In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
When the earth is shaken with a mighty shaking,, and the earth brings forth its burdens, and man says, “What ails it?” Upon that day it shall tell its tidings for that your Lord has inspired it. (al-Zilzal, 99.1-8)
This sura states explicitly that the earth moves and quakes at a command, on receiving inspiration. Sometimes it trembles.
[The following comprises the brief answers to seven questions asked in connection with the recent earthquake.]
More distressing than the material disaster of this recent earthquake, the fear and despair coming from its recurrence are destroying the nightly repose of most of the people in most areas. What is the reason for this terrible torment?
Answer: They were broadcasting obscene songs in a sort of drunken rapture, some of them sung by girls, by means of the radio, during the tarawih (supererogatory prayers done after the early night prayer) in the month of Ramadan in every corner of this blessed center of Islam. This resulted in the torment of this fear.
Why is it that, rather than the populations of the countries of unbelievers, the unhappy Muslims are afflicted with such heavenly blows?
Answer: Major cases and big crimes are tried and judged in big centers, while the minor ones are decided in small centers. Similarly, for a significant purpose, the requital for the greater part of the unbelievers’ crimes is postponed to the Last, Supreme Judgment, while the believers are partly punished in this world for their faults.
What is the reason for this disaster, which arose from the wrongdoing of particular individuals, encompassing almost all the people in the area?
Answer: Since the general disaster results from the wrongdoing of the majority, most of the people must have participated in the actions of those sinful individuals either actively or by giving them direct or indirect support or in some other way.
Since this disaster of the earthquake is the result of wrongdoing and atonement for sins, why were also the innocent and faultless struck by it? How did Divine Law allow this?
Answer: Since this matter is concerned with Divine Destiny, I refer you to the Treatise on Destiny and Man’s Free Will, and here only say this:
Fear a trial, a disorder, which shall surely not smite in particular the evildoers among you.
The verse means that this world is a field of trial and testing, and a place of responsibility and struggle. Testing and responsibility require that the truth in certain matters remains veiled so that, through competition and struggle, those like Abu Bakr may rise to the highest of the high while others like Abu Jahl may fall to the lowest of the low. If the innocent remained untouched in such disasters, the Abu Jahls would submit just like the Abu Bakrs, and the door of spiritual progress through struggle would be closed and the responsibility and testing would be meaningless.
If Divine Wisdom requires that wronged and wrongdoer are together visited by the same disaster, what then is the share of the wretched and the wronged in Divine mercy and justice?
For the wronged there is a kind of mercy behind the wrath and anger in the disaster. For just as the lost property of the innocent becomes like alms given to the poor and thereby gains permanence, their death in the disaster may be regarded as a kind of martyrdom and therefore gains them an eternal life of happiness. For this reason, having gained for them a great and perpetual profit from a relatively little and temporary difficulty and torment, the earthquake is, for them, an instance of Divine mercy within wrath.
Why does the All-Just, All-Compassionate, All-Powerful, All-Wise, not give particular punishments for particular wrongs, but returns them with comprehensive afflictions? How can this be reconciled with the grace of His Mercy and inclusiveness of His Power?
Answer: The All-Powerful One of Majesty gives numerous duties to each element in creation and causes numerous effects to be produced through each duty. One effect of one of an element’s duties may be ugly or evil or calamitous. But the further effects of it may be good, beautiful. If the element were prevented from its duties on account of that one ugly or evil effect, many instances of good would be prevented also, which means that the same quantity of evil would be encouraged. Leaving many instances of good undone to avoid a single evil is extremely disapproved and contrary to wisdom, contrary to reality, and a fault. However, Divine Power and Wisdom, and Truth are free of fault. Certain faults constitute a rebellion comprehensive enough to rouse the earth and certain other elements to anger, and constitute an insulting infringement of the rights of numerous creatures. For sure, in order to demonstrate the extraordinary ugliness of that crime, to give to a mighty element, as a part of its universal duty, the command to reprimand the rebellious is perfect wisdom and justice, and for the wronged, perfect mercy.
The heedless put it about that the earthquake results from a fault in the rock strata inside the earth, and consider it as quite simply a chance event, natural, and without purpose. They do not recognize the non-material causes and results, so that they might be awakened to the truth and take a lesson from the event. Does their allegation have any truth in it?
Answer: It has no truth in it, only misguidance. For each year the earth is dressed in and changes innumerable embroidered well-designed clothes. Out of those clothes, the fly has countless members. Take the wing of a single individual fly, which is only one out of its tens of organs. The intention, will, purpose, and wisdom manifested on the wing show that—let alone its important movements and actions—nothing on the earth, which is the cradle, matrix, and protector of innumerable conscious beings, is neglected and left to itself. Everything connected with it, whether particular or universal, cannot lie outside the Divine Will, choice, and purpose. However, as is required by His Wisdom, the Absolutely Powerful One veils His disposals with apparent causes. When He wills an earthquake, He may command the movement of the rock strata and stir them up. Even if the earthquake results from this movement, still this movement and the quake following it occur by Divine Command and in accordance with His Wisdom.
