Who is Khan?

Lubna Abdel-Aziz , Tuesday 4 Jun 2024

Karim Abbas Ahmad Khan
Karim Abbas Ahmad Khan


Wading through a vast ocean, we seek to pursue one common name — the name of Khan.

Khan is an illustrious name, as ancient as it is modern. Both luring and alluring, it reserves endless lists of accomplishments throughout history.

What matters little that the ten most popular surnames in the world is not among it. Wang may top the list with 106 million names in China, while Smiths and Williams, Nguyen and Gonzalez, sit safely on the golden list. If Khan was landed on the 17th list of best surnames, 23 million names is certainly no small feat.

The name of Khan immediately rings a bell.  Easily intrigued, it shines, regardless of any social standing whether prince or pauper.  Bright lights twinkle in our brains, as we wonder about the origin of Khan, who they are, where they are and what is their ancestry.

Over 22,854,524 people come from everywhere. Admittedly, the highest percentage of the lion’s share is claimed by Pakistan, but could it true that 220 countries come from Khan?   

Yes, Khan is everywhere. While sounds and accents may vary, one Khan remains. We recall of places far and near; from Saudi Arabia to UAE, Oman, Iran, India, Afghanistan, Cambodia, across continents to South Africa, England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Holland, Norway as well as Canada, Peru, not to mention 81,809 Khans in the USA.

A common misconception is that Khans are strictly Muslims. Khan belongs to various religious affiliations, including Anglican and Orthodox Christians. The name long predates Islam.

One name stands in history as the grandest Khan of all time, Genghis Khan of Mongolia the oldest Khan in history.  

Born ‘Temjun’, (c.1162-1227), he united the Mogul tribes, launched innumerable military campaigns, conquering large parts of China and Central Asia.  He ruled for 21 years, founding the first Khan of the Mogul Empire. His mighty conquests across Asia are still taught in history books and remains the most singular Khan, bar none.

Many Khans come and come throughout the centuries, bearing the names of knowledgeable personages, as Khan marches on the parade of pageantry. Names are scattered around from Chinese King Kubla Khan, to Shere Khan, the fictional Tiger in Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Jungle Book’.

‘Khan’ dazzled by billionaire playboy Aly Khan, of the last century, oozing with charm and grace on the arms of Rita Hayworth, to the no less dashing Bollywood actor of the present century, of  Shah Rukh Khan fame. 

As of 2024, Khan is among the 23 million names in every endeavour, from sports athletes to scholars, from politicians to scientists. Notwithstanding the various accents of Khan, one should not confuse with the German Jewish surname of “Kahn”, or the Chinese name of “Chan”. 

As we pursue our quest into the many substances of Khan, we have finally sought and found the one Khan of the hour, one Karim A.A. Khan, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

Unwavering in his stance, the chief prosecutor had firm beliefs as he confronts the political firestorm. With little fanfare, he sought his arrest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity. For impartiality, he added three leaders of Hamas.

His warrant was issued only if ICC judges were all in compliance.

Always applauded as a man of honour, he nonetheless raised fierce objections for his grim sentence by the US government.  Republican senators pushed and shoved, threatening to impose extreme sanctions, even travel bans against the Chief Prosecutor, but to no avail.  The admirable Khan was not expect to waver.

If the US is not a party of the ICC, neither is Israel, the deal is done and the fact has occurred. Have we all heard the sentence of Khan? About 7.8 billion people have now condemned the crimes.

Karim Abbas Ahmad Khan is known for his extensive experience in International Criminal Law. He has served for 30 years winning acclaim and renown throughout his profession. On his election in 2021 as chief prosecutor of the ICC, he won a nine-year term, remaining outspoken from the start. A quiet man of simple values, he had a talent for justice since his youth, developing into his pious function for the court. 

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland in March, 1970, Khan’s father was a Pakistani dermatologist and his British born mother is a member of the Ahmadeyya Muslim Community. This community is part of a minority group in Islam, which he followed

A man of his faith, Khan often sprinkles his divine words with his many treatises, lectures and statements. 

At the age of 22, in 1992, Khan was called to the Bar of England and Wales. He later attended Wolfson College at Oxford University studying toward a DPhil in law. He rapidly climbed the ladder, engaging in a series of lofty assignments, in the international arena, representing as legal officer in various capacities. His passion was seeking redress for human rights violations, is steadfast.

Known for conducting himself with the highest standards of integrity, he is also fearless and valiant. A virtuoso in his profession, he is poetry in the raw.

Splendour of the name continues, with our thanks to Khan.


“The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name”.

Confucius, (551-479 BC)

* A version of this article appears in print in the 6 June, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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