The Goal of Creation
Martyr Mortada Motahari
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 them,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 perfection .
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 creation 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 punished.
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’. 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 that “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 of God.
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, 6:79)
This Sura, too, says: “My prayer, worship, life and death are for God, who is the Lord of the Universe . “ (The Qur’an, 6:162)
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 Him 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.
*Derived from al-islam.org