Ginans (devotional songs in Indian languages) are key text in Ismailism in which traditionally HIndu gods were glorified. In the later years, changes were made by Sultan Mohammad Shah, Aga Khan III, to make modifications to those Ginans.
Disputing the preaching of a Ginan by a Ismaili would be similar in significance to the contradiction of the teachings of the Quran by a believing Muslim. Any study of the Ismaili Tariqah, without the study of the origins of Ginans and their influence upon Ismailis, would be an incomplete study.
Who Wrote The Ginans?
Forefathers of the present day Khoja Ismailis were converted by Pirs (پیر) from Hinduism with the Ginanic preaching. “Pir” is a Persian word. It means Murshid, Guru, an authorized teacher. For a Ismaili, the teachings of a Pir are to be obeyed, word for word.
Al-Waez Abualy A. Aziz has quoted a Farman of an Imam on Page 134 of ‘Ismaili Tariqah’ to show that the obedience to Pir is obligatory upon every Ismaili. The quoted Farman reads:
The Pir is the person to whom the Imam of the time has granted his position which makes him the highest amongst his creation (ashraf-imakhluqat) and whenever the Imam has chosen the Pir and appointed him, he must convey to others the knowledge in detail. You must attain perfection in the knowledge of the Imam through him. Therefore it is obligatory upon you to follow the Pir, never flinching from his obedience. Be bound by what the Pir tells you, acting as he says and when you obey the Pir, the Pir in the Hereafter will pray to God for your protection.
Ismailis recite Ginans everyday with love and devotion in their Jamatkhanas, but most Ismailis have not studied the History and origin of these Ginans. They believe that each and every Ginan that is recited in their Jamatkhanas and/or published by the Ismailia Association is composed by an authorized Pir and must be obeyed. However that is not so. In fact, there are more Ginans composed by non-Pirs than there are by Pirs.
Ginans Authored by Anonymous Authors
Professor W. Ivanow, a well known Russian scholar and a reputed researcher of Ismaili history has translated many books and manuscripts of Ismaili literature. He writes in his book ‘Ismaili Literature’ (Tehran University Press – 1963) on Page 174:
“A great majority of Ginans are the creation of anonymous authors. Apparently quite a considerable proportion of those attributed to the authorship of Great Pirs probably have nothing to do with them, and were composed at a much later date. This particularly applies to the gnans about various Pirs, their miracles, their sayings”.
Hundreds of Ginans which were composed by the children and grandchildren of the pirs were attributed to Pir Sadruddin and Pir Hasan Kabirdin by these descendants. Writing new Ginans and selling them to newly converted Khojas was the main source of income for these hundreds of relatives of Pirs. Ismailia Association for India has confirmed these facts and added that “out of 18 sons of Pir Hasan Kabirdin, 17 sons had opened various religious Bazaars of their own and had started their own independent factories. Some of these so called Sayyids had even established their own sects.
In 1969, the Ismailia Association for India published a series of Collection of Ginans (2nd Edition). This series includes Ginans composed by officially appointed authorized Pirs, Ginans by Sayyids (descendants of the Pirs) whose names and brief history are published in the introduction, and also Ginans composed by so-called Sayyids, whose historical record is neither available, nor known.
Below are three excerpts from the introductions of this series published from Bombay, India by the Ismailia Association:
1. Besides the authorized Pirs, descendants of the Pirs have also propagated faith in the same manner as their fathers and grandfathers. These descendants have composed some Ginans in which Sayyid Imamshah’s contribution is the greatest.
It is evident from the last excerpt that the Ismailia Association is trying to impress upon Ismailis that although a Ginan may mention the name of a Sayyid or Sayyidah as the composer it could be a composition of an authorized Pir. In other words, it should be given the same “weight” as an authorized composition. The collection of “Ginans” published by the Ismailia Association for India is made from the following categories:
1. Authorized Ginans composed by appointed Pirs
2. Devotional Songs composed by known Sayyids
3. Devotional Songs composed by unknown Sayyids
Officially, Ginans and Songs are both called Ginans. Both are being equally honoured, trusted and obeyed by Ismailis, because they bear the same nomenclature. In some cases the name of a father appears as the creator Pir and his son’s name appears, in the same verse, as the reciter Pir. There are even cases where the prefix ‘Pir’ is added to the name of the composer when he is neither a Pir nor a descendant of any Pir or Sayyid. Below is one such “Phony Ginan” created during my lifetime.
About The Phony Ginan “Par karo beda Guruji”A Ginan which begins with “Par karo beda Guruji” is often being recited in the Jamatkhanas of Canada. It is a “song” composed by Head Master (Head Teacher) Hussain Gulamhussain Hussaini of a religious night school at Khadak, Bombay, India in the 1940’s. In those days I was one of the teachers in that school. The Head Master had a poetic talent and used to compose songs for students of the night school to sing in the night school “Majlis”. Later on, this particular song became a “Ginan”. Master Hussaini who had composed the song, under the pen-name of “Musst” (in high spirits – carefree), became ‘Pir Musst Musst Hussaini” instead of ‘Musst Master Hussaini”. The majority of Ismailis do not know such historical facts behind the origin of Ismaili Ginans. A missionary would not reveal these facts, in order to preserve the “weight” of Ginanic literature. They want Ismailis to obey each and every “Ginan” with the same respect in spite of the fact that there are more unauthorized Ginans than there are authorized ones.
Who wrote “Garbis” of Pir Shams?
