At The Time of Natural Disasters
By Shaykh Mawlana Muhammad Saleem Dhorat hafizahullah
Everyone is aware of the devastation that natural disasters bring with them. Many lose their lives, hundreds of thousands lose relatives, entire communities are wiped out and countless buildings and properties are destroyed. Thousands, even millions are left homeless, having lost everything they once owned, living under open skies with nothing to eat and cover themselves with. Even after the calamity has subsided, the death toll continues to increase with the spread of disease.
When calamities strike, we often think about our roles and responsibilities, as human beings and as Muslims. It is unfortunate that for most of us, it takes such calamities to make us reflect on the Power and lofty Attributes of Allāh ta‘ālā. Rather than expressing shallow sorrow and a momentary shock, there are a few points that we need to reflect and act upon, so that events like these can cause us to become better Muslims for the rest of our lives:
1. Allāh ta‘ālā is the Hākim (The Supreme Ruler) and the Hakīm (The Most Wise)
First of all, one has to reaffirm in one’s mind and heart that whatever happens, whether good or bad in appearance, is according to the Wish of Allāh ta‘ālā. Allāh ta‘ālā is Hākim i.e. He has Power over everything. Every single particle in the whole universe is under His Control. The turning of the leaf in the air while it is falling from the tree, to the up turning and shaking of the earth itself, as in the case of an earthquake, everything is in His Absolute Control. The commands, wishes and controls of everyone else are subjugated to His Command and Governance. The varied circumstances that one observes or experiences in one’s life are also in His total Control.
There are many incidents and events in a person’s life, during which one hopes for a positive outcome through worldly means e.g. when a relative is seriously ill we can hope for recovery by consulting a specialist, along with our belief that only that will happen which Allāh ta‘ālā has ordained. Nevertheless we take the help of worldly means to satisfy ourselves and try to rectify the situation to the best of our ability.
However, when faced with natural disasters like storms, earthquakes and floods, there is no hope of any worldly means which we can employ to circumvent, overcome or prevent re-occurrence of such situations. Such natural disasters are entirely in the Control of Almighty Allāh and we are forced to acknowledge that. Indeed as Muslims we should never have disregarded and ignored the Absolute Power of Allāh ta‘ālā and it should have been reflected upon in our day to day actions and deeds.
However, it is comforting to know that Allāh ta‘ālā is not only the Hākim (The Supreme Ruler) but He is also the Hakīm (The Most Wise). Allāh’s ta‘ālā Governance of the universe is unlike that of worldly rulers. His Control and Governance is full of Supreme Wisdom and Divine Justice. Hence even in natural disasters, there is the hidden Wisdom of the Almighty, which may not be apparent to our physical eyes.
2. Turn Towards Allāh ta‘ālā in Repentance
Every person, during such times should turn towards Allāh ta‘ālā with humbleness, faith and genuine repentance. According to the Sharī‘ah, common and open disobedience of Allāh ta‘ālā is one of the many reasons for the cause of calamities like earthquakes. When the land is overloaded with the disobedience of Allāh ta‘ālā, earthquakes from beneath and violent storms from above are commonplace. There are various scientific explanations as to why natural disasters occur, however the underlying facts point towards ‘how’ they happen and not ‘why’ they happen. The answer to ‘why’ and ‘when’ and even to ‘how’, in reality, remains with Allāh ta‘ālā. An answer to ‘why’ has been revealed in the Qur’ān:
(Corruption and) Mischief has appeared on land and sea because of what the hands of men have earned, that He (Allāh) may give them a taste of some of their deeds in order that they may turn back (from evil). (30:41)
Incidents like these are, as it were, ‘wakeup’ alarm calls from Allāh ta‘ālā. Allāh ta‘ālā in His Infinite Mercy is jolting us through such incidents, so that we may mend our ways and reflect on our transgressions and as a result rectify ourselves before it is too late. Allāh ta‘ālā has revealed to his beloved Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, that as long as this Ummah continues to repent for their wrong-doings, He will not punish them through calamities. Incidents like these should not be viewed with some momentary sympathy or investigated out of curiosity, but treated strictly as a reminder to wake up and reflect on our lives of disobedience. The way Allāh has the Power to cause calamities in any part of the world, He also has the Power to cause a catastrophe here, in this very city, in the very vicinity of our homes.
