Some of the Goals of Islam
The teachings of Islam are not merely rituals or mysteries that have no rhyme or reason to them. Instead, the revelation has pointed to some very clear, sought after goals. These include the following:
(A)The Worship of Allah Alone
Undoubtedly, the greatest goal of Islam and its greatest contribution to the welfare of humanity is the true and pure worship of Allah alone, without associating any partners with Him.This is in reality the ultimate purpose and goal of a human. Allah says, “And I (Allah) created not the jinns and humans except they should worship Me (Alone)” (51:56). There can be no goal more honorable or noble than this goal for a human being.
Pure monotheism is the only belief system that provides the true answers to the questions that perplex virtually every human: “Where have I come from? Where am I headed? For what purpose do I exist?”
As for the question, “Where have I come from?” Islam explains that humans are honored creatures created by Allah in a very special way and having the freedom to choose to be among the noblest of creatures or among the basest of all creatures. Thus, Allah says, “Verily, We created man of the best stature (mould), Then We reduced him to the lowest of the low, except those who believe and do righteous deeds, they shall have a reward without end (Paradise)” (95:4-6).
The answer to, “Where I am headed?” is that the human is headed back to a meeting with his Lord and Creator. This momentous occasion will occur after his death in this worldly life. There will be no escape from this encounter. At that time, the human will be fairly and equitably judged. All of the deeds that he performed in this life will be weighed. “That Day mankind will proceed in scattered groups that they may be shown their deeds. So whosoever does good equal to the weight of an atom, shall see it. And whosoever does evil equal to the weight of an atom, shall see it” (99:6-8). This reckoning will start with his most important deed: his attitude toward his Gracious and Merciful Creator who created him, provided for him, sent him guidance, warned him of a punishment for those who turn away from the truth and promised a great reward for those who accepted the truth, were grateful to Him and submitted to Him.
Concerning, “For what purpose do I exist,” the human has been created for the noblest of all purposes: the worship of Allah alone or, in other words, to become a true and sincere servant of Allah. One can imagine all sorts of goals that people may have in this world. They may seek to end diseases in this world or bring about world peace. In general, though, those admirable goals are usually tainted.
One may seek them just for egotistic reasons, such as to be remembered or praised as the person who did such and such. They may be sought while the individual turns his back on his Creator, thus showing arrogance and ungratefulness as well as demonstrating an ignorance of how truly noble goals can be achieved. In reality, however, all of those goals, which can be considered simply subgoals, fail in comparison to the goal that will lead to excellence in one’s soul and one’s deeds as well as eternal bliss in the Hereafter. Actually, any truly good goal of this life can only be part of the true worship of Allah.
Fulfilling one’s true purpose and being successful upon meeting one’s Lord is completely dependent on adhering to a true and unadulterated monotheism. This is the monotheism found in Islam. Many people claim to believe in “monotheism” and the fact that there is only one God. However, on many occasions, this “monotheism” is tainted in many ways. In some early pre-modern civilizations, people began to identify “sons” and “daughters” with God. Unfortunately, this clear contradiction of pure monotheism has been carried over into the modern age by no less a popular religion than Christianity. It is not unusual to hear Christians praise Jesus, thank Jesus and even pray to Jesus, sometimes virtually forgetting “the Father.” Although Christians may resort to logical gymnastics to affirm that this is still worshipping only one God, in reality it cannot be considered a true monotheism. In fact, most, if not all, of the contemporary trinitarians will argue that Jesus is co-equal yet unique from the Father. In other words, they have lost pure monotheism.
It may take some time for the new Muslim to realize all the ways in which people associate partners with God and fail to realize true monotheism. The Christian convert to Islam may readily recognize that the above referred to belief in Trinity is certainly not monotheism. At the same time, though, he may not yet realize how accepting priests, for example, as ultimate lawgivers is also a way of associating partners with God.
No priest—nor any human for that matter—has any right to overrule or abrogate any of God’s laws. This is also a contradiction of pure monotheism. Hence, Allah says, “They (Jews and Christians) took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah [by obeying them in things which they made lawful or unlawful according to their own desires without being ordered by Allah], and (they also took as their Lord) Messiah, son of Mary, while they were commanded to worship none but One God. None has the right to be worshipped but He. Praise and glory be to Him, (far above is He) from having the partners they associate (with Him)” (9:31).
