Aim of Life
By: Allamah Sayyid Sa'eed Akhtar Rizvi
“And did you think that We created you aimlessly?” (Qur’an 23:15).
No man likes to be accused of working aimlessly. Acting without purpose is against the accepted norms of sanity. Therefore, we are confident that God never does any work without aim and purpose.
And what is the purpose of our creation, our life?
A group thinks that material well-being is the sole purpose of the human life. Their creed: “Every man should work according to his ability; and he should get according to his need”. It is the ultimate goal of their life. They see no other purpose beyond it. Alas! These people do not know the difference between means of life and aim of life.
Let me explain it. A farmer grows maize. He cultivates the land; mixes fertilizer in the earth; sows the seed; irrigates the shamba when necessary. Go and ask him: What is the purpose of cultivation? He will never say: The purpose of the cultivation is to sprinkle fertilizer and irrigate the land. He has sense enough to know that these are the means of cultivation, not its aim. Its aim is to produce maize for human consumption.
A dairy-man keeps cows. He feeds them, looks after them and protects them from harm. Ask him and he will explain that these are the means of keeping the cows alive. But is it the purpose of keeping the cows in the farm? No.! The purpose is something else – milk.
So we see that even in the worlds of maize and cows the difference between he means of life and purpose of life is fully recognized. Is it not strange to forget it when it comes to the human life? When a philosophy teaches us that bread and butter are the aim of life it ceases to be a philosophy. It becomes a fallacy.
In fact, we are alive for a higher purpose and nobler aim. The Creator himself has made it clear: “And I did not create Jin and human beings, but so that they may know and obey me”. (Qur’an, 51:56).
Forget this basic purpose of your creation and you have degraded yourself to a level far below than that of cow a maize.
Purpose of Creation
“And I did not create Jin and human beings but so that they may worship Me”. – (Qur’an, 51:56)
God created us and sent us in this world just to obtain spiritual perfection and piety, as explained in the above-mentioned Ayat of the Holy Qur’an. Most of the commentators take the world ‘worship’ to mean worship with faith in Him’.
A child is sent to school to study and acquire knowledge. Likewise, we are sent here to acquire spiritual qualities which could not be obtained otherwise you see, unless you are faced with such a situation which puts some strain upon your integrity, your integrity has no real strength. Unless you are facing a situation in which the majority of people lose their temper, your forbearance has no meaning. Therefore, to bring out the full qualities which are spiritual, it was necessary for the man to come into this world and prove his worth by behaving nobly in adverse atmosphere and surroundings.
After spending some time here and showing the strength or weakness of his spirit he goes back – i.e., dies – just as a child returns to his home from the school. In this background, hardships, turmoil, difficulties and disasters seem essential to complete the picture. These are the methods which help in bringing out our spiritual perfection. Fire melts gold and makes it pure; Tragedy and distress soften the heart and brightens the spirit.
God – Mindedness
“In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful”. (Holy Qur’an)
This phrase occurs at the beginning of every Chapter of the Qur’an, except one. It is used by Muslims before starting every work – before reading, before eating, before starting their work, before sleeping. Islam teaches man to start every good effort with the Holy name of God Who is beneficent and merciful, invoking His mercy to bless his efforts with success.
The goal of Islam is to make a man “God -minded”; it wants him to realize that he, himself, is nothing, that all his efforts are fruitless unless rewarded by God with success. And that realization is combined with the satisfaction that God is beneficent and merciful, who will not disappoint him in his hope and belief.
It is very amusing to note that the common image of Islam, in the eyes of non-Muslims, is that of a religion whose god is wrathful one, like the god of the Old Testament, inflicting punishment on the spur of the moment. Do a mistake and you get a jolly good bang on your head!
They fail to realize that the very first sentence of the Qur’an describes God as beneficent and merciful. And that formula is used by every Muslim hundreds of times every day. And the Muslims believe that by invoking the mercy of God they get limitless blessings of God, in this world as in the world here-after.
Once, the Holy Prophet, (S.A) while passing a graveyard, ordered his companions to get out of it in haste. On the return journey, he asked them to walk slowly. On being asked the reason of his first order and then of its change next time, the Prophet informed them that there was a man being chastised in one of those graves, on account of his wickedness. “I did not like to remain in a place where a human-being was being punished, though he was a wrongdoer” ……. Fortunately, at the moment the child of that dead person was taken to a teacher to start his education. The teacher told him to recite “In the name of Allah, the beneficent, the merciful” …… As soon as the innocent child invoked the Mercy of Allah, the command came to the angels to change the punishment into the blessing of God. Reason: “It is not becoming to my mercy to punish the parent while his son calls me the beneficent and merciful”. So in the return journey the Prophet walked in that grave-yard with comfort, glorifying the mercy and benevolence of the Almighty God.
