A Muslim asks: “Why has Allah created unbelievers?”

Friday Khutba by Dr Zahid Aziz, for Lahore Ahmadiyya UK, 9 February 2024

“(Allah is He) Who made beautiful everything that He created, and He began the creation of man from dust. Then He made his progeny of an extract, of worthless seeming water. Then He made him complete and breathed into him of His spirit, and gave you ears and eyes and hearts; little thanks you give!” — ch. 32, As-Sajdah, v. 7–9

الَّذِیۡۤ اَحۡسَنَ کُلَّ شَیۡءٍ خَلَقَہٗ وَ بَدَاَ خَلۡقَ الۡاِنۡسَانِ مِنۡ طِیۡنٍ ۚ﴿۷  ثُمَّ جَعَلَ نَسۡلَہٗ مِنۡ سُلٰلَۃٍ مِّنۡ مَّآءٍ مَّہِیۡنٍ ۚ﴿۸ ثُمَّ سَوّٰىہُ وَ نَفَخَ فِیۡہِ مِنۡ رُّوۡحِہٖ وَ جَعَلَ لَکُمُ السَّمۡعَ وَ الۡاَبۡصَارَ وَ الۡاَفۡـِٕدَۃَ ؕ قَلِیۡلًا مَّا تَشۡکُرُوۡنَ ﴿۹

“He it is Who created you, but one of you is a disbeliever and one of you is a believer. And Allah is Seer of what you do. He created the heavens and the earth with truth, and He shaped you, then made goodly your shapes; and to Him is the destination.” — ch. 64, Al-Taghābun, v. 2–3

ہُوَ الَّذِیۡ خَلَقَکُمۡ فَمِنۡکُمۡ کَافِرٌ وَّ مِنۡکُمۡ مُّؤۡمِنٌ ؕ وَ اللّٰہُ بِمَا تَعۡمَلُوۡنَ بَصِیۡرٌ ﴿۲  خَلَقَ السَّمٰوٰتِ وَ الۡاَرۡضَ بِالۡحَقِّ وَ صَوَّرَکُمۡ فَاَحۡسَنَ صُوَرَکُمۡ ۚ وَ اِلَیۡہِ الۡمَصِیۡرُ ﴿۳

In a general discussion forum on the Internet, a Muslim raised the question which, to use his own words, was: “Why has Allah created unbelievers?”. He said that he had asked his fellow-Muslims this question and could obtain no answer, so he is now asking the same question more widely than just to Muslims. I would say that Allah has not created unbelievers in the sense that He acted to make anyone an unbeliever. According to the Quran, Allah created every human as a human being in the same way. In the first quotation that I recited, its first verse tells us that everything God created was made beautiful by Him.

Then it says that He “began the creation of man from dust”. In science there is something called cosmic dust. It is dust particles found abundantly in space. This dust also enters the earth’s atmosphere, it comes down to the ground and settles in various places. There is an article on NASA’s website entitled: The Cosmic Dust in Your Bones—NASA’s Webb Telescope Will Investigate the Intertwined Origins of Dust and Life. Note the words: “Dust and Life”.

The article says: “cosmic dust is essential to the function of the universe: it … becomes part of planets, and can contain the organic compounds that lead to life as we know it. Dust led to us” (see link).

So it is scientifi­cally accepted now that dust is the origin of human life.

The next verse in that first quotation says that man’s “progeny”, descendants of human beings, are created from “an extract, of worthless seeming water”. This refers to the emission from the male which impregnates the female. To the human eye, it looks worthless. Then the third verse in that quotation says that from that worthless seeming water, God makes a complete human being and breathes His spirit into him, and gives him his senses of hearing, seeing and thinking.

This is the case with every human, whether he is going to be a believer or an unbeliever. He has a link with God through his spirit, and by exercising his power of acquiring knowledge, by means of his hearing and seeing, and his power of under­standing and analysing this knowledge, he can recognise and believe in God. Then the verse says: “little thanks you give”. This indicates that humans in general do not appreciate the value of these senses. It is through that failure that unbelief comes. And unbelief does not only mean that a person does not believe in Islam, but it also refers to a Muslim not acting on what he believes to be teachings from God.

The second quotation that I recited addresses mankind, saying that God created all of them, and some are unbelievers and some are believers. It also goes on to say that God has shaped humans in the best way, whether they become believers or un­believers.

The Quran also says:

“Surely We have created man from sperm mixed (with ovum), to try him, so We have made him hearing, seeing. We have truly shown him the way; he may be thankful or unthankful” (76:2–3).

This declares that every human life is conceived from the same constituents of the male and female parents, and the purpose of human life is for a person to be tested as to what he does. He has been granted the senses of receiving information through hearing and seeing. Then God has shown him the right path, and left it up to him to be thankful for this and accept it, or not be thankful for it.

