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What does the Quran say about existence?

The Purpose of Human Existence

There is an age old question that mankind  has asked for centuries, at least once in their life. The question which had baffled great minds, trying to answer it with theories, reasons and analytics. How did life begin and what is the purpose of our existence?

You Only Live Once (YOLO)

Many would agree that there is only one life. This present one. And we only go through it once. But, how do we go about it? The Quran explains the purpose for the creation of man,  what will happen when we reach the end, and what must we do in between.

Allah said to the Angels, “I am going to place a successive ˹human˺ authority on earth.” .“They asked Allah, “Will You place in it someone who will spread corruption there and shed blood while we glorify Your praises and proclaim Your holiness?”  (Allah replied)  “I know what you know not.” (  Al-Baqarah : 30)

Allah does not create anything in vain. He is Al-Hakeem, The Wise. Looking at this verse, it is clear that the purpose of the creation of human beings  has already been determined and defined.

Allah had already intended humans to populate the earth. Thus, we see that:

Life is to lead

Khalifah is the Arabic word, meaning successor, ruler, leader. Khalifah is commonly related to the leaders of the Caliphate, an era of Islamic ruling that spread throughout the Middle East, all the way to Andalus, now modern Spain. 

But, what is the meaning behind the word khalifah, and why did Allah mention that mankind is created to become ‘khalifahs’? Does it mean that we are all to become leaders or rulers?

Islam commands its followers to not hurt or cause harm to anyone, give charity when they can, work hard in everything, do not fall into bribery, be kind to their families, be generous with  neighbours, preserve nature, learn to love and respect each other, and many more. 

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Basically, being a Muslim is being the best possible human being you can be by doing good on Earth in accordance with Islamic values. Grounded in routine practices such as prayers, fasting and performing the Hajj, Islam regards each person as a khalifah, an example to the whole world. As Muslims, we are to take care of the environment, to not follow our greed, to be humble and give charity, to lead an exemplary life within our family, our community, among our friends and even with strangers.

Life is to obey and serve 

“I did not create jinn and human beings except to worship Me.” (51:56)

As Muslims, not only do we honour our relationship with each creature, but also honour the ultimate relationship we have with our Creator, The One Who created us all. There is only One God. He is the One Creator. The only one to be worshipped. Worship Allah means to acknowledge and obediently submit to the will of Allah.

Many believe that worship comes in the form of going to a sacred building, or performing certain rituals at a certain time during the day. However, the true concept of worship in Islam is living one’s life – from the moment one wakes up, to the time one  goes to sleep –  in accordance with Allah’s commands, rules and prohibitions which  exist to help one be conscious of Allah in one’s daily life. 

Life is to test

Do the people think that they will be left to say, “We believe” 

and they will not be tested? (Quran 29:2)

If Allah is All Loving, why did He let us suffer? If Allah is God, why does He allow so much suffering and blood? If we refer to Quran, surah Al-Baqarah verse 30, Allah knows the things that we do not. Islam has provided a guidance for all mankind on how to conduct their lives, in accordance to Allah’s command. When we disobey, Allah sends clear warnings for us, sometimes in a form of hardship, to remind us about our transgression.

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Yes, there are times when we have tried our best to do things right, and still we face hardships. This may be viewed as a test. Allah tests His servants, to build them and make them stronger. Tests are for our spiritual development. This makes us unique among all of  God’s creation. We can choose right over wrong. And when we do the right thing, we grow. 

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “When Allah (SWT) desires good for someone, He tries him with hardships.” – Sahih al-Bukhari

Life is to spread the message

Back to the role of khalifah, each one of us is a khalifah on earth. Whether we  play a role as a leader in the society, a worker,  a home maker, a parent,  even just a student we  are to carry the command of Allah, From the obligatory prayers to fasting in the month of Ramadan, a Muslim’s life is structured to build a person’s character each step of the way. If a Muslim adheres to the Islamic instructions, he or she is already spreading the message:

“By the ˹passage of˺ time! Surely humanity is in ˹grave˺ loss, except those who have faith, do good, and urge each other to the truth, and urge each other to perseverance.” (Quran 103:1-3)

“It is obligatory for you to tell the truth, for truth leads to virtue and virtue leads to Paradise, and the man who continues to speak the truth and endeavours to tell the truth is eventually recorded as truthful with Allah, and beware of telling of a lie for telling of a lie leads to obscenity and obscenity leads to Hell-Fire, and the person who keeps telling lies and endeavours to tell a lie is recorded as a liar with Allah.” – Sahih Muslim

“Your smiling in the face of your brother is charity, commanding good and forbidding evil is charity, your giving directions to a man lost in the land is charity for you. Your guiding a man with bad sight is a charity for you, your removal of a rock, a thorn or a bone from the road is charity for you. Your pouring what remains from your bucket into the bucket of your brother is charity for you.” – Hadith Ibn Tirmidhi

When we run our lives  as how Allah wants us to, we are all khalifahs.

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Life does not end with death

In Islam, there is the belief in the Hereafter. Thus, upon death, all men are resurrected and gathered together, and their deeds on earth are judged. 

“On that Day, people will come forward in separate groups to be shown their deeds: whoever has done an atom’s weight of good will see it, but whoever has done an atom’s weight of evil will see that” (Quran 99:6-8).

Man’s deeds on earth will determine their place. The eternal Hereafter is the ultimate goal for mankind. Those who lead their life in submission to Allah will be handsomely rewarded. Those who did not, will be severely punished.

Therefore, when Allah created us, it was never just in vain. It was never for nothing. It was always for the good and success of our life on Earth and in the hereafter. Allah does not need our worship, but these commands are for us to lead a peaceful and blessed life, before returning back and facing Him in the Hereafter: 

To the righteous it will be said], “O reassured soul, return to your Lord, well-pleased and pleasing [to Him], and enter among My [righteous] servants, and enter My Paradise.” (Quran, 89:27-30)

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This article is written by Nurul Zulaiha Abdul Rahim, a graduate from  International Islamic University Malaysia,  in Bach of Human Science (Comm).

Nurul Zulaiha Abdul Rahim

Author Nurul Zulaiha Abdul Rahim

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