Azhar Aslam & Shaista Kazmi
Alex Von Tunzelmann’s book, Indian Summer has been described as ‘…. the best book I have ever read on the independence and partition of…’ by no less than William Dalrympole. On page 92 she writes ‘ Some historians go so far as to describe him (Jinnah)as a ‘bad’ Muslim, revealing more about their own ideas of what a Muslim should be than about Jinnah’s faith.’ Describing Jinnah as one of the key figures in the rise of 2oth century Islam she sates ‘… Jinnah was no fundamentalist. His Islam was liberal, moderate and tolerant……. In fact he never pretended to be anything other than a progressive Muslim….here was a Muslim who understood the British sufficiently enough to parley on equal terms, but asserted his Islamic identity strongly enough that he could never been seen to grovel. His refusal of Knighthood was significant; so was his demurral in the face of Muslim attempts to call him ‘Maulana’…..’ Alex generously credits Jinnah with ‘… almost single-handedly reviving Islam as a modern political force’ (P90).
But before we continue this wonderful tale lets hark back to Jinnah at 16, having just done his matriculation. The year is 1892. Jinnah has just done his matriculation form Bombay University.
One of the most innocent mistakes we all make when trying to study history is to look at the time from past and interpret it from the perspective and point of view of our own ‘present’. So anyone who has done matriculation, will see Jinnah’ matriculation, similar to his own. In much the same way people write about ‘Renaissance’ starting and building in Italy, a country that did not exist until 1871. But what we will do is to try to see things as they were and lay off our own experiences and prejudices.
So the year is 1892 and Jinnah has done his matriculation. The General Manager of Grahams Trading Co., an Englishman, who had become a great friend Jinnah’s father, offered apprenticeship to young Muhammad Ali in his Head Office in London for three years, to learn practical business administration, in order for him to join his father’s business on return from London. According to Fatima Jinnah, both father and son worked out in detail and with great care the cost of Jinnah’s living in London; and Jinnah’s father decided to deposit the sum with Grahams in London, in order to ensure continuity to his son’s training. But before he left for England, at his mother’s urging, he married his distant cousin Emibai Jinnah who was two years his junior. She was to die a few months later as did Jinnah’s mother while he was still in England.
This marriage ceremony took place in the village where as reported by Fatima Jinnah ‘ a moulvi performed the nikah ceremony, recited a few verses from the Holy Quran, and the two became husband and wife’. It seems when people talk about Jinnah’s total unfamiliarity with Islamic ritual they are either completely disingenuous or dishonest. Two incidents that happened soon after his marriage gives us an insight into the mind of young 16 year of Jinnah.
First Jinnah’s in-laws wanted their newly-wed daughter to stay in their house for at least a month, while Jinnah wanted to go back and despite conference for a number of days, the differences remained unsolved. Initially young Jinnah remained silent, keeping on the sidelines but then he took charge of the situation, went to his in laws and spoke in a firm tone. He told his in laws that they had a choice. Either to send their daughter with him or they could keep her there and she would have to wait for three years while he would be gone for three years. Subsequently back in Karachi he insisted that his wife was like a daughter to his parents and would not cover herself in Orni in the presence of her father-in-law. His wife discarded the age old custom, which had been running in the family for generations. Such was the ‘enlightened’ spirit of young Jinnah.
Jinnah travelled to England by ship on his own, a young lad of sixteen unaccompanied and unchaperoned, when voyage to England was ‘ a real big thing’ for an Indian. He clearly had the self-confidence of a person much beyond his years. He then reached London where Muhammad Ali Jinnah was in the new environment along with cold climate. It has been recorded that initially the language also gave him a bit problem. And finally he felt uncomfortable with his business apprenticeship. As Fatima Jinnah writes in her book that Jinnah told her, ‘ I was young and lonely. Far from home…I was in a new country where life was so different ………. I did not know a soul, and the immensity of London as a city weighed heavily on my solitary life. The severe cold and the heavy downpour of rain chilled my muscles and bones, and I felt so miserable. But I soon got settled to life in London, and I began to like it before long.’
Two personal incidents during his stay in England are worth recalling in our search for Jinnah, who is reputed to have exchanged his Sherwani for Seville Row suits, as if he deserted his Muslim hood and exchanged it for some kind of western-secularnationhood, whatever mumbo jumbo that might stand for. Such arguments are routinely repeated in parrot like fashion as if a sherwani defines a Muslim and a suit defines a ‘non Muslim’. Of course these kind of definitions are acceptably common among extremists, both liberal secularists and religious fantasists.
Bolitho reports that in an address to the Karachi Bar Association in 1947, Jinnah recalled, “I joined Lincoln’s Inn because there on the main entrance, the name of the Prophet was included in the list of great law-givers of the world.” He spoke of the Muhammad as “a great statesman, and a great sovereign.” His appreciation of the Prophet was realistic: perhaps his political conscience, as a Muslim, had already begun to stir while he was in England.’
