Were it Not for You, I Would Not Have Created Creation
In his catalogue of hadith forgeries, Mulla ‘Ali al-Qari cites a spurious report alleging that Allah informed His beloved Prophet, peace be upon him: ‘Were it not for you, I would not have created the universe (law laka lama khalaqtu’l-aflaka).’1
But having cited the hadith, al-Qari says that although the hadith is forged (mawdu‘), ‘its meaning is sound.’2 This end assertion, that the hadith has a sound meaning, has raised considerable objection from some people; anger, even! For they feel this claim amounts to exaggeration – ghuluw, to use the Quranic language – about the Prophet, peace be upon him. And surely, as some have been quick to point out, it contradicts the Quranic verse which proclaims in no uncertain terms: ‘I created jinn and men only that they may worship Me.’ [51:56] The reason behind creating creation, they highlight, is worship; not the Prophet!
Yet a browse through traditional scholarly attitudes reveals al-Qari’s claim to be fairly normative. That is, classical Islamic scholarship seems to have been comfortable with this assertion. For instance, Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali reverently said about the Prophet: ‘he is the ultimate purpose behind creating the human race: its essence (‘aynuhu), its quintessence (khulasatuhu) and its very epitome (wasita ‘aqdihi).’3 Another even earlier Hanbali jurist, the highly critical Ibn al-Jawzi, stated: ‘The saints and the righteous are the very purpose of creation (al-awliya wa’l-salihun hum al-maqsud min al-kawn).’4 Of course, it hardly needs stating that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, is at the very head of such a purpose.
Yet for those who are resistant to the law laka - “were it not for you” – notion, or are over sensitive to what counts for exaggeration about the Prophet, peace be upon him, such quotations will have done little to abate their incredulity. The Arabs say: idha ‘arafa sabab, batala ‘ajab - “If the reason is appreciated, the astonishment departs.” Let me close this blog, therefore, with Ibn Taymiyyah’s analysis of the hadith, in the hope of lifting from such hearts their “disbelief”:
‘The excellence of our Prophet over the Angels was demonstrated on the Night of the Ascension (laylat al-mi‘raj) when he reached a station where he heard the “scratching of the pens.” He was now at a station higher than even that of the Angels. Now Allah manifests some of His tremendous power and astounding wisdom through righteous humans – via prophets and saints – in ways He does not do even via Angels. For He combined in the former, qualities that are dispersed throughout the other types of creation. So Allah created man’s physical body from the earth, whereas his spirit (ruh) was created from the Highest Assembly of Angels. This is why it has been said: “Man is a microcosm, but contains the macrocosm.”
‘Now Muhammad, peace be upon him, is the master of humanity, the best of creation and the noblest of them in Allah’s sight. Which is why it is said: “Allah created the universe because of him.” Or “But for him, He would not have created the Throne, Footstool, the heavens, the earth, sun or moon.” But this isn’t a hadith of the Prophet, peace be upon him; whether authentic or weak. It has not been reported by any of those versed in the Hadith science on the authority of the Prophet; nor is it known to have come from any Companion. In fact, it is not known who uttered it.
‘Nonetheless, it is possible to explain it from a sound perspective, such as with Allah’s statement: He has subjected to you whatever is in the heavens and the earth. [45:13] Or by His words: He subjected the ships to you that they may run upon the sea at His command, and subjected the rivers to you. He subjected to you the sun and moon, constant in their courses, and subjected to you the night and the day. And gave you of all you ask Him; and if you count the favours of Allah, you will never number them. [14:32-4]
‘There are other verses similar to these, all of which clarify that Allah created creation for the sake of mankind: even though it is known that in doing so Allah had another wisdom alongside this and greater than this.
‘Here, though, Allah explains to mankind the benefits the creation contains for them, and how they are immersed in His favours. So when it is said, “He did such and such [for this or that reason]“, it does not exclude the possibility that there could be other wisdoms behind the act. Likewise, the statement: “Were it not for so and so, such and such would not have been created”, does not negate the possibility of there being a higher wisdom behind the act. Instead, what it implies is that since the most pious of people is Muhammad, peace be upon him, creating him was a desirable end of deep-seated wisdom, more than in creating anyone else; and that the perfection of creation and the crown of its completion only occurred with [the Prophet] Muhammad …
‘Now since man is the the seal of creation; the last of creation; and its microcosm, their best will also be the best of all creation in absolute terms. Since Muhammad is the essence of humanity, the axis of creation, and the distributor of the collective, he is, so to say, the ultimate purpose behind creating creation. So an objection cannot be raised against the saying, “For him all was created” or “Were it not for him, creation would not have been created.” So if these, and similar words, are explained according to what the Book and the Sunnah indicate, they should be accepted.’5
To sum-up: since creation was created for mankind’s benefit; and since mankind was created to worship Allah; and since the perfection of such worship was manifested in, and by, the Prophet, peace be upon him, it may hence be said that he is the purpose behind creation being brought into existence. This, I hope, should help soothe those hearts that may have harboured undue opposition to the law laka reality, and deepen our connection to the Master of all Messengers.
O Allah, shower abundant blessings and peace upon our master,
Muhammad; the paragon of human perfection,
best of all creation.
1. Those who cite the hadith in their catalogues of weak and forged hadiths include: Ibn al-Jawzi, Kitab al-Mawdu‘at (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1995), 1:214; ‘Ali al-Qari, al-Asrar al-Marfu‘ah fi’l-Akhbar al-Mawdu‘ah, no.385; Suyuti al-La’ali al-Masnu‘ah (Cairo: al-Maktabah al-Tijariyyah, 1964), 1:272; al-Albani, Silsilat al-Ahadith al-Sahihah (Riyadh: al-Maktab al-Islami, 1992), no.282.
2. Al-Asrar al-Marfu‘ah, 288.
3. Lata’if al-Ma‘arif (Beirut: Dar Ibn Hazm & Mu’assasah al-Rayyan, 1996), 21.
4. Sifat al-Safwa (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Arabi, 2008), 31.
5. Majmu‘ Fatawa (Riyadh: Dar ‘Alam al-Kutub, 1991), 11:96-98.