Mohammad Ali Jinnah

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Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah of
Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah of Pakistan

Mohammad Ali Jinnah (referred to in Pakistan as Quaid-e-Azam, or "Great Leader", which is a legally defined title) (December 25, 1876 - September 11, 1948) was an Indian Muslim nationalist, who led the movement demanding a separate homeland for Muslims in South Asia and served as Pakistan's first Governor-General.


Early Life and Family History

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Jinnah with his sister (left) and daughter Dina (right)

Jinnah's birthplace and date of birth are disputed; however, it is generally believed that he was born in Wazir Mansion, Karachi, and raised in Mumbai. His father was Jinnahbhai Poonja, from Gujarat (the younger Jinnah dropped 'bhai' from his name, in 1894). Jinnah's father lived from 1857-1901. Jinnah's family had Hindu, Ismaili, Shia and Sunni ancestry; and the family was primarily Ismaili. Jinnah was educated at the Sind Madrasatul Islam and the Christian Society High School, in Karachi. In 1893, he went to London to work for Graham's Shipping and Trading Company, which his father did business with. He had been married to a 16-year old (distant) relative named Emibai, but she died shortly after he moved to London. Around this time, his mother died as well. In 1918 he would marry Rattanbai Petit and they had a daughter, Dina. In 1929, his second wife died.

He had 3 sisters, Fatima Jinnah, Shirin Bai, and Rehmat Bai.


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A young Jinnah as a law student

In 1894, Jinnah quit his job in order to study law at Lincoln's Inn from which he became the youngest Indian to graduate (1896). It is believed that Jinnah decided to study there as he was impressed by a mural in the main dining hall,one which depicted Moses and Muhammad. Jinnah would briefly work with MP Dadabhai Naoroji. By the end of 1896, Jinnah was a member of the Indian National Congress and practicing law with the Bombay bar (as the only Muslim barrister). There he earned a reputation regarding his lack of respect for the British Empire. In one incident, a judge kept interrupting Jinnah by saying, "Rubbish!" Jinnah eventually responded by saying, "Your honour, nothing but rubbish has passed your mouth all morning." Shortly after this incident, in 1901, Sir Charles Ollivant offered to hire Jinnah at 1,500 rupees per month. Jinnah refused, believing he could earn that much on a daily basis. (By the early 1930s, Jinnah was earning about 40,000 rupees a month.) In 1906, Jinnah served as secretary to Naoroji, who was then president of the Indian National Congress. In 1906, Bal Gangadhar Tilak would ask Jinnah to represent him, during his trial for sedition.

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Jinnah as a young man

A "Secular" Jinnah?

A common view, especially in India, is that it was Jinnah who was responsible for the partition of India, creating Pakistan. Jinnah is however seen as a very secular person in Pakistan. But the fact remains that he divided the country on communal lines. Most of his career till about 1930 was spent trying either to bring the Indian National Congress and the All-India Muslim League to work together or getting mainstream parties like the Congress (of which he was a member much longer than the League) to be sensitive to minority priorities. When the League was founded in 1905, he was probably the only major Muslim personality to refuse to join. (This was a time when it was common for people to be active members of more than one party.) He played a prominent role in getting the Lucknow Pact in place and in the League and the Congress holding a Joint Session in Allahabad in 1916.

As described below, by 1930-31, distressed with relations between the Congress and the League and despairing of ever getting them to see eye-to-eye, Jinnah despaired of Indian politics, and moved to England to practice law.

Right uptil 1946, the definition of Pakistan as demanded by the League was so vague that it could have been interpreted as a sovereign nation or a nation within a nation. Many historians believe that this was Jinnah's doing and that he used Pakistan as a pretext to get the maximum in bargain for Muslims rather than a nation itself, and it was the intransigence of his interlocutors that made Pakistan an inevitability.

In his political views, he always took what today would be described as secular stands. In his first speech in Pakistan he expressed an outlook that was not of a fundamentalist Islamic Republic. He died very soon afterwards, in 1948, which did not provide for much time for him to implement any agenda or plan for the state. (Pakistan added the words "Islamic Republic of" to its name early on, but it was only in the 1970s and '80s, under the military rule of Zia ul-Haq, that Pakistan established itself as a rather strongly religious republic.) On the other hand, others have pointed out that he changed his confessional identity from that of an Ismaili Khoja to that of an Ithna Ashari (the dominant Shi'a ideology). Given his strong and uncompromising personality, this was not something he would have done lightly or without a strong belief one way or the other.

The notion that Jinnah was the cause of the partition is so ubiquitous in India, especially with the right wingers that the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) president Lal Krishna Advani, who travelled to Pakistan in June 2005 and praised Jinnah created a furore in India leading him to offer his resignation on June_7 2005.

