Islamic Character Personal Development

Understanding the Purpose of Life

Originally published December 2, 2010

Becoming the Servants of the Most Merciful Series

Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IVPart VPart VIPart VIIPart VIIIPart IXPart XPart XI Part XIIPart XIIIPart XIV | Part XV

Any mature and intellectually-conscious person seeks purpose and meaning out of life. Thanks to the evolvement of our world in the last couple of centuries, we have embraced the concept of general education as the pillar in life; many people think that achieving the best education possible and earning a respectable status fulfills one’s purpose. Undoubtedly, education is extremely important for human progress, and Islam highly encourages it. The problem is we often see education as an end in itself. Our ultimate goal in life becomes obtaining a degree and then working toward a reputable career – Islam is a distant third. As Muslims, we should not see our lives in this way. Seeking knowledge, just like anything else we do in this life, is a means to an end: worshipping our Creator and making our way back to Him.

Our Prophet ﷺ has taught us that we should live as travelers. He ﷺ taught us that this life is not our permanent residence. Indeed, we are passing through this life in transit to eternity; the purpose of this transit lies with the test of the great trust (al-amanat al-kubra). This test is about having full authority and responsibility over our choices. It is a matter of how we spend our limited time with our intelligence and creative abilities. Will we, who are innately aware of our Creator, use our time and abilities to make choices that obey Him? Or will we use that potential to serve our own desires?

This last article of the “Becoming Servants of the Most Merciful” series is about those obedient souls who truly know their Lord and His message and thus fulfill a life of servitude to Him. All the previous articles combined provide a detailed description of the last verse of Surat al-Dhariyat,


“I have merely created Jinn and Man to worship Me.” (Qur’an, 51:56)

This brings us to the final verse of the series.


“Say, ‘What would my Lord do with you if it wasn’t for your worship and obedience?’ Yet you disbelievers denied and your punishment is inevitable!” (Qur’an, 25:77)

The scholars of Qur’anic exegesis have explained the meaning of the phrase “Qul ma yaa’abao bikum rabbee low laa du`aaokum.” The translation warns us of what might happen to us if we do not lead a life of obedience and servitude to God. We depend on God’s Mercy, which is increased when we pray to Him alone. If we abandon our worship, God will abandon loving us. Another translation is, “Say: my Lord is not concerned with you unless you live a life of servitude.” Here, God is clearly confirming the purpose of life as only being to serve Him. Those who do sincerely worship Him will receive His mercy, forgiveness, blessings and ultimate companionship. That is why they are called ibad ar-Rahman, the Servants of the Merciful. On the other hand, we should beware of a life which is lived according to our own priorities, and in servitude of ourselves, and thus falling under the category of those who are not under the care and protection of the Merciful One.

We pray the Merciful, Forgiving, Loving, Kind, Gentle, Gracious and Beneficent One guides us to a life of eternal bliss. We pray we fulfill the purpose of life and earn His contentment and companionship. We ask Him to protect those who take this path from the plot of Satan. Ameen.

About the author

John (Yahya) Ederer

John (Yahya) Ederer

Imam John Yahya Ederer left a life of spiritual decadence and embraced Islam in 1998. In 2002, he accepted a scholarship offer from the Islamic American University in Michigan and spent 6 years travelling the Muslim world studying with prominent scholars. He attained an associates with IAU, a certification of mastery of the Arabic sciences from the ministry of education in Egypt, a diploma in Islamic Studies from the Cordoba Institute in Kuwait and a license with one of the highest chains of transmission in Qur’an memorization and recitation. He served as the Religious Director of the Islamic Foundation of South Florida for two years and now lives with his wife and two children in Charlotte, North Carolina where he serves as Imam of the Muslim American Society. He currently sits on the clergy board of one of the largest interfaith coalitions in Mecklenburg Ministries and is a board member of the Shamrock Drive Development Association.


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