In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.
Natural Disaster: They say it is a natural event such as a flood, earthquake, or tsunami that kills or injures a lot of people; a sudden and terrible event in nature (such as a hurricane, tornado, or flood) that usually results in serious damage and many deaths; natural hazards, extreme, sudden events caused by environmental factors such as storms, floods, droughts, fires, and heatwaves; violent events that are outside the control of humans. They are caused by the forces of nature and may result in loss of life, injury, and damage to property. There are many types of natural disaster, including avalanche, drought, earthquake, flooding, hurricane, tornado, tsunami, volcanic eruption etc.
Firstly, let us remind ourselves of a principle regarding words and terms. “The basis of a person’s Islaam is to testify that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allaah and that Muhammad [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] is the Messenger of Allaah, to believe in Allaah, declare that Allaah is One without partner, obey Allaah’s commands, keep away from what Allaah has forbidden and single out Allaah in worship. And safeguarding this path [necessitates] the prohibition of every expression [term or word] that contains Shirk Billaah [i.e. ascribing partners to Allaah] or Kufr, or will lead to one of the two. (1)
“One of the general fundamental principles [in Islaam] is to know that words [or terms] are two types: Words that are mentioned in the Qur’aan and [authentic] Sunnah, therefore, it is obligated on every believer to affirm them – affirm what Allaah and His Messenger have affirmed, and negate what Allaah and His Messenger have negated. The words [or terms] affirmed by Allaah is truth and the ones Allaah negated are [negated] in truth, for indeed Allaah speaks the truth and guides to the straight path. The words [or terms] of the Sharee’ah are sanctified, and it is from perfection in knowledge that one seeks after the [sound meanings] which the Messenger [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] intended by them, in order to affirm what he affirmed and negate the meanings he negated; for indeed it is obligated on us to believe and bear witness to everything he has stated and follow him in everything he has commanded. As for the words [or terms] that are neither found in the Qur’am and [authentic] Sunnah, nor did the Salaf hold a consensus regarding whether they are negated or affirmed, then it is not incumbent on anyone to agree with the one who negates them or affirms them until its intended meaning is explained. So, if its intended meaning agrees with the [revelation, commands, prohibitions etc] conveyed by the Messenger, it is affirmed; but if its intended meaning is in opposition to the [revelation, commands, prohibitions etc] conveyed by the Messenger, it is rejected. (2)
Secondly, in their definition of the term “Natural disaster”, events are solely attributed to nature and no mention of the Creator of these events – Allaah [The Mighty and Majestic]. Imaam As-Sadi [may Allaah have mercy upon him] stated: “The greatest evils of knowledge and inconsistencies occurs as a result of acquainting oneself with the creation without its Creator, acquaintance with effects without the One who created those effects, acquaintance with causes without the one who created those causes and acquaintance with the paths without its sound goals. The deficiency in this type of acquaintance is numerous and its harm is great, for indeed many of the atheists and those deceived by them are skilled in the natural sciences, but they confine themselves to it and are blind regarding its association with its Creator and Causer. And with regards to that which is placed in these natural sciences of wonders and secrets, they see themselves as those who know the wonders of the natural sciences – which none knows besides them – and the secrets which Allāh has placed in nature, so it gives them higher status over others and thus they become afflicted with vanity and self-deception. They confine themselves to it, consider it as the final outcome, the purpose and the goal, and thus occurs great deviation, deficiency in knowledge and intellect. If they knew and affirmed belief in the true Creator and the One Who Controls all the affairs of the Universe- the One who attached the means and causes to His Qadaa Wal Qadr (see footnote a), know that the means and causes are an abode of His Perfect Wisdom – for indeed Allāh [The Most High] is All-Wise, He placed things in their rightful places, gave the subtle affairs and big affairs an amazing orderly system and a firm association; gave everything that is sought after and the goals a means or cause, and a path that will lead to it, and due to this results and outcomes are based on the strength or weakness of the means or causes, and the strength or weakness