The Basic Purpose of Human Existence

Peace, one and all…


‘The basic purpose of human existence is the acquisition of knowledge of God; there is no relationship more true than this spiritual affiliation.  All other types of relationship are but derivative and dependent upon that spiritual connection, and in themselves nothing to boast of’ (Lahiji, Mafatih, 573)

Ma’as salama,
Abdur Rahman


21 thoughts on “The Basic Purpose of Human Existence

  1. I would add a Part Two:

    Knowledge of God is acquired not through study or books, though the Quran and other Holy Books are a signpost showing the way. Knowledge of God is acquired only by love, through love, and from love. From this encompassing love, flows all the virtues meant for human beings, kindness, compassion, generosity, truth, and all in the service of love.

    Ya Haqq!

  2. Mashah Allah.
    Thank you for bringing forward this topic. The most important question one should ask is why am I here? If this purpose is not served, we all live our life in vain.

    What of a woman who does house work after house work in order to satisfy her husband? Is that her idea why she is married to him? If that purpose of marriage between them is not served, is he ever going to be happy with all the labour that she does? For house work, he can keep house maids. He does not need a wife. Allah has angels who can bow down and prostrate more than any human can possibly do.

    But this message in neglected by Muslims. They are busy doing Namas after Namas, Fasting, Hajj etc. But why? what’s the context of it all? No one bothers..

    Allah says in Qur’an “We have not created Humans except for worshiping Him”. Ibn Abbas(R.A) whom Prophet(S.A) certified as the Sultan of all Qur’an scholars explains it with minimum words, “We have not created Humans except for worshiping Him i.e. KNOWING Him”.

  3. Salams Abdul Muneer,

    I always used to read the verse you quote as simply meaning that life was ritual, and only ritual. But, as I’ve grown a little older, I’ve come to see that it means so much more than that. In other words, as you say, to worship means ultimately to know. I suppose if we don’t struggle to know we run the very real risk of substituting some man-made thing for God.

  4. Salaams, I like how Abdul Muneer connects worship to knowing God. This knowing is not about knowing about Him through books, as helpful as they might be, but experiencing His mercy and compassion in the heart, in our inner being, The way of love, as Irving says, is totally transforming.

  5. Salaams Yafiah,

    I used to imagine knowing as merely intellectual knowing. But I’ve come to see just how narrow such knowledge is. I ‘know’ all sorts of things in an intellectual sense, but I only ‘know’ those things that I have experienced – or have come to know through intellect and intuition, or mind and heart, so to speak.

    The intellect has a tendency to attribute finality to itself: ‘it’s like this and nothing else’, or at least I’ve find myself doing such things. The heart (or intuitive faculty, or true aql) suggests ‘this is true, but truth is larger than one man’s understanding of it’.

  6. Moreover, the more I think about life, Islam and ultimately, God, the more I see it in terms of relationship. Indeed, the whole of life is about relationship, on so many different levels. Ultimately, as I see it, all other relationships merge or dissolve into the eternally unfolding relationship with God. In that sense, all other relationships are derivative – in the sense that they are one small aspect of our relationship with the Other and the Self, and God stands behind the last other and beneath the last layer of self.

  7. I come from a tradition where there are no books as such, it is experiential, taught and shared.

    I agree that all other relationships are merely derivative. Do you have a concept of God as the Divine Lover? In some pagan traditions the belief is that our all-encompassing love for another human is a misplaced desire for God. We will always end up being disappointed with the human when the passion fades, because they are not our ultimate desire. God, however, never disappoints.


  8. Thank You so much Abdur for posting this wonderfully interesting question.

    I have discovered through God blessing me that God is love: Our true, healing, merciful, gracious , holy Teacher.

    I have discovered that the more we love God the deeper we will desire to trust and obey Him, and the more He will graciously enable us to surrender willingly and joyfully to His will; so that He can lead us into battle against all forms of evil in the human heart.

    Miraculously as we desire to truly honour God He will lift our capacity to thank Him, praise Him and adore Him.

    Enriched by our treasured relationship with Him He will also empower us to love our neighbour as ourself.

    May we bless Your mighty Name pure-hearted Creator God always.

  9. Salaam Abdur Rahman!
    Again Vedanta says the same!
    I ask:is everyday life,with its troubles and suffering,any preparation for that main task?Or is it only a monastic enterprise to know God?
    S.Srinivas Rau

  10. Shalom Seshat,

    Although books and the written word are important in Islam/Sufism, the inward path is inherently experiential. In the Sufi context, experiential knowledge of God (as opposed to theoretical knowledge or book-learning) is what is really sought after.

    There is indeed a very strong understanding of God as the Divine Lover in Sufi thought. God is often referred to as the Beloved, and is described in all sorts of ways that flow from such an experience. I have many examples of this kind of thing. Insha Allah, I’ll e-mail you some examples of this kind of poetry. Indeed, this is why the ancient Egyptian poetry you sent me before spoke so strongly to me!

