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 by Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph. D. 
Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.
7102 W. Shefford Lane
Louisville, KY 40242-6462, U.S.A.


Do the people of the towns feel secure against the coming of Our wrath by night while they are asleep? Or else, do they feel secure against its coming in broad daylight while they play about (carefree)? Do they then feel secure against the plan of Allah? But no-one can, (unwisely), feel secure from the plan of Allah, except those (doomed) to ruin! (Surah al-A'raf, 7: 97-99)


Allah surely creates all these disasters as "warnings" to mankind. He is exalted in power and He has power over all things. Allah testifies to this in the verse: 

Say: "He has power to send calamities on you, from above and below." (Surah                 al-An'am  6:65)


Say you, 'He is powerful to send torment on you from above you or from beneath your feet or He may make you to encounter by making different groups and to make you, taste the severity of one another,' see, how We explain the signs in various ways haply they may understand. (Surah, al-An’am, 6: 65)


In Surah Az-Zalzalah (The Earthquake), 99: 1-4   we read:


1-When the earth is severely quaked

2-And the earth throws out its heavy burdens
3- And man enquires “What has come over it?”
4-On that day, it will tell its information.
The Earthquake, Surah 99: 1-4

The Arabic word zilzalah means ‘earthquake’. The above verses are quoted from the Surah, the Earthquake. These verses are believed to refer justifiably to the earthquake expected to occur on the Day of Judgement; however, we should take due notice of its wider sense, depicting earthquakes in general. The fourth verse announces that men will be informed on that day. A terrible disaster like an earthquake, associates in one’s mind destruction in the first place causing material damage and bodily injury leading to a general terror and panic. This announcement must have astounded the public. “What may God have meant by this?” has been the question often asked, but remaining without answer.

To establish a link between earthquakes and communication of certain facts seemed odd to people up until the last century. Now we have a great many data in our possession today on the ground beneath our feet, thanks to earthquakes. The shortest radius we would draw from where we happen to be to the center of the earth is longer than 6000 km, a distance we can never cover. Yes, earthquake provides information about that portion of the earth inaccessible to us. (During the earthquake to take place on the Day of Judgement, it is possible that men will be further enlightened on subjects beyond His prediction. We certainly do not assert that the Verse’s meaning is limited to earthquakes.)


The second verse of the surah, The Earthquake is interesting in that it refers to the burdens of the earth. Years have gone by and men have failed to understand what those burdens might have been. The widely accepted interpretation was that the Surah referred to the earthquake that was going to take place on the Day of Judgement when the dead would be resurrected and treasures hidden underground would raise to the surface. No one during the Prophet’s time could have guessed that the ground beneath was formed of dense and heavy matter that would rise to the surface. References to earthquakes in the Qur’an contribute to our better appreciation of them. Let us not forget that people believed at the time that the earth rested on the horns of an ox or on a fish whose tail, when wagged, produced earthquakes. (The testimony of the quotations of Ibn Kathir is an instance). The fact that the Qur’an made no reference to such false beliefs is another indication of its miraculous character.

The more we know about the contents of the Qur’an and about the universe, the more we appreciate God’s artistry and the perfection of his religion.

In Surah, Az-Zumar, verse 9 we read:

“Qul hal yastawee allatheena ya’AAlamoona waallatheena la ya’AAlamoona innama yatadakkaru oloo al-albabi”

Say (unto them O Muhammad): “Are those who know and those who know not equal? Only men of understanding will mind (pay heed). Surah, Az-Zumar, 39: 9

 “ Wal-Ard’i Daathi assad’ee”   “By the fractured earth”. Surah, Al-Tariq, 86: 12

In the verse preceding the above Verse (Surah Al-Tariq, verse 11) the returning property of the firmament was stressed that referred to the phenomena of whose existence men 1400 years ago had no inkling (clue) of. In the above verse also there are indications about facts that the public during the Prophet’s time did not know. As faults (fissures, or cracks) had not yet been discovered, the verse was believed to refer to the opening of the earth for the sprouting of vegetation.

Information about the faults or cracks is also important as they provide us with detailed knowledge about earthquakes. Big earthquakes occur along the fault lines on the crust. Differentiated movements in the huge masses of substrata form a strain along the Fault line. The rocks on each side of the cracks try to resist it before the crust gives way.

In any single earthquake, the amount of slip, in other words the relative displacement of the two fault surfaces, may be a few inches; it is so even in big earthquakes. Studies are made on faults to map out the regions likely to suffer greater damages, the requirements for the construction of edifices to resist the tremor.