of the performer of the deed- and then they bound these means, paths and outcomes to Allāh’s Qadaa Wal Qadr, their knowledge would have been perfected and they would have acquired of certainty that which cannot be acquired by those who have not reached their level; but they are glad (and proud) with that which they know of those paths whose tangible worldly outcomes they know and became haughty by way of them, so the statement of Allāh [The Most High] apply to them: [فلما جاءتهم رسلهم بالبينات فرحوا بما عندهم من العلم وحاق بهم ما كانوا به يستهزئون – Then when their Messengers came to them with clear proofs, they were glad (and proud) with that which they had of the knowledge (of worldly things): And that at which they used to mock, surrounded them (i.e. the punishment)]. [Surah Ghaafir. Aayah 83]
وجعلنا لهم سمعا وأبصارا وأفئدة فما أغنى عنهم سمعهم ولا أبصارهم ولا أفئدتهم من شيء إذ كانوا يجحدون بآيات الله وحاق بهم ما كانوا به يستهزئون
And indeed We had firmly established them with that wherewith We have not established you (O Quraish)! And We had assigned them the (faculties of) hearing (ears), seeing (eyes), and hearts, but their hearing (ears), seeing (eyes), and their hearts availed them nothing since they used to deny the Ayat (Allah’s Prophets and their Prophethood, proofs, evidences, verses, signs, revelations, etc.) of Allah, and they were completely encircled by that which they used to mock at! [Surah Al-Ahqaaf. Aayah 26]
This is the greatest evil consequence of self-amazement and arrogance without exception, and the most perilous path through which many people become beguiled and deceived; therefore we ask Allāh to blessed us with sound knowledge that is supported by sound intellect, divine text and sound natural disposition – the beneficial knowledge which the servant knows in all its aspects, and the knowledge which links the subsidiary affairs to its (sound) fundamental principles, and its means, causes, effects and outcomes are ascribed to the One Who originated and created them. It is the knowledge whose possessor does not disassociate the creation from its Creator- neither disassociates its effects from the One Who made them effective, nor disassociates the wisdom, the secrets and the amazing orderly systems in the creation from the One Who Created and Perfected them, organised them in perfect order and brought them into existence prior to their non-existence. This is the knowledge that bears the fruits of certainty and through which tranquility is obtained, and through which happiness and success is attained. It bears the fruits of beautiful manners and righteous deeds, beneficial to the religious and worldly affairs. [Ref 2: An Excerpt from Ad-Dalaa’il Al-Qur’aaniyyah Fee Annal Uloom Wal-A’maal An-Naafi’ah Al-Asriyyah Daakhilatun Fid Deen Al-Islaamiy. pages 37-40]
Al-Allaamah Muqbil Bin Haadi Al-Waadi’ee [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said:
The People differ (in their views) concerning earthquakes-some say that it is a natural phenomenon and it has nothing to do with religion; others say that it (occurs) by Allaah’s decision and pre-decree and it has nothing to do with the sins (of the people); and others say that it is warning for (the slaves to fear Allaah’s punishment) and it has nothing to do with (their sins); and others say that it (occurs) as a result of the sins (of the people)?
The answer to this is: It may occur as a warning, a decision and pre-decree of Allaah and as a result of the sins (of the people). Earthquakes can occur as a warning for those who are witness it and are alive. He (The Most High) said:
وَإِنْ مِنْ قَرْيَةٍ إِلَّا نَحْنُ مُهْلِكُوهَا قَبْلَ يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ أَوْ مُعَذِّبُوهَا عَذَابًا شَدِيدًا ۚ كَانَ ذَٰلِكَ فِي الْكِتَابِ مَسْطُورًا
وَمَا مَنَعَنَا أَنْ نُرْسِلَ بِالْآيَاتِ إِلَّا أَنْ كَذَّبَ بِهَا الْأَوَّلُونَ ۚ وَآتَيْنَا ثَمُودَ النَّاقَةَ مُبْصِرَةً فَظَلَمُوا بِهَا ۚ وَمَا نُرْسِلُ بِالْآيَاتِ إِلَّا تَخْوِيفًا
And there is not a town (population) but We shall destroy it before the Day of Resurrection, or punish it with a severe torment. That is written in the Book (of our Decrees); And nothing stops Us from sending the Ayat (proofs, evidences, signs) but that the people of old denied them. And We sent the she-camel to Thamud as a clear sign, but they did her wrong. And We sent not the signs except to warn, and to make them afraid (of destruction).[Soorah Al-Israa: Aayaat:58-59]
As for it being the decision and pre-decree of Allaah, He (The Most High) said:
مَا أَصَابَ مِنْ مُصِيبَةٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فِي أَنْفُسِكُمْ إِلَّا فِي كِتَابٍ مِنْ قَبْلِ أَنْ نَبْرَأَهَا ۚ إِنَّ ذَٰلِكَ عَلَى اللَّهِ يَسِيرٌ
No calamity befalls on the earth or in yourselves but is inscribed in the Book of Decrees (Al-Lauh Al-Mahfuz), before We bring it into existence. Verily, that is easy for Allah”. [Soorah Al-Hadeed: Ayah:22].
