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The purpose of life

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in Endeavor for Renewal

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The purpose of life

Question: What are your recommendations for being able to take serving for the sake of God as the ultimate purpose in life?

Answer: Adopting a task one is responsible for to the degree of seeing it as the purpose of one’s life first of all depends on knowing its real value, significance, and worth. For example, if a person takes matters of faith as “An issue very important for eternal deliverance, one that cannot be done without,” then that person will lead and weave his or her life according to this ideal.

God Almighty commands His Messenger to “Convey and make known in the clearest way all that has been sent down to you from your Lord. For, if you do not, you have not conveyed His Message and fulfilled the task of His Messengership” (al-Maedah 5:67). This warning addressing the blessed Prophet in the first place is true for his followers as well. As he cannot escape the responsibility he was assigned with, the same goes for today’s believers.

The sacred positive attitude

Given that God Almighty places His trust on the shoulders of trustworthy bearers, we should not dismiss the fact that there is a hopeful approach here. As one man can think positively and have a hopeful approach about another, the Divinity has such an exalted, supreme, and holy positive attitude toward people. That is, God Almighty takes us as trustworthy bearers of His Trust. Then nobody can escape responsibility by the assumption of their not being eligible for it. Otherwise, what excuse can we assert when we are brought to account before God? We will obviously be reprimanded for letting down such a serious responsibility. A true believer will take all of these into consideration and act accordingly.

In addition, it should not be forgotten that being included in the circle of volunteers is a special blessing. I guess it is possible to give such an example: There is a very wide gate near which thousands of people pass. At times, the gate is half opened, and the passersby at that particular moment are ushered in. Every volunteer can realize in retrospect that they once received such an invitation. However, some people might not be so fortunate to benefit from this blessing in spite of having stepped in through that gate. When he lived in Erzurum, Mehmed Kırkıncı—may God accept his good works—collected a large group of people in order to listen to a disciple of Bediüzzaman who had come to the city. When I left Erzurum, only one or two people from that first group were still within the circle. For this reason, staying inside after stepping in still depends on God’s keeping, given that one uses the willpower in this direction. Then this is a special favor of God Almighty, and one should try to prove eligible for it.

On the other hand, good works done for the sake of God give a different kind of pleasure. I cannot claim to be the kind of person who has experienced this full delight. I can say that I am taken by weariness. I may even be holding within secret considerations of avoiding the responsibilities before me. I am fully convinced that I am not a good and useful person. I have faced different pressures and confinements throughout my life. Only God knows what I went through after the military coup in 1980. Even now, with respect to the circumstances I am in, I feel to be in a barrel of needles. Despite all of these I say, “No matter how shallow a servant I am on God’s path, it is worth to undergo ten times worse troubles for this sake.”

Even if one remains alone

There is an example of heroism narrated by the Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him. A soldier with deep faith was fighting in a battlefield and all of his friends fell, one by one. When he saw that he was the only one standing, he spurred his horse forth, never to turn back again.[1] This is the degree of devotion we need. Even if you stay on your own and the entire world is against you with their forces, you should still keep walking with dogged determination. God gave us stubbornness for wisdom; we are supposed to use it in the form of perseverance on the righteous path. One who sees things from this perspective sees sharing the truths of faith with the world as the most important issue. Such a person thinks that this is the very issue that gives meaning to his existence, and arranges his life accordingly. It is very crucial to make this issue into one’s purpose of life. At every moment of life, one should have the idea “My existence has no meaning if I do not serve for the sake of God.” Keep this in mind for some five to ten years, and even declare this pledge to your spouse and kids so that it becomes a responsibility expected from you. Some thirty or forty times, tell them, “Let God take my soul if I am not to serve for Him.” If you show any signs of stepping back on your word one day, people in your family will remind you of your pledge and say, “Wasn’t it you who would supposedly act in such a way?” And thus, with this pledge of yours, you will have both put yourself under obligation and taken support and energy from others, on a path you cannot stand alone. You will avoid the shame of going back on your word and keep walking as a matter of conscience.

For this reason, every believer should bind oneself to a noble goal—with fifty ropes at least—for the sake of making people love God. Until the last moment of their lives, they should do their best to remain steadfast in it.

“They did not appreciate my worth”

We should not forget that it is absolutely necessary to undertake a responsibility in order to feel a noble ideal freshly in one’s heart all the time. Sometimes, one may not be given the duty he or she expected. For example, a man can be eligible for handling an entire company, but he can be given the duty to lead a single division of it. Even if he is capable of carrying out a higher responsibility, that person should try to fulfill his duty in the best way without complaining that they did not appreciate his worth.

Incidentally, let us add the fact that the people in administrative positions should discover the potentials of the individual they will employ very well and let him work in a field he is likely to succeed. When a person is successful, he will praise God, be happy with, offer thanksgiving, and feel motivated to do. In case of failure, it is necessary to provide people with the necessary grounds and opportunities to make up for their mistakes.

“They must definitely ask me”

The points we have mentioned have not become a discipline among Muslims yet. Unfortunately, narrow-minded perspectives still dominate our actions. Those in administrative positions hold an understanding as “They must definitely seek my approval and ask me what to do to solve matters.” However, what befalls on good leaders is to test people they work with by giving certain duties first, and then let people realize their potentials by commissioning them in the fields they are likely to succeed.

The Messenger of God, peace and blessings be upon him, discovered latent abilities of people and employed them in unexpected positions. For example, the noble Prophet assigned Zayd ibn Haritha, who was an emancipated slave, as the commander of an army of three or four thousand at a very critical battle in Muta, and Zayd proved worthy of his mission.[2] Considering the prevalent culture, assigning an emancipated slave to command the army was a very important event. The Messenger of God both discovered a talent to give that duty its due and destroyed a mistaken understanding in that society. When his life is considered as a whole, it will be seen that he employed everybody in a position where they could realize their potentials in the utmost degree.

For this reason, it is necessary to offer everybody a duty that suits their level. It should not be forgotten that if you do not let people shoulder some task and give them important responsibilities, their potentials will never be realized. Then people will not carry out what they do with enthusiasm, they will grow weary, and this will result in a failure to uphold what is right and true. One of the most important dynamics behind the heyday of Muslims was employing everybody in the most efficient fields. For this reason, grasping this gist is crucial for the future of Muslims.

[1] Ibn Hibban, As-Sahih, 6/298
[2] Sahih al-Bukhari, Maghazi, 44; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Al-Musnad, 1/256, 5/299, 300