The other incident is related by Fatima Jinnah in her book. This is about how young Jinnah resisted the romantic overtures from his landlady’s young daughter. She relates that this happened over one Christmas. In Jinnah’s words ‘ as is customary among Christian families, there were mistletoes hung on door-tops, under which it is permissible for them to kiss one another. Miss Drake caught me as I was standing under mistletoe without myself being aware of it, embraced me, and asked me to kiss her. I reprimanded her and said that this was not done nor was it permissible in our society. I am glad I behaved that way with her. For, after that day I was saved the daily embarrassment of her coquettishness’.
Much is also made of Jinnah’s lack of reading habits. However it seems this is also not correct as the books he acquired during this period included The Works of Edmund Burke, Thomas Carlyle’s ‘Past and Present’ and ‘The French Revolution: A History’ (This is the same Carlyle who accorded Prophet Muhammad a special place in his books and ‘declared his admiration with a passionate championship of Muhammad as a Hegelian agent of reform, insisting on his sincerity and commenting ‘how one man single-handedly, could weld warring tribes and wandering Bedouins into a most powerful and civilized nation in less than two decades.’), Andrew Long, The Politics of Aristotle; John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy; (vi) W.M. Torrends, Empire in Asia: How we came by it; ‘Gibbon’ Disraeli’s ‘Literary Character of Men of Genius’ and Sir Walter Scott, ‘On Morality’. He was also a member of the Library of the British Museum enriching his mind.
Another event in his stay that was crucial in the formation of his political mind was Jinnah’s participation in Dadabhoy Naoroji’s election. In Jinnah’s words he was ‘ furious… when I learnt that Lord Salisbury in one of his speeches had ridiculed Dadabhoy as a `black man’….If Dadabhoy was black, I was blacker; and if this was the mentality of our political masters, then we could never get a fair deal at their hands. From that day I have been an uncompromising enemy of all forms of colour bar’.
London was then a melting pot of humanity, capital of the world. Thousands upon thousands of immigrants arrived in the metropolis, particularly east European Jews.
Each ethnic group jostled to succeed, adding their hopes, desires, tastes and expectations into the melting pot of urban life. Jinnah experienced this rich diversity.
Bolitho notes that ‘Jinnah told Dr. Ashraf that, during the last two years in London, his time was “utilized for future independent studies for the political career” he already “had in mind.” Jinnah also said, “Fortune smiled on me, and I happened to meet several important English Liberals with whose help I came to understand the doctrine of Liberalism. The Liberalism of Lord Morley was then in full sway. I grasped that Liberalism, which became part of my life and thrilled me very much.” Clearly Jinnah was developing largely constitutionalist views on Indian self-government and he looked at British attitudes toward Indian with intense disdain. This political and social education included exposure to the idea of the democratic nation and progressive politics
But now it was 1896 and Jinnah as fully qualified advocate was on his way back home, once again on one of those ships that did the voyage in three weeks. On his shoulders now lay the responsibility of his large family. According to Fatimah Jinnah ‘On reaching home, my father was soon in conference with him, explaining to him that the family business was in ruins. But while Jinnah told his father “don’t worry, I will work hard and look after you and our family’’, he had already made up his mind about moving to Bombay and practicing there. And so, bidding good-bye to his family he reached Bombay and took a room on a long term basis at the Apollo Hotel.
There Mr. Muhammad Ali Jinnah along with his legal practice joined politics by joining Anjumen-e-Islam in 1897. This is important. Jinnah’s first platform was a Muslim organization displaying the word Islam in its title. Why we must ask? Why did he not join Congress? And while it is reported that he did not take part in the rituals of daily prayers alongside other Anjuman members, it brings us back to those definitions again of what a good Muslim constitutes. Definitions agreed by both the religious and liberal extremists.
Whatever one may say, the fact stays that Jinnah was making announcements of his Muslimhood again and again at various platforms. Therefore for those who seek to understand, and are perplexed by his ‘transformation’ from a nationalist Indian to a proponent of Pakistan at much later stage in his life, they need to look carefully what was happening in the realm of Ideas, political, social and economic. Let us tell you two other facts about this man’s life. One in his application to Lincoln’s inn Jinnah addresses himself as ‘native of India’. It is as simple as that. The ideas of Indian nation were not even born then. Strachey in 1894 wrote in his book India, that in India there was no ‘nation in the ordinary sense of word’. While this could be construed at a British attempt to justify imperialism, it was nevertheless true. This was an era of Empires. British, German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian, Ottoman, Chinese and Japanese empires ruled over the majority of the human population. The modern Nation State had not been born in its true sense.
