The insightful person is in a constant state of asking themselves, “Why am I doing what I am doing?” This is a direct application of the prophetic injunction, “Verily actions are only by their intentions.” (Nawawi) So as Muslims, and as human beings, we must ask ourselves – “What is the purpose of the way of life that I have chosen?”
Sheikh al-Islam Ibn ‘Āshūr said that the greatest objective of the Shari`ah is:
جلب الصلاح و درء الفساد
“The acquisition of benefit and the prevention of harm”
which is accomplished through
إصلاح حال الإنسان و درء فساده
“The reform of the human condition and the prevention of its corruption.”
This reform has results that impact the Afterlife and this life.
In the Hereafter, this means reforming one’s belief in order to ensure that it is in line with the rest of creation, in pure worship of the One Creator; and then working according to this pure belief, thereby accomplishing the greatest of benefits: entering Paradise and being in the presence of the Divine.
In this life it means reforming the condition of the human being, individually and communally. We can, therefore, notice that the guidance of Islam does not seek just to impact the individual, but also recognizes the unbreakable link between the individual and his society. We have a concept in Islamic law of personal versus communal obligations – actions that are required from every individual for them not to be sinful personally, versus actions that are required from the community as a whole, and carried out by a few, for the whole community not to be sinful.
This foundation brings us to the question of why we do things. Sometimes we do things for the sake of doing them and forget to place them under the framework of this objective. We will talk for long hours and repeat over and over again the importance of seeking knowledge and mention all the hadith and verses from the Qur’an that promote it, and forget to put it under the framework of reforming the human condition. We will talk about da`wah and how we need to teach people about Islam but we often lose sight of the purpose behind doing so. We do not tie in examples of current events or history, science or social science, in order to show how the principles of Islam affect positive change on the ground as a revolutionary force for gradual and stable development. In not doing this, we are missing the secret to understanding the greatness of our way of life and the utter perfection of the framework that Allah has laid down for us in the teachings of Islam – a framework that facilitates the civic participation of the divinely-inspired individual and guides our direct, daily impact on our surroundings.