And whoever fears Allah – He will make for him a way out and will provide for him from where he does not expect. And whoever relies upon Allah – then He is sufficient for him. Indeed, Allah will accomplish His purpose. Allah has already set foreverything a [decreed] extent.” (65:2-3)
For believers, the notion of purpose in our lives is integral. The Qur’an tells us why Allah has created us:
“And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” (51:56)
People may take this as being solely the devotional acts of worship such as prayer, fasting, reading Qur’an and so on. But if this were really the case, Allah could have commanded us to hide away and perform the specific acts of worship all day and night, and sent us a prophet who did just that. However Allah did not do this; and worship encompasses every aspect of our lives: how we work, what we work in, our intentions, our treatment of others, the benefit we give mankind and so on. Our Prophet (peace be upon him exemplified this.
Thus we must ask – how can we truly live this life with meaning? The word ya’budoon (worship) in this ayah (verse) denotes the overarching reason for why Allah has created us. What we must think about is why Allah created you and me specifically.
“Then did you think that We created you uselessly and that to Us you would not be returned?” (23:115)
Allah did not create us as a game for play. In each and every one of us there is an intrinsic purpose and role that we have to fulfill. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
“God loves, if when you do something, you perfect it.” (Tabarani)
Why would there be this expectation of us – this encouragement – to do things with excellence if we did not have the capacity for it? Allah never places a burden on us greater than we can bear. Therefore, we all have the ability to excel insha’Allah (God willing). The next question to ask is, excel at what?
Allah created us all differently for a reason – we have to question why we have a passion for something, and why we are good at certain things. Perhaps we are good at writing, and we have a passion for a certain subject. Maybe we are good with children and are quite family orientated. Perhaps we have a passion for politics. Whatever it is, it is there for a reason and it is up to us to pursue it.
The ultimate aim of everything is, of course, to earn Allah’s pleasure, to be able to see Him in Paradise, and to be of the neighbors of the Prophet (peace be upon him) insha’Allah. We should strive to make this our very essence. The Prophet (pbuh) was asked whether he preferred to be immortal, or whether he preferred to accept death and return to Allah. He chose the latter; he chose Allah and his entire journey was only to that destination.
So we too should have specific objectives in order to achieve our overall goal. Perhaps we want to gain Allah’s pleasure by having a successful business, employing people and upholding ethics in the workplace. It could be through raising a family. Remember Mariam’s mother told Allah “My Lord, indeed I have pledged to You what is in my womb, consecrated [for Your service], so accept this from me. Indeed, You are the Hearing, the Knowing.” (3:35)
We should use our passion to develop our skills and talents, and aim for our specific goal. Even if it seems difficult – or even impossible – if we have the sincere intention to do something for the sake of Allah, He aids us. At the end, it is the journey that matters. We should aim to be of the people on the Day of Judgment who have something to present sincerely, and at least be able to say “O Allah, I wanted to do this for Your sake.”
When your goal is nearness to Allah it also ensures that you are doing things in the right way and according to His rules. An example of this is constantly seeking advice like the companions (may Allah pleased with them) did – how else can you earn His pleasure?
The fact that a human being can be higher than the Angels is significant – it shows that we have this potential to grow. In the Qur’an Allah says:
“We have certainly honored the children of Adam.” (17:70)
A very striking example of someone using their talent and excelling for the sake of Allah is one of the most prominent figures of Islamic history – Khalid bin Al Walid. Even before he became Muslim, he was known to be an intelligent military strategist and warrior. He led the army against the Muslims at the battle of Uhud, which resulted in heavy casualties for the Muslims. When he converted to Islam, the Prophet (pbuh) gave him a position that suited his talents and he went on to be one of the greatest military leaders of Islam. The Prophet (pbuh) did not say, “Let him memorize the entire Qur’an first” because that was not where his skills lay. It was reported that Khalid bin Al Walid would make mistakes when reciting even the smallest of surahs (chapters). Of course he sought to improve himself and it was a struggle, but his ultimate aim was using what he was good at for the sake of Allah.
I’ll give a more contemporary example. Kernel Sanders opened his fast food chain when he was 60 years old, and now Kentucky Fried Chicken is one of the most successful fast food restaurants in the world. No matter what age you are and what path you’ve taken, it is never too late to make the intention to excel.
The above could be seen as daunting. Maybe we do have talent, and an interest in a particular field – but the road is difficult. How do we go about it? Our family, friends, society may be against it. Is it worth the trouble?
This is where tawakul – trust in Allah – comes in. Of course, trust in Allah does not mean that we sit back and expect things to come to us. Rather, it is using our skills to achieve our objectives and then leaving the result to Allah. When the Prophet (pbuh) was asked by a man whether he should tie his camel or leave it untied and put his trust in Allah, the Prophet (pbuh) responded, “Tie your camel, then put your trust in Allah” (Tirmidhi).
The overall goal is one of the highest things one can aim to achieve, and we can anticipate that it will not be easy. Allah tests those whom He loves. It follows that the highest point of tawakul is trusting in Allah even when it seems that all the doors are shut. As the abovementioned ayah says, “God will be enough for those who put their trust in Him. God achieves His purpose; God has set a due measure for everything.” This includes trusting in Allah enough to know that even if it doesn’t turn out the way we had wanted, Allah has given us what is best, even if it is a test.
It is also important to remember that Allah has named Himself al-Wakeel (The Trustee). This means that if you rely on Him and put your trust in Him, He will take care of your affairs. He has named Himself this and made that known to us so that we know that we can and should rely on Him. Moreover, if it is something that we really do want, and we have the sincere intention that it is for the sake of Allah, He will aid us in ways that we cannot imagine.
We should think of the prophets Yusuf and Yacub (may Allah be pleased with them both). Yusuf was thrown into a well by his brothers, sold to a wealthy minister, invited to sin by the wife of the minister and then thrown in jail unjustly. What would we have been thinking? Would we have given up? Yusuf did not – and Allah honored him and returned him to his father. Yacub had lost his favorite son. Years later, he loses his other son – but what did he say?
“Perhaps Allah will bring them to me all together. Indeed it is He who is the Knowing, the Wise.” (12:83)
He increased his faith in Allah – that perhaps He would return both of them to him. And that is true faith in Allah.
Passion + talent & skills + diligence = excellence.
Excellence + sincere intentions = pleasure of Allah insha’Allah.
May Allah allow us to recognize our purpose, and give us the passion and drive to fulfill our role for the sole purpose of gaining His pleasure. Ameen.