy chains which shackle them to the ground in a circus tent; ice-skating polar bears that must live most of their lives confined to boxes no more than a metre square; a giant panda – that most famous endangered species of all – trained to blow a trumpet and ride a motorbike. Haunting images such as these abound in William Johnson’s book, The Rose-Tinted Menagerie.” – Excerpt from Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s preface in The Rose-Tinted Menagerie. 

A pair of baby elephants straining feverishly at the heavy chains which shackle them to the ground in a circus tent; ice-skating polar bears that must live most of their lives confined to boxes no more than a metre square; a giant panda – that most famous endangered species of all – trained to blow a trumpet and ride a motorbike. Haunting images such as these abound in William Johnson’s book, The Rose-Tinted Menagerie

Over time, Prince Sadruddin became increasingly frustrated by the glacial pace of government bureaucracies in tackling ecological and animal welfare abuse, and by the seemingly infinite capacity of officials to evade even the most compelling facts of a logical argument.

He could be equally incensed by conflicts between organisations that supposedly shared the same worthy goals – a conviction that originally inspired Bellerive’s faith, and nurtured its talents, in assembling broad coalitions to tackle pressing issues.

“On a journey through history, we see the evolution of that fearful anthropocentrism which afflicts the human race in our species’ futile quest for supremacy over the Earth. As William Johnson suggests, it is perhaps inevitable that the fragmentation so evident in human society today is the direct legacy of our separation from Mother Nature. Indeed, it may well be surmised that speciesism, coupled with humanity’s unwillingness to perceive the vital inter-relationships which compose a global ecology, has done more damage to the environment than any other single factor. By the same token, encouraging a holistic or all-embracing perception of the living Earth must be at the heart of humanity’s awakening ecological awareness. In many respects, we must sweep away the outmoded ideas and institutions that still bind us to an environmentally-damaging past. That endangered species should still inhabit the beast wagons of travelling shows, that dolphins and whales should still be captured and carted around the world for exhibition is not only unconscionable in itself, but also serves to perpetuate an insidious utilitarian view of creation.” Excerpt from Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s preface in The Rose-Tinted Menagerie.

At the same time, the Prince often voiced concern that, in striving to meet the challenges of operating within a new world economic order, NGOs could themselves become corporate entities alienated from the very people they needed to reach and to convince.

Sadruddin Aga Khan will be a sorely missed source of inspiration to conservation, human rights and animal welfare – just some of the key areas that composed his holistic view of the world.


2. Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s Words of Wisdom to Ismailis of Canada

prince-sadruddin-aga-khan UN portrait

A portrait of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan. Photo: Copyright © UNHCR. 

(Vancouver, Canada, April 22, 1975)

a. Prince Sadruddin on his beloved father, Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah

As we meet here tonight, a deeply moving occasion for me, my thoughts turned first of all to my late Beloved Father [His Highness the Aga Khan III, the 48th Ismaili Imam] who would have been so encouraged to see such a large gathering of Ismailis concentrated in a new land where they have never been before and as I think of my Late Father, I am greatly encouraged by the strength, the resilience, the tremendous ability to adapt, that all of you here have shown in settling in this great, this wonderful country.

b. Prince Sadruddin on our small world

This, indeed is a very small world and one realises it every day, and my remarks this evening are made not in the spirit of the community as regards questions of jamati interests, religious interests, but mainly as High Commissioner for Refugees – someone who is deeply concerned with the welfare of the jamat and who at the same time has taken a personal interest in facilitating the immigration of the great many of the new Canadians who live in this country.

The world is very small, and proof of that is that we flew over here in just a few hours from another continent and yet despite the fact [that] the world is small, people still don’t have very much understanding of each other’s problems and seem to be unaware sometimes of the realties of the situations in other parts of the world.

Now, who for instance, amongst all of you here who really knew about Canada before arriving? Before being landed immigrants? Before becoming Canadian Citizens?

And very few people in this great country know a great deal about India or about Pakistan or about East Africa, and this is something which happens in such a small world. The world which you can really visit in just a few hours by jet plane. You can go round the world today if you happen to be an astronaut in a space ship in just a few minutes and yet people find it difficult to understand each other.

c. Prince Sadruddin asks Ismailis to learn about Canada and become true ambassadors of the Ismaili community

I feel very strongly that now that history has brought you together with Canadians from different parts of the world, who originally came also from overseas, from Europe, and other parts of the world, that you have to learn this – from this accident of history to get to know the country in which you live, to get to know it really well and to get the people here to understand where you come from, who you are, and what your thoughts and beliefs are.

I would like to see every Ismaili and particularly every young Ismaili become an Ambassador, a real ambassador of the community. And I mean active ambassadors, Ambassadors who really work hard. I want you to be active ambassadors. I want you to explain to your Canadian friends, to your neighbors, to the people that you work with, that you live with, the people that entertain you, or that you will be entertaining, what you are, where you come from, about your traditions, about your culture, about your religion, about the way in which the community functions.

