Question: In the past few years, we have been witnessing natural disasters occurring in every corner of the world at an unprecedented level. How should we perceive these events? Do these calamities have a special meaning or are they just a regular part of the natural order?

Ustadh Osman Nuri Topbas: Nothing in nature occurs without reason or wisdom. For, like everything else, natural events are also a creation of Allah the Almighty. These ordained events are filled with wisdom and secrets that we may or may not comprehend. This truth is illustrated in the following verse:

“….No leaf falls without His knowledge, nor is there a single grain in the darness of the earth, or anything, fresh or withered, that is not written in a clear Record.” (Al-Anam, 6:59)

Not a leaf can fall without His will, knowledge and permission. So, accepting the idea that a whole city could be senselessly shaken at random would be contrary to reason, understanding and intellect. Everything that happens in this universe is built upon infinite secrets and wisdom. This means that like all other creations, the universe fulfills its role according to a Divine system, equilibrium and rhythm.

Allah the Almighty has regulated certain events in the universe according to a periodic flow. For example, the rising, setting and other actions of the sun and moon which follow a Divine calendar, continue for millions of years without any deviation.

The atmosphere which is comprised of 21% oxygen and 77% nitrogen is another entity which keeps a persistent balance. These are only a few of the ecological constant elements that Allah the Almighty has positioned in nature. With similar countless circumstances all coming together in one magnificent arena, we are able to live and thrive in this world. The smallest change to any of these elements is enough to turn our world upside down and make it impossible for human life to continue. That is why, for as long as Allah the Almighty desires human life to proceed, this ecological balance shall continue.

From massive solid objects such as the sun and stars, to the smallest particles such as the atom and the mysterious light it contains, everything completes its duties in a splendidly inexplicable system.  Everything follows a Divine ordained program.

Even an atheist would not believe that the sun could increase or decrease its speed, or that the day could go over or under a 24 hour period. This indicates that the sub-conscience innately submits to Divine will and power. However, because of heedlessness and the base desires of the ‘self’, these and similar truths are rejected as being Divine ordinations. Instead, the magnificent system of the universe is heedlessly called, “law of nature”, as though strength and life peculiarly came about on their own. On the contrary, the laws and principles which ensure the continuance of the universe are simply called, “practice of Allah” or “the way of Allah”.

Earthquakes, floods, cyclones, volcanic eruptions, tsunami etc. are all irregular events that manifest the laws of Allah the Almighty. Besides the apparent reasons of natural disasters, Allah the Almighty also has three secret reasons.  These can be pondered upon through the window of wisdom:

First: A Divine Awakening. Through these natural disasters, Allah the Almighty reminds the human, no matter how devoid he may be of spirituality, of his real job in this world which is to worship Him.  He, the Almighty also reveals to us the transient nature of this world and the nearness of death, thereby elucidating that the true worthy life is in the Hereafter. Furthermore, these events also serve as a reminder and warning of the great outbursts that will occur in this world on the Day of Resurrection.

Let’s look at fault lines as an example.  Allah the Almighty, could move fault lines and destroy a society with no apparent reason. These fault lines could have been non-existent, however, when they are continuously estimated and checked, the certainty of the Day of Judgment is affirmed. Thereby, instead of falling into heedlessness, the son of Adam would instead prepare his provisions for the next world. This form of alertness is actually a blessing. Of course, these Divine warnings do not just prevail in fault lines, but in floods, cyclones, untreatable contagious illnesses and many other ways.

Had it not been for these signs, the son of Adam would abruptly and heedlessly find himself trapped in the claws of death facing ceaseless calamity. Therefore, Allah the Most Merciful brings to our attention the certainty of the reality to come, and awakens the soul through a variety of events before it is too late, thereby putting into practice, His way of life.

Second: It is a Divine Retribution. These types of catastrophes are a manifestation of Allah’s power over those who disobey Him. If the majority of a society have leaned towards raunchiness and evil has overtaken, and if the souls have become murky with sins and the hearts have rebelled against Divine boundaries, all this evil could become the cause of calamities. The bountiful rain could turn into a flood or conversely, a drought could take over, or the movement of fault lines could turn into an earthquake. Thus, the sins which shake the spirituality of the soul, could eventually lead to catastrophes.

From time to time, fault lines and volcanoes need to erupt according to a Divine law. For, the sea of fire “magma” which lies in the center of earth needs to let out some of the accumulated gases. Without these eruptions and quakes every once in a while, the world could suddenly explode. According to the good and evil of people, these fault lines could shake in the middle of the seas and oceans, or in the middle of the city. This means that Allah the Almighty can cause these calamities to be harmless or harmful according to the state of the hearts. This is the law of magma and the earth crust that Allah the Almighty has ordained.

These Divine reminders that occur in the universe system come in different forms, such as earthquakes, tsunami, volcanic eruptions, droughts or floods. Thereby, Allah the Almighty awakens and tests people in all corners of the world with the laws and regulations He has placed.

