Why do bad things happen?

question mark with speech bubles, vector on the abstract backgroundAfter preparing for lunch and dinner, and cleaning up, I was fully tired.

I grabbed my eleven month old along with three years old and entered the room to find a messy sheet; a room with toys scattered everywhere. How exhausted I was!

I was thinking how to fold the huge pile of clothes lying in a corner.

Cell beeps…

It was a message saying that there was an earth quake all over Pakistan.

Fear shook me off; some sensations ran down my spine and my legs felt so weak.

I realized that I had postponed my Dhuhr prayer to complete the house chores.

In anguish and awe, I rushed to perform Wudu and prayed. The prayer was different from the ones before. As if the earthquake had shaken me away from my endorsed life full with materialism and worldly affairs.

One thing occupied my mind, what if I die under the rubble of my fallen house? What will I be taking with me to my grave? Have I prepared enough? Am I satisfied with standing in front of Allah (swt)?  The answers were surely not affirmative.

We believe that we are safe. It’s happening with the rest of our country, and in farfetched areas. It cannot touch us, nor can it harm us, neither can it leave us devastated.

Whenever I think of the Makkah crane crash, it leaves me perplexed and astonished. As in my perception, nothing bad can happen to good people- especially not in the holy place like Haram; and moreover, not when performing Tawaf or offering prayers. So why does it happen? Why it happened to them? Were they not pious? Why the blessings (Rehma) of Allah (swt) did not wrap them safe and sound?

When a calamity strikes, we often comment in the shade of our distorted belief. For instance- a lady dies of fatal illness with severe pain; we say it is because Allah (swt) is angry at her as she was horrible towards her mother. A kid fell off the stairs; we say because he did not listen to his father’s plead to finish his homework.

So why do bad things happen?

Allah’s (swt) Plan

It is Allah’s (swt) Plan to test the believers- to test the strength of their faith and belief.

And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to As-Sabirin (the patient ones, etc.)” (Al-Baqarah 2:155)

The soul detox

Allah (swt) wants to clean your bad side and detox your soul.

 And whatever of misfortune befalls you, it is because of what your hands have earned. And He pardons much.” (Ash-Shura 42:30)

 A reminder

Hardship and adversity are also reminders for people who tend to take things for granted and forget all of Allah’s (swt) blessing- Humans are ungrateful by nature.

And when We show favour to man, he withdraws and turns away, but when evil touches him, then he has recourse to long supplications.” (Fussilat 41:51)

Wake-up call

We are overly absorbed in the worldly affairs and competing to excel in the worldly matters.

But when He delivered them, behold! They rebel (disobey Allah) in the earth wrongfully. O mankind! Your rebellion (disobedience to Allah) is only against your ownselves, – a brief enjoyment of this worldly life, then (in the end) unto Us is your return, and We shall inform you that which you used to do.” (Yunus 10:23)

Reliance is only on Allah (swt)

We often forget Allah’s (swt) authority; hence we turn to other resources and people for support and help. Nothing happens without His will. He says be and it is. We are powerless and submissive.

O mankind! it is you who stand in need of Allah, but Allah is Rich (Free of all wants and needs), Worthy of all praise.” (Fatir 35:15)

Things to remember when a calamity hits you down

  • Allah (swt) is not punishing you; its devil’s trick to discourage and distract you.
  • Be patient over what befalls you.
  • Give charity (Sadaqah) as much as you can.
  • [9:103] take from their money a ‘sadaqa’ (charity) to purify and sanctify them. And encourage them, for your encouragement reassures them. God is Hearer, Omniscient.
  • Al-Musibah is term to hit where it is supposed to be. There is no chain of cause and effect. All incidents are individual.
  • Be hopeful as it is said in Surah Baqarah, congratulate the patient ones (Sabireen). Reward is with Allah- Jannah!


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When the Earth Shook

CHILE-EARHTQUAKEIt was a lazy April afternoon when people had just finished their lunch. Some lied down to rest. Those at work returned to their desks. Around 3 pm, the ground began shaking. People got out of their rooms, looked at one another and had one question on their tongues: “Did you feel it?” Television set was switched on, quickly selecting the news channels and then flipping between several to get the clearest and most detailed report. It was confirmed. A major earthquake had struck Pakistan.

