GOLDEN CHANCE OF A CHUGHTAI ONE MAN SHOW IN LONDON; TIMING SABOTAGED BY THE FOREIGN MINISTRY PAKISTAN 1966.
Field Marshal President Ayub Khan was responsible for inaugurating many exhibitions shows of M.A. Rahman Chughtai. But these were one man shows in Pakistan. The agenda was a one man show in London at the Commonwealth Institute. A large number of original paintings were selected and reservations made in London. The President was supposed to be in London on 24th November, 1966, to host the Queen of England at the Commonwealth institute. Plans were made to coincide the visit with the arrival of the President and to the reception given to Queen Elizabeth. The Foreign Minister did not want the President to get that publicity and managed to change the time table of the show. President received the Queen on 24th November, 1966, while the exhibition was scheduled days later on 11th December, 1966. Just 17 days off the big event.
Chughtai Sahib had cooperated with that event and sent a large number of his paintings to the show. The attendance to the show was of 4545 people. The artist was heavily disappointed, for in his views a place like London would attract millions to an event like that. It was the rivalry between the changed Foreign Minister and the President of Pakistan, and the issues of the Tashkent declaration, which destroyed the importance of this event. In any case the One-Man show was held, but strangely was not even properly reviewed in the English Press. Certainly, politics had enslaved culture at that time. The Art of Chughtai is ever alive. The people who opposed him are no more. A blot on their reputation as cultural people. President Ayub Khan compensated for that by inaugurating a One-man show at Alhamra, Lahore on 30th December, 1968, which is a separate story, and we will deal with it soon.
IN SEARCH OF THE SARCOPHAGUS OF EMPRESS NUR JAHAN; IT IS WRITTEN THAT IT WAS STILL INTACT IN THE YEAR 1892.
It is reputed that Nur Jahan composed the verses “Without frills and feathers” for her sarcophagus and a request was made to Emperor Shah Jahan, who accepted her request. The English translation of same was:
“Man is frail, Allah all powerfulIn submission to His will lies theHigh road to Heaven.When I die, hark.On my lowly grave there will neither beFlower nor an earthen lamp.Neither wil there be heard the love song ofThe Cuckoo, nor the yearnings of the moth,To sacrifice itself in fire.”
Nothing more is known. The only reference of the past that is available, comes from the “Travels in India” of Captain Leopold Von Orlich in 1845. He says:
“It is related in the Khafi Khan, that from the day of her husband’s death, she never put on a coloured dress, but always wore white. She died in 1646, and the tomb which she erected for herself next to that of her husband now lies entirely in ruin. ONLY THE MARBLE SARCOPHAGUS IS PRESERVED; and the beautifully vaulted rooms are now the abode of cows and oxen.”
This means that the sarcophagus was there in 1846. In 1892 the writer Muhammed Lateef informs us that the chaste sarcophagus with ninety-nine names of Allah had been removed. Why and how not stated at all? The writer Abdullah Qureshi tells us of the remnant of a brick grave in the basement of the maqbara in 1899. He also tells us that the whole was used by villagers as a latrine and it stinks to unbearable levels.
The theory is that a sarcophagus was found in the compound of Asif Khan’s maqbara and put there in the verandah in 1907. It was considered desirable to associate it with Asif Khan, although the whole size of the same does not match with that of the structure of Asif khan. It is too small to be that of Nawab Asif Khan. Read our previous blog on the same subject for analysis. Is it possible that this is the sarcophagus of Empress Nur Jahan?
THE START OF A MUSLIM RENAISANCE IN THE REGIONAL ARTS; ICONIC ORIGINAL LETTERHEAD OF M.A. RAHMAN CHUGHTAI.
