On the 11th of July 2017, His Highness the Aga Khan marked his Diamond Jubilee, or 60th year as the 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the world’s Shia Ismaili Muslims. This worldwide celebration brings together the global Ismaili community, partners of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), and government and faith community leaders in over 25 countries. 11 July begins a year of milestone announcements by the Aga Khan for a global commitment to partnerships based on the principles of ethics in action, peace and pluralism.
According to a statement by the Aga Khan Development Network, over the past six decades, the Aga Khan has transformed the quality of life for millions of people around the world. In the areas of health, education, cultural revitalisation, and economic empowerment, he has worked to inspire excellence and improve living conditions and opportunities including in some of the world’s most remote and troubled regions.
In Islam’s ethical tradition, religious leaders not only interpret the faith but also have a responsibility to help improve the quality of life of their community and the societies among which they live. For the Aga Khan, this has meant dedicating his life to addressing the concerns of the developing world.
During an interview with the certain media outlets earlier, Aga Khan emphasized on unity among the Muslims saying they should work on building an “empathetic, welcoming, peaceful and generous” society, which he called “a fundamental ethic of our faith.”
“All those are ethical principles of our faith, they’re very clear,” he said. “So it’s really a question of how we put those principles in place in governance and civil society.”
In other parts of his remarks during the interview, Aga Khan focused on building quality of life and pluralism and said this means “equity toward all people and backgrounds.”
He also added that Muslim countries “have been pluralist for many centuries,” but various forces, including colonialism, have separated them by ethnic groups and sect.
His Highness the Aga Khan Biography
His Highness the Aga Khan is the 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims. In the context of his hereditary responsibilities, His Highness has been deeply engaged with the development of countries around the world for close to 60 years through the work of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN).
The AKDN is a group of private, international, non-denominational agencies working to improve living conditions and opportunities for people in specific regions of the developing world. The Network’s organisations have individual mandates that range from the fields of health and education to architecture, rural development and the promotion of private-sector enterprise.
Together, they work towards a common goal – to build institutions and programmes that can respond to the challenges of social, economic and cultural change on an on-going basis. The AKDN works in close partnership with public and private institutions, including amongst others, governments, international organisations, companies, foundations, and universities.
AKDN’s social development agencies include the Aga Khan Health Services, Aga Khan Planning and Building Services, Aga Khan Education Services, Aga Khan Academies, the Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance, the Aga Khan Foundation, Focus Humanitarian Assistance as well as two universities, the Aga Khan University and the University of Central Asia. The Aga Khan Trust for Culture co-ordinates AKDN’s cultural activities, including the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, Historic Cities Programme, Aga Khan Music Initiative, Aga Khan Museum, and Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture (at Harvard and MIT). The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) is a for-profit development agency dedicated to building enterprises in tourism, banking, insurance, media, aviation, industry and infrastructure. AKFED reinvests profits in further development initiatives.
The Ismaili Muslims are a global, multi-ethnic community whose members, comprising a wide diversity of cultures, languages and nationalities, live in Central Asia, the Middle East, South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and North America.
The Aga Khan succeeded his grandfather, Sir Sultan Mohammad Shah Aga Khan, as Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims in 1957 at the age of 20. Since taking on his role in 1957, he has dedicated his efforts to improving the quality of life of the most vulnerable populations, while emphasising the view of Islam as a thinking, spiritual faith: one that teaches compassion and tolerance and that upholds human dignity.
In recognition of his exceptional efforts and contributions to human development and improving the social condition of societies globally, the Aga Khan has, over the last six decades, received numerous decorations, honorary degrees, and awards from institutions and nations across the world.