Prince Aly Khan on two most important principles of life for an Ismaili

Introduced by AZEEM MAHERALI

The late 48th Ismaili Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, seated on a wheelchair with members of his family with his successor, the present Imam, Prince Karim Aga Khan, standing at extreme right. Others in the photo (l to r), grandson Prince Amyn Muhammad, and the late Imams two sons, the late Prince Sadruddin and Prince Aly Khan, who is seen holding his daughter Princess Yasmin Aga Khan. This rare photo was provided to Simerg by the late Alijah Zul Khoja.

Today, June 13, 2018 marks the 107th birth anniversary of Prince Aly Solomone Khan, father of His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, Prince Amyn and Princess Yasmin and brother of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan.

It was on this day in 1911 that Prince Aly Khan was born in Turin, Italy to Cleope Teresa Magliano and Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III.

Prince Aly Khan with his mother Fidai magazine
Prince Aly Khan at a very young age, held tenderly by his mother, Princess Theresa. Photo: Fidai magazine, Golden Jubilee Number, January 21, 1936.
Prince Aly Khan portrait Fidai mgazine 2
A portrait of Prince Aly Khan. Photo: Fidai magazine, Golden Jubilee Number, January 21, 1936.

Prince Aly Khan was educated by private tutors in France and undivided India during his childhood and later trained as a lawyer in England. A multi-linguist, he spoke perfect Oxford English, was fluent in French as well as in Arabic.

Prince Aly Khan traveled extensively with Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah to meet Ismailis in the Indian subcontinent, Middle East and East Africa and participated actively in the launch of many programs that targeted improving the quality of life of the Ismailis. Ismailis were always jubilant when Prince Alykhan and Prince Sadruddin were in their presence during the Jubilees of  their father.

prince-aly-khan-lourenco marques hotel departure m-steps
Prince Aly Khan is seen departing his hotel during his visit to Lourenço Marques in 1957. Photo: Jehangir A. Merchant Family Collection.

Prince Aly Khan’s adventurous spirit was reflected in his passion for racing horses, motor cars and planes in addition to his interest in yachting and skiing. As an amateur jockey he won several prestigious races at the Bar Steeplechase, Prix des Lions, French Amateur Derby, Le Trambley, Chantilly and Longchamp. He won Grand Prix races in France, Monaco and Italy. A man of exceptional stamina, in 1932 he flew from Bombay to Singapore via Karachi, Rangoon and Kuala Lumpur, at the time the longest ever civil flight.

During the second World War in pursuit of global peace and freedom he served with the British, French and American forces in Europe and the Middle East. A war hero and in recognition of his exceptional military services Prince Aly Khan was awarded two honors by the French Government – the Croix de Guerre (1939) and Legend of Honour (1950), and the United States Government awarded him the Bronze Star Medal for his bravery, heroic achievement and meritorious service in combat zones. In addition, Prince Aly Khan was invested as the 1st Colonel of the 4 Cavalry Regiment (1956).

rahe-rast-prince-aly-khan medium
An illlustration of Prince Aly Khan in “Rahe Rast,” an Ismaili journal published in Dar es Salaam in 1948/1949 and originally in the collection of the Late Karim Master.

Known for his cosmopolitan outlook and gift for international diplomacy, following the world war, Prince Aly Khan served as a member of the United Nations Political and Security Committee representing Pakistan as its permanent ambassador to the United Nations (UN) (1958). He was also appointed as the Vice-President of the UN General Assembly (1958) and served as Chairman of the UN’s Peace Observation Committee.

First Phase Digital
Prince Aly Khan, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations, is seen here (left) as he was interviewed on November 06, 1958 for UN-TV by Mr. John MacVane, Radio and Television Commentator. The Prince was at the time Chairman of Pakistan’s delegation to the 13th session of the UN General Assembly. Photo: UN Photo/Marvin Bolotsky.
First Phase Digital
The UN General Assembly met on August 19, 1958 to continue the substantive debate of its Third Emergency Special Session on South Africa. Among the speakers at the morning’s meeting was Prince Aly Khan, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations, who is photographed here as he addressed the Assembly. Photo: UN Photo/Marvin Bolotsky.

