With or without knowledge of God, the perplexing question that nags all of us (or should at least) is, “What am I supposed to do with my life?” If we observe the average person, we will find appetites that demand satisfaction, ambitions that propel him to achieve, and psyches that seek love, belonging and respect. In short, the average person wants to be happy both physically and emotionally, which entails a degree of material and social success. Nobody would deny that he wants to be happy, and yet he might feel selfish to say, “The purpose of my life is to be happy.” We can see that it isn’t such an absurd notion if we consider that many parents’ greatest wish for their children is that they would be happy. Complete, uninterrupted happiness seems to be one of the main drives in everyone’s life.
What if God would have told us, “I have created you to be happy.” Would life then have more meaning as we pursue whatever pleased our bodies, souls and egos? Where would that lead us? What if what made you happy would eventually lead to your ruin? What if what made you happy made someone else miserable? What if everyone’s feeling of entitlement to happiness led people to hostility, crime and war? If our sole aim in life was happiness, we would be miserable.
Although God does want us to be happy, He proclaimed in the Quran that He created mankind to worship Him (51:56). Knowing that our ultimate happiness lies in worshipping Him, God created us for that purpose – but not for His satisfaction, as He is not in need of our worship, but for our own well-being and happiness. Worshipping God, it seems, is the methodology to achieve happiness.
What Does Worship Have to Do with Happiness?
Worship to some may seem like a distinctly un-enjoyable activity, one that involves denial of self or a disciplined rejection of pleasurable experiences. However, by creating us to worship Him, God didn’t mean we should spend our lives in secluded prayer. There is overwhelming evidence in the Quran that He expects us to lead lives with rich physical and emotional experiences, satisfying activities in all spheres of life and fulfilling relationships with others. Even though He created our environment and our abilities to be enjoyed, God makes it clear that the purpose of our creation is to worship Him.
Like a loving parent who wants the best for his child, God wants the best for us. Like a loving parent who works hard to provide a comfortable life for his child, God created the whole earth for our use. And like a loving parent who tells her child to “eat your vegetables” “brush your teeth” and “do your homework,” God has suggestions that will make our lives happy. They are suggestions because God doesn’t compel anyone to follow them. But like the loving child who obeys his parents’ rules with faith and trust, the believer takes God’s suggestions very seriously. By obeying God’s rules, the believer acknowledges God’s wisdom and knowledge of what would lead to his ultimate happiness.
Our parents’ rules to eat our vegetables or do our homework are ingrained in us, and we see the benefits of following such advice. Likewise, God’s rules are there for our benefit, and provide a framework for personal, material, emotional and social happiness. Following God’s suggestions while believing in His authority is worship. That statement is so important that it is worth repeating: Following God’s suggestions while believing in His authority, is worship. God’s suggestions are worded as orders. To one who believes in His authority, a mere suggestion is an order, but to one who values his own opinion foremost, even a clear order is viewed as a mere suggestion.
God’s instruction manual for the achievement of personal and social happiness – both short-term and long-term – is the Quran. It is there that you will find the answer to that nagging question, “What am I supposed to do with my life?”