And He (The Most High) also said: [مَا أَصَابَ مِنْ مُصِيبَةٍ إِلَّا بِإِذْنِ اللَّهِ ۗ وَمَنْ يُؤْمِنْ بِاللَّهِ يَهْدِ قَلْبَهُ ۚ وَاللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ – No calamity befalls, but with the Leave [i.e. decision and Qadar (Divine Preordainments)] of Allah, and whosoever believes in Allah, He guides his heart [to the true Faith with certainty, i.e. what has befallen him was already written for him by Allah from the Qadar (Divine Preordainments)], and Allah is the All-Knower of everything]. [Surah At-Taghaabun: Ayah:11]
As for it being a result of the sins (of the people), Allaah (The Mighty and Majestic) said in His Noble Book:
[وَمَا أَصَابَكُمْ مِنْ مُصِيبَةٍ فَبِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِيكُمْ وَيَعْفُو عَنْ كَثِيرٍ – And whatever of misfortune befalls you, it is because of what your hands have earned. And He pardons much]. [Soorah Ash-Shoorah: Ayah:30]
He (The Most High) said: [ذَٰلِكَ أَنْ لَمْ يَكُنْ رَبُّكَ مُهْلِكَ الْقُرَىٰ بِظُلْمٍ وَأَهْلُهَا غَافِلُونَ – This is because your Lord would not destroy the (populations of) towns for their wrong-doing (i.e. associating others in worship along with Allah) while their people were unaware (so the Messengers were sent).” [Soorah An-An’aam: Ayah: 131]
And He (The Most High) said: [وَمَا كَانَ رَبُّكَ لِيُهْلِكَ الْقُرَىٰ بِظُلْمٍ وَأَهْلُهَا مُصْلِحُونَ – And your Lord would never destroy the towns wrongfully, while their people were right-doers]. [Soorah Hud: Ayah: 117]
And He (The Most High) said:
وَكَمْ أَهْلَكْنَا مِنْ قَرْيَةٍ بَطِرَتْ مَعِيشَتَهَا ۖ فَتِلْكَ مَسَاكِنُهُمْ لَمْ تُسْكَنْ مِنْ بَعْدِهِمْ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا ۖ وَكُنَّا نَحْنُ الْوَارِثِينَ
وَمَا كَانَ رَبُّكَ مُهْلِكَ الْقُرَىٰ حَتَّىٰ يَبْعَثَ فِي أُمِّهَا رَسُولًا يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِنَا ۚ وَمَا كُنَّا مُهْلِكِي الْقُرَىٰ إِلَّا وَأَهْلُهَا ظَالِمُونَ
And how many a town (population) have We destroyed, which were thankless for its means of livelihood (disobeyed Allah, and His Messengers, by doing evil deeds and crimes) ! And those are their dwellings, which have not been inhabited after them except a little. And verily! We have been the inheritors. And never will your Lord destroy the towns (populations) until He sends to their mother town a Messenger reciting to them Our Verses. And never would We destroy the towns unless the people thereof are Zalimun (polytheists, wrong-doers, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah, oppressors and tyrants). [Surah Al-Qasas: Ayah:58-59]
He (The Most High) said:
وَضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا قَرْيَةً كَانَتْ آمِنَةً مُطْمَئِنَّةً يَأْتِيهَا رِزْقُهَا رَغَدًا مِنْ كُلِّ مَكَانٍ فَكَفَرَتْ بِأَنْعُمِ اللَّهِ فَأَذَاقَهَا اللَّهُ لِبَاسَ الْجُوعِ وَالْخَوْفِ بِمَا كَانُوا يَصْنَعُونَ
And Allah puts forward the example of a township (Makkah), that dwelt secure and well content; its provision coming to it in abundance from every place, but it (its people) denied the Favours of Allah (with ungratefulness). So Allah made it taste the extreme of hunger (famine) and fear, because of that (evil, i.e. denying Prophet Muhammad ) which they (its people) used to do.” [Soorah An-Nahl: Ayah:112]