Ismaili sources record that Pir Shams was sent to India by one of their Imams from Iran. He was born in Iran. He died in Multan, Pakistan (formerly India). The custodian of the shrine in Multan has a genealogy tree (Sajrah) which records that he was born in Gazhni and came from Afghanistan. He was not an Ismaili and he did not propagate the Ismaili faith. However, the point to note is that he was a foreigner when he came to India. History records that he traveled from Afghanistan to Sind, Punjab, Kashmir and Tibet and settled in Multan (Punjab) where he died. Even the Ismaili sources have no records of his stay in Cutchh, Kathiawar or Gujrat where the inhabitants speak Gujrati.
In the Jamatkhanas of Punjab, Ismailis recite Ginans in Punjabi which they say were composed by Pir Shams, seven centuries ago. In most of the other Jamatkhanas the world over, Ismailis recite Garbis (folk songs in Gujrati to which men and women would dance at a festival, with music), Kathas, Salokas and Ginans in Gujrati which they claim were all composed by Pir Shams. This entire collection in Gujrati language would be of over 2000 verses.
This gives rise to a series of questions:
1. When and where did Pir Shams learn Gujrati?
2. Why would he compose and sing Ginans in Gujrati before his non-Gujrati adherents?
3. Was the art of poetry writing in Gujrati already developed 700 years ago?
Examining the standard of the language of the Garbis and Ginans by Pir Shams, one can say that they are the work of an individual well versed in contemporary as well as medieval Gujrati.
Who edited “Pir Pandiyat-i Jawan-mardi”?
It is interesting to note that in the Ismaili Tariqah, one of the “Authorized Pirs” is a “Book”. The Book is supposed to have been written by a Nizari Imam whose name was called Mustansir Billah II. The Book is called ‘Pir Pandiyat-i Jawan-mardi” – a strange name for a Pir. For more details please read page 123 and 124 of ‘A Brief History of Ismailism’ by Abualy A. Aziz.
Professor W Ivanow translated “Pir Pandiyat-i Jawan-mardi’ into English and published the text of the work and its translation through ‘The Ismaili Society’, Bombay, in 1953. Ten years later he wrote:
“Taking into consideration the fundamental differences between various versions of the text, mentioned in the Introduction, it is easy to suspect that the work (Pandiyat-i Jawan-mardi) has passed through the hands of Khayrkhwah (Herati) who had no scruples about ‘editing’ it, and probably ultimately it reached India in his version”.
‘Ismaili Literature’ Tehran University Press, 1963. Page 139
Who wrote “Kalam-i Pir”?Khayrkhwah Herati is also suspected by Professor Ivanow of committing ‘the worst plagiarism” and converting “Haft-bab-i Bu Ishaq” (Haft-bab written by Abu Ishaq Quhistani) into “Haft-bab-i Shah Sayyid Nasir” (Haft-bab written by Sayyid Nasir-i Khusraw), otherwise known as “Kalam-i Pir“. This book is considered as “Pir”, by Ismailis of Badakshan and Northern Pakistan. It has also been translated by Professor W. Ivanow into English in 1959.
“Editing” of books written by Pirs and Imams is not an uncommon practice in this Unique Tariqah. The “edited” version is treated with the same veneration and glory as if it was the original unedited version, because an Ismaili cannot distinguish the edited portion from the unedited.
Who made “w’Allah” (“By God!”), into Allah?Over a period of seven centuries, the original Ginans have gone through lots of transitions. Most of the old Ginans have either been lost or removed from circulation permanently In their places new Ginans have been added. Ginans were composed by Sayyids (male and female) until the last century.
Many Ginans have been edited by the Ismailia Associations.
Some Ginans are banned by the Imams.
Others have been modified or recast to incorporate Shia beliefs or to glorify the image of Ali. For example, the word “Hari” has been replaced with “Ali”, “Swami” is changed to “Sami’ and “w’Allah e’hi Imam” meaning “By God! that (Islam Shah) is Imam” has been altered to read “Allah e’hi Imam” meaning “Allah that is (equal to) Imam”, (nauzbillah).
The texts of some of these Ginans are beyond human reasoning and logic. Yet, in spite of these corruptions, Ginans are the basis of Ismaili beliefs. Ismailis burst with joy and pride when they sing “Allah e’hi Imam” not knowing that they are uttering a blasphemy and committing a heinous sin.
On pages 136 and 137 of ‘Ismaili Tariqah’ Abualyhas quoted nearly a dozen or so Farmans of Aga Khan III on Ginans. Reproduced below are three Farmans:
“Pir Sadruddin composed the Ginans, in Indian languages, which are the extracts from the Quran” – Aga Khan III
“Pir Sadruddin has given you, in his Ginans, the tafseer (interpretation) of the Quran-e-Shariff”. – Aga Khan III
“Pir Sadruddin has guided you to the Right Path. If (instead) you will follow the path of the Moguls and the Arabs, you will be lost”. – Aga Khan III
Prophet Muhammad came to India as “Pir”On page 133, Abualy has quoted a Ginan of Pir Sadruddin in Gujrati and has given the translation thereof as under:
“Before the creation there was Nabi Mohammed Mustafa. The same Murshid has come to India.”
Such fantastic claims made in the names of Pirs are the basis of the Ismaili Tariqah’s bizarre teachings and beliefs of the repeated incarnations of Hazrat Ali (ra) and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as the ‘Avtaras‘ of Hindu deities; ‘Vishnu’ and ‘Bramah’ respectively, from before the Creation. Ismailis are also taught that the Pirs who came to India were the holders of the Noor of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – the Bramah, and the Aga Khans are the final Avtaras of Lord Vishnu. Rama and Krishna were also Avtaras of Vishnu.
Prophet acknowledged Ali was the Creator
Quoted below is another “Unique Ginan”. The Ginan is published under a collection entitled “Momin Chetavni“. This Ginan is in connection with the birth of Ali ibn Abu Talib. It narrates a dialogue between Muhammed Mustafa (who was not yet Prophet and was 29 years of age) and a group of Angels who had come down from heaven to see Ali ibn Abu Talib, who had just been born.
