In Islam everything revolves round the axis of God, including the goal in the mission of prophets and individuals’ goal of life. According to the Qur’an, man gains his happiness only from God, and it is He who fills all the gaps in his life, and satisfies him. The Qur’an says: “Those who have faith and their hearts are tranquil in thinking of God, know that all hearts find peace by remembering God.”[The Qur’an: 13:28 ] Only God brings repose to the anxious and inquisitive hearts of man. Other things are subsidiary and preliminary matters, not the final stage. Thus the goal and ideal that Islam offers is God, and everything else is preparatory to it, and not of an independent and fundamental importance.
One of the fundamental problems to investigate is the goal of life. Man
always asks questions like what he lives for and what his objective in life
should be. From the viewpoint of Islam, one would as well ask: "What is the
objective and purpose of prophetic missions?"
The objective of the prophetic missions is not dissimilar to individual goals of
men (peoples), for whom the prophets have been appointed; for, the prophets are
sent to guide men towards certain goals. Going one step further, we could ask:
"What is the goal of creation, of man as well as other creatures?"
This point requires an exact analysis. It may pertain to ‘the goal of the
Creator in Creation, the manifestation of His Will and Purpose’. We cannot
assume a goal for God, and believe that He wishes to attain something by His
acts. Such a supposition implies a shortcoming in the doer of an action, which
may be true of creatures with a potential power, but not of the Creator; since
it would mean that He intends to move towards perfection and secure something
which He does not have. But sometimes by the goal of creation is meant the goal
of the created action, not of the Creator. This would involve the movement of
the created towards perfection, not the perfection of the Creator Himself. In
this sense, if we think that the nature of creation has always been movement
towards perfection, then there is a motive in creation.
This is actually the case, that is, each thing that is created has an
independent stage of perfection ahead of it to be attained; and so for
everything there exist stages of deficiency or perfection until the maximum
limit is reached. The question of the ‘motive in the creation of man’ is
basically one that refers to the ‘nature of man’. It pertains to whatever
talents are inherent in him, and whatever individual perfections are possible
for him. Once perfections are accomplished by one, we may say he was created for
There is apparently no need to elaborate on the purpose and goal of the creation
of man as a separate topic. It will be sufficient to see what kind of a creature
man is, and what abilities are inherent in him. In other words as our discussion
concerns the Islamic aspect of the matter, and not a philosophical one, we must
see how Islam regards man and his abilities.
Naturally the mission of the prophets, too, is believed unanimously to
facilitate man’s perfection and to aid him to remove the deficiencies which
neither he, as an individual, nor his society is able to remove. It is only with
the aid of their divine revelations that he can advance towards enhancing
Accordingly, every individual must see what he can be after identifying his
potentialities, so as to bring them to fruition. That is the goal of our life.
So far, the subject is treated in general. Now we must go into detail: Whether
the Qur’an has discussed the goal of man, and whether it gives the reason for
his creations as well as the mission of Prophets.
Very often we say that man is created for seeking happiness and God neither
wants nor gets any benefit from man’s Creation. Actually man is destined to
choose his way freely, His guidance is a matter of duty and belief, not
instinctive and compulsory. So, as he is free, he might as well choose the right
way.  But what is happiness according to the Qur’an? It is often said that
the purpose of man’s creation and prophetic missions is to make man strong in
knowledge and resolution, so that he may learn more and more, and secure the
power to do what he desires .
Thus the purpose of creating a seed is to realize its potential to become a
mature plant. Likewise, a lamb’s herbivorous development into sheep manifests a
purpose of creation (useful to man. Ed.). Man’s potentiality is much superior,
he is meant to be knowledgeable and able. The more he knows, the more he can use
his knowledge and the nearer he will be to his human goal and purpose.
Sometimes it is said that the goal of human life is happiness in the sense that
during the time one is alive, he should live comfortably and happily enjoy the
blessings of Creation and nature, suffer less pain from either natural causes or
from fellow creatures. This is considered happiness. This means, then, getting
maximum pleasure and minimum pain .
