Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A visit to Iqbal Manzil - the birthplace of Allama Iqbal

Sialkot, besides being famous for sports goods of international standard including footballs for World Cup, is also the birthplace of Dr Allama Muhammad Iqbal - a poet philosopher and national poet of Pakistan. It was he who in the early 20th century thought of a separate Muslim country to be carved out of the British India and later entrusted the sacred task to Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who completed Iqbal's dream with the creation of Pakistan on 14 August 1947 as the vast British Indian Empire came to an end.

A few years back I visited Sialkot and met a friend who insisted that I must visit the Iqbal Manzil - the birthplace of Iqbal. But the time was almost midnight and I wondered how would he be able to show us this important and historical landmark of Pakistan. He had it done with a phone call to Mr S Riaz Hussain Naqvi, who is the curator since 1986, and Mr Naqvi obliged us by opening the building, awaking from his sleep, and conducted our tour of the building and various artifacts placed there.

We were told that the building was bought by Sheikh Muhammad Rafiq, Iqbal's grandfather, in February 1861. At that time the house consisted of only three rooms, which have now been converted into a museum. In December 1892, Sheikh Noor Muhammad, Iqbal's father, bought the adjacent house which now forms part of the Iqbal Manzil complex. It was here that Iqbal was born on 9th of November 1877.

After the death of his father, Iqbal's elder brother, Atta Mohammad became the owner of the house. However, after the death of Atta Mohammed, his two sons took up residences in Karachi and Lahore. The Government of Pakistan bought Iqbal Manzil for its restoration in 1971 and handed it over to the Archaeology Department, who aptly accorded it the status of a cultural heritage. After some renovation, Iqbal Manzil was converted into a library-cum-museum. The museum was inaugurated in 1977.The museum consists of a guided tour of some rooms of the mansion, and displays some furniture and other objects used by Allama Iqbal.

 The room where Iqbal was born on 9 November 1877
 The 'pram' used by newly born Iqbal
 Mr Naqvi showing us an old door leading out in the street

 Iqbal's portraits - in the photo on right Ibal is seen holding his son Javed Iqbal
A group photo of Iqbal at the Government College, Lahore (where he studied and later taught as a professor)

Moving up on the first floor on the stairs shown below, we had the opportunity to see the living and dinning rooms of the building.

Iqbal's bed and Hookah he is most often seen in photos like the one below

 The dinning room (above) and the lone surviving plate with a hole to pour hot water to keep the food hot

 The dilapidated cupboard storing some of the personal books of Iqbal
The wooden box for storing utensils - I still have a box like this
 The still functional roof fan
Mr S Riaz Hussain Naqvi - the curator of Iqbal Manzil

Mr Navi since taking charge has been intimately involved in the restoration and rebuilding of this crumbling historic building. But despite his sincere efforts, the building is in poor state of maintenance. Cracks appeared several years ago in almost all the walls of the building. 

The Sialkot district government has repaired the cracked walls of 147-year-old Iqbal Manzil. Now the walls have been repaired and whitewashed, and the second storey of the three-storeyed building has been carpeted. A room of Iqbal Manzil houses a more than 4,000 old books, among them 2,000 are on Iqbaliyat. 

It is planned to build a large library by collecting books, both on and by Iqbal, from all over the world where research could being conducted on the poet and his works. This library has already facilitated 5 students to attain their PhD degree on the works of Iqbal.

However, despite many claims and assurances by the government, the building remains neglected and does not look like a place attributed to a person like Iqbal whom we owe our freedom and present day Pakistan.

Photos Credit: All photos except the head photo of the building have been taken by me - and have also been shared in my website on Pakistan: Pakistanpaedia

Read more about Dr Allama Muhammad Iqbal in my post: Iqbal Day - a dreamer's birthday

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