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Fatima Jinnah(1893 -1967)

“Quaid-e-Azam asked Fatima Jinnah to sit beside him at Sibi Darbar, the grand annual gathering of Baluch and Pakhtun chiefs and leaders. He was making a point: Muslim women must take their place in the history of Pakistan. The Sibi Darbar broke all precedents.“ Akbar S. Ahmed, Jinnah, Pakistan and Islamic Identity, p13., Routledge 1997.

by Laila Kazmi

Also known as Madr-e-Millat, mother of the nation, Fatima Jinnah's name is an important one among the leaders of Pakistan's independence movement. Though she is most loved for being an ardent supporter of her brother, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the leader of Muslim India, there is much more to Fatima Jinnah.

Fatima Jinnah was born in 1893. When the Jinnahs lost their father in 1901, Fatima came under the guardianship of her older brother. Encouraged by her brother, she completed her education, living in a hostel while attending Dr Ahmad Dental College. In 1923, at a time when taking up a profession was considered inappropriate for girls from Muslim families, Fatima Jinnah opened her own dental practice in Calcutta. She had the full support of her brother, yet faced opposition from the rest of the family. When Quaid-e-Azam’s wife, Rutti Jinnah, passed away leaving behind a daughter, Fatima Jinnah gave up her practice and went to live with her brother taking charge of the house and her young niece.

During the years that followed, Fatima Jinnah accompanied her brother on many of his official tours. Professor Sharif al Mujahid writes in his article, An enduring legacy, Dawn, July, 2008, “People do not realize that just by accompanying Jinnah wherever he went during the 1940s, Fatima Jinnah was teaching Muslim women to stand shoulder to shoulder with men during the freedom struggle. Numerous pictures of the period show Fatima Jinnah walking alongside Jinnah and not behind him. The message was loud and clear and it was one both the brother and sister wished to convey to the nation.”

She also joined the All India Muslim League and attended the annual sessions. She helped form the All India Muslim Women Students Federation in 941 in Delhi. “Fatima Jinnah's contribution in the social development sector has, however, been ignored somewhat. This has largely been overshadowed by her political role despite the fact that she, along with Begum Rana Liaquat Ali Khan, made the greatest contribution in the realm of women's awakening and participation in national affairs and their empowerment,” wrote professor Sharif al Mujahid.

The height of her political accomplishments came towards the end of her life when, in 1965 she defied tradition by challenging Ayub Khan in a tight race for the office of President of Pakistan. “Even a conservative party like the Jamaat-i-Islami accepted her as a woman presidential candidate.” (Story of Pakistan, Fatima Jinnah 1893-1967).

In the same Dawn article as mentioned above, Professor Mujahid continues, “Her candidature in the 1965 presidential elections settled once and for all, all the tricky questions about whether a woman could be the head of a Muslim state. In the circumstances it was her candidature alone that could have induced a favorable fatwa from Maulana Maududi. And once that was acquired, the controversial issue ceased to exist for all time to come. This represents a singular contribution towards women's empowerment and their participation in public life in Pakistan.”

If Fatima Jinnah serves as a role model for Pakistani girls, she is indeed a fine one for she had a life filled achievements.


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