Bismillahi ar-rahman ar-rahim
I was watching Pewdiepie’s latest video, the umpteenth video of “You laugh you lose” (which is still entertaining by the way 😂) and there was a clip of a chick that just jumped off a high cliff side, apparently to its death. I was pretty intrigued so I looked it up and interestingly it was a clip from the BBC’s show “Life Story” narrated by David Attenborough. Click on the link to watch the video for yourself.
Now I want to take you through my personal thought process and experience while watching this. Prior to this I didn’t even what a gosling was (it means baby goose) or even what a Barnacle Goose was. So all I was thinking as I saw this lil baby chick slowly waddle to the edge of the cliff side was “Surely Allah didn’t just allow this chick to jump off in vain?”
I need to explain a bit of how I see the world in order for you to understand what I was thinking. Essentially I see every moment as totally under the control and Will of God. Meaning that if a dog finds a piece of meat on the side of the road, I see that as God providing the dog’s providence; and if a pigeon gets run over by a bus, then it was this bird’s time to die. But for everything there is a sense of fairness, purpose and even mercy. That’s my view and so as I was watching this chick literally jump off a cliff side dozens of metres high, I was seriously questioning the purpose and sense for this. Why wasn’t God stopping this chick from jumping? Then it jumped and I saw it drop….and drop…and drop… and I harbored the faint hope that somehow its tiny wings would actually work…but then plonk. It hit the rocks, and fell some more. It hit another rock and I was surprised to hear a sound from the chick (that meant it was still conscious)…It hits another rock and I hear it make another sound.
I honestly thought “what terrible cruelty was this?”. If this chick just fell to a senseless death then the thought crossed my mind that I would certainly need to reflect on what “All-Merciful” really means and if that was really true. My heart felt heavy.
Then the parent Geese went up to the poor lil one who had fallen and “hurt” itself at least 3 times. And it was fine! Like praise God! 😂 And as I watched the video I realised that there were other goslings who had jumped. And they were fine as well. Well 3 out of 5 seemed to have made it to the bottom of the cliff.
I was amazed at this resilient creature. A comment by Attenborough at the end of the video about how surviving this traumatic fall was necessary if the goslings were to have any chance at surviving. Again I was amazed and thankful: 3 out of 5 survived. Glory and Praise the All-Merciful.
But there was still the unsettling fact that 2 of the goslings probably died in the fall. Two lil ones jumped with only the protection of their Lord and they met an “untimely” death. Hmm, so I had to look up these fascinating creatures and reading a single paragraph about them on this wikipedia article made it all make sense to me, and I could see the mercy of Allah in full.
Here’s the paragraph quoted in full:
“Barnacle geese frequently build their nests high on mountain cliffs; away from predators (primarily Arctic foxes and polar bears) but also away from food. Like all geese, the goslings are not fed by the adults. Instead of bringing food to the newly hatched goslings, the goslings are brought to the ground. Unable to fly, the three-day-old goslings jump off the cliff and fall; their small size, feathery down, and very light weight helps to protect some of them from serious injury when they hit the rocks below, but many die from the impact. Arctic foxes are attracted by the noise made by the parent geese during this time and capture many dead or injured goslings. The foxes also stalk the young as they are led by the parents to wetland feeding areas.“
So, these birds make their nests high up on the cliff sides away from predators such as arctic foxes and bears. But also away from food. Geese, and these Barnacle geese as well don’t carry food to their young. When the chicks are 3 days old, they have to jump to the bottom of the rocks. The article says that though these chicks have a protection from harm because of their light weight, feathers and small size, many chicks still die on impact.
As usual you will find a certain negative tone in nature commentaries (a certain kind of tone of “that’s harsh nature for ya”). But the sentence “Arctic foxes are attracted…” helped to make it all click for me. These geese have their nests high up, which allows them to birth and hatch their young. The adult geese can fly of course so they can go up and down as they like. They seem to be totally protected from their predators. Now comes the turning point in their lives. The live or die. Now if no chick ever died, then how will the foxes eat? Where is their providence from God? Indeed the dead or injured goslings are their providence and so continues the circle of life, as we learned in the Lion King.
Every creature is given the attributes necessary to survive its circumstances and have a living. This means it will be given characteristics to help it survive the dangers it will personally experience and the ability to get its food. Since every animal is food for something else, then it is not cruel that the foxes are able to eat their fill from goslings, and it is also not cruel for the goslings to have to go through the falling, as God made them in such a way as to literally shake it off.
There is a deep message shown to us by these goslings. That we are under the Lord’s protection at all times but that everything has its share as well. We also see that it isn’t just rainbows and fluffy clouds. We have to work and this life is a test. We will go through traumas but God gave us the strength to see through those traumas. And God shows compassion to us and these animals, for these chicks had their parents by their side, encouraging them, calling them. This is God’s mercy and support through His creation. This also should be an encouraging reminder for those suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts. Do you have the courage to jump and face life’s obstacles and pain? These lil ones do. Remember you have everything you need as long as you depend on God. If you depend on contingent things like money or relatives or a “safety net” you will find that these don’t assuage your anxiety and you may lose them one day. But only God is eternal and his help is guaranteed for those that trust in Him.
I want to make a final point that is usually thrown against God:”Why is He allowing all this cruelty and injustice in the world?!”
This is Allah’s own answer (Yusuf Ali translation):
42. Think not that Allah doth not heed the deeds of those who do wrong. He but giveth them respite against a Day when the eyes will fixedly stare in horror,-
43. They running forward with necks outstretched, their heads uplifted, their gaze returning not towards them, and their hearts a (gaping) void!
44. So warn mankind of the Day when the Wrath will reach them: then will the wrong-doers say: “Our Lord! respite us (if only) for a short term: we will answer Thy call, and follow the apostles!” “What! were ye not wont to swear aforetime that ye should suffer no decline?