The vision of M.A. Rahman Chughtai was design conscious all the time. In an era where the art world was dominated by Hindu influence, he had to make his mark as a Muslim artist. This is a design which was used as his letterhead in the early 1920s or by the time he had resigned from the Mayo School of Art. He wove his design on the basis of a lady reading the Holy Quran. The dome in front of the lady was a calligraphy designed by the artist but written actually by a famous calligrapher of Lahore, attached to the Masjid Wazeer Khan Lahore. Most people confused it as a Quranic reference instead of seeing it as a name and address only.
This vision asserted his role as the Muslim renaissance of the arts in the region. The letterhead changed many times in his life time but is still used on the letterhead of Chughtai Museum. It has an immortal twist to it and it does not go away from our vision and record. Allah bless the sacred soul of the artist!
Queen Elizabeth has a great fondness for collecting art. The Queen’s collection is world famous for both its depth and content. In a visit to Pakistan, the Queen saw some paintings of M.A. Rahman Chughtai at Governor’s House Lahore. She was deeply interested and desired to meet the artist. As the artist was not available (explain later), she got a choice of some paintings, selected one and bought it. The work was entitled SPRING and it was delivered to the British High Commissioner Pakistan. We attach a report of the Civil and Military Gazette Lahore.
Later M.A. Rahman Chughtai not only presented five etchings of his to the Queen, he also sent her a copy of the famous book AMAL-E-CHUGHTAI. The Queen was gracious in acknowledging all this with her thanks. When M.A. Rahman Chughtai died on 17th January, 1975, Queen Elizabeth was one of the many Heads of State who condoled his death with us. Chughtai Museum too presented a painting to her namely THE TUTOR and it was given to the British Ambassador Laurence Pumphrey, and a ROYAL AIR FORCE PLANE took it to the Queen in England.
The Art of M.A. Rahman Chughtai shortened distances between various countries and Pakistan, and brought good will for Pakistan. A tradition present Government know not how to recognize and utilize this good will in favour of a progressive and strong Pakistan.
A MUSLIM PALACE IN SICILY MADE FOR KING WILLIAM II; POPULARLY KNOWN AS “CUBA” ACTUALLY KUBBEH CASTLE.
Palermo Sicily the island has a history of 2700 years. From 831 to 1072 it was under Muslim rule, and it can be noted that the effects of Islamic aesthetics lasted centuries even after the end of Muslim rule. It was conquered by the Normans who ruled from 1130 to 1816, but had a treaty with the Arab Muslims not to interfere in their way of life. And nothing happened. However, the Islamic aesthetics swept the Norman Kings too through art, architecture, and even the lingual script. We find residues in the Palermo Quran, the Quranic inscription at the gate of the Cathedral, and host of Islamic related things, like coins, inscriptions, even wardrobe of the Normans. The visual impact of Islam is easy to discern in the area.
Jeremy Johns the great researcher discovered many things. He also uncovered that in the wardrobe of King William II, there are three notes written on the costume itself, testifying the name of the three Arabs who stitched the same. Those were Mukhr Muhammed (or Mahmud), Ali Maliti, and Marzuq, at the guidance of the eunuch Tumas (Gaytus Thomas) of the Royal Diwan. The clothing itself has Islamic perspective.
Many palaces in Palermo have Islamic architecture with Kufi inscriptions, including Cursive writing. Built in 1180 by King William II of Sicily from Arab architects still living in Sicily from older times and well versed in Islamic architecture. Decorated with inscriptions in Kufi script even on the top of the palace. Various other inscriptions inside are preserved too. But the whole complex is in literal ruins and have been used for adverse purposes. Even the mosaic of King William II shows inclinations towards Islamic aesthetics.
Visitors tell us that there are hardly any guides to the complex but it is worth seeing. It also has a background of Mafia of Sicily operating there. Mafia resistant groups are still operating there. But this Mafia was created to erase the close affinity between the Christian Kings and the Muslims living there. The cultural influence was tremendous.