The greatest fault upon the earth is the one that stretches from Greenland’s offshore to Antarctica. The second largest one stretches along the Pacific Ocean along the Western shore of North and South America. The third important fault lies in the depths of the Asian continent under the Himalayas and follows the South Asian direction. Along with these greater ones there are shorter ones as well.

The Qur’an directs our attention to places where earthquakes can be expected to take place so that we can deepen our studies. If we give up our tradition of reciting the Qur’an merely for the souls of those who have departed, but instead take it as a guide for our life, we can reach the truth hidden in it.

“We have sent down to you a book explaining all things, a guide, a Mercy and glad tidings for those who submit.”  Surah, An-Nahl or The Honey Bee, 16: 89

Seismology is the study of earthquakes. Muslim scientists contributed to Seismology when Western civilization was in the dark ages. 1

Al-Masudi who died in Cairo in 957 CE may be called the "Pliny of the
Arabs". 2  (Gaius Plinius Secundus, better known as Pliny the Elder, was an ancient author and scientist of some importance who wrote Naturalis Historia (Natural History) and also on Philosophy and Literature. Pliny the Elder (23-79 CE) was a Roman officer and encyclopaedist, author of the Natural historyCaius Plinius Secundus -or, to use his English name, Pliny- was born in 23 CE at Novum Comum (modern Como), a small city in the region known as Gallia Transpadana).

In his celebrated work The Meadows of Gold,  Al-Masudi has described an earthquake, and the first windmill which was also invented by a Muslim.

Seismograph is an instrument, which detects and records seismic waves-- as seismic waves shake the foundation on which this instrument is attached, a pen records the waves on a paper attached to a rotating drum. Seismogram is the paper on the seismograph with the earthquake wave recordings.

Tsunamis and Earthquake

A tsunami (pronounced “soo-nahm'ee”) is a series of waves generated by an undersea disturbance such as an earthquake. From the area of the disturbance, the waves will travel outward in all directions, much like the ripples caused by throwing a rock into a pond. A tsunami is a wave train, or series of waves, generated in a body of water by an impulsive disturbance that vertically displaces the water column.

What does "tsunami" mean?
Tsunami is a Japanese word with the English translation, "harbor wave." Represented by two characters, the top character, "tsu," means harbor, while the bottom character, "nami," means, "wave."

How Do Earthquakes Cause Tsunamis?
Tsunamis can be generated when the sea floor abruptly deforms and vertically displaces the overlying water.

The Indian Ocean tsunami generated by the most powerful earthquake in decades on December 26 is believed to have killed more than 165,000 people and made more than 5 million homeless, making it perhaps the most destructive tsunami in history.

The 9.0 magnitude quake struck in the Indian Ocean about 7 a.m. (0000 GMT) on Sunday December 26, 2004 about 100 miles from the western coast of Indonesia's Sumatra Island, called Banda Aceh.  The earthquake generated tsunamis that were among the deadliest disasters in modern history. At a magnitude of 9.0, it was the largest earthquake since the 9.2 magnitude Good Friday Earthquake off Alaska in 1964.  It is the fourth strongest since recordings of magnitude began in 1899, tying a 1952 quake in Kamchatka, Russia.


The three stronger quakes: May 22, 1960, in Chile (9.5); the 1964 quake (9.2); and a March 9, 1957, quake on Andreanof Island, Alaska (9.1). All three of those quakes, along Kamchatka quake, created tsunamis.

Tsunami information

The December 26 tsunami was caused by slippage of about 600 miles (1,000 km) of the boundary between the India and Burma plates off the west coast of northern Sumatra. The convergence of other plates strains the area, and at the quake's epicenter, the India plate is moving to the northeast at 2 inches (5 cm) per year relative to the Burma plate. The aftershocks were distributed along the plate boundary from the epicenter to near Andaman Island.


Tsunamis can travel up to 600 mph (965 k/ph, 521 knots) at the deepest point of the water, but slow as they near the shore, eventually hitting the shore at 30 to 40 mph (48 to 64 k/ph, 26 to 35 knots), according to Charles McCreevy, director of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. The energy of the wave's speed is transferred to height and sheer force as it nears shore. The 7.3 magnitude aftershock might have been powerful enough to create further tsunamis, but did not.


Historical information


The Chilean quake and tsunamis were responsible for 5,700 deaths, and the Prince William Sound quake and tsunamis killed 125; the Andreanof Island and Kamchatka events killed no one.

The deadliest earthquake recorded since 1900 occurred on July 27, 1976, in Tangshan, China, when the official death count reach 255,000 for a 7.5 magnitude quake. Estimated death counts, however, reached as high as 655,000.