Islam is a religion that establishes pure monotheism completely and eradicates all forms of associating partners with Allah, from the most obvious to the most obscure. (Undoubtedly, Islam is the only religion that can make such a claim.) As the convert learns more and more about his faith, the light of pure monotheism, Allah willing, will shine brighter and brighter in his heart.
(B) Freeing Humans from the Worship of Other Humans or the Worship of Any Other Object
Obviously, this is a corollary of the first principle of worshipping Allah alone. However, it deserves separate mention as humans dominating and subjugating other humans is one of the gravest tragedies in the history of humankind, second perhaps to the tragedy of the humans accepting such a situation and willingly submitting to other humans. There are few things worse than humans submitting themselves, and thus worshipping, other humans. This is completely degrading because all humans share the same essential human nature and weaknesses.
No one has the right to put himself as a God—which would include tyrant, dictator or clergy—over anyone else, with the others subjected to his decrees regardless of whether they are consistent with what Allah has revealed or not.
This goal of Islam was eloquently stated by two of the earliest Muslims. When asked by the Emperor of Persia what brought the Muslims to their lands, two different Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) answered in similar terms: “Allah has sent us to take whoever wishes from the servitude of mankind to the servitude of Allah and from the tightness of this world to its expanse and from the injustice of the ways of life [in this world] to the justice of Islam.”
It is interesting to note that humans readily recognize the evils of such dominance of a human over other humans when there is a tyrant ruling others but fail to realize it when a group of elites dominates them and they willingly submit to the manipulation and oppression of that elite, many times via a façade of democracy. In reality, both are evil and can only be remedied by accepting Allah alone as the Lawgiver and ultimate authority. As shall be discussed shortly, it is Allah alone who can lay down just laws and ordinances as He alone is completely free from desires and prejudice.
There are many things that humans have a tendency to “worship” or become “enslaved” to, ranging from one’s own passions, the state or nation to insignificant material wants. Allah describes those who take their own desires as a god: “Have you seen he who has taken as his god his [own] desire, and Allah has sent him astray due to knowledge [that Allah has concerning him] and has set a seal upon his hearing and his heart and put over his vision a veil? So who will guide him after Allah? Will you not then be reminded” (45:23).
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “May the slave of dinars, dirhams, qateefah and khameesahperish as he is pleased if these things are given to him and if not, he is displeased.”This is, in reality, a true form of slavery or servitude—a slavery to something other than Allah. Ibn Taimiyyah wrote,
If he attains it [that is, what he desires], he is pleased and if he is unable to attain it, he becomes discontented. Such a person is the ‘abd [slave] of what he desires of these matters and he is a slave of it, since slavery and servitude are in reality the enslavement and servitude of the heart. Thus, for whatever enslaves the heart and puts it under its servitude, the heart is then a slave of that object. This is why it is said, “The slave [human] is free as long as he is content [with what Allah has given him] and the free one is a slave as long as he desires.”
Islam frees humans from all of such false forms of worship. It does this by freeing their hearts from such overriding wants and desires. It frees the heart from such worship by attaching the heart to Allah alone and building a strong relationship between the individual and Allah (as discussed later). The individual then simply wants to please Allah. Whatever is pleasing to Allah, he is happy with and whatever is displeasing to Allah, he is unhappy with.
This aspect of Islam may be very clear to a new Muslim. He may easily recognize within himself all of those false gods that he used to pursue and “worship” in his pre-Islamic days. His whole life may have revolved around those objects of worship. He would do virtually anything in pursuit of that goal regardless of whether such means were ethically sound. Those goals were what made him a person.
He evaluated his entire life in terms of those goals. If he achieved those goals, that would be his source of happiness. He was truly enslaved by those goals. Now he can understand how those goals were actually taking him away from the worship of Allah alone.
(C) Making Life on Earth Flourishing and Sound
Islam is a beautiful religion that fulfills the needs of both body and soul. A human is made up of both a spiritual as well as a material side. Both sides of a human have to be recognized as “true,” with neither of them being ignored or denied. Furthermore, the individual needs guidance for both of these aspects of his personality. If not, one aspect will dominate the other or be in conflict with the other and the individual will never achieve true happiness. For example, there are those who stress the spiritual needs and look down upon the material aspects of this world.
