Who was Muhammad Ali Jinnah?
Known in the world as the founder of Pakistan, praised throughout the nation as “Quaid-e-Azam” (the great leader) and acknowledged as a symbol of prestige, Jinnah unified the dispersed and confused masses of Muslims in the subcontinent and turned them into a nation. A nation, with a purpose to fight for their rights and with a motivation to never settle for less than what they deserve. It is quite ironic that once cherished as the ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity by Congress’ leaders, Jinnah became the biggest hurdle in Congress’ way to acquire absolute power in Indian politics.
But how could a man, so adamantly secular, resort to such an extremely religious approach of demanding a separate land for the Muslims of the subcontinent? Jinnah was not some infallible superhero. He was a man of political awareness, keen observation and prudent decision making. He spent a major part of his youth striving for a united India. For a unified state where no caste, creed or religion could have a financial or political impact on a person’s life. The treacherous and power seeking behaviour of Congress coupled with the League’s need for a strong leadership played a huge role in turning this staunch Indian nationalist into a stubborn Pakistani supporter. Before becoming the guiding light for Muslims of India, Jinnah believed that a united Indian front against British imperialism could achieve freedom much faster and would benefit everyone greatly. But Congress’ attitude during the changing political situation in the subcontinent made him realise that Congress is not looking for a free India. Rather they are trying to establish a Hindu Raj, after British, where Muslims will be treated as second class citizens.
Jinnah’s stay in London also contributed significantly in polishing the mind of the esteemed Lincoln’s Inn alumnus. London introduced him to theatre which instantly grabbed his admiration. Jinnah’s fondness and aptitude for acting, helped him become one of the best lawyers in India. Captivating the jury with his strong argumentation and perfect delivery became a norm for the young Lawyer. The subcontinent of India during the first half of the twentieth century became the perfect stage for Muhammad Ali Jinnah to demonstrate his experties as a barrister and a leader. But this skill was not the only thing that distinguished Jinnah from hundreds of other political leaders of the time. Jinnah was also a firm believer of the constitution. While his arch-rival and adversary,Gandhi chose civil disobedience as his weapon, Jinnah always turned to the constitution to advocate for the Muslims and other minorities. That firm belief accompanied by his legal foresight was the reason that countering his arguments and rejecting his views was always a herculean task for his rivals.
Jinnah not only fought and struggled against Hindus and the British, but many Muslims and even League’s members and leaders were against the idea of Pakistan. For some Muslims, the demand for a separate homeland for Muslims was a waste of time,some opposed the idea for personal gains while for others, partition of Punjab and Bengal was a deal breaker. Mountbatten partitioning Punjab and Bengal could be justified on the account of religious disparity within provinces, and because the driving force behind the freedom movement was Islam, there was no way Jinnah could justify the claims on the Hindu-majority parts of the provinces without compromising his position. Although Jinnah knew that dividing these provinces would cripple the economy and would exacerbate the financial situation, he also believed that a society built on Islamic principles is imperative to make Pakistan a humanitarian state and thus accepted the partition with a heavy heart.
Jinnah realised how indispensable is it to unite dispersed groups of Muslim League to point up the idea of “League is the sole representative of the Muslims in India”. Congress appointing a Muslim, Abdul Kalam Azad, as its president depicts the desperation of the party to become Muslim representative at least in front of the British, but Jinnah rejected all such claims. He despised and pitied every Muslim who believed that Congress can work for the betterment of Muslims. Of course, his political vision and past association with Congress made him more eligible than others to judge Congress’ true goals.
Jinnah spent the last decade of his life painting the image of Pakistan for every doubtful person and every non-believer. Many of his opponents had a firm belief that Pakistan could not sustain under grinding economical pressure and would soon be merged into India. He countered them all by himself, combating Congress at every legal front, debating at every platform, claiming and defending the nationhood of Muslims. Although he demanded a separate nation on the grounds of Muslims nationhood, it was not just muslims that were to benefit from the partition. As discussed above, he was struggling for a society where every person can practice religion freely and a person’s faith does not limit his rights and his access to justice.
One of the fiercest debates regarding Jinnah is what kind of a state Jinnah wanted? Did he dream of a theological state where Sharia Laws would dictate the lives of millions of people? Or did he struggle for a secular state where no islamic principle could ever be the reason for the rejection or approval of any legislation? Maybe he wanted a state which would be a blend of both ideologies and the political leadership after his demise were not capable of finding a compromise between a theological and secular state. That created an unrecoverable rift between proponents of both sides. For me, the answer to this question depends on the reader’s research, his understanding and his biases towards anyone of the aforementioned groups.
In any case, Jinnah’s vision about Pakistan needs to be researched and understood to realise his vision of a proud state. Lastly, It is our responsibility to read about the life and times of our Quaid-e-Azam. This could help us understand the meaning and importance of freedom, to acknowledge the sacrifices our elders have made to secure a free nation for us and to become a better Pakistani.