Named after the Prophet’s daughter Fatima, the Fatimid dynasty created a state that stimulated the development of art, science, and trade in the Mediterranean Near East over two centuries. Its centre was Cairo, founded by the Fatimids as their capital. Following the Fatimid period, the Ismaili Muslims’ geographical centre shifted from Egypt to Syria and Persia. After their centre Alamut (in Persia), fell to Mongol conquerors in the 13th century, Ismailis lived for several centuries in dispersed communities, mainly in Persia and Central Asia but also in Syria, India and elsewhere. In the 1830s, Aga Hassanaly Shah, the 46th Ismaili Imam, was granted the honorary hereditary title of Aga Khan by the Shah of Persia. In 1843, the first Aga Khan left Persia for India, which already had a large Ismaili community. Aga Khan II died in 1885, only four years after assuming the Imamat. He was succeeded by the present Aga Khan’s grandfather, and predecessor as Imam, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan.
The Aga Khan’s brother, Prince Amyn, joined the United Nations Secretariat, Department of Economic and Social Affairs following his graduation from Harvard in 1965. Since 1968, Prince Amyn has been closely involved with the governance of the principal development institutions of the Imamat. He is Director of the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) and a member of the Board of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) and Chairman of its Executive Committee. Prince Amyn was also deeply involved in the establishment and the development of the Tourism Promotion Services (TPS). He is also a Director of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC).
The Aga Khan’s eldest child and daughter, Princess Zahra, graduated from Harvard in 1994 with a BA (Honours) Degree in Development Studies, and is the Head of the Social Welfare Department (SWD) located within the Secretariat of the AgaKhan in France. She has policy and management responsibility for the health, education, and planning and building service companies of the AgaKhan Development Network (AKDN). She also plays a key policy role with respect to the other social development institutions of the Network.
Prince Rahim was born on 12 October 1971, in Geneva, Switzerland, and is the second of His Highness the Aga Khan’s four children. Based at the Secretariat of His Highness the Aga Khan at Aiglemont, north of Paris, France, Prince Rahim is an executive Director of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) -- the economic development arm of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). He also serves as an Executive Director at the Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance (AKAM). A graduate of Brown University, Rhode Island, USA with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Comparative Literature awarded in 1996, Prince Rahim received his secondary education at Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts. In 2006, Prince Rahim completed an executive development programme in Management and Administration at the University of Navarra IESE Business School in Barcelona, Spain. Prince Rahim travels regularly to Asia and Africa to oversee the industrial plants, hotel properties and financial institutions, including microfinance programmes, of the Aga Khan Development Network.
The Aga Khan’s second son, Prince Hussain, graduated from Williams College (USA) with a Bachelor of Arts degree and has a Master of International Affairs degree from Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) where his main area of study was Economic and Political Development with a regional focus on the Middle East and North Africa.
His youngest son Prince Aly Muhammad was born in 2000.
In consonance with this vision of Islam and their tradition of service to humanity, wherever Ismailis live, they have elaborated a well-defined institutional framework to carry out social, economic and cultural activities. Under the Aga Khan’s leadership, this framework has expanded and evolved into the Aga Khan Development Network, a group of institutions working to improve living conditions and opportunities in specific regions of the developing world. In every country, these institutions work for the common good of all citizens regardless of their origin or religion. Their individual mandates range from architecture, education and health to the promotion of private sector enterprise, the enhancement of non-government organisations and rural development.
As part of the commemoration of His Highness the Aga Khan’s Golden Jubilee which began on 11th July 2007, he has been paying official visits to some 35 countries, using these occasions to recognise the friendship and longstanding support of leaders of state, government and other partners in the work of the Ismaili Imamat, and to set the direction for the future, including the launching and laying of foundations for major initiatives and programmes.