At the same time, though, they are forced to partake in the material aspects of this world that are part of the human’s nature. Such individuals are conflicted when they cannot free themselves completely from the material needs that they so look down upon. On the other hand, there are economic systems, like capitalism and socialism, that seek to meet the material needs—in fact, capitalists claim to bring about “the best of all possible worlds. In reality, though, they can leave a great void in the psyche of an individual as his material needs are met and yet he feels empty inside.
Allah is the One who made humans the successors of this earth: “And (remember) when your Lord said to the angels: ‘Verily, I am going to place (mankind) generations after generations on earth’” (2:30). Thus, the view of Islam is that humans have been put here on this earth intentionally by God and they are to use the material means to build a positive life in this temporary world, which will eventually lead them to a positive eternal life in the Hereafter. Thus, Allah says, “But seek, with that (wealth) which Allah has bestowed on you, the home of the Hereafter, and forget not your portion of legal enjoyment in this world, and do good as Allah has been good to you, and do not seek corruption in the land. Verily, Allah does not love the corrupters” (28:77).
In fact, even after finishing the Friday Prayer, one of the most significant acts of worship in Islam, Allah encourages them to go out and seek the bounties of this world: “Then when the (Friday) Prayer is finished, you may disperse through the land, and seek the Bounty of Allah (by working, etc.), and remember Allah much, that you may be successful” (62:10).
In reality, humans are caretakers of this great creation and they are supposed to behave in the proper manner with respect to it. They are not the ultimate owners of it who are free to use it in any way they wish. In fact, they are not supposed to exploit it for their own personal greed or vengeance. They are not supposed to waste the resources of this earth in extravagance and non-beneficial purposes. Instead, they should behave in the manner described by Allah: “Those who, if We give them power in the land, establish the prayer, give the Zakat, enjoin what is right and forbid what is evil” (22:41).
This teaching of Islam is further highlighted by the numerous verses in which Allah forbids the spreading of evil and corruption (fasaad) on Earth (as in 28:77 quoted above). Allah also says, “And do not do corruption on the earth, after it has been set in order, and invoke Him with fear and hope; Surely, Allah’s Mercy is (ever) near unto the good-doers” (7:56).
Again, “So remember the graces (bestowed upon you) from Allah, and do not go about making mischief on the earth” (7:74). On the other hand, Allah promises a great reward who live their lives by the principle of not promoting or seeking evil and corruption. Allah says, “That home of the Hereafter (i.e. Paradise), We shall assign to those who rebel not against the truth with pride and oppression in the land nor do corruption by committing crimes. And the good end is for the pious” (28:83). Allah makes it clear that when the people stand in front of Him on the Day of Resurrection, those who spread evil on the earth will not be treated as equal to those who spread goodness on this earth. Allah says, “Shall We treat those who believe and do righteous good deeds like those spread corruption on earth? Or shall We treat the pious as criminals?” (38:28).
Unfortunately, what many people do not realize is that the greatest way of spreading corruption and evil on earth is by turning one’s back on the revelation from God and encouraging people to forget about what Allah has commanded, thereby following their own wants and desires. Turning away from God and His guidance truly corrupts the individual soul and also corrupts the family, society and entire creation. With a true belief in God removed from one’s heart, it is a small step to unethical behavior and unjust practices.
In reality, it is one of Allah’s laws that if corruption is allowed to spread, it leads to evils throughout the earth as a wake-up call to humans that they must change their ways. Thus, Allah says, “Evil has appeared on land and sea because of what the hands of men have earned (by oppression and evil deeds), that Allah may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return (by repenting to Allah, and begging His Pardon)” (30:41). Unfortunately, today very few do wake-up as they put the blame for all evils on everything except the fact that they have turned away from God.
In the end, it is the corruptors and evildoers themselves who will suffer: Allah says, “Those who disbelieved and hinder (men) from the Path of Allah, for them We will add torment over the torment; because they used to spread corruption [by disobeying Allah themselves, as well as ordering others (mankind) to do so]” (16:88). “Those who break Allah’s Covenant after ratifying it, and sever what Allah has ordered to be joined, and do mischief on earth, it is they who are the losers” (2:27).