An official note says:
Address: Corso Calatafimi, 100 90129 Palermo
The Cuba was built by William II of Sicily in his great Royal Park, as his personal recreation pavilion, together with an artificial lake: it shows strong Fatimid art influences, as it was designed and decorated by Arab artists. During the rule of Bourbon kings of Naples, it was annexed to a barracks. In the 16th century it was turned into a lepers’ colony.
Some say that the name Cuba derives from its approximately cubical form. Others that the name Cuba comes from the Arabic kubbeh, meaning dome.
Note on the pillar inscription:
Islamic inscription on a column in La Martorana (Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio), Palermo. The inscription (in Kufic, the oldest calligraphic form of the various Arabic scripts) reads:
In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate, (“Basmala” – all prayers and chapters in the Quran starts with these words) God is sufficient for me and He is the best advocate
NUR MUHAMMED SON OF ATTAULLAH RUSHDI SON OF AHMAD MIMAR; AS KNOWN AS HAFIZ HAFEEZ: DISCOVERING FRESH EVIDENCE ON FAMILY.
On 26th May, 1702 (1113 AH) Princess Zebunnisa daughter of Aurangzeb Alamgeer died in Delhi. The father openly wept at the news and issued order to three courtiers to build a mausoleum for her. The three were Sayyid Amjad Khan, Sheikh Attaullah and Hafiz Hafeez (Nur Muhammed). So, say the otherwise official “Maaseray Alamgeeri”, chronicles of the Emperor, although no one has paid attention to these names.
Attaullah Rushdi son of Ustad Ahmad Mimar had done many works for the Emperor and his name appear in many state records (Hyderabad Deccan has published them), as well as inscription on the mausoleum of Empress Rabia Durrani, wife of Aurangzeb Alamgeer. The supposition was that he was not alive by this date. But an inscription on a manuscript tells his age in 1102 AH as 99 years, and fit for the earth of the grave. This means that as a very old man he was still alive in 1113 AH. But he was accompanied by his talented son Hafiz Hafeez, also known as Nur Muhammed Mimar. Like other family members, he was an accomplished calligrapher (a Quran is there from his hand in our archives), as well as a mathematician of high order. To be given charge to build the mausoleum of the daughter of the Emperor was no small order. Lutufullah Muhandis had built the Bagh as well as the Mausoleum of Roshan Ara Begum sister of the Emperor (as testified by the Diwan of Kherullah Muhandis).
The miracle is that records are there all the time. It is the search which is required to unearth new materials.
DO NOT MAKE A NECKLACE OF THESE PEARLS OF WISDOM, TO PUT ON THE NECK OF A DONKEY: LUTUFULLAH MUHANDIS, WARNING HIS DESCENDANTS ABOUT HIS KHULASATUL HISAB.
Professionals in Indo-Pakistani region needed back up of Mathematics for their work. This was mainly true for architects. The great mathematician Bahauddin Amili In Isfahan wrote a book namely Khulasat ul Hisab and he wrote it in Arabic. Very shortly different versions of same came up but the versions were mainly in Persian. Arabic versions were rarer. One person who wrote both in Arabic as well as Persian, was Lutufullah Ahmad Muhandis. He wrote a popular book on Hisab, mainly Munthakab, at the request of Saiyyad Muhammed Said son of Mir Yahya. But a rarer version in Arabic was written for his children. Only three copies are so far known. One is in the India Office library, Loth 761, and the other is a later copy in Rampur library, mainly Riazi no 45, which has no date on it. No details known. However, one important copy is with us. It seems that both the copies in IOL and with us were written for family members. For in the IOL the notes are by Imamuddin Riazi, son of Lutufullah Muhandis,. The copy with us was written for Nur Muhammed, son of Attaullah Rushdi, brother of Lutufullah Muhandis. For son and nephew. Both carry scholarly notes by both persons.