It is also said that the prophets too are sent to make it possible for man to
secure maximum pleasure and have minimum pain. If the prophets have introduced
the subject of the next world, it is meant as a continuation of this life. In
other words, as a way has been shown for human happiness and as following it
requires the granting of a reward, and opposition to it involves punishment,
this reward and punishment are presented on the models of this world, so that
the laws of this world would not be futile. Moreover, as the prophets were in no
position as executives in this world to grant rewards or deal punishment,
another world had to be offered where the good would be rewarded, and the wicked
But we come across none of these statements in the Qur’an, where the purpose of
creating jinns and human beings is given as ‘worship’. [The Qur’an, 51:56] This
may seem to us too difficult to understand. Of what use is worship for God? It
does not benefit Him. Of what use is it to man? But this point has been
explicitly mentioned in the Qur’an as the purpose of Creation. Contrary to the
view that the next life is subsidiary to this one, the Qur’an says: "If there
were no Resurrection, Creation would be futile." And again it says: "Do you
suppose that we have created you in vain?"[The Qur’an, 23:115] It is suggestive
of something wisely done.
Is it assumed that creation is meaningless, and man does not return to God? In
the verses of the Qur’an the question of Resurrection occurs repeatedly with the
matter of the rightfulness of creation. Its reasoning is based on the
implication that this world has a God, and He does nothing in vain, and all is
rightful and not in play, and there is a return to Him who accounts for the
whole universe. We never come across this idea in the Qur’an that man is created
in order to know more and act more to attain his goal. He is created to worship,
and the worship of God is in itself a goal. If there is no question of knowing
God which is the preface to worship, then man has failed in his advance towards
the goal of creation, and from the viewpoint of the Qur’an he is not happy. The
prophets, too, are sent to guide him towards that happiness which is the worship
Thus the goal and ideal that Islam offers is God, and everything else is
preparatory to it, and not of an independent and fundamental importance. In the
verses where the Qur’an mentions perfect human beings, or speaks on their
behalf, it says they have truly understood the goal of life and endeavored to
attain it. It says for Ibrahim ("I have devoted my worship to Him who has
created heaven and earth, and I am not a pagan." [The Qur’an, 6:80] This Sura,
too, says: "My prayer, worship, life and death are for God, who is the Lord of
the Universe." [The Qur’an, 6:163]
This monotheism of the Qur’an is not merely an intellectual one, thinking that
the origin of universe is one thing and its Creator is another. It includes the
faith and conviction of man that there is only one Creator, and his goal, which
is the only worthy one, is He alone. All other goals are the product of this one
and subsidiary to it.
Thus, in Islam everything revolves round the axis of God, including the goal in
the mission of prophets and individuals’ goal of life.
Now let us study the question of worship. In the second verse, Ibrahim’s words
show pure devotion and he shows himself a thoroughly devoted servant of God who
is ruled by no thought but that of God.
Concerning the reason for the mission of prophets, the Qur’an offers several
explanations. In Sura Ahzab, Verses 33, 45 and 46 it says: "O, Prophet, We sent
you as witness, harbinger and giver of warning, to invite towards God by his
leave, and to be a bright light." Thus a prophet is a witness to the people’s
deeds; a harbinger of the good deeds recommended by the prophets; an agent of
warning against evil acts, and a man who calls human beings towards God, which
is by itself an ultimate goal.
Elsewhere a prophet’s mission is mentioned as a duty to bring people out of
darkness into light. So, it is clear that the people are called upon to know
God. The prophets are the link between creatures and the creator.
In another verse another point is mentioned as the goal in the mission of the
prophets: "Truly we sent our prophets with clear proofs and with them we sent
the Book and true measure, so that the people rise in justice, and we sent iron
in which there is great firmness and benefits for people …" [The Qur’an, 57:25
] In this verse by measure is probably meant law, so that justice will prevail.
Thus, the prophets have come to establish justice, and this is another aspect of
Justice cannot, as people like Ibn Sina argues, be truly established among
people without an equitable law, which for two reasons cannot be devised by man.
Firstly, man cannot distinguish truth completely or free himself from personal
bias. Secondly, there is no guarantee for its execution, for, man’s nature makes
him prefer himself to others. So, when the law is in his favour, he accepts it,
and when it is against his interest, he rejects it.
