Dr. Laird shares his thoughts on how we discover our true life purpose.
I believe that each person has a destiny but it might not be specific to exactly how we spend our life and the activities we pursue.
From the level of “divine truth” (al-haqiqah) Allah says in the Qur’an, “I have created the jinn and humans to worship me.” So in that sense the purpose of every human being is to know Allah and to worship Allah.
Also, it is said, “He who knows himself knows his Lord.” To me, as a Sufi, this means that our purpose is to wash our nafs (“our ego or the mountain of our existence”). To put it another way, the human being has been set on a journey, the journey of the Prophet Abrahim (saws) who said, “I am making my migration to my Lord.” This migration, this journey, is the deep purpose of our life. And through it we come to know who we are in truth; ie, that we carry the divine message of unity, that in our hearts Allah has “buried” the treasure of all of the beautiful names (divine lights) of Allah. When we know this with certainty, then we “know ourselves” and we “know our Lord.”
From the level of the human being seeking to know his/her “life purpose” this usually means how do I serve? What actions am I supposed to take? As long as one intends his/her actions to be for the face of Allah then one could be said to be living one’s life purpose. Allah says, “the people most beloved by Allah are those who are most beneficial to His creation.” This suggests that service to others, with the intention of pleasing Allah, fulfills one’s “life purpose” in a deep way.
If you purify your heart from the nafs and the veils, then your heart will spontaneously receive and perceive divine guidance and knowledge. This would be an ideal way to discern the highest use of one’s life. This is achieved through persistent dedication to the remembrance, salaat, study, cleaning the nafs, deepening one’s taqwa (awareness of and reverence for Allah), service to others, following Allah’s orders and avoiding His prohibitions, etc.
I think a practical way to discern one’s life purpose is through deeper and deeper listening in your own heart. Keep following what your heart has passion for, keep giving what you have passion to give. I believe Allah will lead you step by step toward a deeper and fuller fulfillment of that purpose you were destined for. You have free choice all along the way. Allah can bring you home through innumerable paths. He is the Wise, the Generous and the Best of Planners.
~John Wadude Laird, MD, President of UOS