Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have had the honour to host this important Seerat Conference in our country. We hope that your stay in Pakistan has been constructive and that you will be returning to your countries with the feeling that here in Pakistan
we have made and we will continue to make efforts for the promotion of the good work like the one you have undertaken for this Conference.
FORCES AT WORK
I would like to make a few observations on the conditions of the world today. In our opinion the world today is both in a state of revolution and in a state of turmoil. A panoramic view will show that the forces of dynamism. of change and of progress are at work. A mighty clash is taking place between the old order and the emerging new order. There are many forces at work, but the principal forces are those of ideologies, nationalism and religion. They have many common factors, many common denominators, and many common interests. But there are divergences also. Is it our duty to lay stress on the divergences to bring greater disorder, or is it in our interest to see how the divergences can be reconciled and order brought out of chaos? Both these paths are open to humanity. Both these courses, with their consequent effects, are before us. The options have to be exercised soon. Otherwise, I fear, the world will get into greater turmoil. These divergences can be rationalistically reconciled and a modus vivendi arrived at without compromising the fundamental principles, either of ideologies, nationalism or of religion. I do not plead for the triumph of one over the other or the capitulation of one to the other.
Ladies and Gentlemen, if we do not comprehend this phenomenon we will not be able to evaluate the historical process. It is essential for world stability, equilibrium and balance to understand this process. But it is not possible to do so, and come to correct conclusion and have a true worldwide perspective if prejudice, fear and complex overwhelm our thinking. The process can only be understood and grasped objectively by a detached analysis without vested interests, and by the application of the criteria for truth.
SERVING THE CAUSE OF ISLAM
Why have we held this Seerat Conference in Pakistan? I can tell you why straightaway without any fear of contradiction. We have held this Conference not for political gain or advantage, but simply because we regard it as our duty. On this matter, in the last ten days or so eminent scholars have been reading papers and deliberating on the need for such a Conference. I will not waste your time by repeating the obvious essentials of and the need for a Seerat Conference in order to reach logical conclusions on the thoughts of the Prophet and on the scientific approach in the field of Islam.
Before the Seerat Conference we have held the Islamic Summit Conference. I repeat that these Conferences and the allied activities have been held in my country because we consider it our duty. Islam is our religion. Islam is the basis for Pakistan. Our Constitution is Islamic in character. The overwhelming majority of our people are Muslims and, as you have seen, deeply attached to Islam. If, therefore, anyone seeks personal or political gain out of such activities he is not serving the cause of Islam. nor is he being a true Muslim.
Islam should never be exploited for individual gain or for the protection of vested interests or of the old order. That would be a very great disservice to Islam. Unfortunately, it has been so used in the past, regretfully even in the short history of Pakistan and in many other Muslim countries. The truth is that Islam has been opposed by its adversaries and injured by some of its adherents.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it has been our struggle. it has been my struggle in Pakistan not to exploit or to permit exploitation in the name of Islam. Hypocrisy is the greatest sin in Islam. Some of us have been super- hypocrites instead of becoming super- powers. Karl Marx once said that religion is the opium of the people. Our struggle, my struggle, is to demonstrate that religion, and particularly our religion of Islam, is not the opium of the people, but that it is an eternal force for the highest moral values.
What do we live for? To progress or to destroy ourselves? Some say there is no world or no life hereafter. Those who say this believe exclusively in the material life. Some say that life in this world is redundant and that there is only the world hereafter. Islam, the religion of realism, the rational religion, believes in both worlds — the spiritual and the material. In the material world, Islam teaches compromise and flexibility within its unalterable principles which are not in the form of a Dogma. I can give many examples. Our Holy Prophet (May peace be on him) took a flexible, realistic and rational attitude towards Judaism and Christianity. This is because he laid the greatest stress on rationality in Islam. It is this approach on rationality which led to a sense of balance, and a rejection of excesses. Islam being the eternal and final religion is always revolutionary and for ever modern. It was said in the course of this Conference that what we needed was a moral man and not the modern man. This, in my opinion, is a contradiction, because the moral man is the modern man. Indeed the modern man has to be a moral man.
THE PROPHET AS EMANCIPATOR OF WOMEN
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Prophet emancipated the women and yet you find women in Purdah in some parts of the world of Islam, as you must have seen in Pakistan. In some States Purdah has been abolished by law. We have no intention to do this in Pakistan. But this does not mean that we are in favour of Purdah the poor women of this country, who work in the fields, do not observe Purdah. It is only those who belong to the middle and the richer classes, who decide whether they should don the Purdah or not. Either all our women, rich and poor, should observe Purdah or all of them should have the same rights and the same facilities. Ours is an extremely poor country. We have no wealth; no oil resources. Our natural and financial resources are limited while our population is over seventy million. We have certain high priorities — those of defence, security, economic development, education, and yet we have to provide for separate schools and colleges for girls and boys. I know there are places where we have to build colleges for only seven to ten girl students. In this country, where illiteracy has to be destroyed and liquidated, where resources are scarce, we have to pander to false prejudices and indulge in such a kind of wastage. This is only one striking example. I can give many more. The Holy Prophet said that to seek knowledge you may even go to China. In stressing the supreme value of knowledge did he say that only men should go to China to seek knowledge? Did the emancipator of women put restriction on their quest for knowledge? Did he say that we must discover whether knowledge in a given country is to be imparted through mixed or separate schools and colleges?
