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The disastrous Asian quake & Tsunami: who made it and why?

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Much has been said, up to the moment, about the late deadly earthquake that hit Sumatra with devastating effects which extended far to the East African coast, distributing different degrees of damage to nearly 10 countries. This much talk is, no doubt, justified and worth listening to to some extent. Economists discuss this great event from an economic perspective, the extent of loss the quake and its concomitant 'Tsunamis' cost the inflicted countries, how much the reconstruction of those damaged houses, buildings, green fields and tourist resorts cost, the potential financial repercussions due to the loss of tourism on which some countries depend as a source of national income, etc.

Geologists, for their part, highlight the scientific explanations for such seismic events, focusing on the physical interactions that occur within the Earth or on its surface that result in earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other phenomena that take place on land and in sea.

Ordinary people, watching TV tearful scenes of floating corpses, injured women and children, crying people who lost their shelters, relatives, express their deep sympathy for them and may pray for the salvation of their humans.

Mass media alert their armies of journalists and correspondents to spot any late-breaking bits of news on such events, giving the chance to all of the aforementioned kinds of people (both the inflicted and the spectators) to express their reactions to the disastrous incidence being witnessed. Viewers and listeners, worldwide and round the clock, are now brought to the scene of the Asian tidal wave and its effects, and informed in each news bulletin about the latest count of death and injury.

International relief agencies and charitable organizations take their responsibilities and make arrangements to extend a helping hand to the afflicted areas with food, medicine, blankets, tents and other essential relief items that are means to preserve their life, blood and tears.

To sum up the whole issue, there are two kinds of witnesses on the stage of the event: first, the people (or the real actors) who are exposed to the earthquake and tsunami (including the surviving, dead, and injured people) and second, the people outside the frame of the disaster, who are spectators (journalists, media viewers/listeners, analysts and commentators on different aspects of the event, such as geologists, economists, and politicians, etc.).

We are informed about the quake through the media, with the physical reasons being explained by geologists, the financial losses estimated by economists, relief plans and procedures by relief agencies and charitable individuals, and lastly, the heartfelt sorrow and pity of ordinary people.

But is that all? Is it merely a land or marine slide or volcanic eruption that caused all these disasters? Is it just an angry reaction while in a bad temper on the part of 'Mother Nature', a mythical non-entity? What about the Creator of the universe and all that it contains: mankind, animals, seas, trees, air, fire, etc?! Does He not have any say on those matters? Why do people look at nature as Master, whereas the Real and True Master (Allah Almighty) is forgotten or made to rule supreme only in the confines of the Mosque, the church or the Synagogue?

Yes, it is right to say that volcanoes, quakes, tsunamis, floods, hurricanes and other catastrophes are caused by certain topographic or geologic factors (causes), but what about the Causer? Why did the Causer cause this or that catastrophe? Why does a same catastrophe repeatedly happen in a same place? Why do they rarely take place in certain places such as Arabia, for example?

The Quran, the Muslim's Holy Book, provides answers to these questions and addresses such disasters from different angles which are never approached by almost all classes of people mentioned above when commenting on such disasters in the media (regrettably, including Muslims).

The Noble Quran conveys to people the messages and points of wisdom behind the different disasters that Allah Almighty inflicts upon people throughout human history. Volcanoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc, according to the Quran, are soldiers sent by Allah Almighty to carry out one of the following duties (to mention only some of them):

1-  Punishing sinful people:

This is applicable to the people of old who rejected the Divine message brought to them by Prophets Nooh (Noah), Luut (Lot), Moosa (Moses), and other Prophets. The Quran states (what means): "So We (i.e. Allah Almighty) punished each (of them- sinful people) for his sins; of them were some on whom We sent a violent wind with shower of stones [as on the people of Lût (Lot)], and of them were some who were overtaken by an awful cry [by Angel Jibreel (Gabriel) as a torment], and of them were some whom We caused the earth to swallow [as Qaaroon (Korah)], and of them were some whom We drowned [as the people of Nooh (Noah), or Fir‘awn (Pharaoh) and his people]. It was not Allah Who wronged them, but it was they who wronged themselves." [Quran 29:40]

Let us consider the places where those disastrous events take place; are there not sinful practices in public, especially on seashores and in tourist resorts?

