Considering Earthquakes As Divine Punishment

Question

I have confusion regarding the cause of earthquakes. Majority of our religious scholars are of the view that it is a result of our sins. They refer to those ahādīths in which Prophet Muahmmed (sws) said that earthquakes are a form of God's punishment but Mr Javed Ahmed Ghamidi denies this view. May I know what his arguments are in this regard?


Answer

It is an established religious truth that the Almighty has ordained that this world is a place of test. Human beings have been put through a test and they will only be held accountable on the Last Day. They will be punished or rewarded then according to the manner of their life on earth. This entailed that during this worldly life they are given choice to follow either truth or falsehood. They are not punished during their life. Retribution is postponed till the Last Day.

Everything that strikes humans is either to warn them regarding the nature of this life and power of God or merely a sort of test. Just as the blessings of God on some individual or a nation do not indicate that they are dear to God and that he is pleased with them similarly the afflictions are not necessarily the divine retribution on their sinful behavior.

The scholars who consider this to be divine punishment quote the example of the nations of the Messengers of God who were punished on the account of rejecting the Messengers after the truth was communicated to them in ultimate form. This is form of divine retribution specific to the nations of the Messengers and is not a general principle. The clearest demarcation between these two types of afflictions can be understood by the fact that these nations were warned of such a punishment from God in case they rejected the Messengers after the truth is conveyed to them in no unclear way.

God always warned the addressees of the Messengers that rejecting the Messenger would definitely bring divine punishment upon them. This is applicable to the case of all the Messengers whose preaching mission has been referred to in the Qur'an. A simple reading of the Makkan Surahs of the Holy Qur'an would reveal this fact. Two clear examples of such a warning follow:

And to Ṭhamūd (We sent) their brother Ṣāliḥ. He said: O my people! serve Allah, you have no god other than Him; clear proof indeed has come to you from your Lord; this is (as) Allah's she-camel for you-- a sign, therefore leave her alone to pasture on Allah's earth, and do not touch her with any harm, otherwise painful chastisement will overtake you. (7:73)

And we sent Noah to his people, and he said, `Truly, I am a plain Warner to you, that you worship none but Allah. Indeed, I fear for you the punishment of a grievous day.' The chiefs of his people, who disbelieved, replied, `We see thee nothing but a mortal like ourselves, and we see that none have followed thee but those who, to all outward appearance, are the meanest of us. And we do not see in you any superiority over us; nay, we believe you to be liars.' He said, `O my people! Tell me if I stand on a clear proof from my Lord and He has bestowed upon me from himself a great mercy which has remained obscure to you, how will it fare with you? Shall we force it upon you, while you are averse thereto? `And O my people, I do not ask of you any wealth in return for it. My reward is only with Allah. And I am not going to drive away those who believe. They shall certainly meet their Lord. But I see that you are an ignorant people; `And O my people, who would help me against Allah, If I were to drive them away? Will you not then take heed? `And I do not say to you, I possess the treasures of Allah nor do I know the unseen,' nor do I say, `I am an angel.' Nor do I say concerning those whom your eyes despise, `Allah will not bestow any good on them' - Allah knows best what is in their minds. Surely, in that case I should be of the unjust.' They said, `O Noah, thou hast indeed disputed with us and disputed long and often; bring us now what thou threaten us with, if thou art of the truthful.' (Sher Ali's translation) (11:25-32)

Both of the above narratives clearly tell us that the Messenger and Noah warned their respective addressees that if they did not pay heed to God's message they would meet awful doom. The divine punishment was later meted out to them once they rejected after the truth was manifested to them in ultimate form.

The above discussion shows that the punishments meted out to earlier generations were expected. The calamities which strike people today in the form of earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes cannot be identified as divine punishment.

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