حَدَّثَنَا الْحَسَنُ بْنُ صَبَّاحٍ، حَدَّثَنَا شَبَابَةُ، حَدَّثَنَا وَرْقَاءُ، عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ، سَمِعْتُ أَنَسَ بْنَ مَالِكٍ، يَقُولُ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏”‏ لَنْ يَبْرَحَ النَّاسُ يَتَسَاءَلُونَ حَتَّى يَقُولُوا هَذَا اللَّهُ خَالِقُ كُلِّ شَىْءٍ فَمَنْ خَلَقَ اللَّهَ ‏”‏‏.‏

Narrated Anas bin Malik:

Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “People will not stop asking questions till they say, ‘This is Allah, the Creator of everything, then who created Allah?'”
Reference: Sahih al-Bukhari 7296
In-book reference: Book 96, Hadith 27

Discussion

“Is there not in Hell an abode for the proud?” (Surah az-Zumar: 39:60)

What could be the point of such a question? If there were an answer, what possible use would the one asking have for the information?

If asked by a child, or one who is otherwise naive, the answer that would suffice is, “No one and nothing. Allah created everything that exists, including time.”

However, this question is just as likely to be asked by a quarrelsome, atheist adult. In such a case, the only possible points of a question such as this would be to sew contention or to attempt to instill doubt. Such a person is not seeking truth or real answers to their questioning, and so a recitation of scripture which they would simply reject serves no purpose.

“We did not create this heaven and earth and all that lies between them in vain. That is the fancy of those who denied the Truth. So woe from the Fire to all who deny the Truth.” (Surah Sad: 38:27)

We are instructed to have faith in what we understand. Saint Augustine is sometimes credited as having answered an impertinent interlocutor asking the question, “What was God doing before He made heaven and earth?” On this occasion, St. Augustine himself denies having replied, as some would hold, “He was preparing hell for those who ask such questions.” His real answer, from The Confessions of St. Augustine, Chapter 12 is far more fitting:

“Behold, I answer to him who asks, ‘What was God doing before He made heaven and earth?’ I answer not, as a certain person is reported to have done facetiously (avoiding the pressure of the question), ‘He was preparing hell,’ says he, ‘for those who pry into mysteries.’ It is one thing to perceive, another to laugh — these things I answer not. For more willingly would I have answered, ‘I know not what I know not,’ than that I should make him a laughing-stock who asks deep things, and gain praise as one who answers false things. […]”

Here, St. Augustine wisely refuses to answer the sin of pride with pride by condescending to insult someone seeking a quarrel.

“Shall We then treat alike those that believe and act righteously and those that create mischief on earth? Or treat alike the God-fearing and the wicked?” (Surah Sad: 38:28)

A beautiful bookend to the preceding ayah, this verse cements the reasoning of the foregoing one. We’re here encouraged to contemplate a universe devoid of justice. If we were to start with the assumption that all of creation were a cosmic accident, born of nothing and going nowhere. We would have to logically conclude that good had no reward and evil has no consequence – or worse that there’s no difference between good and evil, and all is a churning morass of moral relativism.

Such is the terrifying proposition contemplated by the atheist non-believer: How pitiable and directionless a state of spiritual being to be intentionally adrift with no anchor and no compass!