The founder and the first Governor General of the state of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah was one of the most influential political leaders in the Indian subcontinent during the British rule. A lawyer by profession, this eminent politician and statesman held several important positions in his lifetime and gradually became instrumental in creation of Pakistan. An intellectual and an eloquent orator, Jinnah’s life is shrouded in several controversies. During the first part of his political career, he was hailed as an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity by prominent leaders as Tilak and Nehru. Even as the demand for a separate country for Indian Muslims started to surface Jinnah advocated for a unified India as he believed that the Muslim traditions and rights are safe in a unified India. During the 1930s and 1940s, there came a fundamental shift in his thinking and differences started arising between Jinnah and the congress leaders. He began to drift towards the demand for a separate country for Muslims and successfully negotiated the creation of Pakistan with the British.
Family Background & Upbringing
Born on the Christmas day in 1876 in Karachi, Mohammed Ali Jinnah was the son of a middleclass Guajarati Merchant, Jinnahbhai Poonja and Mithibai. His parents were from Paneli, Gondal and had shifted to Karachi just a year before his birth.
Second of his seven siblings, his family belonged to the creed of Ismaili Khoja of Shia Islam. However, he later became a staunch follower of the Twelver Shi'a teachings.
Initially enrolled at Sindh-Madrasa-tul-Islam at the age of six, he soon moved to Bombay with his aunt and is said to have attended either Gokal Das Tej Primary School or perhaps a madrasa. Later, he attended Cathedral and John Connon School.
He had always been an indocile and restless kid and within few months he returned to his parents in Karachi. There, he was enrolled in the Christian Missionary Society High School.
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Higher Education & England
At the age of 16, when offered an opportunity to work as an apprentice in Sir Frederick Leigh Croft’s company, ‘Graham's Shipping and Trading Company’, he decided to move to London in 1892.
Before leaving, he reluctantly succumbed to his mother’s relentless insistence and got married to Emibai Jinnah. However, both his mother and Emibai died while he was in England.
An ambitious teenager, he later resigned from the apprenticeship of the shipping company and started pursuing law to become a barrister. He joined the Lincoln's Inn and in 1895 was called to the bar in England.
Beginning of Political Career
Jinnah started practicing law in Bombay at the age of twenty and his career as a barrister started to flourish after he received an invitation from the Advocate General of Bombay, to work from his chambers.
In 1900, he was also offered the position of the Bombay Presidency Magistrate, which he served for a short while. His fame as a lawyer surged exponentially after he fought the ‘Caucus Case’ in 1907.
Though, he failed to secure a bail for Bal Gangadhar Tilak on the charges of sedition in 1908, he assured an acquittal for him when he was charged again with sedition in 1916.
Rise to Prominence
He became interested in politics during his frequent visits to the House of Commons while studying at Lincoln's Inn but his actual political affiliation started after he attended the 20th annual meeting of the Indian National Congress in 1904.
In 1906 he joined the Congress and started participating in Indian Independence movement. He strongly opposed separate electorate for Muslims and was elected to the Imperial Legislative Council as Bombay's Muslim representative in 1909.
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In 1912, he attended a meeting of Muslim League and a year later joined the party while still remaining affiliated to the Congress and tried his best to bring the Congress and the League together.
In 1913, he was a member of the delegation sent to England on behalf of Congress, led by Gokhale. He was hailed as an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity by the Congress leaders and was immensely admired for his liberal ideologies.
In 1916, while he served as the president of Muslim League, the Congress and the League signed the ‘Lucknow Pact’, according to which the quotas were to be allocated to Muslims and Hindus regarding representation in the Indian provinces. The same year he also played a key role in establishing the Home Rule League.
In 1923, he was elected as Muslim representative for Bombay in the Central Legislative Assembly. He was extremely effective as a parliamentarian and also started working with the Swaraj Party.
By 1926, things started to fall apart between the congress and Jinnah and he started supporting separate electorates for Muslims. He, however, continued to believe Muslim tradition and rights did not have any threats under united India.
Pakistan Movement & Partition
During the 1930s, demands for a separate Muslim state in the Indian subcontinent started to surface; it was initiated by Sir Muhammad Iqbal.
Jinnah came up with the proposal of partition at the Muslim League Conference in 1940. He demanded a separate Muslim state be formed including the areas with the majority of Muslim population.
Around this time, there were indications that Muslim League would merge with the National League but later in 1942, it changed its stance and sided with Jinnah on the matter of separation.
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In 1947 Lord Mountbatten was sent to India by Clement Attlee administration. Mountbatten was entrusted the responsibility of handing over the powers to India and draw the outlines for a separate state of Pakistan.
On 14th August, 1947 Jinna’s envisioned state of Pakistan came into existence and he was made the Governor General of the newly formed Muslim state.
Jinnah died a year after partition and didn’t have too much of a role to play in the formative years of Pakistan due to his declining health.
Most of the controversies surrounding Jinnah pertain to his role in partition of India and Pakistan and his sudden demand of a separate state for Muslims. His beginning as a secular leader and his transformation into pro-Pakistan Movement leader is riddled with speculations and many unfounded theories.
One controversy also arises from a statement of regret that he allegedly made from his death bed claiming that Pakistan was his biggest mistake. It is a very famous statement but seems a bit unfounded or uncorroborated.
Awards & Achievements
In 1925, to honor his contributions as a legislator, he was offered a knighthood by Lord Reading, which he rejected saying "I prefer to be plain Mr. Jinnah”.
He was sworn as the First Governor General of the state of Pakistan a day after its creation.
Personal Life & Legacy
Jinnah married Emibai Jinnah when he was just 16 years old and that too before he left for England in 1892. She died while he was still in England.
On one of his trips to Darjeeling he met the 16-year-old Ratanbai and married her after a couple of years on 19th April, 1918, when she was 18 and had converted to Islam. The couple had a daughter named Dina and they separated in 1928.
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He passed away on 11th September, 1948 in Karachi almost a year after the creation of Pakistan. He was suffering from tuberculosis.
He is depicted on all Pakistani currency notes and several Pakistani public institutions bear his name.
Cinnah Caddesi, one of the largest streets in the Turkish capital Ankara, was also named after this prominent politician and statesman.
There is also a Mohammad Ali Jenah Expressway in Teheran, Iran.
His greatest legacy is the state of Pakistan and describing the effect that he left had on the world, Wolpert stated, “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”.
A prominent Muslim leader of the Indian subcontinent, he supported the British Crusaders when they launched war against the Islamic Khilafah during the First World War.
This Muslim League leader remained addicted to smoking throughout his life and also enjoyed drinking alcohol in private gatherings with his close friends.
His childhood house in Bombay had been a matter of great dispute regarding the ownership between the Indian and the Pakistani governments for quite some time.
In 2007, a biographical book written about him by a prominent Indian politician generated fresh controversies and eventually led to his expulsion from the party.