Human Nature and the Purpose of Existence
Written by: Beth Davies-Stofka
Islam is a monotheistic religion like Judaism and Christianity, and like those religions, it teaches that God created the whole universe and everything in it. God is the master designer who put order and purpose in his creation, and he rules over it with compassion and mercy. Everything in creation depends upon God, the Sustainer, for its existence. The purpose of all creation, including humans, is to love and serve God.
The very name of the religion, Islam, means submission or obedience to God, and the Muslim is one who submits or surrenders to God and recognizes Muhammad as God's prophet. All created things fulfill their assigned purpose by serving God. Plants and animals, rocks and minerals, rain and wind, stars and planets all naturally fulfill the purpose for which they were designed. By doing so, they worship and serve God. Everything in nature, by acting according to its design, serves God's will. In a sense, the whole universe is Muslim because it surrenders to the divine purpose.
|The Opening Chapter of the Holy Quran|
Islam teaches that God created humans from clay and breathed the spirit of life into them. He separated them from the rest of creation by giving them three divine gifts: intelligence to distinguish the true from the false, a will that can freely choose between them, and the power of speech to worship. Because of these gifts, people are the noblest of God's creatures, superior to the rest of nature. However, people are not perfect. Although not sinful by nature, humans are vulnerable to temptation. Because they are rebellious and proud, they often forget that they are dependent on God.
The Quran stresses the mercy and compassion of God, and the words "merciful" (rahmah) and "compassionate" (rahim) come from the same root, rahma, which carries the meaning of forgiveness, and abundant mercy that sustains, protects, and rewards. Because He is the sustainer and protector, God has created a well-regulated and ordered universe in which night regularly follows day so that creatures may rest, and the sun and moon follow predictable patterns, creating seasons so that humans may cultivate plants for food. God also provided animals to assist humans in fulfilling their needs for warmth and food. Those who remember this fulfill their purpose by worshiping and serving Him as stewards of His creation.
What does it mean to serve God, according to Islam? The answer lies in God's books of prophecy. God gave his revelation through the prophets, so that humans may know how to fulfill their purpose as God's agents on earth. They are to assist in realizing God's will for all of creation. In their desire to understand God's plan, most people benefit from God's guidance, which is why God sent prophets. God gave humans the Quran and the law, and together, they are the guide to a peaceful life. Put simply, humans serve God by doing good deeds, telling the truth, and obeying God's instructions contained in the Quran and the law. They serve the underserved. They feed the poor and care for orphans. They are faithful, and when they sin, they seek forgiveness with sincere remorse.
As in Judaism and Christianity, simply following the way of Islam is its own reward. By following the path revealed by God, Muslims live in harmony with God and with all of creation. This brings the great blessings of peace and happiness in life. Those who live according to God's design will find wealth and success, and they will be respected in their communities, because they will always choose the right way. Not only will they be blessed by God, they will be a source of blessing to those who know them.
1. Why is viewing Allah as the creator essential to the behavior of Muslims?
2. What is the role of service within Islam?
3. What is the ultimate reward of working toward a peaceful and service-oriented existence?