Complete biography of Mohammed Ali Jinnah (1876-1948)


Mohammed Ali Jinnah occupies a significant place in the history of India’s freedom struggle. He played an important role towards the last phase of the movement. To quote Stanley A. Wolpert, “Few individuals significantly alter the course of history and fewer still modify the map of the world. Hardly any one can be credited with creating a nation- state. Jinnah did all these. Pakistan was indeed his offspring. He changed the map of India and altered the course of history”. As a political figure, he was the product of contradictions and confusions of Indian nationalism.

Early Life :

Jinnah was born in Karachi on 23rd December 1876. He belonged to the small Khojha Community. His forefathers were Hindu vaisyas of KathiaWar in Gujarat. Jinnah’s grandfather became a Muslim and they left KathiaWar to settle at Karachi. After passing matriculation Jinnah went to London to study law. During 1893-96 he completed his studies in Law at Lincoln Inn, London and returned to India as a barrister. He began his legal career in Bombay and succeeded in his profession. He was a close associate of Pherozshah Mehta and a protege of Gokhale. He was modern and progressive in his outlook. He joined the Indian National Congress in 1906 and began his political career as well. One of his aims was to bring the Muslim League nearer to the Congress. He began his political career as a moderate. He defended Tilak in the sedition cases against him in 1908 and 1916. In 1910, he was elected to the imperial Legislative Council by the Muslim electorate of Bombay and again in 1916. In the Imperial Legislative Council he spoke eloquently on Gokhale’s Elementary Education Bill, the Transfer of ships Restriction Bill and the Indian Criminal Law. He supported the press Bill and the Indian Defence Force Bill.

As a Nationalist :

The All India Muslim League came into existence in 1906. In 1913 Jinnah was persuaded by Mohammed Ali and Syed Wazir Hussain to enrol himself as its member. Jinnah joined the league without leaving the congress. In 1914, he went to England as a member of the deputation on behalf of the Indian National congress in connection with the proposed reform of the Indian Council. In 1916, he declared that separate electorate was a matter of interest to the Muslims who by this method alone could be roused from their mental lethargy. Separate electorate, he argued, served to raise Muslim consciousness of their identity. During the First World War Home Rule League was founded by Tilak and Annie Besant in 1916. Initially Jinnah did not join it. Later he joined the Bombay Home Rule League.


In 1916, the congress and the Muslim League held their annual sessions at Lucknow at the same time – Jinnah as a congress leader, presided over the Muslim League session. He pleaded for firm unity between Hindus and Muslims. He appealed to the Muslims to rise above small interests and to realise the ‘great obvious truism, that India is, in the first and the last resort, for the Indians”. He was at that time described as the ‘Ambassador of Hindu Muslim Unity’. He declared, “Towards the Hidus our attitude should be of good will and brotherly feelings. Indian’s real progress can only be achieved by a true understanding and harmonious relations between the two great sister communities’. At the Calcutta congress of 1917 he supported the resolution on self government for India. He resigned from the central legislative council in protest against the Rowlatt Bills. But regarding Khilafat issue he made it clear that he was not interested in extraterritorial affairs.

Between 1917 to 1920 the developments that took place in Indian politics was not according to the inclination of Jinnah. He did not like Gandhi’s capture of the congress in 1920 with the help of pro-Khilafat Muslims. He could not accept Gandhian method on Non co-operation. He opposed the Nagpur Resolution in December 1920. He apprehended that it would lead to complete disorganisation and chaos. With the beginning of the Non co-operation Movement Jinnah left the congress, but continued to believe in values of nationalism. Thus the Nagpur session marked the beginning of Jinnah’s antagonism towards Gandhi and the congress.

In 1924, Jinnah was appointed a member of the Muddiman Committee to examine the working of the Government of India Act of 1919 and proposed the termination of the Dyarchy along with Tej Bahadur Sapru and others. He was also a member of the skeen committee along with Motilal Nehru, which examined the problem of Indianisation of the Army officers of India. He also boycotted the Simon Commission in 1928. He dubbedrt as ‘Lily-white’ commission. He opposed to the Nehru report of 1928 although it had given more seats to the Muslims than they were entitled to on population basis. Jinnah put forward his fourteen points. Motilal Nehru Considered the fourteen points to be preposterous and decided to ignore Jinnah.

In the mean time Jinnah was sorry to see the growth of communal organisations among the Hindus. In 1930-31 Jinnah proceeded to London to attend the Round Table Conference as a Muslim delegate. There he declared himself to be a nationalist Muslim. But he was sorry to see the predominance of the Hindus. He said, “I received the shock of my life at the meetings of the Round Table Conference. In the face of danger, the Hindu sentiment, the Hindu mind, and the Hindu attitude led me to the conclusion that there was no hope of unity. The Mussalmans were like dwellers in Noman’s land, they were led by either the flunkeys of the British Government or the camp-followers of the congress”. After the Round Table Conference he became disgusted with Indian politics and decided to stay back in London. There a young Punjabi Muslim named Chaudhury Rahmet Ali came forward with a novel idea in 1933. His idea was that Muslims should have a land for themselves named Pakistan. At that time Jinnah was not attracted to that idea.