Let us turn towards God every time we begin a work. The word “Bismillah” (“In the name of God”) may mean also “For the sake of God” and “To the service of God”. Thus this formula, if comprehended fully, will serve also to save us from wrong action and misdeed. Certainly, it will be illogical to commit a mischief “for the sake of god” and “to His service”. Let us remember God; and we will become free of sins and errors.
Trust in God
“And put thy trust in God; and enough is God as a disposer of affairs”. (Qur’an; 4 :81)
The word used in Qur’an is “Tawakkal”, which is derived from “Tawakkul”. This is not an excuse for idleness. “Tawakkul means that you should bind the camel with its rope, then say that you have trust in God that He will protect your camel. You should not have confidence in the rope only, because many a camel has been stolen together with its rope; and, likewise, you should not neglect the rope, because binding with the rope is a part of Tawakkul”.
So this is the spirit of Tawakkul. We are to try our best; and then we should have trust in the God that He will make our work succeed.
It is a sheer nonsense to sit idle and say that Allah will do all our work for us. He says in Qur’an: “And that man can have nothing but what he strives for” (Qur’an, 80 : 39).
A high standard of Tawakkul was set when Amir-ul-mumeneen Ali (A.S.) asked some idle persons who they were. “We are those who have confidence in Allah”, came the answer. Ali asked: “How is your confidence in Allah?” They said; “We eat when we get food; and we have patience when we do not get it”. Ali retorted: “Yes! That was the very nature of a dog”. Stunned they asked him to explain the true meaning of Tawakkul in contrast to their own belief. Ali said; “When we get, we give to others; when we do not get, we thank Allah.”
It means that you are to try your best to improve your condition; but you should not trust your own power and wisdom. Have confidence in Allah that he will make your efforts fruitful. Then, if you succeed, try to help your fellow brethren with the fruits of your labor; and if you fail, then also be thankful to Allah.
But why should you thank Allah even when you do not succeed? Because success or failure is not your responsibility. You were expected to do your best – and you did it. Be thankful to Allah that you were able to perform what was expected from you. It is your efforts which matter. Success or failure is not your province.
Thankfulness to Allah
“And be thankful to Me; and do not be ungrateful”. (Qur’an: 2:152)
Thankfulness to God is one of the highest virtues which a man could aspire for. It is easy to be thankful when one has got an easy life, a prospering business, a respectful job and a happy family. It is a different story when things are not going as desired. Most of us, in such situations, remain obsessed with sorrow, forgetting countless bounties of God which we are bestowed with, even at the time of that tragedy. Perhaps it is this tendency which is mentioned in the Qur’an in these words: “And few amongst my servants are grateful”.
It is even more difficult to be grateful in such heart-breaking situations which a man of God has to face in his struggle to lead his people on right path (like the condition which our Holy Prophet, Muhammad, had to contend with). He faced abuse of the community, wrath of big tribal heads. Children used to throw stones on hi, women scattered thorny bushes in his path. And he remained cheerful and thankful to God.
When a man asked him why did he pray whole nights and fasted almost continuously, when he had so much work to do every day, the Prophet simply asked: “should I not be a thankful servant to Allah?” Many examples can be found of men of God bearing the burdens of almost inevitable persecutions with great patience; Muhammad faced them with cheerfulness and thankfulness. The difference between two attitudes is clear enough.
Not only this. His closest people also thought of these hardships as a sign of the grace of God. Had not God chosen them to bear such heavy burden in His cause? Was it not a sign of His pleasure with them? It was this thought which made them face cheerfully all this kind of persecutions inflicted by the enemies of God. It was this feeling which made Hazrat Ali not only “patient” but “thankful” when he was asked by the Holy Prophet to sleep in this (Prophet’s) bed, so that the Prophet could leave Mecca while his would-be killers (who ringed his house) thought that he was sleeping in his bed. His only question was: “Will your life be saved if I sleep in his bed?” When assured that it was the promise of God, he prostrated to God, thanking Him that He made his (Ali’s) life a ransom for the life of the Holy Prophet (S.A.)
Be With God
“And God is with you wheresoever you may be:” (Qur’an: Chapter 57: Verse 4)
God is everywhere. No space or time is without Him; yet He is independent of time and space. He is Omnipresent; and His love protects us from harm in this world as in the life hereafter.
But this relationship with God should not be one-sided. No doubt, God is with us. The vital question is: “Are we with God?” If a grown up son misbehaves and still demands the same parental affection which is enjoyed by his courteous and obedient brother, he is just deceiving himself. Likewise, some people fail to realize that there is no such thing as “one-sided companionship”. And if we want to be sure that God is with us, we must be sure that we are with God. It means that we have to prove our love towards God, if we want to be worthy of love of God. In other words, we must know also our responsibilities towards God and His creatures, and try to fulfill them.
As a first step to reach this goal, we must realize that we are too much entangled in our worldly affairs to spare a moment to remember God. We are not preparing ourselves to meet God at all. Sheikh Saduq, on of the greatest Muslim scholars, has given a very good parable to throw light on this facet of our life.
