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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Natural Disasters and the Questions They Raise

by Ayub A. Hamid


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 fourteen (14) points that you can ponder over and answer your own questions:

Our life in this world is temporary and it is only for a test, the results of which will be encountered in the form of reward or punishment in the permanent life of the hereafter.

The test is given by putting people through various degrees and levels of normal life circumstances, hardships and good times. Neither are hardships ‘punishments’, nor are 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 much more than what one deserves.

Any hardship a person faces is always compensated by Allaah through forgiveness of sins, which every human being commits.

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.

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. However, 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.

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.

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 extra ordinary 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 Kuffar 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 Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala 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.

After our Prophet, Sall Allaahu `alayhi wa sallam, 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.

Because the world is temporary, Allaah Subhaanahu wa Ta`aala has built some faults in its physical make up of this universe. At the appointed time, on Israafeel’s[1] call, one of these faults will instantly trigger the end of the world. In the meantime, the faults in the earth and its atmosphere cause devastations here and there. These calamities are part of the test of hardships and fulfill the following purposes:

a. 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.

b. The affected survivors are tested for their faith in Allaah and their attitude to the hardship.

c. Those survivors and all other people of the world are tested to see whether:

i. 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.

ii. They are shaken to remember and submit to Allaah, or their focus remains in this world;

iii. 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;

iv. 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.

v. They complain about the misery that they see, or they seize it as an opportunity to repent, reform, and submit to Allaah in obedience;

vi. 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?

[1] The Angel, Israafeel is in charge of blowing the Trumpet at the time of Last Hour and Resurrection.

Copyright ©2004-2005, Ayub A. Hamid

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