Throughout our life, do we ever know how many accidents that didn’t happen to us? The truth is we never know. For example, when you drive home from work, and arrive safe and sound without any scratch – and nothing strange or extra ordinary happen. You would say that no accident happened. That’s all, and you will continue the same thing day after day, and it never occur to your thoughts that actually those seemingly mundane things of going back and forth to work safely are actually mired in so many things that you didn’t see and so many accidents that may happen and didn’t happen to you. And that is actually the grace of God upon you that you never even realize and for many never ever thank God for it. In actuality, this is a major and fundamental understanding of our life – which so many things happen smoothly in our life, is actually something that has been bestowed upon us unknowingly to our normal conscience. Only with a deep thought then we realize how great are the mercy and grace of God that we enjoyed at every second of our lives.
Life is mired with risks at every moment passing by. An earthquake can strike at any moment, things can fall from a building and fall upon someone, tires can burst and cars stray off the roads, brakes that failed, reckless drivers hitting bystanders, and so on. We see them in the news almost daily. But it happens to someone else and not to us. God chose upon whom the calamity is befallen upon at the time and place He chose. The more important point is – He chose that it didn’t happen to you. And that what is meant by “accident that didn’t happen”.
Daily we make choices at every moment of our steps – to take this road instead of the other, to go left instead of right, to write these words instead of the others, to say the certain things and so on. Some of them we do them knowingly, and some others, just by pure reaction. Out of each action, there are results and reaction – when you sway left, the other car has to give way to you, or braking in order not to hit you at the back; when you say nice words, the other person responded with possibly nice words too, and so on. Do we know that whether any of those actions avert any accident (or wrong reactions)? We never know! It is only by Grace of God, that we got the right reaction and nothing bad happens. However, the truth and actuality is – anything can happen, and something terribly wrong may result out of these actions – except that God determines that it shouldn’t happen. And therefore, we move on without realizing that God has indeed save us.
This subject is indeed a deep and major philosophical issue that is being addressed by many Muslim scholars about the Qadha’ and Qadar; similarly by philosophers about fate and destiny; by scientists about probabilities and outcomes; and so on. While the approach may differ between different religious beliefs, the subject is the same – it is about understanding events in life.
Nasseem Nicholas Taleb wrote two books about the matter under the title of “Fooled by Randomness” and “Black Swan”. Which I found to be rather interesting read. Al Farabi and Al Ghazally did write long treatise on this matter. Ahlul Kalam has been debating them for centuries. Many people got lost in the discussions and understanding them, whilst most common people just got themselves confused.
The best writing that I found on this matter is by Ibnu Qayyim Al Jawzi – under the title of “Sabr and Syukr” (Patience and Gratefulness). This is summarized by one hadith of Prophet Muhamad in generic translation says “Verily the affairs of the Believers are quite unique – when anything good befallen upon them, they say their Grace to God; and when anything bad happens, they will invoke their patience”. They accept whatever happens as purely from God, and for that they are rewarded for whatever things that happen – good or bad.
One thing that we have to realize in our life, the balance between Patience (Sabr) and thankfulness (grace or Syukr) is not the same. To be thankful should be the most prominent act of our life, while to be patience is indeed very minuscule We have to thank God for every breath that we take, for every blessings that he gave; and very little, if any we have to invoke our patience. However, for this little patience that is required from us, we fail. And we totally forgot to thank God for anything that we have, as if they are rightfully belongs to us, and not as something as providence from God. Many human beings do not possess patience; and very few indeed are the grateful lot. (Wa qaliilan min ‘ibaadiyas Syakuur – very few indeed of the men are grateful).