Born on November 2, 1877 in Karachi, Sir Sultan Mohammed Shah the 48th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismailis is one of the most prominent figures who worked towards the independence of Pakistan besides bringing educational reforms in the sub-continent.
Throughout his lifetime, his remarkable work for the betterment of not only the Ismaili community, but also the Muslim Ummah and all of humanity has been widely recognised.
He was bestowed as the Imam of the Shia Imami Ismailis while being educated by European trainers as well as gaining expertise in the Quran and Hadith in his early years. When he turned 19, he paid his first visit to the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental (MAO) College in Aligarh where he was welcomed wholeheartedly.
Sir Sultan Mohammed Shah was impressed by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s view towards the problems arising in the Muslim youth; they had similar perceptions for what seemed to be the main cause of the Muslim youth being politically and socially downtrodden in India which was, illiteracy. Sir Sultan Shah decided to support the cause firmly.
He did not let his vision die after Sir Syed Ahmed Khan’s death and carried out nation-wide awareness programmes and fund raising campaigns to support the cause. This led to the formation of Aligarh University and Sir Sultan Shah was appointed as the educational institutes first pro-chancellor.
In addition to facilitating the youth towards education, he also made generous donations for their scholarships.
His immense contributions towards education also include setting up 200 schools worldwide. On the completion of his 60 years of Imamat, his diamond jubilee, he promoted education for women and established many schools to promote education for both genders in the northern areas of Pakistan.
These schools known as DJ schools are set up in the rugged terrain of northern Pakistan and have tremendously helped the local people in improving their quality of life and harnessing their skills. Today the literacy rate of the population in the Northern areas has drastically increased due to Sir Shah’s hard work.
The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), currently being run by His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan IV, was also originally formed by Sir Sultan Mohammed Shah. Today the Aga Khan Education Service Pakistan (AKESP) operates in about 182 schools all over Pakistan.
Apart from his contributions to the education of the youth in the sub-continent, Sir Sultan Mohammad Shah’s consequential role in the independence of Pakistan was leading the Simla Deputation to Lord Minto, as a result of which the All India Muslim League (AIML) was formed. He was the first president of the party that represented the Muslims. He also attended the Round Table Conferences as a Muslim delegate.
Furthermore, he had also been close to Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah. They had supported each other in crucial times during the partition, regularly consulting each other over many issues.
Soon after Pakistan’s independence, Sir Sultan Mohammed Shah fell ill and passed in 1954. He rests in eternal peace in Aswan, Egypt.
Written by Komal Bhamani