Japan’s Tsunami – Natural Fault lines and Artificial Borders
The powerful earthquake, which then triggered a tsunami that has befallen the people living near Japan’s northeastern coast that began on 11th March has resulted in widespread destruction and suffering, which has been broadcasted on television screens around the world. The catastrophic consequences of what was named the “Great Eastern Japan Earthquake” has been that more than 12,000 people have died in the disaster, 15,000 people missing, thousands are injured, and more than 440,000 people have fled their homes for their own safety. The earthquake had a scale of 9 on the Richter Scale and is one of the worst earthquakes recorded in the last 100 years, this in itself bears a great significance. The tsunami caused tides of more than 10 metres high. We saw buildings, ships, buses, trucks, and cars being swept away whilst nuclear power stations have had their safety compromised leading to sections of Japans water supply becoming polluted, radioactive and therefore undrinkable.
With such an emotive subject it is difficult to try and make sense of it all and yet despite the good will of Muslims and non-Muslims in raising money for those in need and worldwide sentiment for those suffering, the magnitude of this event raises broader questions about life, death, mortality, divine will and the metaphysical realm beyond our control. As Muslims we are being questioned on various issues that pertain to our understanding of Islam, so this article will endeavour to shed some light on the questions that this tsunami has raised and also some that we as Muslims need to explore and think about beyond this article.
A brief look at some ayaat related to natural disasters
There can be no doubt that we will be punished for our misdeeds on Earth and in the Akhira (afterlife) but how does this manifest? There are many people who will look at this disaster and form judgements based on moral grounds, stating that the culture of licentiousness and general decadence of a society is what brought upon us Allah’s (swt) punishment. It is not our place nor is it within our ability to make an external judgement on a person and speculate which individual is being punished or not, rather it is important to take stock of our own lives and the situation we live in. Allah (swt) reminds us:
“Whatever disaster afflicteth you, it be by the earning of your own hands, And Allah forgiveth much.” (Surah As-Shuraa v.30 TMQ)
Also in another ayah:
“Destruction appears in the land and sea by the actions of men that they may suffer the consequences for some of their misdeeds in order that they may return (to Allah in obedience).” (Surah Ar-Rum v.41 TMQ)
These horrific scenes brought to mind the warnings given by Allah (swt) about the Day of Judgement, what will take place during it, the condition of the Earth and the condition of the people in relation to it:
“When the Earth is shaken in its convulsion. And the Earth throws up her burden. And human beings cry in distress what is the matter with it, on that Day it will declare its information. For that your Lord will have given her inspiration. On that day will you proceed in companies sorted out to be shown the deeds that they had done. Then shall anyone who has done an atom’s weight of good see it, and anyone who has done an atom’s weight of evil will see it.” (Surah Zilzal v.1-8 TMQ)
The Prophet (saw) elaborated on a part of this ayah “on that Day it will declare its information”:
“Verily, its information is that it will testify against every male and female servant, about what they did upon its surface. It will say that he did such and such on such and such day. So this is its information.” (At-Tirmidhi)
Ibn Abbas (RA) stated about the ayah “for that your Lord will have given her inspiration” that the Earth would be given permission to speak about good and bad actions we undertook:
“It is apparent that the implied meaning here is that He (swt) will permit it (the Earth)”
So the images of the disaster, chaos and carnage we see on our television screens should remind us of the day of reckoning and motivate us to work in Allah’s cause as we are reminded that if we do not the Earth itself will bear witness to our misdeeds and our good deeds. Therefore we must tread carefully on this Earth and make every step we take nearer to our deaths count for us and ensure that we are doing all we can to gain Allah’s (swt) mercy on the day when we will need it most.
A Sign From Allah (swt) or Arbitrary Occurrence?
