Sunday 13 March 2011

Is the Tsunami a Punishment?


I am not sure how does it feels like in Pakistan, but here in Australia quite a few Muslims, khateebs, tell us that Tsunami is a punishment for those living in Indonesia, Sri Lanka etc!. They mostly quote the Ahadith regarding the "day of judgment" talking about the frequency of earthquakes, and the punishment given to the nations of prophet Lot (AS), Noh (AS) and others mentioned in the Qur'an. I was just wondering what are your views on the "general trend"? The fact that there are places around the world that, by the same standards, are worse then those areas suffered and that nearly 50 thousand of the dead were children( UNICEF estimate) makes it unconvincing to believe that it was a punishment, let alone the " Qanoon-e-etmame Hujjah". My understanding of the qanoon is that Allah punishes the nation of a rasool (only rasool not nabi) only after the message is delivered and the non-believers are declared as rejecter (not accepting the message despite convinced that is the truth). Am I right? So, how can somebody be so sure that people in the areas suffered as a nation were "rejecters" hence punished? As far as I know Muslims in Aceh in general are "conservative" and by the standards of the "khateebs" does not deserve any punishment! I guess a sum up question would be "Are all disasters, especially with such a toll, punishments?"


Question from Australia

In this world we witness many things but only from our tiny lenses. What we deem tragedies or disasters may ultimately be something good but far beyond our comprehension. Indeed the human suffering and death toll from the tsunami is a calamity for the human experience but as we know these are natural occurrences caused by the very make up of the planet. These events have always happened and it may seem that they are occurring more frequently because more people populate the earth and information is easier to come by. Add to that the technology to record such events and it may seem that these things happen all the time. However, these natural events have always existed. Ever since humanity was placed on earth these forces of nature have caused what seems to be catastrophic incidents. Moreover, ever since people have witnessed these some have used them or interpreted them as a result of people's actions. The Prophet in many ahadith tried to educate people that natural events were just that and not because of things that were going on with humanity. When his son Ibrahim died people thought the Sun was eclipsed because of this. He corrected this misconception.

Those who preach that the tsunami in Indonesia and other places are signs of the wrath of God have to substantiate their claims upon something solid other than just opinion. No one knows the heart of an individual much less a community or nation. Those who claim that this is a punishment of sorts are only placing themselves upon a pedestal above others and taking upon themselves the judgment of God. They may not be doing this with those intentions but it could be their ignorance that drives them to such baseless condemnation. You have pointed out correctly that there are many places whose population take part in great sin and have no afflictions. No one is given prior knowledge of who is being punished and who is not and to attribute such a tragedy to punishment merely adds insult to injury. The concept of Itmam al-Hujjah is as you have correctly stated that a prophet of God needs to be present for such a punishment to be meted out. Hence, this and any other natural disaster after the Prophet's time does not fall under the scope of said concept.

One should keep in mind that such incidents are nevertheless a great reminder of the vulnerability of human life and the lack of control we have over it. If we hold that closely as we live our lives we may find that it may help us remain humble in our ways. Another thing to remember is that we should be extremely careful in passing a judgment about why a nation or an individual is faced with a traumatic situation; a wrong attitude on our part will greatly hinder not only our taking the right lessons from such incidents but also in giving the suitable responses to such incidents;

It is clear that those claiming anyone is being punished for any reason really have no basis for their assumptions. It is a wonder how they determine what tragedy is a punishment from God and why.

I hope I have clarified the issue.

God knows best.

Ronnie Hassan
January 25, 2005


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