The family looked at each other. What should we do? I peeped out of the window. I saw people gathering up in open space. I recalled the earthquake of 2005, when disaster management teams advised to stay at one place, until tremors settled. I suggested we take cover under wooden structures and frames. We sat back at our places, tongues moving swiftly in Dhikr (words of remembrance). Horrified, people made intense Duas to the All-Powerful to make the tremors stop. Objects nearby were shaking and thus increasing our fear. We were certain Allah (swt) will not punish us. In our hearts, we knew we didn’t deserve His mercy after all that we have done. We hoped for another chance. Just one more chance. Like we always do.

The ground kept shaking. Text messages were pouring in, asking if we were alright. We wondered if it was time to say our final goodbyes. We were hanging between life and death. Seeing death so near, we hastily made Duas for our forgiveness.

Everything around us – the sun, the moon, the trees, the birds, the earth that we walk upon – haughtily will testify either for or against us. What will it say about me?

I had recently completed the Tafsir (exegesis) of Surah Az-Zalzalah (the Earthquake). Its words echoed in my head: “When the earth is shaken with its (final) earthquake. And when the earth throws out of its burdens. And man will say: What is the matter with it?” (Az-Zalzalah 99:1-3)

And here we were sitting. Staring at the ground below us, wondering what was the matter with it. Why does it not stop?

The Most Merciful then did His thing. His Rahmah (mercy) took over, and He commanded the earth to stop shaking. Life returned to our hearts.

I returned my attention to Surah Az-Zalzalah and the Day of Resurrection. The Day, when the earth is stretched forth (Quran 84:3) and is ground to powder (Quran 89:21). That Day the earth will declare its information (about all that happened over it of good or evil). (Quran 99:4)

I shuddered. I was not prepared to die. I did not want the earth to reveal my information.

Yet, it will. Everything around us – the sun, the moon, the trees, the birds, the earth that we walk upon – haughtily will testify either for or against us. What will it say about me?

I had a swift flashback. I had done nothing that I could say would save me from the terrors of that Day. On that overwhelming Day, some faces will be humiliated and some joyful (Quran 88:2, 8). How will my face be? The Day, when all secrets will be examined (Quran 86:9), and man will be handed his record. There will be those, who will be given their records in their right hands. They will receive their records and rush to their families sharing their joy with them (Quran 84:7). Others will be given their records behind their backs (Quran 84:10), because it contains nothing to be joyful about. In which hand will I receive my record?

As I looked back at the television screen, the reporter was giving details of the earthquake. It was a 7.8 magnitude quake. Analysts feared had it continued for a few more seconds, everything in Karachi would have perished. In another window, the channel showed clips of LIVE scenes: people leaving their offices to stand in the open space.

And I was struck again.

Where was it? Where was the feeling that we just felt?

People were happily chatting. They were exiting the elevators with cheerful faces. It seemed, as if we did not just feel Allah’s power followed by His Rahmah but an ‘adventure.’

It seemed, as if we did not just feel Allah’s power followed by His Rahmah but an ‘adventure.’

It was time for the Asr (late afternoon) prayer. Parents still had to raise their voice reminding to pray. The practicing ones were reminding their colleagues to rush for the congregational prayer. The mosques were still half empty.

I was ashamed. Who were we? When the calamity was off our heads, we returned to our usual state? Even an earthquake that was certain to perish us could not fix us?

It is as Allah (swt) says:“Then after that you turned away. Had it not been for the Grace and Mercy of Allah upon you, indeed you would have been among the losers.” (Quran 2:64)

“O man! Verily, you are returning towards your Lord – with your deeds and actions (good or bad), — a sure returning, and you will meet (the results of your deeds which you did).” (Quran 84:6)

Hope and Fear

Vol 2 -Issue 4 Hope & FearA true believer is like a bird flying with two wings. One constitutes fear and the other hope. Analyzing the optimistic side, concerning the colossal tragedy that struck Pakistan, one may find solace in Prophet’s (sa) Hadeeth narrated by Abu Huraira (rta): “The martyrs are of five kinds: One who dies of plague, one who dies of disease of his belly, the drowned, one who dies under the debris (of construction, etc.), and one who dies while fighting in the way of Allah.” (Bukhari and Muslim) This is the reward for all God fearing Momins.

