PURPOSE OF LIFE
Why did God create man? Did He just create man as part of the chain of reproduction, to be a wheel in a machine or to be counted only as a robot that performs a range of functions according to a predetermined set of instructions? Was he created only for his environment or only to accumulate as much wealth as possible through any means so as to satisfy his material wants? Is there no greater idea behind His creation?
A large number of people regard the man’s material aspect only and neglect the other side of the coin, because they have not understood the wisdom and deep intelligence of the nature of man or because, they have not correctly assessed it. Men of great understanding have quoted three dimensions to man:
- Individual material dimension
- Social dimension
- Spiritual dimension
Those who give importance only to the first dimension have overlooked the intense character of man. Those who land importance to the first two dimensions have only succeeded in creating an environment lacking any spiritual or moral values.
Arnold Toynbee, the famous British historian, in a long interview with Life Magazine said that man has submitted himself to materialism and from that point of view, he feels there is nothing lacking but in reality, they have become bankrupt on the spiritual side and there is still time for this problem to be addressed and solved.
A wise man will always regard all the three dimensions in understanding the purpose of life. It considers all the stages of personal and social extents and then only can man reach perfection by making his way through all the various dimensions.
The question now arises of whether a man’s conscience alone can lead him though these dimensions. For this, we need to analyze the human conscience itself. Human conscience is the power of man to distinguish between good and bad, right and wrong.
The society has been a very big influence in deciding what is good and evil for example, the dress we wear, the food we eat and other similar things that may be good at one time and place but bad in others because every society has its own view-point. However, there are certain values that are universally accepted and not restricted to any particular place like trustworthiness, helping the poor and weak, working for humanity and justice. Likewise, cheating, selfishness and injustice are considered bad which proves the existence of human conscience.
Can conscience alone guide us to perfection through the three dimensions of life? Conscience by itself cannot guide man completely, it needs training. Human conscience is like minerals in the earth which must be extracted and refined, or else it may be distorted and made useless under the influence of a corrupt social environment.
From the early stages of history, man has been putting forward many ideas for the improvement of human society, but to this day, he has failed to present a plan, which would satisfy all requirements of human nature. This is due to the limited nature of man’s knowledge about the material and spiritual world.
Even when man has put forward a good idea, there is no guarantee that it will be implemented properly. On the individual level, for example, many intelligent and knowledgeable people know the harm of alcoholism, gambling, and crime, but fall victims to such practices. On the social and collective level, we have the example of United Nations Organizations (UNO) with over 150 member countries, but it is a weak world body whose resolutions generally remain in the minutes and only on paper. This clearly shows that human intelligence and knowledge are no guarantee for action.
THE DIVINE GUIDANCE
Human conscience and intelligence alone are not enough to guide man to the perfection in the three dimensions of life. The divine guidance completes this process. It comes from the unlimited source of knowledge, which has no room for error, and its implementation in comparison is more guaranteed because of the grievous consequences in the hereafter that no one can escape.
Imam Ali (AS) has said that conscience and intelligence with the foundation from the divine guidance can help man reach happiness and contentment without danger of corruption or diversion. Thus God sent His messengers and prophets to mankind to make them fulfill the aim of His creation, to remind them of His bounties, to encourage them through preaching, to reveal to them the hidden virtues of wisdom and show them the signs of his supreme power.
THE NEED FOR PROPHETS AND MESSENGERS
We can conclude from the above that:
- The aim of life is to achieve perfection in individual, social, and spiritual dimensions.
- Human conscience alone is not enough to guide man to perfection.
- Human intelligence alone as well cannot satisfactorily guide man to formulate a plan to achieve the purpose of life
- Prophets and messengers have been sent to guide human beings to fulfill their purpose of life by developing their conscience and intellectual power through a stronger guarantor.
This only explains the greatness of the Almighty as the wise God could not leave humankind without instructions, law or guidance that they may become victims of human desires and be prevented from reaching perfection.
DISTINCTIONS OF THE DIVINE GUIDANCE
The divine guidance is not concerned with one dimension of life only. God sent messengers and prophets to guide people in order to reach perfection in the material as well as the spiritual dimensions of life. This includes the spiritual plane and politics, justice, personal problems as well as social responsibilities.
The divine guidance is not restricted to one class of society. It encompasses all levels of people and upholds the rights of all. This answers the claim of those that think religion was made by the wealthy class, outdated and capitalist societies to serve their interest. History also proves that the wealthy people did not participate in the movements led by prophets and the religion always opposed the oppression of capitalists.
ROLE OF MIRACLES IN PROPHET-HOOD
When man realizes that he needs the guidance of prophets in order to achieve the purpose of life, he naturally feels the affection for the prophets who work for his benefit and sacrifice their lives for his advantage. This affection reaches a degree where people are willing to bear any hardship to advance the aims of the prophets and they start preferring the commands of the prophets to their own desires.
