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.
JazakAllah khair for the beautiful article.
Barakallahu fikum. Whatever beauty is found therein has everything to do with the beauty of whom it is about, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
… Wa sallallahu ‘ala’l-nabi.
The prophet Muhammed (pbuh)…his words clearly an inspiration for living within the Universal dreams that continue to emerge, within connection to the invisible web,that holds firm, created within musical overtones, as wave lengths fly between the stars, the moon and the sun, bathed in light and love.xxx
Subhan’Allah – what an article you have written here.
May Allah make it a means of strengthening our connection to him, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and a means of benefit to all who read it. Thank you for your kind comment.
If you have the opportunity, please do browse the “prophetology” section in the categories list. There are other articles like this which may be of interest to you.
With the most respect, I would like to ask everyone, including the author to take a moment to reflect on the reason the Quran was revealed. I want to keep this short and not take too much of your time, because I think with a little time and critical thinking, one will leave the mystical aspects of veneration of creation and recall the overarching principle of our religion – La Illaha Ila’llah.
3:144 – Muhammad is not but a messenger. [Other] messengers have passed on before him. So if he was to die or be killed, would you turn back on your heels [to unbelief]? And he who turns back on his heels will never harm Allah at all; but Allah will reward the grateful.
3:79 – Not is for a human that Allah gives him the Book, and the wisdom, and the Prophethood, then he says to the people, “Be worshippers of me besides Allah, but (would say) “Be worshippers of the Lord because you have been teaching the Book and because you have been studying (it).”
3:64 – Say: “O followers of earlier revelation! Come unto that tenet which we and you hold in common:  that we shall worship none but God, and that we shall not ascribe divinity to aught beside Him, and that we shall not take human beings for our lords beside God.”  And if they turn away, then say: “Bear witness that it is we who have surrendered ourselves unto Him.”
Many more, if only we would read our Quran and stop relying on “respected scholars” to understand our religion.
9:31 – They have taken their scholars and monks as lords besides Allah , and [also] the Messiah, the son of Mary. And they were not commanded except to worship one God; there is no deity except Him. Exalted is He above whatever they associate with Him.
Allah says it best, will you not reflect on the Quran yourself?
47:24 – Do they not reflect upon the Qur’an? Or are there locks upon their hearts?
Think for a moment about how Allah tells us that he has sent the same creed to all the prophets, to worship him alone. And not to differentiate between any of the prophets. And yet here we are, making the blasphemous claim that Allah would not have created, not have been the sustainer, not have been the cherisher, not have been the most loving… if it weren’t but for a mere man he created. Read the Quran and learn the religion, do not dwell on the text of men, but rather, ponder over the words of God.
Shakyh, I have been following you for a while and greatly value your insights and your subtle analysis of many issues.
However, on this issue I think I will have to side more with brother, Milad. The nobility of our Prophet (pbuh) is not in question. His (pbuh) achievements cannot be diminished. He (pbuh) was given not only the Final Revelation but tasked to turn diehard pagans to the acknowledgement of the One Creator. He (pbuh) was tasked to restore the Kaba as a House to Worship Allah, not pagan deities. He achieved both. May he be in eternal peace in the highest realms of Heaven. However, he was – like all the prophets – a man whose mission was to lead people to the worship of our Almighty creator. He lived to Glorify God.
I believe there was an important reason why the hadith was firmly dismissed as inauthentic: it can have the potential to distract us from the primary purpose of our lives: to develop and deepen our relationship with Allah. As Milad shows in this post, Allah has already warned us in the Scripture against being excessive in our love of the Prophets and the Saints. The Quran shows how Jesus (pbuh) rejects what the Christians say about him. Yet even the Christian does not state that creation was made for Jesus, but rather that Jesus was sent down to save Mankind and restore Mankind’s relationship with God.
I hope I have not grieved your with my words, Shaykh. I read this article six months ago and have thought long and hard before penning my response.
Thank you for all the hard work you do in creating this website.
Wa alaykum al-salam wa rahmatullah.
Bless you for your thoughts, Sabbie, and your kind words about me. You most certainly have not grieved me with your words. On the contrary, I am delighted. The adab and courtesy with which you differed, and the humility with which you expressed your differing, is truly a point of beauty to behold; mashallah.
As I just now mentioned to Milad, this isn’t a fundamental point of creed. Rather, it is a matter of ijtihad. And it is only correct if it does not negate the cardinal point of us being created only to worship Allah.
As for your legitimate concern that it may detract from focusing on Allah, that has been the concern of many of the learned ones of this ummah too. This is why one cannot and must not make a big deal out of it.
One of the main reasons I penned the article was that some people were accusing those Muslims who held such a view, in the correct way, as being deviant and prophet-worshippers – na’uzu bi’Llahi min dhalik: an ugly and despicable accusation. Hence I wrote it, citing certain specific scholars, to dispel this vile accusatory attitude.
As for the status of the Prophet ﷺ, as expressed in the Qur’an and the sahih Sunnah, I do hope you have a chance to read the following piece I wrote: https://thehumblei.com/2012/09/20/the-prophets-status-what-can-be-said/
Once again, may Allah increase your in goodness and understanding, and grant us all – particularly me – the humility that you have shown in your comment.
Thank you for your kind response, which I feel was more generous than I deserved. I will certainly read the blog post which you have linked as soon as I can.
May Allah grant us all deeper understanding, wisdom and humility.
Thank you for your comment, Milad. Forgive make for such a delayed response. I only saw this comment after someone else had posted a comment on this article yesterday. I then realised that your comment had slipped through the net, so to speak.
While I thank you for your comments and encouragement to reflect, I have a few observations:-
1 – The entire thrust of Ibn Taymiyyah’s discussion was about squaring the circle, trying to justify how the view that “Were it not for the Prophet ﷺ creation would not have been created” does not contradict the fact that we were only created to worship Allah. This point is mentioned in the last paragraph by him, and it is further reiterated in my actual conclusion. I’m surprised at how this crucial point was missed or ignored by you.
2 – You are certainly right when you marshal the Quranic verses which speak about tawhid, or Abrahamic monotheism, and avoiding shirk; idolatry and associating partners with Allah. This is the very basis of Islam, which every Muslim knows and affirms. To somehow imagine that an ordinary Muslim like myself, or worse still, a recognised major scholar of Islam, is somehow confused about this is quite a big insinuation (or accusation: “blasphemous” is what you called it), wouldn’t you say – and one that belongs more so in the repertoire of groups like ISIS than anywhere else.
3 – The creed of tawhid was never in question. It was precisely what was being defended and upheld. Perhaps you could reread the piece again, just to be clear.
4 – Having said that, the notion of “If it were not for him …” isn’t one of the main (or even obligatory) articles of belief. One who does not accept it has not harmed their faith; while the one who affirms is – with the condition mention, that it does not contradict the express purpose of us being created to worship God – has not harmed his faith likewise. It most certainly isn’t an issue to divide over, nor one to make into a point of inquisition amongst Muslims. It’s simply the majority scholarly view of squaring the circle, in order to uphold the tawhid of God.
Once again, bless you for your comments. Though somewhat accusing and a tad condescending, I do understand where you’re coming from.
Surkheel Abu Aaliyah
When you ponder upon this reality you would perceive AS THOUGH rasulullah ﷺ is the ruh of all of Allah’s creation, without which none of it would exist.
Then you would know the reality of him being sent as a mercy for all that exists.