The Prophet (sa) has also said: “There are three (kinds of people) whose actions are not recorded: a sleeper until he awakens, a boy (referring to children) until he reaches puberty, and a lunatic until he comes to reason.” (Abu Dawood) We can earnestly pray that all the innocent children, who were crushed to death, find the everlasting peace in Paradise, Insha’Allah.

Incidentally, in August 2005, I was up in the same mountains, relishing the beauty of North Pakistan that is beyond words. Had I not been there, I would probably have never felt this grief, guilt, and anger, which I feel today.

Even prior to the earthquake, these people had harsh lives with no electricity, gas, and other heating equipment, especially during winters that lasted nearly six months. Last year, they had 17&1/2 ft. of snow. Their survival depended on chopping down trees for firewood and sincere prayers to Allah (swt). Among the many monstrous glaciers that rolled down taking along everybody and everything on their way, stood adamantly one that was still intact even in the heat of August summer.

In remote areas, the roads were no better than they are today, in the aftermath of the earthquake. We were driving at 30 km per hour, which was ‘jet speed.’ Our mobile phones rested in peace due to no signals. We had travelled to another time zone. The medieval times these mountain dwellers lived in made me forget that Pakistan was actually created 58 years ago. For the poor, time had frozen at the top of the mountains, while life, growth, and investments moved forward in the metropolitan areas of the country.

Apparently the habitants prayed regularly, thanked Allah (swt) for His blessings, offered sincere hospitality, and refused any kind of monetary assistance feeling offended.

No mortal can decipher Allah’s (swt) plans however this earthquake could have meant different things for different people. For some it was purification from their sins, for some it was a punishment from Allah (swt) and for spectators such as us, it was a stern warning to quit transgressing and return to the path of Allah (swt).

Allah (swt) states: “Do you feel secure that He, Who is over the heaven (Allah), will not cause the earth to sink with you, and then it should quake? Or do you feel secure that He, Who is over the heaven (Allah), will not send against you a violent whirlwind? Then you shall know how (terrible) was My Warning.” (Al-Mulk 67:16-17)

Quran also states: “And whatever of misfortune befalls you, it is because of what your hands have earned…” (Ash-Shurah 42:30)

The killer earthquake swallowed one hundred thousand lives, rendered three hundred thousand homeless, and traumatically billed the government for a loss worth billions of US Dollars. The silver lining to the cloud was the eager spirit of community service that rose from the ashes. It felt good to see strangers going the extra mile to care for the injured and bury the dead. The nation united as one. It was Allah’s mercy that got instilled in our hearts of stone. It was Him, Who sent us relief. The Quran states: “Verily, along with every hardship is relief.” (Ash-Sharh 94:5)

However, the ground reality is still quite sticky. Major cities of Pakistan continue to be rocked every now and then, sending a chill down everyone’s spine. For the Friday (Jummah prayers) following the earthquake, the government announced an official nation wide day of repentance. In all Jummah prayers of that day, Muslims were to seek the forgiveness of Allah (swt). But I just wonder is a day’s repentance sufficient for a lifetime’s sins? Isn’t it about time that we mend our ways for good and start a new?

The International Red Cross released a World Disaster Report for 2005, stating that 360 natural disasters had been counted in 2004 in comparison with 239 in 1995. 901,177 people lost their lives in the last ten years, compared to 643,418 people in the previous decade. Their explanation for the rise in these figures is simply the growth of population.

The scientific and logical explanations to such phenomenon absolve people from their responsibilities and generate excuses, such as population density, poor infrastructure, etc. These are Satan’s devices to prevent people from a deeper introspection. We are so consumed by figuring out the scientific and superficial causes of these disasters that we forget we consist of not just bodies but also souls. Like it or not but every soul has to return to Allah (swt) eventually.

A dear friend of mine commented: “If everybody admits that this was a natural disaster, who is the Owner and the Creator of nature?” Do we not even want to think for a moment that this could have been the penalty of our wrongdoings? May Allah (swt) help us, if the rotting corpses don’t revive our faith and pull us out of this state of denial.

Allah (swt) destroyed all previous nations due to some highlighted sin of theirs, such as trade malpractices in the people of Madyan, arrogance among the followers of Firoun, etc. If today we were asked to conduct an individual self-appraisal, alarmingly, we would find multiple sins prevalent in our lives, for which entire generations were wiped out earlier.

