Book decodes Jinnah’s religion,
“For three generations, the Jinnah family struggled to find its Islamic identity after being ex-communicated from their Hindu caste, Lohana-Thakkars, of the Saurashtra region. This caste was believed to have had a Raghuvanshi descent, from the family tree of Lord Rama, and some thought they were Bhatia Rajputs. Jinnah’s grandfather was a faithful Hindu, Premjibhai Meghji Thakkar. In the early 19th century, Premji, who joined a fishing business, was forced to convert to Islam after his ex-communication by the Hindu orthodoxy.
Gandhinagar : Nearly 70 years after his death, Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s portraits continue to adorn places like Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Bombay High Court and Sabarmati Ashram in India. The Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry building’s foundation stone states that it was laid by Mahatma Gandhi in 1934. Clearly, the two Nations have not forgotten each-other’s Fathers.
Recently, BJP MP Satish Gautam sought to remove a Jinnah portrait from AMU. It was ironic because, instead of vilifying Jinnah, the Modi Government should have actually decorated the Qaid-e-Azam, posthumously, with a Bharat Ratna! Because, it was Jinnah who created a Hindu-majority Bharat from the rarefied, nebulous India, while pushing the Islamists to a corner of the subcontinent—that was why the Deoband School opposed Jinnah!
Consider this: had India remained undivided, its Muslim population would now have been around 600 million, vis-à-vis the Hindus’ 1,000 million. Would the Hindus have lived peacefully with this large ‘minority’? Or, had India been Balkanized, as Winston Churchill and others had predicted? Such an India would have been the largest Muslim nation in the world!
This is what journalist-author Virendra Pandit’s 2017 book, Return of the Infidel, argues. He claims that, for Jinnah, a non-practicing Muslim, the Pakistan project was more of getting even with his caste rival Gandhi, rather than any fulfilment of the Muslims’ aspirations! An understanding of the dynamics of Indian caste system helps us unravel the mystique of Partition, he says.
Interestingly, both their families hailed from neighbouring districts in the Saurashtra region in Gujarat: Gandhi (Porbandar) and Jinnah (from Moti Paneli village in Upleta taluka, Rajkot district).
The book provides interesting insights into the key figures’ persona and politics of the time that reflects in the present and projects into the future. He surmises that Gandhi virtually “manipulated” Jinnah into demanding Pakistan, and take the failed Partition of Bengal (1905) to its logical conclusion of the Partition of India (1947) through well-calibrated and subtle stratagem. And an ‘innocent’ Jinnah followed this Gandhian script!
Gandhi hailed from the Modh Vania/Bania caste whereas Jinnah, despite his grandfather’s conversion to Islam, inherited his Lohana-Thakkar caste’s obstinate habits. Both these rival castes were seen as great achievers, innovators and business-minded. Dhirubhai Ambani and Narendra Modi also hailed from the larger Modh caste.
Jinnah was the eldest among seven siblings. None of them settled in Pakistan after 1947. Like his dream project of Pakistan, he was himself ‘half quail, half partridge’, a personality split to the core. So much so that the lawyers of his only daughter Dina Wadia, 88, laid claim to the Jinnah House property in Mumbai in 2008 on the basis of Hindu inheritance laws! The Father of Pakistan himself had, in his will, divided his assets in accordance with the Hindu laws!
“For three generations, the Jinnah family struggled to find its Islamic identity after being ex-communicated from their Hindu caste, Lohana-Thakkars, of the Saurashtra region. This caste was believed to have had a Raghuvanshi descent, from the family tree of Lord Rama, and some thought they were Bhatia Rajputs. Like some other drifted Hindus who had found themselves on an Islamic island, many of the Thakkars, too, continued to use both their Islamic and Hindu names and maintain traditions in alternate generations to retain their roots in both the old and the new worlds.”
Jinnah’s grandfather was a faithful Hindu, Premjibhai Meghji Thakkar. In the early 19th century, Premji, who joined a fishing business, was forced to convert to Islam after his ex-communication by the Hindu orthodoxy. His family members opposed this conversion and tried to get him re-converted. The priests, however, refused to re-induct them into the Hindu-fold, forcing Premjibhai to stay a nominal Muslim. His son Poonjabhai was nicknamed Jhiniabhai due to his wiry physique. They all remained nominal Muslims throughout life. Jinnah derived his surname and the wiry physical frame from his father, Jhinia. Thinly-built Gujaratis continue to be nicknamed Jhinia even now.
Interestingly, Premjibhai had not converted to the mainstream Sunni or Shia beliefs. He had embraced, instead, the heretic Khoja-Ismailia sub-sect for two reasons: one, this helped him expand business as the rich followers of the Aga Khan, the head of the sub-cult, assisted him financially; and two, this taught a lesson to his Hindu detractors who had him ex-communicated for ‘violating’ Vaishnavite pure vegetarianism. Even after conversion, Premjibhai continued to worship the family deity Shrinathji, an incarnation of Lord Krishna, and Thakorji, besides the Tulsi tree. Outside, he would, however, go to the mosque. Premjibhai had joined the Khoja sub-sect, thanks to Adamji Khoja, his friend, philosopher and guide who had brought him into the fish trade and then into the Aga Khan fold.
Premjibhai’s three sons—Gangji, Nathhu and Poonja (Jhinia)—found it difficult to marry in their caste because of this reason and had to marry in similarly converted families. They also moved out of their conservative village. Jhinia settled down in Karachi.
Jinnah’s father’s full name was Jhinia alias Poonjabhai Premjibhai Thakkar. True to the traditions in freshly converted families who wanted to hide their religion, Jhinia had named his eldest boy ‘Mamad’ instead of Muhammad. Jinnah’s full name was Mamadbhai Jhiniabhai Thakkar, or MJ Thakkar. When Jinnah was studying at the Christian Missionary Society High School on Lawrence road, Karachi, his future rival MK Gandhi was also a student in a Christian school, Alfred High School, Rajkot.
When, in January 1893, Mamad went to England, he tried new names: he first sought to be known as “Mohammedali Jhiniabhai of Karachi”, then as “Muhammad Z. Thakkar”, by changing Jhinia into Zina, and, finally “Muhammad Ali Jinnah” or MA Jinnah.