    Human relationships, in all their diverse forms, are seen as pointing towards the broader relationship with the Divine. In Sufi poetry, there is a very strong blurring between poems in praise of a human beloved and the Divine Beloved – to the extent that the actual subject isn’t always clear (or, rather, it’s deliberately multi-layered).

    In my personal opinion, relationship is the purpose of life itself (which was why I posted this quotation originally).

  11. May God’s peace be with you always Josef,

    Allah! Thank you for this beautiful and evocative account of God’s overflowing love.

    The way you speak of the mysteries of loving relationship with God stir my heart. In all truth, this is the strange, miraculous and wonderful thing about God: the more we give, the more we want to give! And the enriched relationship with God you so beautifully describe does indeed power a more loving, giving and whole (if not holy) relationship with others. As I see it, the two are deeply inter-connected: if our relationships with others aren’t leading to this kind of place, there is something amiss with our relationship with God.

  12. Peace S. Srinivas Rau,

    Although I do not know that much about Vedanta, the more I discover the more familiar it feels. It seems to be about recogising the inherent oneness of (and in) all things. So, in that sense, what you say in this regard makes complete sense. One of the things I used to do a lot (and still do occasionally) is divide the world into different pieces – me, others, God, and so on. Thinking in this way, I found making the connections really difficult. It was only when I realised that my own everyday definitions of ‘me’ weren’t in fact the ‘real’ me that I started to grow.

    In answer to your question, I would say: is there any life other than this one, right here, right now? I only have this life. God gave me this life for a reason. I must therefore work with to the best of my ability. To do anything else would, in some sense, be to complain to God: ‘why didn’t you give me the kind of life I feel I should have had?’ I suspect God would say something like: ‘where were you when I created the world?’

    I’ve never been a monk, so I can’t speak about that. I would imagine, however, that it has never been a majoritarian practice: it has always been limited to a certain group in any given time. To my way of thinking, enlightenment, awakening, awareness, and so on are written into the very blue prints of the universe: this awareness is perhaps the very purpose of life itself. So, it must therefore be available (in potential at least) everywhere and in every age and time.

    Perhaps this is what is meant by Divine mercy?

  13. Thank you, Abdur. I look forward to reading the poetry.

    My own experience of Benedictine monasticism is that the life throws up its own set of challenges and depending on the person they can lead just as quickly to stagnation and apathy as with the challenges facing a layperson. I like to approach my everyday life AS IF I was a monastic, i.e. my sole purpose is my focus on the divine and everyday actions become rituals to bring me closer to Him/Her.

    Ah … divine mercy … I’m still thinking about that (see my reply to your comment on the Merciless path) 😉

  14. Shalom Seshat,

    This is another important issue in monasticism I suppose. This is probably one reason why the Islamic tradition generally doesn’t go in for monasticism as such. Perhaps it takes a certain kind of person to be a monk/nun and to cope with the pressures that such a life throws up.

  15. Salaams dearest Abdur…and I have 2 cents for the pot. One doesn’t have to be a nun/monk to be an urban aesthetic? Even if we work, we still have time to dedicate to that which is important before Allah…”you are what you seek”. Remember the story of Moses asking Allah to come and sup with him and how a beggar came to his door and he told him to come back later, etcetera? In our sincere love for God, we are conscious of every present moment (for we don’t know if tonight will be our last breath, just as we weren’t aware when we came into this world) and every circumstance we are presented with…if we see God in others, we will treat them with the utmost respect, free of judgment…for that is only Allah’s job. Life has a “loving” purpose to fulfill.

  16. Many thanks!Perhaps Rumi was monastic and Jami ws not.But they both illuminate our lives through poetry.
    Srinivas Rau

  17. Salams Barbara,

    I agree. I think consciousness of the moment, in whatever circumstance we may find ourselves, is the crucial thing. It is, as Seshat says, possible to be distracted in a monastery, and to be connected in the ‘real’ world.

  18. Peace Srinivas Rau,

    Perhaps it’s also a matter of definition? Although Islam has generally been against monasticism as a life-long thing, retreats from the world for certain periods of time are very much encouraged. In Ramadan, Muslims will often retreat to the mosque for the last 10 days (known as i’tikaf). Moreover, Sufis (like Mevlana Rumi and Shaykh Jami) regularly practiced 40 day retreats (known in Farsi as chilleh, or 40). The Tablighi Jamaat have a broadly similar practice too.

    That said, both do illuminate us with their poetry. Allah!

  19. Salam Abdur Rahman!
    This matter of ritual is not so simple!Protests against mere form are understandable(arising out of dissatisfaction with ritualism in any religion).A famous poem of Iqbal rejects the chant of mantras and asks for something higher.Yet he wrote in his Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam “when times are not propitious it is only the externals of religion that can be preserved”.
    I feel only a deep Murshid can gauge the progress made by a given person towards knowing God.
    Srinivas Rau

  20. Salam S. Srinivas Rau,

    Ritual is not a simple matter, as you say. Both form and meaning are necessary I think. May God guide us all to that deep Murshid who can gauge our inward/outward progress.

    Ya Allah!

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