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TIME Magazine on Aga Khan’s Expensive Bathwater

The TIME magazine published an article on Aga Khan’s bathwater being sold to his loyal followers at a high price inside the Jamatkhanas. The Agakhani-Ismailis refer to this bathwater as Abe Shifaa, which literally means the “Water that Heals” (Abe Shifaa).

So basically, they believe that this bathwater of Aga Khan contains some magical healing powers.

We have acquired that article from TIME’s archives and have shared it here for our readers. The article was titled “India: Water, Words and God” and can be found at this link.

Published in TIME Magazine | January 14, 1929 | Vol. XIII No. 2

Whenever a bath is taken by His Highness the Aga Khan, the bathwater is carefully preserved, bottled and shipped to Mohammedan communities throughout the world. Thus the faithful are provided with a priceless boon. Holy Water in which a descendant of Prophet Mohammed has laved himself. No niggard, the Aga Khan charges for the really enormous quantity of water in which he bathes each year, only his weight in gold. The ceremony of weighing His Highness takes place each twelvemonth at Aga Hall, Bombay; and then and there the golden wage is payed by representatives of the various Mohammedan sects. No fool, the Aga Khan keeps fat. Also he is at pleasure to stand in with the British Government, which pays him privily a fat subsidy for his good offices among the Mohammedan subjects of George V, and with British masses who bet heavily on many an Aga Khan horse.

Last week at Delhi, the splendrous new Capital of British India, it was His Highness the Aga Khan who presided as Chairman of the All Indian Mohammedan Conference (TIME, Jan. 7). On the agenda was a momentous question. Should the assembled Mohammedans endorse the demand that India be given ”Dominion Status” within a year, which was voiced last fortnight in Calcutta by the Indian National Congress, a gathering not of Mohammedans but of Hindus. When the matter had been thoroughly thrashed out and winnowed, last week, the Aga Khan deftly guided the Mohammedan Conference into adopting a resolution which absolutely ignored the Hindu demand upon Great Britain for ”Dominion Status.” voicing instead merely the desire that Mohammedans should be accorded greater representation in the present native Assembly of the Government of India.

Since it is the virile Mohammedans and not the lackadaisical, jabbering Hindus who might be expected to strike a blow for “Dominion Status,” the service of His Highness the Aga Khan to Britain, last week, was worth incalculably more than even the fat Khan’s great weight in gold.

My father is now Provincial Commissioner of Nyanza Province, and is himself to be the host of the important person. My two older sisters, an enterprising eight and six years old, are on the scene. And the guest is the late Aga Khan, who is coming to stay. To my parents the Aga Khan was a politically important and a socially charming man. But to the large population of Ismaili Moslems in Kisumu he was sacred, a descendant of the Prophet. They gathered in silent reverent multitudes outside our garden, and waited, day and night, for only a glimpse of him. If he called on the faithful to give in a worthy cause, they were ready to balance his weight in gold and in diamonds.

My sisters, Anthea and Eleanor, found themselves on terms of domestic familiarity with this god, and saw the chance of capitalizing. Anthea, particularly, at eight, had a sound commercial instinct. She decided to take up the profession of Chaucer’s Pardoner, and go into business selling relics. Wouldn’t a good Moslem give good money for the Aga Khan’s nail clippings, for instance? The nail clippings weren’t available, but what about his bath water? Surely selling bathwater to the faithful would be a good commercial proposition.

In the rather primitive plumbing arrangements we had, there was a little pipe that squirted the released bath water into an open drain. Here my sisters squatted when the evening came, with a fine collection of jam jars and tin cans, awaiting the happy moment when the Aga Khan should pull out his reverend plug, and a golden river would come gurgling into their receptacles. (My sisters must have been early practitioners of what Ronald Reagan nowadays calls “the trickle-down theory of wealth”!)

Well, they never realized their dreams of riches. My mother, the spoilsport, caught them in the midst of their pots and jars, and emptied them all. So we never did ascertain the market value of a bottle of Aga Khan bathwater.

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