I would like to share something about his life which is not known to many, perhaps known to many.
Sir Dinshaw Petit father of Ruttie Petit belonged to a family of Parsi merchants well known for their business discernmentand philanthropy. His grandfather was a self-made millionaire, pioneer of Bombay’s cotton industry. Sir Dinshawentertained lavishly, keeping one of the best tables in Bombay. His annual Polo Ball was the highlight of the Bombay season. His grandfather famously hosted a fancy dress ball for theDuke of Edinburgh.
Jinnah had come to Bombay penniless from Karachi, but became one of Bombay’s best known and wealthiest lawyers within the span of two decades. A star politician, known for his luxury cars and fashionable clothes. Sir Dinshaw admired Jinnah, who was very popular among his compeers because of his personality and nationalism. The friendship between Sir Dinshaw and Jinnah was unequal from the start. But the famous 1916 session when the League and Congress held a joint session in Lucknow where he emerged as the unchallenged leader of Muslims. His name was in the newspapers almost every day, either on behalf of the Congress or League, having overcome conservative forces within both parties.
It was during one of the holidays that Ruttie and Jinnah fell in love. She was only sixteen at that time. A fashionable Parsi girl, known for her wide reading, her poetic temperament and passionate interest in politics. Jinnah approached Sir Dinshaw, and began straightforwardly, with his marriage proposals. To break the news to the unsuspecting father was not easy. The baronet did not see it coming. It was not an enviable situation for any suitor to be in. Jinnah was not twenty four years older than Ruttie but had known her since she was born. Sir Dinshaw had a reputation of a staunch supporter of intercommunity marriages, but no one, in Bombay’s mixed society, had dared to cross the matrimonial divide among the Hindus, Parsis and Muslims. It was not Ruttie’s youth only but marrying out of community. It was the unspoken rule in the older generation.
Sir Dinshaw not only refused but took out a restraining order against Jinnah. According to Kanji Dwarkadas, Sir Dinshaw claimed in his plea for the court injunction, that Jinnah was planning to marry his daughter against her father’s wishes with an eye on her fortune, he should be kept away from meeting with her.
Some friends and relatives did advise her to forget a man who was unsuitable because of his age and religion, but also because of mismatched temperaments, politics was his only passion. But she would not hear a word against him. In 1918 Ruttie turned eighteen when they decided to get married. Jinnah chose renowned Sunni Imam of Bombay’s Jamia Masjid and a member of Muslim League Maulana Nazir Ahmed to convert Ruttie to Islam on Thursday, April 18.After keeping the world guessing Jinnah married with Ruttie on Friday 19 April. The marriage was performed according to Shia rites, well known Shia cleric Maulana Muhammad Hassan Najafi was deputed as Ruttie Dinshaw’s representative and Shariat Madar Aqai Abdul Hashim Najafi signed on behalf of Jinnah. Shareef Dewji Kanji, Umar Sobhani and Raja Sahib Mehmoodabad were the witnesses of Nikah. The only women he had invited were his two sisters, Shirin Peerbhoy and Fatima Jinnah. Jinnah forgot to buy a ring for the ceremony, but Raja Sahib came to rescue him here too, when he offered a diamond ring from his finger. The wedding document serial number was 118.37. According to Nikahnama the Mehar was Rs 1001, but Jinnah presented Rs 125,000 to Ruttie as a gift.
The news of wedding broke out to Sir Dinshaw through a newspaper. Ruttie Dinshaw the only daughter of the distinguished Parsi baronet, Sir Dinshaw Petit, yesterday underwent conversion to Islam and it today being married to the Hon. Mr. M.A. Jinnah.
The Jinnah resided mainly at South Court Mansion in Malabar Hill, very close to Sir Dinshaw’s Petit Hall. However, there was no contact between them and the Petit family, and the estrangement continued even after the birth of Ruttie’s only child, Dina Wadia, the following year. Ruttie was also ex-communicated from the Parsi Community with extraordinary measures.
By mid-1922, Jinnah was facing political isolation, as he devoted every spare moment to be the voice of separatist incitement in a nation torn by Hindu-Muslim antipathy. His increasingly late hours and the increasing distance between them left Ruttie feeling neglected. The marriage deteriorated rapidly after the birth of their child.
Ruttie Jinnah developed intestinal ailments with cancer speculated to be the cause. In early 1928, she moved into a suite at Bombay’s Taj Mahal Hotel, leaving Jinnah home with eight-year-old Dina. On 19 February 1929, Ruttie fell unconscious in her room at the Taj Hotel in Mumbai. Jinnah was in Delhi, when he received the call from Bombay, it was his father in law, telling him that Ruttie is not well, that was the first time Jinnah spoke to his father in-law. Jinnah reached Bombay next evening, but Ruttie was already dead. Her body was taken to Arambagh, Khoja cemetery belonging to the Khoja Shia Isna Ashri Muslims. When Ruttie’s body was lowered into the grave and Jinnah was called to throw the soil on her grave, he broke down suddenly and wept like a child.She died on her 29th birthday.
Couple of lines from her last letter to Jinnah:
Try and remember me, beloved, as the flower you plucked and not the flower you tread upon…
Darling I love you – I love you – and had I loved you just a little less I might have remained with you..
I have loved you my darling as it is given to few men to be loved. I only beseech you that the tragedy which commenced in love should also end with it.
Darling I love you – I love you….
(Credit to Dr Ghulam Nabi Kazi and Sheela Ready’s Mr and Mrs Jinnah)
After Jinnah died, his sister Fatima asked the court to execute Jinnah’s will under Shia Islamic law. This subsequently became part of the argument in Pakistan about Jinnah’s religious affiliation. In a 1970 legal challenge, Hussain Ali Walji claimed Jinnah had converted to Sunni Islam. Witness Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada stated in court that Jinnah converted to Sunni Islam in 1901.Liaquat Ali Khan and Fatima Jinnah’s joint affidavit that Jinnah was Shia was rejected. But in 1976 the court rejected Walji’s claim that Jinnah was Sunni; effectively accepting him as a Shia. In 1984 a high court bench reversed the 1976 verdict and maintained that “the Jinnah was definitely not a Shia”, which suggested that Jinnah was Sunni.
I have been wondering for year, that how honest was Sharifuddin Pirzada? He was born in 1923, and Jinnah’s wedding took place in 1918, Sharif had stated in court that Jinnah converted to Sunni Islam in 1901. If we go through theNikah ceremony of Jinnah, then where does Shariffudin Pirzada stands?
My gratitude and respect to a non-practising Muslim who was a Muslim by faith and Shia by choice, and an ambassador of all faiths.