Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the national hero and founder of modern-day Pakistan, may be the single-most important Islamic leader of the 20th century. He not only helped lead the entire Asian subcontinent to independence from the British colonial empire, but he established the first truly great modern Muslim state. He is buried in the Mazar-E-Quaid, the National Mausoleum of Pakistan located in Karachi, the original capital which he founded. The mausoleum now stands in testament to Pakistan’s founding father; to independence from foreign, non-Muslim domination; and as a symbol of pride to Muslim’s everywhere. It is by far Pakistan’s most popular secular Muslim site.
As the power of the Mughals and other local rulers waned during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the entire Asian subcontinent fell bit by bit under the dominion of the various European colonial empires, notably Britain. In 1857, the Indian Mutiny, which saw a general uprising against Britain throughout the Subcontinent, was crushed, thereby ending any attempt to throw off the yoke of foreign domination through the use of violence. However, civil resistance began a few decades later, a struggle which was underscored by the creation of such organizations as the Muslim League, which was founded in 1906, both to aid in India’s quest for independence as well as to ensure the rights of the Muslim minority in the predominantly Hindu region.
One of the most outstanding leaders of the quest for the Asian subcontinent’s independence from the British Empire was Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Jinnah, born into a fairly well-to-do Muslim family, was a prominent lawyer who studied in England. In 1896, at the age of twenty, Jinnah became a member of the Indian National Conference, and was a pivotal figure in fighting to improve the general Indian condition. Initially a pluralist, he originally favored single great Indian state only semi-independent from Britain, which he saw as a great force for civilization.
Although Jinnah did not join the Muslim League at its creation in 1906, he did eventually become a member in 1913, and its president in 1916. As its leader he became one of the most vocal proponents for home rule in India, which at the time he still regarded as a joint Muslim-Hindu proposition. He spent most of the next three decades working to secure Muslim independence from Britain, and later from Hindu-majority India as well. Although his relationships with Hindu leaders such as Gandhi were at times difficult, together they ultimately effected what everyone wanted: home rule.
In 1947, the British relinquished their centuries-old grasp on the Asian subcontinent. Under the leadership of Jinnah, Pakistan was established as an independent Muslim-majority state. On August 11, he was elected the first governor-general of the world’s most populous Islamic country. He spent most of the remainder of his life helping to stem the Muslim-Hindu violence that erupted along the Pakistan-Indian frontier. He died barely a year after his inauguration, hailed both as a Muslim hero and Pakistan’s founding father. His mausoleum has become one of the most popular Islamic tombs and pilgrimage sites of the modern age.
The National Mausoleum, commonly referred to as Jinnah’s Tomb, is a modern, white-marble structure with a strange though aesthetic combination of stylistic elements. The main body of the building is reminiscent of European colonial architecture that might look more at home in North Africa. A giant cube in appearance, with only slightly inward slanting walls and four tower-like extensions rising from the corners, seems more like a French Foreign Legion fortress than a mausoleum. The great dome on top is a nearly-perfect hemisphere and otherwise unlike Southern Asia’s classical onion domes.
Four great bullet-silhouette archways penetrate the fours walls of the mausoleum, giving access to the beautiful but unusual interior. A great blue- and green-crystal chandalier, a gift of the Chinese government, bathes the great chamber in an undersea-like light, illuminating the Tomb of Muhammad Ali Jinnah. In addition to Jinnah, other Pakistani luminaries who are buried here include Abdur Rab Nishtar, Nuril Amin and Mohtarma Fatima, Jinnah’s sister.
The National Mausoleum is located on a small rise on the outskirts of the city center of Karachi, approximately 685 miles southwest of Islamabad. It is open every day to both Muslims and non-Muslims. The cost of admission is Rs5.00. Web: www.tourism.gov.pk (official tourism website of Karachi)
While Karachi has historically been an important hub of Muslim trade in the Arabian Sea, it never rose to particular religious prominence in the old Mughal Empire, and therefore lacks the truly great monuments and mosques that are to be found in such places as Lahore and Agra. However, the city is known for its modern mosques, including the Masjid E Tooba, which served for a time as the national mosque. For more tradition architecture, the Masjid Shah Jahan, built by the Mughal emperor of the same name, is located in the nearby town of Thatta.