When the earth shakes

Earth scientists are losing confidence in their capacity to foresee such catastrophes, despite the fact that they are aware of the mechanism by which earthquakes might occur
Representational Image
Representational ImageFile/ GK

Two times in the Glorious Qur’an, the word “earthquake” is used, referring to “The Final Hour Quake,” which will be significantly more severe than all the earthquakes that have afflicted and will affect our plant over its lengthy history. The Sacred Qur’an states:

“O humanity! Be obedient to your Lord and fear him! There is no doubt that the earthquake of the Hour (of Judgment) will be devastating. When you witness it, every nursing mother will forget her infant, every pregnant woman will let go of her child, and you will see humanity appear intoxicated, but they won’t actually be intoxicated. Instead, Allah’s punishment will be harsh.” (Verses 1-2 of Sura Al-Hajj, the Pilgrimage)

Nothing in the universe occurs without the knowledge, will, and wisdom of the Creator, as stressed in the Glorious Qur’an. Earthquakes, like many other natural disasters, are an integral part of God’s plan to punish evildoers, test the virtuous, and impart life lessons to those who are rescued. Humans will never learn from their own mistakes or even from the mistakes of others unless this context is taken into consideration. It is impossible to forecast earthquakes by knowing the mechanisms by which they happen or by measuring their magnitudes and intensities. Only by paying attention to the Creator and following His instructions will this and other catastrophes be prevented.

The Glorious Qur’an also says in this context:

“When the (last) earthquake strikes, the earth is shook. And when the earth releases its weight. Man will then inquire, “What’s the matter with it?” On that day, it will make its disclosure (about all that happened over it of good or evil). Because it will be motivated by your Lord. On that Day, people will go in dispersed groups so that their actions can be seen. Hence, anyone who performs good deserving of an atom’s weight (or a tiny ant) will be rewarded for it. And whomever commits sin with the weight of an atom (or a tiny ant), they will witness it.” (Surat Az-Zalzalah, “The Quake”) Verse 1–8

The Glorious Qur’an describes modern earthquakes as powers that split the ground and swallow the rifted portion with its occupants, or that demolish building foundations and therefore cause their destruction. From the Qur’an: The people who came before them did plot, but Allah struck at the base of their structure, causing the ceiling to collapse on them from above and the anguish to descend upon them from unanticipated directions. Surah An-Nahl (The Bees), verse 26

I am unable to come up with a more accurate definition of earthquakes than the passage cited above, which only describes the cause as conspiring and planning against the Creator’s purpose and way. And in the same chapter, the Qur’an emphasises this conclusion, saying:

Do those who plan bad deeds believe that Allah won’t cast them into the ground or spare them from the anguish coming from places they can’t see? (Line 45 of Sura An-Nahl, “The Bees”)

We can see from the previous two passages that planning against Allah’s will and coming up with bad activities against specific people or the entire human race are the main causes of earthquake retribution. The Glorious Qur’an emphasises numerous times that natural disasters like earthquakes, rifting, tsunamis, hurricanes (or typhoons), cyclones, tropical storms, tropical depressions, and other similar events have historically and continue to represent the Creator’s wrath against His creation’s wrongdoers. If innocent people are caught up in this kind of punishment, Allah will raise them from the dead in accordance with their motivations and will lavishly recompense them. The Unparalleled Qur’an declares: “Do you now feel confident that He won’t create a mountain to swallow you whole or send a powerful sandstorm your way? Then you won’t find a Wakil to protect you from the suffering.” (Surat Al-Isra, chapter 68 of The Voyage by Nights)

The Qur’an underscores that earthquakes were one of the punishments meted out to past rebels and wrongdoers by stating:

“So We punished each (of them) for his sins; some of them We sent Hasib (a violent wind with shower of stones) (as the people of Lot), some of them We overcame with As-Saihah (torment - awful cry) (as Thamud or Shu’aib’s people), some of them We made the earth swallow (as Qar’an (Korah)), and some of them We drowned (as the people of They did not wrong themselves; rather, it was Allah who did them wrong.” (Sura 40 of Sura Al-Ankabut (The Spider)

In addition, the Glorious Qur’an warns individuals who carry out bad activities and consistently disobey divine counsel that earthquakes and other natural disasters are a continual threat:

“Or do you have faith that Allah, Who rules the skies, won’t send a violent whirlwind your way? Then, you will be aware of how horrible My warning has been. And if those who came before them did deny (Allah’s Messengers), how horrible was My denial (punishment)? “. (Dominion: Surah Al-Mulk, verses 17–18)

According to geology, rifting is the process that creates a long, narrow continental trough that is surrounded by normal faults. It represents a section of the Earth’s surface along which the entire thickness of the lithosphere has burst under extension and is a grab of regional extent. It is a wonderful exercise to try to comprehend the mechanisms that cause earthquakes and the various seismic wave types that they are accompanied by, to classify earthquakes, and to develop techniques for measuring both their intensities and magnitudes. And what’s even more amazing are the methods used to attempt and forecast earthquakes, as well as the vital safety measures taken both during and after an earthquake to avoid or reduce its hazards whenever feasible. Engineering studies that focus on strengthening structures such as buildings, bridges, motorways, power lines, and other disaster-related projects are highly regarded.

This does not alter the reality, though, that the Creator’s knowledge, will, and wisdom are necessary for everything to exist in the cosmos. Thus, if we want to prevent earthquakes, we must heed His instructions. Standing the mechanism of earthquekes does not defy its being part of the divine plan: Every year, the planet earth experiences roughly a million earthquakes (with an average of about 2738 earthquakes per day). Seismographs record the majority of these earthquakes, the majority of which are mild to moderate quakes that cannot be felt by humans. One of these earthquakes occurs every five to ten years that approaches or exceeds the peak of mass destruction, though recently this trend has accelerated. Among these earthquakes, 100 to 150 are moderate to damaging in populated areas, 20 of which have total destructive power.

Most earthquakes take place in zones or areas that are prone to them. They are concentrated in the areas where two tectonic plates diverge, collide, or pass one another (plate-margin earthquakes). Yet, not a single location on the surface of the Earth can be completely spared from the danger of experiencing earthquakes (The Intra-plate earthquakes). Both the magnitude and depth of the earthquake can be influenced by the type of plate contact. Massive forces are used to overcome friction between continent-sized slabs of the earth’s lithosphere as a result of the movement of the lithospheric plates. The opposite is true if the plates are “locked together,” in which case stresses accumulate until they finally must give way, causing the plates to jolt into a new position and triggering an earthquake.

Dr. Khalid Ul Islam, Associate Biostatistician.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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