“Corruption has flourished on land and sea as a result of people’s actions and He will make them taste the consequences of some of their own actions so that they may turn back.” (Ar-Rum, 30:41)

Third: It is a means by which His righteous worshipers can receive Reward and Mercy. Some disasters may affect innocent children and righteous people could die. These trials and tribulations erase people’s sins, while also raising the spiritual level of others. The following hadith explicates this notion:

“A person’s good deeds may not suffice for him to reach the station prepared for him in Paradise. Therefore, Allah trials him with his body, possessions or children and grants him success in being patient in his tribulation, thereby enabling him to reach the station prepared for him.” (Abu Dawud, Janaiz, 1/3090; Ahmad, V 272)

“Allah has prepared a rank for His servant (in paradise), that cannot be reached through worship alone. So, Allah sends His servant trials and tribulations until he reaches that rank.” (Haysami, Majmau’z-Zawaid, II, 292)

Therefore, to perceive natural disasters and difficulties in a superficial worldly sense and to only consider external reasons, would make one heedless and oblivious to the wisdom and truth behind the events. A faithful Muslim should analyze these events from a spiritual perspective according to faith and Islamic measure, thereby staying aloof from heedlessness.

Question: Due to natural resource consumption, the number of plants and animals are critically reducing or becoming extinct. Does the human hold any responsibility according the Islam? Lot of scientific and action plans and programs are being undertaken all over the world in order to  find solutions to these problems. According to Islam, what are the founding principles that one must uphold?

Allah the Almighty has subjected to mankind the use of all creation. As a show of respect to these blessings, by being gentle to creation, one is in fact honoring the Creator. A true and strong believer perceives all of creation as a monumental display of the One who brought about everything from nothing. It is evidence of the art, knowledge and power of the Creator. Creation illustrates a seal of Divine greatness. As such, the strong in faith reflect upon the wisdom behind the exhibition of creation, and fall deeper into contemplation until they watch with Divine love and their senses are enchanted.

Hence, while Yunus Emre was saying, “We love creation for the sake of their Creator” he stood so immersed in conversation with the yellow flower, that he became intoxicated with the seal of Divine power that was imprinted on creation.

Aziz Mahmud Hudayi narrates that whenever he reached out to pull a flower, he would refrain after hearing its singing the praises of Allah.

One who loves the Creator, also loves His creation. A friend of Allah the Almighty, is also a friend of His creation. To look upon all creation with mercy and compassion is the epitome of strong faith.

That is why no Muslim should oppress what Allah the Almighty has subjected to his use, or treat these blessings poorly. Furthermore, one must avoid extravagant spending for pretentious displays and should instead remember that he will give account for all these blessings one day.

Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi said the following,

“Treat Allah’s creation with mercy and calmly spread compassion everywhere. Do not say, ‘this is a weed, it is lifeless and worthless!’ On the contrary, it has many more benefits and goodness than you are aware of. Leave it as it has been created and be merciful with the Creator’s mercy!”

Consequently, a believer should treat animals, plants, the air, water and soil with respect and austerity thereby leaving the ecological balance unhindered. For, Allah the Almighty says,

“And the firmament has He raised high, and He has set up the Balance (of justice).  In order that you many not transgress (due) balance.”

Unfortunately with the rush for riches, those who say, “let things be, and the one who loses can deal with it, I do not care,” do not feel any responsibility. They have no conscience and feel no spiritual obligation so they exploit the world’s resources with no mercy. Such people pollute the air, water and soil. They use up plantation and harm animals. They even harm people with their exploitation of material and spiritual values.

The Prophet upon him be peace and blessings who was sent as a mercy to mankind, forbade the cutting of a branch without necessity. His blessed face became pale upon seeing a burnt ant nest.

We are informed that a worshipping women who caused an animal to die by keeping it, yet not feeding it, will go to hell because of her mercilessness. While, a sinful woman who filled her shoe with water from a well to quench the thirst of a dog will go to paradise. Our Prophet upon him be peace and blessings said, “If the Day of Judgment erupts while you are planting a new tree, carry on and plant it.”  The Prophet upon him be peace and blessings inspired us to have mercy, compassion and courtesy to all creation, living and non-living.

In conclusion, if the son of Adam turns his back on the Divine truths and keeps distant from spiritual manners, he would inevitably become enslaved to his material and self-motivated desires. As such, by not considering the rights and laws of others, one would become engrossed in selfishness, crudeness and savagery. This does not only pose a great threat to humanity, but to creation as a whole.

Question: In your writings, you illustrate how Islam can turn our inner world into a peaceful haven. And how Islam appoints Muslims to work for peace, stability and safety in our surroundings, cities, countries and the world in general?

Allah the Almighty tells us, “Thus, have We made of you an Ummah justly balanced, that you might be witnesses over the nations.”

In order to be a witness over mankind, one must represent all parts of His religion in the best of manner. This representation begins with faith and worship, and then with manners and treatment of others. This means that a Muslim ought to exhibit the grace, kindness and elegance of Islam in each stage of his life.

Islam as the word pertains is a religion of conciliation and peace. A Muslim is one who, others are safe from his hand and tongue. That is why, every Muslim in accordance with his means, is responsible for world peace, stability and safety. A Muslim must uphold values to such a high degree that he should see himself responsible for world affairs.  His heart should feel responsible for every corner it could reach. For this state to be realized, he needs to discover his inner-self. He also needs to try to be of benefit to society and humanity with material and spiritual maturity. For our Prophet upon him be peace and blessings said,

“The best among you are those who are most beneficial /assisting to others.” (Suyuti, Al-Jami’u-sagir, II,8)