Political Career

On January 25, 1910, Jinnah became the "Muslim member from Bombay" on the 60-man Legislative Council of India. In 1913, Jinnah joined the Muslim League and, in 1914, would support Indian participation in World War I. In 1916, Jinnah became the president of the Lucknow Muslim League session and again in 1920; and later, from 1920-30 and from 1937-47, would serve as the League's president. Jinnah was initially hailed as the ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity but later events forced him to change his stance. He disagreed with Mohandas Gandhi over the policy of noncooperation and later over the proposal that Hindu and Muslim communities hold separate elections in any future state. By 1921, Jinnah had resigned from the Indian National Congress and voiced his support for separate Muslim negotiations with Britain over the future of India. "We maintain", he wrote to Gandhi, "that Muslims and Hindus are two major nations by any definition or test of a nation. We are a nation of a 100 million. We have our distinctive outlook on life and of life. By all the cannons of international law, we are a nation". He added that he was "convinced that the true welfare not only of the Muslims but of the rest of India lies in the division of India as proposed in the Lahore Resolution". Governor General of Pakistanmore amenable to British interests: he supported Indian participation in World War II while the Indian National Congress opposed the war.

The idea of a separate homeland for the Muslims of India took concrete form in 1940 in Lahore, when the Muslim League called for the creation of a separate state for Indian Muslims. Over the next several years, Jinnah would develop and refine the idea of a separate homeland, which came to be known as Pakistan among the masses.

Though the notion of partition was originally rejected by the British, both Jawaharlal Nehru and Lord Mountbatten eventually came round to accepting the idea. The idea was formally accepted on June 3, 1947, and two months later, on August 14, the Dominion of Pakistan was created. Jinnah was the new nation's first Governor-General and president of its legislative assembly. He put forward a clear vision for a modern democratic Islamic state, saying in his speech opening to the Constituent Assembly: the course of time, Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims will cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state.

The whole speech, interestingly enough, is quoted by both sides in the argument over a secular versus an "Islamic" state. The democratic experiment, too, has had a troubled history in Pakistan, with the country being under military rule for half or more of its history.

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An ailing Jinnah

Despite partition, the Subcontinent was engulfed in conflict; struggles with India over Kashmir and other assets, and a growing refugee crisis. Jinnah attempted to play a significant role in strengthening the new nation-state. He worked out an economic policy for Pakistan, established an independent currency, the Pakistani Rupee, created the State Bank for Pakistan, and set Karachi as the nation's capital. However, he did not live very long to see the new country take further shape. He died on September 11, 1948, from tuberculosisin Ziarat,Balochistan,Pakistan. A mausoleum was built to honour Jinnah in Karachi.


  • Stanley Wolpert on Jinnah -- "Few individuals significantly alter the course of history. Fewer still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone can be credited with creating a nation-state. Mohammad Ali Jinnah did all three."
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Mohammad Ali Jinnah
  • Sarojini Naidu on Jinnah -- "Tall and stately, but thin to the point of emaciation, languid and luxurious of habits, Mohammad Ali Jinnah's attenuated form is a deceptive sheath of a spirit of exceptional vitality and endurance. Somewhat formal and fastidious, and a little aloof and imperious of manner, the calm hateur of his accustomed reserve but masks, for those who know him, a naive and eager humanity, an intuition quick and tender as a woman's, a humour gay and winning as child's ... a shy and splendid idealism which is of the very essence of the man."
  • 1942 -- "I have lived as plain Mr. Jinnah and I hope to die as plain Mr. Jinnah. I am very much averse to any title or honours and I will be more than happy if there was no prefix to my name."
  • "We have to hope for the best, but be ready for the worst."
  • "Unity Faith and Discipline should be followed in Pakistan"


  • One of the largest streets of Ankara, the capital of Turkey, is named Cinnah Caddesi after him.
  • Jinnah's famous portrait appears on the Pakistani rupee denominations of five and above.
  • Jinnah was portrayed by the British actor Christopher Lee in the 1998 film of the same name.[1] (
  • In Attenborough's Gandhi[2] (, Jinnah was portrayed by the ad-baron Alyque Padamsee.


  1. Jinnah, Pakistan, and Islamic Identity: The Search for Saladin by Akbar S. Ahmed (1997)
  2. Jinnah of Pakistan by Stanley Wolpert Oxford University Press (2002)
  3. Liberty or Death ( by Patrick French, Harper Collins, 1997

External Links

Preceded by:
Lord Mountbatten
Governor-General of India
Governor-General of Pakistan
Succeeded by:
Khawaja Nazimuddin

Template:End boxde:Ali Jinnah fr:Muhammad Ali Jinnah ja:ムハンマド・アリー・ジンナー pl:Muhammad Ali Jinnah


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