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)

Pearls of Peace – An Extract from Surah Taubah

perla negraWe now begin Surah At-Taubah. Since it begins with the mention of Allah’s (swt) anger and wrath, we notice that unlike other Surahs it does not begin with Bismillah. May Allah (swt) not deprive us of His mercy and forgiveness. Ameen.

Be cautious – this world deceives

Again, there is a reminder to not to get deceived by the treasures of this world such as wealth and children. He says, So let not their wealth or their children amaze you (O Muhammad (sa)); in reality Allah’s Plan is to punish them with these things in the life of the this world, and that their souls shall depart (die) while they are disbelievers.” (At-Taubah 9:55) May Allah (swt) make our wealth and children a source of comfort for us and means for entering Jannah. May these blessings don’t pave our way to destruction. Ameen.

Beware of mocking Allah (swt) and His Messenger (sa)

Then there is a warning against mocking Allah (swt), His Messenger (sa) and His verses. The hypocrites would come in Prophet’s (sa) gathering, give their verbal acknowledgement to whatever they learnt and when they met each other in private, they would confess their disagreement. Each time that happened, Allah (swt) would reveal their true condition to Prophet (sa). Sometimes, we receive jokes about heaven and hell, the angels and other matters of the Unseen. We read them and laugh with our friends and family. Allah (swt) says, “If you ask them (about this), they declare: We were only talking idly and joking. Say: Was it at Allah, and His verses (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) and His Messenger (sa) that you were mocking?” (At-Taubah 9:65)

This is not something to be taken casually; read what Allah (swt) says next about such people, “Make no excuse; you have disbelieved after you had believed. If We pardon some of you, We will punish others amongst you because they were Mujrimun (disbelievers, polytheists, sinners, criminals, etc.)” (At-Taubah 9:66) Such a person is out of the folds of Islam. A Muslim leads a conscious life; he doesn’t get carried away by what’s happening around him. Delete such a message and reply them back with this verse. It could be that they don’t even know this verse is there in the Quran.

Heedfulness or hypocrisy?

Among the many traits of hypocrites, one is that they will not leave anyone without defaming and ridiculing him in all circumstances, even those who give away charity. If, for instance, someone gives away a large amount, the hypocrites say that he is showing off. If someone gives away a small amount, they say that Allah (swt) stands not in need of this man’s charity. Al-Awfi narrates from Ibn Abbas (ra) that one day while the Prophet (sa) was collecting charity, a man brought a Sa’ of dates (a small measure of food grains). He said, “O Messenger of Allah (swt)! This is a Sa’ of dates. I spent the night bringing water and earned two Sa’ of dates for my work. I kept one Sa’ and brought you the other Sa’.” The Prophet (sa) ordered him to add it to the charity. The hypocrites standing their commented that Allah (swt) and His Messenger are not in need of such small charity. What benefit could it bring? After that, came a rich man who wanted to give four thousand Dirhams in the way of Allah (swt). About him the hypocrites said that he gave this much amount to show off. It is the characteristic of Allah (swt) that He exposes those who lie and defame His righteous believers.

Hence this verse was revealed, “Those who defame such of the believers who give charity (in Allah’s Cause) voluntarily, and those who could not find to give charity (in Allah’s Cause) except what is available to them, so they mock at them (believers), Allah will throw back their mockery on them, and they shall have a painful torment.” (At-Taubah 9:79) A small or huge contribution does not matter. What matters is the person’s sincerity and that his wealth was earned from Halal means.

Sincerity in charity

Talking about sincerity, sometimes when we want something, we passionately make Dua and put a condition in it. We say, “O Allah (swt)! If such and such happens, I will be regular in my prayers,” or “I will give some particular amount in charity.” You know what is better than this? That we make ourselves punctual in our prayers and gave Sadaqah out of our willingness rather than putting a condition on it. Why treat Allah (swt) like a baby who you can trick with a candy for getting some work done? Allah (swt) says, “And of them are some who made a covenant with Allah (saying): If He bestowed on us of His Bounty, we will verily, give Sadaqah (Zakat and voluntary charity in Allah’s Cause) and will be certainly among those who are righteous. (At-Taubah 9:75). Know that if one can cheat their Maker, they can cheat anyone. May Allah (swt) forgive us and correct what is wrong within us. Ameen.

