Death. We hear the word so frequently that it’s become almost meaningless. We see it on the news when we read about suicides, murders, and accidents. We see it in movies and even throw it around as a joke. But how often does the prospect of death truly cross our minds?
We walk around thinking we’re invincible. We play, laugh, and plan for our future as if we’re guaranteed a future. We speak about tomorrow and what we’re going to accomplish, but we fail to realize that tomorrow might never arrive. Dec. 4, 2012 was the scariest day of my life. I had an awakening. Being saved from death by a millisecond, quite literally a millisecond tends to do that, I suppose.
The sunset was vivid and beautiful. I had prayed Maghrib and was leaving to pick up my brother and sister. Along the way, I was supposed to deliver biryani to some family friends. I pulled up to the entrance of my neighborhood. It was exactly 5:30 pm. I looked both ways twice. The only cars I could see were two that were coming from my left. There were no other cars coming from that direction, so for the most part, traffic had cleared momentarily.
I never saw the car in the middle lane behind them.
I had checked twice before turning. There was no car there. The entrance to my neighborhood is slightly elevated so I could see from above the cars that were approaching. It wasn’t even dark outside. To this day, I stubbornly stand by the fact that there had been nothing there. Obviously I was wrong.
I drove onto the intersection. At the time, death was the last thing on my mind.
Then, something slammed into my car at 45 miles per hour. The sound of metal upon metal echoed throughout the quiet neighborhood. Multiple airbags deployed in my face. There was an acrid smell and smoke seeped everywhere. I don’t remember anything else, except the fact that I was screaming and screaming and wondering what had just happened.
Arms wrapped around myself and shoulders hunched in the cold, I walked over to where the remains of my car were. It was getting dark and the police still hadn’t arrived. I just stood there, horrified by the mess. The front of my car had been wiped clean away. Green fluid was leaking out of the hood and the smell of smoke tainted the air. Wires and engine parts hung out of the body and shards of glass were scattered a hundred feet in every direction. It was unrecognizable.
And it was on that night, that the possibility of death brutally hit me. I could have died. I really could have died. Had the timing varied by a millisecond, instead of the front of our cars hitting each other, the outcome would have been completely different. The entire front of my car had flown down the road a hundred feet or so. Had I accelerated earlier, the other car would have hit my driver’s side and it could have been my body, not the car’s, a hundred feet away. Had I accelerated later, I would have hit the passenger side of the other car, perhaps fatally injuring the driver or passenger. But all of us walked away without a scratch. SubhanAllah, what perfect timing.
When I arrived home, I went upstairs and drew in a few deep breaths. Instead of resting like my mom had asked, I went to the bathroom and made wudhu. My face was an ugly, wet mess from how much I’d been crying. But that was the least of my worries. I was alive. I was alive. That was a miracle within itself. I had literally walked away unharmed. Still standing by the bathroom sink and staring at my defeated self in the mirror, I shuddered as I remembered hearing the crash of the metal exploding as both cars impacted. The smell of smoke and burning and the sound of me screaming.
I then prayed Isha. As I rose from sujood, I realized, had I died, or been paralyzed, or just not been awake and healthy and alive, I wouldn’t have even been able to pray to the One who had spared my life. The One who had blessed me, and granted me another opportunity to turn around and correct my ways. Would I have made it to Jannah if I died that night? Was I ready to be questioned in my grave? Was I ready to meet with my Creator and could I have been 100 percent positive that He would have been pleased with the way I had led my life?
No. What happened that night proved it. How could I not be grateful? A fraction of a second made a difference in whether my life or the life of another existed. A fraction of a second prevented many families from experiencing the terrible loss of death. A fraction of a second was the biggest blessing I had ever been bestowed with. I’d been given another day, another chance. Once more, Allah had bestowed His infinite mercy upon me and saved me from inscrutable pain and agony. The Angel of Death does not distinguish between age. He doesn’t ask if we’re ready to meet our Creator or not. He just comes.
“Every soul shall taste death; then to Us shall you be returned.” (Al-‘Ankabut, 29: 57)
My soul had been a millisecond away from that taste. And it was in that moment of near death that I felt most alive.