WARNING BY LUTUFULLAH MUHANDIS At end of the Manuscript there is a small note of warning by Lutufullah for his descendants. Lutufullah says that he has distilled pearls of wisdom in his SHARH, and he would not like his children to make a necklace out of it and put it on the neck of some donkey. Strange assertions by a scholar about his work and warning of things not falling in uncapable hands.
ALL POWERFUL SULTANS OBSESSED WITH SELF ENHANCEMENT OF ISLAM; A SULTANI BOOK OF SULTAN ULUGH BEG TWO WITH INSIGNIA AND SEAL.
In the footsteps of Sultan Ulugh Beg, Ulugh Beg Kabuli two, uncle of Emperor Zaheeruddin Babar, was obsessed with knowledge as well as aesthetics. He too had a number of calligraphers and artists working for him. We show a Sultani book on Islam, which in many chapters, include everything one is likely to know about Islamic practices. It has the insignia of the Sultan along with his personal seal dated 894 A H. That means the date
Sultan Ulugh Beg reigned in Kabul and Ghazni from 1461 AD to 1502 AD. He was the fourth son of Timurid Sultan Abu said Mirza. He was also in love with making of Gardens and his nephew Babar inherited this love from him.
Ulugh Beg died in 1502 and was likely buried in the Abdur Razaq Mausoleum in Ghazni. Though the tomb is named for his son, Abdur Razaq’s short reign of only a year makes it unlikely that he had the opportunity to order its construction. It is instead more probable that the tomb was originally built by Ulugh Beg for his own use, with Abdur Razaq being interred in it later.
History becomes unveiled with legacy left behind the Sultans.
A CHURCH BUILT BY MUSLIMS IN SICILY FOR THEIR CHRISTIAN BRETHREN
Allah’s name in the Arabic script
There are surprising things in the world. And often they go unnoticed. Muslims lived in harmony with other religions as commanded by Allah. The stupid and malignant people who destroy churches anywhere should understand that there was a time when Muslims built churches for their Christian brethren. There are examples in the world but the best example is in Sicily and it is called CAPELLA PALATINA PALERMO. A strange chapter in the history of mankind.
A blog is not a space for a detailed analysis of this church, and it is indeed worthy of seeing by all. There is a classic rare book published on the same with details of drawings and scripts. It even carries the Arabic script at places with names of both ALLAH as well as PROPHET MUHAMMED (PBUH). Historians wonder to this day the background in the making of this church.
There are other amazing features. For those Mullahs who rail against Figurative Painting, the Church is full of sculpture and Iconic Christian imagery, surrounded by Arabic Kufic Script. MUSLIMS HAVE DRAWN JESUS CHRIST, LADY MARY AND ALL THE OTHER SAINTS IN THE CHURCH. If this is not broad mindedness, then what else is? This is tolerance reached to newer and newer levels. And it is to be appreciated by all.
The many Churches in Lahore were obviously designed by English Architects in their requirements, but many were later handed over to contractors like Muhammed Sultan and architects like Raheem Baksh Mimar and Kareem Baksh Mimar, and it is a matter of record too. A number of certificates are there to this effect. For instance Major D. Bennet, Member of the Church building at Meean Meer cantonment writes a certificate dated 20th December, 1856, that:
” Certfied that Emoo (Raheem Baksh), Raj Mistree, was for many years in the employment of the late MAJOR SHARP OF THE ENGINEERS,who I know had the highest opinion of him; he was the person most depended upon while building the splendid Church at Meean Meer, and he had instructed him in a Plan drawing , which he understands well. He deserves every encouragement being a most intelligent and active workman. I attach a note of Mr Sharp written about him.”
The mosque, the Mandir and the Gurdawara built at Aitchison College was also designed by a Chughtai family member, who was a Drawing Master at Aitchison College itself. Mian Kareem Baksh Mimar was also involved in its embellishment at that time. He was an expert in Chuna Kari of the type that is on Asif Khan’s mausoleum. The modern times have brought decay to the broadmindedness of the Muslims.
