“He conquers who endures” – Anon

Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah has been admired by friends and foes alike for what he achieved in the shape of Pakistan. He has been praised for his political acumen, foresight in all matters and legal prowess. Yet we never give much thought to a very important aspect of his life i.e. the constant battle with his failing health during those crucial eight years of his life (1940-48).

Before Independence

By 1940, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was already 63 years of age, and they were no ordinary 60 years spent for they denoted a long life of struggle and hardships. The years to come proved to be even more difficult, therefore the way he had to work would be taxing even for a completely healthy person. However with sheer willpower he fought with his illness like a warrior, because he knew that if he gave up then Pakistan could never come into existence. He had full belief in Allah and that is why He gave him strength to carry on and achieve the unattainable. Collins and Lapierre in ‘Freedom at Midnight’ write, “If Louis Mountbatten, Nehru or Mahatama Gandhi had been aware in April 1947 of this one extraordinary secret, the division threatening India might have been avoided for even the British CID, one of the most effective investigative agencies of the world was ignorant of its existence”.

Miss Fatima Jinnah was obviously greatly concerned about his health and would often reprimand him for working continuously and that too for long hours. Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah once said “Have you ever heard of a General take a holiday when his army is fighting for its very survival on a battle field?”

Diagnosis suggests that he had been suffering from TB, along with a weak respiratory system due to the frequent attacks of Bronchitis. It is therefore unimaginable the physical pain he must have had to endure. One may understand his condition to some extent by the following account given by Miss Fatima Jinnah. She said “We left Bombay in 1940 to attend a session of the National Assembly in Delhi. At night I heard him shout out loud, as if someone had pierced him with a red hot iron. I was quickly by his side, but the pain was so unbearable that he was unable to speak; all he could do was to point to a spot a little below his spinal-cord. In hope of relieving his pain, I gently massaged that area, but it only aggravated it. My only hope was that the train would soon stop at a station where I could get a hot water bottle for him. After a while the train stopped and I asked the guard to arrange for a hot water bottle. As soon as he brought it, I wrapped it in a napkin and pressed it on the affected area. I was relieved that after some time it somewhat subsided”. After this episode on a physician’s inspection it was thought that he had ‘pleurisy of the lungs’. The result of this was that whenever he had the slightest cold, it would very quickly develop into a bad case of flu accompanied with cough and fever leaving him weak and frailer than ever.

In his state it would have been seemingly difficult to address large gatherings, but when he spoke it was with such vigour and command that everyone’s attention was riveted to him and no one had the least inclination what he was going through.

Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah refused to succumb to his illness, his love and sense of duty towards the Muslims was so great. It is possible that he could have regained his health if only he had been able to take care of himself, by resting properly and eating at the right time. But he ignored all medical advice, and gave no thought to his life, or his suffering and pain. He once said “What is the health of one individual when I am concerned with the very existence of ten crore Muslims of India?”

After Independence

His health deteriorated day by day, yet in his precarious condition he toured the entire country dealing with all the matters of the newly born state. He was always immaculately dressed and walked with a confident air. However at home he was fatigued, and even breathing was laborious for him. Each morning it was with great difficulty that he got out of bed. Although his body was suffering, yet his spirit was restless to serve his people every waking moment. He felt greatly perturbed that because of his illness so many important matters were pending.

Once an outdoor congregation was held in Peshawar, very soon it started to rain, but the thousands of people who were gathered there did not move from their places. Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah did not move from his seat either and braved the pouring rain during the entire proceedings, simply because he could not disappoint the people!

Till the end, Miss Fatima Jinnah would always stress that rest was imperative for him to which he once replied “I will use my physical abilities and strength for the well-being of the people until the last ounce of strength is left within me. And when the last drop is vanquished then my mission will be accomplished because then I will be no more”

He was true to his word, for that is exactly what he did. Yet sadly on 11th September 1948, we lost the one true leader we ever had. In the words of Euripides “This is courage in a man: to bear unflinchingly what heaven sends.”


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