His Highness Prince Karim Agha Khan, the 49th Imam and the global leader of the Ismailis was interviewed by Tehran Musavir, a well-known Iranian magazine in 1961 when he paid a visit to Iran to meet his followers.
In this interview, Prince Karim Aga Khan has answered questions about his marriage plan, wealth, prayers, and reluctance to Alcohol.
The text below is the English translation of interview which has been exactly the same as the original text in terms of context, messaging and meaning.
It might be fascinating to you and many others, but it’s less likely that I would marry an Ismaili Muslim girl, probably bringing prosperity and prestige to her family. This is against the jurisprudence of the Ismaili faith,” said Prince Karim Aga Khan, speaking about his future marriage.
All the Ismaili members are equal in the sight of God and to their Imam of the time, which is why I will marry a European, American, or non-Ismaili Muslim. She will have to accept and adhere to the Ismaili traditions and principles because her husband is the leader and Imam of this faith system.
At this point, he smiled and then thoughtfully stared at his pray-mate in front of him. A pray-mate, a metal throne, a small table, and two chairs were parts of his vagon. He had his pray-mate with him wherever he traveled and said, “If I am in Kaan or Karachi, I always offer prayers five times daily and strictly follow this ritual among my European friends and my followers.
Prince Karim was silent for a minute or two and then asked me if I was thirsty. He promptly called Sallo; soon, a polite man entered the room. His name was Suliman, originally from India, initially hired to serve Prince Karim’s grandfather. Like his grandfather, Prince Karim had immense interest in Suliman, who had dedicated his life to serving the Ismaili Imams.
“Bring us some fruit juice, Sallo,” said Prince Karim. Yes, sir, said Sallo and stared at me to comprehend whether it was the fruit juice or something else. I knew that Sallo was the only devotee who had Whiskey, and I was the only guest who used to drink it. He came back with two glasses of fruit juice, placed them on the table, and left the room.
“I know that Sallo drinks Whiskey to a moderate level, and I don’t dictate him, for he has lived 50 years in Europe and has adapted to that environment. Meanwhile, his heart has weakened, and taking mild Whiskey drink is good for his health as per the physician’s advice,” said Prince Karim. Therefore, I pretend not to know of Sallo drinking, and I have allowed him in consultation with the physicians.
I hate drinking alcohol, and it is not allowed for my followers to drink it either. Whenever I participate in formal ceremonies or gatherings in Europe, I place my lips on the Champagne glass and leave it back on the table.
Besides Sallo, a 50-year-old secretary was passed to Prince Karim from his late grandfather (Aga Khan III). She is a short and slim French lady considered to be the right-hand of Prince Karim in managing essential affairs. Being constantly in a fight with insects and bacteria was the most exciting thing about this lady. For instance, whenever we dinned at a five-star hotel, she cleaned her seat with a napkin she always carried with her. She also brought a bottle of water and her glass because she was unsure of the cleanliness of the staff provided by the luxury hotels. This was entertaining Prince Karim and his companions, whereas she kept implementing this ritual without being bothered.
“As being said, are you one of the richest men on the planet,” I (interviewer) asked. “I do not think so; there are assumptions and wrong interpretations about my wealth,” said Prince Karim. My wealth is of three types: firstly, I inherit a proportion of my wealth from my father and grandfather, which covers my personal expenses. This includes cash in banks, transferable and non-transferable goods across the countries and superior quality horses that take part in major horse-riding competitions. This significant wealth is scattered across the world, and I can’t even count or provide an exact number of it.
The second type of funds comes from the Ismailis members who voluntarily contribute as part of their allegiance to their Imam (spiritual leader). I have the right to spend and closely monitor this fund; however, in some instances, I don’t know how the money is collected and in which areas it is allocated. The local councils are assigned to gather the fund and spend in those communities under the direct supervision of the Ismaili Economic Council in a particular country.
The third type of wealth comes from my ‘Silver Jubilee, Golden Jubilee, and Dimond Jubilee.’ This substantial wealth is directly spent under my supervision to establish power plants, development programs, housing, schools, hospitals (Nairobi Hospital), and more. I go over every concept in detail before I prove it for execution. You might conclude all this fund is mine, but it belongs to the Ismaili community. Every penny that comes to me as the Imam will be spent on the communities and people. I do not place any importance on money; what inspires me the most is to find ways of serving people and humanity.
As Prince Karim was expressing his thoughts, the train gradually decelerated and was about to reach a station. I had to leave Prince Karim’s air-conditioned and luxurious compartment to the simple one I had booked with regret. Prince Karim was an extraordinary person who had profound thoughts, and I enjoyed speaking to him.
As I bid farewell to the 24 years-old Imam, he turned his attention towards the pile of letters stacked on his desk, and apparently, he had a keen interest in getting back to work.