My younger son is a man of reason. He is obedient, reticent, agnostic and perfectionist. I may often disagree often with what he has to say but I always lend my ears to what he shares. During this Nepal Earthquake Calamity, he proffered a question, rather a statement: Several religious scholars of all faiths attribute these apoplectic calamities to the wayward behavior and sins of mankind. Have the natural calamities something to do with the moral behaviour of the victims?
The list of these transgressions consists of broad spectrum and varies from faith to faith. However, most of the people in Japan accept these catastrophic developments as an outcome of geological and climatic changes. The countries of these religious scholars spend a negligible amount
The countries of these religious scholars spend a negligible amount on research and development to study the vicissitudes of nature or for the preparations of disaster management. They simply blame the spiritual corruption of Human Beings as a reason and justify all the destruction and death in the name of chastisement. The Index of Happiness, where the edict of religions runs supreme, is almost at the lowest while Japan enjoys the top position in the list of ‘Index of Happiness.’ Japan spends a huge amount of national exchequer on R & D, Precautions and Disaster Management Programs.’
I had to put on my thinking cap to find a genuine answer to his reasonable argument. We know that Earthquakes, cyclones, floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, droughts and fires cause terribly disastrous consequences for life–human, animal and plant. The effect last longer and leave behind the scar that live long – often irreparable. Why God bring these calamities? If He loves us, why He allows these human sufferings? Is it a result of God’s fury or man’s folly?
It is a most baffling subject. Every time a calamity occurs, it gives rise to questions related to epistemology and philosophy. People, quite reasonably, want to know the real cause of the death and destruction occurring due to natural calamities. What is the real cause of the loss?
The calamities can mainly be divided into three categories – natural, social and accidental. I’m a practical Muslim and would try to understand according to my faith. I have little reach to other faiths jurisprudence in such situations. Let us make a clear distinction here between the disasters that occur due to natural events and the misfortunes that are wrought by people themselves.
Let us deal the main thought. The question is whether the incidents, like earthquakes, causing destruction are propped by a physical process that takes place in nature or are a consequence of immoral behaviour? We have to deal with the accidental calamities also. Accidental Calamities are caused by some accident, such as rail, road, sea and air mishaps. Do we invite these by acting contrary to Divine moral values? We will not deal here with the social calamities which are caused by corruption, injustices, moral disintegration, economic exploitation and political oppression, etc.
It is generally believed that there are 19 major world religions and epistemologically, the exact religious response to natural calamities may vary from religion to religion as each religion looks at these happenings with its specific perspective. However, the consensus of the religious clergy generally regard natural hazards as an expression of God’s displeasure – ‘‘wrath of God.’’
You invite the wrath of God when you oppose the commands of God that reached you through His prophets. It is a chastisement or punishment for the affected people from God.
Let me be emphatic here that The Holy Qur’an does not seem to support the “wrath of God” theory. According to Quranic verse :
“And, We would never chastise [any community for the wrong they may do] ere We have sent an apostle [to them]. (17:15)
The Holy Book reveals that God Almighty has never chastised a people unless He had first sent a Messenger to them who would convey onto them the message of truth, and has warned them of their evil doings. It is only after the people had opposed and wilfully rejected their Prophet, Divine chastisement befell them as a natural consequence of their doings and not as an arbitrary act of God. In another place in the Holy Book, it is clearly mentioned:
“Yet, withal, your Sustainer would never destroy a community without having [first] raised in its midst an apostle who would convey unto them Our messages; and never would We destroy a community unless its people are wont to do wrong [to one another]. (28:59)
If we go by the above ‘logic’, a believer should never be the victim of natural calamities. It would be obligatory in nature that these calamities should befall upon opponents of the Prophets. So, when the Muslims or Believers of Monotheistic Concept become the victim of natural disasters, these large-scale destructions cannot be assigned as the acts of chastisement or punishment from God.
According to Islam, this Universe was created for the promulgation of truth and there is a meaning and purpose to that. God does not take arbitrary decisions. He simply does not need to do so. We demean Him when we blame Him behaving in an anthropomorphic manner. He is not like a despotic monarch. On the contrary, according to the Qur’anic concept, He is all-Merciful, all-Wise, and all-Knowing Creator and Sustainer of the universe. His Will operates in the universe through laws of nature that He has ingrained in it.
Earthquakes and tsunamis are exactly in accordance to the geological laws laid down by nature. They are the natural and physical phenomena caused by natural geological process ingrained by God with a purpose. The storm beneath the earth crusts give rise to a process that gives the earth’s upper crust its peculiar appearance, and makes and shapes earth’s topography, the mountains, oceans, rivers, etc. We can understand these developments with the help of Science. The earthquakes only shake the earth’s surface. They themselves are not a disaster, calamity or catastrophe.
More often, the governments fail to devise and strictly implement a building code that ensured construction of earthquake-resistant buildings. They fail to provide safety measures in the areas. They fail to educate, organize, and empower the people so that they could face the calamity in a better manner.
Whenever we fail to fulfill the demands of the laws of nature, we may fall its victim. We build the staggeringly tall residences that clash with the flow of air currents, we destroy Green Patches and dense forests, we block the run of rivers, we destroy the habitats of other creatures and we begin to believe that we can dictate nature then the otherwise positive and beneficial nature expose out arrogance. The negligence of the authorities, administrative as well as political, often results in a calamity for innocent people.
There is a lesson in them for every wise person. Let us realize the limitations, temporariness and fragility of our existence in this world. Every such incident should certainly strengthen our faith in God, and remind us of our duty to our fellow human beings.
Had the governments and their institutions been prepared technologically as well as administratively to cope with such a catastrophe the degree of the devastation would have been far less. The tragedy is that we are perennially inefficient and never stop playing politics even in the worst of situations.
By: Naim Naqvi