A typical day for Aisha often involves discussions with her friends. One day, the question which was sprung upon everyone was quite unexpected. Her friends opined, “What’s the purpose of honesty and goodness when the bad people are gaining more in this world?” While it was hard for Aisha to produce some tangible answer on the spot, being a believer she knew deep within her heart that the answer is connected with the true purpose of our lives.
A similar question might have struck our minds as well “Why should we hold onto the rope of honesty and goodness when the world least bothers about it? What does the word ‘ goodness’ signify in totality?”
ALLAH CREATED HUMANS IN THE BEST-EVER FORM
The Quran in many verses exemplifies how humans have been created in the best form.
Allah’s creation of the Universe is such a feast for our senses. Everything moves with perfect precision. Each time we gaze upon one aspect of creation, our eyes grow tired of the sheer grandeur of what we witness. Yet out of all of His creations, Allah asked us to look at ourselves, Asraf-ul-Makhlukaat, as we are the best of all designs.
“By the fig and the olive, and the Mount Sinai, and this city of peace (Makkah), We have indeed created humankind in the best of moulds.” ( Surah-At Tin)
Allah has taken an oath by the fig and the olive to emphasize how human beings do not merely exist to fulfil their basic needs, but Allah has given us the rational capacity, particularly to reason out and employ our intellect in contemplating the intricacies of this world. Allah has given us the status of Ashraf ul Makhlukaat, which signifies our ability to attain the role of dominion by serving others. As Allah takes an oath while stressing this, it shows how much we should ponder on this statement. If Allah has fashioned us in the best configuration by blessing us with a higher form of cognitive capacity and the power to empathize with the world, then what made us think we are negligible in the eyes of creations?
In other verses, the Quran has reduced human existence to dust.
“Do you deny Him Who created you out of the dust, then out of a sperm-drop, then fashioned you into a man?” [18:37]
When the Quran speaks volumes of how human beings are moulded in the best form, it also brings our attention to the fact that we are created out of a simple drop of fluid (nutfah). When the Quran describes the creation of the human in two seemingly contrasting sentiments, it gives us the impression that the status of the human being will only make sense when we acknowledge the mechanism of our complex origin. It is only by holding both the loftiness and the lowliness of our creation that we can create room for humility in our hearts. It is when we use the same rational faculty in recognizing how all our abilities are the blessings of Allah, that we can see that genuine success is attained only by adhering to the moral compass provided by the Creator. It naturally broadens our knowledge regarding the bigger purpose we are here to serve.
The world was not made “without [moral] purpose” (Qur’an 3:191; 38:27) or “frivolously” ( Qur’an 23:115).
UNIQUENESS OF THE FITRAH
It is well-explained in a hadith that “Every child is born on fitrah”. With the innate nature of acknowledging the existence of Allah, every person is born with the concept of tawheed embedded deep in our hearts. Believing in the oneness of Allah aligns us on the same path. It represents the common denominator for all of us. A path that leads to Siratul Mustakeem. Every soul can define their purpose by walking on this path. The idea of fitrah motivates us to ponder upon the optimistic nature of the soul. Our fitrah fashioned us to bear goodness in our hearts which signifies that Allah inherently modelled every soul to do good.
As you connect the dots, Aisha’s way of not giving up on the notion of honesty and goodness would make more sense now. The gift of fitrah, which she was possessing in her heart, answered back to her. With time, our fitrah can become covered with layers of rust by the desires of this world. Our task, as one ummah, is to uncover the rust from our and each other’s hearts.
From the lens of the humanistic approach, human nature is considered innately good, and capable of strengthening human relationships. Rogers affirms that people are trustworthy and resourceful in self-understanding. The self-actualization of the humanistic approach has been equated with the fitrah of our soul. A self-actualized soul, who is in the quest for fitrah, contemplates the true purpose of his life that it resides beyond materialism and this could only be achieved through divinity.
Our nafs works to fulfil our lower needs. The Nafs ul Ammara Bissu comes into play when we want to gratify our basic needs. It cannot empathise with the outer world, instead, its focus is centralised on only concern for oneself. By shifting our focus away from the self, when we catch an opportunity to have a glimpse of the world, our Nafs-ul-Mutmainnah enables us to get rid of maladaptive natures and replace them with positive ones. Similarly, Masłów’s hierarchy represents the parallel aim of actualizing our potential for growth beyond fulfilling our basic needs. Henceforth, our purpose should not be fixated on only serving our nafs, rather we ought to broaden our vision in serving for the sake of worshipping Allah and in utilising the gift given to us in the best possible ways.
The ultimate way to use our Allah-given gifts is to affirm them outright. By bringing the beauty of our five senses together, we ought to bring our potential to the surface. The moment we recognize the gift in each one of our senses, our hearts fill with a sense of gratitude. This further draws our attention to our immense capacity to reach our fullest potential by utilising them in the best possible way and gradually unwinding the uncertainty of our purpose.
