Who was Muhammad Ali Jinnah?
Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s name is synonymous with the birth of Pakistan, one of the biggest Muslim countries in the world. He was the person responsible for the formation of Pakistan and regarded as the Father of the Nation. Though there were several hurdles in the formation of Pakistan since its conception, he had indomitable hope in his goal and with the persistent efforts saw the creation of a separate country for Indian Muslims. He was a lawyer, politician, statesman and a great visionary, carried secular ideals throughout the freedom struggle and wanted Pakistan to be an idealistic country among Islamic republics.
Muhammad Ali Jinnah was born in Karachi on 25th December 1876 to Jinnah Poonja and Mithibai belonging to a prosperous business community of Kathiawar. Jinnah completed his schooling in Karachi barring for a brief period of studies in Bombay. He went to England in 1892 for higher studies and went on to become youngest Indian lawyer at the age of 19 years. Before his departure to England, on his mother’s request Jinnah married Emibai who later died within few months of the marriage. While in England several national leaders of the time like Dadabhai Naoroji and Sir Pherozeshah Mehta cast influence on him and drawing him into freedom struggle. He could not tolerate the discrimination showed by British officials against Indians. In 1896 Jinnah’s father faced a business crisis and requested him to return. He came back and settled in Bombay. In 1918, Jinnah married his friend’s daughter Rattanbai Petit, a Parsi who was 24 years younger to him, in spite of severe opposition from his family and the girl’s family. Rattanbai gave birth to Dina Jinnah in 1919 but died in 1929 out of an illness and Jinnah remained single afterwards.
Secular Credentials and association with Indian National Congress & Muslim League
Jinnah developed close ties with political leaders like Surendranath Banerjee, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Sardar Vallabhai Patel, and Gopal Krishna Gokhale and joined Indian National Congress in 1906. He was always forthright in his opinions and convictions he carried. For example, he would acknowledge Britain’s positive influence on education, industrialization and culture and did not favor complete independence. Some of his views did not go well with the Congress leaders. He left Indian National Congress and joined the Muslim League in 1913 and was elected its President in 1916.
Jinnah was thoroughly secular, strongly believed in Hindu – Muslim unity for achieving freedom and with this intention he reorganized the Muslim League in 1918. He remained focused on Indian Autonomy, secularism and Lucknow Pact was culmination of his efforts resulting in signing of an agreement between Congress and the Muslim League. On other side, Jinnah joined hands with leaders like Tilak and Annie Besant for the formation of All India Home Rule League. When British came up with divided electorate on religious grounds he also favoured joint electorate along with other congress leaders but demanded some changes to Nehru Report that guarantees constitutional rights to Muslims as a compromise between his secularist ideals and demands from right wing Muslims. He left for England, for few years, disappointed after the failure of round table conference and on his return in 1934 he was elected permanent President of Muslim League.
Contributions to creation of Pakistan
Muhammad Ali Jinnah continued his efforts of positive cooperation with Indian National Congress through continued dialogue with Gandhi but could not make serious progress resulting in intensifying his stand on Muslims and the creation of Pakistan. In the 1940 Lahore session of the Muslim League, he proposed formation Pakistan and was vehemently opposed by the Congress and some of its Muslim leaders. In 1941, Jinnah founded a newspaper named “Dawn” and propagated Muslim League’s views on need for the creation of Pakistan nation, Quit India movement, and support to the British in World War II. The Muslim League became more powerful in Punjab region in 1942. With his undaunted efforts, Jinnah could finally see his dream of Pakistan come into reality on 14th August 1947 and he became the first Governor General of Pakistan. In his idealistic opinion, he wanted Pakistan to be more than just an Islamic theocratic state.
Jinnah became a victim of tuberculosis in 1940s. After the creation of Pakistan the workload has taken the toll on his health condition and breathed his last on September 11th 1948. A memorial is built on his tomb and several tourists visit this memorial to offer their prayers.
It is not an easy task to change the history by creating a separate nation. Muhammad Ali Jinnah was successful in his endeavours with his undeterred spirit and invincible hope. Very few individuals remain in history for their Herculean tasks and Jinnah is definitely one among them. He is proudly called the Quaid-i-Azam (Great leader) and Baba-i-Qaum (Father of the Nation).