Juz Twenty Seven
Purpose of Our Life
وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ
I did not create the Jinns and the human beings except for the purpose that they should serve and worship Me. (Adh-Dhāriyāt, 51:56).
ʿIbādah, which has been translated as service and worship here, implies total obedience, willing surrender, and dedicated worship. The purpose of our creation and of the freedom of choice given to us is that we choose the path of submission and lead a life of loving service to our Creator. If we do so we’ll fulfill the purpose of our creation—which is the very definition of success. Its manifestation will be the everlasting bliss in Paradise. If we fail to do that, our life will have been a failure which will be manifested in the never ending punishment in the Fire.
If we choose other goals in life—goals that are contrary to this goal—then regardless of whether or not we succeed in achieving those goals, our life will have been a failure.
أَلَّا تَزِرُ وَازِرَةٌ وِزْرَ أُخْرَىٰ
That no bearer of burdens shall be made to bear another’s burden. (An-Najm, 53:38)
As Muhammad Asad writes, this expresses a categorical rejection of the Christian doctrine of the “original sin” with which every human being is allegedly burdened from birth; secondly, it refutes the idea that a person’s sins could be “atoned for” by a saint’s or a prophet’s redemptive sacrifice (as evidenced, for instance, in the Christian doctrine of Jesus’ vicarious atonement for mankind’s sinfulness, or in the earlier, Persian doctrine of man’s vicarious redemption by Mithras).
This also has serious implications in law. No one can be punished for the crimes of another. It thus negates collective punishment as well as guilt by association, principles that are being violated in the new security states now emerging.
Qur’ān is Easy
وَلَقَدْ يَسَّرْنَا الْقُرْآنَ لِلذِّكْرِ فَهَلْ مِن مُّدَّكِرٍ
Indeed We have made the Qur’ān easy for seeking advice. Then is there any that will receive admonition?? (Al-Qamar, 54:17)
The Arabic word is dhikr, which means remembering, mentioning, reminding, and invocating. This also implies seeking advice. The Qur’ān has been made very easy for all this. Its words are easy to memorize and easy to comprehend and follow. Its simple message solves the riddle of the purpose of creation and our role in this world. Anyone who approaches the Qur’ān with an open mind to seek guidance will be guided by it.
At the same time it is a profound work with an unending store of meanings and fiqhi points within its limited word list. The best of experts may spend a lifetime to unearth them and the store will still not be exhausted. The task of deriving legal rulings is therefore to be entrusted to those who have developed the requisite knowledge and expertise.
Called the bride of the Qur’ān, this beautiful sūrah has a unique rhythm to it punctuated by the constant refrain, “How many of the bounties of Your Sustainer shall you deny?”
Addressed to both human beings and jinns it describes their creation, reminds them that everything in this universe has a finite lifespan after which it will end and then will be resurrected to face the results of its endeavors—either Hell or Paradise. There is a moving description of both.
The Space for Women
حُورٌ مَّقْصُورَاتٌ فِي الْخِيَامِ
Most beautiful eyed ones (houris) houris, cloistered in cool pavilions. (Ar-Raḥmān, 55:72)
Regarding the maidens of Paradise, it is significant that we do not find them in the public space, where there are eternal young boys as servants. The maidens will be in private pavilions. And they will be happily cloistered in their vast pavilions. Maqṣūrāt has also been interpreted to mean restrained as to their glances. Either way they will be leading happy sheltered private lives.
If anyone harbors the suspicion that this arrangement may be uninteresting they may do well to ponder on what the Qur’ān says elsewhere about the Paradise, “Ones who will dwell in them forever. They will have no desire for relocation from there.” Paradise is the ideal state. And if our ideas of the ideal state are at variance from the Qur’ānic description, we need to seriously rethink our ideals.
This Life and That Life
اعْلَمُوا أَنَّمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا لَعِبٌ وَلَهْوٌ وَزِينَةٌ وَتَفَاخُرٌ بَيْنَكُمْ وَتَكَاثُرٌ فِي الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَوْلَادِ ۖ كَمَثَلِ غَيْثٍ أَعْجَبَ الْكُفَّارَ نَبَاتُهُ ثُمَّ يَهِيجُ فَتَرَاهُ مُصْفَرًّا ثُمَّ يَكُونُ حُطَامًا ۖ وَفِي الْآخِرَةِ عَذَابٌ شَدِيدٌ وَمَغْفِرَةٌ مِّنَ اللَّهِ وَرِضْوَانٌ ۚ وَمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا إِلَّا مَتَاعُ الْغُرُورِ
Know (O men) that the life of this world is but a play and a diversion, and pageantry, and (the cause of ) your boastful vying with one another, and (of your) greed for more and more riches and children. Its parable is that of (life-giving) rain: the herbage which it causes to grow delights the tillers of the soil; but then it withers, and you can see it turn yellow; and in the end it crumbles into dust. But (the abiding truth of man’s condition will become fully apparent) in the life to come: (either) suffering severe, or God’s forgiveness and His goodly acceptance: for the life of this world is nothing but an enjoyment of self-delusion. (Al-Ḥadīd, 57:20)
This is a description of the life lived in this world without concern for the life to come. Like the vegetation that brings delightful greenery and then withers and crumbles, this life goes through its cycles and no stage in this cycle is permanent, no matter how badly we may wish it to be. Permanencebelongs to the life to come. And wisdom is in not letting the fleeting pleasures distract us from the permanent ones.
One result of developing the correct outlook here will be a graceful life that will not be unduly impacted by the highs and lows of life. As the following āyah says: “so that you may neither grieve on what has escaped you, nor over-exult on what He has given to you.”