Shaikh Ibn Uthaimeen (rahimahullaah) stated:
There is a hadeeth of `Imraan Ibn Husayn (radiyallaahu `anhu) which states that Allaah’s Messenger (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam) said:
كَانَ اللَّهُ وَلَمْ يَكُنْ شَىْءٌ قَبْلَهُ، وَكَانَ عَرْشُهُ عَلَى الْمَاءِ، ثُمَّ خَلَقَ السَّمَوَاتِ وَالأَرْضَ، وَكَتَبَ فِي الذِّكْرِ كُلَّ شَىْءٍ
“There was Allah and nothing else before Him and His Throne was over the water, and then He created the Heavens and the Earth and wrote everything in the Book.” Saheeh al-Bukhaaree 6982, 3192.
There is also a narration of At-Tirmidhee who stated that it is authentic (saheeh) in a place and hasan (good) in another place; also reported by Al-Bayhaqee, Ahmad, Ibn Maajah, Muhammad Ibn As-Sabaah who all report the hadeeth of Abu Razeen al-`Uqailee that he said:
قَالَ قُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَيْنَ كَانَ رَبُّنَا قَبْلَ أَنْ يَخْلُقَ خَلْقَهُ؟ قَالَ : كَانَ فِي عَمَاءٍ مَا تَحْتَهُ هَوَاءٌ وَمَا فَوْقَهُ هَوَاءٌ وَخَلَقَ عَرْشَهُ عَلَى الْمَاءِ
“O Allaah’s Messenger! Where was our Lord before He created the heavens and earth?” He (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam) responded: “He was above the [white] clouds – no air was under him, no air was above him, and He created His Throne upon the water.” In the wording of Al-Bayhaqee there occurs: “He was (above) the clouds – no air was under him, no air was above him, and He created His Throne, then He ascended over it.” (Reported by Ahmad, 15767. At-Tirmidhee, 3109. Ibn Maajah, 182. The narration was declared authentic by At-Tabaree. Declared hasan by At-Tirmidhee, Adh-Dhahabee and Ibn Taymiyyah. However Shaikh Al-Albaanee declared it weak in Da’eef Sunan at-Tirmidhee, but Ibn `Uthaimeen and others considered it authentic, and Allaah knows best).
The clouds here refers to pure, thick clouds. Ibn Katheer (rahimahullaah) stated in Al-Bidaayah wan-Nihaayah (vol. 1, p. 8) in summary: There is some differing regarding what was created first, so some say: Allaah created the Pen (Al-Qalam) before all of these things, and that was the preference of Ibn Jareer, Ibnul-Jawzee, and others. Ibn Jareer said: ‘And after the Pen it was the [creation of the] fine clouds.’ And they use as a proof the hadeeth of `Ubaadah Ibn Saamit (radiyallaahu `anhu) ascribed to Allaah Messenger (salallaahu `alaihi wassallam) wherein he said: ‘Indeed the first thing that Allaah created was the Pen.’ (Reported by Ahmad 23197. Abu Daawood, 4700. At-Tirmidhee, 2155) However, that which the majority of the Scholars are upon is that the Throne (Al-`Arsh) preceded. This is due to the hadeeth of Abdullaah Ibn `Amr Ibn Al-`Aas which is ascribed to Allaah’s Messenger (salallaahu `alahi wassallam): ‘Allaah wrote the decree of all of creation 50,000 years before the creation of the heavens and the earth. And His Throne was over the water.’ (Reported by Muslim, 2653) So they understand the narration, ‘the first thing that Allaah created was the Pen’ to mean, ‘in this universe’.
Ibn Jareer (rahimahullaah) stated that other scholars stated: ‘Rather Allaah created the water even before [He created] the Throne.’ Then he narrates from Muhammad Ibn Is-haaq that he said: ‘The first thing Allaah created was the light and darkness, then He differentiated between them.’
Then he said: It is said: That which our Lord created after the Pen was the Footstool (Al-Kursee), then the Throne (Al-`Arsh), then the air and the darkness, then the water, so He placed His Throne over the water, and Allaah knows best.
End. See Al-Muntaqaa minal-Faraa’id al-Fawaa’id of the noble Shaikh, the `Allaamah Muhammad Ibn Saalih al-`Uthaimeen (may Allaah forgive him, his parents and the Muslim), p. 101-102.
Al-Haafidh Ibn Hajr (rahimahullaah) asserted that the hadeeth of `Imraan Ibn Husayn (radiyallaahu `anhu) proves that the creation of water preceded the creation of the Throne: “There was Allah and nothing else before Him and His Throne was over the water, and He then created the Heavens and the Earth and wrote everything in the Book.” (See Fat-hul-Baaree 6/289)
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