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Muhammed Ali Jinnah

Muhammed Ali Jinnah(bhai) Poonjah (with respect: Qaid-i-Azam [Great Leader]; with derision: Kafir-i-Azam [Great Kafir]) (December 25(?), 1876 - September 11, 1948) was an Indian Muslim nationalist, who founded Pakistan and served as that country's first governor-general.

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Early Life and Family History Jinnah's birthplace and date of birth are disputed; however, it is generally believed that he was born in Karachi and raised in Bombay. 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, andSunni ancestry; and the family was primarily Ismaili. Jinnah would later convert to Sunni. 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 would have a daughter, Dina. In 1929, his second wife died. (See also: Fatima Jinnah)

Law 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 (1--Ahmed); one which depicted Moses and Muhammed. 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 hounour, 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 serving as president of the National Congress. In 1906, Bal Gangadhar Tilak would ask Jinnah to represent him, during his trial for sedition.

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. 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.

Jinnah participated in the Round Table Conference[?] (1930-1931), but was frustrated at the failure to achieve any tangible results; he announced his retirement from politics. By then, however, he was a leader of the local Muslim population, and despite his ostensible retirement, he was voted as President, for Life, of the League in 1934.

Adopting what some have interpreted as a "divide and conquer" policy, the British initially supported Jinnah, hoping that he would be a powerful counterbalance to the Hindu nationalist movement. Jinnah was more amenable to British interests: he supported Indian participation in World War II; while the Indian National Congress opposed the war.

At the Lahore Conference[?] (1940), Jinnah first raised the issue of partition. He was the first to declare that Hindus and Muslims constituted two distinct peoples, adding that if partition was not achieved, the subcontinent would erupt in civil war. On July 26, 1943, a member of the Khaksars[?] attempted to assassinate Jinnah, by stabbing[?]; Jinnah was wounded.

The notion of partition was originally rejected by the British, both Jawaharlal Nehru and Lord Mountbatten eventually came around to accepting the idea. The idea was formally accepted on June 3, 1947, and one month later, on August 15, the Dominion of Pakistan was created. Jinnah was the new nation's first governor-general and president of its legislative assembly.

Despite partition, the Subcontinent was engulfed in war. Overworked from dealing with the fighting and a growing refugee crisis, Jinnah suffered a nervous breakdown. He died on September 11, 1948, from tuberculosis and smoking ~50 Craven A cigarettes a day. It is said that Sartaj Aziz[?] had fainting fits for three days, after hearing of Jinnah's death. A mausoleum was built, to honour Jinnah, in Karachi.


  • 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 happy if there was no prefix to my name."


  1. Jinnah, Pakistan, and Islamic Identity: The Search for Saladin[?] by Akbar S. Ahmed (1997)

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