A few days ago I was riding down in an elevator with some friends and colleagues when it suddenly stopped with a jerk and the lights went out. After a silence of about two seconds, with uncertainty building up, the elevator crashed in a free fall from the third floor all the way to the basement. Everyone in the elevator was in a state of total shock. However, luckily no one was seriously hurt. Soon the lift operator pried the door open and we all came out unhurt, but badly shaken and literally trembling. When others in the building heard of this incident one of them said it was “Allah’s will.”

Every time I hear such a statement, which aims to move everything from blame to acquittal, I feel annoyed. Still shaking, this time I could not resist asking if this were actually Allah’s will, then why this logic is not applied to bomb blasts and target killings well. Why do people want justice in one breath while saying it is Allah’s will in the other?

I often question why we always bring Allah into everything. These accidents need constant monitoring, accountability, and punishment. I recall that about 20 years ago I was in Jeddah when we got stuck on a Ferris Wheel. After everyone was brought down safely the Ferris Wheel was shut down for a very long time. Just a few days back there were some cases in China, where people lost their lives or legs when escalators broke down. Justice was instant and visible. Many rollercoaster rides have met with accidents in America, but action is always taken and the culprits taken to task. The recent case of the Crane incident in Makkah is a perfect example where the government has banned the BinLadin Construction Company for life, and publicly announced that it will not be getting any more contracts.

The basic problem, as I see it, is that today we are more into making financial gains and have no clue about the security and safety of others. The labor force is not trained for the task they perform. They are not adept at handling the machines they operate, let alone safety precautionary and measures. The reason for this is lack of education, financial restrains and dearth of accountability in developing countries.

We see news of fire erupting in buildings, factories, and shopping malls, with sickening regularity, as people suffocate to death in the smoke. No one ever looks into the roots of the malaise. Instead, it is always believed that the fire was lit on purpose so that the company could claim insurance or another scapegoat is found. The rescue teams hardly ever reach on time, and when they do, they are ill-equipped and do not have water for the fire tenders. If everything else is fine, the traffic does not allow passage to the siren blaring rescue vehicles that often become bystanders.

In such circumstances Allah will not come to evacuate those trapped in the fire, or in a lift, or with a leg caught in the escalator steps.

Just like humans, machines are not error free. But does that mean that when something goes wrong the incidents should be dumped in Allah’s lap and we conveniently get done with it? All machines are made by humans, and like humans needing vitamins and flu shots, machines have to be maintained. Does this mean that the readers of this blog will get up and go check the safety manuals – if any exist – in the company and vow to prevent accidents happening?

Far from it.

This is just another rant of a tortured mind – a cry in the wilderness. Only this time it comes out of the experience of surviving an elevator free falling three floors!