The highest toll for an earthquake-tsunami combination since 1900 took place on December 28, 1908, when a 7.2 magnitude quake struck Messina, Italy, killing an estimated 70,000 to 100,000 people.

The deadliest earthquake ever recorded is believed to have occurred on January 23, 1556, in Shansi, China, killing 830,000 people.

The worst tsunami in recent history followed the August 27, 1883, the eruption of the volcano Krakatau. The resulting wave swept over the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra, ultimately killing 36,000 people.

A tidal wave -- caused not by water displacement on the sea floor but by the floods and high tides accompanying Cyclone Marian -- swept Bangladesh in 1991, killing nearly 140,000 people.


The Prophet (SAW) said, “Whoever relieves a believer’s distress of the distressful aspects of this world, Allah will rescue him from a difficulty of the difficulties of the hereafter… Allah is helping the servant as long as the servant is helping his brother." (Muslim).


Are Calamities a Punishment?

Suffering is not necessarily a punishment for a sin one has committed, but it may be a test and trial for some people. Allah allows some people to suffer in order to test their patience and steadfastness. Even Allah’s Prophets and Messengers were made to suffer. Moreover, Allah sometimes allows some people to suffer to test others, how they react to them.


Whenever we encounter suffering we should ask ourselves, “Have we broken any law of Allah? Is the cause of the problem our own misdeeds?” In that case, we should correct the situation. “Could it be a punishment?” Let us repent and ask forgiveness and reform our ways. “Could it be a test and trial for us?” Let us work hard to pass this test. Believers face sufferings with prayers, patience, repentance and good deeds.


Sheikh M. S. Al-Munajjid, a prominent Saudi Muslim lecturer and author, states:3


Not every sickness or handicap is necessarily a punishment; rather it may be a test for the victim of calamity, by which Allah will expiate their bad deeds or raise their status in Paradise if they bear this trial with patience.  When a child with affliction grows up, the test will also include him, and if he bears it with patience and faith, then Allah has prepared for the patient one a reward that cannot be measured. Allah says: “Only those who are patient shall receive their reward in full, without reckoning.” (Az-Zumar 39: 10)


For us Muslims, life does not end when we die; rather, we believe that beyond death there is Paradise and Hell, where we encounter true life. Those who did good deeds find the reward for their good deeds waiting for them with Allah, and those who did evil will find the punishment for their evil deeds waiting for them. Good and evil cannot be equal, and the patience of the one who was tested and bore it with patience will not be wasted with Allah. Indeed, those who were not tested in this world may wish that they had suffered similar calamities when they see the high status attained by those who bore calamities with patience. There is a great deal of evidence to this effect in the Qur’an and Sunnah. Examples of this are as follows:


Allah says: “And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to the patient.” (Al-Baqarah, 2: 155)


The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “How wonderful is the affair of the believer, for all of it is good, and that applies to no one except the believer. If something good happens to him he gives thanks, and that is good for him, and if something bad befalls him he bears it with patience and that is good for him.” (Reported by Muslim)


From this, it should be clear to you that the calamities that befall those who seem to us to be innocent— and indeed befall all people —are not necessarily a punishment. Rather they may be a mercy from Allah, but our minds and reason are imperfect and are often unable to understand the wisdom of Allah in such matters. Either we believe that Allah is more just than us, and wiser, and more merciful towards His creation, so we submit to Him and accept His will while also acknowledging our inability to understand the true nature of our own selves.


Or we boast of our imperfect reason and feel proud of our weak selves and insist on calling Allah to account and objecting to His Decree. But such thoughts can never cross the mind of anyone who believes in the existence of a wise Lord, Creator and Sovereign Who is perfect in all ways. If we do that, then we have exposed ourselves to the wrath and vengeance of Allah, but nothing can ever harm Allah. Allah draws attention to this when He says: “He cannot be questioned as to what He does, while they will be questioned.” (Al-Anbiya, 21:23)


A sign of man’s weakness and shortsightedness is that he focuses on the calamities without paying any attention to the benefits they may bring, and not looking at other blessings that he enjoys and sees around him. For Allah has blessed all people in ways that do not compare with the calamities that may befall them. If there was a man who does a lot of good but occasionally does not do good, then forgetting the good things that he does would be regarded as ingratitude and denial. So how about when this is our attitude towards Allah, to Whom belong the highest attributes, and all of Whose dealings with His creation are good and cannot be bad in any way?


