Allah said in the Quran, “And We did not send the signs except as a warning.” Quran 17:59. For the non-believers, happens as a result of some other physical events, but believers in a God that wants us to lead pious lives ponder upon events such as natural disasters and calamities as something as a divine reminder that we are puny compared to the power of the Lord.
Even the Bible contains messages about earthquakes. In Revelation 11:13, it is said, “And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.”
THE WISDOM BEHIND CALAMITIES
Muslims take heed most of all from earthquakes and other destructive forces on Earth as warnings because Allah said, “Say: ‘He has power to send torment on you from above or from under your feet, or to cover you with confusion in party strife, and make you to taste the violence of one another.” Quran 6:65. Muslims believe that Allah is in control of everything spiritual, physical and metaphysical and if we are not those who are not directly afflicted of calamities, we should still take heed.
And if a calamity does happen to anyone and he became a victim of it, they are the best to take heed. Allah said, “Evil has appeared on land and sea because of what the hands of men have earned by oppression and evil deeds, that He may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return by repenting to Allah and asking for His forgiveness.” Quran 30:40.
Muslims believe that no human should feel complacent that none among the bad things that Allah could predetermine could come to him, however pious he may be. Allah said in the Quran, “Did the people of the towns then feel secure against the coming of Our punishment by night while they were asleep? Or, did the people of the towns then feel secure against the coming of Our punishment in the forenoon while they were playing? Did they then feel secure against the Plan of Allah? None feels secure from the Plan of Allah except the people who are the losers.” Quran 7:97-99.
Ibnul Qayyim, a classical Muslim scholar said about earthquakes, “Allah sometimes gives the earth permission to breathe, which is when major earthquakes happen; this makes people feel scared, so they repent, give up sins, pray to Allah and feel regret for their sins. When there had been an earthquake, some among the early generations of Muslims said: your Lord is warning you. When Madinah was struck by an earthquake, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab addressed the people and said: if there is another earthquake, I will not stay here with you.’
Earthquakes will also happen in greater frequencies as the end times come nearer as Prophet Muhammad said, “The Hour will not happen until knowledge is taken out, time passes quickly, earthquakes increase in number, tribulations appear, and killing and murder increases in number.” Narrated by Imam Ahmad.
WHAT TO DO WHEN CALAMITIES STRIKE
Zakariya Al Ansari, another classical Muslim scholar said, “It is recommended for everyone to beseech Allah in supplication and so on when earthquakes and similar events, such as thunderbolts and strong winds, happen, and to offer prayers on his own in his house lest he be negligent, because the Prophet said, when the wind blew strongly: “O Allah, I ask You for its good and the good of what is in it and the good of what it is sent with, and I seek refuge in You from its evil and the evil of what is in it and the evil of what it is sent with.” Narrated by Imam Muslim.”
Allah said in the Quran, “When Our Torment reached them, why then did they not humble themselves? But their hearts became hardened, and Satan made fairseeming to them that which they used to do. So, when they forgot the warning with which they had been reminded, We opened for them the gates of every pleasant thing, until in the midst of their enjoyment in that which they were given, all of a sudden, We took them in punishment, and lo! They were plunged into destruction with deep regrets and sorrows” Quran 6:42-44.
The Muslim may abandon any act of worship that he may be currently doing in an event that there is an earthquake if his life or somebody else’s may be put it danger by remaining in that act of worship, particularly prayers.
Sheikh Muhammad Al Munajjid said, “If the accident is major and serious, then it is OK to stop one’s prayer; if it is a minor incident that can be dealt with after completing the prayer, then it is not permissible. The scholars said: it is obligatory to stop one’s prayer in order to save a negligent person from a fatal accident. For example, if you are praying and you see a snake approaching a man who is sitting down and has not noticed it. If it is heading for him, you have to stop your prayer and tell him so that he will not be bitten, possibly fatally. Or if you see a blind man walking in front of you whilst you are praying, and he is heading towards a well, and you are afraid that he may fall into it, then you have to stop your prayer and save him from that fatal accident, even if this means stopping your prayer. The same applies in cases of fire, etc.
But if the siren goes off for a minor matter which can be dealt with after completing the prayer and it will not be too late if you complete the prayer first, then it is not permissible to stop your prayer before you have completed it, because this accident can be dealt with after completing the prayer, without anyone coming to further harm.”