Why Do Bad Things Happen?

User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active


(this article had a mistake and is now corrected)
Why Does God (Allah) Allow


Disasters to Happen to Muslims?


(the mistake was now corrected)

By Sheik Yusuf Estes

Dealing with life's tragedies and understanding the causes behind them.

We have all heard the statements before:

"Brother, it is God’s Will and that we should be patient." And "Sister, everything is from Almighty God. It is all a part of His Predestination." Also, "It could always be worse you know. There are others far worse off than you". And of course, "Sometimes you just have to trust God and have patience."

These are typical comments coming from someone trying to sooth and console one who has experienced some tragedy or great loss. These statements are basically true, yet at the same time, all of this does little for the one who is going through the experience of having lost valuable property, or suffering a severe illness or the death of a loved one.

Often the reply will be, "But you just don't understand how it feels." And "Where am I supposed to get this thing called "patience"?"

During times like these, how can we make sense out of words like "fate", "predestination" or "it was just meant to be?"

Personal disasters occur in the lives of all of us. We feel the intensity of pain during these tragedies. Understanding and giving anything of meaning to all of this would be most helpful in times like this.

Then we observe the world around us and the horrible earthquakes, shattering hurricanes, amazing tsunamis, devistaing mudslides and killer tornados wiping out huge areas of land and taking away thousands of lives every year. Why must this happen? Countries like Pakistan, Indonesia, Turkey and Malaysia suffer so much loss of property and human life and it seems as though it is increasing. The tsunami in South East Asia - 118 thousand dead! Hurricane Katrina - over 12 hundred dead or missing! Mudslides in Guatemala - two thousand more! And Pakistan - over 100 thousand dead and the number is still rising!

The secular or scientific mindset answers something like this; "Weather phenomenon," "El Nino," "tectonic plate shifts." Basically, "Whatever happens - happens. Too bad."

Did you even think about this: "Who makes these tectonic plates shift in the first place?" (Isn't Almighty God the One who created everything from the beginning and isn't He the One who is in control?) How can we understand it? Victims and surviors of floods and natural disasters have their lives changed forever.

Wars, bombings, terrorist attacks, kidnappings, murders, rapes and suicides all around the world and even in our own neighborhood. It seems to be surrounding us and is all so overwhelming. What does it all mean?

The worst part is all of this seems to center around Muslims throughout the world. At least this is the picture the media is portraying to the rest of the world.

Questions: "Why? - Why me? Why us? Why Muslims? Why now? Why like this?"

So, the question remains, "How do we make sense of it all? What can we see from all of this and how can we find any hope for security and peace in the future?"

Look to what Allah has said in the Quran:

"Certainly, Allah has created human beings in strife and struggle." (Al-Balad 90:4) We as Muslims, agree completely. And this life is not the eternal promise of paradise. The Hereafter is far superior and eternally satisfying to the believer. We know that. Yet, how do we make sense out of all that is going on around us in today's world?

(Al-Balad 90:4) We as Muslims, agree completely. And this life is not the eternal promise of paradise. The Hereafter is far superior and eternally satisfying to the believer. We know that. Yet, how do we make sense out of all that is going on around us in today's world?

There is a saying of the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, telling us when the believers arrive in heaven they will wish they had only asked for the rewards of Paradise rather than anything at all in this earthly life, which will have only seemed like a couple of days to them.

Death has a double effect. The one who dies certainly is going through the most difficulty there could be. It is after all, the final return back to the source from whence we all came. However, what is felt in this life is the pain, agony and loss of those who are still here. The so-called "survivors."

Those who have departed are no longer involved in the struggle of this life. They have passed on to the Next Life and hopefully, a much better life it will be for them. Yet, the rest of us are still here, trying to deal with the emotions, finances and resulting havoc caused by the death.

Many cases of people who had "near-death" experiences or were pronounced dead yet they came back to life or were resuscitated, give us stories of people relating feelings of great peace and seeing a tunnel with light at the end of it. They did not want to return and give up the tranquility of this experience.

