From the perspective of humankind, the question “Why did create man?” implies “For what purpose was man created?” In the final revelation (the Quraan), this question is answered without any ambiguity. Humans are first informed by Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) that every human being is born with an innate consciousness of Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa). In the Quraan, Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) said:
وَإِذْ أَخَذَ رَبُّكَ مِنْ بَنِي آدَمَ مِنْ ظُهُورِهِمْ ذُرِّيَّتَهُمْ وَأَشْهَدَهُمْ عَلَى أَنْفُسِهِمْ أَلَسْتُ بِرَبِّكُمْ قَالُوا بَلَى شَهِدْنَا أَنْ تَقُولُوا يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ إِنَّا كُنَّا عَنْ هَذَا غَافِلِينَ [الأعراف: 172]
“(Recall) when your Lord brought forth their progeny from the loins of the children of Adam, and made them testify about themselves (by asking them): ‘Am I not your Lord?’ They said: ‘Of course, You are.’ We testify. (We did so) lest you should say on the Day of Resurrection: ‘We were unaware of this’.” (Al-A’raaf 7:172)
Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) extracted from Adam all of his descendants who would be born until the end of the world, generation after generation, and spread them out before Him to take a covenant from them also. He spoke to them, face to face, making them bear witness that He was their Lord. Consequently, every human being is responsible for belief in Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa), which is imprinted on each and every soul. It is based on this inborn belief that Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) defined the purpose of mankind’s creation in Quraan:
وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالْإِنْسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ [الذاريات: 56]
“I did not create the Jinns and the human beings except for the purpose that they should worship Me.” (Az-Zaariyaat 51:56)
Thus, the essential purpose for which humankind was created is the worship of Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa). However, the Almighty Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) is not in need of human worship. He did not create human beings out of a need on His part. If not a single human worships Him, it would not diminish His glory in any way, and if all of humankind worship Him, it would not increase His glory in any way. Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) is perfect. He alone exists without any needs. All created beings have needs. It is humankind that needs to worship.
The Meaning of Worship
To understand why human beings need to worship, one must first understand what is meant by the term ‘worship.’ The English term ‘worship’ comes from the Old English “weorthscipe” meaning (1) the state of being worthy; worthiness (2) honor; worship. Consequently, worship in the English language may be defined as ‘the performance of devotional acts in honor of a deity.’ According to this meaning, man is instructed to show gratitude to Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) by glorifying Him. In the Quraan, Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) says:
قَالُوا إِنَّا أُرْسِلْنَا إِلَى قَوْمٍ مُجْرِمِينَ [الحجر: 58]
“So, proclaim the purity and glory of your Lord…” (Al-Hijr 15:58)
In glorifying, man chooses to be in harmony with the rest of creation which naturally glorifies its Creator. Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) addresses this phenomenon in many Soorahs (Chapters) of the Quraan. For example, in the Quraan, Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) states:
تُسَبِّحُ لَهُ السَّمَاوَاتُ السَّبْعُ وَالْأَرْضُ وَمَنْ فِيهِنَّ وَإِنْ مِنْ شَيْءٍ إِلَّا يُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِهِ وَلَكِنْ لَا تَفْقَهُونَ تَسْبِيحَهُمْ إِنَّهُ كَانَ حَلِيمًا غَفُورًا [الإسراء: 44]
“All the seven skies and the earth and all those therein extol His purity. And there is not a single thing that does not extol His purity along with His praise, but you do not understand their extolling. Surely He is Forbearing, Most-Forgiving.” (Al-Israa 17:44)
However, in Arabic, the language of the final revelation, worship is called عبادہ (‘Ibaadah), which is closely related to the noun عبد (‘Abd), meaning ‘a slave.’ A slave is one who is expected to do whatever his master wills. Therefore, worship, according to the final revelation, means ‘obedient submission to the will of Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa).’ This was the essence of the message of all the prophets sent by Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) to mankind. For example, this understanding of worship was emphatically expressed by Prophet Hadhrat Eesaa (Jesus):
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21 NKJV)
It should be noted that ‘will’ in this quote means ‘what wants human beings to do’ and not ‘what permits humans to do,’ because nothing happens in creation without the will (permission) of Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa). The ‘Will of Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’ is contained in the divinely revealed laws which the prophets taught their followers. Hence, obedience to divine law is the foundation of worship. In this sense, glorification also becomes worship when humans choose to obey Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’s instructions regarding His glorification.
The Need for Worship
Why do human beings need to worship and glorify Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) by obeying the divinely revealed laws? Because obedience to divine law is the key to success in this life and the next. The first human beings, Adam and Eve, were created in Jannah (Paradise) and later expelled from Jannah for disobeying the divine law. The only way for human beings to return to Jannah is by obedience to the law. Even Prophet Jesus (Hadhrat Eesaa), was reported in the Gospel according to Matthew to have made obedience to the divine laws the key to the Paradise:
“Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew 19:16-23 NKJV)
Also Prophet Jesus was reported to have insisted on strict obedience to the commandments, saying:
“Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19 NKJV)
Divine laws represent guidance for humankind. Islam, especially, define right and wrong for them and offer human beings a complete system governing all of their affairs. The Creator alone knows best what is beneficial for His creation and what is not. Islam commands and prohibits various acts and substances to protect the human spirit, the human body and human society from harm. In order for human beings to fulfill their potential by living righteous lives, they need to worship through obedience to His commandments.