Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine

Shaban 1424 H
October 2003
Volume 16-10 No : 202
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Opinion


INSIGHTS

INSIGHTS

Reflections on Jinnah


By Maqbool Ahmed Siraj

Last week, I spent a couple of hours interviewing for the BBC Radio a person who lived with Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah for four years. Jinnah died in 1948. And our readers will not be wrong in guessing this man’s age. Predictably, the man, Syed Shah Abdul Hye is 90. He lives a quiet life in a bungalow in Udipi, a coastal town of Karnataka.

Hye served as driver of Jinnah in Bombay in the late 30s. Chauffeurs are useful in gaining an insight into the personality of their bosses. Hye’s reflection did throw some light on the personality of Jinnah about whom I can afford to be irreverent as the new generation of Indian Muslims is no longer in awe of this man who was mainly responsible for dismembering the most vibrant of Muslim communities in the world.

Jinnah, the founder of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, hardly ever prayed. Hye told me the only time he saw Jinnah praying was during the Eid congregations. He never wore a cap. But ironically we have had caps branded after him. Most Government offices in Pakistan hang his portraits showing him under a cap. By all accounts, Jinnah was one of the best suited men. His outfits were designed by Laffan Tailors of Bombay. Jinnah lived in a bungalow known as “South Court” on Mount Pleasant Road. He never tried renaming the place as “Ashiyana” or “Kashana”.

Jinnah paid Hye a monthly salary of Rs. 80, twice as much as a normal chauffeur would get those days. But Jinnah would pay him an additional Rs. 10 to read him letters that were written in Urdu. A successful barrister with a roaring practice in Bombay, Jinnah never tried learning Urdu, the lingua franca for freedom fighters regardless of their faith.

Till Muslim League was part of Indian National Congress, Jinnah never used a Muslim League flag on his car. Hye was interrogated by Jinnah when the latter found a League flag tucked on his car. It was the work of some naïve sympathiser and Hye had failed to notice it. But Jinnah had it removed.

After the death of his wife Rutti (originally a Parsi who converted to Islam a day before marriage to Jinnah after a long courtship), Fatimah Jinnah, his sister became too possessive of Jinnah, ever shadowing him. Hye says Fatimah was mainly instrumental in causing distance between Jinnah and his daughter Dina (original name Deen Bai but fondly called so). Jinnah wanted to marry her with barrister Akbar Ali, a member of Bombay’s elite. But this could not materialise due to Fatimah. Hye says Dina went back to the fold of Parsi religion as Fatimah would not allow him her father’s company.

Hye says he often saw Jinnah having a peg or half of wine after dinner, but never consuming ham, although biographer Stanley Wolpert says he did. Nor did Jinnah ever visit a pub. He went for a film show in Connaught Place in Delhi once but returned halfway through it. He saw him playing billiards for a couple of sessions.

Hye says Jinnah’s integrity was impeccable. He carried out his assignments with precision, always arrived in time, insisted on paying through cheques and would trust his employees be they Hindus or Muslims (there were 20 of them in Bombay). Hye says Jinnah sent him to a night school in Bombay and paid his fee. He also gave him a scholarship when he later joined a course to learn steering of sea vessels in ports.

This profiling of Jinnah as his driver saw him is not to berate him as an inferior Muslim. It is merely to show how Jinnah’s image has undergone a change in Pakistan where he lived for just 13 months after the creation of the new state. Jinnah was neither a super-Muslim as Pakistanis are made to believe today nor a communalist as the Sangh Parivar propagates on this side of the border. As I understand Jinnah was quite modern in outlook but exploited the religious sentiments of the Muslims to create a new state. Though he became increasingly aware of the Islamic dos and don’ts of people he led during the later years, his aristocratic upbringing would not allow him to distance from some of the traits he had grown with. It is where Gandhiji succeeded, but Jinnah failed.

Jinnah's House in Bombay

A. M. Khusro

Prof. Ali Muhammad Khusro died two months ago. I saw never a dull moment in his life. Close to the Nehru-Gandhi establishment in Delhi, the finely bred intellectual hopped from one important position to another till he breathed his last. I first came to know him when he was appointed the vice-chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University. He was later Indian ambassador in Germany. For sometime, he was editor at Financial Express. In between he was in and out of the Planning Commission or Finance Commission. I am told he earlier taught at Osmania University. He even had a stint in the Delhi based Institute of Economic Growth.

One who had been born and brought up in Hyderabad, he had combined the best of traits of Indian and Islamic culture. He was highly practical and would come up with pragmatic solutions on various issues. His breadth of vision was exemplary. He was on a committee to look into the management of the finances of Dargah of Ajmer. Nearly 2000 khadims were living off the Dargah’s income but pilgrims had next to nil facilities. It was an extortion culture that prevailed there. Khusro sahib made a profound study of the entire affair. He then went on to study the management of the Tirumala Tirupathi Devasth-anam, the famous Hindu shrine in South India. The TTD Board’s management, its lodges, transport facilities, collection of funds and utilisation for the establishment of hundreds of educational institutions, kalyana mantapas (marriage halls), the manufacturing of laddus for prasadams, the arrangement of queues at the precinct, water and sanitary facilities et al. He then recommended the model to be replicated in Ajmer too. His advice was to pension off khadims, provide educational stipends for their offspring, collection of all offerings in a hundi and use of these funds for efficient transport, decent lodging and board arrangements, and the residual revenue to be channelised for schools for the community principally in Ajmer.

It was around the early 90s that he came up with the report. He spared half an hour to brief me on this in the RBI headquarters in Delhi where he was a director then.

I appreciated the report as it suggested a practical model regardless of where it came from. But it seems the report is still gathering dust. Pilgrims continue to be fleeced. Meanwhile, we have seen how TTD has spread its network of beneficence. It is time something is done to apply Khusro Sahib’s model. May his soul rest in peace. Ameen!

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News Community Roundup Editorial Readers Comments Muslim Community Series Amanath Bank Episode Opinion Face to Face Muslim Perspectives Colours of Harmony Islam and Science Children's Corner Quran Speaks to You Hadith Our Dialogue Zakir Naik Interview Question Hour Guide Lines Islam And Astronomy Living Islam Success Stories Islamic History Journey To Islam View Point Matrimonial
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