Allah (SwT) has said,
“He is the First (al-Awwal) and the Last (al-Akhir) and the Ascendant (over all) and the One Who knows hidden things, and He is Cognizant of all things” (Qur’an, 57:3).
The Attribute al-Awwal means: the One on Whom all others rely, the One who advances all others. Applied to the Almighty, it means: He was never preceded in existence by anyone at all; He does not need anyone else at all; He is Independent of everything and everyone.
A bedouin once asked the Messenger of Allah (S),”Where was Allah (SwT) before creation?” He answered him by saying,”Allah (SwT) was and there was nothing with Him.” The bedouin asked him again,”How about now?” He answered him by saying,”He is now just as He has always been.” The Attribute al-Awwal exists in Surah al-Hadeed (Iron):
“He is the First and the Last, the Ascendant (over all), the One Who knows hidden things, and He is Cognizant of all things” (Qur’an, 57:3).
And He is referred to by implication in this verse:
“We have ordained death among you and We are not preceded in doing so by anyone else” (Qur’an, 56:60).
Al-Awwal is the first of anything different from Him. He has the upper hand over His foes, an advancement due neither to time nor to place nor to anything else that can be conceived by mind or acquired by knowledge. Al-Awwal means the timeless, the perpetual, the One Who has neither a beginning nor an end. He is the First without a beginning; He exists on His own even before His creatures were ever there.
He is the Eternal One Who has always been and Who is never preceded by anyone at all. Allah (SwT) has said,
“We have ordained death among you, and We are not preceded in doing so by anyone else” (Qur’an, 56:60).
This verse indicates that He, and Only He, has such power to effect death on His servants, and He is the First to do so without anyone preceding Him.