Extract of speech by Professor Hasan Askari, delivered in 1995, (full speech transcript on above page, Spiritual Humanism)
“It was in mid-sixties that I made a simple discovery which was infact quite obvious. Namely, that my religion was one among many in the sub-continent. I had a choice to go to Pakistan, to go to Canada to go to Great Britain but I didn’t. I decided religiously to remain within India. Within a multi-religious society. I decided to come home as a muslim in a society which was not predominantly muslim. I took the challenge of religious diversity quite seriously. For me personally it was not a political challenge, personally it was not an economic challenge because I was a lecturer by 1956. And family wise it was not a challenge. Historically, collectively it was a challenge. But for me the challenge was spiritual. The challenge was religious. For me the challenge was basically theological. I asked myself then and later in 70s, throughout in my consultations in Middle East and Europe; Why? Why we have more than one religion on our planet? Why?
Well one sociological reason was, that was always given, that people were scattered. They didn’t have any communication so religious traditions and cultures sprang up spontaneously across the world depending on conditions both economic, moral and psychological. But that explanation to me was only socio-historic. I had discovered the limits so social science. I was moving towards philosophy and meta-physics.
I asked my self this question: Why? Why more than one religion? In other words I was asking for a theology of world religions. I was asking for a global understanding of religious diversity. Because the diversity was there staring into my eyes. It was there un-mistakably present. And therefore, that was the first stage of my journey; to ask a theological question about more than one religion. It was Brumana consultation in 1972 in Beirut the biggest Christian – Muslim consultation of the century, that in my paper I made it absolutely clear that perhaps, perhaps we need more than one religion.
How could one dare to equate the Almighty Unity and Transcendence and Mystery with the form of one faith and practice? If we do so then that one religion becomes a god. And it is a blasphemy. As God’s Transcendence is ineffable, as His Might and Power is infinite, as His Attributes are countless and therefore, there should be as many forms of praising Him, worshipping Him, adoring Him, showing love and devotion to Him. And therefore I came home in a multi religious world. As a muslim it was easy for me to arrive at this position because the Quran is the first scripture in the world which started an inter-religious dialogue. It accepted the reality of revelation being given to all communities across the world. The Quran gave me the first clue to understand the theological enigma of more than one religion. “