In a world filled with prejudice and cultural conditioning, it is very hard to be able to find people to take a moment to think about life objectively and try to arrive at the truth about this world and the real purpose of our lives.
Unfortunately, when you ask most people the question: “What is the purpose of life?” (such a fundamental and important question), they will not tell you what they have concluded through observation or analytical reasoning. Rather, in most cases, they will simply tell you what someone else said, or they will tell you what is “commonly presumed” by others, i.e., what my father said purpose of life is, what the minister of my church said the purpose of life is, what my teacher at school said, what my friend said, etc. If I ask anyone about the purpose of eating or why do we eat, everyone will say [in one word or another] that it is for nutritional purposes, because nutrition sustains life. If I ask anyone why they work, they will say because it is a necessity in order to support themselves and to provide for the needs of their families. If I ask anyone why they sleep, why they wash, why they dress, etc., they will answer with appropriate answers, for these are common necessities for all human beings. We can follow this line of questioning with a hundred questions and receive the same or similar answers from anyone in any language from any place in the world.
Then I ask you the question: Why, when we ask the question, “What is the goal and purpose of life?” that we get many different answers? Is it because people are confused with intellectual clutter that is espoused to them throughout their lives? Is our purpose in this world simply to eat, sleep, dress, work, acquire some material things and enjoy ourselves? Why are we born? What is the object of our existence? What is the wisdom behind the creation of man and this tremendous universe?
I would like to mention a few verses from the Holy Quran that address this subject. We seek the protection of Allah from every evil thing. Allah mentions to us in the Holy Quran, “And to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and Allah has power over all things. Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day are signs for those of understanding. Those who remember Allah while standing or sitting or [lying] on their sides and give thought to the creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying], “Our Lord, You did not create this aimlessly; exalted are You [above such a thing]; protect us from the punishment of the Fire.” Surah 3: Ayahs 189-191
In these beautiful verses, Allah draws our attention to the creation of the heavens and earth, the alternation of the night and the day, the creation of the universe. He calls our attention to the precision and praises those who contemplate the wonders of creation and realize that all this has a purpose. Truly, when you reflect scientifically, you begin to see something very powerful and very precise; something beyond your own calculation and imagination.
Think about the brain: how it thinks, functions, analyzes, retrieves and stores information, as well as distinguishes and categorizes information in a millionth of a second, all of this constantly.
Think about the brain for a moment. (And do not forget the fact that you are using your brain to consider itself!) This is the brain that made the automobile, the rocket ships, the boats, and so on. Think about the brain and who made that!
Think about the heart. Think about how it pumps continuously for sixty or seventy years or more [taking in and discharging blood throughout the body] maintaining steady precision throughout the life of the person.
Think about the kidneys and the liver and the various functions they perform. The purifying instruments of the body that perform hundreds of chemical analyses simultaneously and also controls the level of toxicity in the content of the body. All of these are done automatically.
Think about your eyes, the human cameras, that adjust, focus, interpret, evaluate and discern shapes and colours automatically, naturally receiving and adjusting to light and distance.
Who created them? Who has mastered their design and function? Who plans and regulates their function? What about this universe?
This earth is one planet in one solar system, and this solar system is one of many in our galaxy and our galaxy, The Milky Way, is one of possibly 2 trillion galaxies in the universe. They are all in order and they are all precise. They are not colliding with each other. They are not conflicting with one another. They are swimming along in an orbit that has been set for them.
Think about the oceans, the fish, the insects, the birds, the plants, bacteria, and chemical elements that have not yet been discovered and cannot be detected even with the most sophisticated instruments. Each of them has a law that they follow. Did all of this synchronization, balance, harmony, variation, design, maintenance, operation and infinite numeration happen all by chance? Do these things function perfectly and perpetually also by chance? Such a suggestion would be totally illogical. In the least, it indicates that however it came to exist-it exists beyond the realm of human capability. The Omniscient, Almighty Creator alone has the power to create all of this and is the only One capable of maintaining it. He is the true owner of praise and gratitude.
We learn to be thankful for gifts and acts of kindness. If any “gift” was to appear before us, we would investigate to see who put it in our path, is it a free gift or are there strings attached? Is it intended for us or did we stumble on someone else’s property? Looking at the gifts that each of us has, our eyes, kidneys, brains, partners, our children, and our worldly life: Who gave us all of that? Is He not worthy of praise and thanks? Is He not worthy of your worship and recognition?
That in a nutshell, is the goal and purpose of this life. Allah said to us in the Holy Quran: “And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” [Surah 51: Ayah 56]. Worship in Islam is not just the rituals of prayer, it is to lead a life modelled on the guidance sent down to us by our Creator. This will guarantee for us the best utilisation of the gift.
Our purpose in this life is to recognize The Creator, be grateful to Him, worship Him, surrender ourselves to His guidance and embrace this guidance in our lives. The Great God who gave us these gifts is the Best One to show us how to use them in a manner that improves the quality of our lives. Our purpose in this world is to embrace and implement the Divine guidance, the more we adhere to this guidance, the better our life quality will be. This worship recognises every one of life’s consequential activities, so we are guided to the best manner of eating, sleeping, dressing, working, and entertaining from birth to death.
Knowing this purpose and living up to it will help us direct our energies to the right pursuits, it will help us find peace and it will enable us to meet our challenges successfully.
Dr Rateb Jneid
President – Australian Federation of Islamic Councils