Dr. Jeffrey Lang: The Purpose of Life (1/7)

Watch through all parts 1-7 on YouTube.


This is the best ever talk, by far in my opinion, on the purpose of life from an Islamic perspective. The talk summarizes the essence of Brother Jeffrey Lang's second book, Even Angels Ask.

The talk is about his analysis on the essence and fundamental message of the Quran from a highly rational and logical perspective. The arguments are almost highly mathematical in style, trying to uncover and decode the message embedded in the Quran, hidden among the stories, allegories, analogies, etc in all the Surahs in the Quran. The most important excerpts from the Quran that he uses to find its message is the story of the first man on earth, Adam, in Surah Al-Baqarah (2:30-38). To me, his extractions of the story is ground-breaking, fundamentally different from others, and essential to our entire understanding of what Islam is and what being a muslim is about.

Jeffrey Lang argues that the main essence of the purpose of life, from the perspective of Islam, as being told in the Quran, is that we humans have been given 3 things - intellect (or reason), choice (or freewill), and sufferings (or challenges) - on earth. These 3 things are essential to us to grow ourselves throughout our lives.

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.

I'm giving 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), Translation by T.B. Irving

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.

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, 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 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.



Thank you for summarizing a wonderful talk. Am a born muslim, and his simplicity in explaining the purpose of life was amazing to me. This should be in the curriculum of muslim nations. Simple and easy to understand.
Once again, its so simple :)
Thank you to Jeffrey Lang
And thank you for the summary.

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