Look again, to the Quran. Allah Says:

"Do they not then earnestly seek to understand the Quran or are their hearts locked up?" (47:24). Almighty God is exhorting us to consider and think about what is going on around us every day.

(47:24). Almighty God is exhorting us to consider and think about what is going on around us every day.

"Not a single leaf falls without His Knowledge." (6:59) And "No calamity comes to the earth or in yourselves, except it is inscribed in the Book of Decrees (Al-Lauh Al-Mahfuz), before Allah brought it into existence. Certainly, that is easy for Allah." (57:22)

(6:59) And "No calamity comes to the earth or in yourselves, except it is inscribed in the Book of Decrees (Al-Lauh Al-Mahfuz), before Allah brought it into existence. Certainly, that is easy for Allah." (57:22)

These verses are evidence against the concept of random acts of nature or weather phenomena and tectonic plates shifting around.

The Muslim creed or belief is only complete after three things are clearly recognized and accepted as fact:

Total acknowledgement of only One God, without parnters and not like His creation in any way. This is pure monotheism (at-Tawheed in Arabic).

Confirming the creation of angels of Allah. They are made from pure light and have no free will. They always obey Allah and never hesitate to carry out His Commands.

Accepting and confirming the original Books, i.e.; Bible, Old Testament, Torah, Psalms, New Testament and Quran, etc. all originated with Almighty God and were all sent down to mankind for guidance (the only original remaining of these Books is of course, the Quran).

Believing in the Prophets of Allah as normal human beings inspired by Almighty Allah to give them the message with the good news of Paradise for the believers and to warn their people against false worship and distractions of this life and the Fire of Hell. And reminding them to be humble, generous, fair, kind to others, and to repent of evil and do good deeds as much as they can.

The Day of Resurrection and Judgment. All people, regardless of their beliefs (or disbelief) in this life, will be brought back to life again and stood up in front of All Mighty Allah, where they will have to give full account of what they did in this life.

Destiny or Fate in completely with Allah. The Absolute Power and Control of all that will happen and what has happened is only in the Hands of Allah. He Alone, has all Power and He Alone Determines what Will Be. He merely has "Be" and it is (Qun, Faya Qun!). Nothing happens except that He Knows about it and has actually been the very cause of it from the beginning.

in completely with Allah. The Absolute Power and Control of all that will happen and what has happened is only in the Hands of Allah. He Alone, has all Power and He Alone Determines what Will Be. He merely has "Be" and it is (Qun, Faya Qun!). Nothing happens except that He Knows about it and has actually been the very cause of it from the beginning.

This last point or pillar of belief in Islam, when properly understood, provides with the answers to all of the questions above and most important of all, gives us the correct understanding of the Beauty of Islam and the Purpose of Life."

Predestination or Fate has, on occassion been the concern for discussion amongst Muslim jurists, as to what exactly this would imply regarding the reward and punishment system of Islam, if Allah is the One making it all happen.

has, on occassion been the concern for discussion amongst Muslim jurists, as to what exactly this would imply regarding the reward and punishment system of Islam, if Allah is the One making it all happen.

One such train of thought claimed that everything was determined by Almighty God and the human beings were therefore powerless to do anything of their own. These were known as the Jabbariyya.

Another opinion held that nothing was actully perdetermined and humans were totally in control of their destiny. These are referred to as Al Qaddarriya.

The majority of all Muslim scholars are in agreement of a middle path between these two extremes of understanding.

First of all, we immediately understand only Allah has All-Knowledge. He calls Himself "The All Knower" (Al-'Alim) and He is the All-Powerful (Al-Qadir) and there is no power or majesty anywhere, anytime except the Power and Majesty of Almighty Allah" (Laa howla wala Quwata illa billah). Therefore, everything is totally Predetermined by Allah.

