Thursday, 8 March 2018

Allah was and There was Nothing Other than Him

بسم الله الرحمـن الرحيم

والعاقبة للمتقين

 هُوَ الْأَوَّلُ وَالْآخِرُ وَالظَّاهِرُ وَالْبَاطِنُ

He is the First and the Last, the Apparent and the Hidden

[Sura 57:3]


In explanation of these Names and Attributes of Allah Most High, the Prophet Muhammad said:

اللَّهُمَّ أَنْتَ الأَوَّلُ فَلَيْسَ قَبْلَكَ شَىْءٌ وَأَنْتَ الآخِرُ فَلَيْسَ بَعْدَكَ شَىْءٌ وَأَنْتَ الظَّاهِرُ فَلَيْسَ فَوْقَكَ شَىْءٌ وَأَنْتَ الْبَاطِنُ فَلَيْسَ دُونَكَ شَىْءٌ

“O Allah; You are the First, there is nothing before You, You are the Last, there is nothing after You, You are the Apparent, there is nothing above You, and You are the Hidden, there is nothing apart from You.” [Sahih Muslim]


One of the fundamentals of Islam is the belief that Allah Most High is eternal without beginning or end, hence why He is called the First and the Last, or Alpha and Omega. A question may arise “what is meant by Allah being the Last and that there is nothing after Him?” Imam al-ShawkaniRA answers:

وَالْآخِرُ بَعْدَ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ ، أَيِ: الْبَاقِي بَعْدَ فَنَاءِ خَلْقِهِ

“The Last after everything, that is, the Everlasting after the annihilation of His creation.” [Fath-al-Qadir] referring to the Fanaa or annihilation of all things on Judgment Day when the Angel Israfil [Seraphiel] will blow the horn:

كُلُّ شَيْءٍ هَالِكٌ إِلَّا وَجْهَهُ

Everything will be destroyed except His Countenance

[Sura 28:88]


كُلُّ مَنْ عَلَيْهَا فَانٍ ﴿٢٦﴾ وَيَبْقَىٰ وَجْهُ رَبِّكَ ذُو الْجَلَالِ وَالْإِكْرَامِ ﴿٢٧﴾

Everyone who is on it will perish. But will remain the Countenance of Your Lord, the Owner of Majesty and Honor

[Sura 55:26-27]


Apart from Allah Most High, everything else is created and orginated, including this world and the cosmos. But there is a controversy among Muslim theologians regarding there being a first creation before which there was nothing except Allah Himself. Most Muslims, including myself, do believe that before Allah created anything He was alone and there was nothing existing alongside Him. One of the explicit proofs for this is the Hadith of the Prophet

كَانَ اللَّهُ وَلَمْ يَكُنْ شَىْءٌ غَيْرُهُ، وَكَانَ عَرْشُهُ عَلَى الْمَاءِ

“Allah was and there was nothing other than Him. And His Throne was upon water.”

[Sahih al-Bukhari]

The second clause of this statement should not be misunderstood as meaning Allah’s Throne and the water it was upon are likewise eternal. Rather, these are two separate statements, one which speaks of the pre-existence of Allah when there was nothing else, and the other which speaks of the reality of His Throne being upon water. The great Muhaddith, Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani, has explained this, and also the fact that this Hadith explicitly refutes those who claim an endless chain of creation in the past with no specific first creation, the well-known position of Ibn Taymiyya:

قوله  كان الله ولم يكن شيء قبله تقدم في بدء الخلق بلفظ ولم يكن شيء غيره وفي رواية أبي معاوية كان الله قبل كل شيء وهو بمعنى كان الله ولا شيء معه وهي أصرح في الرد على من أثبت حوادث لا أول لها من رواية الباب وهي من مستشنع المسائل المنسوبة لابن تيمية

Fath-al-Bari v.13 p.410


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