Hence it is absolutely essential for Muslims, not just from the affected regions, but from all over the world, to turn towards Allāh ta‘ālā. They must direct all their attention towards Him and reflect on their lives to find out where the Commands of Allāh ta‘ālā are being violated, then sincerely repent and resolve to adorn their future lives with taqwā, abstain from the disobedience of Allāh ta‘ālā, and observe His Commands.
3. Pray for the Afflicted
Our beloved Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam has commanded us to support and help the victims of calamities, whether they be Muslims or otherwise. The best and the most valuable support and help is to make du‘ā i.e. sincere prayers for the wellbeing of the victims. Du‘ā is a very powerful and potent means, which is available to each and every one of us, the one with worldly resources as well as the one without. Hence one should sincerely pray for the well being of the victims. One should pray that Allāh ta‘ālā gives them strength, patience and comfort and that He protects and guides them through these critical times and provides rapid recovery from their physical, mental and spiritual wounds. Only Allāh ta‘ālā has the ability to provide the things asked for in the above prayers. No amount of worldly means will provide for the loss that has been suffered by the victims.
It is difficult to comprehend or empathise with the situation of the victims. Scores of them have death hovering over their heads while their dead family members lie beside them. Thousands of dead bodies are piled up like logs unable to receive a proper burial. Thousands of people have lost their sons and daughters and thousands of young children have become orphans. Only prayers will help those people. So take out some time from listening to the news, reading newspaper reports and chatting about the events and bow down to Allāh ta‘ālā, and pray sincerely and earnestly (after making repentance) for the victims of the calamity. The victims certainly deserve our prayers, to say the least. It is their right over the entire Muslim community.
It is also worth mentioning that it will be a gross transgression for anyone to forget their own deeds and start judging the victims, claiming their misdeeds to be the reason for the calamity. We are in no position to do that. Besides, this will be tantamount to trying to guess the ‘Hikmah’ (Wisdom) of Allāh! Therefore we should refrain from uttering such words.
4. Donate Generously
For people far from the afflicted region, the next best thing that they can do to help and support is to provide financial and material help. The victims have lost everything, their homes and the shelter above their heads, their entire belongings and their livelihoods. There is an immediate need to provide shelter (as a protection from the cold nights), food and clothing. There is also a dire need to provide them with medication and other medical accessories and supply them with clean water and sanitation.
Alhamdulillāh, Allāh ta‘ālā has given us abundantly, more than we need. We do not have to sacrifice our daily food or clothing in order to donate towards the cause. I request all my brothers and sisters to reflect upon the material blessings that Allāh ta‘ālā has bestowed upon us, despite our not being deserving of them, and donate generously for the victims of this calamity. There are people out there, among the victims, who, until yesterday, were the patrons of or contributors towards charities themselves, and had donated profusely. Now, having lost everything, they are in need of charity themselves. Allāh ta‘ālā will inshā’allāh look favourably upon our generosity and remove future calamities awaiting to befall us. The Prophet s has mentioned:
Truly sadaqah extinguishes the Wrath of Allāh and saves from an evil death. (Tirmidhī)
So, as human beings, and more so as Muslims, we should not let this suffering continue without providing help and support according to our individual capabilities. Do not wait for your zakāh to become due to make a donation. The need of the situation demands that we donate everything that is in our possession, even if that means undergoing hardships ourselves. However, since Allāh ta‘ālā has blessed us with adequate wealth we know that we can donate sufficiently without having to undergo such troubles. We should spend abundantly and generously, as generously as Allāh ta‘ālā has provided for us. Remember, whatever we will spend, we will do so from that which Allāh ta‘ālā has given us. It is His Money we will be spending to relieve His Creation. The Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam said:
All creatures are the dependants of Allāh. The most beloved to Allāh from all Creation is he who treats His dependants the best. (Bayhaqī)
Therefore give as much as you can. This is not a time to wait for someone to come and knock at your door. Go out looking for reliable organizations and charities with correct channels, so that your money reaches the genuine victims and fulfills their needs.
May Allāh ta‘ālā give us the guidance to learn a lesson from such calamities and grant us the resolve to change our lives for the better. May Allāh ta‘ālā also give us the tawfīq to pray for the victims and to donate generously. Āmīn.