Friday, 29 September 2017

Natural Disasters: Punishment or Test from God?

Tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, fire and other natural disasters have been occurring throughout the passage of time.
Seeing the human suffering, death and destruction we are all shaken. It is difficult to forget the scenes of death, pain, cries of people, men women and children. Those who believe in God are concerned to know why God allowed these disasters to happen. Those who do not believe in God are ready to exploit this disaster to argue against God or His existence.
We see in this world all kinds of sufferings, evil and pain. We find sickness, old age and death. We see things that are ugly, people who are insane and foolish. We also see people who commit sins, show disloyalty, unfaithfulness, greed and insincerity. We see people commit rapes, murders, violence and wars. We know all these and many other problems. There are evils caused by human beings and there are natural disasters. There are sufferings for individuals and there are those that involve a large number of people.
The world, however, is not all evil. Beside all these negative things we also see beauty, health, prosperity, life, birth, wisdom, intelligence, growth and progress. We also see goodness among people, faith, sincerity, charity, love and the spirit of sacrifice. We see a lot of virtue and piety. It is also the fact that the element of good is more in the creation than the element of evil. We all see that there are more people who are healthy than those who are sick. There are more that eat well then those who starve. There are more people who live decent life then those who commit crimes. Goodness is the rule and evil is the exception. Virtue is the norm and sin is the aberration. Generally trees bear fruits, the flowers bloom, the winds move smoothly.
The question still remains why Allah allows sufferings. Why did He not create a world without any difficulty or pain? Let us ask this question to understand Allah's ways in His creation. The Qur'an tells us that Good and evil whatever happens in this world happens by Allah's Will (mashi'at Allah). Only Allah knows fully His Will. We finite beings cannot grasp fully His infinite Will and Wisdom. He runs His universe the way He deems fit. Allah says in the Qur'an:
No calamity occurs, except by the leave of Allah; and whosoever believes in Allah, He guides his heart. And Allah knows all things. (Al-Taghabun 64:11)
The famous Muslim philosopher, jurist and thinker Imam Ghazali (d. 11) elaborates this very clearly:
We believe that He is the Willer of things that are, and of things that happen. There does not come about in the world, seen or unseen, little or much, small or great, good or evil, advantage or disadvantage, faith or unbelief, knowledge or ignorance, success or loss, increase or decrease, obedience or rebellion, except by His will. What He wills is, and what He wills not is not. Not a glance of one who looks, or a slip of one who thinks is outside His will. He is the Creator, the Bringer back, the Doer of that which He wills. (A Short Creed of Ghazali)
As Muslims we believe that Allah is Wise and everything that Allah does is right, just, and fair. We must submit and surrender to His Will. The Qur'an has not given us all the details about Allah's Will, but it has enlightened us with the guidance that is useful and sufficient for us. The problem of the existence of evil in this world is a complex one and there is no one simple answer for it. There are several points that we have to keep in our mind to understand this issue:
1. First of all, Allah did not make this world a permanent world. This is a temporary world and every thing here has a time limit. When its time comes it dies, comes to an end and finishes. Neither the good things of this world are forever, nor the bad things eternal. We are here for a short time and we are being tested. Those who will pass this test they will find an eternal world that is perfect and permanent. Those who will fail this test they shall see the evil consequences of their sins and corruption.
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