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Natural Disasters and the Questions They Raise


On seeing the heart wrenching scenes and hearing the tales that fill the eyes with tears and make the hearts bleed, many questions come to people’s minds. Many are wondering aloud, others in their minds. Some are ignorantly likening it to Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta‘aala’s punishment that came to previous Ummahs and others are even saying things that should not be said. Here are 15 points that you can ponder over and answer your own questions:
  1. Allaah SWT has created human beings and put them in this world temporarily with freedom to make choices and decisions about their lifestyle and priorities. He has clearly warned them that this temporary life is a test and that based on their performance in this test they will either enjoy freedom eternally in Jannah (Garden or Paradise) or will be imprisoned in Jahannam (Hell). Thus, the results of the test will be encountered in the permanent life of the hereafter. He has clarified that this test is very individual in nature. Each person is on his or her own in this test and will be judged purely and exclusively as an individual.
  2. The test is given by putting people through various degrees and levels of normal life circumstances, hardships and good times. Neither are the hardships ‘punishments’, nor are the good times ‘rewards’. Both are tests and both tests have their own challenges and dangers. Both tests are equally likely to lead a person to Jannah or Jahannam.
  3. The true believers are always the winners because they handle all events of life as tests and try to do their best in the circumstances they encounter. A believer remains patient, steadfast and obedient in times of adversity without complaining about the hardship or getting discouraged. He remains thankful, humble and obedient in prosperity without feeling proud of his accomplishments.
  4. Death is not a punishment, as some religions want people to believe. It is only the termination of the test and is the transition from this temporary world to the hereafter. It is like birth, which transitions a child from the womb into the world.
  5. To help people remain mindful of the test and be prepared for its termination, the exact term (length) of the test for each individual is different and has been kept confidential. For that purpose, death comes through many means, to people of all ages.
  6. For an obedient Muslim, death is always good because it takes him from the prison of the world to the freedom and bounties of the hereafter. However, it is always a torment for a disbeliever because it takes him from his respite in the world to the punishment of the hereafter.
  7. Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala is absolutely just and extremely kind. He does not punish people even an iota more than their crimes, but because of His kindness, he may choose to reward someone much more than what he or she deserves.
  8. Any hardship a person faces is always compensated by Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta‘aala through forgiveness of sins, which every human being commits.
  9. The comparison of the hardships and comforts of this world are nothing in comparison to the rewards and punishments of the hereafter. A person who spent his whole life in the most miserable circumstances will not remember any discomfort after a few moments in Jannah, which he will enjoy forever. A person who enjoyed the most prosperous life in this world will remember no comfort after a few moments in Jahannam, which he may have to endure forever.
  10. Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta‘aala has given freedom of action to people and He does not interfere in their freedom so that they can justifiably be held responsible for their performance in the test. For this reason, He does not reward or punish people during this test, and the reward and punishment is determined only after the test in over though death.
  11. Although He does not interfere, in the decisions or choices that people make, He wants to see peace and justice in the world for which He has prescribed Islam as a way of life for people. To implement the Islamic system of peace and justice in a society whenever it was completely abandoned, He has been sending Messengers. And to reform and revive the Islamic system after human innovations and decadence introduced non-Islamic elements into it, He has been sending prophets.
  12. Prophets or other reformers sometimes succeeded in implementing reforms and sometimes were overpowered by their enemies. Although those who rejected prophets suffered the displeasure of Allaah in many other ways, they were never destroyed by a natural calamity.
  13. Messengers were sent with a mandate to implement the Islamic system completely and exclusively and to eradicate every opposition to it. Those who opposed the mission of a Messenger were given a reasonable chance to listen and repent and were warned clearly and repeatedly of their impending destruction. If they continued to oppose, proving beyond any doubt that they are not going to repent, Allaah cut their test short and terminated it immediately through an extraordinary disaster that annihilated them completely. In that case, Muslims were always saved unscathed, but no disbeliever ever survived. This termination of the test for a whole locality was done only after a Messenger had exhausted his efforts to bring them to Islam. The elimination of Kuffaar gave the Muslims opportunity to establish the Islamic system purely and completely in their society. As our Prophet was the last Prophet and the last Messenger, after he established Islam completely in Arabia, Allaah SWT ended this practise of destroying the rejecters. Any natural disaster that we encounter should never be confused with or compared to Allaah’s destruction of disbelievers in the past.
  14. After our Prophet, the job of ensuring the establishment and maintenance of the Islamic system of peace and justice rests on the shoulders of Muslims. If they collectively fulfil their responsibility, they succeed both in this world and the hereafter. If they collectively shirk, ignore or neglect this responsibility, they fail both in this world and the hereafter. The natural consequence as well as the sign of their failure in this world is complete ineffectiveness, being totally marginalized and suffering from humiliation, degradation, occupation and devastation at the hands of their enemies.
  15. Because the world is temporary, Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala has built some natural destructive mechanisms in the physical make up of this world. At the appointed time, on Israfeel’s call, one of these mechanisms will instantly trigger the end of the world. In the meantime, the mechanisms in the earth and its atmosphere cause devastations here and there. These calamities are not punishments, but are part of the test of hardships and fulfill the following purposes:
    1. The pious people are freed from the world and taken to the luxuries of the hereafter; the wicked are taken to the prison of the hereafter.
    2. The affected survivors are tested for their faith in Allaah and their attitude to the hardship.
    3. Those survivors and all other people of the world are tested to see whether:
      1. These calamities make them learn a lesson and focus on preparing for the big calamity that will end this world and bring on the hereafter, or they remain oblivious, continuing their life as usual.
      2. They are shaken to remember and submit to Allaah, or their focus remains this world;
      3. They realize that human beings do not have power, but Allaah has the ultimate power, or they remain proud of their own power or impressed with the power of other human beings;
      4. They understand the reality that this world and all its sufferings and comforts are temporary and a means of testing, or they expect perfection in the temporary world so that there are no disasters or tests.
      5. They complain about the misery that they see, or they seize it as an opportunity to repent, reform, and submit to Allaah in obedience;
      6. The best of human qualities overtakes them and they take care of those suffering with love, kindness, compassion, generosity and care, or the worst of their nature shows and they engage in more crimes, proving themselves to be worse than beasts.


