Jinnah (1876 – 1948) made a phenomenal contribution to the struggle for independence and many believe Pakistan would not have been achieved without his determination and dedication.
Last Updated: 27 Oct. 2015
Muhammad Ali Jinnah was born on 25 December 1876 in Karachi in a house called Wazir Mansion. He was officially named Muhammad Ali Jinnah Bhai and enrolled in the Sindh Madrasatul Islam at the age of six. His father, being a businessman, wanted him to work hard on mathematics, but much to his father’s dismay Jinnah loathed the subject.
In an attempt to improve his focus on studies, Jinnah was enrolled in the Christian Missionary Society High School and passed the matriculation examination from University of Bombay at the age of 16. During his teens, he was influenced by his father’s business colleague, Sir Frederick Leigh Croft who was quick to recognize the potential in the young Jinnah and offered him an internship in London. He left for London on January 1893. In June 1893, he left the internship to join Lincoln’s Inn. On passing the legal exam in May 1896, he became the youngest lawyer to be admitted to the Bar.
In August 1896, at the age of 20, Jinnah moved to Bombay to set up his own legal practice. He quickly gained a reputation as a bright barrister. Jinnah worked as a lawyer till the mid-1940s. His most famous cases include the Bawla murder trial (1925) and Bishen Lal case (1945), which proved to be the final case fought by him.
During his stay in London, Jinnah frequently visited the House of Commons and thereby developed an interest in politics. In 1904 he attended a meeting of the Indian National Congress and joined the party in 1906. In 1909 he became a member of the Imperial Legislative Council. Then in 1912 Jinnah attended a meeting of the All India Muslim League and became its member the following year. At this time, he was a proponent of Hindu-Muslim unity and saw no contradiction in being a member of both Congress and Muslim League simultaneously.
With time, Jinnah realized that Congress was not adequately protecting Muslim interests and hence, his views started to change. Earlier, he had opposed separate electorates for Muslims, but in 1926 he began supporting this demand although he still believed that India should remain united. He left the Congress but continued to make attempts at reconciliation between the Hindu and Muslim communities of India.
In the 1930s, he attended the Round Table Conferences in England. Due to the political situation in India at the time he had decided not to return. He regularly received Muslims visitors, including Allama Iqbal and Liaquat Ali Khan, who tried to persuade him to return to India. At last, in late 1933, Jinnah returned to reorganize and lead the Muslim League. He was sworn in as the life president of the Muslim League in April 1934.
Congress rule from 1937 – 1939 finally convinced Jinnah that Indian Muslims were not getting their due share. In 1940, the Muslims League under the leadership of Jinnah made the formal demand for a separate homeland for the Muslims of the subcontinent, which came to be known as the Pakistan Resolution. The independent state envisioned by Jinnah came into being at the stroke of midnight on 14 August 1947. On the very next day, Jinnah became the first Governor General of Pakistan. Shortly before his death, he was also sworn in as the President of the Constituent Assembly.
Addressing the Constituent Assembly on the eve of the birth of Pakistan, 11 August 1947, Muhammad Ali Jinnah shared his vision of Pakistan:
You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the State… Now, I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time, Hindus will cease to be Hindus, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.” –Muhammad Ali Jinnah
For quite some time, Jinnah had known that he was dying of tuberculosis. He was moved to Ziarat in April 1948 and on 11 September 1948 he was moved back to Karachi for treatment but died after. Although Jinnah did not live long enough to provide Pakistan with a constitution, many believe that the struggle for independence would not have been a success without his determination and dedication. Today Jinnah’s picture stands on every Pakistani Rupee and he is the namesake of various public institutions of the country. He is popularly known as Quaid-e-Azam (Great Leader) and Baba-e-Qaum (Father of the Nation).
Jinnah’s speeches, quotes and letters:
Bajwa, Farooq N. “Muslim Thought and Leaders.” Pakistan: A Historical and Contemporary Look. Revised ed. Karachi: Oxford UP, 2002.