We'll begin with some verses from Surat al-Mulk (The Sovereignty) (67:1-6):
Blessed be He in whose hands is dominion and He over all things hath power.People today are perplexed. Beliefs are confused and divided by philosophies and scientific theories because of people's ideas and concepts - superiority of race and religious divisions. So almost the entire complex of modern civilisation, is proclaiming an unconvincing purpose of life.
He who created death and life that He may try which of you is best in deeds and He is the Exalted in might, Oft-Forgiving.
He it was who created the seven heavens, one above another. No want of proportion wilt thou see in the creation of God Most-Gracious. So turn thy vision again. Seest thou any flaw?
So what is the purpose of creation? As Muslims, we believe that without Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala, there would be no creation, and without the test there would be no purpose for creation. We've just read the verses of the Qur'an in which, it was mentioned, "We created death and life that We may test which of you is best in conduct." Therefore judgement is inevitable.
Allah has sent guidance to us in two main ways. Firstly, through nature - through the nature of ourselves, through the nature of everything that we see around us; and also specifically through Prophets and Messengers. So whoever rejects the guidance from these two sources - through nature and through the Prophets - will miss the purpose of creation, and they will eventually fail the test. The Qur'an has an answer to people who disbelieve in Allah.
It's not necessary to prove the existence of Allah as much as it's similarly unnecessary to convince you of your own existence. So it says in the Qur'an in Surat al-Baqara:
How do you disbelieve in Allah when before this you were dead and He gave you life? Then He will make you die. Then He will give you life again and to Him you will be returned.People today are very proud of their scientific advancement, all the knowledge and developments that have been accumulated in technology.
He is the One who created for you all that is in the earth. Then He turned to the heavens and made them seven heavens and He has perfect knowledge.
About the classification of knowledge, or in Arabic terms, 'ilm, (meaning knowledge). In Islam, we know there is no real separation between science and religion. All knowledge is under this term "'ilm", but it is generally accepted that there are two different types of knowledge that comes to us. One is what we call "acquired" knowledge and the other one is perennial knowledge. Acquired knowledge means that knowledge which we learn from experience or through reason, from our own thinking, our own senses, our own logic. And perennial knowledge is that which is revealed. It cannot be obtained just through experience. It is something which has to be revealed or inspired.
So there are certain questions related to the Unseen which cannot completely answered by acquired knowledge alone through the use of reason, the senses or experience. These are questions like: "How did the universe begin?" No one was here at the time. We have to employ conjecture. We have to consider and use our reason. "How will the world end?"
It hasn't happened yet, so nobody can be exactly sure. "What is the purpose of life?" Again, a matter of conjecture. "And what is beyond death?" Nobody has come back to tell us exactly what it is.
So therefore these kind of questions cannot simply be answered by what we call acquired knowledge. It has to be related to us through what we call revealed knowledge. The Qur'an is that kind of knowledge. It's the revelation and it's similar to the revelations before it. It provides the answers to these questions related to the Unseen. And, as it says in the Qur'an, "How do you disbelieve in Allah when you were dead and He gave you life?" In other words, there would be no creation, there would be no life without a Creator.
It's also interesting that in the Qur'an and in this verse and in the other verse which we read in the beginning, it puts death before life: "You were dead and He gave you life." And also in the other verse which we read it says, "Who created death and life in order to test you." So from this point of view, we must also understand that death is not to be considered as complete non-being or void. It is simply an altered state of existence.
This, in a way, explains the chicken and the egg theory which many people are still confused about. They say, "Which came first - the chicken or the egg?" So from this point of view, we could come to the conclusion that the egg came first because the egg is something not yet living. By "living" we mean it's not animate, eating and heart-beating.From this point of view, we could say that the egg must have come first because death, in a way, is before life. The necessary materials for life must exist. Then life follows.
Also we can take it from another point of view, that from an egg you can get more than a chicken. You could have an alligator. So someone must have decided what was going to come out of that egg. Therefore the purpose, the design of the chicken was already destined by the Creator, but the process by which it was to be created was 'the egg'.
Now scientists today are more or less agreed that the universe had a beginning and they do not succumb to "The Steady State Theory" which states that matter or material things are eternal, and then from this eternal matter life evolved. Today the majority of scientists don't believe that theory. They believe more in the theory called "The Big Bang" because there is so much evidence that there was a beginning to the creation. Now this is very unsettling and disturbing for disbelievers because then automatically one must ask the question: If there was a beginning, what came before the beginning? What caused the beginning?
