Dabistan-i-Iqbal recently began putting out content on YouTube and increased their presence on social media. The idea, according to its founder curator, is to bring Iqbal’s true philosophy before the public, which may “not be possible on official and conventional forums”
Anyone using internet must have come across Dr Allama Muhammad Iqbal’s poetry on various websites and social media forums. Unfortunately, you also often find verses that are wrongly attributed to Iqbal. In order to counter any incorrect or fake attribution, Dabistan-i-Iqbal recently began putting out content on the web. As a result, we got an active and authentic source where verified information about all aspects of Iqbal’s personal life, ambitions and works is available.
Going digital is a wise move on the part of the managers of Dabistan-i-Iqbal, an inspiring little haven for lovers of Iqbal’s poetry, located in Gulberg II, Lahore. Since its creation in 2012, the place has served multiple roles: it is a centre for Iqbal studies, a history museum, a lecture hall, a forum for seminars, and a publishing house. Besides, classes are offered in Persian language and calligraphy. Iqbal Salahuddin, the Sha’ir-i- Mashriq’s grandson and the younger brother of Yousaf Salahuddin, is the founder curator.
Dabistan-i-Iqbal’s stated mission is “to explore and discover Iqbal’s view of a modern Muslim state as well as that of the changing world. To bring the treasury and wealth of Allama’s work into the grasp of the ordinary people for whom his work was originally intended and to convey the message and ideas of Allama Iqbal in its purity and an easy to understand approach.”
The place is open to public, Monday through Friday, from 9 in the morning to 6 in the evening. Over the years since its formal inauguration by Justice Dr Javid Iqbal, the centre has attracted scholars and visitors from around the world. Covid-19 forced the managers to think viable alternatives to physical space. Next, they created a channel on YouTube, and began putting out all information and material there. Their website offers an index of Iqbal’s poetry. They are also increasing their presence on social media. Their Facebook page has already earned them more than 60,000 likes.
According to Iqbal Salahuddin, the online channels afford them the freedom to “bring Iqbal’s true and complete philosophy before the public, which is unfortunately not quite possible on official and conventional forums.”
He laments the fact that Iqbal’s thoughts have never been promoted in their true spirit on conventional media. The reason, according to him, is that Iqbal spared no institution from criticism in his poetry, be it the clergy or imperialism or khanqah, to name a few.
He remembers how once he picked two Persian ghazals by Iqbal for composition, for Sha’ir-i-Mashriq’s birth-anniversary special show on a TV channel. “Interestingly, when the programme was aired, the makers edited out a part of poetry. Perhaps, they deemed it too revolutionary.”
He also recalls Wasif Ali Wasif as saying, “Fatwa [the edict] was against Iqbal but fitrat [nature] was always on his side.”
Since its creation in 2012, Dabistan-i-Iqbal has served multiple roles: It is a centre for Iqbal studies, a history museum, a lecture hall, a forum for seminars, and a publishing house, managed by the immediate family of Iqbal.
Dabistan-i-Iqbal’s interior resembles an art gallery. It is aesthetically done, with illustrations of Allama’s poetry, his rare pictures and articles of personal use, vintage photographs depicting the Pakistan Movement, and the pieces of traditional calligraphy.
Entering the building you cannot help lose yourself in nostalgia for things past — it’s almost as if you were transported into the pre-Partition days of India.
Some manuscripts of Iqbal are also preserved here. The walls depict Iqbal’s poetry, especially Asrar-i-Khudi (the secrets of self).
The staff at Dabistan-i-Iqbal is very cooperative and guides the visitors along the gallery with warmth and hospitality.
The focus isn’t always on the past, though. Topics like the present crisis faced by Pakistan, what Iqbal would think if he were alive, and current challenges to the Islamic world are also discussed here.
In response to a query, the founder curator of Dabistan-i-Iqbal says that the youth cannot be expected to comprehend Iqbal after their elders failed to do so. There are a number of institutes working under the government but unfortunately they have not been able to influence the youth in this regard.
“The message of Iqbal is for all times,” he adds.
According to a family source, Iqbal left some works of crucial importance incomplete. Besides, he wished to write on Quran’s vision of a welfare state and the evolution of ijtihad (the exercising of discretionary judgment in order to deduce a law or rule of conduct which is not self-evident in the scriptural sources). The centre aspires to undertaking the unfinished work.
“Iqbal’s poetry should be read side by side with his prose to understand his philosophy,” says Salahuddin. “His prose work, titled The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, should be given equal importance with Kulliyat-i-Iqbal (complete poetic works). The old traditions should be moulded with modern thinking to solve the latest problems in today’s culture.”
The instructors at Dabistan-i-Iqbal also visit other educational institutes and gatherings to propagate Iqbal’s message. Workshops on relevant topics are also held.
A niche TV channel is also on the cards.
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