A man slipped down from the brink of a deep well. Fortunately, a plant had grown in the wall of the well, and while falling down his hands clutched a branch of that plant. After the initial shock, he began looking up and down. What he saw, was enough to make him scared. A huge serpent, in the depth of well, was waiting for him to fall down, Desperately, he decided to remain where he was; and then saw, to his horror, that two mice – one black, another white – were busy cutting the root of that plant. He lost his hope. Then he looked up, and his heart was full of hope. He was not very far from the rim of the well and, by a little judicious effort could reach the safety very easily. Then he saw a beehive in that plant. And forgetting his tragic position, he began eating the honey. Of course, the bees did not like it and began stinging him, but he remained oblivious of all the troubles. A short time after, the mice succeeded in cutting the plant down and he fell in the mouth of the serpent.
We are that man; this world is that well; the plant in midway is our life; which is being eroded away by every passing night and day – the black and white mice; death is the serpent waiting for us. The honey represents the pleasantries of this world, for which we quarrel with other people – the bees – and are bitten by them. What makes our plight more tragic is the fact that rescue is never very far. It just requires a little effort on our part to reach the safety and security provided by the loving care of Allah.
We may easily reach to God and be safe forever. Or, on the other hand, we may be destroyed by death. The choice is ours.
Live and Die for Allah
“Say: Truly my prayer, and my actions, and my life, and my death are all for God, the Cherisher of the Universe”. (Qur’an, Chapter 6; Verse 162)
This is the ideal Islam. A true Muslim surrenders to the love of Allah. All his actions are motivated by one thought only: God would be pleased by this work, so it must be done. Not only the external rituals and rites, but also his emotions and thoughts are submerged by love of God. He lives for Allah, and he dies for Allah.
This week, Muslims all over the world are commemorating the great martyrdom of Imam Husain and his companions. That tragedy is the perfect example of the way a Muslim should keep the love of Allah and His religion above all things.
To begin with, Imam Husain had not refused to submit to Yazid for any worldly reason. He made it perfectly clear in his will which he wrote at the time of departure from Medina. He writes: “I am not leaving Medina for any worldly motive: I am leaving it so that I may establish the way of my grandfather (the Prophet) and my father (Ali); and so that I may exhort people to become righteous; and may dissuade hem from evil”.
This will explain in prose what Imam said in poem while he was proceeding to Iraq. He was frequently heard reciting these lines: “If the religion of Muhammad cannot be saved except by the sacrifice of my head, Then, O swords, come and take it”.
And to save the religion of Islam, Imam Husain sacrificed not one, but 72 heads. These sacrifices were made without any remorse, without any sorrow. On 10th Muharram, when every passing moment brought a new hardship for this small caravan, Imam’s face was radiating more and more content and pleasure. He was happy that his offerings were accepted by Allah.
It was this unblemished love of Allah which prompted Imam to say in the last moments of his earthy life: “I left and forgot everything in Thy Love: Allah! And I made my children orphan, so that I may see Thee, They have minced my body by their swords. But my heart is oblivious of these tortures; it is not inclined but towards thee. O Allah”
Thus Imam Husain showed how can a man live for Allah; how can he die for Allah. This death is not death; it is eternal life, as God has said: “And do not think those who are martyred in the path of Allah are dead. Nay! They are alive in the presence of God.”
“Allahu Akbar” (Allah is great).
Five times in 24 hours the call comes from the minarets of the mosques: Allahu Akbar. It is Azan, meant to announce the time of prayers. Right at the call of Azan, Muslims are expected to gather in the mosque.
It is a matter of pride that we are called by God to his audience. It shows his love towards His creatures that He has provided us with an opportunity to communicate with Him. He has opened His house for us, let us not be late or absent from His presence.
Azan begins with the phrase – Allahu Akbar – (Allah is great);
It ends with the phrase – La Illaha Illallah – (None is to be worshipped but Allah). It begins with the name of Allah; it ends on the name of Allah. We are reminded that Allah is the beginning; Allah is the end. Between these two phrases the Muazzin bears witness to the unity of God; and to the apostleship of Muhammad, the Holy Prophet. Then he exhorts the believers: Come for prayer; Come for the prosperity (in this world and in life hereafter); and thus it goes on till the end.
Azan is not just a symbol. It is a sermon in clear words. It not only calls a man for prayer; it also explains why should he pray, and to whom should he pray. It reminds the hearers about God; and about man’s obligation towards Him. And after these explanations, it exhorts the believers to offer their humble prayers, with full knowledge and understanding, in the presence of God.
Allah is great! Nothing else matters. Allah is calling you. Leave aside your worldly affairs. Forget your business arrangements. Do not miss this golden opportunity. Go and pray in the presence of God. He is great! Our problems, our worries, our difficulties – all will be solved in the best way, if we ask our loving Allah to solve them for us. Not only that. Our joy, our achievement, our success – nothing actually matters. Allah only is great. Let us communicate with him. Only his benevolent love and care can bring us to prosperity in this world and in life-hereafter.