(D) Justice and the Prohibition of Wronging Others
Life on Earth cannot be truly flourishing and sound without justice. Thus, the call to and the implementation of justice is one of the most prominent features of Islam. In numerous places in the Quran, Allah orders the Muslims to fulfill the demands of justice, even if these should go against their own interests or needs.
For example, Allah says, “Verily! Allah commands that you should render back the trusts to those, to whom they are due; and that when you judge between men, you judge with justice. Verily, how excellent is the teaching which He (Allah) gives you! Truly, Allah is Ever All-Hearer, All-Seer” (4:58); “O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even though it be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, be he rich or poor, Allah is a Better Protector to both (than you). So follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest you may avoid justice, and if you distort your witness or refuse to give it, verily, Allah is Ever Well-Acquainted with what you do” (4:135); and “O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah and be just witnesses and let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just: that is nearer to piety, and fear Allah. Verily, Allah is Well-Acquainted with what you do” (5:8).
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) demonstrated that nobody is above the law and justice in Islam. One time Usaamah, who was very close and dear to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), was convinced to try to intervene with the Prophet concerning a prescribed punishment and the Prophet told him, “Do you, Usaamah, intervene with respect to one of Allah’s prescribed punishments? By Allah, if Fatimah the daughter of [the Prophet] Muhammad were to steal, I would have her hand amputated.”
Thus, justice is to be applied to everyone, rich and poor, young and old, ally and enemy, Muslim and non-Muslim and so forth. In reality, if this were not the case and some sort of double standard were to be used, it would not be true justice. A Muslim is required to be just to everyone, friend or foe, and even to his own soul. He is not allowed to wrong his own soul as wronging one’s own soul is not “freedom” but it is one of the worst forms of injustice. Actually, a true Muslim has been ordered to be even more than just; he must also be benevolent and forbearing. Thus, Allah says, “Verily, Allah enjoins justice and beneficence, and giving (help) to kith and kin, and He forbids all lewd acts, evil and oppression. Thus He admonishes you, that you may take heed” (16:90).
The establishment of justice and working for justice is one of the heavy responsibilities upon the Muslim community as a whole. It is by this way that the Muslims are witnesses to the rest of mankind that this is the true religion of Allah. Thus, Allah has said, “Thus We have made you a wasat (just) nation, that you be witnesses over mankind and the Messenger be a witness over you” (2:143). One of the meanings of the word wasat is just and balanced, avoiding the extremes that always accompany exploitation and injustice.
Finally, there is a very important relationship between justice and following the revelation from Allah. Allah alone is the only one with the impartiality and just nature to lay down laws that will not favor one class of people over the other (in particular, the powerful over the weak). He is also the only one with the complete knowledge that allows Him to lay down laws that are truly just. Someone may have sincere intentions but due to lacking perfect knowledge of the human psyche and human social interactions may invoke laws that are actually unfair and unjust. Thus, once again, if a person is truly interested in pure and adulterated justice, he has no option but to turn to the revelation from Allah and the law from Him.
Ibn al-Qayyim therefore wrote, “Allah sent His Messengers and revealed His Books so that the people could live by justice. It is the same justice and balance upon which the earth and the heavens are balanced. Wherever the signs of true justice are apparent and clear, therein also lies the law of Allah and His religion.”Fortunately, for all of humankind, the working of the cosmos is according to the justice and truth from Allah and is not based on the desires of humans. Hence, Allah says, “And if the truth had been in accordance with their desires, verily, the heavens and the earth, and whosoever is therein would have been corrupted! Nay, We have brought them their reminder, but they turn away from their reminder” (23:71).
The justice that is so essential to Islam extends beyond this life to the Hereafter. In other words, Allah will judge all individuals in the most just way and will not wrong anyone in the least. Part of this justice includes the fact that no individual will bear the burden of another’s sin and no one will be held responsible for what is beyond his means.
