History is defined as “the biography of great men,” by Thomas Carlyle and seldom has this proved truer than in the life of Jinnah. It is said that the life of spoken words may shorten if not preserved in the encasement of print.
The Jinnah’s speeches and writings show that nothing can destroy words that are expectant with imperishable verities refined by the fire of sincerity. But only words without action are meaningless, and this was what Jinnah believed too.
Jinnah fearlessly voiced what he thought and did what he said. As though to fulfill the Quranic injunction: “O you who have attained to faith!… Most loathsome is it in the sight of God that you say what you do not do!” It was the restless solicitation for justice and truth that were the motivating whims in Jinnah’s eventful life.
The other lesson that Jinnah gave to us was never to forget was the value of free speech. Many times in her memoirs, preserved at the National Archives in Islamabad, Fatima Jinnah reminisced about her brother’s belief that without freedom of speech a nation would wither like a rose bush that is planted in a place where there is neither sunshine nor air.
Jinnah was convinced with the thought that the uncontrolled flow of opinion and expression like a breeze from an open window is the birthright of man.
Jinnah loathed religious obscurantism, which he believed was responsible for the stifling of free articulation of thought among Indian Muslims. It was clearly evident from his address to the Aligarh University Union on Feb 5, 1938 stating that “What the Muslim League has done is to set you free from the reactionary elements of Muslims, and it has certainly freed you from that undesirable element of maulvis and maulanas.”
He had declared at the Central Legislative Assembly on Feb 7, 1935 that “Religion should not be allowed to come into politics.” at the Muslim League Legislators’ Convention in Delhi in April 1946, Jinnah was even more emphatic in his concluding remarks that “What are we fighting for? What are we aiming at? It is not theocracy – not a theocratic state…”
In a paper prepared in 1967 for a conference on Partition in London disclosed that Jinnah “thoroughly disapproved” his “advocacy of an Islamic state” and he asked him to refrain from expressing such views from “the League platform, lest the people might be led to believe that Jinnah shared his views and that he was asking to convey such ideas to the public.” In the same paper he concluded, “now that I look back I realize how wrong I had been,” because Jinnah rightly wanted only a homeland for the Muslims, not an Islamic state.
It was perhaps his most forceful assertion on Aug 11, 1947, Jinnah’s extempore address to Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly, which the state had nothing to do with matters of faith. That was a historic speech by Jinnah a thirteen months before his death, summarizes his vision for the country that he founded. The rest of the Pakistan story we had witnessed in last 65 years has been about the deconstruction of that vision.
Critics say that the vision of Jinnah’s Pakistan as a democratic and progressive homeland for the Muslims was like a sandcastle on some dreamland shore which the turbulent waves swept away. Yet it is irrefutable that had he not died so soon after the emergence of Pakistan his vision would have been fulfilled. It is intriguing that a quarter of a century to discover that Islam was the ideology by the authors of the 1973 Constitution and “the basis for the creation of Pakistan,” it was not what the Quaid-e-Azam had ever dreamed for.