Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday, at the opening of the two-day international Rehmatul-il-Alameen Conference at Islamabad's Jinnah Convention Centre, said that Pakistan would spearhead an international campaign against the defamation of religions.
The topic of the conference is "finality of Prophethood and responsibilities of Muslims in light of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)".
It is the 43rd conference aimed at promoting religious harmony, tolerance, brotherhood and equality, respect for humanity, non-violence, unity, reconciliation and culture of dialogue, according to Radio Pakistan.
PM Khan congratulated the conference organisers and stressed the need to study the life of the Prophet "who changed the world".
"Those people who are unable to understand the philosophy of the life of the Prophet have now become guardians of religion," he claimed.
"You can only follow the path of blessed people when you love the Prophet," he said, adding that the Higher Education Commission had been asked to establish chairs for research on the Prophet's life in three universities.
The prime minister said he had seen Hindus, Sikhs, and people from all religions visit the shrines of great personalities like Hazrat Moinuddin Chishti, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya and Baba Farid. "They visit their mausoleums because they were great men," he said.
"We should examine what it was that the Prophet did, that later led to the defeats of super powers at the hands of Muslims," he said.
Referring to a blasphemous cartoon contest which was announced by a Dutch MP, the PM said that the Dutch government had cancelled the contest, and the matter had also been taken up by Pakistan on the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation platform.
Later, he said, the European Union also admitted that freedom of expression could be not be used as a pretext for blasphemy.
"Pakistan will spearhead a campaign for an international declaration against the defamation of religions. I have appointed Ahmer Bilal Sufi, a law expert, to reach out to various countries and convince them to sign the declaration," he said.
PM talks about personal spiritual journey
The premier also recalled his personal spiritual journey, saying he underwent a great change after he met his spiritual mentor, Mian Bashir, who was a Sufi.
"With his wisdom and knowledge, he was able to guide me to the path of religion," the PM said.
"I used to be a Muslim just in name," he said. "If my father urged me, I would go for Friday prayers with him. I would offer my Eid prayers," he said. "I did not have any extraordinary knowledge about Islam."
"Mian Bashir slowly eliminated the hurdles standing in the way of my faith. And a time comes when Allah lifts a veil and you realise 'This is God'."
"That instance ─ when you understand the existence of Allah, and the time that comes when you believe ─ it is a huge blessing of Allah when He guides you to the right path," PM Khan said.
"Then your life begins changing. [...] There is a misconception that a person undergoes an immediate transformation when he embraces faith. No, it is just the starting point of a continuous struggle," he said.
The PM said Allah asks us to follow the path of the Prophet, which is why we need to read about and understand his life.
"That was when my journey started. I started reading about his life, I started changing, my life's path started changing," he continued.
"I would not have built a cancer hospital or entered politics if Allah had not changed by path. There are two paths ─ when one's life is oriented around personal satisfaction, and the other when one realises he has a responsibility towards his fellow man."
He added that the Prophet may not have made great financial resources, but Allah instilled the quality of mercy in him.
The PM said that one begins fulfilling his obligations as a human being when he believes he will be answerable on the Last Day.
Rehmatul-il-Alameen Conference kicks off
Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri, in his opening address to attendees of the event, paid tribute to the services of the Prophet for humanity and shed light on various aspects of his personality.
He talked about how Prophet Muhammad treated non-Muslims and even his foes, saying he had pardoned even his worst enemies.
Scholars from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Afghanistan, Syria, Morocco, and the United Kingdom are participating in the event.
During the conference, cash awards and certificates will be given to 53 authors, whose books or articles were selected after a due process, in nine categories. These categories are Seerat and Naat Books in Urdu, English, Arabic, and regional languages of Pakistan.
Federal ministers, politicians, and diplomats of various countries are also attending the event.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Imran Khan, while speaking to Qadri, had said that the government wishes to present an image of peaceful Islam before the world. For this purpose, "Rehmatul-il-Alameen Conferences" will be held across the country, while a two-day 'Khatm-i-Nabuwwat International Conference' will be held in Islamabad, he had said.
He had added that it was the responsibility of the state to present the true teachings of the Prophet to the next generation. PM Khan had also said that research on the life of the Prophet would be promoted under the government's supervision.
Arrangements for Eid-i-Miladun Nabi
Minister Qadri, while chairing a meeting of the organising committee for conference preparations on Saturday, had said that the occasion of Eid-i-Miladun Nabi would be celebrated with due honour and respect.
He said that special functions and ceremonies would be arranged during Rabiul Awwal in which the life and teachings of Prophet Muhammad would be highlighted.
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had said that arrangements would be made for the coverage of processions taken out on the 12th of Rabiul Awwal, and that state-owned PTV and Radio Pakistan would air qirat, naats and other programmes on the occasion, along with special programmes to highlight the the Prophet's teachings.
Eid-i-Miladun Nabi falls on Nov 21 (tomorrow).