Aga Khan IV

Aga Khan IV

' Karim Aga Khan (Aga Khan is also transliterated as Aqa Khan and Agha Khan), NPk, NI, KBE, CC, GCC, GCIH, GCM; born December 13, 1936; is an international business magnate, racehorse owner and breeder, as well as the 49th and current Imam of Nizari Ismailism – a denomination of Ismailism within Shia Islam consisting of approximately 15 million adherents (under 10% of the world's Shia Muslim population). He has held this position of Imam, under the title of Aga Khan IV, since July 11, 1957, when, at the age of 20, he succeeded his grandfather, Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III. The Aga Khan is the direct descendant of Prophet Muhammad through the Prophet's cousin and son-in-law, Ali, considered the first Imam in Shia Islam, and Ali's wife Fatima az-Zahra, the Prophet’s daughter from his first marriage. As the Imam of Nizari Ismailism, the Aga Khan IV is considered by his followers to be the proof or hujjah of God on earth as well as infallible and immune from sin (just as an Imam is viewed in most other denominations of Shia Islam). He is further considered by his followers to be the carrier of the eternal Noor of Allah ("Light of God" – a concept unique to certain denominations of Shia Islam). In 1986, the Aga Khan ordained the current Ismailia Constitution – an ecclesiastical decree affirming to Nizari Ismailis his "sole right to interpret the Qur'an and provide authoritative guidance on matters of faith" and formalizing his sole discretion, power and authority for the governance of Nizari Ismaili jamats (places of worship) and institutions.

Forbes describes the Aga Khan as one of the world's ten richest royals with an estimated net worth of $800 million USD (2010). Additionally he is unique among the richest royals as he does not preside over a geographic territory. He owns hundreds of racehorses, valuable stud farms, an exclusive yacht club on Sardinia, a private island in the Bahamas, two Bombardier jets, a 12-seat helicopter, a £100 million high speed yacht named after his prize racehorse, and several estates around the world, including an estate called Aiglemont in the town of Gouvieux, France – just north of Paris. His philanthropic institutions, spend more than $600 million per year – primarily in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. In 2007, after an interview with the Aga Khan, G. Pascal Zachary, of the The New York Times, wrote, "Part of the Aga Khan's personal wealth, which his advisers say exceeds $1 billion, comes from a dizzyingly complex system of tithes that some of the world's 15 million Ismaili Muslims pay him each year, which is at least 12.5% of each Nizari Ismaili's gross annual income] – an amount that he will not disclose but which may reach hundreds of millions of dollars annually."

Among the goals the Aga Khan has asserted he works toward are the elimination of global poverty; the promotion and implementation of secular pluralism; the advancement of the status of women; and the honoring of Islamic art and architecture. He is the founder and chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network, one of the largest private development networks in the world. The organization has said it works toward improvement of the environment, health, education, architecture, culture, microfinance, rural development, disaster reduction, the promotion of private-sector enterprise and the revitalisation of historic cities. Since his ascension to the Imamate of Nizari Ismailis in 1957, the Aga Khan has been involved in complex political and economic changes which have affected his Nizari Ismaili followers, including the independence of African countries from colonial rule, expulsion of Asians from Uganda, the independence of Central Asian countries such as Tajikistan from the former Soviet Union and the continuous turmoil in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Aga Khan has been a familiar figure on the World Stage & holds a protocol of Head of the State in every country. He frequently visits several countries to review the activities of AKDN and to discuss matters with High Government Officials. During his visit to India in 1983, the Aga Khan said:

There are those who enter the world in such poverty that they are deprived of both the means and the motivation to improve their circumstances. Unless these unfortunates can be touched with the spark which ignites the spirit of individual enterprise and determination, they will only sink back into renewed apathy, degradation and despair. It is for us, who are more fortunate, to provide that spark.

Read more about Aga Khan IV:  Early Life, Marriages, Divorces and Children, Ascension To Nizari Ismaili Imamat, Nizari Ismaili Imamat, Divine Nature of The Imam in Nizari Ismailism, Silver Jubilee Year of Imamat, Golden Jubilee Year of Imamat, Aga Khan Development Network, Promotion of Islamic Architecture, Personal Finances, Thoroughbred Horse Racing, Yacht Alamshar, Bahamas Environmental Controversy, Titles, Styles and Honours, Ancestry