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November 21, 2011, Monday

There is a message for us!

Depending on how we imagine the world and the universe, our perceptions of occurrences that take place in nature and of course of the natural disasters that derive from these occurrences vary.

From an Islamic perspective, disasters, including earthquakes, are, in addition to a natural occurrence, divine messages. There is no contradiction between these two fundamental assumptions. No natural incident is autonomous and independent of others; likewise, the occasional disasters are not independent of other cosmic and natural occurrences.

We know from experience that natural disasters change the life and ongoing order of nations as well as the planet depending on its scope. For instance, if airports are destroyed and bridges are collapsed in a quake, there will be no transportation; this will affect the size and operation of trade. There will be consecutive problems and irregularities in the operation of the market. Exploitation of underground resources, extreme pressure on the surface of the planet (giant buildings, skyscrapers), interventions that destroy the divine harmony inherently embedded in nature (relocation of the mountains, change of the river courses, huge dams, nuclear plants, arms able to make a hole in a mountain, missiles, submarines, etc.) are considered economic, commercial and military activities.

Modernization imposes development, sustainable growth and a smooth market economy as inevitable and essential. Economic, commercial, production, exchange and consumption activities constitute the modern ground of our social order. Some of our individual and social behavior and acts -- our modern lifestyle inconsistent with Allah and nature -- are the invisible reasons for destructive natural disasters.

Of course, disasters transform social life. We just call them natural occurrences. If the natural occurrences that we include in the category of disasters do not have transformative effects, these will become storms of disasters as we modernize further and as growth remains at the current pace; and they will become graver in parallel to the progress we make and the wealth we accumulate. The rule noted by our elders now manifests itself: Once man is disordered, so is the universe. A disordered man starts the process of destruction with nature.  

The question of why we fail to perceive what happens from this perspective is important. When we face a natural disaster, our first reaction is to boost our scientific, technological and public power in order to better prepare for the next disaster by obtaining more scientific knowledge, acquiring more technological endowment and amassing more effective civilian or public disaster relief.

We have banished two important facts:

The nature and the universe have their owner. Modern man, however, sees himself as the owner and master of nature. He does not accept any other owner or possessor. For this reason, he does not like the idea of a God, and although he does not reject this idea as openly as atheists do, he either buries it into a fog of "obscurity" a la Agnostics or he claims that God does not make any assertions on this matter, like deists. The sociocultural system culturally feeds on laicism and secularism, and the material and cultural aspects of the system are interdependent. Both try to put "religion outside." In this way, they try to "send God to oblivion" as the Quran put it, or "kill God" in the words of Friedrich Nietzsche.

As Fyodor Dostoyevsky notes, "Everything is permissible if there is no God." Nature is the "father's ranch" for the modern man. There may be numerous enemies, destructive events or disasters on earth, but thanks to science, man will soon neutralize all of them and dominate the ranch.

Paradoxically, man's numerous scientific endeavors that aim to dominate nature -- which also add fuel to his false self-confidence and arrogance -- are breeding newer forms of threats and disasters. This is the second fact the modern man fails to acknowledge, and he is continually inviting newer, gigantic and more destructive threats and disasters that will bring his end. Earthquakes and other natural disasters are divine messages that tell us our weaknesses and limits.

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