Praise be to Allah.
This statement is false, and the reason why it is false may be explained as follows:
Allah, may He be exalted, created each person in a state of fitrah (sound, natural human disposition), which is belief in his Creator and submission to Him. Allah, may He be exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning): “[Adhere to] the fitrah of Allah upon which He has created [all] people. No change should there be in the creation of Allah. That is the correct religion” [ar-Room 30:30].
And Allah, may He be exalted, says in the hadith qudsi: “I have created all My slaves with the inclination to worship Me alone, but the devils come to them and turn them away from their religion. They forbid to them that which I have permitted to them, and they tell them to associate others with Me for which I have not sent down any authority.” Narrated by Muslim (2865).
The Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “Every child is born in a state of fitrah (the natural state of man, i.e., Islam).” Narrated by al-Bukhaari (1296) and Muslim (4803). According to another version narrated by Muslim (4805), “There is no child who is not born in a state of submission to Allah (Islam)?”
Allah has created every human as a Muslim, until his parents influence him or that person grows up and chooses for himself the religion he will follow.
Islam is the true religion of Allah, which existed before the creation of man. The angels were created before man, and they are Muslims, because the true meaning of Islam is to surrender and submit to Allah, may He be exalted, with love and veneration. Allah, may He be exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning):
“And [mention, O Muhammad], when your Lord said to the angels, ‘Indeed, I will make upon the earth a successive authority.’ They said, ‘Will You place upon it one who causes corruption therein and sheds blood, while we declare Your praise and sanctify You?’ Allah said, ‘Indeed, I know that which you do not know’”
“Allah witnesses that there is no deity except Him, and [so do] the angels and those of knowledge – [that He is] maintaining [creation] in justice. There is no deity except Him, the Exalted in Might, the Wise”
[Aal ‘Imraan 3:18]
“Never would the Messiah disdain to be a servant of Allah , nor would the angels near [to Him]. And whoever disdains His worship and is arrogant – He will gather them to Himself all together”
Adam (peace be upon him), the father of mankind and the first person created by Allah, was created by Allah as a Muslim and a monotheist; Allah spoke to him and made him a prophet. So Allah did not create him as a person without religion, then teach him religion; rather all of mankind, the descendants of Adam until the era of Nooh (peace be upon them both) persisted in affirming the oneness of Allah, may He be exalted, obeying Him, loving Him and venerating Him. They did not dispute or differ concerning that, until that difference of opinion and dispute emerged, and people began to deviate from affirming the oneness of Allah at the time of Nooh (peace be upon him). ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allah be pleased with him) said: Between Nooh and Adam there were ten generations, all of them following the path of truth [according to one version: all of them following Islam], then they differed, “then Allah sent the prophets as bringers of good tidings and warners” [al-Baqarah 2:213].
See: Tafseer at-Tabari (3/621); Tafseer Ibn Katheer (3/431),
This statement is correct with regard to all religions other than Islam, for they are all invented religions that have been fabricated by man. They are the product of human beings, who invented them and invented their rituals and festivals, and so on.
As for Islam and Tawheed, affirming the oneness of Allah, may He be exalted, came before all things. “O Allah, You are the First and there is nothing before you; You are the Last and there is nothing after You.” Thus the Messenger (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) used to praise his Lord, as was narrated by al-Bukhaari (4888) and Muslim (2713).
The messages of the Messengers only came to guide people and teach them about their Lord. Were it not for these divinely-revealed messages and the fact that many people followed them, punishment would have come down upon people, and they would not have existed in this life; the world would be in ruins and the heavens and the earth, with all those who are in them, would have been corrupted. Allah, may He be exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning): “But if the Truth had followed their inclinations, the heavens and the earth and whoever is in them would have been ruined” [al-Mu’minoon 23:71].
Were it not for faith and religion, the existence of animals, inanimate objects and plants would have been nobler than the existence of humans, for humans without Islam are the worst creatures on the face of the earth.
Finally, what does the questioner mean by saying that man existed before religion? It does not matter which came first; what matters is: Did Allah enjoin religion (Islam) or not?
Did Allah enjoin us to follow the Prophets (blessings and peace of Allah be upon them) or not?
Is there any religion on the face of the earth now that is true and all others are false, except the religion of Islam, or not?
Will everyone who turned away from Tawheed (affirming the oneness of Allah) and from obeying Allah, may He be exalted, or from Islam enter the Fire and abide therein forever or not?
Did Allah, may He be exalted, instruct us to live all our lives according to His laws or not?
This is what we care about, regardless of whether man existed before religion or after.
We ask Allah, may He be exalted, to show us truth as true and to enable us to follow it, and to show us falsehood as false and enable us to avoid it.
And Allah knows best.