However, at the same time, the human does have total choice at each and every point throughout the life. Humans intend to do things and make decisions accordingly. And it is for these intentions and decisions they will be held accountable for on the Day of Judgment.

Putting it in simple terms: "Allah Knows, but you don't."

Some might say, "Yes, but where is my Free-Will?" Or "How can someone be rewarded or punished for that matter, for something that is totally out of their control?"

There is a misconception amongst some people in this discussion when they come to the subject of "Free Will." Islam does not claim humans have "free will", rather they have free-choice.

What's the difference? Will-Power means the ability to cause something to happen by simply wanting it to take place. Yet, anyone who gives this topic the slightest bit of logical consideration would have to immediately deny such a condition exists. After all, if we could really "will" something into reality simply by wanting it to happen, this would be the Paradise everyone is looking for and we would obviously "will" we would have whatever we want and not have anything we didn't want and we would never die, right?

Sometimes things happen exactly according to the way we would like them to happen. However, in most incidents this is not the case. Often times things are similar or close to what we planned and occassionally even better than what we had hoped. Yet in many instances things are not quite what we would like and even totally opposite of our desire.

Now consider the concept of "free-choice" instead of "free-will" " and it all begins to make a lot more sense. Humans encounter many different and varied situations every moment of the day. We all are makining choices. Even now for me, as I write this article I am making the choice to do this rather than spend time with my little granddaughter (a choice that is a bit tough I might add), and you are now making the choice to continue reading it (I hope). But first we made the intention to do it and then along the way, we continue making decisions (me for my choice of words and you for your choice of when to pause and when to continue). Neither of us knows for sure the outcome. Will I ever complete this work? Will you ever finish reading it? Who knows? - Only Allah Knows Everything.

The question is, "What is it you really wanted to happen? What would have been your choice if you could have had the Free-Will to do anything you wanted?"

Consider the intention behind the actions. Reflect on the motives and desires within the framework of the mind at the time of making the decision to do something or not do something and how to do it.

A person is not being rewarded or punished for what takes place, as much as they are being judged for what they wanted to take place.

However, these choices or intentions are not all this life is all about. There is another matter of choice that will make the all the difference and this effects the final destiny more than anything else.

Let us do a quick step-by-step review here. First, a person is faced with some decision, next the person makes an intention, and then next the person begins to act accordingly. But then what has actually been Written or Commanded by the Almighty is what is going to actually take place. Here now, is where the real test comes into play.

The reality is something will happen and whatever happened was exactly what Allah had Willed or Predestined to happen. Now comes the big question:

"When a person sees what actually takes place, what does the person do? How do they respond to the actual outcome of everything?"

Here are some possibilities to consider, regardless of whether or not the person likes the outcome of what occurs. The person attributes the resulting circumstances to either:

1. Random chance and nothing more (saying there is no God).

2. The person caused it to happen (considering they had the power over it)

3. Something else in creation (idol, lucky stars, good luck charm) caused it.

4. Someone (like a person, priest, saint, holy man, prophet, sacred cow, etc.) made intercession with God to make it happen.

5. Any combination of the above (self, holy man and a lucky charm and natural causes).

6. God Almighty, Alone is the One who really controls everything and it is all from Him. Whatever happens - Good or Bad - is all from Allah. And this is the correct belief in Islam.

The first person could be considered atheist (mulhid in Arabic). The second one considers himself to be a demi-god because he thinks he has power over things. The third is an idolator or pagan (mushrik, because of "shirk"). The fourth is mixing the cause of events between God Almighty, the Creator of everything along with something (or someone) He has Created.

The ancient Hebrews and children of Israel were commanded not to have any gods beside God Himself. "I am the Lord your God, that brought you out of the land of Egypt and the house of bondandage. You have no other god besides me. Thou shalt not have anyother gods besides me." (Read Exodus, chapter 20; Deutoronomy, chapter 5, etc.)

