The Purpose of Human Life on Earth
“I will create a vicegerent on Earth” (Quran 2:30).
“It is He (Allah) Who has appointed you vicegerent over the Earth”
Human beings need to work to Develop, Manage and Lead the world as obedient Representatives of Allah.
The purpose of life revolves around one’s understanding about his or her creation and the concept about the end of his or her life. One who believes that ‘God is the Creator’, and ‘life continues beyond death’ has a different purpose of life than a person who does not care about the Creator and thinks that life ends with death.
There are three perceptions about the origin of human life:
- Religious perception
- Scientific perception
- Philosophical perception
Religious and philosophical perceptions used to dominate in the past but in the modern world, Religious and Scientific perceptions are the topics of much debate.
Most religions believe that human beings are a creation of God or Gods. Muslims, Christians, and Jews believe that only one God created human beings and that Adam was the first man.
- Islamic Faith about the creation of human beings:
Whenever Allah intends to create anything, He just commands it to: “‘Be’ and ‘It is’!” (ref. Quran 36:82). However, the creation of human beings was unique and special as He created them to manage the world with so many other creations in it.
Allah created human beings’ step by step as follows:
- Planning and design:
*Planning and design is a general process of creation: “He is Allah, The Creator, The Designer, and The Fashioner. To Him belongs all virtuous Names. All that in the heavens and the earth glorify Him” (Quran 59: 24).
*Allah disclosed His plans for creating human beings in advance: Behold! Your Lord said to the angels: I will create the human being out of pure mud-moulded clay ( Quran 15: 28-29 ).
- After planning, He completed making human beings’ step by step through evolution (ref. Quran 59:24, 71:14, 82:7).
- He started making the physical shape of human beings with elements like, water and extract of clay (ref. Quran 21:30, 23:12). From these elements, He created human beings through different processes and finally accomplished the finest shape (ref. Quran 15:28-29).
- After the physical shape was completed, Allah inserted the Mind and Soul in the body to complete the creation of human beings in the best form (ref. Quran 95:4).
- The first human being thus created was Adam. He was at first in Heaven and then was sent in the world as a perfect human being (unlike apes or monkeys as the scientist Darwin thought).
- From the first man Adam, creation of human beings continues on the earth in the unique process of Allah : “ It is He ( Allah) Who created you from clay, turning it into a living germ, then into a clot of blood, and then brings you forth as a child “ ( Quran 40 : 67 )
- Human beings thus created is guided by Allah through a ‘Code of life’ for living in this world.
- After finishing life on Earth, human beings shall enter the next phase of life after death. Their activities on Earth will be judged with respect to God’s ‘Code of life’ and destined to eternal life in the heaven or hell fire according to their performance.
Above is the Islamic perception of life which shapes a unique ‘Purpose of life’, which is the subject matter of our discussion.
- Scientific perception of the Origin of Life:
Charles Darwin through his books, “The Origin of Species” (1859) and “The Descent of Man” (1871), tried to explain the evolutionary process of the creation of Species, which has gained wide acceptance in the scientific world. This theory is in fact a refined version of the work of early Muslim scientists [ref. “Mohamadan Theory of Evolution”, 1878 by Darwin’s contemporary, American scientist John William Draper (1811-1882)]. However, Darwin’s theory of human evolution from apes and monkeys contradicts with Islamic faith. Even this is rejected by his fellow evolutionary scientists due to insufficient fossil evidence (ref. “The Truth about Caveman”, citation in 1982 by Dr. Lyall Watson). A few more references about the theory of human evolution from apes and monkeys are:
- Evolutionary scientist, Eric Bapteste (Professor at Pierre and Marie Cure University, Paris), writes about Darwin’s ‘Tree of life theory’ of Human evolution: “We have no evidence at all that the Tree of life is a reality” (ref. New Scientist Magazine, “Uprooting Darwin’s Tree”, January 24, 2009).
- Evolutionary biologist, Micheal Rose (University of California), said about Darwin’s Tree of life: “The tree of life is being politely buried” (“Evolution: Charles Darwin was wrong about the tree of life”, The Guardian).