This strong love and affection of the people towards the prophets and the tremendous power and influences that the prophets have gained has made some ambitious people claim Prophethood in order to advance their own interest.
Many people up to the present day have falsely proclaimed Prophethood and one cannot believe it without investigation, therefore if someone is a genuine prophet, he must bring some evidence that people can be sure of him and accept his claim and this evidence is known as Miracles. It distinguishes the real prophets from the pretenders.
WHAT ARE MIRACLES?
Miracles (Mo’jiza) are the extraordinary actions that the prophets did according to the will of God to prove the truth of their claim of Prophethood, and which others are unable to copy.
This purpose of miracles makes it very clear, as to why at times the prophets did not accept to the demands for more miracles. Some people who had already seen miracles demanded more not with the desire to follow the truth, but as an excuse for not believing. They even asked for things that were logically impossible. However, prophets did not agree as miracles were according to the will of God and in situations where they were necessary.
The Quran says:
“The signs are only with God and I am only a plain Warner” (29.50)
“It is not for any messenger to bring a sign, except by God’s permission” (40.78)
Here below are some examples of miracles during the time of prophets which were either shown by God as signs of His existence and power or actions carried out by the prophets displaying their advanced knowledge and ability over other men for the pure intention of human guidance and as per the will and command of God.
Some Important Prophets
- Prophet Yunus (a)
- Prophet Shuaib (a)
- Prophet Lut (a)
- Prophet Suleiman (a)
- Prophet Saleh (a)
1) PROPHET YUNUS (AS)
During the time of Prophet Yunus, the people of Naynawa (Babylon) were strong and rigid idol worshippers and did not accept the truth despite prophet Yunus’s hard work in preaching them and reminding them of Allah’s anger and punishment. There was a day when Prophet Yunus could no longer take their attitude and decided to leave them and go to a deserted place.
Prophet Yunus made a mistake by not waiting for Allah’s command and took an action in haste and frustration forgetting his responsibility of Prophethood. He reached seashore where he met people preparing their boat for sail. He joined them and later on met with a big storm in the middle of the sea. For the safety of all the sailors and to maintain the balance of the boat, they had to reduce one person from the boat. After doing the lot twice, Prophet Yunus’s name was chosen and he had to jump off the boat. With the command of Allah, a big whale swallowed him but unharmed and undigested. This was a phase that Allah showed him to make him realize his mistake and do repentance. Prophet Yunus asked Allah for forgiveness. After several days, as per the will of Allah, the whale ejected Prophet Yunus from his stomach and vomited safely on the ground.
During this period, Allah had already shown his signs of punishment to the people of Naynawa and upon seeing this; they too realized the greatness of the Almighty’s power and the incapability of their idols and repented sincerely. Prophet Yunus recovered from his state and as per Allah’s command, returned back to his people and continued preaching them.
2) PROPHET SHUAIB (AS)
The story of Prophet Shuaib can be seen from Surah A’raf and the way the people of Madyan used to mock him and threaten him for bringing justice and fairness in their business and trading. They believed in under weighing the goods and making profit through cheating and deceiving people. After a lot of effort from Prophet Shuaib, the people were not ready to accept and change, Allah’s anger befell them, and an intense earthquake overtook them destroying their bodies to ground.
Prophet Shuaib faced a similar challenge when he migrated to Ayka which was the neighboring city of Madyan. The people turned a deaf ear to him and were questioning Allah’s power. This brought a severe disaster of seven days of frightful and extreme heat. Despite this sign, they were still stubborn and a piece of cloud appeared on the seventh day and they rushed to go under it to get some shade but the cloud rained fire and they all burnt in no time.
3) PROPHET LUT (AS)
Prophet Lut was also among the prophet who was faced with great difficulty with his people. He was the nephew of Prophet Ibrahim and with the permission of Prophet Ibrahim; he went to settle in a place called Sadum in Jordan. The people of that town were very indecent and used to do immoral acts like attacking travellers and robbing all their property. No change took place in that town despite thirty years of Prophet Lut’s teaching and guidance and finally Prophet Lut could not take this behaviour and prayed to Allah to send his punishment and a group of angels by the will of Allah brought a dreadful earthquake and overtook the town in an upside down motion and thereafter the people were hit with pebble stones.
4) PROPHET SULEIMAN (AS)
Another form of miracles as mentioned before was the extraordinary qualities and powers that the prophets were blessed with in order to explain the people the message, and prove to them they were truly the messengers of Allah. Such miracles could be seen from Prophet Suleiman who had been gifted the control over the wind, he deputed the jinn’s and the men to serve him, the birds were subservient to him so they could shelter him under their wings and he knew the language of animals.
