Just behind the colonial-era building of Government College (University), in Lahore, is a boarding house where famous poet and philosopher Allama Muhammad Iqbal spent five years of his student life.
After reviewing all the available literary and historical references, the college authorities in 2016 discovered this cubical room, which astonishingly is in the same condition as was during the stay of Iqbal, 126 years ago. Historical records suggest that Iqbal had shifted to this room when he arrived in the city from his home town Sialkot in 1895 to pursue studies.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency coinciding the anniversary of the passing away of the famous poet and thinker, Zahir Mehmood, an official, said the room was allotted to students who would get the highest marks. But due to the rush of visitors, it has been now kept vacant.
“We go there to offer our prayers,” he said.
Asghar Zaidi, vice-chancellor of Government College (University), said the room is the most prized possession of his institution.
Also read: Allama Iqbal’s family recalls his legacy
"The room is a symbol of pride as the Allama who dreamed the idea of Pakistan was our student at one time. The room has Allama's desk and bookshelf preserved. There is competition among students trying to get the rooms which are adjacent to this room,” he said.
A decade ago, when the college decided to locate the room of its most prized student, they formed a committee, which got a hand on a letter written by Ghulam Bhik Nairang, which had mentioned the exact location of the room.
Those visiting the college are taken to see the room, which has poems hanging on its walls, written by Iqbal, during his stay in the room. There are books and manuscripts and excerpts of the letter of Nairang that had helped to locate the room. Originally built in 1891 and known as The Quadrangle, the building renamed as Iqbal Hostel, hosts junior students.
Born and raised in Sialkot, Punjab in an ethnic Kashmiri Muslim family, Iqbal completed his graduation and master's at the Government College Lahore. In 1905, he left for further studies in Europe, first to England, where he completed his second graduation at Trinity College, Cambridge and was subsequently called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn, and then to Germany, where he received a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Munich.
After returning, he resided in Lahore throughout his life, where he established a law practice but concentrated on writing scholarly works on politics, economics, history, philosophy, and religion.
Iqbal’s stay in Lahore
Some five-kilometer (three miles) away from the premises of the Government College – the first residence of Iqbal in the city – lies a mansion called Javed Manzil, his last residence till he lost breath on April 21, 1938.
Protected and declared a national monument in 1977, the white single-story mansion has been turned into a museum, with eight galleries hosting original manuscripts, certificates, letters, documents, and personal belongings.
Every day hundreds of students, scholars, and the general public visit the mansion.
Tracing the history of the mansion, Tehreem Babar, an official from the Archeology Department and in charge of the museum, said it was built in 1935 and Iqbal shifted here with his wife Sardar Begum, son Javed Iqbal and daughter Munira.
“Allama Iqbal spent his last three years here, and minutes before his death he composed the final verses "Sarood e Rafta." His son Dr. Justice Javed Iqbal willingly offered the entire collection of Allama's belongings for converting this house into Museum,” she said.
A new building has been added to the premises, that houses the lecture hall. There are often gatherings here to discuss Iqbal’s philosophy, poems, and writings.
She said that Allama Iqbal’s personal belongings i.e., his clothes, passport, watches, and prayer mats are also preserved at the museum. Some of his handwritten letters written during the movement for Pakistan's independence are also on the display.
"We have preserved official letters and some of Allama Iqbal's letters here in the museum for the young generation. Sometimes when I also read them, I think about the thoughts going on in Allama's mind at the time of writing such important things," said Tehreem.
The family of Allama Iqbal also visits the house often and spends time with the visitors.
"I have very fond memories of that place, I was born here and we stayed for almost five to six years before we moved out. My mother also recalls many things about that place. But now as she is getting old some of the memories are fading away. But that house will always be special for our family," said Iqbal Salahuddin, grandson of Allama Iqbal.
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