Ilyas Tariq Khan was raised in Lancashire (North West England). His grandparents emigrated to Britain in the 1930s. His early schooling was in the old Lancashire Pennine mill towns of Haslingden and then Accrington.
When Khan was at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, he stayed at Netherhall House, an Opus Dei student hall of residence. Although he was born a Muslim whilst at Netherhall House he became interested in Catholicism and was intellectually engaged by the work of 20th century theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar and also by the writings of John Henry Newman.
Khan is a merchant banker by training and started his career at the London firm of J. Henry Schroder Wagg & Co. Ltd. He was also the owner of the famous English football team Accrington Stanley and is its Patron and the founder and publisher of the Asia Literary Review.
Khan is the non executive senior partner of Stanhill Capital Partners, a merchant banking business with a focus on natural resources which he founded in 1998, during the 20 years (1989–2009) he spent living and working in Hong Kong. In business terms he was one of the founding directors of Australia-based White Energy Company.
In 2015 Khan founded Cambridge Quantum Computing, which was selected by Bloomberg L.P., as a business Innovator 2016, he has also published on the subject of Quantum Information Processing
He is a Fellow of St Edmund's College, Cambridge and is also a fellow of the Judge Business School, where he is the "Leader in Residence". His special interests include philanthropy and Wittgenstein, and he is a member of the British Wittgenstein Society.
Khan has lectured and published papers on Ludwig Wittgenstein, among other subjects.
Khan is the chairman of the Stephen Hawking Foundation, which was established on the initiative of Professor Stephen Hawking to further the study of Cosmology, Astrophysics and Fundamental Particle Physics and to facilitate research into Motor Neuron Disease / Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (MND/ALS).
Khan served two terms as the chairman of the prominent British charity Leonard Cheshire Disability (LCD) — the largest organization of its kind in the world, with a presence in over 50 countries.
Khan is a patron of the Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst, which aims to raise funds to make the collections at Stonyhurst more widely accessible. The project has the support of Lord and Lady Nicholas Windsor, Lord Guthrie, Cardinal Vincent Nichols Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor and Lord David Alton.
By the age of 18 or 19, Khan began to question his Muslim faith. At this time he discovered the works of the Swiss theologian and philosopher Hans Urs von Balthasar and has since become well known as a keen enthusiast of this Swiss theologian and thinker. Khan began to read theology in the Netherhall library, where he studied such Christian theologians as Origen and Saint Augustine.
Khan was attracted to the practices of traditional Catholicism and an important contribution to his faith was through regular attendance, over a decade prior to his formal conversion, at St Joseph’s Church in Hong Kong, where Khan lived and worked for 20 years.
In September 2015 Pope Francis elevated Khan to a Knight of the Order of St Gregory the Great for his contribution to the Church and community.
In 2015 Khan ranked 21st in The Tablet's list of Britain's most influential lay Catholics.