Knowing your purpose is arguably the most powerful tool anyone can possess. This is why companies that are unrelentingly profit-driven are so successful; a no-frills approach to purpose. They have the kind of razor-sharp focus that comes with applying a guiding principle to all of their actions. The alignment of outward direction with inner intent is a fool-proof recipe for ‘success’ in whatever way you choose to define and measure it.
It always comes as a surprise to me, then, how few of us utilise this axiom when it comes to our own lives, as Muslims with such a clear idea of truth and an unrelenting sense of purpose.
How few of us as families, for example, craft and expressly define our goals and objectives to aspire to as a unit? How even fewer of us look at our individual goals and ultimate direction in life.
In order to be successful at life – with all of the various, contradictory, and confusing metrics for that success – at the very least, we need to understand our purpose. And for Muslims, this is defined in such a beautifully elucidating way.
“I (Allah) did not create jinn and humans, except to worship Me (alone).” 
It is that kernel of truth that lies at the heart of our creation, reality, and life as we know it. It is as simple, and illuminating, as this.
Our fitrah – the natural, created state – is to worship He who created us. We were formed as sentient beings with this as our entire purpose. Worshipping Allah alone resonates with, and nurtures our very self – those mysterious bits that we can’t unlock and those conscious, lucid bits that drive our actions.
Worship, and its innate properties of admission of our dependence on, and gratitude to Allah, allows us to look beyond our selves, to contextualise our lives. It enables us to develop the most important relationship we could ever possess: that with our Creator – a relationship that begins with our primordial self and which extends beyond our material existence. One that defines our absolute being. It shades us with a humility that is fortifying and affirming, and grants us the direction we need to attain true happiness.
And while our over-cluttered existences, and prevailing cultural narratives that push unadulterated consumption, may attempt to obfuscate this, it stands unashamedly and objectively as the truth, despite how impossible it may be for us to sometimes distinguish.
And for many of us – who are learning Islam from a different generation, translated from a different tongue, and in an environment where it is alien – our focus is disproportionately on the outward. And this is said with the utmost nuance; with an entire love and appreciation of the outward acts of the Sunnah.
For those of us fighting to assert our rights through these external expressions – whose identities have been forged through them – we often lose sight of how these acts connect to our inner narrative of purpose; how they are purposeful and enriching; what they mean outside of the societal gaze, and beyond our fight for civil rights.
Witnessing the instinctive acts of worship from Muslim players and fans during the recent football World Cup during their highest moments, the majority of whom have been raised in the lands of Tawhīd, has made me reflect on my own reflexes and natural inclination for worship. Where Islam becomes an assertion of identity, have we taken the time to appreciate, understand, and embody it from the inside out? To look at the broader picture and overarching message? Have we fully acknowledged our debt to our Creator in every facet of our existence?
Those instinctive acts of worship that we saw on our screens did not just come from a confidence in expressing religious identity – they came from an absolutely clear and definitive understanding of purpose; when in even our most elated moments, we are grounded in the knowledge of Who our blessings come from, and to Where our gratitude should be directed.
And this is a story of pure joy – the relief and release in understanding your intent can only be a celebratory thing. When you understand and live your purpose, there is simply nothing more fulfilling.
This is despite how, conversely, we are made to believe that there is something fatalistic and nihilistic about acknowledging worship as our objective; as though, to hold Islamic views is to deny yourself a ‘life’. The fact that Islamic belief and practice is portrayed as anything other than uplifting and fulfilling in this regard, is a testament to how inverted our perceptions are. That we believe the default purpose and legitimate means of living is to be wholly immersed in the sensory and immediate, the transient and superficial. As though something as miraculous and inexplicable as life should be focused entirely on the surface, and not probed on what comes before or after our conscious state. As though contentment wouldn’t come from more noble, meaningful, and fulfilling pursuits.
In a God-less society, the idea of God becomes increasingly and needlessly controversial. We are encouraged to worship anything but the One who created us – the music we spend hours listening to, and defining ourselves by; the romantic partner we pursue at all costs; the Instagram feed we pour all our time and energy into.
To be wholly immersed, and to expressly state your devotion, to any other material thing is sanctified in a world in which we make everything but the truth sacred. Worship is deemed politically harmless, unless it is directed towards Allah; we are encouraged to be slaves to everything but the idea of single All-Mighty Deity.
This, in itself, is painfully telling.
At the very least, it stands as testament to the truth and reality of our relationship with Allah. In a world of reassuringly distracting surface, smoke, and mirrors; of manifestation, horoscopes, and being at one with nature, why does the idea of God evoke such a deep and viscerally negative response? Where everything has a price, a truth that cannot be monetised, in a world that feeds off of distraction, is scarily real?
To deny Allah is to assert our corporeal and intellectual selves as the absolute limit of what exists, rather than acknowledging that our very bodily presence denotes the existence of a benevolent Creator. The idea of committing your whole self to He who loves you, created you, and truly knows you, is nothing but the absolute apex of existence, alhamdulillāh.