Throughout the Bible we learn of the many disasters sent against any who broke this solemn covenant. When the tribes of Jacob settled in different lands and began to pick up and worship the gods of pagans and idolators see the wrath of God against them and how He punished them.

The New Testament claims Jesus, peace be upon him, confirmed this as the greatest commandment of Almighty God, "to know, O Israel, the Lord your God is One Lord..." (see: Mark, 12:29).

Couple this understanding of making free-choices along with the teaching of Islam wherein we have already been in front of our Lord before coming into this life and have already acknowledged His Lordship over us. Then after removing this experience from our memories, Allah has then allowed us to come into being from the decendency of Adam, tribe after tribe and nation after nation, all of us coming along and making our individual choices.

Now we begin to understand the reason behind some of the tragedies taking place in the world. These are not new at all. In fact, we can easily compare many of the Bible and Quranic stories of nations of people who came before us and what happened to them. The more worldly success they had, and became more enthralled and engrossed with the material worship of created things and the more they left off the proper worship and thanksgiving to the Lord, the more they were punished and even destroyed completely. Consider the people of Noah in the flood and the army of Pharaoh in the Red Sea and recall the Children of Israel, the suffering they experienced after worshipping the golden calf and then wondering the desert and wilderness for so many decades. People today still worship "golden calves" don't they?

There was a time when God Almighty called upon the souls of all the humans before putting them into their bodies saying, "Alasto bi-rabbakum?" (Am I not your Lord?).
And all of us souls replied, "Yes." After which, our memories were deleted and we have no recollection of this meeting in front of the Lord of the Worlds.
But on the Day of Judgment when all mankind is resurrected again in from the Throne of God and then the memory will return, what then will be the benefit?

(here is where the mistake was: the word was 'denied' and should have been 'confirmed'. Thank you Talhah for find and reporting this error, Jazakallah khair.)

Whoever confirmed Almighty God His rightful place as the Only One worthy of any worship and did the deeds of righteousness could then count on an easy life in Paradise, while on the other hand, whoever continued to make partners in worship with Almighty God or worse, denied His very existence will find a terrifiying and horrible life awaiting there in the Fire of Hell.

Mankind from his very beginning has been instilled with the ability to distinguish right from wrong. The concept of the Day of Judgment wherein good deeds would be weighed against the bad deeds, something stressed in Islam, is most certainly a way of seeing clearly the outcome of those who thought they could get away with anything and not be punished.

Yet at the same time those who suffered and remained patient even in the most trying of conditions could then see the benefit of having sins washed away due to their suffering and perserving in this life and continually praising and thanking their Lord even when others around them were telling them to just forget God or even curse God for their suffering. (Recall the story of Job in the Bible, and Ayyoob in the Quran).

Islam puts a great amount of importance of the actions and deeds of a person. At the same time Islam teaches the true believers are not going to have it easy just because they have now come to the right path and began to worship the Lord correctly on His Terms. Consider the very important and clear verse in the Quran in chapter 29, verses 2 and 3:

"Does mankind think they will be left alone on saying, 'We believe' and they will not be put into great calamity? For sure, just as Allah has put those before them into trials and tribulations, He will test them also, to show those who are truthful and expose the liars in their falsehood."

"Or do you think you shall enter into the Garden (Paradise) without such (tribulations) as came to those who passed away before you? They encountered suffering and adversity, and were so shaken in spirit that even the Prophet and those of faith who were with him cried: "When (will come) the help of God?" Ah! Verily, the help of God is (always) near! (Quran 2:214)

Clearly mankind is going to be tested and Quran also speaks of punishment in this world as well as in the Next Life:
"Generations before you We destroyed when they did wrong: their prophets came to them with clear signs, but they would not believe! So, Allah dos requite those who sin!" (Quran 10:13)

All us at one time or another consider how it is some people seem so evil, yet they seem to prosper while others seem so nice and yet they really suffer in this life. We ask to ourselves how this could be fair. Some even question how God could allow things like this to take place.

