Searching for the purpose of life

Searching for the purpose of life, a philosophical consideration to determine the qualities of a human being or a good scientist.

Integrating Science, Technology and Religion – A Universiti Teknologi Malaysia Perspective


It is said, as commonly accepted until now, that religion and science are two entities that cannot be integrated. Simply understood, religion produces “religious sciences” on the one hand, while science produces “secular sciences” on the other. In the classical period of Islamic civilization, there was no separation in mastering of religion and science. To be a religious man is to be a scientist at the same time as Ibnu Sina, al-Farabi, and many Muslim scholars of the golden age of Islam proved. Based on this consideration, integration of science, technology and religion can be done by taking the fundamental of Islamic philosophy as future science paradigm. It is in this spirit that Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) was established in 1975 with its philosophy: “The divine law of Allah is the foundation for science and technology. UTM strives with total and unified efforts to attain excellence in science and technology for universal peace and prosperity in accordance with His will”. The implementation of the integration between science, technology and religion can be divided into four levels: conceptual, institutional, operational and architectural. At architectural level, the implementation between science, technology and religion at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia is translated with the existence of a beautiful mosque in the center of the university as a center of society, culture and believe. The full explanation on this topic can be read from the paper below.

H. Nur, “Integrating Science, Technology and Religion – A Universiti Teknologi Malaysia Perspective”, 2007, unpublished [PDF]

◙ Searching for the purpose of life by Prof. Jeffrey Lang – remarkable!

“If God is all merciful and gracious, why is there suffering on earth? Why does He not bring us to heaven? Why does He make people suffer?”, These questions were answered by the Qur’an. Prof. Jeffrey Lang got an answer in Surah Al-Baqarah verses 30-38.

Jeffrey Lang

Prof. Jeffery Lang explains how Adam and Eve story led him to Islam by justifying the purpose of life focusing on three major elements: human intellect, choice, and suffering.

◙ Intellectual (reason)

The Quran really emphasise reason and this is rationalistic approach of the Quran.

  • The disbeliever, the refuse to reason (7 statements)
  • Will you not reason (14 statements)
  • Perhaps you will finally use your reason (8 statements)
  • Person who benefit most from the Quran are person of insight (16 statements, for example in QS 2:256)
  • Quran firmly rooted in knowledge (8 statements, for example in QS 4:162)
  • Used a reason (10 statements, for example in QS 40:54)
  • Clear evidence and proof (7 statements, for example in QS 98:4)
  • Those who oppose this revelation are deluded (9 statements)
  • Manifest error (28 statements, for example in QS 26:97)
  • Ignorant (15 statements, for example in QS 7:199)
  • Foolish (3 statements, for example in QS 2:13)
  • No understanding (9 statements)
  • Follow surmise and conjecture (9 statements, for example in QS 10:66)
  • Blindly adhere to tradition (many statements, for example in QS 2:170)

The Quran repeatedly quizzes the reader assumption and ask us.

  • What do you think?  (18 statements)
  • Have you considered this or that?  (18 statements)
  • Do you suppose?  (7 statements)
  • Do they not ponder?  (2 statements)
  • Do you think, do you even think?  (18 statements)

Learning plays a key role in human development.

  • Read the Quran (QS 96:3)
  • God taught us the use of the pen (QS 96:4)
  • God taught humankind what it otherwise could not know (QS 96:5)
  • There are signs and lessons for those who are wise  (21 statements)
  • Make things clear (100 statements)

Knowledge (ilm) was mentioned 854 times in Quran in various form. It is the most frequently occurring words in Quran.

◙ Choice (freewill)

  • There be no compulsion in religion (QS 2:256), the choice between correctness and error, right and error.
  • God could have made mankind one community (QS 11:118)
  • God would have guided the people (QS 13:31)
  • If God had willed, He could have given every soul its guidance (QS 32:13)
  • If God had willed, He would have made you one nation (QS 5:48)
  • Whoever is guided is only guided for [the benefit of] himself; and whoever strays – say, “I am only [one] of the warners”. (QS 27:92)
  • So whoever is guided – it is for [the benefit of] his soul; and whoever goes astray only goes astray to its detriment. (QS 39:41)

◙ Suffering (challenge)

Why should we suffer in life? There is no heaven in the world. This world is made for people to struggle. Humans have not been considered faithful if they have not taken the climb and difficult path.

Below are verses that explain about suffering.

◙ The purpose of life

Verses related to the purpose of life, God does not created us uselessly, there must be a purpose: QS 21:16, QS 23:115, QS 44:38

sifat-sifat orang beriman

[The following section is taken from the following website: Prof. Jeff Lang’s talk]

Prof. Jeffrey Lang argues that our growth, i.e. our development, is our main purpose of life on earth. This growth is important as a preparation for us to enter the next stage of our life – the hereafter. But most importantly is that what we grow into is what matters most. We have to grow ourselves to be closer to Allah by developing the qualities that make us better individuals. These qualities are defined by some of His attributes and virtues, e.g. Compassionate, Graciousness, Peaceful, Loving, Just, Truthful, Wise, Merciful, Patient. The source of all these good qualities come from God Himself. We thus grow ourselves to be closer to God by allowing ourselves to grow with these qualities, which means allowing ourselves to receive such qualities that originate from Him.

One example of an ayat from the Quran that clearly states that one of these qualities come from God:

Act patience; your patience comes only from God.
Surah An-Nahl (16:127).

It’s also important to note that although we must grow into the qualities that define God’s attributes, we can only approximate His virtues by a very small fraction, for Allah is the infinite source of these virtues, and none can compare to Him, and none can even come close to being His equals.

Prof. Jeffrey Lang gave some analogies in the talk to clarify why growing ourselves in these qualities allow ourselves to be closer to God. He gave examples that two people who are trying to get closer to one another gets closer through some shared or common interests. For example, if two people are trying to get closer intellectually, they would both have to have a common intellectual interest, e.g. math, science, etc. So, one builds a closer relationship with God by developing the qualities that originate from God.

However, Prof. Jeffrey Lang argues that these qualities don’t come easy to use and cannot be programmed into us. We have to “choose” whether to grow with these qualities, or to grow with the opposites of these qualities (which inherently separates us farther from God). We are given the “intellect” to reason how we want to develop ourselves and we are given the environment that presents us the opportunity to exercise the qualities that we grow into. Some of these environments are sufferings. We face or see “sufferings” to help us develop these qualities. For example, we can develop compassion in ourselves when we have the opportunity to be compassionate towards people who go through some sufferings and thus need our help and compassionate act. We can learn to be more patient if we have gone through some rough ordeals in our lives which requires us to be patient when going through them.

In short, this Prof. Jeffrey Lang’s talk is fundamental to our deeper understanding of what Islam is, about what our main purpose is in life as a muslim, about what the essence of our relationship with Allah is, and about what the essence of our relationship with other human beings is.

Wallahu a’lam

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Hadi Nur

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