All praise is due to Allah and may His peace and blessings be upon his last messenger (saaw) and on all those who follow the path of righteousness until the last day.
We have to answer the most fundamental question that every human being asks himself at some point in his or her lifetime. Not just Muslims, but every single human being.
“Why was I created? Why am I here? What am I doing in this world? Why did God create me?”
These questions, are questions which each and everyone of us reflects on at some point during their life. We have some answers, which are given generally, but usually these answers don’t satisfy us, they seem somewhat simplistic. We still wonder. “Why me? Why here?” I know all of you, generally speaking, in the back of your mind, you are saying “to worship Allah, khallas, what more is there to say? Why do we need to have a big long talk on why we were created, when we all know it is to worship Allah?” But wait, if this is presented to a non-Muslim, the next logical question would be “why does Allah want us to worship Him?” and then your stuck.
It means, in our own minds it is not really clear to us. Why did Allah create us to worship Him?
The question, why did Allah create us, for some people, and we have to deal with those people around us, who don’t consider there to be any purpose in man’s creation because he is just a product of evolution that the forces of nature have produced him, and just as we don’t have apes, dogs or cows thinking about why they are here, then we don’t really have to think about it either. Of course that being the basis of the philosophy of western society, that man is without purpose, then the whole issue of government, morality etc has no basis in Revelation, there is no guidance there. The product of this is of course the corruption that we are living in.
For a Muslim, when we go in to this topic, we have to find our understanding in divine revelation and not human speculation. Because human speculation has no bounds, we can imagine all kinds of things, and is any of you have studied philosophy of religion, you can see how many opinions exist about the creation of man and existence. Because of the variety of philosophies, which are out there, no one can say this one is correct or that one is incorrect, because there is no guidance behind it. No divine revelation. It is only from divine revelation that we can determine the reality of our creation, because it is Allah who has created us and he knows the purpose of our creation. We can hardly understand ourselves, much less try to understand the essence of things. So it is for Allah to inform us through the revelation in the Qur'an and the Sunnah which was brought by his last messenger (saaw) and the messengers before. Now if we are to look, initially into revelation, to determine why was man created, there is a deeper question that we should be asking before that. “Why did god create?” Before we even get to man, why did god create, because man is not the greatest act of creation that we should be so focused on why man. No, because Allah says:
“The creation of the Heavens and the Earth is indeed greater then the creation of mankind; yet, most of mankind know not.” (Surah Ghafir, verse 57)
Man is not the greatest act of creation, this universe is far more complex and far more magnificent then man. So the issue of creation should then go to why 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 is a concept, which many people in ignorance, because they couldn’t grasp the idea of creation from nothingness, it lead them to conclude that the world is Allah. Those who say “inside of each and every atom is Allah.” And you have people, who call themselves Muslims saying this. Non-Muslims have said this before and there are Muslims who claim this. That Allah is inside each and everything, because Allah is the reality and everything else is fake in their interpretation. That means then, that the creation is Allah, and Allah is the creation. Very, very dangerous concept, which leads some of those who make this claim to say that you don’t have to worship outside of yourself. Ibn Arabi, was famous for this statement, he is considered to be one of the saints, amongst the so called Sufi religion. Ibn Arabi said “There is no need to worship one outside yourself, you are Allah. It is sufficient to worship yourself.” This is shirk.
This concept of Allah being within his creation, no distinction the creation and Allah, it leads them to this shirk. Because they are unable to accept the uniqueness of Allah’s creation, they compare the act of creation by Allah to human creation. That is, just as we manipulate, Allah took pieces of himself and made the earth and the universe. Others will say that all human beings have inside of themselves Allah, that there is a part of Allah inside each and everyone of us. The whole essence, the purpose of life is for us to realize that we have part of Allah inside of ourselves, remove the material blocks which keep us from Allah and again become one with Allah in what they call “fana”. This is again a teaching of the sufi religion.
Becoming one with Allah, returning back to Allah in this sense. But this is in fact part of the teachings of shirk. Shaitan has deluded man into this imagination. It is part of the belief of the Hindus. Nirvana, the concept that when you die, you are reborn again, and you move up in stages, each time, if you are a good boy or good girl, you go up higher and higher, until you get to the top. You know you have reached the peak, because when you die the next time you become one with the universal soul, Nirvana. That is the end of rebirth. So your whole purpose is to return and become one with God again. This is all, as I said, a product of the inability to understand the concept of creation from nothingness, which is unique to Allah. Allah (SWT) says:
“There is nothing like him, and he is the hearer and seer of all.”
