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Lesson One: The Purpose of Life

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There once was a time long ago when man was a thing not even mentioned, the Qur’an tells us. Scientists, too, have discovered beyond doubt that man is a more recent creation compared to other creations such as plants and animals. Hence many great things have been in existence long before man was. Why is man here?




In reference to the question above, an eight-year-old boy once told me that people are here to go to school/work, to eat, to play and to sleep. This is what an eight-year-old boy feels about the purpose of man…or is it? Can man’s purpose be to eat, work, sleep and procreate? Then I asked myself – procreate for what purpose - to eat and sleep again? No! There is got to be something greater – worthy of the greatest creation of all, man.


Everything known to man, whether man made, or natural has been found to have some purpose of some sort. I have gone through this exercise trying to come up with an item that exits with no purpose, but to no avail. It would be degrading to man, the most intelligent creation on earth, to exist without an equally great purpose for his existence.


Many people, especially in this our age, have tried to live voluptuous lives, living as they please, or as is convenient to their sensory pleasures – without any regard to the spiritual dimension of their living – living only to survive this world. Research and studies by mental health experts have shown that these people lack a peace of mind that is supposed to complete their lives. Even those who seem to do well, without the spiritual dimension, survive by being involved in activities for which life was intended. Man’s spirit is whole only if it is focused on fulfilling its intended purpose. Man’s spirit is what responds when one’s name is called upon. It is what makes you, you – the individual, the unique. It is what makes a difference between identical twins. This spirit, this special thing, which no one has seen, but everyone knows has, is not created for nothing. Allah (S.W.A) confirms:


“Not for (idle) sport did we create the heavens and the earth and all that is between (21:16)!

If it had been our wish to take a pastime, we should surely have taken it from the things nearest to us, if we would do such a thing


Henceforth the purpose of man as the Qur’an tells us is:


“…To obey the creator; to worship the creator; and to serve the creator.”


Here it is in His own words


“Oh ye who believe! Bow down, prostrate yourselves, and adore your Lord; and do good; that you may prosper (22:77).

And strive in His cause as you ought to strive, (with sincerity and under discipline). He has chosen you and imposed no difficulties on you in religion. It is the cult of your father Ibrahim. It is he who has named you Muslims, both before and in this revelation. That the messenger may be a witness for you and you be witnesses for mankind. So establish regular prayer (worship), give regular charity (service) and hold fast to Allah (obedience). He is your protector. The best to protect and the best to help


These are the three pillars around which man’s life must rotate. At all times we must be obeying, worshiping, or serving God. Anything else beyond this would be a diversion and probably a transgression. One might ask what about having fun? Having a good time is not bad in itself. Being happy is a good precedent to believing, obeying, serving and worshiping Allah (S.W.A). Sadness, despairing, and depression are in fact obstacles in spiritual growth – discouraged by Allah (S.W.A). This fun, though, must be in such a way that it doesn’t interfere with our preparations for the more serious life ahead of us. If we concentrate on fun now and neglect the business of life tomorrow, we lose. It is a wastage of our lives for the present and the future. To sum up the point, Allah (S.W.A) informs us that,


“The life of this world is but play and amusement: and if you believe and guard against evil, he will grant you your recompense, and we will not ask you (to give up your possessions) (47:36).”


Allah (S.W.A) allows us to have a good time provided we stay away from transgression or harmful fun. He warns us,


“And onto Allah leads straight the way, but there are ways that turn aside. If Allah had willed, He could have guided all of you (16:19).”


So as we see, not all fun is good fun. Some fun may divert us from the path of Allah (S.W.A) and from that we must abstain.


We must stay away both physically and psychologically from any kind of fun that may lead us into transgression. For example, one may have friends who have a habit of drinking alcohol. We must never go with such friends to the bar reasoning that we are strong - while the friends drink alcohol, we will drink fruit juices. This is wrong. If we do such a thing, we expose ourselves to temptation. Allah (S.W.A) will not be pleased with us. He is very opposed to keeping bad company. Check it for yourself:


Let not the believers take for friends or helpers unbelievers rather than believers; if any do that, in nothing will there be help from Allah: except by way of precaution that you may guard yourselves from them. But Allah cautions you, (to remember) Him; for the final goal is to Allah (3:28)”


Another equally related example to having fun is fornication. It is so dangerous that Allah (S.W.A) did not say don’t do it, but he said don’t even go near it. Someone may ask: “Can we do it then?” Certainly not! How can you do it if you can’t even get near it? Here is what Allah (S.W.A) has to say about it,


“Nor come nigh to adultery/fornication: for it is a shameful deed. An evil, opening the road to other evils (17:32)”


Not going near fornication (Zina) simply means to avoid places and situations and behaviors and habits that can lead us to it. Even if girl friend/boy friend relationships are the hottest topic in teenage, as long as we are not ready to tie the knot, we must exercise self-restraint and keep away from it for the time being. So let us go and have some good clean fun – its okay. In Allah’s words,


Say: Who has forbidden the beautiful (gifts) of Allah, which he has produced for his servants and the things, clean and pure, (which he has provided) for sustenance? Say: they are in the life of this world for those who believe, (and) purely for them on the Day of Judgment. Thus do we explain the signs in detail for those who understand (7:32).


All creatures, believers and nonbelievers alike share in the world’s resources. Allah cares for everyone, even those who don’t believe in him perchance at a later time they may come to their senses and realize the meaning of their lives. For believers, they have a right to enjoy here, and in the hereafter they will have a fair share, but nothing will be reserved for those who neglected their duty while having a good time on earth. Allah (S.W.A) warns us that it doesn’t benefit us to hide while transgressing-He will be there, and He will take note of our doings. He confirms:


Oh ye messengers! Enjoy things good and pure, and work righteousness; for I am well acquainted with all that you do (23:51)”


Although this verse is directed to the messengers, its meaning is general and it includes us. Nevertheless, if we insist on having all fun indiscriminately, this few verses speak about nobody else, but us. Allah (S.W.A ) says:


“What is the life of this world but amusement and play? But verily the home in the hereafter – that is life indeed, if they but knew (29:64).

Now, if they embark on a boat, they call on Allah, making their devotion sincerely to him; but when he has delivered them safely to land, behold, they give a share (of their worship to other things) (29:65)!


Note: This above verse stands for all troubles man may be facing. The Qur'an continues:


Disdaining ungratefully our gifts, and giving themselves to worldly enjoyments! But soon will they know (29:66)!


Do they then not see that we have made a sanctuary secure and that men are being snatched away from all around them? Then do they believe in all that is vain, and reject the grace of Allah (29:67)!


And who does more wrong than he who invents a lie against Allah or rejects the truth when it reaches him? Is there not a home in hell for those who reject faith (29:68)?


And those who strive in our (way) – we will certainly guide them to our paths: for truly Allah is with those who do right (29:69).