April 11, 2023: Prince Irfan Aga Khan becomes 8 years old – the word Irfan, with it roots in the Qur’an, is a notion embodied within the Ismaili Muslim tradition of seeking spiritual enlightenment under the divine authority and guidance of the Imam-of-the-Time, currently His Highness the Aga Khan


Aga Khan with Prince Rahim and Prince Irfan
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, pictured with his son, Prince Rahim, and grandson Prince Irfan, on the auspicious occasion of his 80th birthday which was celebrated on December 16, 2016, at his residence in Aiglemont, France, with his family and Ismaili leaders from around the world. Photograph: AKDN/Farhez Rayani.

Just a day separates the birthday of Prince Irfan, oldest child of Prince Rahim and grandson of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, from that of his beloved uncle Prince Hussain who turned 49 a day earlier on April 10, 2023. Prince Irfan’s younger brother, Prince Sinan, celebrated his sixth birthday on January 2, 2023 (please click on the 2 links to read special pieces dedicated to Princes Hussain and Sinan.)

On October 24, 2014, Mawlana Hazar Imam informed the Jamats around the world that Prince Rahim and Princess Salwa were expecting their first child.

Prince Irfan was born the following spring on April 11, 2015 in Geneva, Switzerland, which is also the birthplace of both Prince Rahim (b. October 12, 1971) and Mawlana Hazar Imam (b. December 13, 1936.)

Mawlana Hazar Imam’s special message to the global Ismaili Jamat on the birth of Prince Irfan expressed happiness of his and Princess Salwa’s family. The Jamats around the world received the joyous news with traditional celebrations in their respective Jamatkhanas.

Although seen on a number of occasions in photographs, the first time that the Ismailis had the opportunity of seeing Prince Irfan in person was at the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in Lisbon, Portugal, in July 2018, when he was only 4 years old. He and his younger brother, Prince Sinan, then 2 years old, captured everyone’s hearts through their lively presence.

Aga Khan with grandsons Sinan and Irfan
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, pictured at his home in Lisbon, Portugal, with his grandsons Prince Irfan, left, and Prince Sinan, both children of Prince Rahim and Princess Salwa. Photograph: IPL via The IIsmaili.

Three weeks ago, on the occasion of the celebration of the Persian New Year Navroz on March 21, 2023, Ismailis rejoiced at the opportunity of seeing a new photograph of Prince Irfan and Prince Sinan with their beloved grandfather, Mawlana Hazar Imam. We once again share the same photograph, above, and highlight the fact that Prince Irfan is wearing a tee-shirt sporting marine life with image(s) of the shark, one of the favourite ocean animals of his uncle Prince Hussain, who as we have noted celebrated his 49th birthday, a day earlier on April 10!

Article continues below

Prince Irfan Aga Khan
Prince Irfan Aga Khan, then 4 years old, and his father Prince Rahim watch as artists perform the popular song Dama Dam Mast Kalander at the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in Lisbon, Portugal, in July 2018. Photograph: The Ismaili.

Meaning of Irfan in Ismaili Context

The word Irfan is an indirect Qur’anic name for boys. Irfan means “wisdom”, or more correctly, Wisdom with a capital W. It refers to all that is good and true of thoughts and deeds. It is derived from the Ain-R-F root (to know, to recognize), which is used in many places in the Holy Qur’an, [1] as in the following verse:


Wa Jā’a ‘Ikhwatu Yūsufa Fadakhalū `Alayhi Fa`arafahum Wa Hum Lahu Munkirūna — Sura Yusuf, Chapter 12, Verse 58


And the brethren of Joseph came, and entered unto him, and he knew them, but they knew him not — Holy Qur’an, 12:15, translation by A.J. Arberry.

Article continues below

Princess Salwa Aga Khan and Prince Irfan at the Diamond Jubilee in Lisbon Barakah visual and textual expressions
Princess Salwa shows her son Prince Irfan a picture of Mawlana Hazar Imam as a young boy — Prince Karim — at the Rays of Light exhibition in Lisbon during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in Lisbon, Portugal, in July 2018. Photograph: Aziz Ajaney/The Ismaili.

The term ‘irfan (gnosis), has a multitude of other meanings such as knowledge, awareness and learning, and is widely applied in Islamic mysticism. In the mystical context, like another term in the same family, mari’fa, which is also translated as gnosis, the knowledge is acquired by inner experiences and interior unveilings. [2]

The Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims share this notion with Muslims who have an esoteric dimension in the practice of their faith. For the Ismailis, that inner knowledge and experience is acquired through the Imam-of-the-Time who is regarded as the bearer of the Noor (Light) of Imamat. The Imam, as heir to the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him and his family), is concerned with the spiritual advancement as well as improvement of the quality of life of his followers. The Preamble of the Ismaili Constitution asserts quite clearly in clause (F), that the Imam’s knowledge and guidance lights the path of his followers to spiritual enlightenment and vision during their physical lifetime. This then prepares and leads the individual soul to mari’fa or divine unionship upon one’s physical departure from this earth.

Article continues below

Prince Rahim Aga Khan and Prince Irfan.
Prince Rahim and Prince Irfan at Prince Hussain’s Nature Photographic Exhibition in Lisbon, Portugal during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in July 2018. Photograph: Shireen Nazim/The Ismaili.

The famous prayer of the Prophet Muhammad sums up the end toward which the gnostic strives with all his mind, soul and body:

“O God, deliver us from preoccupations with worldly vanities and show us the nature of things ‘as they really are’. Remove from our eyes the veil of ignorance, and show us things as they really are…Deliver us from ourselves, and accord us intimate knowledge of Thee.” [3]

Barakah and its readers wish Prince Irfan a very happy 8th birthday and congratulate his parents, his younger brother Prince Sinan and all the members of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s family on this most auspicious and happy occasion which this year falls in the Muslim holy month of Ramadhan.

Date posted: April 11, 2023.


This piece contains excerpts from the following sources:

[1] http://quranicnames.com/irfan/
[2] http://www.alseraj.net/
[3] http://www.allamaiqbal.com/publications/journals/review/apr89/7.htm


Barakah welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.


Before departing this website please take a moment to visit Barakah’s Table of Contents for links to more than 350 pieces dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, members of his family and the Ismaili Imamat. Also visit Barakah’s two sister websites, Simerg and Simergphotos.

Please follow Barakah’s editor Malik at Facebook and Twitter. He can be reached at mmerchant@barakah.com.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s