Muhammed Ali Jinnah

(1875 – 1948)

A great organizer, a top-ranking jurist, a persuasive orator, and a talented parliamentarian and the founder of Pakistan, Muhammed Ali Jinnah was one of the tallest leaders of the undivided India. He began his public life with the Indian National Congress and ended with the Muslim League. He was one of the staunchest of fighters for India's freedom from the foreign rule; but when freedom dawned in August 1947, it found India partitioned into two and the dislocated people wading through a terrible bloodbath of the worst communal hatreds, murder, looting, sack and rape and it left untold miseries to hundreds of thousands.

Jinnah was born in Karachi (then in the undivided India) in 1875. His father, Jinnah Punj, was a merchant from Kathiawad in Gujarat who migrated to Karachi for a living. Jinnah had his education in Karachi, Bombay and finally in England from where he secured a degree in Law. Returning to India, he set up his career as a lawyer, but soon he jumped into politics. His idols were Dadabhai Naoroji and Gopal Krishna Gokhale, two eminent Indian leaders and quite naturally he became a spokesperson for national secularism.

In 1910 he was elected to the Imperial Legislative Council from a Muslim constituency in Bombay and was re-elected in 1915, 1923, 1926, and 1934. He was not a member of the Muslim League in the beginning, but the leaders of the league compelled him and he became a member in 1913. He wanted to establish a creative relationship between the League and the Congress Party. He joined the Home Rule movement of Annie Besant and came to the forefront of the national movement. But Jinnah could not agree to Gandhi's civil disobedience movement of non-cooperation, and so he resigned from both the Congress and Home Rule Movement. It was mainly because of his dislike for Gandhi.

Jinnah was really a secularist. But circumstances brought about some subtle changes in his mind and slowly he was moving towards the Muslim League. And this marked a turning point in India's destiny, as history proved later. The tragedy was that both Jinnah and Gandhi became the butt or criticism from their own people. Jinnah tried to solve Hindu-Muslim clash in the Congress, but the Congress leaders argued that there was no Hindu-Muslim clash at all. At the same time the prominent Muslim leaders held that Gandhi was trying to make the Congress a Hindu Congress, but the Hindu extremists thought that Gandhi was a pro-Muslim Hindu. And ultimately Jinnah was drawn to the Muslim fold. And he tried to unite the warring divisions in the Muslim community. His attempt was to convert the League into a popular movement, though he was not a Muslim fundamentalist.