Sunday, July 14, 2024

Interview: Why the Ismaili Imam married a non-Ismaili

Immigration News

Khaama Press
Khaama Press
Khaama Press is a Kabul-based independent and non-political news organization established in 2010.

His Highness Prince Karim Agha Khan, the 49th Imam and global leader of the Ismailis, was interviewed by Tehran Musavir, a well-known Iranian magazine in 1961, during his visit to Iran to meet his followers.

In this interview, Prince Karim Aga Khan addressed questions regarding his marriage plans, wealth, prayers, and his stance on alcohol.

The English translation of this interview has been kept identical to the original text in context, messaging, and meaning.

“It might interest you and many others, but it’s unlikely I will marry an Ismaili Muslim girl, as this could bring prosperity and prestige to her family. This goes against the jurisprudence of the Ismaili faith,” Prince Karim Aga Khan commented on his future marriage.

“All Ismaili members are equal in the eyes of God and their Imam at the time, which is why I intend to marry a European, American, or non-Ismaili Muslim. She will need to embrace and follow the Ismaili traditions and principles, as her husband will be the leader and Imam of this faith system.”

At this moment, he smiled and then gazed thoughtfully at his pray-mat in front of him. His wagon included a pray-mat, a metal throne, a small table, and two chairs. He carried his pray-mat with him wherever he traveled, stating, “Whether I’m in Kaan or Karachi, I consistently offer prayers five times daily and adhere strictly to this ritual among my European friends and followers.”

Prince Karim paused for a moment or two and then inquired if I was thirsty. He immediately called for Sallo; shortly after, a courteous man entered the room. Named Suliman, he was originally from India, hired initially to serve Prince Karim’s grandfather. Like his grandfather, Prince Karim greatly valued Suliman, who had devoted his life to serving the Ismaili Imams.

“Bring us some fruit juice, Sallo,” Prince Karim requested. “Yes, sir,” Sallo replied, glancing at me to gauge if I preferred fruit juice or something else. I was aware that Sallo was the only one among the devotees who consumed Whiskey, and I was the only guest who did so. He returned with two glasses of fruit juice, placed them on the table, and exited the room.

“Sallo consumes Whiskey moderately, and I do not govern his actions, for he has spent 50 years in Europe and has adjusted to the lifestyle there. Additionally, his heart has weakened, and consuming mild Whiskey is beneficial for his health, according to his physician,” Prince Karim explained. Thus, I overlook Sallo’s drinking habits, having permitted it after consulting with doctors.

“I detest alcohol, and it’s prohibited for my followers as well. Whenever I attend formal events or gatherings in Europe, I merely touch my lips to the Champagne glass before setting it down again.”

In addition to Sallo, a secretary, aged 50, was bequeathed to Prince Karim by his late grandfather, Aga Khan III. She is a petite, slender French woman, deemed indispensable by Prince Karim in handling crucial matters. Her constant battle with insects and bacteria fascinated him the most. For instance, whenever we dined at a five-star hotel, she would meticulously clean her seat with a napkin she always carried. She also brought her own bottle of water and glass, distrustful of the hotel staff’s cleanliness. This amused Prince Karim and his companions, while she persistently performed her ritual unbothered.

“When asked if you’re among the wealthiest on Earth,” I queried. “I don’t believe so; there are misconceptions and inaccuracies regarding my wealth,” Prince Karim responded. His wealth is threefold: initially inherited from his father and grandfather, covering personal expenses, including bank cash, movable and immovable assets worldwide, and top-quality horses for major competitions. This extensive wealth is distributed globally, beyond his ability to quantify precisely.

The second source of wealth is contributions from Ismaili members, a token of their allegiance to their Imam. Prince Karim has full discretion over this fund, though he sometimes remains unaware of its collection and allocation specifics. Local councils collect and distribute these funds within communities under the Ismaili Economic Council’s direct oversight in each country.

The third portion of his wealth stems from his ‘Silver, Golden, and Diamond Jubilees,’ used directly under his supervision for establishing power plants, development projects, housing, schools, hospitals (like Nairobi Hospital), and more. He meticulously reviews each project before approval. While one might assume this wealth is his, it belongs to the Ismaili community, with every penny dedicated to community and humanitarian services. “Money holds no significance tome. What truly inspires me is finding ways to serve humanity.”

As Prince Karim shared his insights, the train began to slow, nearing the station. Regrettably, I had to leave his air-conditioned, luxurious compartment for my simpler booking. Engaging with Prince Karim, a man of profound thoughts and extraordinary persona, was enlightening.

Bidding farewell to the 24-year-old Imam, I watched as he returned his focus to the stack of letters on his desk, eager to resume his work.

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