Further we are told in the Quran:

“And when your Lord brought forth from the children of Adam, from themselves, their descendants, and made them bear witness about themselves: Am I not your Lord? They said: Yes, we bear witness. In case you should say on the day of Resurrection: We were unaware of this, or you should say: Only our fathers set up partners (with Allah) before (us), and we were (their) descendants after them. Will You destroy us for what liars did?” (7:172–173).

Accord­ing to this statement, the human soul is made to recognise at its very birth that there is a God Who created him, and He is the one and only God.

It is obvious that the message of Islam does not reach all non-Muslims, and many of them who do hear about Islam receive a very distorted picture of it, so atrocious that no decent, moral human being would accept it. So Allah says in the Quran that He has created every soul with the inner realisation within it that He is their Lord. On the Day of Judgment no one can put forward the excuse, for their unbelief or their misdeeds, that they were unaware of what the true religion was, or they merely followed their forefathers, and therefore they are free of responsibility. Just saying we didn’t know we were doing wrong, or we learnt it from our forefathers, culture and society, will not be fully accepted as a valid reason by God. In fact, such reasons are not accepted by the courts of law in this world when someone is charged with an offence.

God is much more merciful than the courts of this world, and He does take our weaknesses into account. The Quran says several times that “Allah does not impose on any soul a duty beyond its ability” (2:286; see also 6:152, 7:42, 23:63), and it says some ten times that He does not deal with anyone unjustly “in the least” (3:182, 4:49, 4:77 etc.). However, when human beings fail to use their God-given sense and reason, or reject something due to prejudice and bias, then they are accountable before God. Everyone has a sense of right and wrong, whatever their religion may be, whether they believe in God or not, whether the message of Islam has reached them or not. Every­one knows what is just and what is unjust. It is that by which God will judge them.

Unbelievers exist in this world because Allah has given humans the choice to accept or reject His message. This is stated in the last verse I read above: “We have truly shown him the way; he may be thankful or unthankful.” This is also repeated in other places in the Quran; for example:

“There is no compulsion in religion — the right way is indeed clearly distinct from error.” (2:256)

“The Truth is from your Lord; so whoever wishes, let him believe, and whoever wishes, let him disbelieve.” (18:29)

“Surely this (Quran) is a Reminder; so whoever wishes may take a way to his Lord.” (73:19)

It is also made clear in the Quran that Allah allows different religions to exist. A verse which I explained in a recent khutba says:

“For everyone of you We appointed a law and a way. And if Allah had pleased He would have made you a single people, but that He might try you in what He gave you. So vie with one another in good works. To Allah you will all return, so He will inform you of that in which you differed.” (5:48)

In another place, Allah says to the Holy Prophet:

“And if your Lord had pleased, all those who are in the earth would have believed, all of them. Will you then force people till they are believers?” (10:99).

According to the Quran, unbelievers of all kinds will continue to exist till the Day of Judgment.

If the Muslim who asked this question is so concerned as to why Allah has created unbelievers, he could try taking the message of Islam to as many of them as he can. This is a repeated command of Allah to the Holy Prophet, for example:

“O Messenger, deliver what has been revealed to you from your Lord; and if you do not, you have not delivered His message.” (5:67)

Allah has given you the tools, and also comforted you by saying that if you don’t achieve any results by your efforts then remember that “your duty is only to deliver the message” (3:20, 5:92 etc.).

A further point to remember is that while the questioner is lamenting “why Allah has created unbelievers?”, in many cases it is Muslims themselves who create unbelievers out of Muslims! There are a large number of people who consider themselves as Muslims but they have been declared as unbelievers by other Muslims. It is in your hands to stop this practice, so that you yourself do not add to the number of unbelievers in the world.

To summarise, Allah has not created anyone to be an unbeliever. He has only created human beings, each of them in the same way, in fact in the best shape and form, with a pure nature which corresponds to Allah’s own nature. He has planted into their souls a reminder of their Creator. He has revealed guidance for humanity through His prophets, and given everyone the choice to follow that guidance or not. He has ordered those who have accepted His guidance to deliver it to others as well. Those who do not have the opportunity of receiving that guidance, and had no fair choice to accept it or reject it, still have a natural guidance within themselves, and they are judged according to that.

The fact that unbelievers exist in the world should be treated as a spiritual and intellectual challenge to the believers. Can we answer their questions or their criticism of Islam satisfactorily? Can we take the message of Islam to them? Can we prove ourselves as better behaved and more useful human beings than they are?

So may Allah enable us to take up these challenge and to benefit our fellow human beings, Ameen.