KARACHI: Historians and biographers may have discussed the life of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah threadbare, yet there are several aspects of his multi-faceted life that have not been covered well. One such aspect is his early education.
Visiting a small museum inside Sindh Madressatul Islam University, one gets to know about several aspects of Jinnah’s life, including his studies in London. But more interesting is the early schooling at Sindh Madressatul Islam — where he was enrolled from July 1887 till January 1892 — and how he would leave for over a month for Bombay [now Mumbai] and get his name stricken off.
Sindh Madressatul Islam, now a university known as the SMIU, is considered one of the oldest educational institutions in South Asia. The campus is located in downtown Karachi, near II Chundrigar Road [old McLeod Road] in the vicinity of the famous Habib Bank Plaza and the MCB Tower. It is spread over more than eight acres of land and comprises some of the most beautiful colonial-era buildings designed by architect James Strachan in the 1880s.
The museum inside the varsity covers several aspects of Jinnah’s life but one thing which appeals the most are the copies of General Register which carries his attendance with brief intervals. Jinnah was first enrolled in the register for his secondary education in July 1887 and studied there till January 30, 1892 but the era was full of ups and downs of his academic path.
The register does not show Jinnah’s date of birth at the time of his admission but his age has been put at 14 years. It does mention that he was enrolled in standard I (fifth year of education — after four years of primary) in the English branch on July 4, 1887. Khoja is mentioned as his sect and Karachi his birthplace.
In the column under ‘previous instructions’ he is shown to have passed his four classes of primary education in Gujrati.
On an unknown date, he left for Bombay and his name was withdrawn from the attendance register with reason “left for Bombay”. SMIU Vice Chancellor Muhammad Ali Shaikh says Jinnah loved visiting his aunt in Bombay and was a frequent visitor to the city.
In his book, the VC quotes Jinnah’s sister who said Jinnabhai Poonja, father of Jinnah, was furious over his son upon learning that he was not doing well in mathematics as Poonja considered full command over the subject a must for running a successful business.
Around this time, Poonja’s only sister, Manbai, who was married to a businessman in Bombay, came to visit her brother’s family in Karachi. Known to Poonja’s children as ‘Manbai Phoofi’ (Urdu word for paternal aunt), she was very close to her youngest brother as well as his children.
On Manbai’s return Jinnah went with her to Bombay for some unknown reasons. It may be because of his fondness for his aunt or his father’s dissatisfaction with his performance in mathematics etc, Shaikh says.
In Bombay, Manbai got her nephew admitted at Anjuman-e-Islam School, where he was enrolled in the same class in which he was studying at Sindh Madressatul Islam: Standard I. The examinations were due in November which he was able to pass. Meanwhile, Jinnah’s mother could not sustain her son’s being away from her and convinced Poonja to bring Jinnah back to Karachi.
After an absence of about two months, Poonja brought him back to Sindh Madressatul Islam on December 23, 1887 for his readmission. As per the record, this time he had brought a certificate from Anjuman-e-Islam School, Bombay, showing that Jinnah had passed his Standard I examination there.
Accordingly, he was enrolled for the second time in the General Register of the institution. This time his exact date of birth was also recorded in the register of the institution as Oct 20, 1875, presumably on the basis of the certificate he had brought with him from Bombay. He was admitted to Standard II.
He continued to study without an interruption for over three years, and then took a break for about a month from January 5 to February 9 in 1891. He was struck off from the school, again with reason mentioned ‘long absence.’ When he came back from his absence, he was enrolled for the third time at serial number 430 in the General Register.
He left the institution on January 30, 1892, while studying in Standard V of English (class 9th, with the remarks in the General Register—‘Left for Cutch on marriage’.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 25th, 2016.