Thus, Allah says, “Say: Shall I seek a lord other than Allah, while He is the Lord of all things? No person earns any (sin) except against himself (only), and no bearer of burdens shall bear the burden of another. Then unto your Lord is your return, so He will tell you that wherein you have been differing” (6:164); “Whoever goes right, then he goes right only for the benefit of his ownself. And whoever goes astray, then he goes astray to his own loss. No one laden with burdens can bear another’s burden. And We never punish until We have sent a Messenger (to give warning)” (17:15); “Allah burdens not a person beyond his scope. He gets reward for that (good) which he has earned, and he is punished for that (evil) which he has earned” (2:286); and, “Allah puts no burden on any person beyond what He has given him. Allah will grant after hardship, ease” (65:7).
Justice does not only have a positive aspect to it (the fulfilling and restoring of rights after they have been infringed upon), it must also have a “negative” component to it: the prohibition of wronging others. Islam places great emphasis on the avoidance of wronging of others in the first place. Thus, the Prophet stated that God has said, “O My servants, I have forbidden wrongdoing for Myself and I have made it forbidden for you. Therefore, do not wrong one another.” Ibn Taimiyyah states that this statement covers all of the religion. Everything that Allah has forbidden is, in one way or another, a type of dhulm, while everything that He has ordered is a form of adl or justice.In fact, Allah has said, “Indeed, We have sent Our messengers with clear proofs, and revealed with them the Scripture and the Balance (justice) that mankind may establish justice. And We brought forth iron wherein is mighty power as well as many benefits for mankind, that Allah may test those who will help Him and His messengers, while unseen. Verily, Allah is All-Strong, All-Mighty” (57:25).
Thus, the messengers were sent, books revealed and the balance made so that humankind may establish and live by justice. Furthermore, iron has been created so that it may be used for the sake of truth and justice. The book guides to justice and the sword and iron assists it.
There is yet another very important relationship between justice and Islam. In order for humans to be truly just, they need some internal mechanism that drives them to do what is right. It is very easy to be swayed and impartial when one’s wealth, family, nation, status or honor is at stake. Many can recognize the injustice in others but fail to or refuse to recognize any injustice on their own part.
In such cases, their desires will not allow them to recognize the truth. However, once true faith enters an individual’s heart, the situation changes completely. The person understands that Allah wants justice from him. He also knows that Allah is aware of even the most minute of his actions or intention. Allah demands justice and has forbidden all forms of injustice. The true believer, then, will not give preference to his desires, his wealth, his family, his nation—or whatever—over what Allah demands from him in the form of justice. He knows that he will meet Allah and he will desire to do so with a clear conscience. Thus, he will work for justice and will accept nothing less than it.
Many converts today come from individualistic societies, where justice is sometimes overridden by the desire to serve one’s own interests. This has no place in Islam. Again, even if it is against one’s own interest, a Muslim must always stand out firmly and bravely for the sake of truth and justice.
The Light and Guidance from Allah is the path to true peace. Allah says, “Indeed, there has come to you from Allah a Light and a clear Book wherewith Allah guides all those who seek His Good Pleasure to ways of peace, and He brings them out of darkness by His Will unto light and guides them to a Straight Way” (5:15-16). In fact, Allah is calling humans to the abode of eternal peace: “Allah calls to the home of peace (Paradise) and guides whom He wills to a Straight Path” (10:25).
True and complete peace can only be had when the individuals themselves achieve internal peace. This results from Islam or the true submission to Allah alone. This is the only way of life consistent with the nature of human beings. In fact, this is what can be called the “true life.” Thus, Allah says, “O you who believe! Answer Allah (by obeying Him) and (His) Messenger when he calls you to that which will give you life” (8.24).
Knowing Allah is what can bring about true contentment in the soul. If the individual does not know his Creator, his soul will always be yearning for something that is missing in his life. Unless there is contentment in the soul and the heart, the individual can never achieve true contentment. All of the wealth and the goods of this world will not be able to bring the human such true contentment. The Prophet said, “True richness is not via much property and belongings but true richness is in self-contentment.”He also said, “True richness is the richness of the heart. True poverty is the poverty of the heart.”
Once an individual is at peace with himself and free of any internal agitations, he can then enter into truly peaceful relations with others. This starts with those closest to him in his family and extends to his neighbors and others in the community, eventually extending to all of humankind as a whole. Thus, Islam establishes an entire social structure in which people interact with others, based on relationships, rights and obligations, in ways that bring about a peaceful coexistence.Children recognize the rights of their parents upon them while parents recognize their roles towards their children. Husbands and wives come together not as competitors but as partners cooperating to produce a home filled with peace and love.
