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يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلنَّاسُ ٱتَّقُوا۟ رَبَّكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ زَلْزَلَةَ ٱلسَّاعَةِ شَىْءٌ عَظِيمٌۭ ١
People, be mindful of your Lord, for the earthquake of the Last Hour will be a mighty thing:
Throughout the Quran, you will find the day of judgement described through the terror of an earthquake. In surah Al-Hajj, Allah ﷻ gives vivid imagery to describe it:
يَوْمَ تَرَوْنَهَا تَذْهَلُ كُلُّ مُرْضِعَةٍ عَمَّآ أَرْضَعَتْ وَتَضَعُ كُلُّ ذَاتِ حَمْلٍ حَمْلَهَا وَتَرَى ٱلنَّاسَ سُكَـٰرَىٰ وَمَا هُم بِسُكَـٰرَىٰ وَلَـٰكِنَّ عَذَابَ ٱللَّهِ شَدِيدٌۭ ٢
On the Day you see it, every nursing mother will think no more of her baby, every pregnant female will miscarry, you will think people are drunk when they are not drunk, but rather the torment of God is so severe.
Witnessing the earthquake in Syria and Turkey, we are reminded how majestic our Lord truly is, and how close the day of judgment looms. Few images could be as terrifying as the destruction wrought through this natural disaster, and fewer signs more emblematic of the ever-approaching final days. Indeed, one of the signs of the end of times is the increase in frequency and severity of earthquakes, culminating in 3 major landslides in the east, west and Arabian Peninsula. We are taught earthquakes are a test for a believer, a way of purifying them in this world from any trials in the next. The Prophet ﷺ said:
أُمَّتِي هَذِهِ أُمَّةٌ مَرْحُومَةٌ لَيْسَ عَلَيْهَا عَذَابٌ فِي الآخِرَةِ عَذَابُهَا فِي الدُّنْيَا الْفِتَنُ وَالزَّلاَزِلُ وَالْقَتْلُ
This nation of mine is one to which mercy is shown. It will have no punishment in the next world, but its punishment in this world will be trials, earthquakes and murder.
It’s strange to think I was in Gaziantep just one month ago, the epicentre of this horrific earthquake. What’s scarier to think is that we had planned to be there the week of the earthquake, but awkward flight routes and coinciding commitments made it easier to visit earlier than initially planned. To see a place you roamed only moments before brought down to the ground is terrifying, knowing the family you have there and the people you met and know could very well be in danger. Those very people – those who help to produce this very podcast – have been left temporarily homeless as their flats are either demolished or are deemed too unsafe to return to. One close friend of ours didn’t respond for several days to our messages, making us fear the worst. Alhamdulillah, it turned out he had left his phone at home when the earthquake struck, and the house collapsed soon after. Thankfully, he and his family escaped safely.
Earthquakes could not be more characteristic of the nature of this world and our inevitable judgment before Allah ﷻ. For the most part, the danger of an earthquake lies in the fear of the collapse of the buildings erected by us in this world. A Bedouin’s tent faces little danger when the earth begins to shake, but a 10 story building has so much to be feared. The more we accumulate of this world, the greater the danger we face when the punishment of Allah ﷻ strikes; gather too much or build it the wrong way, it will collapse all around you when the earthquake strikes. You must learn how to build your provision in the world to survive a strike when it comes, and be ready to forgo it should it all come crashing down. The Prophet ﷺ taught us:
كُنْ فِي الدُّنْيَا كَأَنَّكَ غَرِيبٌ، أَوْ عَابِرُ سَبِيلٍ
‘Be in this world as if you were a stranger or a traveller.
A believer sees the world for what it is; a provision to use on their journey to their Lord, but always prepared to leave it behind. The ornaments we accumulate are shackles which hold us back; will we learn to let go or are we too attached to what we have? Seeking worldly provisions is not itself a bad thing and encouraged in the Quran itself, as Allah ﷻ teaches us the prayer:
وَمِنْهُم مَّن يَقُولُ رَبَّنَآ ءَاتِنَا فِى ٱلدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةًۭ وَفِى ٱلْـَٔاخِرَةِ حَسَنَةًۭ وَقِنَا عَذَابَ ٱلنَّارِ ٢٠١
others pray, ‘Our Lord, give us good in this world and good in the Hereafter, and protect us from the torment of the Fire.’
To earn a living and enjoy Allah’s ﷻ blessings is a beautiful thing, but we must always see it for what it is and frame it in a world view which always remembers the afterlife. Never let this world cloud your true purpose for being. The more we have, the greater the test when the time comes. Those who travel light have the least to be concerned. Those with great money must plan how they build their assets for it must endure a quake when it inevitably comes; because like an earthquake, this Dunya could be our destruction.
Finally, it’s worth noting that even our good deeds will be a source of test for us. Earthquakes strike unilaterally, and it is incorrect to assume only the unrighteous are affected. In fact, those closest to God are tested the most. The Prophet ﷺ was once asked by his companion Sa’d (ra) :
سَعْدِ بْنِ أَبِي وَقَّاصٍ قَالَ قُلْتُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَىُّ النَّاسِ أَشَدُّ بَلاَءً قَالَ “ الأَنْبِيَاءُ ثُمَّ الأَمْثَلُ فَالأَمْثَلُ يُبْتَلَى الْعَبْدُ عَلَى حَسَبِ دِينِهِ فَإِنْ كَانَ فِي دِينِهِ صُلْبًا اشْتَدَّ بَلاَؤُهُ وَإِنْ كَانَ فِي دِينِهِ رِقَّةٌ ابْتُلِيَ عَلَى حَسَبِ دِينِهِ فَمَا يَبْرَحُ الْبَلاَءُ بِالْعَبْدِ حَتَّى يَتْرُكَهُ يَمْشِي عَلَى الأَرْضِ وَمَا عَلَيْهِ مِنْ خَطِيئَةٍ
‘O Messenger of Allah, which people are most severely tested?’ He replied: ‘The Prophets, then the next best and the next best. A person is tested according to his religious commitment. If he is steadfast in his religious commitment, he will be tested more severely, and if he is frail in his religious commitment, his test will be according to his commitment. Trials will continue to afflict a person until they leave him walking on the earth with no sin on him.’”
We learn if an incident it is a test or a punishment based on our reaction to the affliction. If you are patient, it’s a test; If you rebel, It’s a punishment. The buildings we erect and the deeds we accumulate are the hazards we raise above us when the tests come. Good or bad, the quake of the day of judgment is coming. It is inevitable. Are we prepared to face it?