When addressing this topic, we have to find our understanding from Divine Revelation and not human speculation. Because human speculation has no bounds. It is only from Divine Revelation that we can determine the reality of our creation, because it is Allah who has created us and so He knows the purpose of our creation. We can hardly understand it ourselves, much less trying to understand the essence of things. So it is for Allah to inform us through the revelation in the Qur’an and the sunnah (the Prophetic traditions) which were brought to us by His Last Messenger and the Messengers before him.
Before we even determine why man was created the deeper question we should first ask is “Why did God create?”. Before we even get to man because man is not the greatest act of creation. Allah says:
“The creation of the Heavens and the Earth is indeed greater then the creation of mankind; yet, most of mankind know not.” - Quran 40:57
Man is not the greatest act of creation. So the question should go “Why did God create” as opposed to simply, “Why create man?”
Fundamentally, we can say that the creation is the natural consequence of the attribute of creator. Allah is the creator. That is one of his attributes. That is what he has informed us. That being his attribute, the creator, the natural consequence or the product of this attribute is his creation.
A painter, if we are to draw a similitude on a lower level, who tells you that he is a painter, if you ask him where are his paintings and he replies I don’t have any. What kind of painter is this? The concept of a painter who doesn’t paint, there is some thing not quite gelling together here, of course Allah is beyond this. But if we are to understand on the simplest level, the two go together. The perfection of a painter lies in his paintings. His quality and his ability to paint, is manifest in his paintings. And Allah, beyond all that, as creator, this quality of creation is manifest in the creation itself. Allah didn’t create out of a need. No, the fact that he is the creator, is manifest in the creation.
Furthermore, consider the act of creation, this act, with regards to Allah is unique. Though we use the term i.e. So and so created a table etc, actually it is in a limited sense. Human beings don’t really create, they manipulate, because they can only “create” what already exists. When we make a chair or a table, we didn’t create the wood, we had to take it from a tree, we didn’t create the metal, which makes the screws etc, we had to melt down rocks and take the metal out. So we are not creating from nothing. We are manipulating things which Allah has already created in to different shapes and forms which are useful to us. We call it “creation” but the real act of creation, is creation from nothing, and this is unique to Allah alone.
This answers why Allah would even create as he has the attribute of creator and this attribute is manifest in the creation. We should also be careful when trying to understand this as we have limited understanding. Allah says:
“There is nothing like him, and he is the hearer and seer of all”
We are created solely to worship Allah and submit to his will. In fact all creation are to submit to Allah’s will. It may come as a surprise but inanimate and animate objects all submit to Allah’s will.
The seven heavens, the earth, and all that is within them 1 give glory to Him. There is nothing but gives glory to Him with His praise,2 though you do not understand their hymns of praise. He is Most Forbearing, Exceedingly Forgiving." Quran 17:44
And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me. Quran 51:56
However, it is important to note that the Almighty is not in need of human’s worship. He did not create human beings out of a need on His part. If not a single human worships Allah, it would not diminish His glory in any way, and if all of the humankind worship Him, it would not increase His glory in any way. Allah is perfect. He alone exists without any needs. All created beings have needs. Consequently, it is the humankind that needs to worship Almighty Allah.
To understand why human beings need to worship Allah, one must first understand what is meant by the term ‘worship.’ The English term ‘worship’ comes from the Old English weorthscipe meaning ‘the state of being worthy or honor.’ Consequently, worship in the English language is defined as ‘the performance of devotional acts in honor of a deity.’ According to this meaning, man is instructed, to show gratitude to God by glorifying Him.
However, in Arabic worship is called ‘ibaadah’, which means ‘abd, meaning ‘a slave.’ A slave is one who is expected to do whatever his master wills. Consequently, worship means ‘obedient submission to the will of God.’
This was the essence of the message of all the prophets sent by Allah to mankind that Allah has created us and brought us into this world to worship Him and to obey Him, to carry out His orders and abstain from His prohibitions.
Furthermore, worship in Islam is not confined to the mosques in which Muslims pray; rather, while the Arabic term ibaadah (worship) comprises of one’s being dutiful to Allah, for example, it involves treating others with kindness (other human beings, animals, the environment, etc.) and dealing with goodness by helping and supporting others and behaving with good character. It is for this reason that some scholars of Islam have described worship as being “all actions and utterances which please the Almighty Allah, whether by physical actions or internal actions (such as beliefs, intentions, thoughts, and emotions).
Read further: What is the point of this world?