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From Horse Carriages to Nuclear Physics-“Seventy Years of Glorious Leadership”

From Satellites to power plants, Science is everywhere and without it, we would not be alive. Advances in technology and science are transforming our world at an incredible pace, and our children’s future will surely be filled with leaps in technology we can only imagine.

There may be individuals who would be wishing to visit the big round moon and stars once in their lives. These expectations seem possible now with the advancements in science and technology. However, in the past people could not even imagine someone talking about visiting the moon and stars. As on February 20th, 1955, His Highness Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah on the occasion of the Platinum Jubilee celebration upon completion of seventy glorious years of his Imamat at Cairo said,

You referred to my seventy years Imamat which, indeed is unique in the history of the 48 Ismaili Imams by its long duration, but also it began in another world, the world of horse carriages and candle lights, and today we are in the world of nuclear power, physics, jet air travel and serious discussion among the most learned as to how and when we can visit the stars and the moon.”

His Highness Aga Khan III states that his Imamat began in another world and ended in a different world. This is indeed a very interesting point and it brings our attention to his outlook about science and its relation to Islam.

Sir Aga Khan was born in Karachi at ‘Honeymoon Lodge’ on 2nd November 1877. From the age of eight, for over seventy years, he played a leading part in public affairs for the Muslim community as well as for the whole Islamic brotherhood.

Aga Khan III, with his vast experience and outstanding personality of international standing, proved to be a responsible and productive mediator between the western world and the leaders of the subcontinent. It was in pursuit of his educational vision that he successfully dedicated himself to the project of transforming the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh into a leading Asian University.

The Aga Khan had championed the cause of Muslims of the world throughout his life. He was totally dedicated to Islam – in mind, body and soul. As a strong political personality and a religious leader, he stressed on science as an important aspect of human life. As he mentioned, in a chapter from ‘The Memoirs of the Aga Khan’ that:

“The origins of man’s religious aspirations are to be found in what we nowadays call science.”

Furthermore, he continued:

“Thus, at one and the same time mankind’s experiences in the realm of sensation and his striving to explain and co-ordinate those experiences in terms of his mind led to the birth of both science and religion. The two remained linked throughout prehistoric and ancient times, and in the life of the early empires of which we have knowledge.”

It is usually perceived that religious people distrust science. Many Muslim scholars refute different aspects of scientific research with regard to creation and other subjects of science and technology. Despite of all the disagreements, His Highness Aga Khan III emphasized that science and religion are closely associated. He asserts that Islam is a religion based on laws of nature closely related to science, which is the study of these laws.

He writes in his book “Message to the World of Islam” that:

“Is the Muslim world at last going to turn its thought and culture to what is fundamental teaching of the Holy Quran? It is for the public of Pakistan and indeed for the Muslim world to adjust its cultural foundations of knowledge to the study and ultimate victory over the forces of nature ever at our disposal through science.”

(From the chapter, ‘this I have learnt from life’)


At various occasions, he has advised Muslims all over to the world to study scientific laws of nature in order to understand Islam in a better way. Furthermore, he writes:

“At its greatest period, Islam was at the head of science, was at the head of knowledge, and was in the advanced line of political, philosophic and literary thought.”

His Highness Aga Khan III emphasized that with the pace this world is moving and the speed with which technology advances, an understanding of science is a crucial part of education.

Today, on the occasion of his birth anniversary, we pay tribute to the memory of this great Muslim leader for relating religion and science in an exceptional way in order to make Muslims a stronger and prosperous community.

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