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.

  • جمی فار لیفٹ والا

    I studied in the system and role of Jinnah’s wife, either in the movement or otherwise, is not at all included in history or Pakistan studies books under curriculum. May be when you study Pakistan Studies at masters level one would be exposed to the facts that Ratti was renamed Maryam before marriage. Jinnah was an englishman as we know it and every person in my family knows that he was not very good with the urdu language. To your surprise, all of them studied normal Pakistan Studies and no tainted version. Recommend

  • 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

  • goggi (Lahore)

    Our sacred mother, our beloved land was chopped into pieces, millions of our brothers and sisters killed, raped and displaced and a deadly hatred was sown between people who had lived together since millennia! This pathetic and evil hero of Pakistan is mainly responsible for all these terrible events and genocides. His only daughter was the first to slap him on his face by marrying a Parsi man and converting back to the religion of her mother.Recommend

  • Farhan Khan

    Hah! We are never told about his family in our textbooks.
    Always knew the true names of both wives though (courtesy, social media).Recommend

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

    The point being?

    Jinnah was one of those in-between people one encounters, stuck between early preference for a westernized, agnostic lifestyle, who later yearns to be more Religious in later part of their lives.
    He did not change Ruttie’s name, but made sure, she converted. She pointed out that Ruttie was a Parsi and Jinnah corrected her that he made sure Ruttie converted.

    Jinnah had very little knowledge of India, unlike Nehru. Since, he didn’t know Urdu well, he had no idea that Urdu is just another dialect of Hindi.

    Why did he do that?

    Because Jinnah, like many Muslims, even today, thought Urdu was a “Muslim language”. Nobody told him Urdu and Hindi are so similar that speakers of both can perfectly understand each other, a reason why even Hindi Cartoons are perfectly understood by Pakistani Children and why Hindi movies are so popular in Pakistan.

    In one stroke, Jinnah made sure Pakistan will always be influenced by its more vibrant India, via Hindi. How could he have predicted Hindi will be streamed into each and every home via TVs and Internet? Lets give him the benefit of doubt in this area.

    Why couldn’t Pakistan influence India? Surely, this is a 2 way street. Pakistanis today don’t own up to their own culture – language(Urdu is alien), customs(Arabic), festivals(Arabic) – Basant is even banned! – , dress(Arabic influenced like Burqa or Hijab), script(Arabic) – Gurmukhi and Shahmukhi is dead. Except the language, everything is Arab/Persian origin.

    Jinnah was no Nehru.Recommend

  • Dipak Mehta

    Jinnah only wanted Pakistan because Gandhiji had selected Nehru as first PM of India. He got his Pakistan when he was dying of TB. Deena Wadia, his daughter refused to come to Pakistan and remained behind in Bombay. Recommend

  • Ily Khan

    The very fact that Mrs Jinnah was buried, rather than left in the Parsi Tower of Silence to be eaten by vultures, is proof enough that she died a Muslim. What is in a name?Recommend

  • Adnan

    Shakir Sir very well written and the historic nikah paper or marriage certificate u refer is amazing as it cleary mentions the nme “Ratan Bai” and not any paki actress named “Maryam Ja JA” Spoof 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

  • Shakir Lakhani

    “Jinnah only wanted Pakistan because Gandhiji had selected Nehru as first PM of India”. Wrong. Gandhi offered the premiership of India to Jinnah, who said, “I cannot be bought”. Jinnah was the one honest, upright leader of pre-partition who could not be purchased. He tried his best to let India remain united, with guaranteed rights for Muslims, but Nehru did not agree. If you want to blame anyone for partition, blame Nehru (not Jinnah).Recommend

  • Yasser Latif Hamdani

    Yes Jinnah was no Nehru. He was not a stay at home son of a rich father. Your ignorance of why Ruttie converted is also striking. Ruttie converted because unless both parties renounced their faith or one party converted to another there was no marriage possible. Jinnah had actually tried to pass a bill getting that condition waived. But it wasn’t. So Ruttie’s conversion was a legal formality. Otherwise she at no point practised Islam and lived as she pleased. Also Jinnah knew Gujurati very well. I suggest you read more about the man before you pollute Pakistani websites with your uninformed and bigoted commentary.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

