(This is an excerpt from a Pen Portrait ‘Mohammad Ali Jinnah : An Ambassador of Unity’ written by Sarojini Naidu in November, 1917)
“ It is my ambition to become the Muslim Gokhale,” confessed Mohomed Ali Jinnah in a priceless moment of self-revelation.
In the light of this avowal it is interesting to recall Gokhale’s own prediction about his gifted comrade in the service of India.
“ He has true stuff in him” he said, “ and that freedom from all sectarian prejudice which will make him the best ambassador of the Hindu-Muslim Unity.”
These words, generous as they sound, are no more than a just tribute to a distinguished patriot who has so swiftly and so securely won his acknowledged place in the forefront of the national movement.
Few figures of the Indian Renaissance are so striking or so significant ; to a student of psychology none more singularly attractive by the paradox of a rare and complex temperament, of strange limitations and subtle possibilities, that hides the secret of its own greatness like a pearl within a shell.
Never was there a nature whose outer qualities provided so complete an antithesis of its inner worth. Tall and stately, but thin to the point of emaciation, languid and luxurious of habit, Mahomed Ali Jinnah’s attenuated form is the deceptive sheathe of a spirit of exceptional vitality and endurance. Somewhat formal and fastidious, and a little aloof and imperious of manner, the calm hauteur of his accustomed reserve but masks for those who know him, a naive and eager humanity, an intuition quick and tender as a woman’s, a humour gay and winning as a child’s Pre-eminently rational and practical, discreet and dispassionate in his estimate and acceptance of life, the obvious sanity and serenity of his worldly wisdom effectually disguise a shy and splendid idealism which is of the very essence of the man.
To attempt at this stage more than a brief general survey of Mohomed Ali Jinnah’s work were both untimely and unfair to a man in the very prime of life and on the threshold of his public achievement.
A casual pen might surely find it easier to describe his limitations than to define his virtues. His are none of the versatile talents that make so many of his contemporaries justly famed beyond the accepted circle of their daily labours. Not his the gracious gifts of mellow scholarship, or rich adventure or radiant conversation ; not his the burning passion of philanthropy or religious reform. Indeed by his sequestered tastes and temperament Mohomed Ali Jinnah is essentially a solitary man with a large political following but few intimate friendships, and outside the twin spheres of law and politics he has few resources and few accomplishments.
But the true criterion of his greatness lies not in the range and variety of his knowledge and experience but in the faultless perception and flawless refinement of his subtle mind and spirit ; not in a diversity of aims and the challenge of a towering personality but rather in a lofty singleness and sincerity of purpose and the lasting charm of a character animated by a brave conception of duty and an austere and lovely code of private honour and public integrity.
The tale of his actual contribution is still comparatively slender. But it is not by the substance but by the rare significance of his patriotic service that he holds to-day his unique place in the front rank of our national leaders.
Like others of our generation, he suffers from a system of education so widely separated from the familiar traditions and culture of our race, and lacking the magic of a common medium, he may never perhaps hope to establish between himself and his people that instinctive and inviolable kinship that makes the interned Mohomed Ali for instance, a living hero of the Mussalmans and Mahatma Gandhi a living idol of the masses.
But it is none the less his personal triumph and a testimony to his authentic mission that he stands approved and confirmed by his countrymen not merely as an ambassador, but as an embodied symbol of the Hindu-Muslim Unity.
Who can foretell the secrets of tomorrow ? Who foresee the hidden forces that sometimes work to build our destiny higher than our dream ? Perchance it is written in the book of the future that he whose fair ambition it is to become the Muslim Gokhale may in some glorious and terrible crisis of our national struggle pass into immortality as the Mazzini of the Indian Liberation.