Due to the above facts, most people, including scientists, believe in Creator in one form or another and consider human being as a unique creation. Hence, we will be discussing here about the ‘Purpose of life’ of those people who accept God as the Creator, particularly from the Islamic perspective. Those who do not believe in God and life after death, in this book they also will find reasons to see why their ‘purpose of life’ should be changed based on Faith in the Creator.
Purpose of Life from the Islamic perspective:
The purpose of Life and Faith of human being is inseparable in the religion of Islam. “Faith in Islam” is the revealed faith based on revealed knowledge added with acquired knowledge, which covers the Life on Earth and the Eternal Life that starts after death. On the other hand, the faith of non-Muslims is mainly based on acquired knowledge. Based on ‘Revealed Faith’, a believer first needs to understand the purpose for what God has created him. This is because God is the Creator of life and He knows best for what purpose He has created human beings.
When a believer understands “Faith in Islam” with respect to the purpose of life on Earth, then his Faith helps him to achieve the purpose of life. In fact, when Iman gives a believer direction during action, he gets enormous strength towards achieving the purpose of life. On the other hand, human being without Iman are like the so-called atheists, who do not confess the existence of the authority of the Creator and do not feel any obligation to do good and avoid evil in the life of this world. He feels free from all Regulations of the Divine Code of Life and does not care to pursue the purpose of life based on Revealed Faith in The Almighty Allah. His worldly life ends as a worthless living being without fulfilling the purpose of his creation.
- What is the Purpose of Life on Earth?
Everyone of us understands that whenever anyone makes something, there is a purpose behind making it. A carpenter makes a chair for people to sit on, a builder makes a home for people to live in, automobile industries make cars for transportation and so on. Whatever Allah has created or will create, is also not without any purpose.
“We have not created the Heavens and the Earth and all in between them without meaning and purpose! Those were the thoughts of unbelievers!” (Quran 38:27)
“Not for (idle) sports, we have created the Heavens and the Earth and all that is in between” (Quran 21:16)
Creation is not for sports or play; Allah has a purpose behind each of His creations. Everything in the universe is fulfilling the purpose for what it is created without any exception: “It’s He who has created for you all things that are on Earth” (Quran 2:29)
“To Him belongs whatever is in the Heavens and on Earth. All are devoutly obedient to Him” (Quran 30:26)
We see by our own eyes that the Sun, moon, day, night, stars, air, river, ocean, trees, animals, water – everything on Earth is obeying the Rule of The Creator and serving the purpose for what they are created. Human life on Earth is also not without any purpose: “Do you think that we have created you without any purpose and that you will not be brought back to Us?” (Quran 23:115)
Allah created the first man and woman in the heavens. Then He sent them to Earth with a mission that they should Develop, Manage and Lead the world as His most loyal and most obedient Representatives (Caliphs of Allah). He has revealed the purpose of creating humans before they were created and after their creation, informed them of their duty on Earth. Allah said:
“I will create a vicegerent on Earth” (Quran 2:30)
“It is He (Allah) Who has appointed you vicegerent over the Earth” (Quran 6:165)
“Vicegerent” is a person who executes delegated power on behalf of a sovereign or ruler. The ambassador of a country is an example; he executes delegated power in obedience to the ruler of the country he represents. This is the same with humans as “Representatives of Allah” on Earth. He has no command of his own and only follows the command of his Creator. He understands that authority of command is only with the one who has created him. Allah says:
“Sun, Moon and Star obey the Command of Creator. Be careful Creation and Command is only for Allah” (Quran 7:54).
He is the Supreme Ruler of the Universe:
“He (Allah) Rules all affairs from the heaven to the earth”.
So as Representatives of Allah, human being needs to obey the Command of Allah and establish ‘Rule of Allah’ in this world on His behalf. He is required to perform his duties in this world by obeying and following the Law of Allah. He does not have the right to disobey the command of his Creator. Allah says: “I have created Jinn and humans only to obey Me” (Quran 51:56).