  • Shakir Lakhani

    Yes, she died a Muslim, but her name was always Rattanbai (Ruttie). We should not allow the distortion of facts. Someone got inserted in Sindhi text books that Mr. Jinnah was born in Jhirruk (Thatta), and to this day, most Sindhi speakers believe he was not born in Karachi. Someone else wrote that he died in Ziarat, not Karachi. This is how history is re-written in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Shakir Lakhani

    This is not criticism, it is pointing out something that should not have been done.Recommend

  • Shakir Lakhani

    I believe this is still the law in Pakistan? A Tableeghi Jamaat member once told me he would start a campaign against the rule that the two have to declare they’re atheists if they want to marry.Recommend

  • Confujxed

    Hope he wnt take Author to be that serious either. Don’t know what the writer wants to prove rather than coming up wd a story which ET Is always on the look for. Wesay bhi ” in The Opinion of those who know him…..” :)Recommend

  • Rohan

    Please read the many research articles on Pakistan trying to Islamise everything and act as if there wasn’t anything non Muslim before 1947 in what is today the land of Pakistan.Erasing non Muslim history and glorifying only Islamic part of it is one of the many ways Pakistan justifies its creation and the 2 nation theory.The whole discourse is surrounded around it and is the root cause of most of not all of its problemsRecommend

  • K.

    I never came across this monstrosity anywhere thankfully. No kind of text. Must be the new ones trickiling in and dats as retard as it gets. One thing I may add….part of energy being put into justifying, with empirical intent indeed, that she already had a Muslim name, and ideally when and how you change the name for marriage … Islam does not necessitate it to shift names after conversion. It’s just a name. People change it to properly reflect it too and assimilate more to a religi-culture. But it ain’t necessary. And quite brutish to do to someone, to have dem negate an entire past life’s ID.

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

    Muslim League named Pakistan the Islamic Republic and passed the Objectives Resolution, which said things like “Sovereignty over the entire universe belongs to Allah Almighty alone and the authority which He has delegated to the state of Pakistan, through its people for being exercised within the limits prescribed by Him is a sacred trust.”

    If a good thing “the most bigoted mullahs” weren’t part of ML. Recommend

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

    You do realize, Jinnah wanted “guaranteed rights” like reservations in all branches of government for Muslims, minorities in India; but, didn’t offer such things to Hindus, who were the minorities in Pakistan. He was alive for an entire year after the creation of Pakistan. Not a word on such guarantees to Hindus.

    We have seen such politicians who say something before and change their principled stance after elections, many times over since 1946.

    Nehru was right to disbelieve Jinnah. Jinnah himself proved this after Pakistan was created.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

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


    I know you get anxious when somebody questions why Jinnah and his League demanded reservations for minorities of India, but never for minorities of Pakistan. That is why you are trying to flip the argument to merits and demerits of CMP.

    Jinnah completely forgot about reservations for minorities in Pakistan. Can such an intelligent, “an ambassador for Hindu-Muslim unity” man forget such an important thing?

    There is no viable reason, is there. Jinnah was asking some impossible things from Nehru, trying to polarize the electorate.
    “Islam was in danger”, “Muslims cannot live with Hindus”.. Why? There are no Constitutional guarantees – read reservations in every department and special privileges. But, when it came to him according the same special privileges and constitutional guarantees to fellow Hindus, he changed the tune to “equality”. Which then he changed it back to “Sharia as the basis of the Constitution” and would have swung back and forth had he lived longer, producing a dearth of completely contrasting quotes arming you and the Right Wingers equally.Recommend

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

    Yes, YLH, not being his assistant at the time is the clincher here!


    “According to Mahommedali Currim Chagla, who was Jinnah’s assistant at the time”

    Having said that, I am always open to new information. If Chagla was not his assistant, doesn’t mean they were mortal enemies and did not ever share a room.

    Jinnah was then a believer. A man who ate Pork once was now admonishing people for it.

    Chagla also recalls another story. Chagla goes on to relate how an old bearded Muslim and his grandson came in, and how the little boy reached out and took and ate a sausage. When Jinnah upbraided Chagla for letting the boy go to eternal damnation by consuming haram food, Chagla replied that the alternative would have been Jinnah’s political death.

    Nehru attended Indira’s marriage and did not address her as Mrs. Gandhi from there on. From what I have read, Jinnah started addressing his daughter as Mrs. Wadia.

