If Jinnah never asked Ruttie to change her name to Maryam, why did you, Pakistan?

Published: May 19, 2017

Rattanbai "Ruttie" Petit.

Those of us who were born before Partition know that Muhammad Ali Jinnah could not speak Urdu, except perhaps a few broken sentences. His speeches were always in English, sometimes with a translator to make the crowds understand what he was saying. But sometime in the 1980s, the government dubbed all his speeches in Urdu, apparently under pressure from those who thought a highly westernised Jinnah would make today’s youth doubt that he wanted an Islamic state.

One result of this is that an entire generation of Pakistanis have grown up believing that Jinnah was fluent in Urdu, and always dressed in a sherwani instead of the western clothes he always wore. Even our currency notes show him wearing a sherwani, which he donned on very few occasions after independence.

This is, of course, all due to the fear among the so-called defenders of the country’s ideology that somehow our people will stop believing that the country’s founder looked, dressed and spoke like an Englishman. Of course, these same defenders of the country’s ideology belong to those religious parties which strenuously opposed the creation of Pakistan and even used to call Mr Jinnah ‘Kafir e Azam’. Fortunately, Mr Jinnah was always clean-shaven, but that will not deter these elements from pasting a beard on his photos anytime soon, seeing how rapidly the country’s youth is being radicalised.

But these hardliners were not satisfied with just changing the image of the country’s founder. They saw that his wife, Ruttie Jinnah, was highly westernised as well. Hence they thought of making her appear as a pious Muslim and the first thing they did was change her name to Maryam.

This was supposed to have happened after her conversion to Islam at the time of her marriage to Jinnah. They thought if young people today knew that Jinnah did not get his wife’s name changed to a Muslim name at the time of their marriage, they would think he could not have been a staunch Muslim. So they got this piece of disinformation (about Ruttie’s name being changed to Maryam) inserted in Wikipedia and our school textbooks, again making a whole generation of Pakistanis believing another lie.

Ruttie Jinnah. Photo: AFP

For those who may not know, the name change has to be done before marriage, so that the new name is recorded in the marriage documents. In the 1960s, a Muslim woman married the scion of a well-known Hindu family in Karachi. Before the marriage was solemnised, the man was converted and given a Muslim name, after which the nikkah was performed. In Ruttie’s case, this was not necessary because her name (meaning jewel) was common amongst Gujrati Muslims of those times.

Marriage certificate. Photo: Raheelq WordPress

But apparently, our ideologues did not know this, and decided to give her what they thought was a good Muslim name. And because she already had a Muslim name, Mr Jinnah did not think it necessary to ask her to change her name when he married her. Which is why in his marriage certificate, the name of the bride is stated to be Ratanbai.

For the record, this changing of Ruttie’s name has not been mentioned in any newspaper or periodical published at the time, neither has it been verified or authenticated by any credible source. Moreover, she always signed her letters “Ruttie”, and in one of her letters which she wrote to Jinnah four months before her death, she ends with the words,

“Darling goodnight and goodbye. Ruttie”

Ruttie’s letter to Jinnah. Photo: Miraqsam WordPress

Finally, the most authentic piece of evidence that Ruttie did not change her name is her tombstone, which has the name Ratanbai engraved on it. Jinnah frequently visited her grave and the last time he did so was just before the Partition (19 years after her death). Surely he would have gotten the name on the tombstone changed to Maryam if that was her name. The fact that he did not do so proves that there was no change of name, and his wife lived and died as Ruttie Jinnah.

Ruttie Jinnah’s tombstone. Photo: Defence.pk

Shakir Lakhani

Shakir Lakhani

Engineer, former visiting lecturer at NED Engineering College, industrialist, associated with petroleum/chemical industries for many years. Loves writing, and (in the opinion of most of those who know him), mentally unbalanced. He tweets @shakirlakhani (twitter.com/shakirlakhani)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • MAST

    Shakir – Please Strongly disagree with you on your first sentence that Translating Quaid’s speeches into Urdu was meant to create doubts in the minds of youth that Quaid wanted Islamic state.
    I have heard Quaid English speech and can bring that forward where Quaid explained his vision of creating Pakistan based upon Islamic Socialism and no other isms.
    Kind regards,Recommend

  • Rohan

    It is because of the bigoted 2 nation theory that fuels such activitiesRecommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    It was much more than just Islamic Socialism. He wanted an Islamic state with Sharia as the basis of the Constitution.

