Four Steps to a Purposeful |

Four Steps to a Purposeful

As we enter a new year, many of us are striving to make meaningful resolutions for 2023. “Living a life of purpose” is a common aspiration, but what exactly does that mean for a Muslim? It is easy to get caught up in the goals of the dunya, the worldly life. Having a happy marriage, watching our children thrive, earning more money, achieving professional success, and enjoying good physical and mental health are among many people’s top goals. While there is nothing inherently wrong with any of these, they are not actually the main reason we were created. We cannot live a truly “purposeful life" unless we are clear on what our purpose actually is! 

Allah tells us clearly in the Quran: 

“I did not create the jinn and the humans except to worship Me.” 

(Surah Ad-Dhariyat, 51:56)

It is indisputable, then, that our raison d'être – the most important and fundamental reason for our existence – is to worship Allah. Therefore, whatever steps we take to orchestrate a meaningful life must make this our compass and our destination.  

So, what concrete steps can we take to achieve our true Islamic goals?

1. Know Allah

If worshiping God is going to be our first priority, we must know Him, and the best way to do this is through His beautiful names and attributes. While there are many ways to study this subject, I recommend reading the book Reflecting on the Names of Allah by Jinan Yousef, which offers a great deal of inspiration and insight. Once we know Allah’s incomparable greatness, we can dedicate ourselves more fully to His worship. We can trust Him even more completely, beseech Him even more effectively, and strive even more sincerely for His love and approval. 

2. Love the Prophet. 

We cannot worship Allah if we do not know, love, and follow the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. In fact, the Prophet told us: 

“None of you have faith until I am more beloved to him than his children, his father, and all of the people.” 

(Source: Sahih al-Bukhair 15, Sahih Muslim 44) 

Our success in this life is intrinsically tied to our adherence to Islam, and to live our own lives purposefully and successfully, we must look to the example of the Prophet, his character, his choices, and the many lessons he conveyed, peace and blessings be upon him. In him, we have numerous strategies for success, including excellent manners, worship, interpersonal skills, leadership techniques, communication, and more. 

3. Be mindful. 

If we remind ourselves throughout the day that every single action has the potential to earn God’s pleasure, we are on our way to living a purposeful life. Everyday duties like taking care of our children, performing our job, interacting with our neighbors or colleagues, eating, exercising, studying . . . literally everything that is halal has the potential to be an act of worship. Let’s remember to start every action with a bismillah and to put our hearts into everything we do, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. Who knows which good deed might tip our scale and save our soul on the Day of Judgment? 

4. Focus on Jannah.

Yes, we are living in this worldly realm and it is easy to get caught up in its many demands. We are human and we have desires, emotions, weaknesses, and a long list of responsibilities. Despite the seeming urgency of this temporary life, we must remember that the dunya should not be our main concern; our focus should always be the next life, the eternal one. 

Anas ibn Malik reported that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

“Whoever is concerned about the Hereafter, Allah will place richness in his heart, bring his affairs together, and the world will inevitably come to him. Whoever is concerned about the world, Allah will place poverty between his eyes, disorder his affairs, and he will get nothing of the world but what is decreed for him.” 

(Source: Sunan al-Tirmidhi 2465)

It will likely be an ongoing struggle for us humans to remember that a purposeful life will not be found in the typical trappings of the dunya. Money, status, good looks, and all the things we tend to glorify and covet are temporary and indeed tests from our Creator. All around us, every day, are temptations and distractions.  Allah knows this. That is why He sent us guidance in the Quran and Sunnah to help us navigate the challenges. In the Quran, He poses a question: 

“And what is the life of this world other than play and amusement?” 

(Surah Al An’am, 6:32) 

This should remind us of the utter insignificance of the dunya. While we certainly have obligations to fulfill while on Earth, we should keep in mind that every single thing we do has the potential to take us nearer to Allah, or farther from Him. So, any New Year’s resolutions that we make should be God-centered and mindful of where we wish to spend eternity in the Hereafter. 

Laura El Alam is a freelance writer and editor and a first-generation American Muslim. She is the author of over 100 published articles and has written a children’s book, Made From the Same Dough, due to be released in 2023, inshaAllah. A wife and mother of five, Laura lives with her family in Massachusetts. You can visit her online at

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