Later on when Jinnah became more successful, he moved his family (brothers and sisters) to Bombay. Two things are to be noted in this. One he did not live with them maintaining his independence. For his family he rented a small two room tenement in Khoja Mohalla at Khadak, where he often visited them. He had taken upon himself the responsibility of bearing all the education expenses of his brothers and sisters. Second, Fatimah the youngest sister, he got her admitted into a Christian convent school despite this being frowned upon by the Muslim families. Again his progressive and liberal social views are clear and obvious.
However during all this time he continued to represent Muslims at various levels. He was a Muslim delegate to the Congress. He advocated the validity of Muslim ‘ wakf i aulad’ bill. Then in 1909, in a letter to Times of India, Jinnah stated that Muslims were entitled to a real and substantial representation in the new reforms. In 1910 Jinnah was elected by the Muslims of the Bombay presidency as their representative to the viceroy’s legislative Council defeating Maulvi Rafiuddin. It makes one wonder that if Jinnah was such a marginal Muslim in his conduct, as is claimed routinely by many, how come this could not be seen by the Muslims of Bombay in 1910. Is it possible that the definitions of ‘Good and Proper Muslim’, as propounded by religious and liberal extremists both, based on ritualistic externalities were not seen even remotely important by the Muslims at Large.
But what Jinnah was as a person was well known. He was fearless. His integrity was beyond reproach. He was honest and truthful. In other words Sadiq and Ameen. He was determined, combative, self made man. By the age of thirty, he had reached to top layer of lawyers by sheer merit and had earned universal respect for his public spirit and integrity. As Bolitho quotes a Muslim barrister about Jinnah : “One must realize,” he said, “that when he began to practice, he was the solitary Muslim barrister of the time… This was in a profession made up mostly of Hindus and Parsee. Perhaps they were over-critical of a Muslim….There was no pleasure in Jinnah’s life; there were no interests beyond his work. He laboured at his briefs, day and night. There was never a whisper of gossip about his private habits. He was a hard-working, celibate…’ If this is not a picture of a good Muslim as enunciated by Quran and Sunnah I do not know what else is?
The fact is that Jinnah was always a Muslim, in character and spirit. He never was and never pretended to be a Muslim scholar. But then neither were first four caliphs scholars in the traditional sense of word as understood now and no scholar has ever ruled as a Muslim leader in the past fourteen centuries. So why is Jinnah tied to such requirements ? The other fact is that when Jinnah was being a nationalist politician in Indian sense, during those very times Iqbal was writing ‘Trana e Hindi’. Muslim League consisting of elite Muslims of UP and Bengal had just been formed. There was no issue of Muslim interests being at stake as they were in 1940s. Naturally Jinnah had no reason to wear his Muslim nationalism on his sleeve. Jaswant Singh rightly suggests that “the Muslims of India’s medieval cultures never thought of themselves as a unit and certainly never acted as one”.
As we have pointed before the reasons behind these are simply because nationalist concepts were born only in the nineteenth century. Hindus, too, did not start seeing themselves as Nationalists until well after the birth of the Indian National Congress. And it has been contended that ‘ even then the nationalism of India was restricted only to the feelings of the educated classes of Bengal or other Presidency towns’. This was clearly not an indigenous movement. So, why should there be a question mark against Muslim nationalism? Or that it was late born? In fact it has been argued that by accepting the Lucknow Pact of 1916, the Indian National Congress recognized the Muslims as a nation, while conceding to them the separate electorate. That Jinnah did not see the need for raising a separate flag for Muslims should not be surprise. No Muslim did. There was simply no historical need for that. That need did not arise until 1930s and did not become inevitable till 1940s.
Before we finish this article I want to quote two famous and landmark pronouncements form Islamic history. First is Jinnah’s Address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan August 11, 1947.
‘ You are free; free to go to your temples…… you may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State ….. Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense… but in the political sense as Citizens of the state’
More than thirteen hundred years before Jinnah’s speech, another man, considered by many to be the greatest statesman, pronounced thus:
This is a document on behalf of Mohammad, the Prophet between all Muslims and Jews and Medinites and those who follow them……………………………….. “They from one community (‘Ummatul Vahidah”) apart from other people; the Jews shall have their own religion and the
Muslims shall have their own religion….. the rights and obligations shall be the same …the Jews and the Muslim shall bear their own expenses. They shall help each other against one who fights with the people of this covenant.. .the Jews and the Muslim shall share expenses in the state of war…. it will be unlawful for the people of this covenant to disturb the peace of Madinah.. . .none shall do wrong to his ally and the aggrieved shall be entitled to all help… .if there arises any new situation or any dispute that may threaten its violation, the matter is to be referred to Allah ’
Now if anyone claims that Jinnah’s vision was not Islam in its pure and pristine form then they are only fooling themselves and being blind and bigoted against the clearest evidence of history. As Bolitho noted in his diary ‘ Baqar said, ‘ To Jinnah the Koran was a system of Life, not just a religion’. Who can argue with that?