    “When we say ‘This flag is the flag of Islam’ they think we are introducing religion into politics – a fact of which we are proud” (Gaya Muslim League Conference, January 1938); categorically stating that Pakistan would be an Islamic state, “(Pakistan) will be an Islamic state on the pattern of the Medina state…” Muslim League session Allahabad, 1942); showcasing a state which would be governed by Islamic laws, “The Muslims demand Pakistan where they could rule according to their own code of life and according to their own cultural growth, traditions, and Islamic Laws” (Frontier Muslim League Conference November 21, 1945) and portraying Pakistan as “the Premier Islamic State” (February 1948).


    He has also said he wants equality for minorities. Jinnah is very confusing and changed stance based on the audience. Recommend

  • Ali

    I hear and read lots of irrelevant topic but why express tribune mostly criticize on Pakistan history and their relevant things.Recommend

  • SuccumbingToSanity

    I hope you do not take state-sanctioned “Pakistan Studies” to be 100% truth….Recommend

  • Yasser Latif Hamdani

    The two nation theory merely stated that Muslims were a nation not a minority. To blame everything on it is ridiculous especially since the most bigoted Mullahs were in any event opposed to it.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    Mahommedali Currim Chagla, who was Jinnah’s assistant at the time, writes in his autobiography Roses in December:

    “Jinnah asked Dina ‘there are millions of Muslim boys in India, is he the only one you were waiting for?’ and Dina replied, ‘there were millions of Muslim girls in India, why did you marry my mother then?’”

    Being a feminist, I’ve seen this far too often. The woman converts to please the man. Man turns out, he never would have.

    Him knowing Gujarati has no bearing on my argument. I don’t know why a fanboy would even say it. It is to show people who read Jinnah was as Indian as Nehru, wasn’t it. Yes, YLH, Jinnah was an Indian and knew an Indian language. Happy?

    He imposed a entire new language on 58% of the people of Pakistan! He inadvertently created Bangladesh. A language he didn’t know he imposed on a people he didn’t care about.Recommend

  • Yasser Latif Hamdani

    Actually Chagla was not Jinnah’s assistant when Dina decided to marry Neville. He had left Jinnah’s chambers in 1929. Jinnah’s objection to Dina’s wedding was political. The same objection Nehru had to Indira marrying Feroz and the same objection Gandhi had to his son’s conversion to Islam. It was politically inconvenient. These men were politicians. It is tragic to see a self proclaimed feminist like you so invested in trolling Pakistani websites.Recommend

  • Yasser Latif Hamdani

    Now I see. Your real anxiety is to prove that Nehru was right in rejecting the cabinet mission plan. Ah well. Keep going in circles.Recommend

  • Yasser Latif Hamdani

    Aww. Trying to beat a retreat are we ? Try arguing logically and with facts. To point out anomalies you need to learn to spell it first. Recommend

  • sam

    I agree with the writer.
    The facts should not be distorted to get the solution of our choice. lol
    Whatever happened in the past we should tell as it is to our children and everybody no matter what was the result of the situation.
    That is how we all will learn.Recommend

  • Asif

    Ignoring all the partisan emotional outbursts and narrow minded language, the response to you is to spend more effort reading history and recognizing the bias of Congress and it’s leaders like Nehru and their neglect for Muslims of India is why millions rallied behind the Muslim league. If it weren’t for Jinnah we’d either have a united India gripped in civil war or at least massive disorder, or a fascist Hindu nationalist government (the second one was achieved anyway in 2014 elections). Jinnah prevented massive suffering for both nations, and the current social, caste based, religious etc unrest and inequality in India should be clear indicators to you. You have not been able to control Kashmir for decades and you think controlling millions of upset current day Pakistanis and Bengalis would’ve been possible for you.
    Grow out of your childish visions and worldviews!Recommend