Wednesday, December 13, 2017 - 25 Rabi' al-Awwal 1439

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Facing Natural Disasters with Faith

Facing Natural Disasters with Faith

Earthquakes. Tsunamis. Hurricanes, Tornados, Flash flooding. Severe draught. Famines.

Every day we hear more and more news of natural disasters that devastate the communities they touch. Whether this increase is caused by global warming, as the scientific community is more and more certain about, or some other cause, how are we as believers expected to handle these phenomena when they hit unexpectedly? Like everything else in our lives, we must base our understanding of events, and our reaction to them, on our faith. This understanding starts with looking at what the Quran and the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) say about these matters, and how we’re to deal with them. This isn’t limited to natural disasters, but extents to include everything we face in life, both the good and the bad of it.

God clearly tells us in multiple places in the Quran that this life is a test… all of it. It’s not a paradise for a reason. It’s not always easy for a reason. Unfortunately, so many of us go in and out of a state of heedlessness and forgetfulness about the world we’re living in, and why we’re living in it.

God, the Almighty, tells us, “Every soul will taste death. And We test you with evil and with good as trial; and to Us you will be returned” (Quran 21:35).

This verse is the lens by which the believer views the world. When something good happens, they understand that this is also a test which deserves an appropriate response as well. As God tells us of Solomon (peace be upon him), “And when [Solomon] saw it placed before him, he said, "This is from the favor of my Lord to test me whether I will be grateful or ungrateful. And whoever is grateful - his gratitude is only for [the benefit of] himself. And whoever is ungrateful - then indeed, my Lord is Free of need, and Generous" (Quran 27:40).

Likewise, when disasters hit, the believer understands that this test, despite being a bitter one, is not one that should cause them to lose faith or despair of God’s mercy in this life or the next. In fact, those deeply rooted in faith know that in reality those trials and tribulations only act as a means to bring them closer to God and to have their sins removed.

God says, “And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger, and a loss of wealth and lives and yields, but give good tidings to the patient who, when disaster strikes them, say, ‘Indeed we belong to God, and indeed to Him we will return.’ Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are the [rightly] guided” (Quran 2:155-157).

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) also said, “There is no trouble that comes to a believer except that it removes some of his sins, even if it is the pricking of a thorn.”[1]

Patience and strength are essential for dealing with life’s challenges, although this doesn’t mean we cannot ask God to ease our burden and facilitate matters. God has mentioned the prayer of the believers which we take to heart when facing our challenges, “Our Lord, do not impose blame upon us if we have forgotten or erred. Our Lord, lay not upon us a burden like that which You laid upon those before us. Our Lord, burden us not with that which we are unable to bear. And pardon us; and forgive us; and have mercy upon us. You are our protector, so give us victory over the disbelieving people" (Quran 2:286).

This guidance from the Quran and Sunnah is clear, yet if we do not allow ourselves to view the world through this lens from the beginning, before disaster strikes, it will be very difficult to tackle these challenges with the patience and strength needed once they occur. The believers must ground their lives in the beautiful teachings of our religion, which will enable them to be successful in this life and the next. As the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "How wonderful is the situation of the believer; there is good for him in everything, and this applies only to a believer. If prosperity reaches him, he expresses gratitude to God, and that is good for him; yet if adversity befalls him, he endures it patiently and that is good for him.”[2]

We see this hadith manifested in the response of people of faith, who react to natural disasters with not only patience, but also understanding that this is an opportunity for work in the service of others, to help feed and clothe them, and help them rebuild their lives. Those who only view life through the lens of materialism, and ignore the spiritual truths about the world around them only see chaos, or even worse, an opportunity to loot and steal, whereas the believer sees an opportunity for service and mercy.

There are other aspects of natural disasters, which we should focus on as believers as well. One of those is: How much did we appreciate our lives and all the blessings that God gave us, before disaster struck? Were we thankful for our health, our families, and the sustenance that God has given us?Did we realize that every moment of life is a gift, and an opportunity to draw closer to God? As God tells us, “And it is not [possible] for one to die except by permission of God at a decree determined, and whoever desires the reward of this world - We will give him thereof; Yet whoever desires the reward of the Hereafter - We will give him thereof. And we will reward those who are thankful” (Quran 3:145).

One of the side effects of our heedlessness is that we tell ourselves we are so powerful and can do anything. Although it’s true humanity have been blessed with great abilities to transform the world, Satan can use this to delude and deceive people into thinking they are not in need of anyone or anything, even God Almighty. Disasters remind us in an instant that this idea is foolish and only leads people down a dark path. No dear reader, we are not all-powerful. We are the creation of The All-Powerful and are His servants. When we live our lives with this understanding, we are humble in our power and use the gifts we’re given from Him to make the world a better place, not to destroy it. As God says about the believers, “And those who keep their trusts and covenants… They will be the inheritors of the highest paradise and will dwell therein forever” (Quran 23:8, 10-11).

 

 


[1] Sahih Muslim, Book 32, Hadith 6239.

[2] Sahih Muslim, Book 42, Hadith 7138