Allah (swt) reminds us many times in the Quran of nations that suffered similar disasters. Calamities befell the people of Prophet Nuh (as) and the people of Prophet Saleh (as) the Bani Thamud, the people of Prophet Shu’aib (as) the Bani Madyan and Prophet Hud (as) to the people Bani ‘Ad, amongst others. All the Prophets (peace be upon them all) called the people to worship Allah, but their respective people rejected their call and were punished severely. The punishments also came in the form of what one could describe as a ‘natural disaster’, whether it was floods, violent storms, violent earthquakes or clouds exploding with thunderbolts. The difference is that we know exactly why the calamities occurred and we were told they were punishments in many ayaat and ahadith, whereas with Japans natural disaster, we have no direct knowledge from Allah (swt) of the meaning behind these recent events being a punishment, a mercy or neither on those people.
Why this Tsunami and earthquake crippled the financial district of Tokyo specifically or why it wrought devastation to the fishing community of Kesennuma; we cannot know for sure. In the last few years there have been massive earthquakes, albeit not of the same magnitude, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (2006) and in various cities of Indonesia such as Jakarta (2009) and most recently at the California-Mexico border three days after Japan’s Tsunami. Who is to say for sure whether it was a punishment or a mercy and who is to say for sure whether a person was in a state of imaan or not before they died. What we do know is those who have died have no more time to contemplate on the meaning of this event. But we are still here with the accountability to Allah (swt) on our necks. If someone dies on anything other than imaan after receiving the message of Islam, whether he or she dies in a Tsunami or dies in their bed they will be accountable for this. As for a Muslim who dies in a flood, he or she will receive the reward of a shaheed, Rasulullah (saw) said:
“’Whom do you consider a shaheed among you?’ They said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, the one killed in the way of Allah is a shaheed.’ He said: ‘Then the shuhadaa (martyrs) among my Ummah would be few.’ They said: ‘Then who are they, O Messenger of Allah?’ He said: ‘The one killed in the way of Allah is a shaheed, the one who dies in the way of Allah is a shaheed, the one who died in plague is a shaheed, the one who died due to the stomach is a shaheed and the drowned person is a shaheed.’” [Muslim]
It is therefore clear that we as Muslims should take heed of this situation and take lessons from it. If disasters like this do not make us stop and pay attention and think about our purpose on this Earth, in our ever-distracting lives, what will? These worldly distractions are so aptly mentioned in surah At-Takathur (rivalry in worldly increase)
“The mutual increase diverts you, until you visit the graves. Nay! You shall come to know. Again nay! You shall come to know! Again nay! You shall come to know! Nay! If you knew with a sure knowledge. Verily, you shall see the blazing Fire. And again, you shall see it with certainty of sight. Then on that Day you shall be asked about the delights.” (Surah At-Takathur TMQ)
Though the situation may sound morbid, this does not mean we should be fatalistic in our approach when we contemplate about our responsibilities in life as Muslims. Our Ajal (lifespan) is Qada (predetermined) on us but we are accountable for the actions we undertake ‘by our own hands’ in seeking Allah’s (swt) pleasure or displeasure. We must still work to earn money and pay for food so we can eat. We cannot just ‘leave it to Allah’ to fulfil our responsibility of praying or fasting, nor can we leave the political work necessary to change the dire situation of this Ummah today.
The statements such as ‘we should leave it to Allah (swt) to sort out’ or ‘all we can do is Dua’ to solve our problems as an Ummah, as if to absolve ourselves from responsibility, are not only invalid from a Shar’a perspective, it is most often than not belied by our own actions. The effort we make to solve our own problems when it comes to earning our Rizq (provisions) or when we try to eat healthy or try to stay fit, when we believe our lifespan (Ajal) is fixed, is worth thinking about. What kinds of effort should we be making for the revival of this Ummah? When it comes to our individual lives, we are acutely aware of our need to make the effort when it comes attending to our families, our Masjids or even when seeking Islamic knowledge and then to leave the results to Allah’s (swt) will. This is best articulated in the words of Muhammad (saw) inside the Hadith:
One day the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) noticed a ‘bedouin’ (desert Arab) leaving his camel without tying it and he asked the ‘bedouin': “Why don`t you tie down your camel?” The ‘bedouin’ answered, “I put my trust in Allah.” The Prophet (peace be upon him) then said, “Tie your camel first, then put your trust in Allah” (Narrated by Tirmidhi)
The aim for us should be to think about our individual lives and its connection to the wider Ummah and to take practical lessons from Allah’s (swt) signs, and it is with this aim we will Insha-Allah proceed.
