Aga Khan III Biography

Aga Khan III, the son of Aga Khan II, was a prominent figure in the Nizari Ismaili religion. He not only succeeded his father as the 48th Imam but also played a crucial role as the first president of the All-India Muslim League. Throughout his career, Khan tirelessly fought for the rights of Muslims in India, particularly during the British rule. He championed the ‘Two Nation Theory’ and advocated for a separate nation for Muslims within India. Born and raised in a noble family in Karachi, Khan received a comprehensive education that blended Islamic and western teachings. From studying at Eton to attending the University of Cambridge, he acquired a well-rounded knowledge. Remarkably, he assumed the position of Imam at the tender age of eight and went on to become a prominent leader among Indian Muslims. Additionally, Khan served as the president of the League of Nations from 1937 to 1938. Notably, he was also renowned for his expertise in breeding thoroughbred racehorses. Khan’s legacy lives on even after his death in 1957, as he was succeeded by his grandson Aga Khan IV.

Quick Facts

  • Indian Celebrities Born In November
  • Also Known As: Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah
  • Died At Age: 79
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Begum Aga Khan III (1944), Andrée Joséphine Carron (1929–1943), Cleope Teresa Magliano (1908–1926)
    • Father: Aga Khan II
    • Mother: Nawab A’lia Shamsul-Muluk
    • Children: Giuseppe Mahdi Shah, Prince Aly Khan, Prince Giuseppe Mahdi Aga Khan, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan
  • Born Country: Pakistan
  • Political Leaders
  • Indian Men
  • Died on: July 11, 1957
  • Place of death: Versoix, Switzerland
  • City: Karachi, Pakistan
  • More Facts
  • Education: Eton College
  • Awards: Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George


Following the death of his father in 1885, Aga Khan III became the Imam of the Shi’a Isma’ili Muslims. He was just eight at that time. After reaching a suitable age, he began to work for the advancement of Indian Muslims. In 1897, Queen Victoria honored him with the title of Knight Commander of the Indian Empire. In 1902, he earned the title of Knight Grand Commander (GCIE).

In 1906, Khan became one of the founding members and the first president of the political party All India Muslim League. The party strived for creating a new independent Muslim nation under the British colonial rule and went on to establish Pakistan in 1947.

Also in 1906, Khan headed the Muslim deputation to Lord Minto, then-British viceroy, for promoting the Muslim minority’s interests. This led to the declaration of Morley-Minto reforms in 1909 that provided for separate Muslim electorates. In 1912, he was conferred the title of Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Star of India by then-Emperor of India George V.

As a head of Muslims, Aga Khan III initiated the funding for Aligarh’s Muslim college to help garner it a university status. From 1930-32, he participated in the Round Table Conferences in London to help bring about constitutional changes. Then in 1932, he played a major role at the League of Nations Assembly and the World Disarmament Conference held in Geneva.

In 1934, Khan gained membership of the Privy Council and also joined the League of Nations. In 1937, he was elected the president of the League of Nations.

Social & Religious Views

Aga Khan III was highly inspired by Islamic reformist Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan. Together, they founded the Aligarh University for which they diligently raised funds. Khan, who considered Islam as a humanitarian religion, followed a modernist approach to it. He wanted Muslims to be modern in their thoughts. As a reformist, he called for religious liberties and an end to all wars. He opposed sectarianism among the Muslim community.

Khan also gave importance to education. He encouraged Muslims to achieve high levels of education so as to progress in different fields. He gave equal importance to women and fought for their political rights, including the right to education and right to vote. Khan campaigned against the tradition of “purda” which he felt was oppressive.

Family & Personal Life

Aga Khan III was born on 2 November 1877, in Karachi, British India (now Pakistan), to Aga Khan II and Nawab A’lia Shamsul-Muluk. He had a few step-siblings, including Shihab al-Din Shah and Nur al-Din Shah.

On 2 November 1896, Khan married his first cousin Shahzadi Begum in Pune, India. Following their divorce, he married Cleope Teresa Magliano in 1908. The couple had two sons, Prince Aly Khan and Prince Giuseppe Mahdi Khan.

Following Magliano’s death in 1926, Khan married for the third time. His marriage with third wife Andrée Joséphine Carron took place in December 1929. They had a son named Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan. The couple separated in 1943.

Khan’s fourth and last wife was Yvonne Blanche Labrousse who converted to Islam and became Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan after marriage. In 1954, she was given the title ‘Mata Salamat’ by Khan.


Aga Khan III died on 11 July 1957, near Geneva, Switzerland, at the age of 79. He was succeeded by his grandson Karim as “Aga Khan IV.” Several years after his death, Pakistan issued a postage stamp in the ‘Pioneers of Freedom’ series to honor him. In 1977, ‘Birth Centenary of Agha Khan III’, a special postage stamp series, was issued in Khan’s honor.

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