‘When Nabi Muhammed, the leader of the Angels, returned after doing his Salaam (to Ali), the Angels said to Nabi Muhammed
“He (Baby Ali) is the creator of ‘Arsh Kursh’ (Heavenly throne);
He (Ali) is the one who has commanded us and kept us under your leadership.
He is indeed the same, without any doubt.
Then Nabi Muhammed replied:
“Brother Angels, let me tell you my thoughts; He (Baby Ali) has made known to me, he is the Creator of this Universe”.
Can these Ginans be considered as the “extracts from the Quran”? Does the Quran speak of “Ali the Creator of this Universe”?
No Muslim in his right mind would believe a single verse of the above Ginans. Any individual (Muslim or non-Muslim) who has read the history of the Great Prophet of Islam would say that when the Prophet Muhammad heard Angel Jibrael (Gabriel) for the first time in his life, it was in the cave of Mount Hira and he being about 40 years old. If the Prophet at the age of 29 years knew “Ali is the Creator of this Universe” then why did he go to Mount Hira? Why was the Prophet shocked to hear the voice of Angel Jibrael in the cave, if they both had known each other and spoken before? Finally, who told the Pir what the Prophet said to the Angels 700 years ago? Such Ginans are the basis for establishing the “Unique Supremacy” of Ali and his successors, the Aga Khans.
Allah created Adam and gave him wisdom. He implanted in him the faculty of knowledge and judgment, before sending him upon this earth. He also gave him the power of reasoning, intuition and instinctive feelings. He therefore enjoys a special place within the creation of Allah – “Ashraful Makhlukat“. Allah has honoured Adam to be His vicegerent on earth – “Khaliful Ardh“. We, the human race, inherited these faculties. Today, the sources of acquiring knowledge are unlimited and easily accessible. This makes one wonder why Ismailis of this 20th century who are so advanced and discerning in managing their financial affairs, become so gullible as to place their entire confidence in Ginans, and base their religious beliefs on such bizarre Ginanic legends of Ali and Nabi and not upon the Quranic teachings?
The Quran teaches: “Say I (Muhammad) am no more than a human being like you”. Holy Quran 18/10
As for the supremacy of Hazrat Ali; in the Fatimid period (i.e. pre-Alamut and preGinanic period), Ali was considered as “al-Wasiyin wa Wazir Khair al-Mursalin”, meaning “the distinguished Nominee and Representative(Wazir) of the Messenger”. These words were inscribed on the obverse of the Fatimid Dinars to describe their Imams – the descendants of Ali.
Should not the Aga Khan ask his followers to consider him, ‘Wazir of the Messenger’, since he claims to be a descendant of the Fatimid Imams?
Who are Moguls and Arabs?Incidentally, there is another Farman of Aga Khan III which speaks of Moguls as being “beggars” and Arabs “like donkeys’ and “what will they teach Ismailis?” The Farman is in “Khojki” (a script especially developed by Khoja-Ismailis, for private records and secret writings). This Farman was made on August 20, 1899 in Zanzibar, Africa.
“Pir Sadardin has shown you the straight path, if you leave that, and walk upon the talks of Moguls and Arabs, then you will fall down. Arabs are like donkeys. What will they teach you? They themselves do not know anything, then what will they teach you? Moguls seek alms in every country. What will they teach you? If you follow their talks, then you too will become donkeys”.
Aga Khan III tells Ismailis in the Farman that if they follow the words of Moguls and Arabs they will fall down and become like donkeys. The question is, who was Aga Khan III? Did he not call himself a Hashemite? Who were Hazrat Ali (r.a.) and Nabi Muhammad (s.a.s.)? Finally, who is Aga Khan IV? Is he Italian, French, British, Irani or an Arab? He calls himself Karim al-Hussaini. Who were Hashem and Hussain, if not Arabs
Muslims – those who submit to Allah – have based their religious beliefs by reference to the “Words of their Creator” – the Quran. Ismaili Momins – those who submit to their Imams – have based their religious beliefs by reference to the “words of Poets” – the Ginans. Which Tariqah is on the right path? Allah says:
Shall I inform you, (O people!), on whom it is that the evil ones descend? They descend on every lying, wicked person, (into whose ears) they pour hearsay vanities, and most of them are liars. And the Poets, — it is those straying in evil, who follow them: Seest thou not that they wander distracted in every valley? And that they say what they practise not?
Answering Ismaili Gnosis: How Hazar Imam really uses Dasond, Mehmani and Contributions by the CommunityRead Now
One of Canada’s most reputed news source, The Toronto Star has reported Aga Khan Foundation for “lack of transparency” and as one of the charities which do not release their audited financial statements to the public and refused to provide them to an independent agency that evaluates charities. The report can be seen here:
Aga Khan Foundation is ‘ethically’ bound, if not legally
Charities are not legally bound to disclose their audited financial statements to the public, but it is considered ethical to do so because they take in public dollars, said Greg Thomson, director of research for charityintelligence.ca.
When charityintelligence.ca requested Canada Revenue Agency to dig up the The Aga Khan Foundation Canada (AKFC), it was revealed that Aga Khan Foundation had “enough cash-in-hand to operate for up to 8 years without raising even a single penny.”
This is a staggering amount of cash-in-hand, and something major to consider for the donors whether they want to donate to a charity where their money could lie idle for almost a decade as compared to donating to charities which have immediate and sometimes urgent need for donations.
CharityIntelligenca.ca also reported that:
• Aga Khan Foundation received $41.9m in government funding in 2013.
