Renowned Iranian-American scholar of religions, Dr. Reza Aslan delivered a talk at Habib University on June 13, 2019 as part of the University’s flagship Yohsin Lecture series.
The Yohsin Lecture is based on the University’s motto of thoughtful intellectual engagement and brings to Pakistan leading international scholars, whose work has extensive impact and represents excellence in their respective field.
Dr. Aslan is the author of a number of international bestsellers, including No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, and Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.
This is the fifth Yohsin Lecture held by Habib University. Dr. Aslan joins a distinguished group of academics and thinkers, including Dr. Vali Nasr, Dr. Munir Fasheh, Dr. Deborah K. Fitzgerald and Dr. Maria Klawe, who have all spoken at this prestigious event over the previous years.
The audience for the eagerly anticipated event included members of the Habib University community, as well as academics and students across Karachi’s educational institutions, industry professionals and leaders, and members of civil society and media.
— Elle Jay Ann 🎈 (@raiseqalam) June 13, 2019
— Muhammad Junaid (@junaidmuhammadd) June 13, 2019
In his introductory remarks, Habib University President Wasif Rizvi, welcomed Dr. Aslan and thanked him for coming to Pakistan to speak at the Yohsin Lecture.
“I would like to particularly focus on two elements of our guiding vision of Yohsin, which is of beauty and grace. For one can’t help but recognize that today’s speaker Dr. Reza Aslan speaks with absolute beauty and grace,” Mr. Wasif Rizvi said.
“In this ever-changing world, Reza Aslan has been able to provide a profound and meaningful narrative about Islam and religion in general. We are greatly inspired and grateful for your presence here at Habib University,” he further stated.
The Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty, Dr. Christopher Taylor then spoke briefly about the guest speaker’s distinguished career as an author, public intellectual, and scholar of religions, before inviting him on stage to deliver his lecture.
While addressing the packed audience, Mr. Aslan paid tribute to HU, and its mission of bringing about a transformative change in Pakistan’s higher education system. Mr. Aslan said that the initiatives taken by the University would bear dividends for the future of the country and he commended Mr. Wasif Rizvi for the bold steps taken to help launch the institute.
“What I have seen here at Habib has greatly impressed me…the scope of this institute’s vison and goals is absolutely remarkable, especially when one places it within the context of contemporary Pakistan,” he said.
During his lecture, Dr. Aslan spoke on the topic of “Why do we believe” and why religion and spiritualty is such a fundamental aspect of human beings. “Religious belief is first and foremost a neurologically driven impulse…we enter the world with an innate sense that we are more than our material realms and bodies,” he said.
Covering a wide range of areas, Dr. Aslan explained that for as long as people ponder the question of ‘why are we here?’ and ‘what is the purpose of my existence?’ the power of belief and spirituality will play an important role in the course of human events.
He emphasized that in this day and age when religiously motivated violence and upheaval troubles many parts of the world, it is important to realize that at the heart of all religions is the message of humanity and compassion to our fellow beings.
After his speech, Dr. Aslan then had a conversation with Dr. Christopher Taylor, who also moderated the event, during which they discussed the subject of the Yohsin Lecture. They spoke on a variety of issues related to the lecture, including on how religion has managed to permeate the human experience since the dawn of recorded history.
Following this discussion between Dr. Aslan and Dr. Christopher Taylor, the floor was opened to a question and answer session, during which the guest speaker had an intellectually thought-provoking interaction with the audience.