Your Excellency, Reverend Forker, Ladies and Gentlemen!
At the outset, I bow my head in thankfulness to God, the Creator, the Cherisher and the sustainer of this world, nay of the whole universe, for bestowing upon me the great honour of being the recipient of the 1988 Templeton Prize. I pray to the Merciful God to make me worthy of this prestigious Prize for Progress in Religion.
I wish to offer my sincerest gratitude to the respected Sir John Templeton, who started this noble award for the promotion of the cause of religion. I also owe sincere thanks to Sir John’s colleagues in the Templeton Foundation. I am immensely grateful to the learned judges also who have selected me to be the recipient of 1988 Templeton Prize. Friends, I am a very humble servant of Islam and as such a devoted worker for the cause of better religious understanding and for human unity.
I also take this opportunity to convey my gratitude to you, Mr. Governor, for gracing this presentation ceremony of the 1988 Templeton Award. As I stand receiving the Award in this beautiful city of Melbourne, I am reminded of the great and magnificent waves of human efforts for centuries, which has made Australia what it is today, a noble example of multi-racial collective efforts for successful and peaceful co- existence. On behalf of the Muslim peoples of the world, may I on this happy occasion also pray that we are highly appreciative of Sir John Templeton’s noble undertaking in setting up this Foundation for the progress and promotion of religion. How rightly Sir John Templeton, in his book says: “We are not looking for saintliness but for some kind of progress in the field of religion.” All the recipients of this high Award, before me, have helped and are helping humankind to find a spiritual oasis of sympathy and fraternal understanding and thus are helping in ushering a True World of Faith and Peace. It will be my constant endeavour also to strive for the attainment of that goal.
To me, friends, Religion stands for simple straight- forward and honest living. It enjoins us to refrain from the things which are bad, unfair, unjust or harmful and to constantly do what is right, just and proper for all concerned. If one practices these noble principles in one’s life, to me, one is a good religionist. It is not the outer glory, glamour and glitter which makes one a man of religion. Human progress and advancement and society’s welfare are the ultimate goal for which we, the people of religion, should stand for.
The basis of all true religions is the same as they all emanate from the same divine source. The passage of time has given varying meanings to the simple words of heavenly guidance, and we unnecessarily keep wrangling over the interpretation of the noble teachings revealed by God’s messengers, at different times and in different parts of the world. The Quran says that there are no people to whom Prophets, Messengers, Guides and Teachers have not been sent. Instead of being lost in the past, let us live in the world of today and simultaneously plan and work for a Better Tomorrow, if not for us, at least for our future generations.
The world is tired of the jargons of racialism and nationalism and of the narrow religionists who divide the people into many opposing groups, who reduce the great binding and loving force of religion into divisive factors and who try to turn religion into numerous bones of contention. Let us learn to be the humble keepers of our neighbours, through the channel of service. If this could be possible in the times of Abraham, Buddha, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed and other world teachers, why should it not be possible to achieve it today. No good religionist preaches the fusion or merger of all religions into one: let all religions thrive and let the bouquet of all these religions make the world a better, happier and a peaceful world to live in. Yes, it is very much possible, despite all odds with which we are faced, provided we have the will to do so and provided we have the courage to admit our faults and mistakes. With a strong will and a prayerful heart, let us put ourselves to work has humble servants of God and instead of wasting our time in finding the faults of others, let us steadily keep improving ourselves in the service of humanity.
We are neither earth-rooted trees nor are we dead and fixed walls. We are living creatures to whom the whole world is our diocese. We are the vicegerents of God on earth, whom everything in the universe has been made subservient, be it the earth, the seas, the moon, the stars, the outer space and so forth. Let us pause and answer to ourselves if we are true to our own religion? Friends, let me remind you that there is no such thing as a point of no return. God, in his mercy, has taught us the lesson of repentance, through which act we will become so pure as if we had done no wrong. But unfortunately we are so self-centred that we find no time to think about ourselves and about our role to work for the good of humanity, which should be the basic objective of people of religion.
Religion, I submit, is a search, a long and continuous search, for Truth, Justice, and Law and Order, for establishing real Peace on earth. Despite this continuous search for peace, man, sometimes, on one pretext or the other, keeps breaking the peace in different areas of the world, sometimes leading even to long-drawn wars. The nations of the world, despite the UN and the other prestigious international bodies like the NAM, the OAP, the OIC, etc., are still the victims of the dangerous arms race. Over three billion US dollars are being spent every day of the year on this awful mission of death and destruction by securing more and more lethal weapons of human destruction. Rightly has our good friend, Dr. Homer Jack, the first Secretary General of the WCRP/ International, titled his book, published a few years ago, “Disarm or Die”. Who will take this message home to the peoples and the nations of the world? Friends, we can hopefully look up only to the people of religion to undertake this mission of Peace. The huge sums of money, now wasted on amassing more and more deadly weapons, can be used for the badly-needed development programmes in the fields of education, social welfare, medicare and even for such basic needs of humanity as supply of the much-needed clean water, as would help to make the future of the world more safe. Let us not forget that the mission of religion is not to destroy but to liberate the minds of people for the greater good of all.
Ladies and gentlemen, the human mind has to be developed continuously, on the right lines, so that it does not fall a prey either to agnosticism or to soulless materialism. People of religion, I submit, can help in developing the minds of men on the right lines.
One very important aspect of religion, which many people forget, is our accountability to God about our acts and deeds. We may bluff ourselves and cheat others but not God, as He is All-knowing and All-seeing. He even knows what is in our minds and in the deep recesses of our hearts.
The Templeton Prize encourages people of all religions to take religion seriously and make it a life- giving force, so that one should not be content merely by praying and fasting and by offering some charities, but to go for more concrete and meaningful services in different fields of human welfare. We should not only play our part in interfaith dialogues but render into practice what we learn from these for the human good. It is not only through words but through deeds that we can make the world a better place to live in., This is the Progress in Religion that we are looking for.
Ladies and gentlemen, while once again warmly thanking Sir John Templeton and his colleagues in the Templeton Foundation for the prestigious award, I wish to humbly announce on this happy occasion that I will be devoting the award-money to the setting up of an institution for human welfare and progress called “The International Foundation for Human Progress”. Friends, the founding of this Foundation is to advance the objectives for which I have received the Award.
Before I close, let me add that peace is not the absence of war: it is something more positive. To us Muslims, peace means a blissful and a wholesome life, wherein justice, righteousness and moral values prevail, without discrimination or any intolerance to any other Faith. We all must strive to bring about fraternal understanding, amongst all the peoples, for the all-round progress of entire humanity on the basis of harmony and mutual understanding.