So when we try to interpret Allah’s creation like the way we create, then we have made Him like his creation and it leads us ultimately to those aspects of shirk which I have mentioned. This is quite common amongst the Muslim world today, because when you look into the various branches of the sufi religion, where they have prescribed various acts of purification, they call it zhikr, exercises to torture the body through spinning and dancing. What is the purpose of this? They will tell you, to liberate the soul from this earthly body and to achieve that state of “fana” or “itihaad”, a variety of names they have for it.
It is this concept, which lead Al Hallaj, many centuries ago, when he was promoting this idea, and he was put before a panel of judges questioning these concepts, which he was expressing. When they asked him to recant, to take this stuff back, he stood up, opened up his cloak and said “There is nothing inside this cloak except Allah”. So they executed him. And of course, those in the sufi religion, they have stories that when they cut his head off, it rolled around saying “Allah, Allah, Allahu Akbar etc”. It might have, that is Shaitan may have entered and said these things, as happened with the calf of the Isrealites, when the Prophet Musa (as) let Egypt and the people, after crossing the red sea, had a desire to have a god that they could see, so they made a golden calf which they began to worship. This calf was saying “moo” like the calves do. This is what convinced them that this was the real thing. We know it wasn’t the calf saying this. The evil jinn can enter the in to physical entities, make sounds and give these impressions. So there is no problem for us to say ok, maybe when they cut of Al Hallaj’s head that it said these things, because this was part of a test. If we are clear in terms of creator and creation, this is no problem for us.
Allah is the creator and everything besides Him is His creation, which He created from nothing. It is not Him, nor is He it. This is the pure concept as taught by the Prophet (saaw), his companions, and the early generations of righteous scholars, the students of the companions and those who came after them. The best of generations. That is how they understood this matter. There was no confusion in their minds. It wasn’t until islam spread to areas like Egypt, India and Persia, areas where the Christians had already gotten into deep philosophies, trying to explain how jesus was a man and god at the same time. When they came in to islam they brought it with them. This is the reality. It is not something we should necessarily condemn them for or feel is unusual. It is natural, when a person reverts to islam, that they will carry with them what they believed before. What has been clarified for them, of the basic principles, they accept, and they reject things, which obviously contradict. But it doesn’t mean that every last thought that they have, and everything that was wrong in their philosophies, ideology and concepts will be erased. They will carry these things in with them. This is why in the later part of the Prophet's (saaw) life, prior to his death, when he was coming back from one of the battles, his companions asked him to set aside a tree for them, that they could hang their weapons on, like the way the pagans would hang their weapons on trees, believing that when they hung the weapons, it became super-powerful, as if some power was coming from the tree, that their shields would now block steel and their swords would cut through the enemy. Some of the companions who had newly accepted Islam, asked the Prophet (saaw) to designate one for them, a special one, an Islamic one. They understood that what the pagans had, this was wrong. These were the companions of the prophet (saaw) and he had to clarify it for them. He said:
You are like the companions of Musa (as) who asked to have the calf built.
And he clarified for them that all of this is shirk and there is no place for it in Islam. So if it could happen to some of the companions, then we cannot blame the generations who have come after them, who come into Islam and carry with them some of their old ideas. What it is for us to do is to clarify.
So what we have in front of us then, is that Allah created this universe out of nothing, and everything that is in it was created. For example:
“Allah created all things, and he is the agent, upon which, all things depend. And Allah created you and whatever you do.” (Surah 39, verse 62)
This is the reality. This is stressed for us, in order for us to realize that ultimately, all good, all evil, that takes place in the world, only takes place by the permission of Allah. Therefore we should not seek any other channels to protect ourselves from evil, or to gather for ourselves good, as people commonly do today. They will go to fortunetellers, this is big business today, all the magazines have various forms of fortunetellers like dial a horoscope etc. in a society that has lost touch with Allah, this is what is open to them. Allah has stressed for us that no calamity will befall us except by Allah’s permission;
"Nothing is taking place in this world except by the permission of Allah."
And the prophet (saaw) further emphasized this principle by saying;
“If the whole of mankind gathered to do some thing to help us, they could help in anything which Allah had not already written for us. And if the whole of mankind gathered together to harm us, then they would not be able to harm with anything which Allah had not already written for us.”
Therefore what is required of us is to depend on Allah, put our trust in Allah. This is what we have to draw out of this attribute of Allah being the creator. This creation exists because of that attribute. Its practical significance to us lies in putting our trust in Allah