• Aga Khan Foundation also gives away a salary between $300,000 – $350,000 to its Chief Executive Officer.
• Aga Khan Foundation holds significant ‘idle’ property valued at $346.2m in F2013, including $27.3m acquired in F2013 and $43.3m in F2012.
The monies collected by Aga Khan Foundation are distinct from those collected within the Ismāʿīlī Centers around the world from members of the Ismāʿīlī community in the name of tithe (also called dasond) to the Aga Khan. These collections too, are often cited for lack of transparency and allocation. While a small percentage of these funds collected in the name of tithe are visibly used for administrative costs for the Ismāʿīlī Centers, the whereabouts of a large chunk of these collections is unknown.
Many of the institutions established by the Aga Khan are profit-based such as Aga Khan Hospital and Aga Khan Museum. Both of these are run like any other business and Aga Khan Hospital in particular is reputed to be the most expensive hospital in the territories it operates – in Nairobi, Kenya and in Karachi, Pakistan.
Lack of transparency for the public charity like the Aga Khan Foundation, coupled with the same lack of transparency for the tens of thousands of dollars of tithes collected in the name of Aga Khan around the world in Ismāʿīlī Centers (also called Jamatkahanas) around the world, together with Aga Khan’s lavish lifestyle, has only increased the level of distrust towards the Aga Khan from within the community and from outsiders such as the Toronto Star.
One glaring example of such lavish expenditures by the Aga Khan is the hundreds of millions of dollars he has invested in a super-yacht called Alamshar which has been 13 years in the making.
This was supposed to reach 60 knots but it can go only half that speed, so the Aga Khan is taking legal advice. He’s not a happy man.
Aga Khan ordered the boat to be built to break the world speed record for super-yachts of 65 knots, as well as beat the transatlantic record of two days, ten hours and 34 minutes – an average speed of 53.1 knots – set in 1992. When the yacht was initially delivered, it only attained a speed of 30 knots during sea trials off Plymouth. The Aga Khan went on to hire a firm of top international maritime lawyers to handle any potential claim against boatbuilders Babcock Marine, who own Devonport naval dockyard where the Alamshar was built.
During an initial test, the turbine blades in its three Rolls-Royce gaspowered engines – which were originally designed for Sea King helicopters – burnt out. They were replaced with engines made by Rolls’s US rivals Pratt & Whitney, which were used to drive water jets.
A source said: “This was supposed to reach 60 knots but it can go only half that speed, so the Aga Khan is taking legal advice. He’s not a happy man.” The boat has cost over US$300 million.
Another example of Aga Khan’s spending are the two divorce settlements. The recent one beingUS$75 million which he paid to his wife Gabriele zu Leiningen (formally known as Begum Inaara) as ordered by a French court after determining that Aga Khan was exclusively at fault due to having an extra-marital affair with an airhostess Beatrice von der Schulenburg.
Before this, Aga Khan paid US$30 million to his first wife Sally Crocker-Poole who was formally known as Begum Salimah during their marriage. She now lives in London with Philippe Lizop, the French lawyer who secured her divorce settlement.
A Bloomberg report in 2005 said that unlike the pope, who received $51.7 million in 2004 from Catholic contributions known as Peter’s Pence, the Aga Khan won’t say how much he raises from his followers each year or break out how the money is spent. Nor will he disclose all the sources of the $325 million that his development network, which has diplomatic status in 10 countries.
And he won’t give performance figures for the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development SA, a Geneva-based holding company that owns stakes in 90 companies. All profits and dividends from the companies and projects are reinvested, he says.
The original Bloomberg report can be found here:
And it’ s mirror preserved on Ismaili.net can be found here:
In addition to money from his Ismaili followers, the Aga Khan obtains bank loans and grants from Western governments and aid organizations to finance his empire. The Aga Khan’s companies, with total sales in 2004 of $1.36 billion, stretch from Pakistan’s No. 2 lender, Habib Bank Ltd., to Kenyan bean farms, to the just-opened Serena Hotel in Kabul, where rooms start at $250 a night — about what the average Afghan makes in a year.
He also owns stakes in two car dealerships in Edmonton, Alberta: Mayfield Toyota Ltd. and T&T Honda Ltd.
A collage few of the companies and agencies owned by the Aga Khan under the guise of Aga Khan Fund for Enocomic Development. A large majority of these companies are for-profit institutions.
The Aga Khan has also expanded the institutions started by his grandfather into a nondenominational network of 325 schools, two universities, 11 hospitals and 195 health clinics in 30 countries. Most of the institutions charge their clients — even the poorest — fees.
A 74-acre (30-hectare) public park he opened in March 2005 in Cairo charges three Egyptian pounds (52 U.S. cents) to enter.
In 2003, the Karachi-based Aga Khan University got $4.5 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development to start a new, Western-style exam board for schools. That angered conservative clerics and politicians who view the U.S. with suspicion.
In Afghanistan, the development network, the Aga Khan’s umbrella organization, has built schools, hospitals, roads and bridges and owns 51 percent of Roshan, the country’s biggest cell-phone service company.
The Aga Khan’s personal fortune includes stud farms in France and Ireland that have yielded four English Derby and three Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winners since 1981. In the 1960s and 1970s, he developed a virgin strip of coast on the Italian island of Sardinia into Costa Smeralda, where Italy’s billionaire prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, and others have vacation homes.
And in 1992, the Aga Khan and his friend Gianni Agnelli, the late Fiat SpA chairman, smashed the transatlantic speed record with their 220-foot (67-meter), 50,000-horsepower speedboat Destriero.
