Anguba, New Age Islam
One of the
most basic questions about human existence that we could ask ourselves is: What
is the purpose of life? Or, to put it differently, What on Earth are we on
Maker, has created each one of us, just as He has created the rest of the vast
universe. Surely, He must have had some reason to do so—it couldn’t have been
just in jest. There must be some definite purpose for which God brought us into
being and sent us to Earth, to spend a bit of time here before we are called
what is this purpose?
Do we have
any clue at all?
really think about it, you might be led to realise that there is hardly any
question that is more important than this one for us to ask and to seek to find
the answer to. But despite this, how many of us actually do ever ask ourselves
(or others) this question, leave alone seeking to find the answer to it? If I recall rightly, for several decades (I
am now in my 50s) I gave this really important question no serious thought at
all. My case might hardly be exceptional. It may be almost the universal norm
I was born
in a supposedly ‘well-educated’ and ‘very cosmopolitan’ family. Growing up as a
child, not once did my parents ever raise the issue of the purpose of human
life in general, or of our own lives in particular. The issue wasn’t once
broached in conversations with relatives either. Nor was it with classmates and
teachers at school, or, later, in the college and in the universities where I
studied. Later on, I worked for a living in different places, but not once, if
my memory serves me right, did I hear a single person talk about life’s
purpose. All through those many decades, in my conversations with other people,
we talked about all sorts of things, but possibly on not even one occasion did
we ever refer to the purpose of life.
that really strange?
conspiracy of silence on this most important question about life is actually
the purpose of life was hardly, if ever, referred to in my interactions with
others, there was, right through and all along, a certain implicit
understanding of this purpose that possibly most us shared. It wasn’t ever
stated explicitly, and maybe for that reason it was particularly seductive and
pervasive. Possibly, it had come to be so widely accepted as obvious, as in the
very nature of things, that it did need to be articulated in words. At home, in the various educational
institutions I studied at, and later, in the places where I worked, there was
probably a broadly-shared consensus about the purpose of life being centred on
the notion that life was meant for maximizing the pleasure that one could
derive from the five senses. This is what (supposedly) gave meaning and purpose
to life. Pampering the never-ceasing demands of the ego was what a meaningful
and purposeful life was essentially about, although this could be sometimes
tempered with some consideration for the needs of others.
rich and famous’ summarised how a meaningful life was understood by many. ‘Have
as much fun as you can while the game lasts’, or ‘Shop till you drop’ could be
other ways in which this idea could be described. This understanding of the
purpose of life was also endlessly purveyed by the mass media, advertising
companies and the ‘entertainment’ industry till it was converted into plain
‘commonsense’ for probably hundreds of millions of people.
worldview that is based on the notion that the purpose of life is the pursuit
of pleasure, had become the de facto creed for vast numbers of people,
including myself and probably a great many of those I knew, including several
who described themselves as ardent believers in this or that religion. Hedonism
had, for all practical purposes, become the religion that we were passionately
devoted to, even if we did not ourselves consciously recognise the fact.
Now in my
50s, and having gained some insight (including through some ‘bitter’
experiences) into the hollowness of the hedonistic worldview, my understanding
of the purpose of life is—or so I hope—not quite the same now. I’m learning
about diverse theistic spiritual traditions of the world that have a very
different understanding of life’s purpose. While these traditions might differ
on some issues among themselves, there are certain points they agree on.
these commonalities is that human beings (and all other life-forms) have been
created by a transcendent God, and for a certain purpose.
common teaching is that death is not the end of us. Death is the dying of the
physical body but not of the real ‘I’—the soul. We continue to live (in some or
the other form and in some or the other realm) even after the death of our
body. Our state or fate in the life after death will depend on how we had lived
our short life while on Earth.
recognise two basic facts—the fact of God, the Creator, and the fact of life
after death—can completely transform one’s understanding of the purpose of
life. Seen in the light of these two facts, the ideology of Hedonism can be
recognised as not just totally bankrupt but dangerously self-damaging and delusional
as well. Along with this, the true purpose of life can now come to be seen as
in having a deep and loving personal relationship with God and seeking to do
His will for us, moment by moment.
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