In 1934, Jinnah was persuaded by the Raja of Salempur and Liaquat Ali to return and resume the leadership of the Muslim League. Jinnah returned to India and accepted the leadership of the Muslim League. It was under his leadership the Muslim League fought the general election of 1937 in full vigour. But the League received nominal support from the Muslim masses securing only 25 percent of Muslim seats. It won only 3 seats in sind, one in Punjab and none in the North-west frontier province. In Bengal it won a third of the Muslim seats. In the words of B. R. Nanda, “it was this electoral disaster which seems to have driven Jinnah…… to use the dynamite of religious emotion for blasting his way to political influence and power’. The failure to from coalition governments with the congress further compelled him to reconsider his strategy. He was also greatly alarmed by the congress policy of Muslim mass contact formulated after the 1937 electrons.

Conversion of Jinnah from a Nationalist to a communalist :

Jinnah’s entire strategy now was aimed at getting the Muslim League accepted as the sole representative of the Muslims of India. He proclaimed that Muslims could not except any justice or fair-play at the hands of the congress. Throughout the twenty- seven months of the congress rule in provinces, League kept up intense propaganda. When congress Ministries resigned in 1939, he asked the Muslims to observe a day of deliverance from the ‘tyranny, oppression, and injustice of the congress rule’. He also advised the Muslims to help the Government in war efforts. In 1939, he put forward the claim of the Muslim League for a fifty-fifty share of political power between Muslim India and non-Muslim India. In January 1940 he formulated his thesis of ‘Two Nations’ and stunned India by demanding Pakistan.

Presiding over the Lahore session of the League in March, 1940 Jinnah denied that the Muslims were a minority, on March 23, 1940 the session passed the momentous ‘Pakistan resolution’ demanding that ‘Geographically contiguous units be demarcated into regions which should be so constituted, with such territorial adjustments as may be necessary, that the areas in which Muslims are numerically in a majority as in the North western and Eastern Zones of India should be grouped to constitute Independent states in which these constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign’. Thus the League recommended for partition of India. Jinnah declared that Hindus and Muslims were ‘two nation’ and the Muslims must have ‘their homelands, their territory and their state’.

Gandhi tried to reach an accord with Jinnah. They met in Bombay from 9th September to 27 September 1944 to discuss about ‘Rajaji Formula’. But Jinnah rejected it. The ‘Rajaji Formula’ offered him only a multilated and moth-eaten Pakistan. Gandhi insisted that any division of India must take place by mutual consent after the British had left India. Jinnah insisted that partition must come before freedom. Jinnah had become absolutely uncompromising. He insisted that Pakistan was the sole solution to Hindu-Muslim differences. In the election to the central and provincial Legislature held in 1945-46 the Muslim league won the Muslim seats except in the North west frontier province. In 1937 the League won only 25 percent of the Muslim seats, in 1946 it captured almost 90 percent. Jinnah had campaigned to secure a mandate for Pakistan and he had become successful.


Both the Congress and Muslim League accepted the Cabinet Mission plan. But differences soon arose regarding the future. Jinnah came to believe that once India was independent, the central government would become powerful and denyrights to the provinces as given by the plan. So he withdrew his support to the plan. When the viceroy invited Nehru to form the Interim Government, Jinnah in despair abandoned all constitutional methods and called upon this followers of observe ‘Direct Action Day’ on 16th August 1946. The Direct Action Day’ was signalised by the Great killing at Calcutta and it spread to East Bengal, Bihar and Punjab. Later the Muslim League entered the Interim Government in order to create trouble.

When Lord Mountbatten come as the viceroy he met Jinnah and tried his best to persuade him to keep India united. But Jinnah claimed that there was only one solution – a surgical operation on India, otherwise India would Perish. In Mountbatten’s words Jinnah was ‘Psychopathic case hell bent on this Pakistan’. Mountbatten offered his plan and it was accepted both by the congress and the Muslim League. Jinnah was sorry to get ‘a moth-eaten Pakistan’ on 7th August 1947, he left Delhi for Karachi seven days later he was sworn in as the Governor-General of Pakistan. He breathed his last in Karachi on 10 September, 1948.

Thus Jinnah’s political career spanned all the phases of communalism communal nationalism, liberal communalism and extreme communalism. This is how a person who started as an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity and strongly stood for national unity ended by demanding partition of the country. According to Lod Mountbatten “Jinnah was a mass of vanity. He suffered from an acute from of megalomania”. He is one of history’s most remarkable, paradoxical and enigmatic figures.

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