Very few people know that Allama Iqbal, our National poet was also a great connoisseur of the art of Calligraphy. He himself could write Shikasta style in a good hand. His talent as a calligrapher was overshadowed by his pre-eminence as a poet andremained hidden from the general readership.[1]

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the traditions of Calligraphy were deep rooted in the Punjab especially in Lahore, Sialkot and Gujranwala Districts.[2] During this period learning of Calligraphy by young children was a part of the curriculum of their education. As the result of this process Allama Iqbal appears to have acquired proficiency in Calligraphy. Due to his keen interest in this art he always selected a master Calligrapher for composing his poetic works. The renowned Calligrapher of Lahore Ḥājī Dīn Muḥammad was one among them, who also held the title of Ra’is-al-khaṭṭāṭīn.[3]

The expertise of Ḥājī Dīn Muḥammad in both the Naskh and Nasta‘līq scripts was up to the mark. Ḥājī Dīn Muḥammad was a follower of saint Mian Sher Muhammad of Sharqpur who himself was an eminent Calligrapher of high class. The Son of Ḥājī Dīn Muḥammad named Ghulām Muḥammad was a good artist, calligrapher, engraver, sangsāz and also a block-maker. He died at an early age. Due to hi sudden death, Dīn Muḥammad remained under the spell of melancholy and died.[4]

This artist designed the poster regarding Allama’s election campaign in 1926 from the Shafī‘ League’s platform[5] for the viceroy’s Council. During this campaign, the Calligrapher was required to design the poster in a very short span of time. Dīn Muḥammad was closely associated with Allama Iqbal and was much influenced by latter’ ideas and philosophy.[6]

Iqbal selected him for composing his poetic works after having examined his calligraphic specimens in the form of several epigraphs, cenotaph, epitaph posters, books, etc. On the same occasion Dīn Muḥammad did the calligraphy for Iqbal’s poetry and distributed free of charges to the citizens for infusing the spirit of freedom among the Muslims of South Asia. He had also designed a number of posters of the heroes of the Muslim Ummah.[7]

Ḥājī Dīn Muḥammad was also an enthusiastic supporter of Allama Iqbal. As already stated, in the election for the membership of Punjab Legislative Council in 1926 Ḥājī Dīn Muḥammad himself stated that Sir Shādi Lāl successfully persuaded Malik Muhammad Din to fight this election against Allama Iqbal. A bold and odd size poster was pasted on the walls of Lahore city from the supporting side of Malik Muḥammad Dīn. After seeing this poster of the same size on behalf of the Allama Iqbal’s supporting side. By the very next day Ḥājī Dīn Muḥammad, Calligrapher, had it ready and it was done really very well. He also got it pasted in the whole area of Iqbal’s constituency during the same night. When Allama Iqbal learnt about the quality and promptness of Dīn Muḥammad, he was much impressed and awarded the Calligrapher the title Kātib-i-kun Fayakūn.[8]          کاتب کن فیکون  

Ḥājī Dīn Muḥammad had performed Haj at the age of 23.[9] During the Pilgrimage he visited Egypt, Iran Saudi Arabia where he did calligraphy on a number of Mosques and signboards without charging a single penny for his services. After his return to Lahore, he also did calligraphy for the poetic works of Allama Iqbal.[10]

During his work on Iqbal’s Poetry Ḥājī Dīn Muḥammad always kept in his mind the glorious tradition of Islamic Calligraphy especially in the City of Lahore. He was greatly impressed by Iqbal’s attachment with the Prophet  as expressed in Armaghān i Ḥijāz. Syed ñāhir Rizvī writes:[11]

Occasionally, I contacted Ḥājī Dīn Muḥammad for the Calligraphy of some qiṭ‘āt and ṭughrās. He used to be seated on floor with a cushion. The kashmiri tea was being server to his guests. Kashmiri smāwār was located just near him. He enjoyed reading the poetry of Iqbal in Persian and Urdu and telling the meanings of the Quatrains of Iqbal’s poetry to the audience of the meeting.

Ḥājī Dīn Muḥammad wrote the epigraph on the face stone of Javid Manzil, now Allama Iqbal Museum, Lahore. It reads as:

جاوید منزل 1354ء کتبہ دین محمد

He also did the calligraphy for the tombstone of Allama Iqbal’s mother at Sailkot. Other work of his penmanship are the face stone of which is today the National College of Arts, Lahore in Naskh style it reads:

کسب کمال کن کہ عزیز جہاں شوی

and two Arabic quatrains which are now exhibited in the Faqīr Jalāl-ul-Dīn Collection in the Lahore Museum which read as:

بلغ العلے بکمالہ۔کشف الدجیٰ بجمالہ۔ حسنت جمیع خصالہ۔ صلواعلیہ وآلہ۔

By: Dr. Muhammad Iqbal Bhutta