The Aga Khan currently owns an undeveloped piece of coast on the Spanish island of Ibiza, and he’s considering plans for a luxury development on Malta and a project to transform a military arsenal on the Italian island of La Maddalena into a harbor for big yachts, says Enzo Satta, 60, a Sardinian architect who says he has worked for the Aga Khan on the ventures.
Ismailis dismiss questions about the Aga Khan’s wealth and private life. “What’s important is the guidance he gives and the development of the unique network he has created,” says Naguib Kheraj, 41, a British Ismaili who’s chief financial officer of Barclays Plc, the U.K.’s third-biggest bank.
The companies held by AKFED (Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development) currently employ 30,242 people. It’s profits are undisclosed.
The Aga Khan owns all but seven of the fund’s 175,000 shares, according to the Registre du Commerce in Geneva. The fund is the economic arm of the Aga Khan Development Network, which also has units covering culture and social development projects such as schools and hospitals. The network employs 20,000 people.
The Aga Khan, who travels the world in a Bombardier Global Express jet, declines to comment on how much of the money for his philanthropy comes from his own personal wealth and how much from followers.
I’ve never discussed my personal income, and I wouldn’t do that. Every generation of the family has made its investments, and fortunately, some of them have been very, very good indeed.
Money Laundering - A Secret Religious Duty?
In “The Memoirs of Aga Khan”, published by Cassel & Co. in London in 1954, the present imam’s grandfather wrote that he kept a “small fraction” of his followers’ offerings for himself.
Lack of transparency got an Ismaili leader into jail in the U.S. On May 18, 1987, Nizamudin Alibhai, an Ismaili community leader in Texas, boarded an American Airlines flight from Dallas-Fort Worth Airport to London’s Gatwick Airport with $1.1 million stuffed in a burgundy flight bag.
Prosecutor Stewart Robinson said Alibhai took $27.3 million out of the U.S. on a total of 33 journeys, breaking a law requiring transfers of more than $10,000 to be declared. Alibhai was charged in Dallas with money laundering for five specific transatlantic journeys, in which he took a total of $4.3 million to London from 1985 to 1987. He was sentenced to seven years in prison.
Alibhai’s lawyer said he was performing a secret religious duty. In his memorandum in support of the motion for a reduction of the sentence, defense lawyer Vincent Perini wrote, “A history of persecution by repressive African governments and fundamentalist Muslim groups have required the Ismailis to keep their activities private.”
The cash was deposited in London because there were no reporting requirements in the U.K. at the time, Perini wrote. His memorandum also included a letter dated March 8, 1990, from Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, the imam’s Washington-based lawyers, which said the Aga Khan had set up a U.S. bank account for Ismaili tithes following the trial.
“Our client does not direct or control the system of offerings,” the letter said. “The contributions, and their collection, have always been conducted by volunteers. These offerings are then primarily used by the Aga Khan to support religious activities and to support a multitude of development projects in the third world.”
The Aga Khan’s followers are unable to answer detailed questions about the sources of funds for their projects. Sher Lakhani, a Canadian Ismaili manager of Geneva-based Aga Khan Education Services SA, doesn’t know the breakdown of the $20 million used to build a high school in Mombasa on Kenya’s coast.
Mahmud Jan Mohamed, Nairobi-based managing director of Serena Hotels, doesn’t know how much of the $19.3 million plowed into the Kabul hotel in the Aga Khan’s name came from the imam and how much came from Ismailis. “All I know is, construction has never been stopped for lack of funds,” says Mohamed, 52, a Kenyan Ismaili.
Some of the money for the Aga Khan’s projects comes from grants and loans from Western governments through organizations like theU.S. Agency for International Development. In 2004, the Aga Khan Foundation, which kick-starts health, education and rural development projects, got commitments of $71 million from donors like the U.S. government, says Tom Kessinger, 64, the foundation’s American general manager.
Partnerships and Funding from World Bank and Blackstone“The staff is among the most qualified in the region,” says Dwight Smith, USAID’s assistant mission director in Kenya. USAID granted $35 million to the Aga Khan’s projects in Asia and Africa from 1999 to 2004, says Harry Edwards, a Washington-based spokesman for the organization.
The Aga Khan’s companies borrow from commercial and development banks and raise funds from investors. In 2003, the World Bank’sInternational Finance Corp. unit lent $7 million to help build the $36 million Serena Hotel in Kabul.
Development funds owned by the Norwegian and Dutch governments also invested $5 million each in the hotel. In April 2005, Afghan mobile-phone company Roshan got $35 million from the Asian Development Bank, which is owned by a group of Asian governments.
Commercial partners include Blackstone Group LP, which is raising the world’s biggest buyout fund. In Uganda, the Aga Khan’sIndustrial Promotion Services is planning a $500 million hydroelectric dam with Blackstone’s Sithe Global Power LLC, a New York-based power producer.
In Afghanistan, the Aga Khan’s partners include a company controlled by Bracknell, England-based Cable & Wireless Plc, which owns 37 percent of Roshan. The Afghan cell-phone company has raised more than $160 million of loans since 2002, with $24.5 million coming from the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, says Altaf Ladak, Roshan’s chief marketing officer.
Roshan has 600,000 customers and 500 employees. The company is profitable, says Chief Executive Officer Karim Khoja, a Canadian Ismaili. He won’t say how much it earned on sales of $93 million in 2004.
In remote tribal areas, where women traditionally wear head-to-toe burqas and aren’t allowed out of family compounds, Roshan has found a way of boosting its sales and helping vulnerable women with no male relatives: The company uses them as sales representatives, selling them prepaid phone cards to sell to other women.
Nation Media is one of 16 Kenyan companies in which the Aga Khan’s fund for economic development owns stakes. The others include Frigoken, the bean exporter, and the Kenyan unit of Serena Hotels, Tourism Promotion Services Ltd., which is also listed on the Nairobi Stock Exchange.
