There’s this one simple, yet enigmatic question that has been gnawing at mankind almost since time immemorial: What is life’s purpose?
Scholars over centuries have come up with various viewpoints to solve this mystery, each largely divergent from the rest. Of them, a highly acknowledged viewpoint states a selfless purpose, that humans are not meant to be self-centered, but rather caring and compassionate to each other.
It is a substantial logic considering that we live en masse, as a social being. And cooperation is the core principle on which a society stands. Furthermore, extreme self-seeking mindset can make one incline towards any unfair and unjust means only to satisfy one’s own needs, breeding fallacies and conflicts.
Another significant idea that strengthens this viewpoint is a sense of inner peace. It is believed that peace doesn’t lie in fulfilling self-interests, but in meeting others’ needs; not in egoism, but in sacrifice and compromise.
I believe this idea of inner peace is too imaginative. When we help others, we don’t intend to find inner peace by doing so. We might feel satisfied by helping our well-wishers, or those whom we approve of, and it might eventually lead to a peaceful state of mind. But when we help random people—people with whom we don’t have any emotional connection—we often do it to relish a feeling a pride and power. Being able to help a poor cancer patient have his chemotherapy, for instance, can bring peace. The donor in this case is likely to be deluded into believing that he’s happy because of doing something good. But the actual reason of this happiness is a sense of pride deep inside. He feels confident on his abilities when someone else is depending on him, asking for his help, and eventually thanking him for his generous support. It’s this feeling of confidence and power that, actually, brings him peace, not the act of helping.
Life’s purpose for some of us is not so noble. For them, it’s rather simple: running after their passion, engaging every single drop of sweat and blood in the things they love. This sort of principle works out perfectly well for the athletes and sportsmen. The only thing that matters in their lives is playing their heart out, running on the tracks, competing with fellow athletes, or, in short, carrying on with their passion years after years.
But passion doesn’t always feel the same. Being a writer myself—let’s say the purpose of a writer’s life is to keep on writing enthusiastically forever—a number of times my passion for writing—which I thought in the beginning was too intense too ever wane—has waned drastically, for which I don’t have any explanation. I’ve frequently lost the delight and satisfaction in devoting labor in writing. I’ve even wanted to quit writing once and for all. What’s more, I’ve wondered if I’ve been chasing money, if I’ve been always looking for the magazines that came up with huge payments rather than pursuing my passion. I haven’t been always sure if all I’ve truly wanted is name and fame.
These questions still haunt me and leave me perplexed; the only recourse for me in those quagmires is simply ignoring the questions and somehow wiping them off my mind.
Passion, thus, doesn’t always suggest a meaningful and unvarnished purpose of life.
Some people, especially those who have everything they need in their lives, might be totally okay with the idea of a purposeless life. But I don’t believe life’s so insignificant. To me, life does have a purpose, a rather scared one.
My firm belief is that the one and only true purpose of life is showing allegiance at all points of life to God, the Almighty, the supreme entity of the earth, and all other worlds known and unknown to mankind.
It is no doubt strange for a writer to first stand against many conventional and prevalent ideas on life’s purpose and finally taking the side of another well-recognized—perhaps the most ancient—purpose. But I’m doing so because in the recent past, this age-old idea has occurred to me in a slightly different way.
In the mosque I say my prayers, Islamic preaching—known as ‘Talim’ in Arabic—are held after every morning prayer. It was last month that I attended the maiden Talim of my life. A fairly young man did the Talim and I learnt many things from him that day. But the one lesson that moved me the most was this: “The sole purpose of life is showing allegiance to Allah. Whenever something good happens to you, you must be grateful to none but Allah. Whenever something bad happens to you, you ought to seek refuge from none but Allah. And each and every action of your life must be done only and only for the satisfaction of Allah.”
Those words had truly hit me.
Life is an ocean with countless tides of actions. Almost all of us simply float in these tides, knowingly or unknowingly. At times we switch tides and feel as if the tide we’ve chosen is the best of all. Some of us think their chosen tide will take them to the shore. Some don’t even want to know where the tides will lead them; they only wish to savor all the fun in floating. All these tides are interminable. They will never end at the shore.
Whatever we think is the purpose of life—money, women, passion, honor, inner peace, and so on—is not the sole purpose for which we exist. Deep inside, there’s always confusion, or delusion. But when it comes to God, everything becomes absolutely solid.
Imagine you are a true slave of God. You don’t do anything for yourself. Every choice you make is only for the satisfaction of God. You refrain from certain actions only to please God. You eat, sleep, study, chase your passion, make money, gain respect and honor, only and only for your God.
You do get rewards for your actions: healthy eating and sleeping keeps you fit; passion makes you ecstatic; money lets you lead a comfortable life; honor and respect comfort you. You may have gained them, but you believe you could never have done it if it weren’t for God. So you worship your God and thank Him for the rewards as much as you can.
At times the actions don’t produce results you expect: you don’t crave for your passion anymore; you’re unable to earn money despite your great effort; people don’t give you the honor you deserve. Under such vulnerable circumstances, you pray to your God to help you out. You beseech Him for mercy and to save you from your troubles. You keep praying until your God rescues you. And when He does, you express gratitude towards Him, whole-heartedly.
This is the way I see it. Allegiance to God doesn’t have to be confined within the limits of visiting churches or mosques or temples and saying the prayers. It can be displayed every single second of the day through the belief deep inside that you’ve dedicated your very existence to none but God. If you have such a purpose behind everything you do, you’ll no more be in muddles searching for answers. It is a purpose with no deception whatsoever. If choose it and cling to it, you’ll be floating on the tide in which all other tides in the ocean of life merge together, the only tide that can take you to the shore.
Now, the question that must be asked: Can someone really have such a purpose? Is it possible to place God before every single action?
My answer is in the affirmative. I haven’t been yet successful myself to value this purpose more than all other worldly desires, but I sure am trying desperately. Because all other purposes—whatever you name here—have some gaps that can never be fulfilled.