Muhammadali Jeenabhai Poonja

It is generally assumed that Jinnah became more Islamic over the years that he spent in politics. This may not be entirely true.

Some people think that jinnah means "wing" in Arabic, but this is incorrect: "wing" in Arabic is janah. The misunderstanding probably comes from the fact that jinnah written in Urdu without the vowels indeed has the same spelling as  janah.

The Quaid-e-Azam´s family history has been the subject of much ignorance and – in the alternative – misinterpretation. To set the record straight, if the Quaid had kept all his names as he inherited them, he would have been Muhammadali Jeenabhai Poonja.

As early as 1894, Jinnah had begun to bolster his Muslim credentials by changing his name from Muhammad Ali Jeenabhai to Muhammad Ali Jinnah while studying for the bar in London.

Jeenabhai was his father´s name and it came from the word "jeena", meaning "one who survives", probably given to Jinnah´s father because he didn´t die at birth like his earlier siblings. In Punjab, this name was common in the countryside but today, not even illiterate peasants name their children thus. But in Gujarat, the ancestral home of both Jinnah and Gandhi, the Gujarati language continues with the tradition.

The other change that took place was the conversion of the name "Muhammadali" as it appeared in Jinnah´s school register. This form of writing a name is still common in Karachi with the people of Gujarati origin. If Jinnah had maintained his full name of Muhammadali Jeenabhai Poonja, that would have appeared outlandish to the Muslims of North and Northwest India. Jinnah dropped ´bhai´ from Jinnabhai in 1894 through a legal act called "deed poll". He also converted to Athnaashri Shiism from Ismailism, and later repudiated all association with Islamic sectarianism. (Jinnah´s grandfather, Poonja, had converted to Islam and adopted Ismailism, the sect of the Aga Khan. In her memoir, Fatima Jinnah mentions old family names like Valji, Manbai, Nathoo, which are "akin to Hindu names". – Akbar S. Ahmed in Pakistan and Islamic Identity: The Search for Saladin, 1997.)

The Muslims of India of all sectarian hues accepted Jinnah as their leader, ironically because of his deepseated aversion to religious politics. Today, when the President of Pakistan attends congregations of the Deobandi Tablighi Jamaat, he unconsciously reveals his sectarian leaning.

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