From the discussion above, we understand that Allah has created everything in the universe and entrusted them to mankind. He has given the responsibility to every human being to research and develop these wonderful creations and make good use of them by obeying the Law of Allah for their own benefit.
- Training and Guidance for Management of the World as Caliphs:
Allah did not just drop human beings from heaven down to Earth and ask them to start work immediately as His Caliphs without any guidance.
- First, He has made humans superior in intellectual and spiritual power than any other creation in the world. He also has given enough physical strength to the people so that they can make use of their intellectual and spiritual power to lead the world. Allah says: “We have indeed created the human in the best of forms” (Quran 95:4).
- Second, He has sent Messengers to train and develop people so that they can work as representatives of Allah on Earth. Muhammad (PBUH) was His last Messenger and Great Teacher of mankind. Allah says: “We have sent a Messenger (Muhammad) from your own people to show you evidence about Me, to purify you from sins, to teach you Book (Quran), to give you wisdom and to teach you things that you did not know before” (Quran 2:151).
Allah has made Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as a “Role Model” for mankind to follow in rendering responsibility as true representatives of Him. Allah says: “Indeed, in the Messenger of Allah has the Best Model to follow” (Quran 33:21).
He has made it obligatory to follow this ‘Role Model’ and strictly warned against any non-compliance. Allah says: “Take whatever the Messenger gives you and refrain from whatever he forbids you. Fear Allah, for Allah is severe in inflicting punishment” (Quran 59:7).
- Third, He has sent “Books of Guidance” since the beginning of human life on Earth. The Holy Quran is the last Revealed Book of Guidance. Success and failure in this life and in the life after death depends on how human being acts on Earth with respect to the Guidance from Allah.
- Allah says: “As is sure, there comes to you Guidance from Me, whosoever follows My Guidance, will not lose his way, nor fall into misery” (Quran 20:123).
- “Henceforth, there shall come Guidance (Book) from Me. Whoever will follow this, shall have neither fear nor sorrow. Whoever will refuse to accept it and defy our revelation, they shall be doomed to the fire wherein they shall remain forever” (Quran 2:38-39)
- Fourth, to achieve peace and happiness through the Islamic Way of Life, mankind needs firm faith in the Fundamentals of ‘Faith in Islam’.
- Fifth, the relationship with Allah is most important for working as a representative of Allah. Without this, it is not possible to work as a Caliph of Allah. We understand that a government representative needs to maintain close relation with the ruler for effective rule of the land.
For maintaining a constant relation with Allah, He has commanded us to perform some Ritual Worship. Five-time daily ritual prayers spread over the day and night is introduced for His continuous remembrance.
Allah commands: “Establish prayer for my remembrance”.
Fasting in Ramadan is a month-long training to make the body, mind and soul of a believer fit to obey the command of Allah.
Allah says: “Believers! Fasting is prscribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may learn self-restraint” (Quran 2 :183).
Hajj is a mandatory spiritual gathering of Muslims from all over the world to the house of Allah, The Holy Qaba, in Makkah. It is an annual event of great Spiritual and Moral purification, which helps.
to build a solid relationship with Allah. While explaining the result of Hajj, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Whoever performs the Hajj without engaging in any obscenity or wickedness will return as sinless as was on the day his mother gave birth to him” (al-Bukhari).
Zakat ( obligatory yearly charity ) is a form of training to control greed of wealth and purify the soul. Allah commands: “Receive from their wealth, some charity in order to cleanse them and purify them” (Quran 9:103).
Rituals as stated above are based on Revelation from Allah and are for purification of the body, mind and soul through remembrance and consciousness of Allah. This revealed purification process helps to do good work and avoid corruption, which is essential to work as a representative of Allah and for ultimate success in this life and hereafter. Allah says: “He has succeeded who purifies the soul, and he has failed, who corrupts the soul” (Quran 91:9-10).
