Order Before, During And After Chaos
- an Islamic perspective on natural disasters.
A primary argument prevalent in arguing the case of atheism and agnosticism is a perceived
suffering caused by natural phenomena. Earthquakes, floods, droughts or even cancers and
severe illnesses, test human resolve along with their faith. To put it mildly, why would God design
such a world that inconveniences? Why subject the creation to the chaos of all the associated
suffering? For many atheists and agnostics this issue is clear, and for Muslims, new or not familiar
with the core of their faith, it can soon become a troublesome point. There are, however, several
responses to this problem of suffering due to natural disasters.
Before any chaos sets in it is important to understand the overall Islamic point of view to the
purpose of life and the make up of the universe we inhabit. The universe is a perfectly balanced
and finely tuned creation; a manifestation of Allah Almighty's Names and Attributes. Attributes of al-Bāsit, the Reliever, is present with the presence of al-Qābid, the Restrainer; al-Rāfi', the Exalter, with al-Khāfid, the One Who Humbles; and al-Muhyī, the Giver of life, with al-Mumīt, the Giver of death. The balanced world reflects this; there is ease with difficulty, happiness with disappointment, and life with death. These quasi-opposites are an integral part of this world. They are essential as everything has value relative to something else; "Never to suffer would never to have been blessed", said Edgar Poe.
Allah Almighty says: "We shall certainly test you with fear and hunger, and loss of property, lives,
and crops. But, give glad tidings to those who are steadfast." [Blessed Qur'an - 2:155]
The test is present for all humankind whether caught up in the chaos of a natural disaster or not.
Passing the test is achieved by being balanced in all circumstances, grateful and patient, like the
new born babe in the natural state of fitra, acceptant and receptive, in the face of any Divine
decree. This is the purpose of life: submission to the Almighty.
When calamity strikes, and chaos pursues, it could be the test mentioned above - an opportunity to exhibit our submission and exalt our standing before the Lord. However, sometimes it can be a form of warning of inevitable punishment; a direct consequence of our collective or individual
heedlessness and rejection of the bounties of Allah Almighty. Mighty nations of the past were
destroyed in an instant as punishment for denying the signs of God Almighty. Signs that engage
our conscience, that remind us of our mortality and helplessness.
Individually, onset of this disaster may be averted through acknowledgement. Allah Almighty says, "What concern has Allah to cause you to suffer if you are grateful and believe in him? Allah is ever-Responsive to gratitude, all-Knowing." [Blessed Qur'an - 4:147]
Collectively, this is also achievable. Allah Almighty says: "How is it that there has never been a
community that believed, whose belief brought them benefit, except the people of Yunus? When
they believed We drew off from them the punishment of disgrace in the life of this world and We letthem have enjoyment for a time." [Blessed Qur'an - 10:98]
But what of the innocent caught up in it all? What of the intense chaos caused by the destruction
and loss? An innocent, who endeavoured to remain true and thankful to Allah Almighty, is raised
from their sudden death according to their disposition at the time. When responding to Lady Aisha, Allah be pleased with her, regarding innocent victims caught up in an army to be swallowed by the earth, the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, explained: "...they will be raised for Judgement according to their intentions." Their sound disposition will land them the enviable accolade of shahīd - a martyr on the Divine path. A Hadith states: "Martyrs are of five kinds: one who dies of a plague, of disease in his stomach, the drowned, who dies under fallen masonry, and who dies fighting in the way of Allah." Further narrations add to the list of martyrs, a woman who dies in pregnancy or during delivery, a person with a long standing terminal illness, and one who dies protecting his property, life, family or religion. Surely these martyrs have succeeded.
As for those that remain to grief over their losses, in their steadfastness and patience they recall
the promise of Allah Almighty to reward them abundantly upon the completion of the trial. Their
sorrow will one day be rewarded with an eternal bliss. They balance this worry with the sheer
quantity of Allah's bounty and refuse to remain heedless without thanking the source of all
resources. For them the Hadith rings true: "This, my Ummah, is a nation which receives mercy: for it has no punishment in the Hereafter. Its punishment is in this world: strife, earthquakes and
Thus before the disaster there is no chaos, just a perfect balance in submission. During the
disaster there is no chaos, just a test or reminder. And in the aftermath there is no chaos, just
martyrdom and Paradise.
Mohammad Asrar Ul-Haq, Owaisi
Al-Jamia Suffa-Tul-Islam, Bradford