Why Earthquakes Occur

Having just experienced an earthquake last night in the East Midlands and with similar tremors occurring in other parts of the world recently, we would like to share with you an editorial of the respected Shaykh-ul-Hadīth, Shaykh Mawlānā Muhammad Saleem Dhorat hafizahullāh which appeared in the monthly journal ‘Riyādul Jannah’ after the earthquake that occurred in February 2008 in the UK.

Why Earthquakes Occur
by Shaykh Mawlānā Muhammad Saleem Dhorat hafizahullāh

At 12:56am on 27th February the UK was shaken by an earthquake of a significant enough magnitude to make the headlines. Buildings shuddered, furniture shook, and people were woken from their sleep. By morning, everyone was talking about it.

The largest earthquake to strike the UK in over 25 years was regarded by most people as no more than an exciting incident. Their curiosity was satisfied by scientific explanations, and there their interest ended. They did not see the shaking of the earth beneath their feet as an opportunity to learn valuable lessons.

The question we need to ask is: ‘Why do earthquakes occur?’

We can learn a lot about the world around us by using the ‘aql (intellect) that Allāh ta‘ālā has given us. ‘Aql, however, has its inherent limitations, and as believers we should not remain content with the often incomplete picture of events that it can present. Where ‘aql reaches its limits, wahy (Revelation) takes over. As Muslims, we should turn to the teachings of our beloved Nabī Muhammad sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam to understand the significance of the recent earthquake.

Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam has declared the cause of earthquakes to be disobedience to Allāh ta‘ālā exceeding limits. Whatever the scientific explanation may be – and there is no need to reject or ignore scientific explanations – Allāh ta‘ālā made the earth shake. Allāh ta‘ālā uses physical agencies to bring about physical events in the universe, e.g. a child is born as a result of the union of its parents, yet Allāh ta‘ālā is the Originator; He gives children via the agency of the parents. Allāh ta‘ālā may cause an earthquake to occur through the means of huge stresses building up at fault lines in the earth’s crust or, if he wishes, without it. But, in either case, it is Allāh ta‘ālā Who causes earthquakes.

Allāh ta‘ālā first causes small earthquakes, like the 5.2 quake felt in the UK, which do not result in any major harm. They do, however, affect the hearts of people, causing a moment of fear, awe and a sense of one’s mortality. These minor earthquakes can be described as wake-up calls from Allāh ta‘ālā, inviting His servants to take stock of their lives and turn to Him in repentance. In this way, they are a mercy from Him. It is reported that on the occasion of an earthquake occurring in the time of Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam he turned to the Sahābah radhiyallāhu ‘anhum and said: ‘Your Rabb wants you to turn to Him in repentance, so repent.’

Allāh ta‘ālā states in the Glorious Qur’ān:
Calamities have appeared on land and sea because of what the hands of men have earned, that Allāh may make them taste a part of what they have done, in order that they may turn back. (30:41)

When people do not heed these warnings and continue to disobey Allāh ta‘ālā, He may repeat the wake-up calls of magnitude 4 or 5 before suddenly unleashing a magnitude 8 quake, resulting in Qiyāmah-like scenes. Whole localities are razed to the ground, as if they had never existed. And these things are not hypothetical, they are happening now, in our lifetime.

Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam foretold that as Qiyāmah nears, earthquakes will become more frequent, a prediction we are seeing come true with our very eyes. The reason for the increase in earthquakes foretold by Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam is an increase in disobedience to Allāh ta‘ālā.

When, as a result of excessive disobedience, a large earthquake occurs anywhere, the Qur’ānic principle is that everyone, good and bad, is afflicted.
And beware of a scourge that will not afflict the wrongdoers among you only… (8:25)
Everyone suffers: people die or suffer bereavement, injury, fear, financial loss, anxiety and depression etc. The victims of a catastrophic earthquake can be divided into four groups:

1. Good people who die. They are classified as shuhadā (martyrs) and will enter Jannah. Their suffering will be a means of elevating their status in Jannah.

2. Bad people who die. Due to their disobedient and unrepentant ways they will be destined for Jahannam. Their suffering will be a punishment.

3. Good people who survive. The calamity is a test for them. By remaining patient and content with taqdīr and the Will of Allāh ta‘ālā they will be rewarded with closeness to Him.

4. Bad people who survive. The calamity is a warning and admonition for them to repent and change their ways.
What we need to do

1. Accept that the earthquake was a result of disobedience to Allāh ta‘ālā. Each individual should think: ‘Out of all the disobedient people, I am top of the list. It was because of me that the earthquake struck.’

2. Thereafter, make tawbah and istighfār with sincerity.

3. When the earth quakes, so does the heart. Treat it as an opportunity to rectify your life. Make use of the fear that developed in your heart. Think: ‘I commit many sins; what if the earth had split and swallowed me up? Allāh ta‘ālā has saved me. O Allāh, forgive me.’

4. Give sadaqah. Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam said:
‘Truly, sadaqah extinguishes the anger of the Rabb and prevents an evil death.’ (At-Tirmidhī)

5. Having experienced the disturbing effects of a small earthquake, try to imagine Qiyāmah. What will the mighty earthquakes of Qiyāmah and the Resurrection be like?
It is very serious that the land we live on shook; it means that so much disobedience is taking place on it that Allāh ta‘ālā is displeased. We must turn to Allāh ta‘ālā and do tawbah, istighfār and rectify our lives. We should also have concern in this regard for those around us. May Allāh ta‘ālā make this earthquake a mercy for us and may it prompt us to change our lives for the better. Āmīn.
© Riyādul Jannah

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