In Mombasa he has a $20 million school built out of white coral-rock bricks and modeled after Andover, Massachusetts-based Phillips Academy, whose alumni include U.S. President George W. Bush and the Aga Khan’s son, Prince Rahim.
Religion isn’t even part of the syllabus at the school, which opened in 2003 and has 525 students, ages 5 to 19. Fees at the academy are $2,700 a year — more than double the average Kenyan’s annual income.
Aga Khan also owns Property Deelopment and Management (PDM) – a luxury development company in Kenya which has built and manages high-profile projects such as Nation Centre in Kenya’s Central Business District, Courtyard along General Mathenge Drive, Westlands and the DTB Centre in Kampala.
PDM is also a part of Aga Khan Development Network, (AKDN), and its major shareholders are Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED), Jubilee Holdings Limited, and Nation Media Group Limited, both of which are part of AKDN.
It appears that the Aga Khan’s confession of ‘keeping a small fraction’ of dasond (tithe) money for himself has grown more than just being a small fraction. Until there is transparency in the collection and disbursement of dasond (tithe) money, Ismailis as well as non-Ismailis will always be doubtful of where the dasond money goes.
When a rogue snowboarder crashed into the Aga Khan on the slopes of Courchevel, 15 million Ismaili Muslims were left pondering who would inherit the role of spiritual leader. ‘K’ has recovered, but his half-British children have been thrown into the spotlight, in particular Prince Rahim, who shares his father’s appetite for women and winter sports. Mark Hollingsworth on the new playboy of the Eastern world.
When the flamboyant Aga Khan, regarded as a ‘living god’ by his 15 million Islamic followers, collided with a snowboarder on the slopes of Courchevel last year, and was flown to hospital in Boston with serious injuries, the incredibly delicate issue of his succession was raised for the first time. As a result, the accident was kept secret for more than two months and hospital staff were under instructions not to disclose the identity of their famous patient.
The Aga Khan, 71, made a full recovery, but ever since his advisers have been quietly focusing on the suitability of his eldest son Prince Rahim, 36, to inherit the title (although, ultimately, it is the Aga Khan’s decision).
Known jokingly as ‘Jesus’ or ‘the Son of God’ by his friends, the Prince is intelligent, capable and charismatic, but has inherited his father’s taste for the high life. ‘There some anxiety about the succession,’ a friend of the family said. ‘The Aga Khan only inherited the title because his own father was considered unsuitable because of his womanizing, self-indulgence and endless pursuit of pleasure. Rahim has some of those tendencies. There are a few nervous conversations going on.’
While a spokesman for the Aga Khan insists that ‘any speculation of this sort is very unhelpful to the Ismaili community’, other sources close to the family insist that Rahim’s playboy label is out-of-date and exaggerated. ‘He does go out with staggeringly beautiful women but so what,’ said one friend. ‘He is single. What’s more interesting is how he has moved from drifting and dabbling in his mid-twenties hippie period to today when he takes his responsibilities seriously. If he succeeds his father, then I think that he would make a great modernizing Aga Khan.’
Born in 1971, Prince Rahim is the second child of the Aga Khan and his first wife. When K, as the Aga Khan is known, proposed to Sally Croker-Poole in 1969, the former model and 1958 debutante was warned about his infidelities. But Sally, whose first marriage to Lord James Crichton-Stuart had been a disaster, was ready to settle down. She had had a series of boyfriends – financier Sir James Goldsmith, tipster Charles Benson and backgammon hustler Phillip Martyn – but all were gamblers and Sally wanted stability. She and the Aga Khan went on to have three children: Princess Zahra, 37, Prince Rahim, 36, and Prince Hussain, 34.
The current Aga Khan’s life has been a remarkable paradox: he is both a serial philanderer and a ‘workaholic’ philanthropist, a jet-setter renowned for his hedonistic habits and yet leader of a powerful and progressive Shia Islamic group. It is his ability to straddle both the religious and secular worlds that makes the Aga Khan so intriguing.
He likes to be addressed as ‘Your Highness’ (based on a title bestowed on him by the Queen in 1957). He is not quite royal but, like the Dalai Lama, he has an iconic status with mysterious origins – legend has it that followers in Tanzania once bottled his bathwater. He also retains a quasi- diplomatic status and has a role as an interlocutor between Islam and the West. The Aga Khan enjoys the pleasures of the West while promoting himself as a philanthropic citizen of the world.
He hates publicity about his extravagant lifestyle but is keen to publicize his work in sponsoring education, religious tolerance and charities for the poor.
Home is a £50 million estate at Aiglemont (meaning ‘Eagle Mountain’) just outside Chantilly, 20 miles from Paris, where his offices and horse-racing interests are based.
He owns houses on five continents, numerous cars, a Gulfstream private jet and vast yachts. His fortune is based on donations from millions of Ismaili Muslims, the second largest Shia community in the world, who regard the Aga Khan as the 49th direct descendent of the Prophet Mohammed and pay him upwards of 12 per cent of their income. In return he provides spiritual guidance and facilities for his faithful, such as hospitals and schools.
He was born in Geneva in 1937 as plain Prince Karim and, like George VI during King Edward VIII’s reign, did not expect to inherit. At the time the title was held by his grandfather. But because of his father Prince Aly Khan’s outrageous playboy antics and marriage to Rita Hayworth, the title skipped a generation. Darkly handsome, urbane and aristocratic (his mother Joan Yarde-Buller, daughter of the 3rd Lord Churston, later became the Viscountess Camrose by marrying press baron John Berry), at 20, while still an economics student at Harvard, Prince Karim became the Aga Khan, a position for which he was ill-prepared. He had wanted to be a businessman and ski for Britain (he nearly made the team for both the 1960 and 1964 Olympics). Now he was responsible for the spiritual well- being of millions of Ismaili Muslims (around 11,000 of them in the UK).