Importance of the “micro”
What follows from this, and what is equally inverted in the modern day, is how our Sunnah-informed acts of worship throughout the day – be they ṣalāh, dhikr, dedicating an everyday act to Allah – help to anchor this realisation. That realisation which brings you clarity, serenity, and true contentment.
They are the active, not passive parts of our day. They are the times we benefit from being switched on, the parts that feed and satiate us – not dead pillars of time. Not only is there joy in those moments, but they are designed to wire us, to help us to reorient, to fully understand, and to embody our purpose.
These acts, however, become divorced from their meaning in the same way we become divorced from our purpose. They become a series of emptied actions that we attach to feelings of unwanted duty and obligation. They become burdensome. If we lose sight of our purpose, we invariably lose sight of these acts of worship – they become equally directionless and devoid of the fulfilment we require from them as conscious beings.
And like a regressive cycle, this further makes it harder for us to be conscious of the direction and meaning of our lives. And it is that attention to, and harmony of, the immediate and everyday, as well as long-term and overarching, that makes us better believers.
How does our familial obligation make us better Muslims, how does our ṣalāh help us to refocus on what we are made to do? That understanding of our purpose, and how it dictates our hourly, daily, yearly, and entire existence?
To live a purposeful life, one that provides us with adequate social support and individual spirituality, is to connect with this purpose intellectually – by learning about our Prophetic traditions, and how they were Divinely ordained, and spiritually through our focus on how the everyday acts of worship reinforce that. Insān, the Arabic word for human or mankind, comes from the root, yansā, which means to forget.
There is wisdom in punctuating our day with ṣalāh, dhikr, and du’ā, and for our mind to be present during these moments, as it helps us to refocus when our nature is to be distracted, complacent, and forgetful.
Three ways to channel your inner intent
1 | Start your day right
Our brains are designed to focus on what we give weight and importance to, through our approach and attitude. If we wake up believing we will have a bad day, we begin to look for – and fashion – the day to reinforce that narrative.
This is why being fully cognisant of the sheer and utter beauty of Fajr ṣalāh, as one of the most underrated blessings that we have as believers, is so important. A time in which Allah offers you the privilege to stand before Him, while the rest of the world sleeps, is something truly unfathomable.
Surat al-Fatiha, Umm ul-Kitāb (Mother of the Book) – which scholars tell us contains the meanings of the entire Qur’ān – is a direct call to, and conversation with Allah. It is equally said by scholars to be the greatest Surah in the Qur’ān, and we have the privilege of repeating it numerous times a day. And there is a ḥadīth in Muslim, in which Allah tells us how He responds to each verse of this chapter that we recite. 
Sujūd, an act in which we are physically at the most low and we call out to the Most High; what greater symbol of the dichotomy between man and his Creator.
Our ṣalāh is a dialogue with Allah, and we are blessed with the opportunity throughout our day. It is our means of sustenance.
2 | Dhikr that is prescribed after Fajr
لا إلهَ إلاّ اللّهُ وحْـدَهُ لا شَـريكَ لهُ، لهُ المُـلْكُ ولهُ الحَمْـد، وهُوَ على كُلّ شَيءٍ قَدير
Lā ilāha illallāhu waḥdahu lā sharīka lah, lahu ‘l-mulku walahu ‘l-ḥamd, wa huwa `alā kulli shay’in qadīr
“None has the right to be worshipped, but Allah alone; He has no partner; His is the Dominion and His is the Praise, and He is Able to do all things.” 
Allah is owner of the Mulk (Dominion) and Hamd (Praise), and He enables us to begin our day with our priorities fully in perspective.
This du’ā reminds us that the two things we seek, and which guide our actions – the need for control and approval – belong solely to Allah.
It highlights the futility of looking for them elsewhere. When we start our day with this as a conscious consideration, we are able to purify our actions and intentions, we are able to start our day with the direction and meaning that we naturally seek as created beings.
3 | Du’ā we recite when leaving home
بِسْمِ اللهِ ، تَوَكَّلْـتُ عَلى اللهِ وَلا حَوْلَ وَلا قُـوَّةَ إِلاّ بِالله
Bismil-lah, tawakkaltu ‘alal-lah, wala hawla wala quwwata illa billah
“In the name of Allah, I place my trust in Allah, and there is no might nor power, except with Allah.” 
This affirms our entire dependence and trust in Allah, and it helps us to conceptualise that when we leave the house in His Name, we can trust whatever outcome we face, as it is through His Might.
It also aids us in understanding that our intentions matter – even in something as small as leaving our homes to begin our day.
When we marry these smaller acts with our broader direction in life – when we do things entirely for the sake of Allah, we can trust that the outcome is always from Him and will always benefit us – it gives us that peace of mind. This alignment of the “micro” and “macro” in our intent is what gives us our wealth as believers.
By allowing these smaller moments to permeate our day, to be conscious in them, to fully channel our purpose through, and with them, is to achieve the kind of contentment we require as created beings that are roughing the choppy waters of life.
It is these instances of worship that give us the impetus, focus, joy, and comfort of living whole, fulfilling lives, with direction. Without them, we are bereft.
 al-Qur’ān, 51:56