What is the purpose of our existence? It’s one of the most fundamental questions of life, a question that many people have grappled with over the ages and which most do at some point or other in their lives. Many philosophers and thinkers have pondered over this, and the answers given to these types of questions give rise to the various religions and philosophies that abound. Many think that there is no answer, or are left wandering aimlessly in the wilderness of doubt and uncertainty, but alhamdulillah for Islam which has given us clear direction in this regard. Our Lord informs us in the Qur’an:
وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ
And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.
(Surah Dhariyat: 56)
This is then the answer. Some might mistakenly think, after reading this, that Allah ta’ala is somehow needy – that He needs or wants our worship. Exalted is He above that! He, glorified and exalted is He, is al-‘Aziz (the Almighty) and al-‘Ali (the Most High). He is also al-Ghaniyy (the Absolutely Self-sufficient) and is not in need of any of His creation. This is alluded to in the verses directly following the one mentioned above:
مَا أُرِيدُ مِنْهُم مِّن رِّزْقٍ وَمَا أُرِيدُ أَن يُطْعِمُونِ
I do not want from them any provision, nor do I want them to feed Me.
إِنَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ الرَّزَّاقُ ذُو الْقُوَّةِ الْمَتِينُ
Indeed, it is Allah who is the [continual] Provider, the firm possessor of strength.
(Surah Dhariyat: 57 – 58)
It’s also mentioned in a beautiful hadith qudsi that even if the entire creation, from the first to the last of both jinn and mankind, were to be the most pious of people, that would not increase His Dominion in any way; and even if the entire creation were to be the most depraved and evil of people, that would not decrease His Dominion in any way.
So if this is the case, that the purpose of creation is to worship Him, and yet He does not gain anything from this worship, then we understand that it is us who benefit from it. It is solely for our benefit – He gains nothing from it. Through worshiping Him, we gain the tranquility of the heart that cannot be found in anything else. People seek it all sorts of different things, but at best might find only temporary satisfaction in that. Their hearts would continue to remain restless unless and until they come to the worship of the Almighty. It’s through this worship that we gain the uns (intimacy) with Him, and thus become truly human. (1) And it’s only once we achieve this closeness to our Creator, Cherisher and Sustainer that we will ever gain real, lasting joy and happiness. It is for this that we were created.
And Allah ta’ala knows best.
(1): The Arabic word for man is insaan, which comes from the root letters hamzah-noon-seen, meaning “to be on intimate terms with someone”. From this understanding there is then an indication to what was mentioned above regarding what it means to be human.