He (The Most High) said:
لَقَدْ كَانَ لِسَبَإٍ فِي مَسْكَنِهِمْ آيَةٌ ۖ جَنَّتَانِ عَنْ يَمِينٍ وَشِمَالٍ ۖ كُلُوا مِنْ رِزْقِ رَبِّكُمْ وَاشْكُرُوا لَهُ ۚ بَلْدَةٌ طَيِّبَةٌ وَرَبٌّ غَفُورٌ
فَأَعْرَضُوا فَأَرْسَلْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ سَيْلَ الْعَرِمِ وَبَدَّلْنَاهُمْ بِجَنَّتَيْهِمْ جَنَّتَيْنِ ذَوَاتَيْ أُكُلٍ خَمْطٍ وَأَثْلٍ وَشَيْءٍ مِنْ سِدْرٍ قَلِيلٍ
ذَٰلِكَ جَزَيْنَاهُمْ بِمَا كَفَرُوا ۖ وَهَلْ نُجَازِي إِلَّا الْكَفُورَ
Indeed there was for Saba’ (Sheba) a sign in their dwelling place, – two gardens on the right hand and on the left (and it was said to them) “Eat of the provision of your Lord, and be grateful to Him, a fair land and an Oft-Forgiving Lord. But they turned away (from the obedience of Allah), so We sent against them Sail Al-‘Arim (flood released from the dam), and We converted their two gardens into gardens producing bitter bad fruit, and tamarisks, and some few lote-trees. Like this We requited them because they were ungrateful disbelievers. And never do We requit in such a way except those who are ungrateful, (disbelievers).” [Surah Saba Aayaat: 15-17]
إِنَّ قَارُونَ كَانَ مِنْ قَوْمِ مُوسَىٰ فَبَغَىٰ عَلَيْهِمْ ۖ وَآتَيْنَاهُ مِنَ الْكُنُوزِ مَا إِنَّ مَفَاتِحَهُ لَتَنُوءُ بِالْعُصْبَةِ أُولِي الْقُوَّةِ إِذْ قَالَ لَهُ قَوْمُهُ لَا تَفْرَحْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ الْفَرِحِينَ
Verily, Qarun (Korah) was of Musa’s (Moses) people, but he behaved arrogantly towards them. And We gave him of the treasures, that of which the keys would have been a burden to a body of strong men. When his people said to him: “Do not be glad (with ungratefulness to Allah’s Favours). Verily! Allah likes not those who are glad (with ungratefulness to Allah’s Favours).
َابْتَغِ فِيمَا آتَاكَ اللَّهُ الدَّارَ الْآخِرَةَ ۖ وَلَا تَنْسَ نَصِيبَكَ مِنَ الدُّنْيَا ۖ وَأَحْسِنْ كَمَا أَحْسَنَ اللَّهُ إِلَيْكَ ۖ وَلَا تَبْغِ الْفَسَادَ فِي الْأَرْضِ ۖ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُحِبُّ الْمُفْسِدِينَ
But seek, with that (wealth) which Allah has bestowed on you, the home of the Hereafter, and forget not your portion of legal enjoyment in this world, and do good as Allah has been good to you, and seek not mischief in the land. Verily, Allah likes not the Mufsidun (those who commit great crimes and sins, oppressors, tyrants, mischief-makers, corrupts).
قَالَ إِنَّمَا أُوتِيتُهُ عَلَىٰ عِلْمٍ عِنْدِي ۚ أَوَلَمْ يَعْلَمْ أَنَّ اللَّهَ قَدْ أَهْلَكَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِ مِنَ الْقُرُونِ مَنْ هُوَ أَشَدُّ مِنْهُ قُوَّةً وَأَكْثَرُ جَمْعًا ۚ وَلَا يُسْأَلُ عَنْ ذُنُوبِهِمُ الْمُجْرِمُونَ
He said: “This has been given to me only because of knowledge I possess.” Did he not know that Allah had destroyed before him generations, men who were stronger than him in might and greater in the amount (of riches) they had collected. But the Mujrimun (criminals, disbelievers, polytheists, sinners, etc.) will not be questioned of their sins (because Allah knows them well, so they will be punished without account).
