Revisiting Iqbal Museum

The ever-grateful nation is celebrating yet another birth anniversary of great thinker and poet Dr Muhammad Iqbal on November 9, 2017 to homage to him for his great services in the creation of Pakistan. He had awakened the Muslims of the sub-continent and more importantly and significantly he had presented the concept of a separate homeland for the Muslims where they could lead their lives according to their religious tenets and be socially and economically free from Hindu subjugation. This concept was translated into reality by Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah through his inspiring leadership and statesmanship.

As per his concept, Pakistan had come into existence on August 14, 1947 but Allama Iqbal had not lived to breathe in a free homeland and had expired about nine years earlier on April 21, 1938 and since then is lying in eternal rest in peace on the right side of the stairs of Badshahi Masjid.

Dr Muhammad Iqbal had breathed his last in Javed Manzil which he had himself got constructed in the name of his younger son Javed Iqbal. Javed Manzil has since been turned into Iqbal Museum housing personal belongings and handwritten manuscripts and lot of other daily use articles.

A visit to the Iqbal Museum on the eve of birth anniversary of the great philosopher and poet turned out to be quite an educative and informative experience.

Dr Iqbal had lived couple of other places in Lahore for varying period prior to getting Javed Manzil constructed and shifting there. According to the information gathered from different sources, Dr Iqbal on his return from Germany had lived in upper storey of of shop of Attar Chand Kapur booksellers in Anarkali, Mcleod Road and also somewhere inside Bhatti Gate between 1906 to1936.

Construction of Javed Manzil and its ownership on Mayo Road at the back of Railways Cairns Hospital makes quite an interesting and illuminating reading in general and particularly for the Iqbaliyat research scholars.

While living at rented premises on Mcleod Road, Allama Iqbal had bought a piece of land in 1934 measuring seven kanals in open auction in Mauza Garhi Shahu in the name of Javed Iqbal at which the house constructed and completed at a cost of Rs 42,025 and had shifted there in May 1935. He had rented three front rooms for his living from his son and the rent agreemnt so written can be seen along with several documents in the museum now. Dr Iqbal was apparently in the habit of putting every transaction in writing and documented these for the posterity to see and learn something.

While living in Javed Manzil for couple of years, Dr Iqbal had many illustrious visitors including Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and his sister Fatima Jinnah in 1936 and Hindus leader Pandit Jawahir Lal Nehru who was also a great admirer of the great poet and thinker.

Within days of shifting to newly-constructed Javed Manzil, Dr Iqbal had suffered a great personal loss when his wife Sardar Begum, mother of Javed Iqbal, expired on May 24, 1935.

Allama Iqbal’s birth on November 9, 1877 to a Kashmiri family in Sialkot was confirmed officially after extensive research by the National Committee for Birth Centenary Celebrations was set up by Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who had also visited the mazar of great thinker and poet on January 1, 1977 to mark inauguration of yearlong centenary celebrations. This very committee had also suggested that the federal government should buy Javed Manzil and turn it into a museum where all personal belongings of Dr Muhammad Iqbal be preserved and displayed for the posterity.

Since then, November 9 continues to be celebrated as birthday of great thinker and poet both nationally and internationally by every succeeding federal government and colourful ceremony of change of guards takes place on this at the mazar of Allama Iqbal besides host of other functions organized officially and otherwise to pay homage and rich tributes to Dr Muhammad Iqbal.

This was done accordingly and Javed Manzil’s possession was taken over by the federal government in December 1977 and turned into Iqbal Museum. It was renovated by some Japanese engineers who had especially visited Lahore for this purpose at the invitation of the federal government and Iqbal Museum was formally inaugurated by President/Chief of Army Staff General Muhammad Ziaul Haq in December 1984. During the fag end of tenure of President/Army Chief General Pervez Musharraf, on his express directions more than 50 articles on display in the newly converted Iqbal Museum were supposedly borrowed and taken to Islamabad and put on display in the newly-established National Monuments Museum there. Some of these borrowed items had since been returned but many still remain unreturned so far somehow.

On the persuasion of General Muhammad Ziaul Haq, Javed Manzil owner Justice (retird) Dr Javed Iqbal had agreed to sell the house as well as all belongings of Allama Muhammad Iqbal to the federal government for turning it into a museum on payment of hefty amount of Rs 3.5 million.

Afterwards, Dr Javed Iqbal had shifted to a bungalow of his choice on the Main Boulevard in Gulberg where he had breathed his last couple of years back.

In one of the room of the bungalow, there is big mural. This is transformation into colours of Allama Iqbal’s poetic collection “Javed Namah” has been done by prominent Pakistani artist Jimmy Engineer at the invitation of Dr Javed Iqbal and completed this challenging task in one year 1980-81 during which he had stayed there as well.

In fact, Dr Iqbal in one of his letters to son Javed Iqbal had stated that in the first instance no artist can transform “Javed Namah” into colours in a mural but whosoever accomplishes this challenging task, he will attain international reputation and fame. Jimmy Engineer takes genuine pride in having accomplished this task which no other local and foreign artist could undertake though several had tried over the years. He regards this one of his major artistic achievement along with Pakistan Movement series of paintings.

To know much more than this little piece about Dr Muhammad Iqbal research scholars should be visiting Iqbal Museum more frequently than now. There is lot to see, to know and learn.


The writer is Lahore-based Freelance Journalist, Columnist and retired Deputy Controller (News) Radio Pakistan, Islamabad.

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