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The Purpose of Life in Ten Minutes

We’re going to attempt the impossible in ten minutes; we’re going to talk about the purpose of life and how to fulfill it as well.

You must have thought yourself sometimes, you know, you go out to work in the morning, you work hard all the day to put food on the table for the kids, you get home at night, you’re so tired, you sit and watch the television and you go to bed, then you get up again the next day and do the same.

And sometimes you know, we get so caught up in the business of life, we say to ourselves, “Surely there is more to life than this…”

Surely there is more than just going out every day to work, coming home watching the television and that’s it. There must be more; if there is not more to it life is almost a joke really, what’s the purpose of it at all?

Well, there is a purpose. Islam teaches very clearly that there is a purpose, the purpose is very simple.

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But before we get into it, you know, I’ve used this image before, so forgive me if you’ve heard me talk about this image; but I have ministered at many funerals in the past, and for the funeral the dead body was brought in and placed in a coffin before me, and it was the custom for the minister to say some words about the dead person, so the minister, I, would speak about the person who had died.

Now in all the funerals I’d been to in my life, I have never heard anyone say: “that person had twenty six pair of shoes!” No one ever says that at a funeral. I’ve never heard anyone say: “that man had a good job and he took three holidays a year!” They don’t say that at your funeral. Never have I heard anyone say: “he had a big car, he had a big house,…” I’ve never heard people say that.

All I’ve heard people say at a funeral is “he is a good man”, “she was a good mother to her children”, “he was a good husband to his wife”, “he was a good Muslim.” That is what I’ve heard them say, because in death, we realize what is important. All of those things that we’ve run around after chaste after in life are totally unimportant when we are lying in our coffin.

You know, my grandfather used to say to me: “the cemetery is full of indispensable people. We think we are so important in this life and yet if we to die tomorrow, life would go on; these videos would still be made if I wasn’t around, the busses would still run. Life would happen as normal.

So, what then is the purpose of this life?

Well, the funeral gives a clue. It’s not about acquiring more things and making ourselves important. It’s not about that. It’s something to do with being good. And how do we be good? Well again, let’s just step back again.

As Muslims, we believe that Allah Almighty created everything that there is. He made the heavens and the earth and everything in between; He made all things. We believe as Muslims that Allah is perfect, He lacks nothing, in fact He is infinite in all His perfections. So did He need to make us? No. He didn’t need to make me, or you, or the world because He didn’t need us at all.

Know, Love, and Serve Him

So, we must ask ourselves the question then, if He didn’t need this world and all the things in it, why did He make it?

Well, there are two choices: either He made it out of spite, so that we have to go through the motion of going to work everyday, and watching the television and going to sleep for no reason. Or He made it out of love, as Muslims call Him the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate.

Allah has created things out of mercy and compassion. So that gives us a clue. As Muslims we believe that Allah Almighty made the world and made everything in it. He made me and you for that purpose that in this world we know Him, love Him, and serve Him and we’ll be happy with Him forever in the next.

That’s what the purpose of life is about: to know, love, and serve Allah in this world and we’ll be happy with Him forever in the next. And working all day, watching the TV, getting a bigger car, going on three holidays a year, having more suits… they won’t bring us happiness.

No matter how many suits we’ve got we always want more, how many shoes we always want more, how many holidays, we want more, however important we are we want to be more important, in charge of more people… They don’t bring us happiness; in fact they are like a cancer mowing away at us, if we try to find fulfillment in ourselves, we’re destined to be permanently unfulfilled, we’ll never be happy.

But we find happiness in life, Islam teaches us, by knowing, loving, and serving Allah, and being happy with Him forever in the next.

All Roads Lead to Rome

I lived in Italy for some years, and the Italians have a phrase: “Tutte le strade portano a Roma.” In English we say (All roads lead to Rome).

The Italians say that because during the time of the Roman empire, Rome was on the hub of a vast network of roads, so roads came from Paris, they came from Spain, Romania, Germany. All roads quite literary led to Rome; Rome was the center of everything.

Well for Muslims, all roads don’t lead to Rome; all roads lead to Allah. Everything we do in this life, we must see this world and this life in the context of the next. Everything we do in this world is leading us to Allah.

You know, when we marry, being married is half of our faith, that’s one of the reasons we are here; we’re here on this earth to marry and have children, that’s one of the purposes of life; it’s half of our deen. But being married, that leads us to Allah. Study leads us to Allah; in all things if we do them as men and women of faith, they lead us to Allah Almighty.

And in the contrary, when we don’t look at Allah, when we don’t know, love and serve Him, it will take us away from Him. So if we want to find happiness, all life must be seen in the context of this life here.

Allah Almighty tells us in the Quran what to do, tells us how to find this happiness, how to find this fulfillment and this contentment. {So worship Me}, He says. In worshipping Allah, we find happiness in our hearts, and all the other transitory, illusory pleasures that we chase after, like chasing after windmills, like chasing after clouds, we can never hold them. None of those things would bring us happiness in this life.

Why do people stagger around drunk? You know take drugs? Because they’re looking to fill that annoying emptiness inside themselves that cannot be filled, that can’t be filled by the things of this world.

In a sense, life is a test, we’re tested. Allah has given us our lot; He’s given this to me and this to you, and this to someone else, and He asks us “make the most of what you have, because My plan is that everything you’ve got will lead you to Me.”

So, when we are getting on the bus tomorrow morning and asking: “Does this bus go to Small Heath in Birmingham?” We shouldn’t really be asking that question, we should be asking: “Does this bus lead me to heaven?”

Everything we do, with the eyes of faith, helps us to travel towards Allah. For Muslims, All roads lead to Allah.

So, I encourage you, my dear brothers and sisters, we fulfill the purpose of life by worshipping Allah, by listening to Him, by looking to Him, by relying on Him, and trusting in Him.

And In-Shaa-Allah by doing that, our life will be given meaning. No more going to work, sitting in front of the television wondering “what next?”, “what is it all about?”, we know what it’s all about because Allah has told us, and He’s made us for Himself, and our hearts will find no rest until they rest in Him.

(From Discovering Islam archive)

About Idris Tawfiq
Idris Tawfiq was a British writer, public speaker and consultant.He became a Muslim around 15 years ago.For many years, he was head of religious education in different schools in the United Kingdom.Before embracing Islam, he was a Roman Catholic priest.He passed away in peace in the UK in February 2016 after a period of illness.May Allah (SWT) have mercy on him, and accept his good deeds. Ameen.