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How do we tell whether an experience in our lives was the acceptance of prayer or a coincidence?

There are two extremes people go to, one is being overly skeptical about every possible acceptance of prayer, and the other is overly attributing every coincidence to Allah Almighty. We can tend to overly attribute both negative and positive events to Allah Almighty. Hadrat Musleh Mau‘ud ra described the following 3 ways we misuse taqdir [Divine decree] about negative things.

  1. To save ourselves from embarrassment.

For  example, if someone fails an exam, to cover his embarrassment  he says that he was destined to fail this exam. Rather than attribute responsibility to himself, he attributes responsibility for his failure to Allah Almighty.

  • To justify despair.

For example, if someone repeatedly fails at something, he hides the fact that he has lost the courage to keep trying, and justifies his despair by saying that he is not destined to attain this objective.

  • To hide our laziness.

For example, if someone is hoping for a promotion, rather than put in the extra work that is needed, he simply says that if he is destined to be promoted then it will eventually happen (Anwarul ‘Ulum, vol 4, p. 605–606, Taqdire Ilahi).

Also, we sometimes misuse taqdir about positive things. For example, just because something is unlikely does not make it a miracle. Winning the lottery is unlikely, but that does not mean every time someone wins the lottery it is a miracle. After all, every time a lottery is started, it is mathematically inevitable that someone eventually wins. Also, atheists pass exams all the time. Just because we prayed before an exam does not mean that passing it was a miracle.

A mu‘jizah [miracle] is something that others are incapable of doing. Anyone can pass an exam, but an example of a miracle is when we are assured beforehand, whether through revelation or a feeling of certainty after prayers, that our prayer is accepted and we know that we will pass an exam. Otherwise, whether a success was specially from Allah Almighty or not is something we cannot be sure of.

The more we pray and the more our sincerity increases, the more we become familiar with the signs of acceptance of prayer. Constant striving in developing a relationship with Allah Almighty is necessary.

Updated on February 2, 2019

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