Monday, October 10, 2005

Is Earthquake God's Wrath?

It was the early days of Hurricane Katrina and the images of poor black Americans in dire conditions filled the TV screens. At that time I ran into a very patriotic Iraqi friend of mine.

"This hurricane is from Allah." He said. "The Americans are destroying one of our cities. Now Allah is destroying theirs."

The first of his statements was not open to debate. All things, good or bad, ARE from God. But I argued with him about his second statement.

"One cannot presume to know why Allah does what He does." I said. "These things happen, and its not always a cause-and-effect morality system. You cannot say this is because of that."

He was not alone in blaming the hurricane on the sins of Americans. Alabama State Senator Hank Erwin said the damage done by Katrina was God's wrath on a sinful coast. I am so glad I did not take that position because today, as the earthquake in Pakistan's death toll crosses 20,000, I would like to ask my friend what was his explanation for this natural disaster.

The racists at Little Green Footballs did not even pause.

"Where's your God now?" Taunted one.

"We had a hurricane that killed 1000 people." Said a more mathematical one. "You had a tsunami with 200,000 dead and now an earthquake with 20,000. That's 2-1 for our God."

Ignoring the fact that both Muslims and Christians worship the same God of Abraham, natural disasters are now being turned into a one-upmanGodship .

"If God loves a servant, he sends tribulation upon him," so goes a Hadith in Islam. The saying has always pointed to the parable of Job in the Bible (Ayub in Islam - peace be upon him) who suffered through decades of disease but kept his faith in God. In Islam those who die in a natural calamity are accorded the status of martyrs. I am told Christianity has something similar. For those left behind, a tragedy of this scope is a reminder of God's power and our own mortality.

If you still believe disasters are due to our sins, look at these natural calamities.
- For the first 300 years after Jesus, any Christian in the Roman Empire was subject to persecution.
- Moses' (Musa in Islam - peace be upon him) people were bound in slavery for decades.
- Severe draught afflicting the Muslim empire during Omar (R) 's time.
- and many more (trials and hardships of Joseph (Yusuf), Jacob (Yaqub), Jonah (Yunus) and so on).

As we can see, earthquakes, tsunamis and the like affected those before us, the best of us. And now it affects us. And it will affect those after us. If God is indeed sending a tribulation on those He loves, then He must love both the American Christians and the Pakistani Muslims, as we know He does.


Shabina said...

Ameen, brotha!

I was at a dinner on Saturday where the speaker expressed disgust for people's non-compassionate responses to natural disasters.

He said Katrina revealed all the flaws in the U.S. system, all the racism and classism and broken promises of our gov't. It wasn't to punish the people.

iA these tragedies will bring us all closer to Allah (SWT) as they remind us that the Angel of Death could come for any of us at any time...

katy said...

I was once reminded that according to a Christian interpretation of the New Testament of the Bible Earth is not in fact God's domain. It belongs to Lucifer. In a different view, having nothing to do with the devil, the Earth is a transitory place for us humans. It sucks to live here and life is hard. However, if we strive to help others and do good work over bad despite the fact that it sucks to live here and life is hard we're to be rewarded with the gift of heaven.

If that's so, then maybe God (in all his and her names) didn't specifically target Asia, New Orleans, Iraq, Pakistan...I can keep going. Perhaps these hurricanes and earthquakes are just par for the course when we live in a place that is not heaven. The earth works this way because it has too, and each individual storm or disaster isn't directed at Christians or Muslims or dogs or cats or anyone. It's directed at give us a chance to rise above it.

Ted Betts said...

Nice post, Mezba, and nice blog. Very informative. I think I'll be coming back here again.

As for the issue of why Allah/God may be setting out specific targets, the blindly religious will do what they do and see what they see. I don't know if you saw CalgaryGrit's posting on some ultra-right conservative Christian sites blaming Katrina on abortion, on the sleeze of New Orleans. It can all get a bit silly - and racist, bigotted and political - trying to guess the why of natural disasters beyond science. But, as I posted at Cerberus last week, bigots of all stripes will always use every opportunity to vent their bigotry. And that is definitely the case with the radical far right fringe of conservative Christians when it comes to Muslims.


Uncle Enore said...

Hey, did you religious types ever think that maybe you have this god thing all wrong? I mean maybe...just maybe...god is a real asshole. Maybe he enjoys seeing people miserable, without hope, without a future.

I'll tell you, there is MUCH more eveidence for that than that he is loving and merciful.

mezba said...

Uncle Encore,

Please do post some scientific evidence as to the absence of God.

- Mezba.

Uncle Enore said... "c"...

I can't do that, as you know. But, my friend, neither can you post any scientific evidence supporting the existence of a god.

Might you not agree with my rather crude suggestion that there is ample evidence that god is NOT a well-meaning being, assuming he exists?

Anonymous said...

well its a bit thick obviously.if God were going to punish people's sins through natural disasters why we'd never stop having natural disasters..! like ..literally - every single day, on the hour, every hour.

really people are very silly about some seems to me they like believing such unpleasant things- the same way people seem to relish thinking about hell and then telling everyone else the gory details. eugh.