This is something which is extremely important and which all of you should remember. What we have to seek, I think, is not only the physical integration in the economy and the social structure of the country but we have to seek a kind of integration of ideas in the small world that we live in. This is what we have to aim for. An integration of ideas.

If you know this country well, you will find it much easier to settle here and I urge you to study Canada’s history.

Not only the history of the Nation as a whole, but the history of your Province. To have interest in the history of this country and its background. To understand how it functions.

d. Prince Sadruddin on articulating Ismaili principles to Canadians

In exchange, you should explain to your Canadian friends what the Ismaili Community is all about.

Explain the role of the Imam, not only his religious functions but also the economic and social advice that you receive from the Imam and what has happened to the community as a result of its unity in other parts of the world without forgetting that the community always owes allegiance, above all, to the country in which it lives, which is something also that the Canadians should understand – that you are going to be good Canadians, and that your allegiance will be first and foremost to the country which has opened doors to you.

For this reason, you must be law-abiding, for this reason, you must be good citizens. To become a Canadian is a privilege, and a privilege that you should be proud of. You have to have a civic sense. You should abide the laws of the country and this is particularly important to remember at a time when so many people are still trying to come to Canada.

e. Prince Sadruddin urges the Jamat to live within means and not try and outdo others

In the field of economy, I would advise you very strongly to understand the opportunities which are given to you, whilst at the same time being conservative and reasonable about expenses. There are many institutions in the Western world – many institutions in Canada – many institutions in the United States which give extended credit facilities and which make it very easy for people to buy without paying immediately, giving them the impression that consumer goods are available, and that they can always do everything on credit, and you must remember that this is very dangerous at times and that you must always live within your means, because as my father used to say, “a man who spends one cent more – one cent more than his income, finishes a pauper.” Therefore, with these extended credit facilities and all the various opportunities given to you by financial establishments, banks, etc. you have to be very careful always to live within your means and to live simply.

You should not be concerned about keeping up with your neighbours, keeping up by always trying to do better, having a bigger house, having a bigger car, and generally leading a more affluent existence. I think you should try to remember that today, in the world that we live in, there is a need for simplicity, to live within one’s means and not to fall a victim of these tastes for consumer goods and excessive affluence.. You should think not only of material goods – you should think also of other things.

You should think very much of your minds. You should think of your souls. You should think of so many other interests.

I don’t want the Ismailis to be known in their new countries only because of their business qualifications, only because they are clever businessmen, only because they are good at getting along on business.

I want Ismailis, especially the young people, to be known for their culture, for their extra curricular interests, for their sporting activities, for their culture, their religion, for their intellect – and young people have so many opportunities here.

f. Prince Sadruddin on Canada’s natural beauty and its conservation

You have a wonderful country – a big country, you can spread out. You can look for opportunities elsewhere. Not just remain always together, always in groups. I flew over parts of this country and I saw how nature is beautiful, how the Canadians love their country, and you must love it too and go out and camp and go visit the lakes and the forests. Go out and find out what nature has to offer you also. The young people should get interested and involved in conservation, in ecology, in all the things that the Canadians attach such an importance to, and which are so important in a highly industrialized world. Don’t think only all the time about business, about your own family interests, or your own community interests. Try to raise your sights, try and look beyond and, especially the young, try to be ambitious not only in the field of business but all the other callings which are available here in the country.

g. Prince Sadruddin on the importance of bilingualism

I would advise the young people here also to learn other languages. This is a bilingual country, and I was very happy earlier today when I met students separately in a separate group to see many of them, especially those who came from Zaire, are keeping up with their French.

I think it is very important in Canada to be able to speak French. I would like to be able to come back here – although I know that British Columbia is largely British and therefore English-speaking and unlike Quebec, Montreal. But I would like to come back here and speak to you in French and to have everybody understand.

When I come here, I will speak in French, and when I go to Montreal or Quebec, I will speak in English. Canada is a bilingual country and it is absolutely essential for the new generations who want to travel in this country and explore the immense possibilities which it offers you to speak French as well as English even if they speak it with a Canadian accent.

So, in conclusion, I would like you very much to bring the qualities of your culture to this new land and at the same time to recover the qualities, the advantages, the assets which Canada offered you so generously.

Please try and learn from the mistakes of the past. Please remember that sometimes in the past, we like other people, tended to be parochial, isolated, living too much in our own closed units. Instead of looking outwards, we tended to look inward.

h. Prince Sadruddin on participating in Canada’s democracy

Now that you are in a great country with boundless horizons, I want you to look outward and to think about all the opportunities which you have here and especially the young people find out what democracy is all about; very few of you really had the opportunity, if you think closely about it, to live in a true democracy before. Very few of you. Some of you may have come from the United Kingdom. You have a certain experience in democracy. But, those of you who either came from India or even Pakistan or Bangladesh and certainly those of you who came from East Africa, you only have had a very short experience of true democracy, and in some East African countries this has not lasted, as we know, unfortunately.

