Short Answer: The hereafter is what makes this life make sense. None of the injustices, corruption or evil will go without account and no good deed will go without full reward
Peace be upon you, Dear Reader,
Thank you for sending us your important question.
There are two points to discuss in your question: understanding the purpose of this life and understanding the purpose of the hereafter.
What’s the purpose of this life?
It’s essential to understand that the Creator Allah Almighty doesn’t ‘need’ our worship in the sense of requesting empty/purposeless ritualistic movements.
The worship that is mentioned in the Qur’an is much deeper than that.
When the Creator Allah Almighty told us the story of creating Adam (and subsequently mankind), He said that He made Adam a successive authority on earth, and He taught Adam (see Qur’an 2: 30-31).
This means that all of us, mankind, will be taught by the Creator in this life. He created this entire universe for us to teach us and test us.
Since we have an authority, this means we also have a free will to make choices.
Throughout the Qur’an, you will find verses talking about Allah teaching us, and about the choices that people make.
“Recite in the name of your Lord who created –
Created man from a clinging substance.
Recite, and your Lord is the most Generous –
Who taught by the pen –
Taught man that which he knew not.” (96: 1-5)
“And [by] the soul and He who proportioned it
And inspired it [with discernment of] its wickedness and its righteousness,
He has succeeded who purifies it,
And he has failed who instills it [with corruption].” (91: 7-10)
So, we learn and we make choices.
When we learn about Allah from His Own Words, the Qur’an, we will know that He is The All-Knowing, All-Encompassing, All-Wise, Source of Love, Mercy, Power, Might, Beauty…etc.
These are His Names and Attributes.
In this life, we get glimpses of these elements to learn and understand His Nature, appreciate and connect with Him.
But seeing Him, getting the full reward and full picture is in the hereafter.
Obviously, if we see Allah, there is no test and no purpose. Imagine anything beautiful, powerful, intelligent, loving, merciful you’ve ever witnessed in your life, then multiply that by Infinity!
Who can reject or turn away from The Source of Ultimate Perfection?
But, His eternal closeness is reserved for those who are sincerely faithful. Faith here is not merely about empty movements and words of love.
It is very easy to love/connect/worship when everything is going well. But when the going gets tough, the true nature of one’s love, faith and commitment appear.
In this life, we are tested with the good and bad, the hardship and ease, the health and illness, the giving and deprivation. These are all part of the test.
The test could be hard, yes, but tests are harder when the rewards are bigger. The PhD exam is not like the elementary school exam; the higher the prize, the tougher the test.
Allah who created this astoundingly impressive universe is promising us eternal happiness where we get whatever we desire forever with no need to do anything ever again.
You can read here about Jannah and the immense rewards to get a fuller picture.
This is an unrivaled reward, and it is definitely worth the effort.
Imagine someone offering you 10 billion dollars and two islands when you retire, isn’t this worth some effort?
The people who miss this reward are those who belittle/ignore/reject or don’t see the full picture, and the full picture is in the hereafter.
When you find people complaining “why do bad things happen to good people?”, “why is there evil in the world?” — This is all because they’re missing the hereafter dimension.
So, What’s the Purpose of the Hereafter?
Imagine if a man murdered one hundred human souls, how can we punish him in this life?
Will we be able to murder someone one hundred times to account for each person he harmed?
Even if we tried, we cannot establish full justice in this world.
There are individuals who have launched unjust wars, killed thousands/millions of people, enslaved, tortured, raped, abused, harassed and viciously harmed others.
You can’t fully punish the criminal or fully repay the innocents here.
The hereafter, then, is what makes this life make sense.
None of the injustices, corruption or evil will go without account… and no good deed will go without full reward either:
“That Day, the people will depart separated [into categories] to be shown [the result of] their deeds.
So whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it
And whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it.” (Qur’an 99: 6-8)
“Indeed, Allah does not do injustice, [even] as much as an atom’s weight; while if there is a good deed, He multiplies it and gives from Himself a great reward.” (Qur’an 4: 40)
We can choose to do good and thus get eternal rewards that are much more than we ever imagine, deserve or work for, or we can choose to do wrong/evil/reject/disbelieve, and thus be held accountable for what we’ve done.
Now is the time to make the choice, and none of us can withhold our own death or emergence to the Day of Judgment.
“This Day every soul will be recompensed for what it earned. No injustice today! Indeed, Allah is swift in account.” (40:17)
I genuinely advise you to read the Qur’an carefully from cover to cover.
Get the full message, and then it is your choice to believe or reject.
I also suggest you to watch “The purpose of life” a thought-provoking lecture by a former atheist professor who accepted Islam after reading the Qur’an.
Also, the short handbook, The Amazing Qur’an, by Dr. Gary Miller will give you great insights.
Hope we’ve answered your question a little bit.
Salam. Please stay in touch.
(From Ask About Islam archives)
Continue feeding your curiosity, and find more information in the following links: