Taking a break from running the country, Prime Minister Imran Khan recently sat down with American scholar Shaykh Hamza Yusuf to talk about a myriad of topics including his spiritual journey and the importance of faith.
Yusuf is the president of Zaytuna College in California. According to the college’s website, he has authored several encyclopedia entries, academic papers, and articles on Muslim bioethics, legal theory and other topics.
The premier, who has always been vocal about his faith and journey towards the path of spirituality from a cricketing mega star, also spoke about his motivations for becoming a politician.
Here are the highlights from the interview which aired on state broadcaster Pakistan Television Corporation on Sunday.
On remaining down to earth
The conversation began with Yusuf calling the premier a “down to earth” person and wondered how he had managed to keep himself grounded over the years.
“I have had a very varied life,” he said, adding that he played international cricket while also completing his education. “When you play international sports you have to be very focused. To excel, to become the best in the country, you need to have a tunnel vision.”
He went on to say that by studying alongside playing international sports, he gained a “bigger perspective” on life.
“When you do nothing else apart from play a sport, you think you have conquered the world when you excel in it.” He also stated that this leads to one developing arrogance, calling it the “worst quality in a human being”.
PM Imran stated that he faced many ups and down during his two-decade-long career as a professional athlete, which lead to a lot of “soul searching”.
“The low periods in life teach you a lot. So when you go up, your feet stay on the ground because you know you are not always going to stay up there.”
He said that it was later in life, towards the end of his sporting career, when he finally found faith. “For me, faith is a gift of God. Not everyone has it,” he said, adding that it leads one to have a different perspective on life.
You attribute your success to God because you know it is in His hands which makes arrogance disappear from your life, he said.
Calling one’s ego “destructive”, the prime minister said that it was very important to control it. “True faith firmly makes you control your ego.”
Politicians of today
Talking about the consequences of divorcing oneself from what is sacred, PM Imran lamented how leaders came into politics with the wrong motivations.
“The biggest environmental disaster in the world, which is called climate change, is purely because we have moved so far away from the sacred. Sacred basically means being humane and thinking about others.”
PM Imran lamented the fact that today’s leaders lacked faith — one of the five pillars of Islam. “They come [into politics] for power and they compromise to stay in power […] very few politicians come with the objective of saving humanity.”
“There are very few [Nelson] Mandelas, someone who came in for a higher cause.” Talking about Quaid-i-Azam, he said that Jinnah sacrificed himself for a great cause.
“Politicians are looked down upon in the world because they say they are coming to help the people but they only help themselves.”
On his political journey
Touching on his own political journey, PM Imran said that he would never have entered politics if he did not have faith.
“I had everything. I was already a big name in my country, I had respect and I had enough money. For me to spend 22 years of my life struggling to become a prime minister made no sense.”
He stated that the only reason he continued was because he believed he had a responsibility towards society as he was blessed with more than others. “God will test you according to what he has given you in life.”
The premier said that he wanted to make Pakistan into an Islamic welfare state based on the concept of the state of Madina. He also said he looked towards the struggle of Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him).
“I did not think I was going to make any personal gains […] I came into politics because I thought we should make Pakistan on the principles of the state of Madina.”
He added that despite all the difficulties and disappointments, human beings only had the power to struggle. Success and failure lies in the hands of the Creator, he said.
On unleashing Pakistan’s potential
Talking about his vision for the country, he said that he wanted the country to follow two main principles: the first that it is a welfare and humane state, which takes care of the downtrodden, and the second that ensured the rule of law.
“These two concepts are the basis of what my struggle for Pakistan is about,” he said.
Stating that the country has “tremendous potential”, the prime minister said that people were talented and that Pakistan had a diverse mix of ethnic groups.
He lamented the “elite’s capture”, explaining that a certain segment of society had monopolised resources and deprived the majority of education, healthcare and justice.
“If I had to put my finger on it, the lack of rule of law is the reason we haven’t achieved our full potential. I am convinced that no society can achieve its potential if there is no rule of law.”
Countries disintegrate because of a decadent elite, he said, adding that Holy Prophet unleashed the potential of the people who became leaders when he set up the state of Madina.
“All of us have tremendous potential, but we have imposed chains on ourselves which stop us from realising it.”
He stated that Pakistanis excel abroad as they get a level playing field, but within the country the system does not allow them to succeed.
He stated that it was also imperative to lift people out of poverty and spoke about the welfare programmes introduced by his government.
“If we can lift people out of poverty and break the monopoly of the elite, I always believed the country had great potential.”