”Mohammad Ali Jinnah was the recipient of devotion and loyalty seldom accorded to a man” – this was the eloquent tribute that American President Truman gave to the Quaid-i-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. He is one of the most outstanding and recognizable personalities in the history of the subcontinent, particularly the Muslims of the subcontinent. He is among the greatest legal luminaries that Indian subcontinent has ever produced, one of the greatest nation builders in modern history, a great constitutionalist, a renowned parliamentarian, a brilliant politician, a tireless freedom fighter, gifted debater and orator, consummate master of logic, profound lawyer, a sound statesman, dynamic mass leader, and above all, a great constitutionalist. He advocated for equality, freedom, justice, rule of the people as well as for an open society and a dignified Pakistan. The founding father of the nation, Quaid-i-Azam, envisioned a nation where citizens of all genders, social backgrounds, and religious beliefs would be able to live in harmony.
Mohammad Ali Jinnah was a great advocate for the empowerment of women, encouraging them to join the liberation movement, he also emphasized upon the need to advance women alongside men in all facets of life. Muslim women hardly ever participated in politics before Jinnah. Due to the Quaid’s support, women left their houses and joined the independence struggle even though they were mostly thought of as homemakers and were expected to remain within the confines of the home.
In spite of his desire to see Muslim women at the forefront in political arena, Jinnah was aware that they were underrepresented in politics. Begum Shahnawaz was selected by Quaid-i-Azam to attend the International Herald Tribune Forum in 1946 together with MAH Ispahani. This action of his helped to combat the myth that Muslims were conservative or that their women illiterate. In 1935, when Begum Jahanara Shahnawaz informed Jinnah that she had formed the Punjab Provincial Women’s Muslim League, he said, “I do not believe in separate men and women’s organizations, but in their working together from the primary League upwards.” Quaid underscored further: “If the woman of the family becomes a member of the Muslim League, then everyone in the house, including children, elders, and youth, will become members of the Muslim League.”
Women cannot acquire the self-assurance and knowledge necessary to function as useful members of society without education. When he made the decision to get Fatima Jinnah admitted into an English Medium school, he had to deal with tremendous opposition from his senior family members. However, Muhammad Ali Jinnah bravely overcame this opposition. About the vital need of education for women, Quaid-i-Azam said: “Education for girls is as important as for boys. The women will fulfill their responsibilities in a better way if they would be educated. An educated woman can take better care of her home and children.”
Women have a significant role in maintaining the nation’s unity and ensuring its progress and development. The character of the younger generation is primarily shaped by the women. They serve as the foundation of the country. It is a necessity to properly educate and counsel the younger generation, especially the young girls, so that they can develop into productive contributing members of society and can aptly serve Pakistan. In his address to the Muslim League Women Wing on February 6, 1948, he said: “You have the key to a big success. And that key is the next generation. Bring up your children in such a way that they become citizens who could be the pride of the nation.”
He valued those women who labored side by side with men, stood up for their rights and always offered them words of encouragement. Quaid-i-Azam was a staunch advocate for the inclusion of women in societal advancement. If women did not engage in the development process, in his opinion, it would proceed at a lackadaisical pace. On March 20, 1948, he stated in a speech given at Dawar Park in Dacca: “Women must play a significant part in the development of the nation. Women are the architects of building the character of youth, who are the backbone of the country.”
Speaking at a Muslim Language meeting at Muslim University, Aligarh, Quaid-i-Azam said: “Another important thing that I want to make clear to you is that no nation can make progress in the true sense unless its women participate in the development process along with men. We are habitual in the practicing of wrong customs and traditions of keeping women confined within the four walls of the house. This is not just cruelty but also a crime against humanity. I do not mean to say that they should adopt western way of life or follow them. We must make efforts to improve the condition of women according to Islamic standards and teachings. There is no reason that women should live in the conditions in which they are being kept. You should take the women along with you in every field of life. How do you except an illiterate woman to give a good upbringing to the children?”
Muhammad Ali Jinnah urged young women to find the best balance between their personal, familial, and social lives. Once the independent state of Pakistan was carved out on the international map in 1947, Jinnah envisioned a state where women and men would enjoy equal rights and treatment. He envisaged a society in which women would be intellectually modern, economically independent and in which no conservative elements of society could thwart their efforts for the progression of state. When questioned in 1942 about whether Pakistan’s foundations would be built on conservatism or if it would reflect the tenets of a progressive nation, Jinnah responded: “I am a progressive Muslim leader. I, therefore, take my sister along with me to areas like Balochistan and NWFP and she also attends the sessions of the All India Muslim League and other public meetings. Insha Allah, Pakistan will be a progressive country – one that builds its women in every walk of life.” HH
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