From a Muslim’s perspective
“Can this be a punishment from God?” This is probably the first and most asked question when disasters strike. That’s because we are reminded of the past nations who were punished by means of water.
Allah mentions the people of Saba:
“But they turned away (from the obedience of Allâh), so We sent against them Sail Al’Arim (flood released from the dam) … (16) Like this We requited them because they were ungrateful disbelievers. And never do We requite in such a way except those who are ungrateful, (disbelievers) [Surah Saba, 34:11]
When the dam broke, their agriculture was completely destroyed and they had to flee. In another place, the Allah reminds us about the people of Noah, peace be upon him:
“We sent Nuh to his people and he remained among them for fifty short of a thousand years; yet the Flood engulfed them while they were wrongdoers.” [Qur’an, 29:14]
“But they denied him so We rescued him and those with him in the Ark. And We drowned the people who denied Our Signs. They were a blind people.” [Qur’an, 7:64]
Water came from the ground and combined with heavy rain, they were trapped and had nowhere to go. Similarly, the pharaoh and his people were punished by a big deluge:
They treated as false the Signs of their Lord: so We destroyed them for their crimes, and We drowned the people of Fir’awn: for they were all oppressors and wrong-doers. [Surat al-Anfal, 8:54]
All these calamities took place in a short time to demonstrate Allah’s Might and Power. It makes us realize how weak we are before Allah’s Might regardless of the might and power we have attained.
“Say: He has power to send torment on you from above or from under your feet, or to cover you with confusion…” [al-An’aam 6:65]
Another important lesson we can draw from the aayaat above is that the people turned away from the obedience of God and continued with their sins. This is further explained in the following two aayaat:
“And whatever of misfortune befalls you, it is because of what your hands have earned. And He pardons much.” [Surah Al-Shura, 42: 30]
“Whatever of good reaches you, is from Allaah, but whatever of evil befalls you, is from yourself” [al-Nisa 4:79]
Concerning the phrase “is from yourself”, Qatadah said: “[It means] the punishment is for you, O son of Adam, because of your sin.” (Tafseer Ibn Katheer).
So similarly nowadays, people receive warnings so that they can rethink about their situation and how they live their lives. One cannot forget about the massacre by the Buddhist extremists against the Muslims. Then, their areas were completely flooded in August 2012. And how many Pakistanis related the floods that happened there to the corruption at various levels in the country!
And what is most neglected by the people nowadays?
Allah has created the world and everything in it in order to serve and obey Him alone. He sent the Messenger to call the people to tawhid (monotheism) and to avoid the harm of shirk (i.e associating someone or something with God’s worship) for the individual and the society. Shirk is the reason for destruction in this life and the reason for eternal destruction in the fire of the Hereafter.
Verily, Allah forgives not that rivals should be set up in the worship with Him. He forgives save that (anything else) to whom He pleases and whoever set up rivals with Allah he has indeed done a tremendous dhulm (injustice). (Al Nisa:48)
“Say: Verily I call to my Lord and I do not ascribe any partners to Him at all.” [Al-Qur’an 72:20]
Verily, all the Messengers began their call with tawhid, which they were commanded by Allah to convey it to the people. He, the Most High, said:
“We have not sent before you from the Messengers, except We inspired to him that He is the only One worthy of worship, so worship Him.” [Al-Qur’an 21:25]
We find that people are not giving God His rights of worshipping Him alone. Instead, they join creatures along in His worship or they direct their worship to the creatures themselves. Some people whom Allah has given some knowledge can see these things happening and yet they stay quiet or they want to be comfortable. This is not right.
Narrated AbuBakr as-Siddiq (ra): I heard Allah’s Messenger say, “When people see something objectionable and do not change it, Allah will soon include them all in His punishment.” Ibn Majah and Tirmidhi, who declared it to be sahih, transmitted it.
So what does it mean for the believer?
Allah has decreed that, in this life, hardships and disasters strike both believers and non-believers. For a non-believer, they are inconveniences that deter him from proceeding with his normal life. For a believer, on the other hand, they are instances of remembrance, tests that promise great rewards, and indications of atonement and expiation of sins.
Narrated ‘Aisha: (the wife of the Prophet) Allah’s Apostle said, “No calamity befalls a Muslim but that Allah expiates some of his sins because of it, even though it were the prick he receives from a thorn.” (Bukhari)
It is an opportunity to catch up with good deeds!
It was reported that when there was an earthquake, Umar ibn Abd al Azeez (may Allaah have mercy on him) would write to his governors telling them to give in charity.
From Jaabir ibn AbdAllaah (may Allaah be pleased with him) that when the aayah Say: He has power to send torment on you from above was revealed, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, Aoodhu bi wajhika (I seek refuge in Your Face … (Saheeh al-Bukhaari, 5/193).
No doubt that at such times, it’s important for the Muslim to return to Allah, be mindful of his actions and forbids evil in the society he lives in.
Muhammad Ziyaad R