By Muslim Mirror Desk,
Muhammad Ali Jinnah the founder of Islamic Republic of Pakistan was a lawyer, politician, who served as the leader of the All-India Muslim League from 1913 until Pakistan’s independence on 14 August 1947, and then as Pakistan’s first Governor-General until his death. He is revered in Pakistan as Quaid-i-Azam or “Father of the Nation.
Born at Wazir Mansion in Karachi, Jinnah was trained as a barrister at Lincoln’s Inn in London. Upon his return to British India, he enrolled at the Bombay High Court, and took an interest in national politics, which eventually replaced his legal practice.
Jinnah rose to prominence in the Indian National Congress in the first two decades of the 20th century. In these early years of his political career, Jinnah advocated Hindu–Muslim unity, helping to shape the 1916 Lucknow Pact between the Congress and the All-India Muslim League, in which Jinnah had also become prominent. Jinnah became a key leader in the All India Home Rule League, and proposed a fourteen-point constitutional reform plan to safeguard the political rights of Muslims.
In 1920, however, Jinnah resigned from the Congress when it agreed to follow a campaign of satyagraha, which he regarded as political anarchy.
In 1857, many Indians had risen in revolt against British rule. In the aftermath of the conflict, some Anglo-Indians, as well as Indians in Britain, called for greater self-government for the subcontinent, resulting in the founding of the Indian National Congress in 1885. Most founding members had been educated in Britain, and were content with the minimal reform efforts being made by the government.
Muslims were not enthusiastic about calls for democratic institutions in British India, as they constituted a quarter to a third of the population, outnumbered by the Hindus. Early meetings of the Congress contained a minority of Muslims, mostly from the elite.
Jinnah devoted much of his time to his law practice in the early 1900s, but remained politically involved. Jinnah began political life by attending the Congress’s twentieth annual meeting, in Bombay in December 1904. He was a member of the moderate group in the Congress, favouring Hindu–Muslim unity in achieving self-government, and following such leaders as Mehta, Naoroji, and Gopal Krishna Gokhale.
They were opposed by leaders such as Tilak and Lala Lajpat Rai, who sought quick action towards independence. In 1906, a delegation of Muslim leaders headed by the Aga Khan called on the new Viceroy of India, Lord Minto, to assure him of their loyalty and to ask for assurances that in any political reforms they would be protected from the “unsympathetic [Hindu] majority”.
Dissatisfied with this, Jinnah wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper Gujarati, asking what right the members of the delegation had to speak for Indian Muslims, as they were unelected and self-appointed. When many of the same leaders met in Dacca in December of that year to form the All-India Muslim League to advocate for their community’s interests, Jinnah was again opposed. The Aga Khan later wrote that it was “freakishly ironic” that Jinnah, who would lead the League to independence, “came out in bitter hostility toward all that I and my friends had done .He said that our principle of separate electorates was dividing the nation against itself.”
In its earliest years, however, the League was not influential; Minto refused to consider it as the Muslim community’s representative, and it was ineffective in preventing the 1911 repeal of the partition of Bengal, an action seen as a blow to Muslim interests.
Although Jinnah initially opposed separate electorates for Muslims, he used this means to gain his first elective office in 1909, as Bombay’s Muslim representative on the Imperial Legislative Council. He was a compromise candidate when two older, better-known Muslims who were seeking the post deadlocked. The council, which had been expanded to 60 members as part of reforms enacted by Minto, recommended legislation to the Viceroy. Only officials could vote in the council; non-official members, such as Jinnah, had no vote. Throughout his legal career, Jinnah practised probate law (with many clients from India’s nobility), and in 1911 introduced the Wakf Validation Act to place Muslim religious trusts on a sound legal footing under British Indian law. Two years later, the measure passed, the first act sponsored by non-officials to pass the council and be enacted by the Viceroy. Jinnah was also appointed to a committee which helped to establish the Indian Military Academy in Dehra Dun.
In December 1912, Jinnah addressed the annual meeting of the Muslim League although he was not yet a member. He joined the following year, although he remained a member of the Congress as well and stressed that League membership took second priority to the “greater national cause” of an independent India.
In April 1913, he again went to Britain, with Gokhale, to meet with officials on behalf of the Congress. Gokhale, a Hindu, later stated that Jinnah “has true stuff in him, and that freedom from all sectarian prejudice which will make him the best ambassador of Hindu–Muslim Unity”. Jinnah led another delegation of the Congress to London in 1914, but due to the start of the First World War found officials little interested in Indian reforms. By coincidence, he was in Britain at the same time as a man who would become a great political rival of his, Mohandas Gandhi, a Hindu lawyer who had become well known for advocating satyagraha, non-violent non-cooperation, while in South Africa. Jinnah attended a reception for Gandhi, and returned home to India in January 1915.