فَخَرَجَ عَلَىٰ قَوْمِهِ فِي زِينَتِهِ ۖ قَالَ الَّذِينَ يُرِيدُونَ الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا يَا لَيْتَ لَنَا مِثْلَ مَا أُوتِيَ قَارُونُ إِنَّهُ لَذُو حَظٍّ عَظِيمٍ
So he went forth before his people in his pomp. Those who were desirous of the life of the world, said: “Ah, would that we had the like of what Qarun (Korah) has been given? Verily! He is the owner of a great fortune.
وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْعِلْمَ وَيْلَكُمْ ثَوَابُ اللَّهِ خَيْرٌ لِمَنْ آمَنَ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا وَلَا يُلَقَّاهَا إِلَّا الصَّابِرُونَ
But those who had been given (religious) knowledge said: “Woe to you! The Reward of Allah (in the Hereafter) is better for those who believe and do righteous good deeds, and this none shall attain except those who are patient (in following the truth).”
فَخَسَفْنَا بِهِ وَبِدَارِهِ الْأَرْضَ فَمَا كَانَ لَهُ مِنْ فِئَةٍ يَنْصُرُونَهُ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ وَمَا كَانَ مِنَ الْمُنْتَصِرِينَ
So We caused the earth to swallow him and his dwelling place. Then he had no group or party to help him against Allah, nor was he one of those who could save themselves.
َأَصْبَحَ الَّذِينَ تَمَنَّوْا مَكَانَهُ بِالْأَمْسِ يَقُولُونَ وَيْكَأَنَّ اللَّهَ يَبْسُطُ الرِّزْقَ لِمَنْ يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ وَيَقْدِرُ ۖ لَوْلَا أَنْ مَنَّ اللَّهُ عَلَيْنَا لَخَسَفَ بِنَا ۖ وَيْكَأَنَّهُ لَا يُفْلِحُ الْكَافِرُونَ
And those who had desired (for a position like) his position the day before, began to say: “Know you not that it is Allah Who enlarges the provision or restricts it to whomsoever He pleases of His slaves. Had it not been that Allah was Gracious to us, He could have caused the earth to swallow us up (also)! Know you not that the disbelievers will never be successful. [Surah Al-Qasas: Aayaat: 76-82]
And He (The Most High) said:
فَكُلًّا أَخَذْنَا بِذَنْبِهِ ۖ فَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ أَرْسَلْنَا عَلَيْهِ حَاصِبًا وَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ أَخَذَتْهُ الصَّيْحَةُ وَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ خَسَفْنَا بِهِ الْأَرْضَ وَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ أَغْرَقْنَا ۚ وَمَا كَانَ اللَّهُ لِيَظْلِمَهُمْ وَلَٰكِنْ كَانُوا أَنْفُسَهُمْ يَظْلِمُونَ
So We punished each (of them) for his sins, of them were some on whom We sent Hasiban (a violent wind with shower of stones) [as the people of Lout (Lot)], and of them were some who were overtaken by As-Saihah [torment – awful cry, etc. (as Thamud or Shu’aib’s people)], and of them were some whom We caused the earth to swallow [as Qarun (Korah)], and of them were some whom We drowned [as the people of Nuh (Noah), or Fir’aun (Pharaoh) and his people]. It was not Allah Who wronged them, but they wronged themselves. [Soorah Al-Ankaboot: Ayah: 40] [An Excerpt from ‘Al-Makhraj Minal Fitan’. page:161]
[Ref 1: Excerpt from ‘Mu’jam Al-Manaahee Lil Laf’dhiyyah’ page 34. slightly paraphrased. Publisher: Daar Al-Aasimah. 3rd edition 1996]
[Ref 2: Excerpt from ‘Al-Haqeeqatus Shar’iyyah Fee Tafseeril Qur’aan Al-A’dheem Was-Sunnatin Nabawiyyah’ page 17. slightly paraphrased]