A Lesser-Known Dimension Of Jinnah

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We get a very glorified picture of Muhammad Ali Jinnah in plenty of literature published on him. Well, why shouldn’t we. He played the most prominent role in the achievement  of one of the greatest feat this earth has witnessed; Pakistan.  Most of the time Pakistanis take him as an out of the world person, failing to take some really important lessons from his conduct and accomplishments. We are usually unable to relate ourselves with him because we do not consider him one of us. The thing is, he was like one of us only, he did have an ordinary life with common problems of an ordinary man. The unique thing about him was that he knew the secret of taking risks, being persevere and overcoming his fears.

A weak baby boy with long hands and an elongated head was born in the house of a rich businessman of Karachi on 25th December 1876. This boy was the eldest son of Jinnahbhai Ponnjabhai and was named Mohammed Ali. With Mohammed Ali, Jinnahbhai’s business and popularity and wealth grew.

Being the eldest he was a spoiled and a pampered child. He was more interested in games then in school. Playing on the streets with the boys used to give him immense pleasure.  He used to skip school quite often and due to this very reason he was dismissed from his school. After the age of ten, he had developed affection for horses. He became a fine horse rider at a very young age and used to go on long rides usually accompanied by his friend, Karim Cassim.

Jinnah was 16 years old but was still in the fifth standard. His little care for studies made his father worried and anxious. He therefore decided to send him to London for higher studies. His mother Mithibai who favored Mohammed Ali the most among all her seven children could not  let her beloved son go thousands of miles away for 3-4 years.  She found a solution and decided to wed him with a suitable girl before leaving  for England. Jinnah was an obedient son and had great respect for his mother so he could not turn her wish down. At the age of 16 he married a 14 year-old Emibai of Paneli.

In the beginning it took some time for him to get settled but when he did, he enjoyed London at its fullest. He told Sir Evelyn Wrench that ” I found a strange country and unfamiliar surroundings. I did not know a soul, and the fogs and winter in London upset me a great deal, but I soon settled down and was quite happy.”

In England he developed an interest in politics and used to read about the great leaders dominating the political scene of England. He opted to study law and got himself enrolled in Lincoln’s Inn in 1893. The reason behind joining Lincoln’s Inn in particular was that on its main entrance, among the list of great law-givers of the world was the name of Prophet Muhammed (PBUH). He was also a great fan of Shakespeare’s plays and took out his precious for them.

While studying in England his wife  Emibai and mother died. Having a sensitive nature, his mother’s death was a huge blow to him because he loved her so much and never got to see her after he left India. He obtained a reader’s ticket for the library of British Museum and enriched his mind with intensive and comprehensive reading. At this time his horizon of learning was expanding.  He would sometimes go on a Sunday morning to Hyde Park Corner to listen to the soap-box orators that have made that box into a world class institution. He was a constant visitor to the House of Commons where he listened to great liberals with unabated admiration.

Jinnah got several letters from home that his father’s once flourishing business was on the verge of collapse. After the death of his mother things had gotten worse in Karachi and it had become very difficult for his father to manage things with six children. Jinnah passed his law examinations in only two years and at the age of 18, he became the youngest Indian student ever to be called to the Bar.

It is said that Jinnah’s political career initiated from his participation in Dadabhouy Naoroji’s election campaign  to the House of Commons from Central Finsbury Constituency. His devotion in this campaign won him the appreciation of Dadabhoy Naoroji, a businessman turned politician known as the Grand Old Man of India. Even in England he used to address the Indian students and gave them his valuable advice. Though at that time he told them not to get entangled in political wrangling but advised them to keep knowledge about the ongoing political activities of England and India.

On returning home, instead of setting up a practice in Karachi, which was a small sea port, he decided to go to the city of Bombay which was full of opportunities. This decision to migrate to Bombay was to be an important milestone in his life and that it would profoundly influence his future. On reaching Bombay, he got a room on long-term basis at a hotel and got his name registered in the Bombay High Court.

In his early days at the court, walking up and down the corridor, he gave the impression of a leading legal luminary with a proud look in his eyes and an upright frame, but in fact, he was a desperate young lawyer in need of his first brief. Once  James MacDonald, head of Bombay Municipal Corporation was sitting on a seat reserved for lawyers at Bombay high Court. Since the court was packed so Mohamed Ali, who was still an unknown entity asked him to move. MacDonald refused so he called the clerk to unseat him. At first the clerk didn’t respond but when he was threatened that the judge would be brought into the matter so he complied and MacDonald had to give that seat up.

For three long years he didn’t get any case. He was in severe crisis in actual, but showed a stiff chin to the outer world. Portraying this characteristic Joachin Alva wrote in his book ” He will prefer to eat his heart away in the wilderness and retire into frigid silence than play second-fiddle to anybody”.