- The freedom and tests while working as a representative of Allah in the world is also important aspects that a believer needs to understand. Unlike other creations, Allah has given freedom to mankind in discharging their responsibility as His representatives on Earth. People have a choice to obey or disobey Allah in the life of this world. This freedom is given as a matter of a test for rewarding and punishing according to the choice that people make in this world. Allah says:
“We have made you heirs in the land after them to see how you would behave” (Quran 10:14)
“That He (Allah) might try you (to see) which of you is best in conduct” (Quran 11:7)
“He has created death and life to test you (as to see), which of you is best in deeds” (Quran 67:2)
- A test is not without reward or punishment. No law is effective over man’s free will unless there is reward or punishment. This is the reason why a ruler of a country pays remuneration to the people who serve the country and punish those people who disobey the ruler and do wrong to the people and the country.
Allah has promised reward for righteous and loyal people so that they are encouraged to follow His Law and work to achieve the objective of life: “Whoever does righteousness, whether male or female, while they are a believer – we will surely cause them live a good life and we will surely give them their reward (in the Hereafter) according to the best of what they used to do” (Quran 16:97).
Hope of reward for good deeds helps people to apply their free will to do righteous work as representatives of Allah. Righteous work brings peace, prosperity, and progress in the world. On the other hand, Allah has warned of severe punishment for disobeying him and wrongdoing.
“And for those who disbelieved, I will punish them with a severe punishment in the world and the Hereafter; and they will have no helpers” (Quran 3:56).
“Shall we treat those who believe and do deeds of righteousness, the same as those who do mischief on Earth? Shall we treat those who guard against evil, the same as those who turn aside from the right?” (Quran 38:28)
The above discussion, based on the Quran, reflects on the purpose of life and ways to achieve it. Allah has set this so that human beings can develop the world, enjoy His bounties, and live with peace and happiness. This should be the goal of mankind as representatives of Allah and they should rush to do good work to achieve this. They should remember that Allah has power to make His representatives accountable for any non-compliance.
“Everyone has a direction towards which he turns; so, excel one another in good works. Allah will bring you all together wherever you might be, for nothing is beyond His power” (Quran 2:148)
Despite the above facts, with the passage of time, many Muslims started to deviate from the true understanding of “Worship of Allah” as the purpose of life. They have confined “Worship of Allah” to practicing a few rituals like Prayer, Fasting, Hajj, Zakat and left many other activities of life like economy, business, politics, judiciary, social affairs, state affairs and international affairs out of the teachings of the Quran and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The worship of Allah that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) demonstrated is equally mandatory along with obeying Allah in all affairs of life. Allah has reiterated repeatedly that loving and following His Prophet is tantamount to following Himself and those who follow the Prophet (PBUH) are the best in discharging responsibility as representatives of Allah on Earth.
Every Muslim in this world is required to work as a representative of Allah at his or her function by obeying the Law of Allah. Most notably Leaders, Heads of State and Government should act as Representatives of Allah by following the Law of Allah at every function and lead their nation accordingly without any exception. They have no authority to rule the land of Allah by violating His command.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) led the country as a representative of Allah by following the Code of Allah, ‘Al Quran’; where both Muslims and non-Muslims lived together happily. Four Rightly Guided Rulers, Abu Baqr, Umar, Usman, and Ali (may Allah be pleased with them), did the same. Changing code of Allah in Muslim countries by the rulers is misguidance.
By following the Prophet’s (PBUH) worship of Allah Muslims attained the dignified level of obedient and loyal “Vicegerents of Allah” on Earth. Hence, the ultimate purpose of human life in this world is to obey and Worship Allah strictly in the Way of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), do good deed as an obedient and loyal Vicegerent of Allah for peace and happiness in this world and in the life after death. After all, the aim of all work done by a believer is for the satisfaction of Allah for salvation in the hereafter, which is the sole purpose of life on Earth. This is never possible without loyalty and submission to the will of Almighty Allah and absolutely following the Quran, the ideals of His Messenger (PBUH) and the four Rightly Guided Caliphs after him. Nothing beyond that is acceptable. The Prophet (PBUH) said:
“I have left behind two things, if you cling to them, you will never go astray. They are the Book of Allah amd my Sunnah” (Hakim).