Are you working to succeed in this test or are you letting yourself be among those who have opted for miserable failure when the Big Calamity strikes?

 

October 20, 2005

 

The posting of this article on the internet led to the following question:

Assalam alaikum,

Ayub A. Hamid's article was really thought provoking. I have some questions on his 15th point in the article where he mentions:
Because the world is temporary, Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala has built some natural faults in the physical make up of this world.

I don't know if this is true because what i understand from a verse of the Quran from chapter 67, verse no 3 is that there should be no faults in its physical make up of this universe.

Given below are translations of the verse from three scholars.

067.003
YUSUFALI: He Who created the seven heavens one above another: No want of proportion wilt thou see in the Creation of (Allah) Most Gracious. So turn thy vision again: seest thou any flaw?
PICKTHAL: Who hath created seven heavens in harmony. Thou (Muhammad) canst see no fault in the Beneficent One's creation; then look again: Canst thou see any rifts?
SHAKIR: Who created the seven heavens one above another; you see no incongruity in the creation of the Beneficent Allah; then look again, can you see any disorder?

Hope you understand the concern. Pls clarify.

Thanks,


Wa `alaykumussalaam wa raĥmatullaahi wa barakaatuhu,

What is described in the verse 67:3-4 is an absolute truth from Allaah SWT. Although in trying to keep it brief and in the point form I did not explain that aspect clearly, these statements were not forgotten or overlooked.

These verses mention that Allaah’s creation is free from:

1. Tafaawut - Incongruity, disproportion, disharmony or inconsistency among its components and their operation, implying that:

Everything in the universe from a subatomic particle to the biggest galaxies is bound by the consistent physical laws; everything harmoniously complements everything else in achieving the objectives that Allaah wanted to achieve from the operations of this universe including the creation of life and its sustenance. The mass, gravity, speed etc. of every component are balanced and well proportioned so much that any variation in any of their features would have made life and living impossible. Every component of the universe performs its service consistently without ever failing to do its part precisely as ordained, so on and so forth.

2. Futoor - Break, gap, tear or hole in its order, regimentation and control, implying that:
Their operation of all components that make up this universe is so coordinated, so regular and so regimented that not a single component deviates in its performance according to the applicable laws of nature even for a split second. The whole system is well organized without any break in its discipline, gap in coordination, or hole in its processes.

Being free from these two weaknesses underscores the fact that this universe is a perfectly designed system for its objectives: To be a temporary universe with built-in mechanisms for its destruction at a pre-planned time; and to put people through a variety of hardships and tests to see who performs better in his/her given circumstances.

Although its design is perfect for its objectives, it is not a perfect system, but a temporary one. Had it been perfect, it would have existed forever and it would not have extreme conditions that cause death and destruction. The current system is built to be temporary with built in mechanisms (which I called faults) that trigger death and destruction. Our body is designed to expire. It has built in mechanisms that facilitate death. Death was included in the design for life. That is why in the same soorah 67 Allaah SWT mentioned creation of death before life. The earth’s atmosphere and operation has built in mechanisms to cause extreme temperatures, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards, floods, ice storms, mudslides, forest fires, etc. Although earth’s atmosphere protects us from many hazards, but sometimes a meteorite ends up hitting the earth.

One day the whole universe will collapse and become one compact mass like it was before the big bang. Once Allaah SWT has destroyed it at a time predetermined by Him, He will create a perfect system that will operate eternally due to its perfection. That is why Jannah will be free from extremes of any kind, heat, cold, sun, etc. That is why everything will be fresh in Jannah, never to go stale. That is why we will get new physical bodies that will never deteriorate but will remain young forever.

Thus this world is a temporary world for our temporary life, is designed to collapse and is designed to test people through its bounties and through its calamities.

I hope I have clarified the point.

October 22, 2005

 

 

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