“Personality is to man, what perfume is to flower.”

(Charles M. Schwab)

If that is true, then Jinnah is the name of the most fragrant flower I have ever smelled. He was one of the most iconic men of British India, with his obsession with personal hygiene, a dress-code so sophisticated that it is out of the reach of the rich even today, a young man so loveable that he married one of the most beautiful women in all of British India, an advocate of almost oppressive skills, a politician with x-ray vision and an actor of innate talent.

His name wasn’t always as sleek as how you read it now; “Jinnah”. The name given to him by his father Jinnahbhai Poonja, was “Muhammad Ali Jinnahbhai”. Our Jinnah trimmed it when he shifted to London. He was called “Quaid-e-Azam” first, perhaps by Maulana Mazharuddin Shaheed.

class of Jinnah

Jinnah’s childhood was not as special as his adulthood. The founder of Pakistan didn’t like studying from the beginning (just like us), which is often used by Pakistani students as an argument when their parents object to their grades. Little Jinnah’s first school was the Sindh Madrassa-tul-Islam from where his name was struck-off due to prolonged absence. He would be enjoying poetry on his own, when the Madrassahs teachers would be filtering out personifications from the same poems. It was hard to contain that little boy’s mind in a classroom with walls of narrow-mindedness.

However, he was to find a better institution later on in his life. For higher studies, he decided to go to London, on the advice of Sir Fredrick Croft, his father’s business ally. Jinnah’s mother, (just like any Muslim mother) didn’t like her son going anywhere outside their neighborhood. She had called him back when he had gone to Bombay with his aunt. How could she bear the distance of six thousand kilometers (Karachi to London), when she hadn’t been able to tolerate the nine hundred kilometer distance from Karachi to Bombay? But for the man who used his convincing skills  to make a partition happen, changing his mother’s mind was no impossibility (though it seems like a tougher thing to do than making a partition happen).

Fatima Jinnah recalls, their mother decided that England, ‘was a dangerous country to send an unmarried and handsome young man like her son to. Some English girl might lure him into marriage which would be a tragedy for the Jinnah Poonja Family.’[1] She got him married to Emibai, a fourteen year old girl, when Jinnah was 16, which is another argument young Pakistani boys give when they demand early marriage from their parents.

Note: For those of you who want to try it on their parents, I find Mirza Ghalib more effective since he got married at the age of 13[4] and the marriage lasted their life.


Coming back to the handsome young man, Jinnah left for London a few days after his marriage and before he returned, Emibai had died, and so had Jinnah’s mother. It was such an emotional meltdown that he couldn’t get himself together to marry again, until 25 years later.

Jinnah was not a man incapable of loving his family, as most seem to think. His relationship with his second wife, even though apparently suggests so, reveals a different truth on a deeper look. You will see that the man was all heart, rather he suppressed his feelings for a nation in slumber, to give it life, losing himself in the process.

young Jinnah in style


His second wife was “Rattanbai”, a Parsi woman, who converted to Islam and changed her name to “Maryam Jinnah” (1918). She fell in love with our Quaid (who wouldn’t?) She wanted to marry Jinnah earlier, but she was opposed by her parents and the Parsi community on wanting to marry a Muslim. Her father took an order from court that stopped her from marrying whom she wished before she turned 18. But Jinnah had a Romeo side too, and he had found his Juliet. Jinnah married her soon as she turned 18.


She was very different from Jinnah’s first wife, about whose personality very little is known. Maryam was bright, beautiful and modern. She read poetry too, much like Jinnah, and was said to be among the most beautiful women in British India. But all good things last, some earlier than others.


Maryam’s death was one of the most devastating tragedies in his life. It is well-known that she died of depression because her husband was too busy with his work; altering the map of the World is not an easy thing to do. Jinnah would be absorbed in his work, while a young wife like Maryam would want to go to places with her J (she called him J). They separated in 1919, but didn’t get a divorce, ever. They would meet even after separation.


