Earthquakes and tsunamis are, in fact, signs from Allah Most High. A Muslim has to reflect on Allah’s creation and always be mindful of His signs. By such devastating disasters, Allah Almighty tests the faith, patience, cooperation, helpfulness, and brotherhood of His servants. Therefore, Muslims should hasten to help and aid the disaster areas by all possible means. Moreover, Allah Almighty may warn His servants against committing sins and violating His laws. Thus, it is our duty to repent to Allah, to seek His forgiveness, to do good, and to avoid the prohibited.
Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states: True men and women of faith are never satisfied by looking at natural phenomena superficially by physical eyes alone; rather they seek to decipher the signs of Allah from each and every one of them as they come in contact with it. Natural disasters like the tsunami must force us to accept Allah as He really and truly is the only Creator, Sovereign Lord, and controller of the universe. Nothing happens in the world without His knowledge and will. His wisdom is unfathomable, His knowledge immeasurable.
Since we have no way of gaining spiritual insights in regards to such matters through reason alone, we are bound to turn to revelation. Revelation makes it abundantly clear that Allah continuously shows us His signs in ourselves and in the cosmos. (We shall show them Our Signs in the world around them, as well as in their own souls) (Fussilat 41:53); (Many are the signs in the heavens and the earth, which they pass by, oblivious to them.) (Yusuf 12:105). Here are a few lessons that we can readily decipher from cataclysmic events such as the tsunami:
1. Cataclysmic events like the tsunami must serve as reminders for us of our sheer human vulnerability; they must force us to humble ourselves and admit that Allah is God and that man, no matter how self-sufficient he thinks he is, must never allow himself to play God.
2. In face of such calamities and tragedies, we are to bow down before the will of Allah and admit our fragile human condition: (Those who say, when afflicted with a calamity, “We belong to Allah and to Him we shall return”) (Al-Baqarah 2:156).
3. As humans we are to seek to do our best to avert such disasters and calamities by mobilizing ourselves; but as for things we cannot change or alter, we must accept them as the inscrutable will of Allah.
4. Since we cannot fathom the divine knowledge through reason alone, we are to accept the givens of revelation in forming our beliefs or opinions about them: Such disasters can very well be looked on as signs of divine chastisements, trials, tests, and challenges.
5. For those whose hearts have been hardened by denial of truth, these disasters can be a source of chastisement and perdition; but for those whose hearts have been illuminated by faith, they are simply trials, tests, and challenges to sharpen and enhance their faith.
6. Furthermore, through such disasters humanity is being challenged to manifest the qualities of compassion, for it is only in the way we treat those who are destitute and vulnerable that we can display the true character of our faith. Allah says: (Woe to the worshippers who are mindless in their prayer; those who make a show (of piety), and refuse to render small kindnesses) (Al-Ma`un 107:4–7). The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was described by his beloved wife Khadijah in these words: “How can Allah forsake you? Aren’t you the one who is wont of carrying the burdens of others, earning for those who cannot earn for themselves, and rushes to the help of those who suffer tragedies and calamities of all sorts?”
7. Coming to the signs of the Hour, we can only state that quakes, tremors, floods, fires, and explosions are all mentioned in the authentic traditions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) as signs heralding the imminence of the Hour. The sheer ferocity and fury of a tsunami definitely bring to our mind the Qur’anic depiction of the violent convulsions the earth is bound to undergo in its final quaking: (When the earth is shaken violently in its (final) quaking, when the earth throws out its burdens, when man cries, “What is happening to it?”; on that Day, people will come forward in separate groups to be shown their deeds: whoever has done an atom’s weight of good will see it, but whoever has done an atom’s weight of evil will see that) (Az-Zalzalah 99:1–8).
8. Finally, let us all flee to Allah in refuge and seek sincere repentance for all our sins of omission and commission. May the Beneficent Lord make such calamities not as a source of perdition for us in our faith but as experiences that are bound to enhance our faith and trust in Allah and His will. Ameen.