Muhammad Ali Jinnah born Mahomedali Jinnahbhai; 25 December 1876 – 11 September 1948) was a lawyer, politician, and the founder of Pakistan. Jinnah served as leader of the All-India Muslim League from 1913 until Pakistan’s independence on 14 August 1947, and as Pakistan’s first Governor-General from independence until his death. He is revered in Pakistan as Quaid-i-Azam[b] (Great Leader) and Baba-i-Qaum[c] (Father of the Nation). His birthday is observed as a national holiday.
Born in Karachi and trained as a barrister at Lincoln’s Inn in London, Jinnah rose to prominence in the Indian National Congress in the first two decades of the 20th century. In these early years of his political career, Jinnah advocated Hindu–Muslim unity, helping to shape the 1916 Lucknow Pact between the Congress and the All-India Muslim League, a party in which Jinnah had also become prominent. Jinnah became a key leader in the All India Home Rule League, and proposed a fourteen-point constitutional reform plan to safeguard the political rights of Muslims. In 1920, however, Jinnah resigned from the Congress when it agreed to follow a campaign of satyagraha, or non-violent resistance, advocated by the influential leader, Mohandas Gandhi.
By 1940, Jinnah had come to believe that Indian Muslims should have their own state. In that year, the Muslim League, led by Jinnah, passed the Lahore Resolution, demanding a separate nation. During the Second World War, the League gained strength while leaders of the Congress were imprisoned, and in the elections held shortly after the war, it won most of the seats reserved for Muslims. Ultimately, the Congress and the Muslim League could not reach a power-sharing formula for a united India, leading all parties to agree to separate independence for a predominately Hindu India, and for a Muslim-majority state, to be called Pakistan.
As the first Governor-General of Pakistan, Jinnah worked to establish the new nation’s government and policies, and to aid the millions of Muslim migrants who had emigrated from the new nation of India to Pakistan after the partition, personally supervising the establishment of refugee camps. Jinnah died at age 71 in September 1948, just over a year after Pakistan gained independence from the British Raj. He left a deep and respected legacy in Pakistan, though he is less well thought of in India. According to his biographer, Stanley Wolpert, he remains Pakistan’s greatest leader.
In 1857, many Indians had risen in revolt against British rule. In the aftermath of the conflict, some Anglo-Indians, as well as Indians in Britain, called for greater self-government for the subcontinent, resulting in the founding of the Indian National Congress in 1885. Most founding members had been educated in Britain, and were content with the minimal reform efforts being made by the government. Muslims were not enthusiastic about calls for democratic institutions in British India, as they constituted a quarter to a third of the population, outnumbered by the Hindus. Early meetings of the Congress contained a minority of Muslims, mostly from the elite.
Jinnah began political life by attending the Congress’s twentieth annual meeting, in Bombay in December 1904. He was a member of the moderate group in the Congress, favouring Hindu–Muslim unity in achieving self-government, and following such leaders as Mehta, Naoroji, and Gopal Krishna Gokhale. They were opposed by leaders such as Tilak and Lala Lajpat Rai, who sought quick action towards freedom. In 1906, a delegation of Muslim leaders headed by the Aga Khan called on the new Viceroy of India, Lord Minto, to assure him of their loyalty and to ask for assurances that in any political reforms they would be protected from the “unsympathetic [Hindu] majority”. Dissatisfied with this, Jinnah wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper Gujarati, asking what right the members of the delegation had to speak for Indian Muslims, as they were unelected and self-appointed.
When many of the same leaders met in Dacca in December of that year to form the All-India Muslim League to advocate for their community’s interests, Jinnah was again opposed. The Aga Khan later wrote that it was “freakishly ironic” that Jinnah, who would lead the League to independence, “came out in bitter hostility toward all that I and my friends had done … He said that our principle of separate electorates was dividing the nation against itself.” In its earliest years, however, the League was not influential; Minto refused to consider it as the Muslim community’s representative, and it was ineffective in preventing the 1911 repeal of the partition of Bengal, an action seen as a blow to Muslim interests.
Although Jinnah initially opposed separate electorates for Muslims, he used this means to gain his first elective office in 1909, as Bombay’s Muslim representative on the Imperial Legislative Council. He was a compromise candidate when two older, better-known Muslims who were seeking the post deadlocked. The council, which had been expanded to 60 members as part of reforms enacted by Minto, recommended legislation to the Viceroy. Only officials could vote in the council; non-official members, such as Jinnah, had no vote. Throughout his legal career, Jinnah practised probate law (with many clients from India’s nobility), and in 1911 introduced the Wakf Validation Act to place Muslim religious trusts on a sound legal footing under British Indian law. Two years later, the measure passed, the first act sponsored by non-officials to pass the council and be enacted by the Viceroy. Jinnah was also appointed to a committee which helped to establish the Indian Military Academy in Dehra Dun.
In December 1912, Jinnah addressed the annual meeting of the Muslim League, although he was not yet a member. He joined the following year, although he remained a member of the Congress as well and stressed that League membership took second priority to the “greater national cause” of a free India. In April 1913, he again went to Britain, with Gokhale, to meet with officials on behalf of the Congress. Gokhale, a Hindu, later stated that Jinnah “has true stuff in him, and that freedom from all sectarian prejudice which will make him the best ambassador of Hindu–Muslim Unity”. Jinnah led another delegation of the Congress to London in 1914, but due to the start of the First World War found officials little interested in Indian reforms. By coincidence, he was in Britain at the same time as a man who would become a great political rival of his, Mohandas Gandhi, a Hindu lawyer who had become well known for advocating satyagraha, non-violent non-cooperation, while in South Africa. Jinnah attended a reception for Gandhi, and returned home to India in January 1915.