Many of Harvard’s prestigious alumni have aspired to greatness. Yet few have ever been forced to assume a mantle of great responsibility before the ink dried on their studies papers. Prince Shah Karim Al Hussaini was a carefree, football and skiing-mad student with the promise of a PhD in history ahead of him. However, the death of his grandfather in 1957 saw young Prince Karim unexpectedly chosen as ruler and religious leader of all the world’s Ismaili muslims. In rising to the challenge suddenly thrust before him, he created a template for the next 60 years of his reign. Today the Aga Khan IV stands as one of the most highly admired yet elusive spiritual leaders of the modern age.
The Aga Khan is said to be the direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad and the 49th hereditary Imam of the Ismaili Muslims. As the Imam, he has been given the titular role of His Highness the Aga Khan, a position which he inherited from his grandfather while he was studying at Harvard University, aged just 20. He described himself as ‘an undergraduate who knew what his work for the rest of his life was going to be.’