Madar-i-Millat and Quaid-i-Azam

by Brigadier (R) Safdar Ali Shah

There is a popular maxim that “behind every successful man there is a woman”. If we see the life of Quaid-i-Azam, we cannot miss the presence of Fatima Jinnah as his confidant, a “trusted advisor and closest political colleague.” She was a source of solace and strength to her brother in his strenuous struggle for Pakistan, bolstering his spirits in his moments of weakness and political tribulations. The Quaid acknowledged it when he said, “My sister was like a ray of light and hope, whenever I came back and met her. Anxieties would have been greater and my health much worse, but for the restraint imposed by her. She was not only there to cheer him when he returned home. She was also with him through the arduous journeys across India. She admired him as a politician, adored him as a brother and idealized him as a leader. She also loved him like a sister, looked after him like a mother and served him like a daughter. She influenced his life so profoundly that it was aptly remarked, “She mothered the father of the nation.”

The brother-sister relationship between the Quaid and the Madar-i-Millat personified the proverbial bond between the siblings, so idealized in our folklore. While the researcher may contend the nature and scope of her influence over the Quaid, one cannot remain untouched, by her concern and care for the well-being of her brother, her sacrifice for his mission and her love and support for his cause. She was “his most loyal ally who stayed by his side to the end. She has set an example of sacrifice for the Muslim women for a noble cause.” It was her wholehearted care and support that the Quaid could devote his whole life for the creation of Pakistan. She was an ideal sister in all respects. The author of a book on the life of Fatima Jinnah wished: “O Lord, bless every brother with a sister like Fatima.”

The Madar-i-Millat had imbibed the vibes and vision of her great brother so deeply that she was a true index of his personality. Her faith in democracy, her passion for Pakistan, her preference to principles over compromises, her tenacity and courage, her disdain for hypocrisy and selfish motives, and her spirit for struggle bore a reflection of Quaid’s life and principles. She was harsh to those who cheated others and lied but supported wholeheartedly the honest and hard workers. She adhered to the family values and Islamic traditions but at the same time was a strong exponent of emancipation and rights of women. She had rejected Westernisation in the name of modernization. She was also a generous host. She was an accomplished woman who exuded taste and refinement and aesthetic sensibility, which much have been accentuated by the company of the Quaid. She was, in fact, an extension of Quaid’s personality in many ways – tried to realize his vision of a progressive and democratic Pakistan and struggled to achieve it. She blazed a trial of sacrifice and struggle that cannot be separated from the life and ideals of the Quaid. “She was undoubtedly a great lady with much of the intelligence, personality and iron will of the Quaid as well as a vision for Pakistan,” said Liaqat merchant.

Madar-i-Millat was not a drawing room politician. She was a dynamic political leader who struggled days and nights to organize the women wing of the Muslim League. She had closely watched the political scene during the turbulent period of the freedom struggle and was well groomed for active politics before she actually joined her brother in the field. At a time when very few Muslim women entered into the politics, she led from the forefront, addressing public meetings, organizing and motivating women to come forward and join the struggle for Pakistan. She attended the annual meeting of the All India Muslim League in Lucknow in 1937 and a year later she became the member of Bombay Provincial Muslim League. Before the emergence of the women wing of the League, she was an important link between the Quaid and the women workers. After 1939, she became a permanent member of the All India Muslim Council and played an active role in the women wing of the League. Thus, she proved her political credential to be trusted as a colleague of her brother. Historians might not admit her role and influence on the decisions of her brother or the Muslim League meeting but there was sufficient evidence that the Quaid did share his views on important political matter with her and trusted her. Begum Rana Liaqat Ali Khan said: “The Quaid-i-Azam had so much faith in Madar-i-Millat that he did not keep any secrets from her. He freely discussed every problem with her. Moreover, she always present in important meetings held at their premises. Chaudhry Ghulam Abbas remembered that once Quaid-i-Azam had told that “What is Muslim League? It essentially comprises three of us; me, my sister and typewriter. Begum Rafia Shareef said: “In fact, Quaid-i-Azam never issued a statement until it was read by her. The Madar-i-Millat wrote in book on Quaid: “He continued to talk to me frequently about the new constitution, about Kashmir, about the refugees and I wanted to do so. “Therefore, she not only shared her views on important issues, but also shares her dreams with Quaid-i-Azam.

Fatima Jinnah transferred to her brother’s home in 1929 after the death of his wife Rutti Jinnah. It was a time when he was emotionally shattered and needed someone to help in this traumatic time. This was not an easy job, only a person of sagacity and ability like Fatima Jinnah could condole him. The way she handled the household and regulated the life of her brother, revealed her capability and commitment. According to Ahmed Yar Khan Baloch, “She did a great service by managing the household of the Quaid-i-Azam.”

During the early political life of the Quaid, the Madar-i-Millat was his sole companion, counselor and caretaker. She even acted as a secretary and handled his mail. She closely watched his political life and encouraged him at every step. In her letter to Quaid in February 1946, she not only facilitated him on election results in the Punjab but also appreciated his political achievement. However, her words of praise were not without a piece of advice. She advised: “Look after your health which is most important.” The Quaid respected and admired Fatima Jinnah not only because she was his sister, admired her for her political acumen, sincerity and devotion to the cause of Pakistan. He particularly appreciated her efforts towards mobilization of women because he was convinced that his mission would not be attained without the participation of Muslim women. On the health front alone, had she not been with him, he might not have been survived turbulent struggle and the tempo of political development from 1940 to 1947. She was a constant source of help and encouragement to him.

The life of Madar-i-Millat was so intertwined with the life and struggle of Quaid that it was virtually impossible to separate one from the other. Since Quaid was the leader of the movement, we owe a debt of gratitude as a nation to Fatima Jinnah for keeping him healthy enough to fulfil his mission to realize the dreams of millions of Muslims of the Subcontinent. We should pledge to rise to her expectation to build a stronger, progressive Pakistan if we wanted to pay rich tributes to her. Let us seek guidance from her message to the nation on Eid-ul-Azha, 1965. “Let us sink all our differences and unite together under the same banner under which we truly achieved Pakistan and let us demonstrate once again that we can, united, face all dangers in the cause of glory Pakistan, the glory that the Quaid-i-Azam envisaged for Pakistan.”


The Concept, January 2004.