When he went to England, Maryam couldn’t stay in peace so she took to Paris. There, she got even more ill and was got admitted into a clinic. Deewan Chaman Lal (a friend both the husband and the wife) wrote a letter to Jinnah. Jinnah, as soon as he read the letter, flew to Paris. He wasn’t satisfied with the clinic, so he got his wife into a better nursery.

Observe the lover inside the political Jinnah, when I tell you that he himself stayed in the same nursery for a month and took care of his wife himself.[2] One finds it hard to believe that during this time, he used to eat what she used to eat (Maryam observed and mentioned this). Perhaps he felt responsible for her condition. When she recovered a little, she returned to Bombay and Jinnah went back to England. She got ill again and Jinnah came to Bombay and would meet her every evening. She wrote a letter to Shareef ud Din Peerzada, which he records:

“You should come and meet Mr. Jinnah, and see how he is. It is his habit to work more than necessary and to tire himself. And now that I am not there to annoy and disturb him, his condition is getting worse.”

(Maryam Jinnah)

She fainted on 19th of February, 1929 and before her J could reach, she died on the 20th of February.

Jinnah never recovered from this trauma. Ghulam Ali Allana’s biography of Jinnah is quite famous, in which he writes:

“You know servants in household come to know everything that is going around them. Sometimes more than twelve years after Begum Jinnah’s (Mrs. Jinnah) death, the boss would order at dead of night a huge ancient wooden chest to be opened, in which were stored clothes of his dead wife and his married daughter. He would intently look into those clothes, as they were taken out of box and were spread on the carpets. He would gaze at them for long with eloquent silence. Then his eyes turn moisten…”[4]


With the death of his mother, both his wives, and with the discontinuation of relation with his daughter when she married a non-Muslim, even though his heart was shattered, he didn’t let it pull down his firmness an inch. To his opposition, he was still the same iron-man he used to be. His presentation in court was the most complete manifestation of how tough he was. A contemporary noted:

“When he stood up in court, slowly looking towards the judge, placing his monocle in his eye—with the sense of timing you would expect from an actor—he became omnipotent. Yes, that is the word—omnipotent.”[3]

Don't Mess with Jinnah

The greatest sacrifice he gave, however, was that of his own life. The doctors warned him, but he decided not to reveal the secret of his tuberculosis. If he had done so, his opposition would’ve slowed down the establishment of Pakistan and would’ve waited for him to die. Jinnah was the only pillar upon which the movement of the Muslims rested. Had he died, the plant of Iqbal’s dream would’ve been buried with its nurturer. The cure for tuberculosis had been discovered at the time and know that with his wealth as a Barrister, Jinnah could’ve gone abroad for treatment (as our politicians do today) with ease. But to give a safe place to live to millions and millions alive and yet to come, perhaps that one life had to be lost.

He could’ve also pulled another act that our politicians pull today; they call it “sympathy vote”. Reveal a sad tragedy that struck you and people will cast you votes out of sympathy. But Jinnah wasn’t that cheap. When he died, he had pneumonia, tuberculosis as well as cancer of the lungs[3], yet the world had no clue.


The army ambulance taking him had Fatima Jinnah and a nurse in the back, while the royal doctors came in the Governor General’s Cadillac limousine.[3] The ambulance ran out of petrol. A new one took him to the Governor General’s mansion after an hour’s wait. During this time he lay on the side of the road, with flies over his face that he couldn’t move his hand to get off[1]. He slept for about 2 hours after returning and finally opened his eyes. He whispered to his sister: “Fati…” and his head dropped slightly to the right… his eyes closed.[3] Fatima shouted to call the doctors. On September 11, 1948, at precisely 10:20 pm, Muhammad Ali Jinnahbhai met his Maker. It is said that if you were to pass through a street of Pakistan, that day, you would hear cries from every house. Their Quaid, their savior… had died.

Dawn news 1948


[1] “My Brother” by Fatima Jinnah 

[2] “Quaid-e-Azam: Zindagi ke dilchasp aur sabaq-amoz waqiyat” by Zia Shahid 

[3] “Jinnah of Pakistan” by Stanley Wolpert 

[4] Wikipedia 

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