A couple of months back I attended this talk by this prominent speaker named Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, look him up if you want to. I’ve always been a personal fan of his and in my own personal opinion I think he’s probably one of the brightest minds we have, in the context of philosophy and religion. But anyways during his talk he touched on the purpose of human existence, which again in my opinion is something that we sort of overlook at times or in fact misunderstand and argue about without ever really arriving at an answer. More of I think it’s something that we’ve not taken a serious look at in recent times and usually only when we are faced with the loss of someone dear do we stop and ask ourselves the question of “why are we here?” Only to go back to that same train of thought we were in and carry on with our lives. Now just as a heads up whatever you are about to read is material I’ve gathered from his talk with a touch or two of personal insight, but the vast majority is points I’ve got from the talk which I just felt like sharing. Also it is talking about the issue based on traditional Islamic teachings from the Quran and Sunnah (i.e. the teachings of the prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him).
The first point is that the purpose of human life/being is essentially a metaphysical question, meaning to say that it is something that transcends physical matter or the laws of nature. I hope you get the point. And the current popular model, particularly in the west, is that the purpose of human existence is essentially an existential problem meaning that each person has to work out what the meaning of his life is for him or herself and that nobody can tell you what the meaning of your life is. That is why suicide is seen as a very serious option and if somebody chooses to make that decision, well there are people that argue that they have every right to end their life if they wish to. And the truth is that it is very difficult to refute that without a metaphysical argument to counter it.
So ask people “why are we here?” Most Muslims would say to worship god and to get to know him more. You would actually be surprised, well I was at least, to know that the traditional Islamic scholars actually found several reasons (from Quran and Sunnah) for the existence of human beings other than worship or have mentioned that worship is not the only reason. In fact it can’t be the one and only reason, plain and simply because if that’s the case then whoever is not a conscious worshiper or is outside the true faith, whatever faith that may be at the time, then their purpose would be null and void.
So what other reasons could their be for our existence, well namely for cultivation of the world. To build and cultivate the earth or in plain terms doing something beneficial. So from an Islamic point of view it can be said that anybody that is cultivating the earth, i.e. doing something beneficial, is fulfilling a divine function and he has a purpose in life regardless if he/she is worshiping or not. Another reason put out is that we are actually replacements for the previous generation. As a new generation comes they are actually replacing the previous generation. So in your children you are seeing your replacements and they are going to take your place… one day. Well the truth is that you/me/all of us will die and they (your children) will then fulfill that function which you were fulfilling before.
Truthfully there were lots of other points mentioned throughout the talk but I just sort of pick up on the points that seemed to tackle the question head on. Do check out the talk on Youtube it’s called “Global Tawbah” if you would like. The video is pretty long but the first 20 minutes of it discuss this topic. Just finally I know that there are lots of varied opinions on this and by no means am I trying to force my opinion onto anyone, I completely respect everybody’s outlook on life and am well aware of the fact that we are all facing the same problems. So I do apologize if anything mentioned above does ruffle some feathers.
Best wishes and God Speed 🙂