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Natural disasters and calamities have been hitting different parts of the world throughout the human history. People have different views about them; some take them as mere events and accidents taking place by chance, while many others take them as torments and trials of Allah Subhanahu Wa Taala (SWT).
We need to seek guidance from the holy Quran and the Sunnah about these matters. When we read the holy Quran and Hadiths minutely, we can conclude three points:
1. Natural disasters are punishment of Allah Subhanahu Wa Taala for those people who are either disbelievers or cross His limits;
2. Natural disasters are warning for the sinners;
3. Natural disasters are test for the believers.
Now elaboration of all these points in the light of holy Quran and Hadith is as follows,
1. Natural disasters are punishment of Allah for those people who are either disbelievers or cross His limits:
On different instances in the holy Quran Allah SWT has clarified that natural disasters result from His disobedience. Some of these instances are as follows:
1. And whatever of misfortune befalls you, it is because of what your hands have earned. And He pardons much. (Ash-Shura 42:30)
2. And if Allah were to punish men for that which they earned, He would not leave a moving (living) creature on the surface of the earth, but He gives them respite to an appointed term, and when their term comes, then verily, Allah is Ever All Seer of His slaves. (Fatir 35:45)
3. Evil (sins and disobedience of Allah etc.) has appeared on land and sea because of what the hands of men have earned (by oppression and evil deeds, etc.), that Allah may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return (by repenting to Allah, and begging His Pardon). (Ar-Rum 30:41)
4. And if the people of the towns had believed and had the Taqwâ (piety), certainly We should have opened for them blessings from the heaven and the earth, but they belied (the
Messengers). So We took them (with punishment) for what they used to earn (polytheism and crimes, etc.). (Al-A’raf 7:96)
Sometimes, natural disasters are very intense and crush even the innocent people living in the affected area. These innocent people will get reward of Allah SWT on the Day of Judgment for the affliction they faced.
Allah SWT has warned in the holy Quran about such trials and tribulations which don’t hit specifically disobedient people.
Allah SWT says: “And fear the Fitnah (affliction and trial, etc.) which affects not in particular (only) those of you who do wrong (but it may afflict all the good and the bad people), and know that Allah is Severe in punishment. (Al-Anfal 8:25)
Allah SWT has also narrated the incidents of different tribes and people who were hit by natural disasters. Some of these incidents have been briefly discussed below:
1. Tribe of Prophet Noah (AS):
The tribe of Prophet Noah (AS) practiced polytheism and didn’t heed his message. As a result, they had to face flood as punishment. A brief description of the event is as follow:
“So We opened the gates of heaven with water pouring forth. And We caused the earth to gush forth with springs. So the waters (of the heaven and the earth) met for a matter predestined. And We carried him on a (ship) made of planks and nails, floating under Our eyes, a reward for him who had been rejected! And indeed, We have left this as a sign, then is there any that will remember (or receive admonition)? Then how (terrible) was My torment and My warnings? (Al-Qamar 54:9-16)
2. Tribe of Ad:
The people of Ad also practiced polytheism and rejected their messenger Hod (AS). They used to claim that they were the super power and say: “Who is mightier than us in strength?” See they not that Allah, Who created them was mightier in strength than them. And they used to deny Our Ayât (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, revelations, etc.)! (Fussilat)
They were punished by Allah SWT by a windstorm.
3. People of Sodom:
The people of Sodom indulged in homosexuality. Prophet Lot (AS) invited them to the right path but they did not refrain from their bad habit; as a result Allah SWT rained them down with a rain of stones.
Pharaoh was disobedient to Allah SWT and denied the clear signs brought to him by Prophet Musa (AS). He was afflicted by Allah SWT from time to time but he did not reform himself. As a result, he was finally caught by Allah SWT and drowned.
Qaroon was a wealthy person unwilling to admit that his wealth was given to him by Allah SWT. He thought it was the result of his effort and denied the blessing and right of Allah SWT on his wealth. Allah SWT caused the earth to swallow him and his dwelling place.
“Then he had no group or party to help him against Allah, nor was he one of those who could save themselves.” (Al-Qasas)
6. Polytheists of Makkah:
Polytheists of Makkah brought a big army against Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and his companions. The Muslims felt they would not be able to defeat this army. Allah SWT helped Muslims in a hidden way by sending a windstorm that pushed the enemy army back.
