Sultan Mahommed Shah, Aga Khan III, was the 48th Imam of the Shia 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.
Throne of Imamate by Aga Khan III
After his father’s death, the Aga Khan III ascended the throne of Imamate at the age of 7 years, 9 months and 16 days on 6th Zilkada, 1302/August 17, 1885. The British empire awarded him the title of His Highness in 1886 in the time of Lord Reay, the then governor of Bombay. On that occasion, the Iranian king had sent him a sword and an ivory stick as presents.
Welfare Works by Aga Khan III
In 1897, a terrible famine had badly shaken the Bombay Presidency, therefore, the Aga Khan III supplied food and seed, cattle and agricultural tools to the needy people, and in order to provide job opportunities, he started the construction of his Yarroda Palace at Poona. In Bombay, a large camp was pitched at Hasanabad, where thousands of people were daily fed at his expense; and to those who were ashamed
openly to participate in this hospitality, the grain was provided to them privately for about six months. The famine was followed by the epidemic of bubonic plague and the superstitious people of India refused to be vaccinated against the disease. The Aga Khan III obtained the service of an eminent bacteriologist, Dr. Waldemar Mordecai Wolff Haffkine, the Director-in-Chief of the Government Plague Research Laboratory, Bombay. The Aga Khan was a crusader against meaningless supersitions and traditions, when soon after famine came plague, the people were in a panic and there was a hue and cry against inoculation with anti-plague serum. He therefore collected the people at his Khusaro Lodge, where the doctor was staying and addressed meetings explaining the benefits of inoculation. In front of this gathering he got himself inoculated, so as to dispel their superstitious fears, and strengthen their confidence in scientific methods of cure. This prompted others to follow and many lives were saved as a result. In the meantime, it had been proposed to give a public dinner to the Aga Khan III in Bombay in view of his outstanding services. When he had been informed of it, he wrote to the Secretary of the Reception Committee a letter, which showed his innermost feeling evoked by the distress of the poor people. He wrote: “I cannot accept any entertainment when thousands of people are dying of starvation. It is almost wicked to waste money on rich food when thousands of people are starving. I would urge that every rupee that could be spared should be given for the relief of sufferers by famine instead of wasting it on the entertainments.”