Prince Aly Khan passed away in a tragic car accident in Suresnes, near Paris, France on May 12th, 1960. He was first buried on the grounds of Château de l’Horizon, his home in the south of France, and 12 years later he was reinterred in Salamiyah, Syria – the place and people that he loved dearly.

Prince Aly Khan Kotahri Collection
Prince Aly Khan with Itmadi Kassam Kothari in Jamnagar, India, 1942 (appx.). Photo: Bashir Kothari/Nuri Kothari, Calgary, Canada
Prince Aly Khan with Jamati members
Prince Aly Khan (13 June 1911 – 12 May 1960) in Nagpur, India. The following can be identified (l to r): In turban and saafa with medal on his lapel is Late Vazir Valibhoy Sunderji. The person in front with glasses is Vazir Ibrahim Suleman Haji. Seen behind the mcirophone is Late Vazir JaferAli Abji Bhalwani. The person on extreme right of the photograph is Vazir H. Javeri. Photo/Caption: Samsu Jalali Collection, Atlanta, Georgia.

Over the past 11 months since the commencement of his Diamond Jubilee, Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, has continuously emphasized on unity within both the Jamat and families. His beloved late father considered unity as the greatest contribution that an Ismaili could make to his or her community. We pay our tribute to Prince Aly Khan by publishing an excerpt from his speech which appeared in The Ismaili (India), on February 2, 1941.


prince-aly-khan-lm-being-greeted in Lourenco Marques
Prince Aly Khan pictured with members of Lourenço Marques (Maputo after independence) during his visit to Mozambique in 1957. Photo: Jehangir A. Merchant Family Collection.


“Unity and self-effacement are the greatest contributions we can make individually to the rest of the community.

“By self-effacement, I mean the forgetting of oneself sometimes and making one’s personal interests subservient to those of the largest number. If self-effacement is achieved, the foundation of unity will have been well and truly laid. For, at present, it is the consciousness of one’s self-importance and dignity which is making people forget their duties and responsibilities, and indulge in petty squabbles and bitter trivialities.

“The welfare of the Ismailis is so near and dear to my heart that I cannot light-heartedly bring myself to overlook the weak points of the community. It is by recognizing our own faults that we can hope to improve. Let us realize that in the matter of helping our brethren we have much to learn from our sister communities, and that if we ever hope to achieve what we have set out to, we must resolutely follow the principles of the faith, be guided by the lives of men like Hasan bin Sabah and Pir Sadar Din and concentrate on the two most important principles of life — namely, Unity and Service of the Imam-e-Zaman and Community.”

Date posted: June 13, 2018.
Last updated: June 14, 2018 (new photos added).


About the writer: Azeem Maherali, originally of Ottawa, Canada, is currently based in Atlanta, Georgia.

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This website, Barakah, is a special project by and is dedicated to the textual and visual celebration of His Highness the Aga Khan as he celebrates his Diamond Jubilee or 60 years of Imamat.


  1. Excellent informative article on Namdar Prince Aly Khan the beloved son of Imam Sultan Mohamed Shah and a dynamic father of Shah Karim & Prince Amin & Yasmin. I’m from Bombay and I personally know and am acquainted with Vazier Zaveri, Mr Abji and other leaders including Major Lakhpati, the most favourite of Prince Saheb. I wish you can publish this article and some other jewels in our Ismaili magazine. The young generation will know a lot about our history. Many Thanks & Regards.


  2. Ya Ali Madad,

    Sometime back I had received an email with information about Portugal transit (with a map), and places to visit. I would appreciate if you could resend that information to me.

    Thank you and best regards.



  3. Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge about Prince Al Khan’s life. God bless you all. Aameen.


  4. Ya Ali Madat
    Bravo pour ce récit detaillé au sujet du papa de notre Imamé Zaman! Je ne connaissais pas du tout tout ce travail et tous ces titres en tant que soldat et pilote.

    Il faudra que vous partagiez ces informations aux journalistes occidentaux qui ne parlent que de Rita Hayworth et homme bon vivant ordinaire.
    Mille fois merci.

    Azade Kassamaly


  5. Thanks you for sharing. As always your e-mails cover everything and this one gave me a lot of knowledge of our beloved Imam’s father, which many don’t know.


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