Remembering a Pioneer: Dr. Muhammad Jinnah

After Fajr this morning, I received the sad news of the passing of Dr. Muhammad Jinnah (he was 88).  To Allah, we belong, and to Him, we must return. I knew Dr. Jinnah from 1979 when I was the Imam of the Jami Mosque. It was an honor to closely interact with him, as he served in various positions at the mosque from treasurer to president. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Mention the good things you know of those who pass away.”  (Reported by Abu Dawud). It is in this spirit, I pen a few words about my dear friend Dr. Jinnah.

Dr. Jinnah came to Canada from South Africa in 1972. In the wake of the increasingly unstable conditions of that time, a large number of South Africans came to Canada, and among them were many Muslims. Deeply religious and imbued with traditional Islamic values, they were committed to Islam and included physicians, entrepreneurs, and professionals, among others. Dr. Jinnah and his family were not only regular attendees at the Jami Mosque but were also active as volunteers. 

In the early 70s, it was the formative phase of the Muslim community. An increasing number of Muslims had just started arriving in Canada as Canada had just started opening its doors for immigrants from non-European countries.

 Jami Mosque, known as the mother of mosques, was the place, new immigrants to Toronto, easily flocked to, as it was the only mosque in the community at that time.  The mosque, therefore, was where new immigrants could relate to each other, cut off as they were from their own familiar traditions, values, and institutions. 

In their new home, Muslims had to reinvent everything from scratch. Many of the services we take for granted today never existed at that time, including funeral services, Islamic classes, camps, etc. It is in this context that the pioneering services of people like Dr. Jinnah and others should be appreciated.

Dr. Jinnah and his wife worked tirelessly to help the community and made countless selfless sacrifices while steering the community through its formative phase.

Dr. Jinnah was a busy physician, and yet he was committed to serving the mosque. He would come early on Fridays and leave late, and would often come in on other weekdays as well to take care of urgent matters.  He was a humble person, for whom serving the mosque was a love affair. 

While he served on the board for many years as president or treasurer, his late wife, Ayesha Jinnah, was a pioneer in organizing the women’s committee.  She initiated various creative ideas to raise funds and foster a spirit of community among the early Muslims. She was also instrumental in organizing funeral services for women/sisters. In this capacity, she trained a team of volunteers from different backgrounds who were always ready and on-call to offer services on short notice.

The whole of the Muslim community owes it to these pioneers like Dr. Jinnah and his wife for their selfless services. The Prophet (peace be upon him said, “Whoever leads the way for establishing a good precedent, he or she will gain a share of the reward on behalf of everyone who follows and builds upon it.” (Reported by Muslim). 

Dr. Jinnah leaves behind two children, Inez and Dr. Rasheed, both of whom grew up with many others (including my own) in the Jami Mosque. I extend to them my deepest condolences. Let us as a community pray in the manner of our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him): “May Allah console your grieving hearts and inspire you to accept His will with patience. And may He shower His mercy and forgiveness on your beloved father.” Ameen.