Muhammad Ali Jinnah is a political icon, or should one say an idol, whose life has been extensively written about by various literary scholars. In order to garner knowledge about the first Governor-General of Pakistan, innumerable interpretations have been made about Jinnah’s persona, considering that he survived only a year after the partition, which left academics and artists searching for him through existing archives. While looking for Jinnah, little did they realize that they are mapping out their own perception of him, which is perhaps the reason why Finding Jinnah was compiled. Dr. Furqaan Ahmed launched this publication in 2020 as a query to formulate the mere existence of Jinnah by bringing together scholastic writings and artworks from various artists and literary researchers.
Finding Jinnah is a hardbound book comprising of over two hundred pages that focus on Jinnah’s identity through the lens of several artists and six writers; the artworks include paintings, sculptures and video installations which have been documented and printed into this publication while the essays are narratives, both personal and political, created by the writers.
In this publication, an interesting essay Who speaks for Jinnah written by Salima Hashmi, sheds light upon Jinnah’s image that has been distorted by politicians and dictators, according to their individual ideologies. According to Hashmi, Jinnah was a secular Muslim who believed in constitutionalism instead of creating an Islamized state but was also dependent on Muslim leaders to create a state free from the chains of colonial rule;1 a paradoxical notion yet true. While Ali Usman Qasmi’s essay Portraying Jinnah – A Brief History focuses on Jinnah’s past as a troubled politician. By using animated imagery, Qasmi reflects upon Jinnah as a diplomatic leader who attempted to balance his relations with the West and also as a villain, who divided two closely knit communities through bloodshed.2
But according to the book The Sole Spokesman which has been written by Ayesha Jalal, Jinnah never wanted the partition and instead, desired a coalition that would provide better rights to Indian Muslims and the Muslim League; it was eventually the Congress that initiated the partition in order to avoid a weak federation.3 Hence, this particular argument is a contradiction to Hashmi and Qasmi’s narratives yet a testimony to the fact that Jinnah envisioned equality for the Indian Muslims, just so they could break free from the British shackles but perhaps, not from the Hindu community.
Another thought-provoking essay in this publication is Will the Real Mr. Jinnah Please Stand up? By Ali Raza that further focuses on the ambiguity of Jinnah’s persona, who either wanted a secular nation or a state that would give power to the Muslims alone. Raza mentions Jinnah’s speech on the 11th of August, 1947 which talks about creating a state free of religious oppression but in his later speeches, Jinnah apparently envisions Pakistan as per the teachings of the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad.4 Interestingly according to Shahzeb Jillani’s article The Search for Jinnah’s Vision of Pakistan, the 11th August tape went missing and was never found again, possibly even destroyed because it did not envision an anti-Hindu State, as per the plans of the Pakistani leaders 5 Hence, this sheds light upon the conflicted situation of Jinnah that either existed in actuality or was created by politicians with time, which will perhaps remain a mystery.
Finding Jinnah is a book that not only explores the essence of Jinnah through various mediums but is also a channel through which these artists and writers have attempted to search for him. His passing away the very next year after the partition left people in search of a paternal figure, who would help them navigate through the rough waters. Despite all the uncertainties and all that we read, we all will see him through our own looking glass, through our own perspective, and will continue to find him wherever we possibly can.
Title image: Asif Khan, Film Still no. 48, Inkjet archival print on Canson paper, 43 x 98.5 cm, 2016.
Images Courtesy: Humayun Memon
- Salima Hashmi, “Who Speaks for Jinnah?”, Finding Jinnah, 2021.
- Ali Usman Qasmi, “Portraying Jinnah – A Brief History”, Finding Jinnah, 2021.
- Ayesha Jalal, “The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League and the Demand for Pakistan”, Page 262, 1985.
- Ali Raza, “Will the Real Mr. Jinnah Please Stand up?”, Finding Jinnah, 2021.
- Shahzeb Jillani, “The search for Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan”, BBC, Sept 11, 2013.