A law must be of a kind to which man submits, and such a law must come from God
to induce obedience in man’s deep conscience. This just law is from God, and to
have a guarantee for its execution, rewards and punishments must be devised, and
to enable people to have faith in them, they must know God himself. Thus,
knowing God is for several reasons, a pre-requisite for the establishment of
Even worship is set up to prevent people from forgetting the legislator and to
remember Him always as an overseer. With this argument, calling people to God is
another goal, otherwise there would be no motive for knowing Him,
In this way, we have three types of logic. The first one is that the goal in the
mission of the prophets is only the establishment of justice among people and
securing for them a happy life in this world. Accordingly, knowing God and
having faith in Him and in Resurrection are all pre-requisites to that. The
second logic is quite the reverse, that is, knowing God and worship and
proximity to God are the main goal, and justice is secondary. Man’s spirituality
in this world is predicated on his social life, and social life without law and
justice is not possible. So, law and justice are pre-requisites for worshipping
God. Thus attending to social problems which we consider so important today in
connection with justice are objectives of the Prophets, but its importance
The third view questions the necessity of envisaging a separate goal for the
prophets’ mission and another for Creation and life, and thereby the need of
considering one of them as the principal goal and the other as a subsidiary one.
We may say the prophets have had two independent goals, one of them as a link
between man and God for the sake of worshipping Him, and secondly to establish
justice among people; so we may put aside the idea of one of them being a
pre-requisite to the other.
You can find examples of this in the Qur’an, where the matter of the
purification of self is emphasised, and salvation is stated to depend on it. Is
self-purification a goal in Islam? Is it a goal or a pre-requisite,
pre-requisite for what? For knowing God, and linking to Him and worshipping Him?
Or for the establishment of social justice? According to this view, as the
prophets’ mission sought the establishment of social justice, social evils and
goodness are distinguished. They recommend human beings to avoid the evils, such
as envy, pride, selfishness, sensuality etc., and cherish virtues such as
truthfulness, integrity, affection, modesty etc. Or should it be claimed that
self-purification is in itself an independent goal?
Which of the above views should be accepted? To our way of thinking the Qur’an
never approves of dualism in any sense. The Qur’an is a monotheistic book in
every sense of the word. It says: "God has no like or equal" [The Qur’an,
42:11]. It represents all the Attributes of God in their utmost perfection. [The
Qur’an, "All the best Names are His," (20:8) "The Most Exalted Attribute is only
God’s." (16:60)]. It admits of no partners for Him, and no rival, and says all
power belongs to Him and to none other. It is also monotheistic in not
attributing any goal as a fundamental, independent and ultimate to the universe
but God. For man, too, in both his creation and his obligations and actions, no
goal but God is recognised.
There is all the difference between a man who wants Islam, and a man who
believes in just schools of philosophy. Many of the things said by Islam are the
same as those of others, but not in the same perspective. Islam always regards
matters in a monotheistic perspective.
In philosophy, as we said before, man has reached a stage where he says that the
world is governed by a series of constant and unalterable laws. The Qur’an says
the same but in the divine context. [The Qur’an (35: 43); "You will never find
God’s Way alterable."] The Qur’an does not only accept the principle of social
justice, but considers it most significant, though not as an ultimate goal, nor
as a pre-requisite to what we understood by worldly happiness.
Islam accepts worldly happiness within the practical constraints of monotheism,
that is, to be wholly devoted to God.
According to the Qur’an, man gains his happiness only from God, and it is He who
fills all the gaps in his life, and satisfies him. The Qur’an says: "Those who
have faith and their hearts are tranquil in thinking of God, know that all
hearts find peace by remembering God ."[The Qur’an: 13:28 ] Only God brings
repose to the anxious and inquisitive hearts of man. Other things are subsidiary
and preliminary matters, not the final stage. The same is said of worship: "To
remember God, pray." [The Qur’an: 20:14]
Also, the following verse says: "Prayer checks wickedness and injustice, and
remembering God is more important."[The Qur’an: 29:45] Islam thinks of man as
created to worship God, to seek proximity to Him and to know Him, all of which
give him power. But knowledge and power are not the ultimate goal, nor is
1. The Qur’an, Sura Al-Insan, Verse 3: "We have shown man the way to be grateful
or ungrateful." (76:3)