To Allah (swt) We Belong and To Him (swt) We Shall Return
The circumstances leading up to our deaths can be different but we will nevertheless face an abrupt end and all we will take with us are our deeds and whether we believed in Allah (swt) and in his messenger (saw) or not. So the question now arises, how should we as Muslims view death and how should this manifest in the way we live our lives? The answer to this, in as much as this article can cover, is that living and dying are not what’s important per se, rather what we live for and what we die on is important. For example dying with imaan (believing in Islam) is an excellent thing, but dying without imaan (kufr) is literally a fate worse than death. As for living, if one feels alive because he or she owns some property or a massive plasma television or a petrol guzzling 4×4 Jeep but is not taking part in the struggle and worship in the cause of Allah (swt), then we are not alive as we are not fulfilling the purpose of our existence. Our beloved Prophet (saw) said,
“The difference between the one who remembers his Lord and the one who does not is like the difference between the living and the dead.” (Al-Bukhari, Kitab ad-Da’awat)
So we should be careful of being seduced by what is commonly referred to as ‘deceptions of the dunya’ i.e. living for the purpose of material gain. Islam is not restricted to individual Ibadaat (worship) and generosity (sadaqah) only but rather our Ibadah covers the broad scope of life’s affairs which applies to the struggle Muslims face as an Ummah. The problems we face consists of the balancing act of sustaining a living in a Halal way for us and our families, and engaging with our brothers and sisters in our communities and giving dawa to change the situation of this Ummah. We rely on Allah for our Ajal (lifespan) but we must take the responsibility of making our short time in the Dunya (Earth) count for something. Though we may not die in such catastrophic circumstances we will nevertheless face an abrupt end, and this should motivate us to work for Islam.
The Phenomenal Demolition of Modern Japan’s Districts is Not a Modern Phenomenon
Allah (swt) has destroyed many affluent nations which regarded themselves modern by their own standards:
“Saw you not how your Lord dealt with the people of `Ad. Iram who had lofty pillars. The like of which were not created in the land.” (Surah Fajr; Verse 6-8 TMQ)
In the western civilisation with its modern setting, money has replaced God, technology has replaced God and science has replaced God. As Muslims we question whether the way our wealth is distributed and transacted is in a way that is pleasing to Allah or displeasing to Allah. Is the technology we have developed used for good or for vanity and exploitation? With scientific progress and all these things, are we using them as a means to gain Allah’s pleasure or are they just for our own comfort.
We as Muslims need to look at our mortality and its link to natural disasters on Earth and in our universe from a different perspective. Our beloved Prophet (saw) was once asked by a Bedouin about the Hour (day of judgement). He (saw) said, “It will surely come to pass. What have you prepared for it?” (Bukhari) This statement sums up how the believer looks at his mortality in relation to natural disasters. As opposed to the non- Muslim’s inane fear of the likelihood of a meteor colliding with the Earth or the awestruck superficiality when witnessing a solar eclipse. In contrast, Muhammad (SAW) was enamoured in fear and rushed to supplicate to Allah, seeing the eclipse as a sign of moving closer to the Day of Reckoning.
In the civilisations of the past when disaster struck, the people used to cling to their man-made idols in moments of fear only to realise that they were to no avail. We as Muslims do not believe in clinging onto our possessions and hoping for the best and yet today we are encouraged to live a life that looks like a man in a pin striped suit profusely peddling on a bike that is suspended in mid air, i.e. going nowhere fast. Both reactions past and present are as primitive and shallow as they have ever been. From the day we were created our organic needs and instincts remain the same, since the ‘human condition’ will never change. The way to evaluate progress or decline as a nation is not by the change of utensils or devices used for how we prepare food, or what type of domicile we live in, or how we communicate, whether by a handwritten letter, Facebook or twitter. Rather the direction Muslims take as individuals and as an Ummah in regards to obedience or disobedience to Allah (swt), defines whether we are modern and progressive, or primitive and declined. The earthquake and Tsunami that ensued in Japan are important reminders for us of how fragile we really are. The economic strength, the very financial infrastructure and physical infrastructure for production and even the energy source has been brought down to its knees overnight. This should put things into perspective for us that how we live as an Ummah is more important than solely the technology we develop and the wealth we produce. Our means of satisfying our need for food, clothing and shelter have become sophisticated but that is not what makes a civilisation ‘civilised’. It is true that all successful civilisations have been wealthy, but that does not mean every wealthy civilisation will be successful, in this life and the hereafter. In conclusion therefore, success of a nation is not defined by its wealth alone.