“We sent against them a wind and forces that you saw not [angels during the battle of AlAhzâb (the Confederates)]. And Allah is Ever All Seer of what you do.” (AlAhzâb 33:9)
The same fact about natural disasters has been mentioned in the following Hadith:
Narrated ‘Aisha: (the wife of the Prophet (SAW), I never saw Allah’s Apostle laughing loudly enough to enable me to see his uvula, but he used to smile only. And whenever he saw clouds or winds, signs of deep concern would appear on his face. I said, “O Allah’s Apostle! When people see clouds they usually feel happy, hoping that it would rain, while I see that when you see clouds, signs of dissatisfaction appear on your face.”
He said, “O ‘Aisha! What is guarantee for me that there will be no punishment in it, since some people were punished with a wind? Verily, some people saw (received) the punishment, but (while seeing the cloud) they said, ‘This cloud will give us rain.’ “(Sahih Bukhari : Book 6 , Volume 60 ,Hadith 353)
2. Natural disasters are warning for the sinners:
Natural disasters are warnings for those who are sinners. This fact has also been elaborated in the holy Quran. Some of the instances are as follows:
1. And verily, We will make them taste the near torment (i.e. the torment in the life of this world, i.e. disasters, calamities, etc.) prior to the supreme torment (in the Hereafter), in order that they may (repent and) return (i.e. accept Islâm). (As-Sajdah 32:21)
2. See they not that they are tried once or twice every year (with different kinds of calamities, disease, famine, etc.)? Yet, they turn not in repentance, nor do they learn a lesson (from it). (At-Tawbah 9:126)
Allah SWT showed his signs to Pharaoh in the form of natural disasters and calamities before final punishment so that he may reform himself. This fact has been revealed in the Holy Quran in the following manner,
And indeed We punished the people of Fir’aun (Pharaoh) with years of drought and shortness of fruits (crops, etc.) that they might remember (take heed). (Al-A’raf 7:130)
3. Natural disasters are test for the believers:
According to the holy Quran and Hadith many a time natural disasters are punishment for disbelievers and transgressors and warnings for sinners but sometimes they do come to test the believers and pious people. This fact has been elaborated in Quran as follows:
1. And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to As-Sâbirin (the patient ones, etc.). (Al-Baqarah 2:155)
2. Do you think you will enter the paradise without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? They were afflicted with severe poverty and ailments and were so shaken that even the Messenger and those who believed along with him said, “When (will come) the Help of Allah?” Yes! Certainly, the Help of Allâh is near! (Al-Baqarah 2:214)
3. Do people think they will be left alone because they say: “We believe,” and will not be tested. And We indeed tested those who were before them. And Allah will certainly make (it) known (the truth of) those who are true, and will certainly make (it) known (the falsehood of) those who are liars, (although Allah knows all that before putting them to test). (Al-’Ankabut 29:2-3)
How to deal with natural disasters and calamities:
The holy Quran and Sunnah have guided us in all walks of life; they also guide us about how to deal with the natural disasters and calamities.
Some of these ways are piety, repentance and patience.
Now the outcome of these methods will be briefly elaborated in the light of the holy Quran:
When someone becomes pious, Allah SWT resolves his problems and open doors of blessings to him; this fact has been highlighted in the following verses,
1. And whosoever fears Allah and keeps his duty to Him, He will make a way for him to get out (from every difficulty). (At-Talaq 65:2)
2. And if the people of the towns had believed and had the Taqwâ (piety), certainly, We should have opened for them blessings from the heaven and the earth, (Al-A’raf 7:96)
When someone repents, Allah SWT takes away their torment. This fact has been highlighted in the holy Quran as follows:
And He will not punish them while they seek (Allah’s) forgiveness. (Al-Anfal 8:33)
Allah SWT has narrated the incident of the tribe of Yunus (AS) in the holy Quran.
When they saw the torment of Allah SWT was approaching them, they sought forgiveness and Allah SWT took away His torment as mentioned in the Holy Quran as follows,
Was there any town (community) that believed (after seeing the punishment), and its faith (at that moment) saved it (from the punishment)? (The answer is none,) except the people of Yunus (Jonah); when they believed, We removed from them the torment of disgrace in the life of the (present) world, and permitted them to enjoy for a while. (Yunus 10:98 )
This act is beneficial for all those being tested by Allah SWT. If they face a calamity or a natural disaster with patience then they will get reward for this. This fact has been highlighted in the holy Quran in the following manner:
And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to As-Sâbirin (the patient ones, etc.). who, when afflicted with calamity, say: “Truly! To Allah we belong and truly unto Him shall we return.” They are those on whom are the Salawât (i.e. blessings, etc.) (i.e. who are blessed and will be forgiven) from their Lord, and (they are those who) receive His Mercy, and it is they who are the guided-ones. (Al-Baqarah 2:155-157)
May Allah SWT save us from natural disasters and His wrath through which He punishes transgressors and give us vision so that we can reform ourselves and help those who are under trial!