THE VERSATILE NATURE OF OUR QUALITY SHOWS OUR NEED FOR EACH OTHER
Our food occupies our table because, in some far fields, farmers sow and reap crops. We can breathe fresh air because somebody took the initiative of cleaning our surroundings. As insignificant as their presence appears at the superficial level, needless to say, the roles they play in moulding our society are quite irreplaceable.
Our Prophet (s.a.w) described the origin of variation in personality as: “Indeed Allah Most High created Adam from a handful that He took from all the earth. So the children of Adam come in according to the earth, some of them come red, and white and black, and between that, and the lenient, the hard-headed, the filthy, and the pure.”
Allah created us in different cultures, races, and forms, further spreading our generation wide across. In diversity, Allah bound us together. There is always something that one possesses that the other person needs. So when questioning why we ought to spread goodness, the answer remains embedded within ourselves. We can create or give a treasure that the other person needs. There is a receiver at the other end consistently.
We have been wired in such a manner that the quality we possess creates a drive that is looking for its sources. If we shun these blessings, they might reach a state of dormancy or die, leading to the death of our purpose.
In a nutshell, humanity came as a blessing. Although our mission as one ummah is to serve Allah, Islam fruitfully acknowledges the variation in personalities,
Dr Zohair Abdul-Rahman and Dr Nazir Khan, in their paper, “Souls Assorted: An Islamic Theory of Spiritual Personality”, emphasised how Paradise has 8 gates. One of them is called Ar-Rayyan through which none will enter but those who observe fasting. This shows that varied people will achieve several statuses in paradise based on the unique combination of qualities they possess. He broadened the concept of personality by adding the scale of spirituality to it. The aim of adding spirituality to the dimension mainly highlights the subjective growth of the individuals, extending the model of objective minds. The paper aims at specialising in translating our crystallised knowledge into action. Further, the process of gaining ilm is facilitated by acknowledging our spiritual self.
Our Prophet (s.a.w) appointed his companions for numerous tasks after evaluating their natural skills. He recognized the skills and talents of the Sahabas which aligned with certain responsibilities. Some of the Sahabas knew how to deal with difficult situations, some had a great inclination to come up with new solutions, whereas others held the capacity to console. Khalid ibn al-Walid was known for his chivalry. Hassan- Ibn-Thabbit weaved poetries in the defence of Islam. Omar (r.a) attained the title ‘Farooq’ because of his ability to distinguish good from evil. Abu- Bakr was remembered for his faithful nature and hence derived the designation ‘Siddiq’. The versatile nature of the companions of the Prophet has constituted our ummah as one with diversity.
WORKING FOR THE UMMAH
With this awareness of the multiplicity that exists in our community, we can infuse a genuine sense of belonging among each other. Catering to the needs of others, we can become fully capable of appreciating our barakah and the uniqueness that Allah has endowed us with.
Imam Ibn al-Qayyim ( 751 AH) writes: “The Path to Allah is one path, inclusive of all that which pleases Allah, and WHAT PLEASES HIM IS NUMEROUS AND DIVERSIFIED ACCORDING TO TIMES, PLACES, PEOPLE, AND SITUATIONS. All of these are Divinely pleasing paths, which Allah made numerous out of His Mercy and Wisdom for the differences of people in their dispositions (isti‘dādāt) and their hearts (qulūb). And had Allah made them all one category despite the differences in people’s minds (adhhān), intellects (`uqū), and strengths and weaknesses of their dispositions, none would traverse the path to Him, except (a few individuals), one by one.”
Allah defined our purpose of existence: it is to worship HIM. As we nurture our spiritual personality with time, our existence becomes much more evident to us. We get the opportunity to align our spiritual personality with that of commitment ahead of us to work for our community.
PURPOSE OF OUR GOODNESS
Allah says in Surah Rahman “Shall the reward for good anything be anything but good?”
We, human beings, are desperate for love, compassion and belonging. In return for performing any act of good, our human instinct yearns for goodness to come back to us despite the altruism with which we act. Yet, the very fact that Allah puts us in a position to do good and let this goodness find its niche in our hearts (qalb) is in itself a blessing. Our hearts sync with it, restore tranquillity with it and consider it a companion such that this companion of goodness accompanies us and wraps us with its warmth. Surah Rahman repeatedly emphasises us to ponder upon our blessings. Its wisdom encompasses not just the instrumental blessings but beyond the transpersonal. To be able to grasp the wisdom of being blessed by Allah, despite all the hurdles, itself is a blessing. To show gratitude to Allah for all the niyyah in our life is a blessing from our Lord. To utter the word “Alhamdulillah”, when we are on the verge of shattering, is a blessing in itself. The transaction of our good deeds occurs quite particularly under the Justice of Allah such that every single speck of goodness we perform has been recorded by Allah. The outcome of it may or may not be visible at the outset but we ought to refine our intention (niyyah) so that we are doing it for the sake of Allah and to unearth the purpose of our lives.