WHY do earthquakes occur? A student of geology will say they are a result of a sudden release of energy in the Earth’s crust that creates seismic waves. That’s the process of how earthquakes occur, but not an answer to why earthquakes occur.
A better phrased question will be: Who causes earthquakes to occur and why? Allah says in the Qur’an:
“Say: ‘He has power to send torment on you from above or from under your feet, or to cover you with confusion in party strife, and make you to taste the violence of one another.’” (Qur’an, 6:65)
Allah sends earthquakes as a punishment for some because of their sins and as a reminder or warning for others to repent and mend their ways. Allah says in the Qur’an:
“And We sent not the signs except to warn…” [Qur’an, 17:59]
Just as Allah sends down blessings for His creation in the form of rain, good cultivation and abundance of sustenance, He also sends down warnings and punishments in the form of earthquakes and tsunamis. Allah says:
“And whatever of misfortune befalls you, it is because of what your hands have earned. And He pardons much.” [Qur’an, 42:30]
The above verse is of particular importance. It shows that whatever calamity that strikes us is a result of our wrong deeds. Moreover, Allah pardons a lot. Meaning, the punishment doesn’t come except when people have crossed all limits. The place where a calamity strikes may have both good and bad people. When sins rise in a community and a punishment is sent down, it also affects the good people. While that calamity is a punishment for the sinners, it becomes a source of purification or a reminder for the good doers. The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to seek refuge with Allah from His torment and punishment.
Increase in the frequency of earthquakes is also a sign of the Day of Judgment. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “The Hour (Last Day) will not be established until (religious) knowledge will be taken away (by the death of religious learned men), earthquakes will be very frequent, time will pass quickly, afflictions will appear, murders will increase and money will overflow amongst you.” (Al-Bukhari, 2/17 no. 146)
The prophecy of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) seems ever approaching. Time is passing by quickly, though the day still has 24 hours. The religiously learned are fewer than the past and crime rate has increased multifold.
Allah says in the Qur’an:
“Evil has appeared on land and sea because of what the hands of men have earned, that He (Allah) may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return.” [Qur’an, 30:41]
The calamities are not a full recompense, but only a part for what man does. Were we to be punished for all that we do, there would be no creature living on earth.
“And if Allah were to punish men for that which they earned, He would not leave a moving (living) creature on the surface of the earth; but He gives them respite to an appointed term, and when their term comes, then verily, Allah is Ever All-Seer of His slaves.” [Qur’an, 35:45]
The purpose of calamities is, as mentioned in the verse quoted earlier, “…in order that they may return.” They are a lesson for us to return to the straight path and to return to the obedience of God. Disasters are a lesson for us to repent to Allah for our sins and reform ourselves. Allah has promised reward and blessings in this life and the hereafter for those who truly turn to Him in repentance.
“…Except those who repent and believe (in Islamic Monotheism), and do righteous deeds; for those, Allah will change their sins into good deeds, and Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [Qur’an, 25:70]
“And if the people of the towns had believed and had the Taqwa (piety), certainly, We should have opened for them blessings from the heaven and the earth, but they belied (the Messengers). So We took them (with punishment) for what they used to earn (polytheism and crimes).” [Qur’an, 7:96]
Refuting atheistic belief
It is unfortunate that some Muslims have also started to speak like atheists. Scoffing when it is told that earthquakes are because of sins and arguing that it is no more than a natural geological activity. First of all atheists have no ground for their assertion because they don’t believe God exists which is the biggest lie ever uttered. It is a direct rejection despite the lucid signs in form of the perfect creation and faultless system created by God.
Their argument about earthquakes being the result of natural geological activity holds no more ground than a claim that this published article on paper or website is a result from the functioning of a machine (printer or computer) without any effort of a human brain behind it that has made it make sense.
Writing and getting it printed is much simpler an activity than the complex and perfect system of this universe that include earthquakes. It is blasphemy to claim that there’s no Almighty Creator controlling and overseeing what is happening in the world.
"By the age, man is indeed at loss, except those who have faith and do good works and (join together) in the mutual teaching of truth, and of patience and perseverance." [Quran103 .1,2,3]
Don't count the days, make the days count.