5) PROPHET SALEH (AS)
Another example is the miracle of the she camel of Prophet Saleh. The camel that was so strong and healthy that all the other animals feared it. It could give milk to all the poor people who could satisfy their hunger and the camel could drink all the water in the wells on one day and on the following day; she would spare the water for the people. This was definitely not an ordinary camel but had been sent as a sign to show people the power of God.
THE PURITY OF THE PROPHETS
WHY MUST THE PROPHETS BE MASOOM?
The merciful God sent down prophets so that the human society can recognize the right path as opposed to the dangerous and wrong ways and may be able to lead a life of true pride, perfection, and moral virtues. The reason why God made prophets infallible was that they could guide humankind towards the truth without any mistake or error.
The whole purpose of Prophethood also answers the question. The Prophets aim was to lead the society towards God’s commands and they had to build a firm standpoint because if they would do sins or errors, the guidance would be lost as people would get a reason to be diverted.
In general terms, a person who has an aim will do everything to reach it and will not carry out an action that is will act as a stoppage. For example, someone who wants a number of people to take part in a celebration knows that he has to honorably invite them. The invitation will not be in such a way that would prevent them from coming but a way to attract them. Similarly, the merciful God takes into account the guidance and education of society and so does not want people to follow the will of impure men and be denied of true development rather, He sent the immaculate prophets so that guidance is done in the best possible manner.
THE PRINCIPLE OF INSTRUCTION
The purpose of sending prophets was to educate humanity. A teacher’s behavior is a very effective instrument compared to his speech and verbal instructions. The character and actions of the teacher can bring about a change in man based on the principles of imitation. Man gradually adopts the manners and conducts of his teacher and tries to be the same. Therefore the prophets also must possess praiseworthy habits and qualities and be free from sin and error so they can effectively attract the people towards the right path.
A person who makes a mistake will never be able to transform or change a person from doing the same mistake. It needs the strength of mind and spirit for example; a person who drinks alcohol will never be able to dissuade others from drinking it. The reason behind the prophets’ success was the coordination between their words and deeds that made it possible for them to lead societies towards perfection.
CONFIDENCE AND ACCEPTANCE
Confidence and acceptance go simultaneously because the more the degree of confidence that people have in a speaker, the more their agreement with him. The prophets who carried huge missions of human guidance had to possess those excellent qualities for people to love them and place their confidence and faith in them, which would then make them agree and understand the depth of their leadership. The aim of the prophetic mission was to reform the people and put the words of spiritual excellence into practice. The qualities of the prophets were so pure and extraordinary that people were devoted to them and loved them to such an extent that they could give away their lives for the truth and follow the teachings without any question.
HOW CAN A PERSON BE A MASOOM?
1) REAL LOVE OF GOD
The prophets were deeply devoted to God and knew God better than anyone. They understood His greatness, majesty and believed Him alone worthy of worship and praise. They had nothing but His pleasure as their aim in life. It was for this reason; the prophets welcomed difficulties and paid attention to God with smiling open faces.
History has made it clear for us how these prophets have maintained their faith in God despite the difficulties they faced. Their motivation, encouragement, and strength were always the love of God. This is the same reason that stopped them from committing sins or even imagining about it. Their hearts, souls, spirits, and thoughts were just in His remembrance. They followed the path of obedience and were devoted to Him.
Someone asked a prophet that why you engross yourselves so much in worship that you physically harm yourselves while you do not even have sins. The prophet replied why shouldn’t I worship and thank the Almighty for all the blessings He has showered upon me. This answers that the prophets did not worship Allah out of fear but out of love and this was acting as a barrier for them from doing sins. This proves their free will and thinking that also withheld them from committing sins.
2) THE DEEP & PERFECT INSIGHT OF THE PROPHETS
Thinking and Intelligence varies from person to person. Someone who is ignorant and illiterate will not think like a doctor. Different education levels and backgrounds affect the capacity and ability of the brain. For example, doctors will not eat the food and drinks containing bacteria and other harmful substances because he has studied about the possible dangers associated with it, he has the knowledge and information while an ignorant man will be careless about this and might eat the incorrect food.
Another important point is that some people place less importance to incremental harm, the harm that increases with time but are afraid of sudden and unexpected dangers and try to avoid them. For example, someone may be lazy about removing his decayed tooth until there reaches a time where all his other teeth get affected and has a great deal of discomfort and pain while the same person could have visited a dentist as soon as the pain had occurred and would have taken precaution.
Ordinary people consider evil lightly and do not take note of its physical, spiritual, and psychological effects. However, the prophets with the help of a higher power have supreme knowledge and wisdom. They have an intense view about the effects of evil and sins in the next world. The remembrance of judgment day and effects of sin was the weapon that kept prophets away from committing sins and any act of indecency.
The purpose of life is to achieve perfection in individual, social, and spiritual life, and this only can happen through the guidance from God. That is why God sent the Prophets to guide humankind and to instruct him how to fulfill the purpose of life by developing their conscience and instill actual power through a stronger guarantor.