To give an example, one man shot another and killed him. If the killer is entirely disregarded, and only the movement of the bullet taken into consideration, the rights of the wretched victim would be completely violated, and this would be utter foolishness and injustice. The All-Powerful One commands, "Move the rock stratified inside you for definite purposes in order to arouse the heedless and the rebellious." To disregard the command of the Lord concerning the earth, which is a docile "official" of the All-Powerful One of Majesty, or a ship or an airplane of His—to disregard this and to deviate into attributing everything to "cause and effect" is sheer stupidity.
An addition to the answer of the sixth question: In order to maintain their way and counter the awakening of the believers and obstruct them, misguided people and atheists display an impertinence so strange and an indifference so peculiar that it makes a person regret his humanity. The Creator shakes men in order to make them give up their awesome and wrongful rebellion which recently has, to a degree, taken a general form, and to awaken mankind and make them recognize the universe’s Sovereign, Whom they do not want to recognize. The Creator of the Heavens and the earth has not shaken man on account of a particular manifestation of His Lordship but as the Ruler and Lord of the whole universe, the whole of the worlds. He has done so through an overall, general manifestation throughout the universe and in the universal sphere of His Lordship. He has struck mankind in the face with widespread and terrible calamities like earthquakes, storms, floods, and world wars, and demonstrated in most clear fashion His Wisdom, Power, Justice, Self-Subsistence, Will, and Sovereignty. Although this is the truth, certain misguided people respond to these universal signs of Divine Lordship and Divine reprimands with obstinate denial, saying, "Nature does this. It results from a fault in the rock strata and is just chance. It is the sun’s heat clashing with electricity, which brought all machinery in America to a standstill for five hours, and caused the atmosphere in Kastamonu Province of Turkey to turn red and take on the appearance of a conflagration."
Due to boundless ignorance coming from misguidance and an impertinence arising from atheism, they do not know that "natural causes" are only so many occasions and veils. A huge pine tree requires in effect as many factories and looms as to fill a village to grow from a seed. However, by attributing the tree only to its tiny seed and certain apparent causes, the atheist denies the numerous miracles which the Maker displays in the tree, and reduces to nothing a comprehensive act of the Creator’s Lordship performed through Will and Wisdom. Sometimes he attaches a scientific name to a most profound, unknowable and significant reality which has thousands of purposes in a thousand respects, as though by giving it that name the whole nature of it had been explained and understood. Whereas it is merely made commonplace, without purpose, wisdom, and meaning. Also, he attributes a particular and purposeful act of the Lord to one of the laws of nature, which are only expressions of one aspect of the Universal Will Encompassing Choice, and the Universal Sovereignty and they rightly are called Divine Laws. By doing this and severing the connection between an act of the Lord (an event) and Divine Will and purpose, he limits it to chance and nature. This is, in practice, like attributing the victory on the battlefield of an individual soldier or battalion to military regulations and discipline, and completely ignoring the soldiers, the commander, the king, and the government, and their purposeful, intentional actions and practices. Or it is like this: Like the creation of a fruit-bearing tree from a seed, a wonder-working craftsman produces a hundred kilos of various foodstuffs and a hundred meters of diverse cloths from a chip of wood the size of a fingernail. Someone appears, and pointing to the chip of wood, declares, "These things have come into being out of it "naturally’ and "by chance,’" thus reducing to nothing the craftsman’s wonderful arts and skills.
How do we conclude that this event of the earth was aimed at the Muslim people of this country and why were areas of Erzincan and Izmir affected most?
Answer: The event took place during a hard winter in the dark of night and severe cold. It was restricted to the region which was disrespectful of the month of Ramadan, and it continued mildly in order to arouse the neglectful. These signs, together with some others, show that this earthquake was aimed at the believers. The earth was shaking them to warn them to perform the prayers and other acts of worship, and was itself trembling.
There are two reasons why it shook places like Erzincan more than others:
One: Since their faults were few and slight, they were forgiven without being left to the Supreme Tribunal in the Hereafter.
Two: Taking the opportunity that the strong and truthful defenders of the faith and protectors of Islam were few or utterly defeated in those places, the atheists established an effective center of activity. For this reason, punishment must have been visited on them first.
None save God knows the Unseen.
Glory be to You, we have no knowledge save what You have taught us; surely You are the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.
This article has been adapted from Risale- i Nur Collection.