The Aga Khans
World’s Work ltd
This book is based on extensive research in archives ranging from Britain through India, US and Europe. It starts in August 1841 when the British, then rulers of India, were in the middle of one of their wars in Afghanistan. That is when Aga Khan Mahallati, the spiritual leader of the Ismailis, a Muslim Shia sect, having fought and lost to the Shah in Persia, arrived in Afghanistan. The Aga, known as Aga I, offered the British help. The British were keen to secure Muslim allies but opinion was divided whether the Aga was the right person and it was only after much pleading by Aga I that he was allowed to settle in British India and given a pension. The major part of this book is the story of his grandson, Aga Khan III. A fervent supporter of British rule in India, he became a well known international figure. He counted many prominent figures in the West, such as Lord Beaverbrook, as his person friends, and was also a hugely successful race horse owner. Married four times, three of his wives were Europeans, he eventually left India to settle in the West and succeeded in taking an Asian family that was little known in the West at the end of the 19th century, to dizzy heights of political and social power by the early decades of the 20th century.