Is this all a test? Or is this some kind of punishment? But what about the ones who get away with so much evil and sin? Where is the justice is all of this?

Good questions.

I spent years attempting to figure how you might know whether an unfortunate incident was a test or a punishment.

One scholar of Islam says it is a punishment if the person complains all the time and is bitter about it, it is a test if the person just tolerates it with patience and it becomes a way of spiritual elevation if the misfortune is carried with cheerfulness and thanksgiving (like in the case of Job).

The prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, told of two men who would be brought forth on the Day of Judgment. One of them would have had everything he ever wanted in this life, even having a feast set before him and consuming it all just before his death. And the other man would have gone through the whole life without having all of these things. In fact, he would have nothing of his wishes fulfilled, even to the extent that when he was about to die he only requested a drink of water and did not even receive that.

Then both of these two would be brought forward on the Day of Judgment and the one who had everything he wanted in this life would be put into the Hell-Fire the way you push a needle into something and then pull it out. And he would be asked, "In your whole life on earth, did you ever see anything good?" He would reply, "I swear by God, in my whole life I never saw anything good!"

Then the other man would be brought forward and be put into the Paradise in the same manner and pulled out as you would pull a needle out of something. And he would be asked, "In your whole life did you ever see anything bad?" He would reply, "I swear by Almighty God, in my whole life I never saw anything bad.

The companions of Muhammad, peace be upon him, were a bit confused with this story and asked how it is that a man would have everything in this life and then be put into Hell and another would have nothing in this life and then be put into Paradise.

The answer is, "Nobody is perfect." Now I like that, because I know that I am not perfect either.

The prophet, peace be upon him, continued and explained the person who had everything in this life was actually a very evil and bad person who Allah hated and did not want him to even smell the Paradise. But the man was not perfectly evil and had done some good deeds. So, Allah gave him all of his reward and more in this life and then sent Him to Hell to reside there forever.

The case of the other man was, he was actually a very good and kind man, but he also wasn't perfect and had done some bad deeds. Allah loved him very much and did not want him to experience even the smell of the Hell-Fire, so he gave him his punishment in this life and then rewarded him with the eternal Paradise in the Next Life.

Another teaching of Muhammad, peace be upon him, was when he said, "Amazing is the condition of the true believer, as only good comes to him. Whenever he experiences the good of this world he praises and thanks Allah. Whenver he experiences any trials or difficulties in this world he still praises Allah and he is patient. And it is good for him. But this is only in the case of the true believer."

Consider the following:

On August 19, 1999, a powerful earthquake killed 6,000 people in Turkey. The day before, the Turkish government passed a law that would jail any person caught teaching their children the Qur’an within their home. In the town of Golcuk, buildings that were constructed recently were destroyed but a mosque and its minaret built a century earlier stand unscathed. The building next to it is also standing, for had it fallen, it would have likely damaged the mosque.

On December 26, 2006 the earthquake and tsunami, the province of Aceh in Indonesia was essentially wiped out. And yet in many affected areas in Indonesia dozens of mosques stand untouched amidst the rubble around them. Secular interpretations say that mosques were better constructed and so escaped damage. The mosques were actully turned into command centers, hospitals and places of refuge for everyone - even for those who were not Muslims.

However, according to an article by a non-Muslim journalist, in the town of Sigli, a mosque made of wood stands while surrounding structures have been destroyed. Years of grieving and foraging for answers have finally quelled my inner tumult. With the tsunami, Hurricane Katrina and now the earthquake in Pakistan, however, there arose confusion about calamities affecting nations as a whole.

Could it be that nations and people are being punished in this life for their wrong-doings? Is it possible that some continue to richer and richer even though it is apparent they are so evil and greedy?

Even though Muslims around the world have suffered at the hands of the people in the west for a number of years. We find imams and Muslim leadres calling for their followers to donate to the relief effort of the hurricane Katrina.

