Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Religion & Culture / Religious Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Meena Sharify-Funk

Advisor Role


Second Advisor

Ali H. Zaidi

Advisor Role

Committee Member

Third Advisor

Nathan C. Funk

Advisor Role

Committee Member


Aga Khan IV is the forty-ninth hereditary Imām of the Shī‘a Nizārī Ismā‘īlī Muslims (or ‘Ismā‘īlīs’ for short). As a Muslim leader, Aga Khan IV addresses salient issues concerning humankind in the contemporary world and expresses the challenges of living under such conditions through his public speeches and the institutions of the Ismā‘īlī Imāmate. His discourse is informed by the inseparability of dīn (faith) and dunyā(world), which is viewed as being a central function to the office of Imāmate. Aga Khan IV adopts a context-rich approach that addresses modernity by integrating commitments to theology with religio-cultural ethics, a formulation that facilitates the engagement of the Ismā‘īlī community in the contemporary world. A key feature of Aga Khan IV’s worldview is a tolerant and cosmopolitan attitude with deep spiritual underpinnings, which appeals to a broad range of individuals, not just Ismā‘īlīs. This research situates and explains Aga Khan IV’s concept of a ‘cosmopolitan ethic’ within concerns of human diversity and understandings of the Self-Other paradigm in human narratives. I demonstrate how significant initiatives of Aga Khan IV promote a cosmopolitan ethic, helping to foster a moral sensibility among the Ismā‘īlīs and communities at large. A critical analysis of Aga Khan IV’s ‘cosmopolitan ethic’ is undertaken through the consideration of broader discourses and experiences of cosmopolitanism throughout history. Moreover, his articulation rests on foundational precepts grounded in the Abrahamic moral tradition and is informed by an esoteric spirit of Islam that has long been captured in Shī‘ī and Ṣūfī thought.This dissertation also discusses the ways in which the cosmopolitan ethic is manifested within the institutions of the Imāmate in Canada. Using the case study of three institutions: the Global Centre for Pluralism, the Ismā‘īlī Centre Toronto, and the Aga Khan Museum, I demonstrate how these sites implement and craft a spirit of cosmopolitanism within their infrastructure and programing while exhibiting elements that are rooted in history and tradition.

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