Moreover, the Prophets and Messengers are the most beloved of creation to Allah, yet despite that, they were the most severely tested of mankind and suffered the most calamities. Why? It was not a punishment for them, and it was not because of their insignificance before their Lord. Rather it is because Allah loves them and has stored for them a perfect reward that they will enjoy in Paradise, and He decreed that these calamities should befall them so that He might raise them in status. He does whatever He wills, however He wills, whenever He wills; none can put back His judgment, none can repel His command, and He is All-Wise, All-Knowing. And Allah is Most High, Most Knowledgeable and Most Wise. Source:


The late Sheikh `Abdul-`Aziz ibn Baz, former Mufti of Saudi Arabia,4 says:


“Almighty Allah tests His servants with good and bad things, with adversity and prosperity. These tests may be a means to give them reward and high degrees in Paradise. This occurred to many Messengers and Prophets and many righteous servants of Allah. Our Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him, is reported as saying: “The people most subject to affliction are the Prophets, then come the righteous and after them come the best people all according to his goodness.” Sometimes, afflictions may be a result of one’s sins and his keeping aloof from the way of Allah. In this meaning comes the verse that reads: “Whatever of misfortune strikes you, it is what your right hands have earned. And He forgives much.” (Ash-Shu’ara’, 26: 30)

By and large, being afflicted with a misfortune may be a means of gaining high degrees in Paradise as in the case of Prophets, Messengers and righteous men. It may also be a means of removing sins and expiating mistakes. Stressing this meaning, our Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) says: “Whatever befalls a Muslim of sorrow, grief, exhaustion, fatigue or harm, Allah will forgive him his sins for that. This is true even for a thorn that penetrates his foot.” He (peace and blessings be upon him) is also reported as saying: “He whom Allah wants to bless in the Hereafter, He afflicts him with tribulations.” Al-Tirmidhi also quotes the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) as saying: “When Allah wants to bless someone, he hastens His punishments for him in this world. If He wants otherwise with a person, He defers the punishment for him till the afterlife.””


In the light of the abovementioned facts, it’s clear, that a great reward is in store for sticking to patience and perseverance at times of afflictions, which befall man as part of the nature of life, and in a form of test through which Allah distinguishes His true servants from all and sundry (various others).


The War of the Trench – THE BENEFIT OF A CALAMITY

In the fifth year of the Hijrah the idolaters made a great effort to destroy Islam in the War of the Clans or War of the Trench, as it is variously called; when Quraysh with all their clans and the great desert tribe of Ghatafan with all their clans, an army of ten thousand men rode against Al-Madinah (Yathrib). The Prophet (by the advice of Salman the Persian, it is said) caused a deep trench to be dug before the city, and himself led the work of digging it.

The trench, a novelty in Arab warfare, stopped the army of the clans. It seemed impassable for cavalry, which formed their strength. They camped in sight of it and daily showered their arrows on its defenders. While the Muslims were awaiting the assault, news came that Bani Qurayzah, a Jewish tribe of Yathrib which had till then been loyal, had gone over to the enemy. The case seemed desperate. But the delay caused by the trench had damped the ardor (zeal) of the clans, and one who was secretly a Muslim managed to sow distrust between Quraysh and their Jewish allies, so that both hesitated to act. Then came a bitter wind from the sea, which blew for three days and nights so terribly that not a tent could be kept standing, not a fire lighted, not a pot boiled. The tribesmen were in utter misery. At length, one night the leader of Quraysh decided that the torment could be borne no longer and gave the order to retire. When Ghatafan awoke next morning they found Quraysh had gone and they too took up their baggage and retreated.

People in many countries of Southeast Asia have been traumatized by the tsunami disaster of epic proportions and need our help to recover and rebuild. Many have lost everything. Please join millions of other generous Americans and support one of the many important relief organizations with as much as you can. Contribute now. Your donations are desperately needed and will provide assistance to those whose lives have been devastated by this terrible disaster, which has already taken the lives of over 165,000 people, majority of them are Muslims. Five million people became homeless. Property damage was in the billions of dollars.

Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) said that "Whoever relieves a believer of some distress in this world, Allah will relieve him of some of his suffering on the Day of Judgment. Whoever makes things easier for one who is suffering hardships, Allah will make things easier for him in this world and in the hereafter."

In another hadith Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) commanded us to show mercy to distressed people. "Show mercy so that you may be shown mercy." And he (SAWS) also said, "Those who are merciful will be shown mercy by the Most Merciful. Have mercy on those who are on earth, and the One Who is in the heavens will show mercy on you."

Such earthquakes and tsunamis are surely among the natural disasters that affect great numbers of people. In the case of our South Asian Muslim brothers and sisters, it is surely permissible for Muslims to pay a part of their Zakah to help alleviate the pains and sufferings of those afflicted by the tsunami.







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