The last will of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah is an unusual document. While most people distribute their wealth among their blood relations and loved ones, Jinnah designated three educational institutions as perpetual beneficiaries of his largesse.
He did not forget his blood relations, however. He earmarked a reasonable part of his fortune for his siblings, but it was mostly directed to revert to his residuary estate after their deaths, and ultimately redistributed among his nominated schools.
Over 74 years after his death, the implementation of his will has encountered several problems. Some of his directions and desires have either not been carried out or modified as per the needs of the time.
Spread over three hand-written pages, Jinnah wrote the will at the age of 63, on May 30, 1939, adding a codicil on October 25, 1940. He appointed his sister Fatima Jinnah, solicitor Mohammad Ali Chaiwalla and Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan as the “executrix and executors.”
Today, on his death anniversary, a look at how Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s last will indicated his great belief in the cause of education as a means to achieve a higher calling
Among his five surviving siblings, Fatima was closest to him. His gratitude for her found expression when he declared that “All shares, stocks & securities and current accounts now standing in the name of my sister, Fatima Jinnah, are her absolute property. I have given them all to her by way of gifts during my lifetime and I confirm the same, and she can dispose of them in any manner she pleases as her absolute property.”
He bequeathed her his sprawling bungalow, spread over 2.5 acres (more than 15,000 square yards), in the most prestigious part of Mumbai, the Malabar Hills. It was this house where Jinnah and Ruttie had lived after their marriage in 1918. Subsequently, he got it renovated according to his taste, reflecting Indo-Islamic architectural traditions.
He wrote: “I now hereby bequeath to her [Fatima] my house and all that land with appurtenances, outhouses, etc., situated at Mount Pleasant Road, Malabar Hill, Bombay, including all the furniture, plates, silver and motor cars in its entirety as it stands absolutely and she can dispose of it in any manner she pleases by will, deed or otherwise.”
This clause could not be implemented as Fatima Jinnah had shifted to Pakistan, never visiting India after Partition. The house remains unoccupied to date and is engulfed in several legal disputes.
Jinnah further directed the executors of his will to “pay her [Fatima] during her lifetime 2,000 rupees per month” for her maintenance and other requirements. (In 1942, the price of 10 grams of gold was 44 rupees.)
Jinnah’s other siblings included sisters Rehmat Cassimbhoy, Mariam Abdenbhoy Peerbhoy, Shereen and brother Ahmed Ali. Though they were well-settled, still Jinnah devoted a separate paragraph for each of them, directing a payment of 100 rupees per month to each during their lifetimes.
At the time of writing his last will, Jinnah had strained relations with his only daughter, Dina. There was a time when she was the apple of his eye and both father and daughter, having suffered the loss of Ruttie in their own ways, found consolation in each other. But things changed in 1938, when at 19, Dina married a non-Muslim, Neville Wadia, despite of her father’s intense opposition. This hurt Jinnah so much that, afterwards, he never called his daughter by her first name, but addressed her formally as “Mrs Wadia.”
Nevertheless, he earmarked an amount for her and directed his will’s executors “to set apart 200,000 rupees which will at 6 percent bring an income of 1,000 rupees and pay the income thereof whatever it be to my daughter every month for her life or during her lifetime and after her death the corpus of two lacs so set apart to be divided equally between her children, males or females, in default of issue the corpus to fall into my residuary estate.”
Dina never claimed her monthly allowance from her father’s estate. However, under the orders of the Sindh High Court, her monthly allowance in British pounds, equal to 12,000 rupees, has been deposited on a yearly basis in a bank account in London since the 1980s.
In 2007, Dina approached the Bombay High Court, claiming that she was her father’s sole legal heir and was entitled to get the house at Malabar Hills. While the matter was still under adjudication, she died in 2017. Subsequently, the court allowed her son, Nusli Wadia, to replace his mother as petitioner in the case.
In all, Jinnah named six educational institutions in his will to receive largesse from his estate. Three of them were to get one-time grants. He directed a “gift” of 25,000 rupees to the Anjuman-i-Islam School, Bombay, where he had briefly studied in 1887. Similarly, the historic Arabic College of Delhi, which he had visited many times, was also nominated to be given the same amount.
In addition, Jinnah earmarked as “gift” 50,000 rupees for the University of Bombay. However, the university declined to accept the sum under Jinnah’s name, stating that they would only accept the donation if it were given anonymously. As this condition was unacceptable, this part of the will remained unimplemented.
While the above institutions were to be given one-time grants, Jinnah chose another set of three educational institutions, directing that his entire residuary estate be divided in equal parts amongst them. He wrote: “Subject to above, all my residuary estate including the corpus that may fall after the lapse of life interests or otherwise to be divided into three parts — and I bequeath One Part to Aligarh University, One Part to Islamia College, Peshawar, and One Part to Sindh Madressa of Karachi.”
Implementation of this section required first disposing of Jinnah’s widely scattered property and assets, which included the Flagstaff House, lands in Malir, Mauripur and Hawke’s Bay in Karachi as well as in Gulberg, Lahore. It wasn’t until the 1980s that all the property was sold. The amount of 32,434,800 rupees was divided in three equal parts for disbursement among the three institutions, each part amounting to 10,811,600 rupees.
However, a dispute arose regarding the disbursement of the amount to Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), on the grounds that, after Partition, the university’s ‘Muslim’ character had been diluted. In 1974, the Sindh High Court ruled that, instead of giving money to AMU, a trust from that money be established in Pakistan with the name ‘Quaid-e-Azam Aligarh Scholarship Trust’ and scholarships be awarded to Pakistani students.
AMU — established by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan in 1877 as a college and raised to university in 1920 — was very close to Quaid-i-Azam’s heart. He had been a frequent visitor there and had called it the “arsenal of Muslim India.” Perhaps that role of AMU has yet not changed.
The university still displays Jinnah’s portrait on its walls, despite severe opposition from certain Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) quarters. A row arose in 2018, when local BJP parliamentarian Satish Gautam publicly declared that it would be his first priority to remove Jinnah’s portrait from the campus and send it to Pakistan. On this, the AMU Students’ Union categorically stated that Jinnah’s portrait would not be removed. Denying his largesse to the institute which Jinnah regarded so highly was perhaps inappropriate.
The second beneficiary, Islamia College, Peshawar, was a continuation of the Aligarh spirit. Established by Sahibzada Abdul Qayum in 1913, this institute was a pioneer of higher education in the frontier regions and Jinnah visited it several times. The college was given its due share as per his will, which it used to build a library in Jinnah’s name. This writer had the honour of laying the foundation stone of the library in the 1990s.
The last beneficiary was Jinnah’s alma mater, the Sindh Madressah (Sindh Madressatul Islam University) which was established in 1885 by Khan Bahadur Hassanally Effendi, with active support from two stalwarts of modern education, Sir Syed and Justice Ameer Ali Syed of Calcutta. The amount was used by the erstwhile Sindh Madressah Board to build the Quaid-e-Azam Public School in Malir, Karachi.
Though Jinnah’s will has not been completely implemented as he had desired, it is gratifying to see his legacy continue in the form of students passing out of the educational institutions that he had designated as heir to his largesse.
The writer is Jinnah’s biographer and has served as Vice-Chancellor of the Sindh Madressatul Islam University.
He tweets @DrMAliShaikh
Published in Dawn, EOS, September 11th, 2022