If someone askes about the disasters happening in the west such as hurricanes, floods, economic and social failures and the things happening in the Muslim world such as the tsunami, mudslides and flooding in places like India, Indonesia, Pakistan's earthquakes, and so on, there is a simple answer.

Sometimes it is punishment from Almighty God; other times it is a test and in some cases it is a blessing in disguise. But in every case, Allah is always fair and just. He never puts a burden on anyone more than they can bear. And he never punishes someone for the evil of someone else.

One modern day teacher of Islam instructs us to, "Avoid the punishment argument," he suggests. "Only God knows definitively whether an affliction is a punishment, a test or a virtue in the guise of a calamity."

Some folks in self-reflection mode started to say that Pakistanis had become very materialistic. Was God’s hand drumming sense into us all?

He replies, "I prefer the test argument. All of life is a test, including the calamities that befall us. Pakistan is certainly being tested individually and collectively. A nation established in the name of religion has a far greater responsibility than a nation established to preserve ethnicity or nationality. All of the teachings of Islam that speak to humanitarian values apply with greater poignancy to a nation like Pakistan. In addition to the materialism argument, which may well be true, Pakistan needs to reexamine its moral compass, its raison d’etre, for now more than ever, it is being asked to compromise its principles in the national interest or worse still, in the interest of global mavericks bent on molding the world in their own image."

The Monday after the earthquake in Pakistan, almost every other patient who were treated by volunteer doctors there, spoke confidently of all these rapidly occurring natural disasters being a sign of the end of times. Seemed a logical enough question, so we asked the expert again. Dr. Fareed exudes an enviable equanimity. "When the Prophet [may God bless him and give him peace] died, people predicted that those were end times; when the ‘Ali-Mu‘awiyya conflict occurred they did the same, and so on. Global end times are irrelevant when compared to the end time of the individual, which is death. We will all probably be dead, and taken to task in the after life long before the physical world ends. Our own salvation is tied, not to global qayamat (reckoning), but to our own individual qayamat."

The concept of individual accountability is enshrined in Islam. No parents, sons or saints will be bailing us out then. Imams, shuyukh and leaders of Muslim countries are however doubly burdened on the Day of Judgment: they shall have an individual cognizance, and also remain answerable for the sins of the congregants or citizenry that they misguided.

It is tempting to attribute the earthquake in Turkey to their bold disobedience and quickly couple it as cause and effect. The Quran exhorts us to reflect, true - but it does not ask us to speculate about God’s intentions, as this is an exercise in futility and sickening self-righteousness. No one has a connection with the Divine to be able to confidently proclaim that this calamity is a test and that disaster is from the wrath of God.

And when the despair and depression lift, fortunate are those who are able to feel the closeness to God. Even more blessed are those who are able to see that they were tested with wealth and family just so they could climb the rungs of spiritual ascent. After all, in Sura Anfal and Taghabun (8:28, 64:15) the Qur’an says "know that your possessions and children are but a trial."

Islam is a deeds-based religion and it behooves us to be in a state of dynamic self-evaluation. An inventory of the day's events and what we racked up, good and bad is a great way to keep the record clean. Like ‘Umar bin Khattab said: "Do your own hisab (accounting) before your hisab is done for you."

And when misfortune strikes, may we be in a state of serene submission, surrender and peaceful obedience to Almighty Allah; accepting that we have lost worldly loves and possessions only to gain closeness to the Creator, ameen.

[some of the views above were taken from a variety of sources - and we pray to Allah to accept from us and correct our mistakes and forgive our errors, ameen. And we ask Allah for all of who have helped in producing this humble effort to accept from them and give them success in this life and in the Next life as well, ameen]

[Editor: We noted and corrected the 'typo' in the transliteration of Quran verse, "Am I not your Lord?" - Thanks to comment by sister Halimah - Jazakillah Khair sister]