Zakat – an obligatory charity

Allah (swt) says, “Take Sadaqah (alms) from their wealth in order to purify them and sanctify them with it, and invoke Allah for them. Verily! Your invocations are a source of security for them, and Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower.” (At-Taubah 9:103) This command is about the obligatory charity that is Zakat. Zakat is a means for purification and increment of one’s wealth. Therefore, do not be stingy with your Zakat. How can we protect ourselves from the Fitnah of stinginess? By knowing that the wealth that Allah (swt) has given us is not ours to keep. He gave us this wealth so that we could spend it in His cause, helping the needy and the poor. Note that in the verse, the Prophet (sa) has been instructed to make Dua after collecting the Zakat. What does this teach us? It teaches us that when one is collecting donations or charity, he should make Dua for the well-being of donor. The Prophet (sa) prayed in the following words:


بَارَكَ اللهُ لَكَ فِيمَا أَمْسَكْتَ وَفِيمَا أَعْطَيْت

“May Allah bless you for what you kept and what you gave away.” (Ibn Katheer) Such a statement will act as a reassurance for the donors and encourage them to contribute in future as well. Insha’Allah.

Levels of believers

Now we learn about the levels of believers, Allah (swt) says, “And the first to embrace Islam of the Muhajirun (those who migrated from Makkah to Al-Madinah) and the Ansar (the citizens of Al-Madinah who helped and gave aid to the Muhajirun) and also those who followed them exactly (in Faith). Allah is well-pleased with them as they are well-pleased with Him. He has prepared for them Gardens under which rivers flow (Paradise), to dwell therein forever. That is the supreme success.” (At-Taubah 9:100) Look at their honour. We need to be very careful about what we say about the Companions and the righteous slaves of Allah (swt). We must ask Allah (swt) to bless us with the company of His righteous servants, so that we may aspire to raise our status in the Hereafter, Insha’Allah. Allah (swt) says, “O you who believe! Be afraid of Allah, and be with those who are true (in words and deeds).” (At-Taubah 9:119)

One is known by the company he keeps. It either guarantees one peace or snatches it away. However, good company promises goodness. An evil company only increases us in evilness. Reflect on your social circle. Are they bringing you closer to Allah (swt) or only distancing you further? If it’s the latter, do not be shy to break away from them or at least maintain minimal contact. Your Iman and Hereafter is more important than anything else in this fleeting world.

Diversity in Ummah

Then we learn about the diversity in Ummah, “And it is not (proper) for the believers to go out to fight (Jihad) all together. Of every troop of them, a party only should go forth, that they (who are left behind) may get instructions in (Islamic) religion, and that they may warn their people when they return to them, so that they may beware (of evil).” (At-Taubah 9:122) Some people will go out to fight. Some will stay back to teach Quran and matters of religion. This is a great encouragement, especially for the women. Women sometimes feel their task is limited to raising children and managing the house. Allah (swt) has honoured women greatly with these responsibilities. The little Momins, Insha’Allah, will be tomorrow’s scholars and soldiers of Islam. By staying at home, you can focus on your association with the Quran, learn it, live by it and teach it to others. In Islam, no one’s role is insignificant. We make it trivial only by our thoughts. Change your thinking and reflect on your skills: How can I contribute in Allah’s (swt) way.

We have been talking about the certainty of tests in one’s life; in Surah At-Taubah Allah (swt) gives us reminders regarding afflictions. He says, “See they not that they are tried once or twice every year (with different kinds of calamities, disease, famine, etc.)? Yet, they turn not in repentance, nor do they learn a lesson (from it)” (At-Taubah 9:126)

Why does Allah’s (swt) test us?

The purpose is that a person may draw himself closer to Allah (swt). There is nothing more that Allah (swt) appreciates than a servant being engaged in Astaghfar. Astaghfar does not mean that you are a sinful person. The Prophet (sa), who was the best being ever lived on the earth, used to seek Allah’s (swt) forgiveness 70 – 100 times a day.

Allah (swt) describes His Prophet (sa)

As we are talking about Muhammad (sa), let’s see how Allah (swt) describes him, “Verily, there has come unto you a Messenger (Muhammad (sa)) from amongst yourselves (i.e. whom you know well). It grieves him that you should receive any injury or difficulty. He (Muhammad (sa)) is anxious over you (to be rightly guided, to repent to Allah, and beg Him to pardon and forgive your sins, in order that you may enter Paradise and be saved from the punishment of the Hell-fire), for the believers (he (sa) is) full of pity, kind, and merciful.” (At-Taubah 9:128)

Here we need to ask ourselves three questions:

  1. Are we kind and merciful to one another?
  2. Do we grieve over the sufferings of one another?
  3. Are we concerned about one another?

Again we are reminded of good conduct. If others do not reciprocate kindness then say, “Hasbiya Allahula ilaha illa huwa alayhi tawakkaltu wa huwa rabbu al-arshi al-atheem (Allah is sufficient for me. La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He), in Him I put my trust and He is the Lord of the Mighty Throne.)” Surah At-Taubah ends at this Dua. These words should be part of our daily remembrance of Allah (swt).

May He open up our hearts and minds to give Him our very best. Ameen.

(Adapted from Mufti Ismail Menk’s “Pearls of Peace” series, Cape Town, Ramadan 2013. The lecture can be listened to at this link.)