Born in Moradabad, Khan was, like Raza Ali, an unofficial Muslim appointment from U.P. After attending the Government High School in Moradabad, he studied at Trinity College, Dublin, Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge and the University of London . A notable scholar, he was a Gold Medallist of Dublin University and became a D. Litt. in 1918. From 1919-1920, he was assistant Professor of Indian Economics at the University of Madras, and from 1924 he was a member of the U.P. Legislative Council.
Actively involved in Muslim affairs and political organisations, Khan served during 1927- 1930 as a representative in England of Muslim members of the U.P. Legislative, as President of several Muslim educational conferences, and as President of the Bengal Muslim Conference. Subsequently, he acted as Hon. Secretary to the Muslim Delegation to the Round Table Conferences held in 1930-1931, and from 1933 - 1934 he was the Chairman of the All-India Muslim Conference.
Pursuing his scholarly interests, he presided over the All-India Modem History Congress, held in Poona in June 1935. Before going to South Africa as High Commissioner in 1941, he was, in 1940, a member of the Federal Service Commission and the GIP Railway Committee of the Government of India.
During his tenure of office in South Africa from 1941 to 1944, Khan seems to have kept aloof from the discussions within the Indian political organisations. This may have been because he felt the function of the High Commissioner to be purely diplomatic. Thus the moderates were unable to use his person or the office as a means of support in their struggle against the radicals for the control of the Indian political organisations.
After returning to India, he became founder and editor of the Journal of Indian History. He also founded and edited a weekly paper, which later became the English language daily, The Star, published in Allahabad.