Aga Khan III
Sir Sultan Mahommed Shah, Aga Khan III, GCSI, GCMG, GCIE, GCVO, PC, (November 2, 1877 – July 11, 1957) was the 48th Imam of the Nizari Ismaili Muslims. He was one of the founders and the first president of the All-India Muslim League, and served as President of the League of Nations from 1937-38.
- Islam is fundamentally in its very nature a natural religion. Throughout the Quran God's signs (Ayats) are referred to as the natural phenomenon, the law and order of the universe, the exactitudes and consequences of the relations between natural phenomenon in cause and effect. Over and over, the stars, sun, moon, earthquakes, fruits of the earth and trees are mentioned as the signs of divine power, divine law and divine order. Even in the Ayeh of Noor, divine is referred to as the natural phenomenon of light and even references are made to the fruit of the earth. During the great period of Islam, Muslims did not forget these principles of their religion.
- In a letter dated 4th April, 1952 to Dr. Zahid Husain, President of Arabiyyah Jamiyyat, Karachi.
- Even a little knowledge of Islam will show that its religion is not only tolerant of other Faiths, but most respectful, and indeed, fully accepts the divine inspiration of all theistic Faiths that came before Islam. It does not only teach tolerance to its followers, but goes a step further and enjoins on them all to create the godly quality of "Hilm" that is, tolerance, forbearance, patience, calmness, and forgiveness. It is due to the spirit of tolerance of Islam that even the smallest Christian and Jewish minorities survived and kept all their doctrines during the thousand years of Muslim rule. Nothing like what happened to Muslims in Spain after the Christian conquest has ever happened to a non-Muslim Faith in any Islamic dominion. How, can Europeans be so ignorant as to have forgotten that in the first century of Islam the Khalifs ordered that all that was best in Greek and Roman cultures should be assimilated; that not only the philosophy, medicine and science of Greece, but its poetry and drama, were carefully translated into Arabic and were generally sought not only by the learned but also by the pious! The Muslim attitude towards the absorption of ideas was based on the principle of Islam which enjoins to acquire knowledge wherever available, and there is a well-known and authentic saying of the Prophet that "his followers should seek learning even if they have to go to China."
- In response to an article in the TIMES, London, which had labelled Islam as an "intolerant" religion, and held it responsible for some of the problems of the Middle East.
Memoirs of Aga Khan: World Enough & Time (1954)
- It is said that we live, move and have our being in God. We find this concept expressed often in the Koran, not in those words of course, but just as beautifully and more tersely... when we realize the meaning of this saying, we are already preparing ourselves for the gift of the power of direct [spiritual] experience.
- I firmly believe that the higher [spiritual] experience can to a certain extent be prepared for by absolute devotion in the material world to another human being. Thus from the most worldly point of view and with no comprehension of the higher life of the spirit, the lower, more terrestrial spirit makes us aware that all the treasures of this life, all that fame, wealth and health can bring are nothing beside the happiness which is created and sustained by the love of one human being for another... but as the joys of human love surpass all that riches and power may bring a man, so does that greater spiritual love and enlightenment, the fruit of that sublime experience of the direct vision of reality which is God's gift and grace, surpass all that the finest, truest human love can offer.
- Consider, for example, the opening declaration of every Islamic prayer: "Allah-o-Akbar". What does that mean? There can be no doubt that the second word of the declaration likens the character of Allah to a matrix which contains all and gives existence to the infinite, to space, to time, to the Universe, to all active and passive forces imaginable, to life and to the soul.
- Imam Hassan has explained the Islamic doctrine of God and the Universe by analogy with the sun and its reflection in the pool of a fountain; there is certainly a reflection or image of the sun, but with what poverty and with what little reality; how small and pale is the likeness between this impalpable image and the immense, blazing, white-hot glory of the celestial sphere itself. Allah is the sun; and the Universe, as we know it in all its magnitude, and time, with its power, is nothing more than the reflection of the Absolute in the mirror of the fountain.
- There is a fundamental difference between the Jewish idea of creation and that of Islam. The creation according to Islam is not a unique act in a given time but a perpetual and constant event; and God supports and sustains all existence at every moment by His will and His thought. Outside His will, outside His thought, all is nothing, even the things which seem to us absolutely self-evident such as space and time. Allah alone wishes: the Universe exists; and all manifestations are as a witness of the Divine will.