There is a hadith in Sahih al-Bukhari where the Prophet Muhammad, salla'llahu 'alayhi was sallam, was talking about this. There was a tribe which had come to accept Islam from the Prophet. He asked them to accept and they did so and then they said, "We've come to ask about creation." The Prophet, salla'llahu 'alayhi was sallam, said, "In the beginning there was Allah and nothing but Allah and then He created the Throne..." At this point someone came to the one who was reporting this hadith and said, "Your camel has run away." So the one who was reporting this hadith went to get his camel. Then he said that he wished he stayed to listen to what the Prophet, salla'llahu 'alayhi wa sallam, said about the creation.
The point is that Allah created the universe. Someone who is very inquisitive may say, "What was God doing before He created the heavens and the earth?" So we say, "He was creating Hell for people who ask questions like that."
And in a way, that's true because heaven and hell are also creations. And sight and knowledge of heaven and hell although we as a generality of human beings don't see them, the knowledge and the sight of these two unseen locations have been seen and reported by the Prophets and angels, so they exist as much as we exist. Heaven and Hell exist.
The point is that creation is a test and it is not in vain. Anyone who studies nature will be wonder-struck by its balance and perfection, I'm not a scientist, but often we find that those who study science - physics and the other sciences - are awestruck when they discover the complexity and beauty, the miraculous balance of nature, and the endless patterns and configurations. So for the scientist who is a believer, it's a confirmation of the existence of the All-Wise, Merciful Creator. And he is so awestruck that nothing can emanate from him except praise: Al-hamdu lillah. Subhanallah. When we see something so great, so magnificent in the creation, as Muslims we say, "Subhanallah" - Glorified above all imperfection is the One who created it, and we realise how utterly weak and helpless we are before Him. Whereas on the other hand disbelievers will at this point experience blackout. The acceptance of an infinite power and All-Wise Creator is beyond their limited senses. Therefore it's too much for their ego to bear and there they reject the signs of nature. They reject the message of the Prophet. They become disbelievers. It means that they have not been able to humble themselves before the Creator.
We'll read some more verses from Al 'Imran (3:190-194):
Behold in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of night and day there are indeed signs for men of understanding,The meaning of Islam, as most of us know, is submission to the will and command of Allah Almighty, the Creator. The freedom for us to submit or not to submit is proof also of the justice and mercy of Allah. If there was no freedom for the human being to choose whether willingly he has to submit, or not to submit, then there would be no test and if there was no test, there would be no judgement. And if there was no judgement, then there would be no need for creating the human being with a freedom. So in the Qur'an we read that death and life is created "that We will test you."
men who celebrate the praises of Allah, standing, sitting and lying on their sides and contemplate the wonders of creation in the heavens and the earth with the thought: "Our Lord, not for naught has Thou created all this. Glory to Thee! Give us salvation from the penalty of the Fire. Our Lord, any who Thou dost admit to the Fire.
Truly Thou coverst with shame and never will wrongdoers find any helpers. Our Lord, we have heard the call of one calling us to faith: "Believe in the Lord," and we have believed. Our Lord, forgive us our sins. Blot out from us our iniquities and take to Thyself our souls in the company of the righteous.
Our Lord, grant us what Thou didst promise unto us through Thine Apostles and save us from shame on the Day of Judgement for Thou never breakest Thy promise.
But at the same time we must not forget the mercy of Allah because in the Qur'an it says, "None despair of the mercy of Allah except the disbelievers." So not matter how much mistakes you are making, we must not forget that Allah is merciful.
Any time that you turn to Allah from the wrong way to the right way, then Allah is ready to forgive. And that is in another hadith of the Prophet, salla'llahu 'alayhi was sallam, when he said, "After Allah had finished writing what was to be in the book, then the last thing that was written was: Verily My mercy overcomes My anger."
Then you will find some who will say, "Why did Allah create us any way?" In other words: Why didn't He make us all fit for Paradise? Again, they have denied the test. There can be no reward without test. And it says in the Qur'an that "He cannot be questioned for His acts, but they will be questioned for theirs." You cannot question the Creator as to what He does, but you will be questioned about what you have done. Therefore such questions are unacceptable to the believer.
We should also realise that Allah, subhanahu wa ta'ala, has shown us two ways: He has shown us, if you follow it this way, you'll be successful. You will be happy.
If you follow that way, you'll be unsuccessful, you'll fail, you'll be miserable. How can you blame Allah Almighty if you've chosen the wrong way? That's not acceptable. If somebody is in Paradise, would he question it, saying to himself, "This is not right. I shouldn't be here."? No! He'd be praising Allah, thanking Allah for guiding him. Of course if someone is in Hell, he'll be blaming himself or perhaps blaming someone else, saying, "You got me here," and the other one will say, "No! You blame yourself."