Natural Fault lines and Artificial borders
The natural geological fault lines are situated under Japan mainland (three in total), has been the major cause for all the carnage caused by the Earthquake and Tsunami and the subsequent fallout. The instability of natural fault lines (which are almost impossible to avoid) and the instability caused by the artificial borders or ‘fault lines’ that are man-made; bear some similarities that are worth exploring.
The man made geopolitical ‘fault lines’ in the Muslim lands as opposed to the geological fault lines, which are pegged together by oppressive western puppet rulers are a cause of much misery and pain to this Ummah. We should look back in history to understand the origin of these artificial borders so we can see the evidence of such puppetry more clearly by identifying the manipulator of the strings. The ‘divide and rule’ strategy of the West created many fault lines across the Muslims world and artificially divided this Ummah politically on the grounds of Arab & Turkish nationalism, language, culture, resources (mainly for oil and gas) as well as dividing up our military strength into weaker states. For example, the borders outlined by the Sykes-Picot Agreement created artificial ‘fault lines’ on the map, which resulted in further divisions in the region once known as Ash-Sham.
The resultant machinations that led to the establishment of Israel has caused severe instability, and a ‘fallout’ that bears similarities to the catastrophic affect of Japan’s ‘Fukushima Daiichi’ nuclear power plant being built near major fault lines which resulted in leaked radioactive material into the water supply. Israel is much like a volatile nuclear power plant built on ‘fault lines’ which are inherently unstable, polluting the political atmosphere in the Muslims lands. Similarly the ‘fault lines’ of the borders that Palestine has shared since 1948 with Egypt, Jordon, Syria and Lebanon have been the cause of desperation and helplessness of the Palestinians. With Israel controlling most, if not all of the ‘fault lines’ within this region, that has made daily life in Palestine toxic and is the cause of much misery of our brothers and sisters who remain there. The fallout caused by Britain and America’s implanting and management of the State of Israel has affected generation after generation and the number of dead is so incalculable that there is no way of knowing the extent; we only see the oppressed and the suffering. This rings true with so many of the borders created by former British Empire and today’s United States and its allies, there are just too many to mention.
We as Muslims should work to liberate ourselves from the artificial ‘fault lines’ that the West have implanted in our lands and work to remove the artificial ‘fault lines’ in our thinking as an Ummah between Islam and Politics, Sharia and Khilafah. What is this artificial division we make when calling for humanitarian aid, clothing, medicine and food when a natural disasters occur, and calling for the Muslim armies to liberate our lands from oppressive rulers who sit on the cracks of ‘fault lines’ drawn out by America and its allies. How can we accept the destruction and landslides of misery and political instability and suffering and oppression in our Ummah? Why do we act like it is only natural when these problems are man-made? Why shouldn’t the ground shake?! If the Earth could act it would spit out the sadistic rulers that are pegged across our lands spreading ‘corruption in the land’ and fighter jets and airstrikes making the ground tremble under the houses of innocent Muslims. And yet, with the likes of Mubarak and Gaddafi flaunting their weaponry at their own people the imaan in the heart of the believers did not shake. If we could hear the Earth speak it would proclaim “Allahu Akbar” and would praise Allah as it is governed by the universal law of Allah (swt).
“The seven heavens and the Earth and all that is therein, glorify Him and there is not a thing but glorifies His praise. But you understand not their glorification. Truly, He is Ever Forbearing, Oft-Forgiving.” (Surah Bani Israa’il v.44 TMQ)