Life

Life, The Universe and Everything – Shaykh Abdul Rahim Reasat

Shaykh Abdurrahim Reasat discusses how the burning questions of the soul and the satisfactory answers to them are predicated on the existence of a Creator.

Forty-two…!

It took Deep Thought, a super-computer built by hyper-intelligent beings, seven and a half million years to arrive at the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything – and the answer was … forty-two. Upon hearing this, Arthur Dent, the protagonist of the novels titled The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, is thoroughly disappointed. He then embarks on journey to find the Ultimate Question to make sense of the answer.

Despite the humor of this plot twist (forgive me), two important points can be inferred:

    1. The burning question present in the soul of every human being: “What is the purpose of my existence?”
    2. The inability to reach a satisfactory answer without recourse to the being who created Life, the Universe and Everything.

The Souls Yearns for Answers

To the atheist, such as the author of the above work, we are nothing more than an unlikely result of an extremely improbable sequence of explosions, chemical reactions and mutations. To this mind, seeking purpose, direction, and meaning in life is akin to going fishing in the Sahara Desert: an exercise in futility.

Despite this, the same question gnaws at this type of person too. The amusements and distractions of life busy the mind, but the soul still yearns to find its place in existence. For some, this is a yearning which drives them to find their purpose in life, and for others it is an uncomfortable sensation to be numbed.

There Is an Instruction Manual

Unsurprisingly, the best place to look for the answer is in the instruction manual. Allah, out of His pure generosity, did not leave us to figure things out on our own after creating us. Rather, He sent us books and Messengers with answers and solutions to what we find ourselves in. The Qurʾan addresses the purpose of creating humanity on multiple levels – but the explicit reasons are given in three verses. Each of them is a facet of one unified purpose.

Before looking at these verses, it is important to understand that Allah is perfect, and far beyond needing or benefiting from us or anything we do. This is clearly expressed in the hadith narrated by Abu Dharr al Ghifari in which the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, quoted Allah saying, “My servants, you cannot cause Me any harm, nor can you benefit Me in any way!” (Muslim). Why create all this then? In order for Him to manifest His kindness and mercy upon us.

The first of the three verses can be found in Sura Hud: “Had your Loving Lord willed He would have made humanity one nation [united in faith; but He chose to give them a free will, so they disagreed with each other,] and they continue to disagree – save those who your Loving Lord was kind and merciful to. For that great, lofty purpose did He create them…” (11:118-119)

Khalifa of Allah

The first of these two verse alludes to what can be seen as a secondary reason for our creation: a test. Had Allah willed, He could have created humanity stripped of free will, compelled by their very nature to obey and worship Him as the angels do. In fact, the angels actually considered their lack of free will something which made them fitter for the role of the Khalifa of Allah (Vicegerent) on earth, who would do His bidding, and manifest His commands.


So, if we were created to be the recipients of the kindness of the most generous being in existence, why were we not created in Paradise, instead of being sent to earth first?


The reason for this is that they were guaranteed to obey. But a being with a free will, an ego, desires, and physical and social motives to disobey would likely end up committing the worst of deeds – not the best. Allah simply replied that He knew what they did not, before actually showing them that there are many things they did not know (2:30-33).

The consequence of having a free will, and the option to embrace divine guidance or reject it meant that humanity disagreed with each other – most of them choosing other than what is in the ultimate benefit due to the worst kind of myopia.

Others, however, chose divine guidance as their ship, and consequently remained afloat, benefiting in this life with the protection and care of Allah, and ultimately in the afterlife with unending, indescribable pleasure which neither slackens, nor does it lose its charm. All this is a manifestation of His mercy and kindness, without which they would not have made this choice.

The Ultimate Manifestation of Mercy

According to some of the greatest exegetes of the Qurʾan, including Mujahid, Qatada and Al Dahhak, the next verse tells us that this ultimate manifestation of mercy and kindness is the very reason Allah created us. To express this, the verse employs the use of the demonstrative pronoun ذلك – usually used to refer to something far – in a metaphorical sense to show high, tremendous, and remarkable it actually is.

So, if we were created to be the recipients of the kindness of the most generous being in existence, why were we not created in Paradise, instead of being sent to earth first?

There are many answers to this – all of which highlight the supreme wisdom of Allah. What serves our purpose here is the fact that the good – at the very least deserve to be rewarded for their choices and deeds, and those who are wicked deserve punishment for their deeds. Allah could forgive the latter group and give the former more than what they deserve; all of this would be a manifestation of mercy.

Therefore, it is necessary to show what each individual is deserving of. Some, like the atheist, will chose to disobey and turn completely away. others will bend over backwards to obey. And between the two extremes will be many others inclining one way or the other.

All this is known to Allah. But to display His justice we have been placed on earth to manifest these choices and deeds so none can say in the afterlife that someone was sent to the wrong place.

Worship as a Test of Will

The means to showing which stations of Paradise or Hell people should be in is simple: a test – which, we can now see, is a secondary purpose of creation.

The test is simple: belief in Allah and all which He commands one to believe in, and worship. The word for worship in Arabic,ʿibada, has an implied sense of being abject, abased and humbled before Allah. Once one is firmly in this state the “sweetness” of faith takes hold of a person, and he would hate to leave it just as someone would have to be thrown in Hell (Bukhari).