For many of us who think Allah’s (swt) wrath is only for the heedless and we are ever so pious should consider the following Hadeeth narrated by Aisha (rta). Allah’s Messenger (sa) said: “An army will invade the Ka’ba and when the invaders reach Al-Baida’, all the ground will sink and swallow the whole army.” Aisha (rta) inquired: “O Allah’s Messenger! How will they sink into the ground while amongst them will be their markets (the people who worked in business and not invaders) and the people not belonging to them?” The Prophet (sa) replied: “All of those will sink but they will be resurrected and judged according to their intentions.” (Bukhari)

Religion is no personal matter for Pakistanis anymore. Its time for every responsible believer to enjoin good and forbid evil if he wants to salvage himself. History proves if a nation indulges too deep in sins, no one will be spared. We have to be mindful, however, that we can be the next ones bearing the brunt of another natural disaster, God forbid.

Scaling the Mountains

Vol 2 -Issue 4 Scaling the MountainsThe earth rattled fiercely and the mountains split up. Sudden and gradual deaths struck. News started to pour; some glued themselves to the TV praying earnestly, while others leapt forward to extend whatever help they could. Debates aside, something this earthquake has proven is that a Muslim is a fighter and he rises to the occasion in the hour of need. Countless youth flocked to the mountains to give and find hope in the rubbles. The same youth, who are called ‘reckless’ and considered ‘a risky investment’ of the future, proved everyone wrong. Only Allah proved them right!

Faysal Subhani, a teenage volunteer from Karachi, reports about Balakot:

The week I spent with the Kashmiri earthquake victims changed the way I looked at life. Sure, my mom had been telling me things all my life but for the first time, it actually hit me! Kids wrapped up in their own superficial little worlds fail to look around and understand that there is more to life than cell phones, girls, concerts and cars. There are people out there, who need us. You can be a millionaire one moment and live in a tent the next.

When I saw the aggrieved relatives sobbing for their lost ones, I realized that family is an amazing gift from Allah (swt).

The tragedy took the lives of many young people – I realized that I can die any time. We don’t know the time of our death, so we should be prepared for meeting Allah (swt).

Many think Islam is a religion with no capacity for fun. The people I traveled with, the so-called Mullahs, were continuously cracking Halal jokes, yet became serious, when it came to work. I had more fun with them, than I sometimes do with my friends.

The trip had its ups and downs. The low points were: seeing Balakot flattened (I’ve been there before and was quite attached to its hustle and bustle) and reading Janaza for two girls. The highs were getting a traumatized child, Jawwad, to lighten up. Also, there’s nothing like performing the Eid prayers and listening to a mind blowing Khutbah in the open mountains beside a river. This was an Eid to remember!

Sehr Rasmir Nawaz, an 18 years old student from R.L.A.K. College of Home Economics, reports about Muzzafarabad:

This was the first time in life, when I planned to go for a mission that I wanted to accomplish. All what we could see was a devastating destruction and injured people with broken families.

The stories we heard were heart fretting. Alarmingly, even after experiencing what could be Allah`s (swt) anger, some people still didn’t learn the lesson. For example, a box was found with chopped, women`s hands which were filled with bangles.

My heart broke, and I could not stop crying seeing a dead body of a little girl, which was found after 28 days. There are no words to express my feelings – nothing could be seen except bones, hair, and a rotting face. May Allah (swt) have His Mercy on all, Ameen.

Signs before the Hour strikes!

In less than a year the world has witnessed unimaginable devastation. South Asian tsunamis, American hurricane Katrina, and recently the most gruesome earthquake that struck Pakistan. Whether it is global warming, substandard infrastructure or poor disaster management plans, Allah’s anger cannot be ruled out as an obvious reason to these catastrophes. Especially since we know the rapid speed of evil engulfing everyone, everywhere.

Narrated Abu Hurairah (rta) the Prophet, (sa) said: “The Hour will not happen until knowledge is taken out, time passes quickly, earthquakes increase in number, tribulations (Fitan) appear, and Al-Harj increases in number.” It was asked: “What is Al-Harj, O Rasoolullah (sa)?” He said: “Al-Qatl, Al-Qatl (Killing).” (Ahmed)

It is evident that all the above signs are appearing consistently. Now is the time to turn to Allah (swt) and submit to Him. Allah never lets down a sincere believer, Insha’Allah!