    I don’t understand why its so tragic to see a feminist(self-proclaimed as opposed to universally recognized? What nonsense YLH) here. Are you trying to paraphrase Jinnah’s reasoning to Dina for marrying a non-Muslim?

    “there are millions of websites in India, is this website the only one you were waiting for”

    Looks like someone is afraid of opposing views..Recommend

  • Dimitri Stochos

    His daughter was a genius. Recommend

  • Dimitri Stochos

    Pakistan will soon be split into 4 nation; the center cannot holdRecommend

  • Dimitri Stochos

    Jinnah started Love Jihad!Recommend

  • Yasser Latif Hamdani

    Once again you are wrong. Jinnah appointed a Hindu as the first law minister and two Hindus as part of a four member constitution making committee. He was ready to give the same deal to minorities in Pakistan. As for Islam in danger or Muslims cannot live with Hindus… these are statements from your imagination based on a deliberate misinterpretation. Saying that Hindus and Muslims could not be fused together as one nation doesnt mean they could not coexist. The Lahore resolution clearly spoke of Hindus and other minorities in Pakistan and Muslims in India. I suggest you open your mind. Read H M Seervai’s Partition of India Legend and Reality to understand the complex politics at play. I can understand why you are so anxious to find exculpatory evidence for Nehru. You have no way of explaining why he rejected the Cabinet Mission Plan. Recommend

  • Yasser Latif Hamdani

    Still trying to defend Nehru the stay at home son by attacking Jinnah.

    Fyi Jinnah sent flowers to Dina on her wedding. Did not disown her. Nor did he admonish anyone for eating pork. You obviously have poor English comprehension to misunderstand Chagla’s story in this fashion. Jinnah did not upbraid Chagla for eternal damnation. Eternal damnation was the term Chagla used in jest in his reply to Jinnah when he asked why Chagla didn’t warn the boy that these were pork sausages. The pork sausages consumed by the boy were ordered by Jinnah himself. Read the story again without blinkers on. To say that he was admonishing people for eating pork shows that you haven’t understood what Chagla wrote.

    Read his book Roses in December some time. You will see that he was not on good terms with Jinnah during the period you quote him as having been his assistant. Recommend

  • Rohan

    You should be last one to talk about bigotry and first one to read history and just a tip don’t read the pakistan studies books ,it will make you a cocktail of osama and hafez saeedRecommend

  • Yasser Latif Hamdani

    As for the little quip about feminist and what not here is how I would paraphrase that imaginary quote for you:

    “Millions of rapes and lynchings in India and yet you have to find your causes in Pakistan?” Recommend

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

    Looks like I’ve touched a raw nerve. I’m sorry YLH.

    People actually can ask questions and point out anamalies in your argument. If you don’t like it better stick to pth. 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

  • Asif

    A nation whose majority of it’s population are Muslims, I seriously don’t see any problem with having a religiously inspired Constitution. Actions speak louder than words. Secularism didn’t prevent the rise of Hitler nor the rise of Modi and BJP in India who are Muslim haters (in the description of very liberal and secular western academics, journalists and intellectuals) with a false veil of secularism. Gujrat riots orchestrated under Modis ministership and BJP government had 10 times as many victims as Mumbai attacks(which I wholeheartedly condemn) and these riots were targeted against Muslims. And this is one of many incidents. Narrate one incident of violence against non Muslims at this scale in Pakistan.
    Again actions speak louder than words!Recommend

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

    2 problems.

    Jinnah had said taken umbrage to gandhis usage of ram rajya. Quite hypocritical for ML to go one step ahead and make Pakistan an Islamic country.

    Second, he had said minorities in India should get reservations in all sectors but offered no such things himself in Pakistan. Hypocrisy written all over.

    There is no evidence modi conducted riots. It was Muslims of godra who are responsible who burnt down a train. If Jinnah is not responsible for direct action riots, why should bip be?Recommend

  • bee

    Jinnah was afraid he would have to give up his legislative seat (won under Muslim reservation), if he renounced Islam. So, in a supreme act of opportunism, he had Ruttie renounce hers. The fool did not pause to wonder why her ‘secular’, ‘honest’ husband simply didn’t do the right thing (fight elections as a secular, non-religious person) , instead of an expedient one.Recommend