Now that you are in a country which is truly democratic and which truly practices democracy, you have to learn about democracy and young people must know what these responsibilities entail. What it means to vote, what it means to participate in the life of the country. You have to learn the good things of democracy. Not the futile and superficial things, but the good things of democracy – participation in the life of the country. This is what I mean when I say that you have to be grateful for the right to be a Canadian citizen. It allows you to participate fully in the democratic process in this country.

i. Prince Sadruddin on encouraging and stimulating children

As you go ahead, think of your minds, think of your children, think of their minds, how can they develop their minds, how can they develop their education and don’t stand in the way of your children’s education and their progress. Don’t be selfish about your children. Give them a chance to develop in the way they like and to follow the right path of education, vocational training so they can really integrate in their new country.

My wife joins me again in thanking you for your welcome. We wish you all happiness, prosperity, a very happy life in Canada and remember that it is by becoming a better individual, by trying to improve as a single human being, that you can do more for your community and your country in general.

Thank You.

Date posted: May 15, 2019.

Before departing this website, please click Barakah’s Table of Contents for links to more than 150 pieces dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam and his family.


Caption for featured image at top of this post:

First column: (top) Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah with Begum Om Habiba, Mata Salalmat, and Prince Sadruddin at a Mulaqat with the Karimabad Jamat during his Diamond Jubilee visit to Bombay. Photo: Ilm magazine; (bottom) Prince Sadruddin addressing a plenary session of the International Conference on Human Rights held in Tehran in 1968. Photo: Copyright © United Nations.

Second column: (top) A portrait of Prince Sadruddin Photo: Copyright © UNESCO Courier; (centre) a view of the Bellerive Room at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto containing Prince Sadruddin’s ceramic art collection; (bottom) Prince Sadruddin being greeted by President Shamshu Tejpar of the Ismailia Association for Tanzania during a visit to Dar es Salaam in the 1960’s. Photo: Copyright © Abdul M. Ismaily.

Third column: (top) UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Prince Sadruddin, and Abel Alier, President of the Provisional High Executive council of the South Sudan visit the village of Kajo Kaji, South Sudan. Photo: United Nations/1972; (centre) Prince Sadruddin with Secretary-General U Thant at his home on 23 June 1971. Photo: Copyright © Teddy Chan/United Nations; (bottom) Prince Sadruddin, left, and alongside him, his wife Princess Catherine, attending the release of orphaned monk seal pup Efstratia. Photo: Copyright © Matthias Shnellmann/The Monachus Guardian.

Further reading and references:

  1. Matthias Schnellmann’s photos of seals can be seen on his portfolio at
  2. for access to the full unabridged on-line version of The Rose-Tinted Menagerie – A History of Animals in Entertainment, from Ancient Rome to the 20th century.
  3. The Web site, edited by The Rose-Tinted Menagerie’s author William Johnson is dedicated to monk seals and their threatened habitats.


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In memory of Prince Aly Khan and Prince Sadruddin: Two brothers who passed away on same day 43 years apart

Publisher-Editor, Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos

prince-aly-khan-signing-guest-book in lourenco marques

Ismaili leaders and Late Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (right) look on as Prince Aly Khan signs the Visitor’s Book in the Ismaili Council Chambers during his visit to Lourenço Marques in 1957. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

I was a young boy of seven years old when one very early morning, as I was preparing for school, there was a gentle knock on our 2nd floor apartment door in Lourenço Marques (LM),  now Maputo, Mozambique. My father opened the door to Mukhisaheb’s son, a boy of my age. He had walked about a mile to deliver a message for my parents – we didn’t have a phone –  that Prince Aly Khan (June 13, 1911 – May 12, 1960) had passed away in a motor car accident and that Mukhisaheb and the leadership had convened a meeting in Jamatkhana later that morning. He asked that we should turn on the radio. Yes, indeed the news was on it. There was deep sadness in our faces and hearts. My parents, as teachers, had had the great privilege of meeting Prince Aly Khan during his visit to LM in 1957, a few months before Mawlana Shah Karim became the 49th Imam on July 11, 1957. Continue Reading

In 1966, His Highness the Aga Khan spoke brilliantly to African nations on seeking out areas of opportunity from new developments in computers and space

Compiled and prepared by ABDULMALIK MERCHANT
Publisher-Editor, Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos

On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) announced before a special joint session of Congress the dramatic and ambitious goal of sending an American safely to the Moon before the end of the decade. He said, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.” Continue Reading

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