When the Prophet emancipated women, he set into motion a progressive force, which had no limitation of time or space. With the passage of time, it was anticipated that women would be given more and more rights. He emancipated them from a slave and feudal society. As society passed from feudalism and slavery came to an end emancipation was to proceed apace.
It was the quest for knowledge that made Muslim scholars study astronomy and Aristotle and Socrates and Greek thought. And it was this knowledge possessed and propagated by Islam which spread light and destroyed the dark ages of Europe. It brought enlightenment, progress and technology to Europe. Islam was the vehicle of modernism and of technology.
THE IRONY OF HISTORY
But what happened? The irony of history is that disservice to Islam was done by some of its own adherents. They did injury to it. The forces which were emancipated by Islam turned their knowledge and their technology against Islam. And the course of imperialism spread to the whole world including the Islamic World. Is there a single Muslim country which escaped from imperialism? The religion was the same. It was still the same final religion with the same principles, which had spread to Europe and the rest of the world in the shortest possible time. Why, then did its adherents rapidly succumb to the domination of imperialism and colonialism?
Of course, our adversaries were responsible. But can we honestly say that it was exclusively the non- Muslims and the adversaries of Islam who were responsible for the decline of Muslims? Does no responsibility fall on our shoulders? You only have to look into the history of the whole period to know the extent of our responsibility and that of the others for distorting our own principles, for letting degradation stagnation and illiteracy replace enlightenment and tolerance in Islamic society. Muslims fought Muslims, because religion was exploited and made, for a period of time, the opium of the people. Vested interests tried to bring Islamic society to a standstill. Efforts were made to decry technology and industry and to dismiss knowledge as no longer valuable. Resistance was offered to change. The result was that we fought among ourselves and we got divided.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is our duty to study Islam in its totality in the historical context in all parts of the world, to study the other forces at work — the forces of democracy, nationalism, socialism, communism. If we have confidence in our own faith, and we in Pakistan certainly have it, then we need not fear any other ideology or any other form or system of life and government. It is the fear of communism that has brought about great insecurity and is shaking nations unnecessarily. We in Pakistan do not fear communism. We have faith in our religion and we are determined to show to the world that we can progressively develop our own order and no inroads can be made into it.
Yet we have to draw from the virtues and benefits of all other contemporary forces. In this material world we have to make adjustments without compromising our fundamental principles. It is said that a system of economics which is against the vested interests is not Islamic. But, is capitalism a part of Islam? It emphatically is not, yet it does exist in the world of Islam.
We have to fight first the system that exists rather than that which has not yet come into being in our society. Parliamentary institutions are not, strictly speaking a requirement of Islam. Yet many Muslim countries have adopted the parliamentary form of Government. For them capitalism and parliamentary democracy are compatible with Islam. Why then should a system, an economic system, whatever you may call it, which abolishes poverty and exploitation, and emancipates women, be considered to be against Islam?
The Arab States are the homeland of Islam. It is from Arabia that Islam came and spread to all corners of the world. What is the position in the Arab World today? A great intrigue is taking place in Lebanon. Who are the intriguers who want to divide Lebanon? Who are out to provoke Israel to take Southern Lebanon? Arab States are fighting in the Sahara. There is tension instability and insecurity in the Persian Gulf. While there are some who fight over the word "Persian". God knows what other forces might be at work there. We have the Indian Ocean; we do not call it the Pakistan Ocean. It does not make us stronger or weaker. Must Muslims fight each other over names?
This is what is happening at this time. It is a critical time. Israel has fought three wars against the Arab World, and, in all three, achieved her ob¬]jective. And while Israel is preparing for the fourth war, some of our Arab brothers are building skyscrapers and preparing as though for permanent peace. In contrast, in China, they are building underground tunnels against nuclear war.
NO DISPUTE WITH MUSLIM COUNTRIES
Ladies and Gentlemen, the struggle against Israel is not a simple one. It is a very grave threat. While this sword of Democles, this threat, hangs over principally the Arab States, the latter are divided among themselves and are not choosing the right priorities. This is partly because you do not know who your true friend is and who your real enemy is. You might tell me that Pakistan has a dispute with Afghanistan. This is not correct. Afghanistan has a dispute with Pakistan, not Pakistan with her. Pakistan will never provoke a war against Afghanistan. We have given facilities to Afghanistan which no other coastal state has given to a landlocked country. Intriguers tried to cause differences between us and Bangladesh. But today you know that the people of Bangladesh want fraternity and friendship and brotherhood with Pakistan.
PAKISTAN — FORTRESS OF ISLAM
Ladies and Gentlemen, life is in God's hands and a Muslim must not fear death. I can tell you as the Prime Minister of Pakistan, as the Chairman of the Pakistan People's Party, that I am determined to make Pakistan into a mighty fortress of Islam. But this can only be done if we do not reject technology, if we do not reject modern values, if we have confidence in our own faith, if we do not indulge in hypocrisy, if we know that we have to move forward and onward without compromising our great religion.
Ladies and Gentlemen, perhaps my speech may be thought controversial; but in this galaxy of great scholars from Muslim countries, in this company of brothers and sisters, I would not be true to my mission if I did not candidly speak what I believe to be certain vital truths.
Thank you very much.