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Islam’s Purpose And Meaning

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The Islamic worldview instates a complete lifestyle of servitude and faith into its followers, thus granting both purpose and meaning as a Muslim’s entire life is lived with the mission to submit to Allah’s divine intendment therefore providing such regulation and guidance.

(Al-Hariri – Wendel, 2002 pg. 79). Submission to Allah’s plan thus gives recognition to God’s absolute authority, and reaches a conviction that God alone possesses all power. The natural effect of such a realisation is to devote one’s worship and one’s life absolutely to God alone. According to al-Faruqi (1976), in calling man to exercise his prerogatives given by Allah, Muslim preaching rehabilitates him and re-establishes him in his integrity, his dignity and his innocence, thus this moral vocation grants both a fixed purpose and meaning. Subsequently, the Islamic worldview instates both meaning and purpose through a synthesis of beliefs, ethics and sacred texts.

“Allah’s guidance is the (only) guidance, and we have been directed to submit ourselves to the Lord of the worlds.” (Sura 6:71, The Holy Qur’an)

The core theology and beliefs of Islam inspires Muslims with a sense of meaning and direction in their lives. Paramount to Islamic beliefs are the Aqida ul-Islam or the Articles of Faith – the fundamental principles which direct, thus add meaning to an Islamic life, by dictating what Allah wills of His adherents. The first Article, the belief in Tahwid, the recognition of a singular being, installs meaning and purpose as Muslims live their lives in submission to their divine creator and His will for humans (Muslims). Tahwid outlines that there is only God, who establishes direction and meaning into a Muslim’s life. (Sultan, 2004 pg. 25)

“Thee alone we worship; Thee alone we ask for help. Show us the straight path.”

(Sura 1:5-6, The Holy Qur’an)

The second Article of Faith, Mala’ika, the belief in angels, and the notion of angelology is central to the Islamic worldview. Meaning derived from the supernatural is exemplified through the recognition of one’s ‘guardian angels’ who note a person’s good and bad deeds. (Jommier, 1988 pg. 41) Mala’ika generates a personal mission to act according to Allah’s will and ensure that the distribution of deeds is positive, to extend prospects of eventual Paradise, thus instating meaning.

The belief in Prophethood, Rusula and the Books of Allah, Kutubu’llah are other fundamental articles in the Aquida al-Islam. The al-Akhira and al-Qadr – beliefs about life, death, fate and the world to come are also continuances of these doctrinal statements, which boast significant importance.

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Islam views life in three tiers. Allah rules in paradise, a domain where happiness is found by the faithful, the second tier is the present and the final tier is a damned place called Jahannam, where the wicked are banished and suffer under the tyranny of Iblis (Satan). (Bailey et al, 2005 pg. 133). Fate is also a prominent belief which reserves significance in the Islamic worldview. Muslim theology connects fate with the concept of predestination – fate has locked a path destined to either Paradise or Jahannam. Although Muslims are held responsible for their own actions, Al-Hadi (The Guide) is said to have known a Muslim’s predetermined fate, yet one’s level of devoutness and capitulation can alter their ultimate destiny, hence dictating meaning and purpose to live accordingly, and to gain the eventual reward of Paradise upon the revealed Day of Judgement (eschatology). (Bailey et al, 2005 pg. 133); (Kidwai, 1998 pg. 41)

Islam also establishes an intricate system of ethical standards to be obeyed by Muslims, primarily based on Qur’anic texts and the Hadith. Islam places an important focus on right actions with Islamic law being classed in either two categories. A category where Muslims relate to Allah and a category of how Muslims relate to each other in the umma – community. (Gordon, 2002 p. 63) Islam grants meaning through communal faith and bonding through submission. (Morrissey, J et al (2005).) The Arkan al-Islam epitomises the ethical principles essential in a Muslim’s relationship with Allah.

The first of these five pillars is the uttering of the Shahada – the Islamic profession of faith, also known as the Kalima. “There is no God but God, and Muhammad is His messenger.” This prayer warrants the purpose and meaning of Islam’s entirety with the objective of surrendering to Allah’s divine will and to hence lead virtuous lives. (Emerick, 2002 pg. 115).