Jinnah’s moderate faction in the Congress was undermined by the deaths of Mehta and Gokhale in 1915; he was further isolated by the fact that Naoroji was in London, where he remained until his death in 1917. Nevertheless, Jinnah worked to bring the Congress and League together. In 1916, with Jinnah now president of the Muslim League, the two organisations signed the Lucknow Pact, setting quotas for Muslim and Hindu representation in the various provinces. Although the pact was never fully implemented, its signing ushered in a period of co-operation between the Congress and the League.
During the war, Jinnah joined other Indian moderates in supporting the British war effort, hoping that Indians would be rewarded with political freedoms. Jinnah played an important role in the founding of the All India Home Rule League in 1916. Along with political leaders Annie Besant and Tilak, Jinnah demanded “home rule” for India—the status of a self-governing dominion in the Empire similar to Canada, New Zealand and Australia, although, with the war, Britain’s politicians were not interested in considering Indian constitutional reform. British Cabinet minister Edwin Montagu recalled Jinnah in his memoirs, “young, perfectly mannered, impressive-looking, armed to the teeth with dialectics, and insistent on the whole of his scheme”.
In 1918, Jinnah married his second wife Rattanbai Petit (“Ruttie”), 24 years his junior. She was the fashionable young daughter of his friend Sir Dinshaw Petit, and was part of an elite Parsi family of Bombay. There was great opposition to the marriage from Rattanbai’s family and the Parsi community, as well as from some Muslim religious leaders. Rattanbai defied her family and nominally converted to Islam, adopting (though never using) the name Maryam Jinnah, resulting in a permanent estrangement from her family and Parsi society. The couple resided at South Court Mansion in Bombay, and frequently travelled across India and Europe. The couple’s only child, daughter Dina, was born on 15 August 1919. The couple separated prior to Ruttie’s death in 1929, and subsequently Jinnah’s sister Fatima looked after him and his child.
Relations between Indians and British were strained in 1919 when the Imperial Legislative Council extended emergency wartime restrictions on civil liberties; Jinnah resigned from it when it did. There was unrest across India, which worsened after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar, in which British troops fired upon a protest meeting, killing hundreds. In the wake of Amritsar, Gandhi, who had returned to India and become a widely respected leader and highly influential in the Congress, called for satyagraha against the British.
Gandhi’s proposal gained broad Hindu support, and was also attractive to many Muslims of the Khilafat faction. These Muslims, supported by Gandhi, sought retention of the Ottoman caliphate, which supplied spiritual leadership to many Muslims. The caliph was the Ottoman Emperor, who would be deprived of both offices following his nation’s defeat in the First World War. Gandhi had achieved considerable popularity among Muslims because of his work during the war on behalf of killed or imprisoned Muslims. Unlike Jinnah and other leaders of the Congress, Gandhi did not wear western-style clothing, did his best to use an Indian language instead of English, and was deeply rooted in Indian culture. Gandhi’s local style of leadership gained great popularity with the Indian people. Jinnah criticised Gandhi’s Khilafat advocacy, which he saw as an endorsement of religious zealotry.
Jinnah regarded Gandhi’s proposed satyagraha campaign as political anarchy, and believed that self-government should be secured through constitutional means. He opposed Gandhi, but the tide of Indian opinion was against him. At the 1920 session of the Congress in Nagpur, Jinnah was shouted down by the delegates, who passed Gandhi’s proposal, pledging satyagraha until India was independent. Jinnah did not attend the subsequent League meeting, held in the same city, which passed a similar resolution. Because of the action of the Congress in endorsing Gandhi’s campaign, Jinnah resigned from it, leaving all positions except in the Muslim League.
By 1940, Jinnah had come to believe that Muslims of the Indian subcontinent should have their own state. In that year, the Muslim League, led by Jinnah, passed the Lahore Resolution, demanding a separate nation. During the Second World War, the League gained strength while leaders of the Congress were imprisoned, and in the elections held shortly after the war, it won most of the seats reserved for Muslims. Ultimately, the Congress and the Muslim League could not reach a power-sharing formula for the subcontinent to be united as a single state, leading all parties to agree to the independence of a predominantly Hindu India, and for a Muslim-majority state of Pakistan.
As the first Governor-General of Pakistan, Jinnah worked to establish the new nation’s government and policies, and to aid the millions of Muslim migrants who had emigrated from the new nation of India to Pakistan after independence, personally supervising the establishment of refugee camps. Jinnah died at age 71 in September 1948, just over a year after Pakistan gained independence from the United Kingdom. According to his biographer, Stanley Wolpert, he remains Pakistan’s greatest leader.