A Research Proposal by Linda Hewitt
Prince Shah Karīm Al Ḥussaini known as his Highness Prince Aga Khan IV undemocratically inherited the leadership of Nizārī Ismai’lism, a religious community that belongs to the Shi’a sect. The Aga Khan is the 49th Imam of the Nizārī Isma’ilis and represents an authoritative, unquestionable religious leadership that is built upon his institutional work and ethical vision along with his religious understanding. He is the leader of a minority Muslim community that is spread all over the world with followers of more than 15 million believers 1 (Poor 2014, 1-2). Despite the lack of a territorial rule, he has a big transnational network of bureaucratic institutions through the charitable Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), an independent self-governing system of institutions, agencies, and programs that is integrated in the public image of the Isma’ili imamate which represents the Aga Khan in his leadership role. The Isma’ili imamate reconciles belief with the world, balances reason and revelation, and links citizenship and identity (Poor 2014, 21). The AKDN serves as Isma’ili institution for cultural, economic, and social service that reflects, but also expands the Aga Khan’s vision of improving the quality of life of his followers. The Aga Khan does not seek for being the head of a state, but rather seeks for being the head of his network of institutions.
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