When analyzing this issue, some facts must be kept in mind. While we perceive things from a human perspective, God does not. While we act out of necessity or desire, God does not. In other words, we cannot ascribe human attributes and motivations to God.
Who is distressed by the universe’s creation? Who does not desire to enjoy its benefits or seek happiness? Very few people express real sorrow at being in this world. Some have killed themselves, but their numbers are very small. The overwhelming majority of people are glad to be alive, to be here, and to be human. Who complains of being cared for by his or her parents, or of being nourished by that love during childhood? Who complains of being a young person, during which time the exhilaration of life is felt in the very bones? Which mature adult complains of having a family, children, and leading a harmonious life with them? How can we hope to measure the happiness of Muslims who, even as they are cultivating the seed for the next world, are ensuring success in this world? They are discovering the keys to the gates of ultimate happiness, and so are content and feel no distress.
The universe, which has been ornamented with every sort of art, is like an endless parade or exhibition designed to attract us and make us reflect. Its extraordinary diversity and magnificent adornment, the sheer abundance and flow of events, present a certain reality to our senses and minds. This reality indicates the existence of an agent who brings it into being. Through the reality of His works and deeds we come to know the Doer, and so His Names. Through these Names, we try to know His Attributes. Through the channels and prayers opened to our hearts, we strive to know Him in Himself. This raising up of our being is inspired across a wide domain of reality—things, events, the vast realm of humanity’s stewardship, as well as the relation or connection between us and the universe and the realm of God’s Names and Attributes.
But why did God create all of this? Consider the following: Great sculptors can produce, from the hardest stone or wood, life-like statues that express the most delicate feelings. But we cannot know these sculptors as sculptors unless their abilities are revealed. We can come to know or deduce their abilities from the statues or the process used to produce them. Every potentiality wishes to reveal the reality hidden within itself, to demonstrate what it knows by assuming an outward form. Seeds strive to sprout, sperms strive to join the egg in the womb, and floating bubbles strive to reach ground as drops of water.
The urge to show our potentialities, and thus to be seen and known by others, is an expression of weakness or defect, as all beings and their wishes are merely shadows of the original essence. However, the Creator has no defect or weakness. Remember that no single or composite manifestation of the essence is similar to the actual essence.
All artistry in the universe informs us of God’s Names. Each Name, displayed by what has been created, illuminates our way and guides us to knowledge of the Creator’s Attributes. They stimulate and awaken our hearts by His signs and messages carried to our senses.
The Creator wills to introduce Himself to us clearly and thoroughly. He wills to show His Splendor through the variety and beauty of creation; His Will and Might through the universe’s magnificent order and harmony; His Mercy, Compassion, and Grace through His bestowal of everything upon us, including our most secret wishes and desires. And He has many more Names and Attributes through which He wills to make Himself known.
In other words, He creates and places things in this world to manifest His Might and Will. By passing all things through the prism of the intellect and understanding of conscious beings, He arouses their wonder, admiration, and appreciation. Great artists manifest their talents through works of art; the Owner of the universe created it simply to manifest the Might and Omnipotence of His Creativity.