The goal or target is a very important factor for any action or achieving anything worthy. The goal determines the effort involved in reaching any results. If we don't have properly set goals, our actions can be directionless, and our energies can be wasted. We would be like a vessel which does not know its destination and is swept in different directions by surging waves. Or we would be like the traveler who is not sure about his destination, and so every thing apparently looking plausible or ostentatious attracts him and leads him further away from the real destination he should aim to. So without properly set goals and proper recognition of our destination, we would be wandering aimlessly, sometimes enchanted by false promises of socialism or sometimes deceived by false glamor of capitalism.
Every conscious and awakened mind ponders over the question of the goal of life. The goal of life for us is related with the goal of creation of this world. The Holy Qu'ran often emphasis over the purpose of creation of this universe:
"And We did not create the heaven and the earth and what is between them for sport." (21:16)
"What! Did you then think that We had created you in vain and that you shall not be returned to Us?" (23:115)
These verses lay stress over the point that the creation of this life is not without an aim. So if this world was not created purposelessly, then what is the aim of life? The Holy Qur'an answers this question:
"And I have not created the jinn and the men except that they should serve Me." (51:56)
We will come to this point later after discussing some related aspects. We will first discuss briefly the aim of prophetic missions, and man's inherit nature with capabilities and potentials which is conducive to this goal.
We observe that every created being has some inherited or innate capabilities. It starts with a primary stage and ends at the excellence for which it was created. A seed when sown and properly taken care of results in a full grown tree. The achievement of this perfection for any being – of which man is not an exception – is possible only in a conducive environment which helps in attaining and realizing this perfection. The realization of natural talents and potentialities for man is not possible without knowledge and purification of soul.
As the Holy Qur'an says, "Even as We have sent among you a Messenger from among you who recites to you Our communications and purifies you and teaches you the Book and the wisdom and teaches you that which you did not know." (2:151)
Ayatollah Murtadha Mutahhari writes: "Naturally, the mission of the prophets, too, is believed unanimously to facilitate man's perfection and to aid him to remove the deficiencies which neither he, as an individual, nor his society is able to remove. It is only with the aid of Divine revelations that he can advance towards enhancing perfection. Accordingly, every individual must see what he can be after identifying his potentialities, so as to bring them to fruition."
The knowledge works as a guide in this voyage of seeking the goal of life, and purification of soul stands guard against satanic temptations. When both of these factors are present, the purpose of creation becomes clearer:
"Those who remember Allah standing and sitting and lying on their sides and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: 'Our Lord! Thou hast not created this in vain! Glory be to Thee; save us then from the chastisement of the fire.'" (3:191)
This realization of the purpose leads to recognition of the Great Creator, of His high status. Thus, the purpose of knowledge and purification is to know Allah, and after knowing Him, to worship and serve Him. Hence, knowledge or spirituality is only a means to reach Allah. He is the goal, and He is the destination. To conclude the discussion, we quote Ayatollah Mutahhari again:
"Thus the goal and ideal that Islam offers is God, and everything else is preparatory to it, and not of an independent and fundamental importance. In the verses where the Qur'an mentions perfect human beings, or speaks on their behalf, it says they have truly understood the goal of life and endeavored to attain it. It says for Ibrahim ('I have devoted my worship to Him who has created heaven and earth, and I am not a pagan.' (6:80) This Sura also says: 'My prayer, worship, life and death are for God, who is the Lord of the Universe.' (6:163)
"This monotheism of the Qur'an is not merely an intellectual one, thinking that the origin of universe is one thing and its Creator is another. It includes the faith and conviction of man that there is only one Creator, and his goal, which is the only worthy one, is He alone. All other goals are the product of this one and subsidiary to it.
"Thus, in Islam everything revolves round the axis of God, including the goal in the mission of prophets and individuals' goal of life. Islam accepts worldly happiness within the practical constraints of monotheism – that is, to be wholly devoted to God. According to the Qur'an, man gains his happiness only from God, and it is He who fills all the gaps in his life and satisfies him. The Qur'an says: 'Those who have faith and their hearts are tranquil in thinking of God know that all hearts find peace by remembering God.' (13:28) Only God brings repose to the anxious and inquisitive hearts of man. Other things are subsidiary and preliminary matters, not the final stage. The same is said of worship: 'To remember God, pray.' (20:14) Also, the following verse says: 'Prayer checks wickedness and denial, and remembering God is the most important." (29:45) Islam thinks of man as created to worship God, to seek proximity to Him, and to know Him, all of which give him power. But knowledge and power are not the ultimate goal, nor is self-purification."
The ultimate goal is He.