Jinnah utilized all his energies on revitalizing the League. With the assistance of the Raja of Mahmudabad, a dedicated adherent of the Muslim League, the Lucknow Session was a grand demonstration of the will of the Muslims of India to stand up to the Congress challenge.
Jinnah travelled by rail from Bombay, and as his train steamed into Kanpur Central Station “a vast crowd of Muslims mobbed his compartment,” Jamil-ud-din Ahmad recalled:
‘So exuberant was their enthusiasm and so fiery their determination to resist Hindu aggression that Mr. Jinnah , otherwise calm and imperturbable was visibly moved His face wore a look of grim determination coupled with satisfaction that his people were aroused at last. He spoke a few soothing words to pacify their inflamed passions. Many Muslims, overcome by emotion, wept tears of joy to see their leader who, they felt sure, would deliver them from their bondage’.
He arrived in Lucknow on October 3, 1937, where twenty years before he had acted as a true Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity, heralding a bright era of Hindu-Muslim unity that lasted a little longer than World War I. Jinnah’s speech at that historic session gave a resounding reply to the Congress policies and exposed the anti-Muslim acts of the Congress ministries.
Jinnah began, addressing the estimated 5,000 Muslims from every province of India:
“This Session of the All-India Muslim League is one of the most critical that has ever taken place during its existence. The present leadership of the Congress, especially during the last 10 years, has been responsible for alienating the Muslims of India more and more, by pursuing a policy which is exclusively Hindu; they are in a majority, they have by their words, deeds and program shown, more and more, the Muslims cannot expect any justice or fair play at their hands. Wherever they were in a majority and wherever it suited them, they refused to co-operate with the Muslim League parties and demanded unconditional surrender and signing of their pledges.
To the Muslims of India in every province, in every district, in every tehsil, in every town, I say: your foremost duty is to formulate a constructive and ameliorative program of work for the people’s welfare, and to devise ways and means for the social, economic and political uplift of the Muslims Organize yourselves, establish your solidarity and complete unity. Equip yourselves as trained and disciplined soldiers. Create the feeling of an esprit de corps, and the cause of your people and your country. No individual or people can achieve anything without industry, suffering and sacrifice. There are forces that may bully you, tyrannize over you and intimidate you, and you may even have to suffer. But it is going through this crucible of the fire of persecution which may be leveled against you, the tyranny that may be exercised, the threats and intimidations that may unnerve you – it is by resisting, by overcoming, by facing these disadvantages, hardships and suffering, and maintaining your true glory and history, and will live to make its future history greater and glorious not only in India, but in the annals of the world. Eighty millions of Muslims in India have nothing to fear. They have their destiny in their hands, and as a well-knit, solid, organized, united force can face any danger, and withstand any opposition to its united front and wishes. There is a magic power in your hands. Take your vital decisions – they may be grave and momentous and far-reaching in their consequences. Think a hundred times before you take any decision, but once a decision is taken, stand by it as one man.”
It was at the Lucknow Session that Jinnah persuaded Sir Sikander Hayat Khan to join the Muslim League along with his Muslim colleagues. That development later became famous as the Jinnah-Sikander Pact.
This Session marked a dramatic change not only in the League’s platform and political position, but also in Jinnah’s personal commitment and final goal. He changed his attire, shedding the Seville Row suit in which he had arrived for a black Punjabi sherwani long coat. It was for the first time he put on the compact cap, which would soon be known throughout the world as “Jinnah cap”. It was at that session that the title of Quaid-i-Azam (the great leader) was used for Jinnah and which soon gained such currency and popularity that it almost became a substitute for his name.
The great success was achieved the organization front of the Muslim league. Within three months of the Lucknow session over 170 new branches of the League had been formed, 90 of them in the United Provinces, and it claimed to have enlisted 100,000 new members in the province alone.
Allama Iqbal in last years of his life was a pillar of strength to Jinnah. He was an influential man and his poetry had made a place for itself in the hearts and minds of the people of India and abroad and had a special appeal for the Muslims. He was not an active, practical politician, but he could not remain indifferent to the Muslim majority provinces. In his letter of 28 May, 1937 he wrote to Jinnah to concentrate on Muslim majority provinces. He recognized in Jinnah the man chosen to lead the Muslims. “You are the only Muslim in India today to whom the community has a right to look up for safe guidance through the storm which is coming to North-West India, and perhaps the whole of India.”