Sultan Muhammad Shah was born in 1877 at Karachi. At the age of eight he lost his father Aly Shah, the Aga Khan II, and assumed the title of Aga Khan III, thus becoming the hereditary spiritual leader of the Ismaili sect. Too young to cope with the responsibilities as the head of the Ismaili Muslims he was ably assisted by his mother in religious and financial affairs. Aga Khan learnt Arabic and Persian from well-known teachers. He also studied theology, philosophy and Persian poetry. In 1902, at the age of 25, he was appointed a member of the Imperial Legislative Council, thus becoming the youngest member of the council.
Aga Khan, like many other great Muslim leaders, realized that the main cause of Muslim backwardness was their negligence towards education. He worked towards increasing Muslim education by not only increasing his grant to M. A. O. College, but also by generating funds for a Muslim University. By his efforts 3 million rupees were collected, which helped in laying a solid foundation of Aligarh University.
Aga Khan also greatly contributed towards the political cause of the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent. He led the Muslim delegation to Simla in 1906 where the Muslims, for the first time, put forward their demand for a separate electorate. He was elected the first president of All India Muslim League in 1906, an office that he held till 1912. Aga Khan was a man of vision and was of the opinion that the reform scheme introduced by the British would be beneficial to the Muslims. He wrote a book on the need of reforms for the Muslims, known as “India in Transition”, which was published in 1918.
During the Khilafat Movement, Aga Khan struggled to control the breakup of the Caliphate by taking up the issue at