The reason being is that at this stage one is in tune with his purpose in life, which is clearly expressed by the second explicit verse in Sura al Dhariyat: “And I have not created Jinnkind and Mankind for any reason but to worship Me.” (51:56)


Performing one’s prayers, giving charity, being truthful, and other such deeds are all representations of one’s submission to the command of Allah.


This worship is not restricted to prayer, Hajj, fasting, etc. Rather, is it a tailor made test suited to each individual. Performing one’s prayers, giving charity, being truthful, and other such deeds are all representations of one’s submission to the command of Allah, yet the matter does not end there.

Following the way of the Messengers – which is the best possible approach in all matters – leads one to becoming beloved to Allah; the highest of goals, and one of the signs of success in the test.

Attaining Deep Humility

Persevering in worshiping Allah despite being in difficult situations is precisely why Allah chose Adam and his children for the role of Khalifa, and not the angels. This voluntary worship through thick and thin – with all the stumbling and apologizing that humans are prone to – is greater in the sight of Allah than the worship of those who have no choice.

It is the charity of the poor given to those needier than them. It is kindness shown to those who have wronged one. It is the forgiveness one chooses for those who have oppressed him. It is the resistance of someone against his miserliness when spending on others. It is the seemingly irrational trust on has in Allah when everyone and everything leads others to conclude otherwise. It is the gratitude one feels when seeing that others have less than one. It is the patience which one fortifies himself with when the difficulties of life rain down on one. In short – it is the divinely sanctioned, prophetic response to what one is tried with.

One may ask, “How does one attain this deep, humbled state before Allah?” The answer is given to us the third verse which explicitly answers the question we first started with. In Sura al Talaq, Allah says, “It is Allah who perfectly created seven unimaginable skies, and of the earth an equal number of layers – His rule is absolute throughout – so that you realize that Allah can do anything whatsoever, and that Allah has full knowledge of every single matter.” (65:12)

This verse is an invitation to know something of Allah’s greatness through His creation. The word khalq in Arabic means “to be created according to a specific plan.” Therefore all of existence has been perfectly created in the way it should be according to His knowledge and wisdom. Neither we, nor anything else in the rest of the universe, are the products of an extremely improbable sequence of explosions, chemical reactions and mutations.

The Cosmos Invites Reflection

Realizing that Allah made everything with no help, no raw materials, and no failed attempts, gives one certainty in the fact that He is capable of anything. The entire cosmos in an invitation to reflect and realize this, as well as a challenge to find imperfections of design within it – if, that is, one can understand it fully in the first place (67:3-4).

Seeing the complexity of the the earth and its movements harmoniously synchronized with the merging of the day into night, and night into day, reveals that the Creator must also know everything in order to be able to create such an amazing system perfect for your needs (57:6)

The light of the sun, the flight of birds, the growing of seeds into plants, the descent of rain, the burning of fire, the pollinating winds, the creation of life through mere procreation. They all point to His perfection, knowledge and power.

The universe itself is a sign to make one realize his abjectness before Allah, which in turn spurs him to worship His Loving Lord knowing that He has created all this for him. This turns the burning question in his soul into a response to the divine command. All this so Allah can manifest His kindness onto His servants.

The Answer Through Human Eyes

Shaykh Ahmad ibn Ataʾillah, the great saint and scholar of Alexandria, put it quite succinctly: “He has made serving Him obligatory on you – but in reality He has only made it obligatory for you to enter His Garden.”

There is a certain degree of overlap between the implications of the verse from Sura al Talaq and that from Sura al Ḍhariyat. The former leads one to knowledge of Allah, and His attributes; whilst the latter was interpreted by Mujahid, the student of ʿAbdullah ibn ʿAbbas in Qurʾanic exegesis, to mean “for any reason but to know me.” This would then be the embodiment of ihsan, or worshiping Allah as though one sees him, as alluded to in the famous Jibril hadith in Sahih Muslim.

What is interesting is that following the Qurʾanic sequence of these verses gives us the answer we were looking for from Allah’s perspective. And working backwards, it gives the same answer seen from human eyes.

So the answer, then, is considerably more profound and satisfying than “forty-two.”

 


Shaykh Abdul Rahim Reasat began his studies in Arabic Grammar and Morphology in 2005. He moved to Damascus in 2007 to study and sit at the feet of some of the most erudite scholars of our time, such as Shaykh Adnan Darwish, Shaykh Abdurrahman Arjan, Shaykh Hussain Darwish and Shaykh Muhammad Darwish.

In late 2008 he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continued his studies in Fiqh, Usul al Fiqh, Theology, Hadith Methodology and Commentary, Shama’il, and Logic with teachers such as Dr Ashraf Muneeb, Dr Salah Abu’l Hajj, Dr Hamza al-Bakri, Shaykh Ahmad Hasanat, Dr Mansur Abu Zina amongst others. He was also given two licences of mastery in the science of Qur’anic recital by Shakh Samir Jabr and Shaykh Yahya Qandil.

His true passion, however, arose in the presence of Shaykh Ali Hani, considered by many to be one of the foremost tafsir scholars of our time who provided him with the keys to the vast knowledge of the Quran. With Shaykh Ali, he was able to study an extensive curriculum of Qur’anic Sciences, Tafsir, Arabic Grammar, and Rhetoric.

When he finally left Jordan for the UK in 2014, Shaykh Ali gave him his distinct blessing and still recommends students in the UK to seek out Shaykh Abdul Rahim for Quranic studies. Since his return he has trained as a therapist and has helped a number of people overcome emotional and psychosomatic issues. He is a keen promoter of emotional and mental health.