Indeed, Allah points to this relationship that He has created as a great sign: “And among His Signs is this, that He created for you wives from among yourselves, that you may find repose in them, and He has put between you affection and mercy. Verily, in that are indeed signs for a people who reflect” (30:21). Thus, Allah has laid down stringent laws that protect the sanctity of the home, such as the laws concerning adultery, fornication and slander. The reason is that the home is truly the foundation for the society as a whole. If there is no peace in the home, one can hardly expect that people will exit their home in a troubled state and be peaceful, fulfilling members of society.
Since the guidance of Islam covers not only what is traditionally known as “law” but also ethical behavior and conduct, Islam provides detailed guidance for the manner in which members of a society should interact with one another. There is a great emphasis on mutual respect, with each member of society realizing that he is part of a larger unity entailing rights and obligations. This mutual feeling produces a society that is filled with peace, wherein each individual looks after the welfare and needs of the other members of society.
Thus, when Islam is enacted, the individual finds peace all around him, from within himself and throughout the entire society. In fact, even world peace can only truly come about when there is justice. In recent years, more and more people have realized this fact and emphasize, “There is No Peace Without Justice.” (Justice is often a slogan used when going to war but it is usually not more than that, a slogan.) But there can be no true justice or peace until people raise themselves above national or ethnic economic or political interests. True justice can only occur when people dedicate themselves to Allah, applying His guidance while removing their egos and desires from their decisions.
In the Hereafter, of course, it will only be through believing in God and following His guidance that one will achieve eternal peace. Again, Allah makes it very clear that this is what He is actually calling the humans to: “Allah calls to the home of peace (Paradise) and guides whom He wills to a Straight Path” (10:25).
A Final Point on Some of the Goals of Islam
One will readily note that all of the goals of Islam are highly interconnected. This is quite logical. Actually, they all flow from the foundation of true monotheism. When a person embodies the teachings of Islamic monotheism, he then frees himself from worshipping anybody else or anything else.
Furthermore, he will then lead his life in this world in a way that is best for society and civilization. He will work for justice and ensure that neither he nor others wrong others. In the end, he will find true peace and will be able to pass that along to others. But all of this must start with the true internalization of pure monotheism, where one worships and submits to Allah, sincerely and devoutly practicing the religion of Allah in this life.
Thus, clearly, once a person understands, accepts and applies the true concept of Islamic monotheism concept in his life, the other aspects are achieved as corollaries to this main goal. One the other hand, without true monotheism, the other goals cannot be achieved, even at a superficial level. Hence, it is understandable that, in essence, all of the Quran is concerning tauheed or pure monotheism. The commentator on one of the famous expositions of Islamic belief, al-Aqeedah al-Tahaawiyya, also noted that all of the Quran is actually a discussion of pure monotheism (tauheed):
Most of the chapters in the Quran are concerned with the two types of tauheed ; in fact, every chapter in the Quran [is concerned with tauheed]. The Quran either reports about Allah’s names and attributes. This is the tauheed that one must have knowledge about and that is reported. Or the Quran calls to His worship, associating no partner with Him [in that worship] and abandoning any other idol other than Him. This is the tauheed of intention and will. Or the Quran orders, prohibits or commands [His] obedience.
These are essential aspects of tauheed and part of its completeness. Or the Quran reports about how [Allah] honors the people [who adhere to] tauheed and what He does for them in this world and what He graciously bestows on them in the Hereafter. That is the reward for [adhering to] tauheed. Or [the Quran] reports about the polytheists and how He treats them in this world and what kind of punishment they will receive in the end. That is the punishment for those who abandon the aspects of tauheed.
 What is meant by the “two types of tauheed” is tauheed with respect to (1) what one believes in and acknowledges as true and (2) one’s devotions and worship in his life.
 Sadr al-Deen Abu al-Izz al-Hanafi, Sharh al-Tahaawiyya fi al-Aqeeda al-Salafiyyah (Fairfax, VA: Institute of Islamic and Arabic Sciences in America, forthcoming), p. 35. ????