The second pillar Salat, or regular prayer, ascertains Muslim’s devout compliance to Allah’s purpose for Muslims. Salat is a distinctive mark of believers and provides Muslims with the opportunity for direct communication with Allah. Ritualised Salat ensures that Muslims do not get to attached to material and non-essential things, thus outlining that Allah’s divine intendment installs complete control and is the central figure in a Muslim’s life – not the existent of secular entities and monetary dependence (testament to the Qur’anic condemnation of usury and interest – Sura 2:275). The prevention of monetary dependence is also made present through the third of the Arkan al-Islam – Zakat, or obligatory almsgiving. (Penney, 1989 pg. 14) Zakat is an act of devotion and duty, and is paid to gain Allah’s favour. (Whitehead, 2004 pg. 29)

The fourth of the Arkan al-Islam, which instates both meaning and purpose for Muslims is Sawm, or fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Fasting elucidates Islam’s key ethical agenda as it is a period where moderation, absolution, patience, benevolence and the concern for the welfare of others is paramount. (Bailey et al, 2005 pg. 142) The final of the Arkan al-Islam is the pilgrimage to Mecca, during the holy month of Dhu’l-Hijjah and depicts Islamic faith in action. The journey to the Ka’ba, the house of Allah, is the pinnacle of the Islamic conviction as racial, lingual, territorial and cultural barriers fade, as the bond of faith unifies all into a large umma, devoted to the purpose of serving Allah. (Kidwai, 1998 pg. 98)

In further reference to Islamic ethical standards, Muslims must also consider what is obligatory to divine law – fard, what actions are halal (permissible) and what actions are deemed haram (intolerable). (Sultan, 2004 pg. 332). These strict, religious parameters instate meaning as they serve as a constant reminder of Allah’s divine existence, regulation and form of guidance in a Muslim’s life.

Another religious characteristic of Islam which provides both a meaning and purpose is the recognition of sacred texts including the Qur’an and the Hadith. The Qur’an is the most sacred text as it is believed to be the literal ‘word’ of God as revealed to Muhammad. The Hadith is a secondary text that records sayings of Muhammad and his followers. These two texts form the basis for all Islamic theology, practice and Sharia (Islamic Law), which have the function of guiding Islam’s adherents, hence granting meaning and direction. (Islam – http://www.religionfacts.com/islam/practices.htm) The Qur’an is the central sacred reality of Islam and is considered to be the direct words of Allah which embodies his intendment and thus the purpose for an Islamic life. The Qur’an serves as an essential guide of how Muslim’s are to lead a submissive, faith-filled life, thus adding to a Muslim’s religious meaning. These sacred texts are sources for universal doctrines and ethics, which in turn morally direct the lives of Islam’s adherents. Islam believes that the Qur’an does not reveal Allah Himself directly, but merely imparts His will for human beings. (Whitehead, 2004 pg. 24) “The Qur’an states that Allah created humans… for the sole purpose of serving Him and surrendering to His will.” (Emerick, 2002 pg. 23)

Resultantly, through characteristics such as beliefs, ethics and sacred texts, meaning and purpose are derived from the objective of being ultimately submissive and abiding by God’s instated will. Subsequently, this faithful compliance shall ensure that Muslims are rewarded with the fruits of Paradise and avert terror under the tyranny of Iblis, therefore dictating direction and meaning in a Muslim’s life. (On Will – www.crescentlife.com/spirituality/will.htm)

Bibliographical Resources:

Electronic Sources:

Compendium of Muslim Texts. (N/A)

http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/

Last accessed 10th March 2006.

Introduction to Islam. (2006)

http://www.religioustolerance.org/isl_intr.htm

Last accessed 2nd March 2006.

Islam. (2006)

http://www.answers.com/islam

Last accessed 3rd March 2006.

Islam for Today. (2005)

http://www.islamfortoday.com/index.htm

Last accessed 5th March 2006.

On Will. (2006)

http://www.crescentlife.com/spirituality/will.htm

Last accessed 12th March 2006.

Nature of Allah. (N/A)

http://www.al-islam.org/allah/names/NatureAllah.htm

Last accessed 4th March 2006.

Religion Facts – Islam. (2006)

http://www.religionfacts.com/islam/practices.htm

Last accessed 8th March 2006

The Meaning of Islam. (N/A)

http://www.afghanan.net/islam/meaning.htm

Last accessed 1st March 2006.

Understanding Islam. (2004)

http://www.understanding-islam.com/related/text.asp?type=article&aid=75

Last accessed 7th March 2006.

Bibliographical Resources:

Written/Printed Sources:

Al Hariri – Wendel, T. (2002). Symbols of Islam. New York: Sterling.

Bailey, G. (et al). (2005) Living Religion Third Edition. China: Pearson Education Australia.

Emerick, Y. (2002). The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Islam. Indianapolis: Alpha.

Gordon, M, S. (2002). Understanding Islam. London: Duncan Baird Publishers.

Jomier, J. (1989). How to Understand Islam. Paris: Les Editions du Cerf.

Kidwai, A. (1998). Islam. Twickenham, U.K: Tiger Books International PLC.

Penney, S. (1987) Islam. U.K, Somerset, Frome: Heinemann Educational.

Sultan, S. (2004). The Koran for Dummies. Canada, Indianapolis: Wiley Publishing, Inc.

Whitehead, K. (2002). ISLAM: The Basics. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan: Mason Crest Publishers.

Yusuf Ali, A. (1991). The Meaning of the HOLY QUR’AN. Washington, USA: Amana Corporation.

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