What is the meaning and purpose behind the things we do in life?
Life can sometimes feel like we’re doing things out of habit, just following a routine. When was the last time we stopped to check that we’re truly fulfilled?
We may be very happy and having fun doing whatever we are doing, but at any given moment have we checked to make sure that we’re doing what we need to be doing? Have we checked that our actions are in line with our bigger purpose and over-arching moral compass?
When I think of my own life in the last few weeks, I have definitely fallen into somewhat of a routine. I’m confident however that my routine is generally in line with my guiding compass and I have been doing things that are in accordance with what I want to be doing in my life. But that is just because of how i setup my routine — doing things out of habit hasn’t been as fulfilling as it could have been.
I’ve been meeting friends, as I enjoy meeting people and I want to keep up good connections with those people in my life that are important to me. It’s sustaining the bonds of brotherhood and in line with how important I believe community is to a healthy society:
إِنَّمَا ٱلْمُؤْمِنُونَ إِخْوَةٌ فَأَصْلِحُوا۟ بَيْنَ أَخَوَيْكُمْ ۚ وَٱتَّقُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُرْحَمُونَ
"The believers are but one brotherhood, so make peace between your brothers. And be mindful of Allah so you may be shown mercy." — Quran 49:10
Work has been engaging and I’ve been learning more in my field of choice. Growing, learning and enjoying myself. Likewise prayer and acts of worship are part of my routine, but sometimes work and prayer can come from a place of obligation.
One may find themself just doing what is necessary to fulfill the duties, without necessarily having their heart and passion in it. Is it always possible to be passionate and fulfilled with what we are doing?
What Can We Do To Make Our Interactions More Purposeful?
Our aim is that we can still complete our obligations while also deriving a sense of fulfilment and finding peace and repose in our worship; as opposed to things sometimes feeling like a chore.
There are many ways we can be more mindful during our everyday lives. Starting with some simple aphorisms and mindsets. We can aim to instil these in ourselves at various points in our day. Insha’Allah these remind us of God and bring purpose and intentionality to our actions.
A Simple Question
"What is my intention" — a very simple question that we can try to ask before everything. Easier said than done but it helps reframe all of our actions: Are we just doing something out of habit? Or because it’s truly in line with our moral compass and it is exactly what we want and need to be doing in the present moment?
When we feel reluctant todo something or it begins to feel like a chore, this also works as a powerful reminder of the purpose behind our chores and how they are an important and necessary step on the path to our end goals. This simple question can help imbue even mundane tasks with a sense of purpose and meaning.
Small tasks can take on a greater purpose when viewed holistically in the grander context of what we want to achieve. For example something mundane like taking the bins out can become fulfilling if done with the correct intention; for example doing it to have a clean and ordered household, striving for excellence in cleanliness and tidiness. It could even be done as an act of kindness to save someone else we live with from having to put the bins out.
Even simple messy things like taking the bins out, can take on a more meaningful purpose when done in the service of something greater.
A God-centric Lens
"What is the most beloved thing to Allah right now" — a helpful question to ask whenever we are drawn between decisions and working out what we want to do next. We can ask ourselves what we think would be the best possible thing we could do in the given moment; in line with our ultimate goal of serving Allah and worshipping him through good deeds.
When drawn between two options, if we pick the one that is most pleasing to Allah we will never fail. This however comes with a pre-requisite and requires us to have a good feeling and understanding of what Allah asks of us!
In this regard we should always continue to be learning more about Islam and reading the Qur’an to find out what Allah asks of us, how we can best draw closer to Him and what are the most beloved actions to him.
“Leave that which makes you doubt”
" دَعْ مَا يَرِيبُكَ إِلَى مَا لاَ يَرِيبُكَ "
'Leave that which makes you doubt for that which does not make you doubt.'" — Muhammad (ﷺ) [Sahih]
Occasionally we find we are drawn to somewhere or something we’re not sure about. We may end up wasting our time or doing something displeasing to Allah, or we may find ourselves in a bit of a grey area.
We may find ourselves in a situation that is not explicitly bad or haram, but it’s also not pleasing to Allah and may be somewhat questionable. The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) tells us in a hadith to leave these doubtful situations, always striving for excellence and to be the best versions of ourselves.
A similar question we can ask ourselves is "Is this the state I would want to die? In this place, or knowing this was the last thing i did?" It’s a weighty question but ultimately somewhat simple. It can help us to easily work out if what we’re doing is something we’re happy with, both in the long-term and the short-term.
Focus in Prayer
We can bring this same mindset to our prayer. Sometimes we have a long time to spend really savouring our prayers — but other times we may rush through our prayers. When we rush like this we may be thinking that we will fix up our prayers in the future. Thinking that we are just fulfilling the obligation, and later, when we are old we will improve our focus and quality. Later we will catch up on missed prayers…
But what if this were to be our last prayer? We never truly know when our time is written.
إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ عِندَهُۥ عِلْمُ ٱلسَّاعَةِ وَيُنَزِّلُ ٱلْغَيْثَ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا فِى ٱلْأَرْحَامِ ۖ وَمَا تَدْرِى نَفْسٌ مَّاذَا تَكْسِبُ غَدًا ۖ وَمَا تَدْرِى نَفْسٌۢ بِأَىِّ أَرْضٍ تَمُوتُ ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌۢ
"Surely, it is Allah with whom rests the knowledge of the Hour; and He sends down the rain, and He knows what is in the wombs. No one knows what he will earn tomorrow, and no one knows in which land he will die. Surely, Allah is All Knowing, All Aware." — Qur’an 31:34
Scheduling Reminders to Keep Us On Track
Another helpful strategy is to have a list of reminders spread across our day. A wholesome list to keep us grounded — and in line with our principles at various junctures throughout our day.
Using just a basic app like our calendar or our reminders app we can set reminders and notifications at different intervals in our day.
At lunch time we can remember to read through our list of prayers after duhr. This should comprise of first thanking Allah for things we are grateful for, as well as then asking him and praying for ourselves and others.
In the evening before bed we can reflect on our day. Checking that we are happy with the way we conducted ourselves and reflecting on how we want to grow and improve for the future.
Intention is key and we make sure we aim to avoid doing things on "auto-pilot". With the right mindset and through actively trying to draw closer to Allah we can make sure that our daily lives are far more grateful, fulfilling and insha’Allah pleasing to Allah.