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Purpose in Islam

The most important question in life is ‘Why are we here?’

Well, why are we here? To amass fame and fortune? To make music and babies? To be the richest man or woman in the graveyard for, as we are jokingly told, “He who dies with the most toys wins?”

No, there must be more to life than that, so let’s think about this. To begin with, look around you. Unless you live in a cave, you are surrounded by things we humans have made with our own hands. Now, why did we make those things? The answer, of course, is that we make things to perform some specific function for us. In short, we make things to serve us. So by extension, why did God make us, if not to serve Him?

If we acknowledge our Creator, and that He created humankind to serve Him, the next question is, “How? How do we serve Him?” No doubt, this question is best answered by the One who made us. If He created us to serve Him, then He expects us to function in a particular manner, if we are to achieve our purpose. But how can we know what that manner is? How can we know what God expects from us?

Well, consider this: God gave us light, by which we can find our way. Even at night, we have the moon for light and the stars for navigation. God gave other animals guidance systems best suited for their conditions and needs. Migrating birds can navigate, even on overcast days, by how light is polarized as it passes through the clouds. Whales migrate by “reading” the Earth’s magnetic fields. Salmon return from the open ocean to spawn at the exact spot of their birth by smell, if that can be imagined. Fish sense distant movements through pressure receptors that line their bodies. Bats and blind river dolphins “see” by sonar. Certain marine organisms (the electric eel being a high-voltage example) generate and “read” magnetic fields, allowing them to “see” in muddy waters, or in the blackness of ocean depths. Insects communicate by pheromones. Plants sense sunlight and grow towards it (phototrophism); their roots sense gravity and grow into the earth (geotrophism). In short, God has gifted every element of His creation with guidance. Can we seriously believe he would not give us guidance on the one most important aspect of our existence, namely our raison d’etre our reason for being? That he would not give us the tools by which to achieve salvation?

So what does the Creator, God, tell us about our purpose in life? God states in the Quran that He created the human to be His trustee on earth. Mankind’s basic trust, our responsibility, is to believe in and worship God:

And I did not create the jinn and humankind except to worship Me… [Quran 51:56-58]

Very simple! The purpose for man’s creation is to worship the Creator. The Islamic understanding of worship allows the whole of one’s life to be an act of worship, as long as the objective of that life is the pleasure of God, which is achieved by doing good and refraining from evil. A person can turn everyday activities into acts of worship by purifying his or her intention and sincerely seeking God’s pleasure through these activities. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:

Greeting a person is charity. Acting justly is charity. Helping a man with his steed is charity. A good word is charity. Every step taken on the way to performing prayers is charity. Removing an obstacle from the road is charity.

Worship provides the believers with many benefits that contribute to both their spiritual and worldly well-being. The human body needs material resources for its existence, like food, drink, and a means of reproduction. As for the soul, its needs cannot be fulfilled except through nearness to God by means of faith and obedience, which can only be achieved through worship.

God should be worshipped in times of hardship and times of prosperity and only through his remembrance can the human being find inner peace:

We truly know how your heart is distressed by what they say. So celebrate the praises of your Lord and be of those who prostrate themselves and worship your Lord until the sure hour (of death). [Quran 15:99] those who have faith and whose hearts find peace in the remembrance of God- truly it is in the remembrance of God that hearts find peace [Quran 13:28]

God further states that He made this life in order to test man so that every person may be recompensed after death for what he has earned:

[He] who created death and life to test you [as to] which of you is best in deed – and He is the Exalted in Might, the Forgiving. [Quran, 67:2]

But in order to worship Him, we have to know Him well otherwise we may form a distorted concept of Him and then go astray. In the Quran, God tells humankind what He is and what He is not. For example, in response to a question about God that was posed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), God says:

Say (O Muhammad): He is God [Who is] One, God, the Eternal Refuge. He neither begets nor is born, nor is there to Him any equivalent. [Quran, 112]

In Islam God is nothing like a human being or like anything that we can imagine and he is the only one worthy of worship.

Articles reproduced with thanks from http://www.onereason.org/islam-unveiled/purpose-of-islam/

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