A.R.Chughtai and Allama Iqbal


In 1929, Abdur Rahman Chughtai the famous artist of the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent published his masterpiece “Muraqqa-i-Chughtai”—illustrated Diwan Ghalib. Allama Iqbal contributed a foreword to the book and praised the work as “a unique enterprise in modern Indian painting and printing”.


Iqbal said that he looked upon art at subservient to life and personality. He recalled that he had expressed this view in Asrar-e-Khudi in 1914, and in Zobur-i-Azem in 1926. In these works Iqbal had tried to picture the soul-movement of the idea with whom Love reveals itself as a unity of Beauty and Power. Iqbal laid down the criterion:


Beauty without power it mere wizardry;
Beauty with power Is apostolic.


Iqbal observed that judged by this criterion some of the more recent paintings of Mr. Chughtai were remarkable.

Iqbal told: “The spiritual health of a people largely depends on the kind of Inspiration which their poets and artists receive. But inspiration is not a matter of choice. It is a gift, the character of which cannot be critically judged by the recipient before accepting it. It comes to the individual unsolicited and only to socialise itself. For this reason the personality that receives, and the life quality of that which is received, are matter of the utmost importance for mankind. The Inspiration of a single decadent, if his art can lure his fellows to his song or picture, may prove more ruinous to people than whole battalions of Attila or a Changer…….To permit the visible to shape the Invisible, to seek what it scientifically called adjustment with nature is to recognise her mastery over the spirit of man. Power comes from resisting her stimuli, and not from exposing ourselves to their action. Resistance of what is with a view to creating what ought to be. is health and life. All else Is decay and death. Both God and man live by perpetual creation.”


Iqbal observed that the artist who was a blessing to mankind defied life. He was an associate of God and felt the contact of Time and Eternity In his soul. Iqbal quoted Fichte according to whom the artist sees all Nature full, large and abundant as opposed to him who sees all things thinner, smaller and emptier than they actually are.


About nature and art, Iqbal said: “The modern age seeks inspiration from Nature. But Nature simply ‘Is’ and her function is mainly to obstruct our search for ‘Ought’ which the artist must discover within the deeps of his own being.”


About art in Islam, Iqbal expressed the view that his belief was that with the exception of architecture the art of Islam such as music and painting was yet to be born, the art, that was to say, which aimed at the human assimilation of divine attributes and gave man Infinite inspiration and finally won for him the status of God’s Representative on earth.  Iqbal paid a tribute to Abdur Rahman Chughtai in the following terms:
“There are indications to show that the young artist of the Punjab is already on the way to feel his responsibility as artist. He is only twenty nine yet. What his art will become when he reaches the mature age of forty, the future alone will disclose. Meanwhile all those who are interested in his work will watch his forward movement.”



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