Therefore those who disbelieve refuse to acknowledge the debt that they owe to Allah. They cannot, by their own admittance, enjoy the ultimate mercy and reward of Janna because they have disbelieved in it. We also know in the Qur'an, it mentions that when Allah was creating the human being, Adam, the first man, He said, "I am placing in the earth a trustee, khalifa, someone to be responsible over it," and therefore our duty is to fulfill that trust and to treat things as they should be treated according to the instructions of Allah Almighty and we all know the basic rules. Anyone, even if he hasn't heard the revelation of the Qur'an, will know it's wrong to kill.
It's wrong to steal someone else's property, it's wrong to cheat. He will know all these things instinctively. Everyone who lives in the town knows if he owes the taxman an amount. He knows. His conscience will tell him, "Oh, I know I owe the taxman something." So how can it be that you refuse to acknowledge that you owe Allah something, that you have to account for it? If on a simple level, we know about debts to the taxman, how about our whole life?
This is also interesting because it brings us to the meaning of the word "deen" which is usually translated as religion. In Arabic we say "deen". In English we say, "religion," but actually the translation of deen means debt, to owe somebody something, which implies that every creature which comes into existence owes a debt to the Creator.
We'll read some more verses from Surat al-Anbiya' (21:16-23):
Not for idle sport did We create the heavens and the earth and all that is between.One of the greatest sins as we know is to attribute or to worship other gods with Allah. We know that the first instruction for us is to accept "la ilaha illa'llah" There is no god except Allah. And if you look at the Bible, you will see that the first of the Ten Commandments says, "Thou shalt not have any other gods beside Me." Therefore this is the basic commandment which was given to all the Prophets.
If it had been Our wish to take just a pastime, We should surely have taken it from the things nearest to Us if We would do such a thing.
Nay, We hurl the truth against falsehood and it knocks out its brain and behold falsehood doth perish. And Woe be to you for the false things that ye ascribe to Us.
To Him belongs all creatures in the heaven and on the earth even though those who are in His very presence are not too proud to serve Him nor are they ever weary in His service.
They celebrate His praises night and day nor do they ever flag nor intermit.
Or have they taken for worship gods from the earth who can raise the dead?
If there was in the heavens or the earth other gods beside God, there would have been confusion in both. But Glory be to God, the Lord of the Throne! High is He above what they attribute to Him!
He cannot be questioned for His acts, but they will be questioned for theirs.
However, we see how in some religions, even though they believe in the Creator, they distort this belief or change it. Sometimes we see that Allah is represented as being inside the creation - pantheism - which is a gross mistake. And we see them worshipping the sun, the moon, the stars and the planetary bodies. Other times we see that people represent God in human form or in the form of an angel or an animal. Again, these are all signs of infidelity. It means disbelief, kufr. It says in the Qur'an that "I did not create jinn or men except to worship Me."
So to sum up the talk. First of all, we have to recognise the signs which are coming to us from nature and from Messengers who have been sent with the Message of truth to explain to us the purpose of creation. And the last Prophet who was sent to mankind was Muhammad, salla'llahu 'alayhi was sallam, and he received the last revelation which is the Qur'an and he received it through the agency of Angel Jibril. The Qur'an is the word of Allah and it explains and answers all the questions regarding the Unseen. Logically this has to be the purpose of the creation can only be fully explained by the One who created it.
So we should understand that as we have been given life, so too we will be given death. Then we will be given life and we will be asked about how we lived in this world. Our creation itself is a test and no one can avoid it. If anyone who tries to ignore the existence of the Truth and tries to choose another way, it's his fault. He has deliberately chosen the wrong path.
Anyone who ignores the fact that Allah has sent the message to us through the Prophets has chosen the path of disbelief. He cannot blame anyone except himself. Anyone who is a Muslim or born into a Muslim family and then ignores the teachings of Islam also is eligible for punishment. Surely he can't only blame the society in which he is living.
So we'll end here with Surat al-Anbiya', continuing verses from ayats 30-35:
Do not the unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together as one unit of creation before We clove them asunder? We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe?
And We have set on the earth mountains standing firm lest it should shake with them and We have made therein broad highways between mountains for them to pass through that they may receive guidance (and We have made the heavens as a canopy, well-guarded, yet do they turn away from the signs which those things point to.)
It is He who created the night and the day and the sun and the moon, all the celestial bodies swim along, each in its rounded course.
We granted not to any man before thee permanent life here. If then thou shouldst die, would they live permanently?
Every soul shall have a taste of death and We test you by evil and by good by way of trial to us lest you return.