Fortunately for the Aga Khan, Ismaili Muslims do not believe that material comforts and luxury goods are inconsistent with their religion. The Aga Khan has three passions – women, horses and skiing. He keeps hundreds of race horses, brood mares and foals at Aiglemont and in Ireland. The Aga Khan’s greatest horse was Shergar, winner of the 1981 Derby, who was later kidnapped and never found. He has since produced three more Derby winners – Shahrastani(1986), Kahyasi (1988) and Sinndar (2000). ‘I think the racing public like continuity,’ he once said. ‘They like to follow a set of colors like mine, to watch the sons and daughters of horses they remember.’
‘Continuity’ is not a word associated with the Aga Khan’s relationships with women. For the Aga Khan, women must be both subservient and decorative. ‘There is no discussion on this,’ he told his second wife, the Begum Inaara, at the beginning of their marriage. ‘I determine things. You obey.’
In 1968 he had met Sally Croker-Poole. Seduced by the Aga Khan’s attentive courtship and gifts of expensive jewelry, Sally, the daughter of a colonel in the Bengal Lancers, accepted his proposal of marriage, converted to Islam and took the title of the Begum Salimah. ‘I don’t envy the Begum,’ said Yvette Blanche Labrousse, the fourth wife of the Aga Khan’s father. ‘She will need to be someone with a great deal of character and self-discipline, ready to accept second place to her husband and remain in the background.’
The wedding reception was at the Aga Khan’s 13th-century Paris home at 1 rue des Ursins on the Ile St Louis and the guest-of-honor was Princess Margaret. The bride wore a white sari and pearls were thrown at her feet.
But it was not long before the Aga Khan took mistresses and the couple assumed separate lives. The pattern was always the same: at the beginning of a romance, he lavished presents and attention but then his interest waned. One mistress, Italian beauty Milena Maffei, hung around for years in the hope that he would divorce Sally. Then there was Austrian Pilar Goess who had posed nude for Playboy magazine. And later Ariane Soldati, an Egyptian who came under the Aga Khan’s spell after her husband died in a polo accident.
His mistresses stalked the couple. ‘She’s always shadowing me,’ Sally remarked of Milena Maffei. ‘I go to the races and there she is, a few yards away.’ By the time Sally was moved from Paris to Geneva in 1984, the marriage was all but over. That summer the family holidayed in the Greek islands and Sally resented Pilar Goess, who not only made a move on the Aga Khan but also her children.
‘What I particularly disliked about her, apart from her being with my husband, was the way my children were integrated into the affair,’ she recalled. ‘K and Pilar used to go for walks along the Bois de Boulogne, taking my sons with them. She kept appearing on board his yacht,Shergar, and made a great fuss of the boys. Rahim and Hussain were very flattered by her attention. She would read to them and look after them.’
In 1994 came the inevitable divorce. Sally emerged with £20 million and auctioned off her jewelry for £17.5 million through Christie’s. Now 67, she now spends her time between her £25 million mansion overlooking Lake Geneva and her 10,700sq ft. £15 million London apartment at Hyde Park Gardens, known as the ‘Palazzo Apartment’. She has since remarried. Her husband, French lawyer Philippe Lizop, is deputy chairman of David Linley and Co. Her eldest son Rahim was educated at the £45,000-a-year Institut Le Rosey, the boarding school for the European elite and royal families, based in the Swiss village of Rolle. The pupils are heirs to the world’s great private fortunes and royal titles: the Shah of Iran, King Albert II of Belgium and Prince Rainier III of Monaco all attended.
When Prince Rahim was a pupil in the early Eighties, the school was like a club. ‘The great thing about Le Rosey,’ recalled the journalist Paul Klebnikov in 1999 for Forbes magazine, who taught there briefly, ‘is the old boy network that it produces – uniquely tight, wealthy and international.’
Prince Rahim left Le Rosey with an excellent academic record and in 1985 attended Phillips Academy, one of America’s oldest boarding schools. Based just north of Boston, it prepares students for the Ivy League and alumni include former US Presidents. In 1990 Prince Rahim enrolled at Brown University, Rhode Island, one of America’s most social colleges.
At Brown, Rahim is remembered for his sharp intellect and bohemian lifestyle. He wore his hair in a ponytail and sported tattoos and a beard. In 1995, aged 24, the Prince graduated and spent an aimless few years, relocating to San Diego.
But in 1998 the Prince moved back to Europe, and shook off his hippie leanings. He secured a business degree from the University of Navarra in Barcelona and moved to Paris, where he still lives in an elegant apartment on boulevard Jean Mermoz in Neuilly- sur-Seine.
In April 2003, he launched his own company, Beyond Hotels Ltd, which aimed to provide films and recreational facilities to hotels. His partners included Christopher Naess, the son of the Norwegian mountaineer Arne Naess Jr, Diana Ross’s second husband. The shares were owned by two offshore companies: Baron Ventures Ltd, based in Nassau, Bahamas, and IBH Trust Inc, registered in the Caribbean island of Nevis. But it was not a success. Beyond Hotels never traded and was dissolved in November 2005.
Rich, clever and nearly the Aga Khan, Prince Rahim holds all the aces. Throughout Europe, he is seen with exotic women at glitzy nightclubs, most notably the Billionaire Club in Sardinia.
