What does the Qur’an teach?
"Why am I here, what is my purpose?"
The Qur’an puts forward a simple but powerful argument with regards to our origins:
Were they created without any agent? Were they the creators? [52:35]
The Qur’an engages its audience by inviting us to ponder some rational, logical questions which we can use to arrive at a conclusion about our origins. The first question that the Qur’an poses to us is: were we created by nothing? Can something really come from nothing? This is impossible, as we know from our own personal experiences of life as well as the laws of the universe that we couldn’t have come out of nothing, because out of nothing, nothing comes!
This leads us to the next possibility that the Qur’an proposes: did we create ourselves? Can something create itself? This is a self-contradiction, because for you to create yourself you would have to already exist, and you can't exist and not exist at same time. This would be like saying that your mother gave birth to herself!
Since something cannot come from nothing, and self-creation is absurd, this leaves one final possibility: we have a creator. This is the best explanation not only for our origins but also the universe and everything in it, because it is intuitive and also agrees with reality: whatever begins to exist has a cause or a creator.
This cause or creator must itself be uncaused due to the absurdity of a never ending chain of causes. To illustrate this better, if the cause of the universe had a cause and that cause had a cause and so on and so forth forever, then there wouldn’t be a universe to talk about. For example, imagine if you were told that you couldn’t read this book until you handed it to someone else, and then this other person would also have to give it to someone else, and this went on forever, then would anyone ever read this book? The answer is no. If we apply this principle to the universe then we would have to conclude that the cause behind it is uncaused out of rational necessity. The Qur’an confirms the uncreatedness of the creator:
“He begot no one nor was He begotten.” [112:3]
Now, having a creator is one thing, but how do we know we have a purpose? Everything in this universe has a purpose. Even simple things like a chair, a bowl and even the book you are holding in your hands serves a purpose. Wouldn't it be sad if we didn't too have a purpose? If we reflect and look at the world around us, we can easily come to the conclusion that we must have a purpose. Think about the vastness of our universe with all its billions of galaxies and trillions of planets. The Qur'an tells us that God did not create all this for no reason:
“We did not create the heavens and the earth and everything between them playfully.” [21:16]
The sun gives us warmth, the clouds give us rain and the trees and animals give us food. Since a lot of the systems that God has put in place in our universe are to ensure our survival and wellbeing then God must have a purpose in mind for us, too. This is what the Qur’an tells us:
“It is God who created the heavens and earth, who has sent down water from the sky and with it brought forth produce to nourish you; He has made ships useful to you, sailing the sea by His command, and the rivers too; He has made the sun and the moon useful to you, steady on their paths; He has made the night and day useful to you and given you some of everything you asked Him for. If you tried to count God’s favours you could never calculate them” [14:32–34]
So that nagging question comes up again, what is our purpose? Again the Qur'an has the answer:
“I created jinn [spirits] and mankind only to worship Me” [51:56]
Now, what do you understand about 'worship'? Most will say prayer. This is correct, however in the Qur'an, worship is much more comprehensive than just praying. It includes all acts of obedience that are pleasing to our Creator. Even exercise and eating can be an act of worship if our intention is to stay healthy as we can’t stand up and pray if we are ill!
Why perform worship? It's important to understand that our Creator does not need our worship. In fact the Qur'an tells us this; it is us who are in need of worship. We as human beings are more than just flesh and bone, we have a spiritual side that also needs nourishing. Many people are wealthy materially speaking but unhappy with their lives because they neglect their spiritual wellbeing. In order for us to experience true peace both our bodies and soul need to be in tune with our Creator:
“Truly it is in the remembrance of God that hearts find peace” [13:28]
So by converting every aspect of our lives into pleasing our Creator, then we will be in a state of constant remembrance of God and our hearts will be at peace. This is a revolutionary way of thinking but practically, if someone were to do this, a lot of their actions wouldn’t change; however their thought process behind their actions would and they would find the inner peace so needed in today’s society!
So, the question arises - what is the best way to worship God? Let's think about mobile phones. Mobile phones are obviously not as sophisticated as human beings, but we share many things in common. We both have a life span, we both require energy to function correctly, and we can both be damaged if we are not taken care of properly. When mobile phones develop a problem, the first thing most people do is to refer to the instruction manual for the mobile phone. Why? Because it has been made to show us the best way of using it and we rightly listen to the experts! The creator of the phone knows the best way to use that phone and they have imparted their knowledge to us in the form of instruction manuals. Similarly then, the Quran is like an instruction manual for humanity as it is from the one who made us. God, our Creator, knows us better than we know ourselves and this is why His knowledge, His guidance for how we should live will always surpass any human invented philosophies and ways of life.