Katib I Kun Fa Yakun

Haji Din Muhammad Lahori

The Calligrapher



Dr. Muhammad Iqbal Bhutta



ery 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 and remained 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 Muammad was one among them, who also held the title of Ra’is-al-khaṭṭāṭīn.[3]

The expertise of Ḥājī Dīn Muammad in both the Naskh and Nasta‘līq scripts was up to the mark. Ḥājī Dīn Muammad was a follower of saint Mian Sher Muhammad of Sharqpur who himself was an eminent Calligrapher of high class. The Son of Ḥājī Dīn Muammad named Ghulām Muammad was a good artist, calligrapher, engraver, sangsāz and also a block-maker. He died at an early age. Due to hi sudden death, Dīn Muammad 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 Muammad 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 ijāz. 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 الدجا بجمالہ۔ خسنت جمع خسالہ۔ صلواعلیہ والہ۔

The number of specimens of his calligraphy can be seen in and around Lahore with different families who had an interest in the Art of Calligraphy. One specimen of his calligraphy was Dīn Muḥammadi Press, Bull Road Lahore which after the demolition of the concerned buildings, has now disappeared. It was in Nasta‘līq and ñughrā styles in bold at least with a qalam (pen) of 12 inches wide. Once upon a time Malik Dīn Muḥammadowner of Dīn Muḥammadi Press wanted to proceed to an anniversary procession of Saint Ṣābir Piyā of Kalyar Sharif in India. He required calligraphy of an introduction of a book consisting of 48 pages which were to be distributed to the participants of the same procession. The same book was written out by Ḥājī Dīn Muḥammad in a night under the light of a lamp and handed over it to Malik Dīn Muḥammad[12] as he was considered a zūd navīs (fast scribe) he had also written in Urdu کرنال شاپ Karnal Shop in new Anarkali which was very much appreciated by his contemporary calligraphers. The Urdu letter pe پ of Karnal Shop measured some 35 feet long and about 18 feet wide.[13] A residential area inside Delhi gate was also named after his name and till to day is called “Kūchā Munshī Dīn Muḥammad.” In the Art of Calligraphy Dīn Muḥammad was a disciple of Ḥāfi Nūr Ullah[14] and Munshī ‘Abdul Ghanī Nathū a renowned kātib of Lahore.[15] He followed the style of Nathū Kātib in Nasta‘līq for writing several cenotaphs’ and a number of titles of various books he was famous for bold calligraphy in a minimum space. This great Calligrapher died in 1971 at the age of 92 at Lahore and buried in the graveyard of Miani Sahib.[16] The author was fortunate to meet him in 1970 when he was breathing his last days.    



Notes and References

 [1] Muhammad Iqbal Bhutta, “Iqbal – The Connoisseur of Calligraphy,” Iqbal Review, 40:3 October, 1996 Iqbal Academy Pakistan, Lahore, p.77

[2] Muhammad Iqbal Bhutta, “Khaṭṭaṭī ke Froogh Mein Lahore Kā Ḥiṣṣa”, Ph. D thesis, History Department Punjab University, 1998. P. 144

[3] Ali Ahmed, “Lahore kē Khaṭṭāṭ”, Nuqush, Lahore No, Idra Faroogh i Urdu, Urdu Bazar Lahore, 1992, P.

[4] Muhammad Ikram al-Haq, Dabistan i Khattati, Aiwan-e-Kahttatan-e-Pakistan, Lahore 1976. P. 6.

[5] Abdullah Malik, Tahrik i Pakistan, Lahore 1976. P.396.

[6] Syed Tahir Ali Rizvi, “Ḥājī Din Muhammad Khusnavis”, in Daily Mashriq, 7th August, 1971.

[7] See item under Accession No.1977-542 (Documents Section), Allama Iqbal Museum Lahore.

[8] Javed Iqbal, Zinda Rud, Vol. III, Sh. Ghulam Ali & Sons, Lahore, 1984, P. 298.

[9] Syed Tahir Ali Rizwi, op. cit.


[11] Ibid.

[12] Muhammad Iqbal Bhutta. op. cit. P.145

[13] Ali Ahmed op. cit.

[14] Hafiz Noor Ullah who has introduced the Lahori style of Nastaliq in Lacknow with Qazi Naimat ullah Sahri.

[15] Syed Ikram-al-Haq. op. cit. P6

[16] Muhammad Iqbal Bhutta, op. cit. P.145