1-   To remind people of the Hereafter so as to be heedful:

Allah Almighty says in the Quran (what means):

"And We sent not the signs (volcanoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc,) except to (warn people and) make them afraid (of destruction)." [Quran 17:59]

2-   To show Allah's Omnipotence and Supremacy:

This is stated in the following Quranic verse (which means): "Say (O Muhammad): "He (Allah) has power to send torment on you from above (heavy devastating rain, winds, thunderbolts, etc.) or from under your feet (volcanoes, earthquakes, etc.), or to cover you with confusion in party strife, and make you to taste the violence of one another." See how variously We explain the signs, so that they may understand." [Quran 6:65]

And the verse (which means): "So their Lord destroyed them because of their sin, and made them equal in destruction (i.e. all grades of people, rich and poor, strong and weak)! And He (Allah) feared not the consequences thereof." [Quran 91:14, 15]

Allah's irresistible Omnipotence is embodied through the vain attempts by the most advanced countries to curb or evade the fatal effects of hurricanes, earthquakes and other natural hazards by alarm systems. What is worth pondering is that while man-made instruments proved almost helpless in predicting earthquakes, the case is completely different with Allah-made creatures. Many studies have stated that some animals show unusual behavior before an earthquake takes place. Studying this behavior, based on many practical examples, the researchers came up with the "Animal Behavior Theory" which assumes that some animals predict earthquakes.

"The animal-behavior theory for "predicting" earthquakes assumes that pets leave their homes, places normally secure and comforting, in order to escape a disturbance or danger in their surroundings just before an earthquake. In practice the theory is based on the assumption that more pets run away from home at such times than at any other time. The hypothesis states that when quantities of missing pets increase extraordinarily, there is a marked increase in the probability of a forthcoming earthquake (Maryanski, 1985; Allstetter, 1986).

There are reports that turtles, eels, snakes, and catfish display premonitory anomalous behavior before earthquakes (Quammen, 1985). The problem of identifying the actual stimulus of this behavior remains unsolved, although ultrasonic and electromagnetic phenomena are suspected (Simon, 1976). Homing pigeons and geese are now known to navigate by earth's magnetic field using tiny crystals of magnetite incorporated in sense organs in their heads (Cooke, 1984). Magnetotactic bacteria, tuna, and salmon also contain similar magnetite crystals (Kirschvink and others, 1985). The animal-behavior theory tested in this study is based on the postulate that dogs and cats can detect precursory magnetic disturbances from seven to ten days before earthquakes (Allstetter, 1986)."

Here is a quotation from a report exactly related to this latest Asian Tsunami:

"YALA NATIONAL PARK, Sri Lanka -- Wildlife officials in Sri Lanka expressed surprise Wednesday that they found no evidence of large-scale animal deaths from the weekend's massive tsunami - indicating that animals may have sensed the wave coming and fled to higher ground.

An Associated Press photographer who flew over Sri Lanka's Yala National Park in an air force helicopter saw abundant wildlife, including elephants, buffalo, deer, and not a single animal corpse.

'This is very interesting. I am finding bodies of humans, but I have yet to see a dead animal,' said Wijeyeratne, whose hotel in the park was totally destroyed in Sunday's tidal surge. 'Maybe what we think is true, that animals have a sixth sense,' Wijeyeratne said."

From the Islamic point of view, animals or human beings should not be said to "predict" future events, as the knowledge of the Unseen is exclusive to Allah Alone. Most likely, in such cases, animals sense something using their extraordinary Allah-given senses of smelling, hearing, tasting, seeing or feeling.

Subhaan Allah (praised be Allah) who made those animals behave likewise to save themselves and to act as alarm systems for their masters (human beings)!

3-   To test the believers:

Allah, the Exalted, may also inflict some hardships on His worshippers to test their faith and patience, purify their souls and forgive their sins. He, the Almighty, says in the Noble Quran (what means):

"… and certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to the patient" [Quran 2:155].

Last, the question mentioned above: 'Why do they (the natural disasters) rarely take place in certain places such as Makkah (in Arabia)?' has to be answered, but by whom? It is answered by Allah, the Creator, not a geologist. The Quran, the Word of Allah Says (what means): "And (remember) when Ibraaheem (Abraham) said, "My Lord, make this city (Makkah) a place of security and provide its people with fruits, such of them as believe in Allah and the Last Day." He (Allah) answered: "As for him who disbelieves, I shall leave him in contentment for a while, then I shall compel him to the torment of the Fire, and worst indeed is that destination!" [Quran 2:126]

The history, both old and modern, give evidence that the bliss Allah showered on Makkah (security and welfare) has spread out to encompass the whole Arabian Peninsula (and almost most of the Islamic world), because of the relatively religious commitment and good Islamic spirit of its inhabitants, which is, at the end,  due to the mercy of Allah. This comparison can be realized through the scientific assumptions that nearly one million quakes take place the world over every year.

To conclude, people, believers and non-believers, have to keep in mind that all the above mentioned 'natural' disasters are acts of Allah Almighty, the Creator, not 'Mother Nature', to convey a message to people. When Muslims discuss such matters, they have to approach them Islamicly, i.e. in the light of the Holy Quran and the Sunnah (Prophet's tradition), and not only scientifically, economically, or socially. Muslim scholars have to have a say, actually the say, on these matters, so as to make people fully aware of their (disasters) denotations and indications, and educate them to tackle matters spiritually and not only physically.


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