One of Pakistan's most celebrated artists, Sadequain's diverse body of work spans the intimacy of calligraphy to the monumentality of the mural format. His public works adorn many of Pakistan's premier institutions and historic buildings such as Frere Hall in Karachi, the State Bank of Pakistan, Karachi, and the Lahore Museum amongst them. Sadequain "[...] intuitively declined the miniature, firstly because his talents demanded much bigger dimensions of space, much bigger brushes and knives and tubes of pigments, and secondly because it was impossible for him to arrest his growth and reduce himself to a mere illustrator. He wanted to create." (Y. Said, quoted in I. Dadi, Modernism and the Art of Muslim South Asia, 2010, p. 155)
The artist is considered the epitome of the Romantic bohemian, inspired by the verses of poet Iqbal and the syncretic histories of Hellenistic Greece, Rome and Pakistan. Qalandar, one of the artist's most significant works, is part of his famous mural-scale series of interpretations of the Urdu philosopher and Pakistani national poet Iqbal’s poetry, which he began in the late 1970s. Demonstrating Sadequain's deep understanding of Iqbal's poetry and of the tenets of Sufism, "His interpretive paintings based on the poetry of Iqbal, remind us that, renouncing the seduction and eschewing the allurement of material entrapments can help levitate mankind to an exalted state. This collection of paintings constitutes a singularly unique achievement by an artist and belongs in a stratosphere where not many can reach." ('Iqbal and Sadequain', Qalandar, Sadequain Foundation, p. 4)
Representing a confluence of literature and art, this massive painting is adorned with an Urdu couplet, which reads:
Mehr-o-Mah-o-Anjum Ka Mahasib Hai Qalandar
Ayyam Ka Murkeb Naheen Rakib Hai Qalandar
This translates as:
Qalander is the auditor of the sun, the moon and the stars
He is the not the steed of time but is its rider
Qalandar is an order of Fakirs, monks or dervishes who abandon worldly possessions in favor of a stoic existence. The current painting depicts Qalandar with flowing hair and a beard, wrapped modestly in a tunic hallowing from antiquity. He is riding a steed adorned with the faces of clocks while an hour glass sits under his bare feet in place of a stirrup. Such imagery signifies his dominion over the passing of time. Floating behind his steed are the planets of the solar system and the suns of the galaxy. The constellation above him is revolving around his index finger, suggesting his dominion not only of time passing on earth, but of the entire universe. While mankind is powerless against the passing of time, helpless before our ultimate end and what fate has written in the stars, Iqbal and Sadequain claim that the ultimate Qalandar supersedes these limitations, and in doing so reverses this paradigm to become a supreme power over all things.
Sadequain's calligraphic forms, such as those floating in the constellation of moons surrounding the figure, evoke an essence of Islam as well as a sense of patriotism. Throughout his career the artist undertook several large scale public works most notably, the murals in the Lahore Museum. As historically documented, the interest in such art forms reached its peak in the mid-seventies when a calligraphy competition was organized in conjunction with the Islamic Summit of 1974 in Lahore, to which Sadequain contributed a painting.