His social contacts proved very useful when a friend introduced him to Macpherson, the acting Advocate-General of Bombay and he invited Jinnah to work under him. After that Jinnah’s  legal profession flourished. From a desperate poor lawyer he became that law practitioner who refused to repeat his silk ties and inhabited sun-lit and oak paneled office.

Jinnah called his family to Bombay and supported his father and siblings. He went to visit his family every Sunday as if it were his religious duty. One day when he went to visit to his family, his father told him that his sister Rehmatbai, who was slightly over aged had received a proposal but the man belonged to a differnt community. Jinnah looked into the matter and found that the man was fine in all aspects but was not of the same community. And this was the only hurdle in her marriage because her father was worried that if he wedded his daughter to another community’s man, he might get excommunicated . As Jinnahbai Poonja’s family belonged to Ismaili Khoja community so Jinnah specially talked to Aga Khan about the matter. His Highness told him that his community would not disassociate his family and can go on with the marriage. On this assurance, Jinnahbai Poonja married his daughter to that Sunni Khoja.

His younger sister Fatima had close attachment with her eldest brother, Mohammed Ali. He undertook the responsibility of her education. In order to get her enrolled in a school, he specially inquired about a couple of schools and then went to visit Bandra Convent school to speculate its environment and studies.

Quaid was a frequent guest at Sir Dinshaw Petit’s house. Their daughter Ruttenbai  appreciated Jinnah a lot. They soon became friends and used to talk on different political matters and even used to go for horse-riding together. This admiration turned into love and they got married in 1918. Jinnah was 40 while his wife was only 18.

Once , Lord Chelmsford who was the Viceroy of India had invited few prominent people of India for dinner. It was customary that right before the arrival of the Viceroy and the Vicerene, all the guests would stand to attention and then would present themselves personally, each lady making an appropriate bow to the Vicerene. Mrs. Jinnah was introduced to the Viceroy and his wife but saluted in a way customary with Muslim women. The Viceroy got exasperated and turned red under his collar but didn’t say anything at that time. After the dinner, the Viceroy called Ruttenbai and told her ” Your husband, Mrs. Jinnah, has a great future awaiting him, and you should not mar his chances. You did not greet us in the manner customary at the Viceregal Lodge. In Rome, you must do as the Romans do.” Rutten, unflinchingly replied, ” Your Excellency, that is exactly what I did. You are in India and I greeted you the way Indian women do.”

Quaid e Azam’s only child Dina was born a year after his marriage. After few years of their marriage they developed some differences and got separated. Though in the beginning they were on visiting terms but later they hardly saw each other. Once, on Rutten’s sickness they both reconciled but then they again quarreled and got separated. After that they never got together and then she died.

Dina lived with her father. He provided her with everything she needed. At the age of twelve, he sent her to a boarding school in England. Later, however, Jinnah was not happy but Dina married Neville Wadia, a Parsi boy from Bombay.

Quaid e Azam is famous for his aristocratic taste. He had a particular taste in almost all things. Be it his tailored suits, his cap which is now known as “Jinnah cap”, his finest cigars, his house on Malabar Hills or his four cars, each having a driver and a chauffeur. He was one of the best dressed parliamentarians. His parliamentarian eloquence and oratory finesse won him a lot of political success in his career’s early days.  He admired natural beauty and is known to take morning and evening walks in his garden.

Much about his personal life is not known because he was a very private man and preferred to keep things that way. He never let his emotions come in his professional life’s way. He had a special fondness with Fatima Jinnah. She was the only family member who was usually with him through all the highs and lows and even at his death bed. The decisions which he took, the triumphs which he achieved and the extreme hard work which he did made him a legend. Quaid-e-Azam, the father of the nation departed from this world right after Pakistan’s first anniversary on 11th September 1948. May Allah rest his soul in peace. Ameen.

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Zahabia is an aspiring journalist pursuing a degree in Mass Communication from the University of Karachi. She tweets @zkmotorwala and can be reached at zahabiakhuzema@gmail.com

Discussion2 Comments

  1. Sunil Sankaranarayanan

    It is ironic that Mr.Jinnah’s descedants live in India and not in Pakistan. His Grandson Nusli Wadia is the Head of Bombay Dyeing Co.ltd.

    • Sunil, if you study Jinnah’s political career, you’ll get to know that he had been an advocate of Hindu Muslim unity at start and was ready to compromise on greater autonomy for Muslim majority states even later. It was the stubborn attitude of Congress that actually did everything to mould the popular Muslim opinion in favour of a separate state. I doubt he ever had anything personal against India or Indians and would rather have been happy with his grandson living in India. If you read his speeches after independence from India, you’ll find very positive sentiments for Indians. Your off the cuff remark is interesting but carries no weight as an argument! Though thanks for the information!

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