Why Does the Imam Need a Private Jet?
Mawlana Hazir Imam only has a private plane because:
- He spends over 3 months of travel time per year in his role as the Imam
- He also oversees the activities of the various branches of the AKDN which service a broad array of sectors of society in far-flung regions
- The airplane enables him to see visit his global community of 15 million Ismaili Muslims which are dispersed in over 35 countries
“Each decision involved big issues. Symbolising the expansion of his interests, he took delivery of the new Gruman Gulfstream jet, twice the size and cost of the old Mystere: 'It will enable me to visit my community more frequently,' he told me.”
– Willi Frischauer, (The Aga Khans, 281)
"My life is highlighted by official visits to the twenty or so countries where members of the community live, which keep me moving from one end of the year to the next. This takes approximately six-hundred flight hours per year! To gain time, I always make sure I’m accompanied in my private plane by some assistants."
– Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV,
(Paris Match Interview, December 15, 1994)
GB: It is often suggested that your affluent lifestyle is very different from that of most Ismailis who live mostly in the poverty of the Third World. Do you think that is a fair comment?
Aga Khan: I think that affluence is perhaps the wrong terminology. I do not seek to do things, in fact I have stayed away from things which did not seem to me to be good sense, where it was affluence for the sake of affluence. I’ll give you an example. I have a private aircraft, but that aircraft today is flying between 450 and 600 hours a year. You take 600 hours of time — that translates into approximately two months of working days. I cannot afford, nor can people who work in my organisation, to eliminate two months of working time … if you have to run an organisation in as diverse areas as I do there are certain things you’ve got to do to be efficient. When you talk about extremely poor people, of course there are poor people throughout the developing world and there will be poor people for years and years. I think they would ask whether the Imamat as an institution was helping them as best as it could and I think it would be true to say that the Imamat is assisting them.
(The Age Interview, Geoffrey Barker, ‘Aga Khan: Enigma of East and West’ (Melbourne, Australia; Nairobi, Kenya): http://www.nanowisdoms.org/nwblog/10329/)
Margot Dougherty / Richard B. Stolley: The subject of money inevitably comes up when your name and your foundation are mentioned. Could you put to rest some of the myths?
Aga Khan: "...If I didn’t occupy the office of Imam, I wouldn’t fly on a private aircraft, I wouldn’t have a secretariat of some 100 people. You really should apply to the Imam the same criteria you would apply to any public office. But that’s never been done, because there has been a sort of inheritance of gloss. Maybe I should have addressed that issue more quickly. I have felt that the area of the world I work in has not had the misperception; that’s much more a Western misperception.
( Life Magazine Interview, Margot Dougherty and Richard B. Stolley (New York, USA), December 1983)
Anne Loesch: You travel a lot, do you not? You have even bought a plane …
Aga Khan: Yes. To make time. I spend more than six hundred hours flying, going from one community to another. I fly to India next month, actually. I am happy to keep returning often rather than to stay too long in any one location; you can better appreciate the problems when you come with fresh eyes. So the plane has rendered great service: I have the leisure to take stock and I have solved many problems in the sky.
( Jeune Afrique Interview (1st), Anne Loesch (Paris, France), 15 October 1967)