- All men, rich and poor, must aid one another materially and personally. The rules vary in detail, but they all maintain the principle of universal mutual aid in the Muslim fraternity. This fraternity is absolute, and it comprises men of all colours and all races... all are the sons of Adam in the flesh and all carry in them spark of the Divine Light. Everyone should strive his best to see that this spark be not extinguished but rather developed to that full "Companionship-on-High" which was the vision expressed in the last words of the Prophet [Muhammad] on his deathbed, the vision of that blessed state which he saw clearly awaiting him.
- Islamic doctrine goes further than the other great religions, for it proclaims the presence of the soul, perhaps minute but nevertheless existing in an embryonic state, in all existence - in matter, in animals, trees, and space itself. Every individual, every molecule, every atom has its own spiritual relationship with the All-Powerful Soul of God. But men and women, being more highly developed, are immensely more advanced than the infinite number of other beings known to us.
- Life in the ultimate analysis has taught me one enduring lesson. The subject should always disappear in the object. In our ordinary affections one for another, in our daily work with hand or brain, we most of us discover soon enough that any lasting satisfaction, any contentment that we can achieve, is the result of forgetting self, or merging subject with object in a harmony that is of body, mind and spirit. And in the highest realms of consciousness all who believe in a Higher Being are liberated from all the clogging and hampering bonds of the subjective self in prayer, in rapt meditation upon and in the face of the glorious radiance of Eternity, in which all temporal and earthly consciousness is swallowed up and itself becomes the eternal.
- Never, in my life - I may say with complete honesty - have I for an instant been bored. Every day has been so short, every hour so fleeting, every minute so filled with the life I love that time for me has fled on far too swift a wing. A mind that is occupied, in health or in sickness, with things outside itself and its own concerns is, I believe, a perpetual source of true happiness.
- It was silly of the poet Omar to write: "Ah love, could you and I with Him conspire, to grasp this sorry scheme of things entire. Would we not shatter it to bits, and then remold it nearer to the heart's desire?" That way lies unhappiness, destruction. It is not a sorry scheme of things, and the business, the duty of man, is to get himself into harmony with it. I would counsel my heirs to seek satisfaction, not in the flux of circumstances, but within themselves... I say you should endeavor to suit your desire to the event and not the event to your desire.
- Seek communion with that Eternal Reality which I call Allah and you call God! For that is the twin problem of existence – to be at once entirely yourself and altogether at one with the Eternal.
- Never forget this: The society in which we live cannot give a man happiness... Society can give a man space to breathe and freedom to move in it; it can afford him the means of keeping himself healthy and making himself strong. But happiness never depends on one's surroundings; it depends altogether and exclusively on oneself.
- I should have a word to say to those who deem themselves unfortunate from a worldly point of view. I should say to them, do not look up and lament that you are not as well off as those above you, look down and congratulate yourself that you are better off than those below you. To a man who looks with such eyes upon the world it is not a prison but a garden. A marvelous garden – the garden of the Lord.
- There is a right and legitimate Pan-Islamism to which every sincere and behaving Muslim belongs - that is, the theory of the spiritual brotherhood and unity of the children of the Prophet. It is a deep, perennial element in that Perso-Arabian culture, that great family of civilisation to which we gave the name Islam. Islam connotes charity and goodwill towards fellow-believers everywhere...It means an abiding interest in the literature of Islam, in her beautiful arts, in her lovely architecture, in her entrancing poetry. It also means true reformation, a return to the early and pure simplicity of the faith, to its preaching by persuasion and argument, to the manifestation of a spiritual power in individual lives, to beneficent activity for mankind. A famine or a desolating fire in the Moslem quarters of Kashgar or Sarajevo would immediately draw the sympathy and material assistance of the Muslims of Karachi or Cairo. The real spiritual and cultural unity of Islam must ever grow, for to the follower of the Prophet it is the foundation of the life of the soul.
Quotes about him
- My grandfather was a most gifted person, and amongst his many qualities, one of them had always particularly impressed me. While the past was a book he had read and re-read may times, the future was just one more literary work of art into which he used to pour himself with deep thought and concentration. Innumerable people since his death have told me how he used to read in the future, and this certainly was one of his very great strengths.
- His grandson, Karim al-Hussaini, who later succeeded him as Aga Khan IV and Imam of the Nizari Muslims.
- My father insisted that I learnt the Koran and encouraged me to understand the basic traditions and beliefs of Islam but without imposing any particular views. He was an overwhelming personality but open-minded and liberal.