Man’s Indebtedness to Allah (exalted be He)
by Sayyid Naquib al-Attas
The following excerpt is from “Prolegemona to the Metaphysics of Islam: An Exposition of the Fundamental Elements of the Worldview of Islam” by Sayyid Naquib al-Attas. In it, he challenges the modern portrayal of man as a rational agent with independent creative capabilities and powers. al-Attas uses several ayahs of the Qur’an to remind us that all human beings are created in a state of absolute neediness to Allah (exalted be He)- the one who is absolutely free from all needs.
The mere fact of existence places man in a state of debt the moment he is created. As Allah (exalted be He) is the Master, Creator, and Sustainer of the universe – man cannot utilize material things to repay this debt as he is not their proper owner. The only way man can ever repay his momentous debt to his Creator is by engaging in khidmah (service) to others and humbly submitting his very self to His pronouncements.
“How can the concept of being indebted be explained in the religious and spiritual context? – one may ask; what is the nature of the debt?, and to whom is the debt owed?
We answer that man is indebted to God, his Creator and provider, for bringing him into existence and maintaining him in existence. Man was once nothing and did not exist, and now he is.