The Need for Allah
By Imam ibn-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah | Translated and abridged by Huda Shaka
Excerpts from Tareeq al-Hijratayn wa Bab as-Sa`adatayn
“O mankind, you are those in need of Allah, while Allah is the Self-Sufficient, Praiseworthy One.” (Qur’an 35:15)
In this verse, the Exalted One shows that the slaves’ need for Him is intrinsic to the slaves—just as being Self-Sufficient and Praiseworthy are intrinsic qualities for Him.
His Self-Sufficiency and His Praiseworthiness are innate constants in Him, not caused by any external factors bringing about these traits. Everything else’s need for Him is also an innate constant not caused by external factors. So, this need is not due to a new occurrence or condition; rather, it is an inherent quality of the needy.
The creation is impoverished, needing its Lord because of its nature—not because of some external cause; and all the ‘causes’ mentioned for this need are evidence of the need, but they are not actually causes; for what is intrinsic does not require a cause. It is impossible for the slave to be anything but needy, and it is impossible for the Exalted Lord to be anything but Self-Sufficient, just as it is impossible for the slave to be anything but a slave and the Lord to be anything but a Lord.
The Two Types of Need
If the above is understood, then the next point is that there are two types of need. The first is a compulsory, general need—one which cannot be evaded neither by a righteous nor wanton person. This need does not require praise or disparagement and neither does it require reward or punishment, for it is as natural as the creation being created.
The second need is a voluntary need, and it is a result of two honorable pieces of knowledge: the slave’s knowledge of his Lord, and the slave’s knowledge of himself. When a slave gains these two pieces of knowledge, they result in a need that actually becomes the source of his ultimate freedom, and the definition of his success and happiness. People vary in their degree of experiencing this need based on the variation in their understanding of these two pieces of knowledge.
It is from here that those who fail are let down and those who succeed are given success; for the one who fails is veiled from his true nature, and forgets himself and his need for his Lord. Thus, he dominates and transgresses and therefore becomes deserving of wretchedness.
“No! [But] indeed, man transgresses. Because he sees himself as self-sufficient.” (Qur’an 96:6-7)
“As for he who gives and fears Allah
And believes in the best [reward],
We will ease him toward ease.
But as for he who withholds and considers himself free of need
And denies the best [reward],
We will ease him toward difficulty.” (Qur’an 92:5-10)
The best of creation are the most complete in their worship, and the greatest witnesses to their need for their Lord and their inability to be free of needing Him—even for a blink of an eye. This is why the Prophet (peace be upon him) made the following prayer: “Rectify for me all of my affairs and do not leave me to myself, even for the blink of an eye, nor to any of your creation.”
The Prophet (peace be upon him) knows that his heart is in the Hand of the Most Compassionate, and he does not own any part of it, and that God the Exalted directs it as He wishes. How would he not know that when he recites, “And if We had not strengthened you, you would have almost inclined to them a little.” (Qur’an 17:74)? His (pbuh)’s need for his Lord is measured by his knowledge of Him, and his closeness to Him.
Contemplate Allah’s words in the verse: “[...] you are those in need of Allah.” The use of the name “Allah” and not Rabb (Lord) allows for the inclusion of both types of need: a need for His Lordship, which is the general need of all creatures, and the need for Him as a deity (to worship)—which is the specific need acknowledged by His prophets, messengers and righteous slaves. This latter need is the most beneficial need, and it is this specific not general need that scholars refer to and address the most.
Insha Allah let us all recognize that it is we that need Almighty Allah and not the reverse!