And although Prince Rahim still likes to squire beautiful women, he is becoming increasingly involved in his father’s work – keeping up the family tradition of juggling pleasure and industry. He has learned Urdu and now executive director of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, an international agency dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship in the developing world. Via a network of affiliates with 90 companies and annual revenues of $1.5 billion, the fund is active in 16 countries. Projects include the Serena Hotel Chain, which has 33 hotels, safari lodges and resorts in Kabul, Islamabad, Zanzibar and elsewhere. A spokesman says that the ‘Prince is very hands-on, particularly in West Africa’. But it is unclear how much of the Aga Khan’s personal wealth – an estimated £2.5 billion – has been invested. The Aga Khan’s private projects have not always been successful, notably a disastrous investment in a hotel chain, Ciga, in Italy.
The Prince is also active in the Aga Khan’s Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS). ‘Unfortunately, in some parts of the world, hostility to diverse interpretations of Islam, and lack of religious tolerance, have become chronic and worsening problems,’ he told a graduation ceremony at the IIS on Cromwell Road, South Kensington, last year. ‘Sometimes these attitudes have led to hatred and violence. At the root of the problem is an artificial notion among some Muslims and other people that there is, or could ever be, a restricted, monolithic reality called Islam.’
Rahim’s commitment to his father’s work is a relatively new phenomenon, whereas Princess Zahra has been at her father’s side since leaving Harvard, choosing to live with him when her parents divorced in 1994, and focusing on social development projects in Asia and Africa, while also remaining close to her mother and accompanying her to social functions.
She is universally popular, and often travels with her father on his Grumman Gulfstream III private jet. Like her brothers, she was educated at Le Rosey. After taking a course in nursing at Massachusetts General Hospital, she graduated from Harvard with a diploma in Third World studies and, much to her father’s delight, made the polo team. She also owns race horses and has registered her own dark green and brown colors. But Princess Zahra’s personal life has been less successful. In 1997 she married Mark Boyden, the then 27-year-old British management consultant and son of a farming family in Dorset. They have two children, but separated in 2004.
Despite being the oldest and the most capable, Zahra is disqualified from the succession because of her sex – to the frustration of some family friends. ‘Zahra has the nicest personality of the three children,’ said one courtier. ‘Rahim will eventually succeed but she will be a great asset. She has a tremendous sense of humor and is a lot of fun to be with.’
Her other brother, Prince brother, Prince Hussain, is also unlikely to accede, being the youngest. At 16 he broke his left arm while jet-skiing, just three years after he was partially paralyzed on the same side in another jet-ski crash. Hussain went to boarding school at Deerfield College in the US and then university at Williams College, Massachusetts. Based in France, he is passionate about skiing, as well as working for the Aga Khan’s Trust for Culture. In 2006, he married Kristin White, an American health consultant whose father is an academic and mother a psychologist. Meanwhile, the current Aga Khan shows no signs of retiring from either his philandering or philanthropy. After divorcing Sally Croker-Poole, he took up with the London-based German lawyer Gabriele zu Leiningen, 26 years his junior. A former pop singer, she had a degree in international law and a previous relationship with Muck Flick, heir to the Daimler-Benzfortune. Gabriele was introduced to the Aga Khan by the King of Spain in 1998 and, after a whirlwind romance, they were married in a near-secret ceremony.
But within two years, the Aga Khan had lost interest. ‘He has always been this way,’ a lifelong friend told the German newspaper Bild. ‘At first he cannot take his hands off the woman. No present is too expensive. But when he loses enthusiasm, his heart turns to ice.’
In 2004, Gabriele, now known as the Begum Inaara, filed for divorce and told friends that her husband ‘didn’t give enough love’, suggesting he had taken another mistress. K blamed ‘the influence of Gabriele’s socially ambitious German mother-in-law’. The most likely new Begum is another blonde: 40-year-old Beatrice von der Schulenberg. Her father, Frederik van Pallandt, was a Sixties folk singer and half of Nina and Frederik, who found fame with ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’. He later became a member of a drug syndicate and in 1994 was shot dead by a contract killer. Beatrice grew up with her mother in London and attended the Academy of Live and Recorded Art, and Elmhurst Ballet School. She married Jeffrey von der Schulenberg, a German management consultant who was ten years older. They divorced in 2005. The Aga Khan met Beatrice at a party in Paris in early 2006. Since then they have been photographed together on his yachts in the Mediterranean. More recently, they have kept a low profile, although they were at a museum opening which was also attended by the King of Spain. By all accounts, she is more easy-going and relaxed than many of K’s previous wives and mistresses. But the 71-year-old shows no signs of slowing down, not least on the ski slopes, and his children may have to wait a few more years before anyone succeeds to the coveted title.
Credit: Mark Hollingsworth (www.markhollingsworth.co.uk), published as “Aga in Waiting”
Nizari Ismailis recite the Ismaili Holy Du’a (called Du’a) instead of the Muslim prayer (called salāt in Arabic and namaz in Persian and Urdu). In Urdu-speaking countries, Ismailis insist that since the word namaz does not appear anywhere in the Quran, the namaz which is recited by the Muslims is never commanded by the Quran and that the Ismailis are free to call it Du’a since it is one of the meanings of the Arabic word salāt.
Beyond just the word, the Du’a offered by the Nizari Ismailis is not anything like the Muslim salāt which the Prophet (pbuh) used to offer and which Muslims to-date have learned and practised. Not only did the Prophet (pbuh) offered the Muslim salāt, he also instructed us:
Pray as you have seen me praying.
Other than being different than the Muslim salāt, a deeper inspection of this Du’a reveals many aspects of Ismailis’ own version of Trinity. Daily recitation of this Holy Du’a subliminally minimizes the difference between Allah (swt), Ali (ra) and Aga Khan since the Ismaili worshiper invokes all three during his prayer thinking that he is invoking a single deity.