COVENANTS OF PROPHET MUHAMMED (PBUH) BEING AGREEMENTS,AUTHORIZED WITH THE PEACEFUL CHRISTIAN WORLD IN HIS LIFE TIME.
A researcher John Andrew Morrow traced many agreements made by the Prophet of Islam with the Christian world, and obtained copies of the covenants, translated them and published them in book form. As obviously copyright must be reserved to most of these documents, and we are not using them. But a part of the translation can be referred as a source of information, that is:
“All pious believers shall deem it their bounden duty to defend believers, and to aid them wheresoever they may be, whether far or near, and throughout Christendom shall protect the places where they conduct worship, and those where their monks and priests’ dwell.” So, when the Prophet of Islam had the Quranic view to other faiths, it is so much possible that Muslims even built Churches for their Christian brethren as proven by the Capella in Palatina, Sicily. A phenomenal broad mindedness in life.
THE FIRST MUSEUM OF ISLAM FORMED BY THE PROPHET (PBUH) AND CALIPHS, OF ALL THE PLACES IN THE KHANA KAABA ITSELF, NOW WHO CAN BEAT THAT?
In 608 (or 605) AD, the Khana Kaaba was burnt to the ground by a fire. As the place was a religious center for travelers from everywhere, it had to be rebuilt by the Qurashs as soon as possible. The task was given to Baqum from Ethiopa, and the wood used was from a sunken Byzantine ship. A lot of details are surprisingly known. Not only was it rebuilt, but fresh statues of worship were made for it. In the 360 statues, there was a statue of Hubal, a moon-god of the Mecca people. There was a crescent on the statue itself. To satisfy the Christian travelers, there was also a painting of Bibi Mariam (Mary) in it. All these were made between 608 AD and 629 AD.
In 629 AD, Prophet Muhammed (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and his followers conquered Mecca, and probably one of his foremost actions was to remove all the worshiped statues from the Holy Kaaba, and it is reputed that there were 360 of them. But a very interesting development took place. There was a painting of Bibi Mariam (Mary) and a fresco of Hazrat Ibraheem (Abraham), which he liked and ordered that they were not to be removed. Later the Prophet (PBUH) learnt that there were Divination arrows placed before the fresco of Hazrat Ibraheem and so that was erased too, for Islam forbade that kind of action. This is confirmed by writings of Ibn Ishaq and al-Azraqi, A modern reference affirms this:
Rogerson, Barnaby (2003). The Prophet Muhammad: A Biography. Paulist Press. p. 190. ISBN9781587680298. Muhammad raised his hand to protect an icon of the Virgin and Child and a painting of Abraham, but otherwise his companions cleared the interior of its clutter of votive treasures, cult implements, statuettes and hanging charms.
One may look at this with different eyes, but in our view, as well as that of Islamic scholars like Oleg Grabbar, this was the first step towards the first museum of Islam. Various lists of the artifacts in Khana Kaaba have survived, which lists the number of items preserved in the Khana Kaaba. It is a long list, but all confirm, that various cultural artifacts from places conquered by Islamic forces, were brought here for the people to see, the culture of far off lands. These lists are narrated in manuscripts over times. Interestingly the list even contains artifacts from Afghanistan at that time. And the people were encouraged to come and view the artifacts on a regular basis. Amazing! When this need was felt by the Prophet (PBUH) and the Caliphs and their followers, when did this urge stop?
We here at Chughtai Museum are proud of this foremost tradition of Islam and keeping the fervour alive, by the heart beats of these new times. M.A. Rahman Chughtai understood this. Spreading peace with the international language of the Arts. We need to reach out to people, to convince them splitting into groups and section can only remind us of the Aesops fable, of the dying man, who gave one stick each to his sons. Break the stick, said he. And they broke it easily. But once all the sticks were tied, no one could break the bundle. Planet Earth unite for a better tomorrow and live your own way of life in peace!