Purpose of Life

Can the supposedly understood 'brief & meaningless' life be in reality 'meaningful & everlasting' ?
Analyzing life from a neutral point, our purpose in life is restricted to following & seeking good-life according to the requisites of civilization & culture. Be it the materialistic western civilization or the ascetic eastern traditions, most individuals try to blend in with the crowd - without thinking, pondering & contemplating.

There are other philosophies which try to explain that the sole aim of feelings, senses included in the machine of one's life is restricted to satisfying the desires, one such is Atheism.

The 'purpose of life' can be summed up in two simple steps:
  1. To recognize the truth behind : our existence, our intrinsic-morality & our natural tendency to search God.
  2. To know and experience the divine attributes of God, and by experiencing them, to believe in them.
Every single action & experience in our life is a signpost towards the transcendent. Is there any difficulty in reflecting on the thought, 'source of mosquito's eye' is also the same as 'source of the magnificent sun'.

Islam, through Quran asks the believer to reflect upon the wisdom & rationale behind every single element. While pointing to the limitation of human thoughts, nonetheless gives reason a vital role.
The Quran rhetorically questions man in the following verses to reflect upon his wisdom : 26:7, 22:44, 26:7, 50:6, 88:17, 56:63, 2:269, 29:42-43, 39:9. The Quran's very first revealed verse insists on knowing, reading, writing : 96:1-5.
The Quran instructs man to examine oneself critically on one's beliefs and behavior.
The purpose of life in a nutshell, as given by Quran is : "Searching for God and thereby Surrendering to God".

Why does Quran not stop with the concept of 'Searching for God', but insists on 'Surrendering to God' ?
The answer to this question is reflected in the 99 attributes through which one can reach God, and if one were to cultivate these attributes within oneself - the individual is in fact surrendering oneself to these attributes & hence to the God.
By surrendering oneself to God, an individual acquires the potential to grow: virtue, wisdom, justice, mercy, forgiveness, righteousness, love, compassion, patience, generosity and so the other attributes, which have the potential to bring one closer to God.
An individual has to pursue these attributes not only to make the world a better place, but also to seek peace within self.

All humans intrinsically have the God's spirit in them (Quran 15:9), but the manner in which the individual chooses to act upon these attributes help build a strong relationship with God.

The sole aim & purpose of Quran is to provide a healthy barrier against man's material appetites & encouraging man to engage in higher pursuit, which feeds him with the aspirations to reach towards human-perfection.


The natural question to rise while following on the above lines is, "Why is man not bound to follow good qualities alone or not programmed to be good in all ways & at all times?"
. The answer lies in Quran's 3 essential components of moral-intellectual-spiritual evolution:
  1. Free-will: The ability to choose
  2. Intellect: Learning from one's choices
  3. Struggle: Making right choices
The Quran also directs man towards finding answer to the question, "Why does man need to experience this mortal-life ?", by contemplating on verses 21:16, 23:115 : " Man is brought into this world to be perfected by means of knowledge and supplication. In regards to his nature everything is tied to his knowledge. Therefore knowing that the foundations, the source, the light & the spirit of all true knowledge is knowledge of God, and its essence and basis is belief in God".
From this one can understand that, "We are being tested in this world, so that we may get clarity, purity & struggle to attain perfection through the smallest of choices we make"
.

We can find trials and tests in every aspect of our life. Quran also answers 'How to stay on course and therefore not lose purpose of our life during the difficult times?'. The verses 2:155, 3:186, 3:200 puts this in a nutshell. It is only by learning from our mistakes, and thereby rising above our mistakes that we progress towards higher level of goodness.
God is ever closer to man, the distance put in similitude "closer than his jugular vein" as given in 50:16.

The question of sin is also answered within Quran. Sin or evil is defined in Quran as self-destruction, rebellion against one's true nature. The verse 39:53 gives a glimpse of God's infinite mercy & ever-willingness to forgive one's sins.

In conclusion the Quran's directive on 'purpose of life' is clear as crystal.
  1. The purpose of our existence is to reach out towards the goals of knowledge, belief & spirituality; to reflect on God.
  2. This material realm of the world is nothing more than a test, and an arena to learn upon the attributes of God and act accordingly.
We should therefore use our inner thoughts to explore our hidden side, and as we do so, we will begin to feel a deeper sense of ourselves, see things differently, witness that events are not what they apparently seem to be, and realize that the events are trying to communicate something to us, and deeply understand that even the smallest of our actions are accountable.

About the Post:
This post has been influenced by Dr.Jeffrey Lang's lecture titled 'The Purpose of Life'. Dr.Jeffrey Lang is an associate professor in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Kansas. He converted to Islam in the early 1980s. He is also author of many books including Struggling to surrender and Even angels ask.

2 comments:

As salam aleikum brother. This is an excellent post! I hope you will forgive me for not reading it. I am a person of very bad habits and procrastination, but I'm glad that I was able to read it finally. Nice work. Ramadan mubarak! (this is safiyyah, americanmuslimgirl)

Walaykum salaam my sister. Alhamdulilah, thanks to Ustad Jeffrey Lang and his neat presentation on 'IslamonDemand' channel.
Ramadan Mubarak. :)
May Allah subhanawatala be your protecting friend.

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