Imam Jamal Rahman: The Three Strands of the Meaning of Life

593_JRExcellence Reporter: Imam Rahman, what is the meaning of life?

Imam Jamal Rahman: For me, the meaning of life has three strands.

First, life is about the work of becoming a better human being. We exert ourselves to evolve into the fullness of our being. This is difficult and inconvenient.  But at some point of time, we realize that life is not about satisfying the desires of the ego; life is about transforming the ego.Through this work, our heart opens up and we experience an inner spaciousness. We are able to embrace both our joys and sorrows. We are blessed with a greater capacity to love and be loved. 

Second, life is about authentic service. By authentic, I mean that we let go of attachment to its fruits of fame and prestige. By serving God’s creation, we become fulfilled. The Indian poet Tagore expresses it beautifully:

I slept and dreamt that life was joy,
I awoke and found that life was service,

I served and lo! Service was joy.

Third, life is about sacred laughter. Everything about this mysterious journey of life is hilariously funny! Here are some examples that splash in my chest:

In my profession, I have talked and talked about God. How astonishing that God hides from humanity, creating wild speculations and crazy strife. As Rumi exclaims, “The lover visible, the Beloved invisible; whose crazy idea was this?”

In the last quarter of my life, I sometimes have fears of passing into nonexistence. If the truth be known, nonexistence is trembling in fear that it might be given human shape!

When I go over to the other side and look back at my dramas and melodramas, I shall laugh and laugh. So, why don’t I laugh right now!

These three strands of self-development, service and laughter are exquisitely woven in a saying of the Prophet Muhammad:

“When you were born, everyone was smiling, but you were crying. Live such a life that when you depart, everyone is weeping but you are smiling.”


~Jamal Rahman is a popular speaker on Islam, Sufi spirituality, and interfaith relations. Cofounder and Muslim Sufi minister at Seattle’s Interfaith Community Sanctuary (before October 2012, known as Interfaith Community Church) and adjunct faculty at Seattle University, he is a former host of Interfaith Talk Radio and travels nationally and internationally, presenting at retreats and workshops.

Copyright © 2015 Excellence Reporter

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