Friday, April 19, 2013


                                 Rolando Banzon and his family after evacuating his Abu Dhabi residential building

The ‘powerful earthquake struck a border area of southeast Iran on Tuesday killing at least 35 people in neighbouring Pakistan, destroying hundreds of houses and shaking buildings as far away as India and Gulf Arab states.’ I was in Dubai at that time, I still am, and according the National Centre of Meteorology here, the impact of the earthquake, measured between 4 and 5 on the Richter scale, was felt all over the United Arab Emirates.

I related what I witnessed in these words on my Facebook page:

About an hour or so ago, for the first time in my life, I experienced earthquake tremors – a spillage of the Iranian earthquake; the magnitude was immense especially in the Sharjah area. The hotel (Flora Creek Apartment, Dubai), in which my family and I are staying, suddenly turned into a mighty swing, turning from one side to another – everything was virtually swinging. We all rushed to the reception; there was nothing anybody could but wait in horror until Allah accomplished His purpose!

"Life is indeed short. I may not have been able to write or even post this to dear friends, if Allah had declared that my time was up. Is it not time for hearts to turn to Allah and repent? O Allah! Forgive us…….”

‘Police in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Fujairah confirmed there were no injuries, crashes or damage as a result of the quake, but hundreds of people were evacuated from buildings. Many began fleeing while the ground was still shaking, using elevators instead of stairs and crowding outside. Some panicked and ran to exits, screaming.’ Before I could collect myself and locate the shortest and safest way to the reception desk, my family was already there. What! Is it Yaumul Qiyaamah already, when children will flee from their parents?

                              People standing outside their houses and offices in Dubai

My youngest daughter, Aishah, on a light mood, did not forget her bag of sweets. We all met at the reception of the hotel; and nobody could explain what was happening or suggest what could be done. A long chandelier at the middle of the Reception was the right pendulum for us to measure the swinging of the entire building as it dangled from point to point, while we watched wide-eyed in fear! Some of us rushed outside; a Kuwaiti family stopped the police vehicle patrolling Deira area. The wife said, complaining to the officer, 'The hotel is swinging, please...'

The police officer answered, 'Madam, all Dubai is turning, just pray.........'

Experts said ‘if there is an earthquake, it is advised you drop to the ground and take cover under strong furniture, such as a table. Hold on, cover your head and neck and wait until the shaking has stopped before you exit the building. Moving during a quake increases your risk of injury.’ It is easier said than done. Hardly will people remember anything at the time of emergencies, though workers here take regular drills on how to conduct themselves during such happenings.

The experts further advised that people should ‘calmly evacuate using the staircase and go to an open area away from buildings and power lines.’ But is there much place in Dubai, for instance, where one can stay away from buildings, with all these ubiquitous skyscrapers? What would happen were the earth to cave in beneath these tall buildings and their zenith hurl on pedestrians?

Seismologists may give reasons of earthquakes as resulting from the sudden breakage of ‘underground along a fault line. This sudden release of energy causes the seismic waves that make the ground shake. When two blocks of rock or two plates are rubbing against each other, they stick a little. They don't just slide smoothly; the rocks catch on each other. The rocks are still pushing against each other, but not moving. After a while, the rocks break because of all the pressure that has built up. When the rocks break, the earthquake occurs. During the earthquake and afterward, the plates or blocks of rock start moving, and they continue to move until they get stuck again. The spot underground where the rock breaks is called the focus of the earthquake. The place right above the focus (on top of the ground) is called the epicentre of the earthquake.’

                                   Workers evacuate building in Dubai Media City

Where Muslims accept the above explanation as to how earthquakes occur, they further search for why Allah will cause this to happen? Is it a way of showing Allah’s Signs in the universe until it becomes manifest to all that His message is the truth (Fussilat 41:53)? Are we being warned by these earthquakes (al-Israa’ 17:59)?

Doubtless, these earthquakes are part of Allah’s tokens to warn His bondsmen against harming themselves by sin and transgression. If we see earthquakes as misfortunes befalling us, we should also recognise the fact they are a result of our handiwork; but Allah pardons much, so, let us turn to Him penitent (ash-Shuurah 42:30) “Whatever of good reaches you, is from Allaah, but whatever of evil befalls you, is from yourself” [an-Nisaa’ 4:79]

Earthquakes and their tremors should make us revert to Allah, eschew what He prohibited and strive to attain His pleasure in the world and the Hereafter; in the hope that He may make us whole, and avert from us all evils (al-Israa’ 7:96).

Al-‘Allaamah Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “Allaah sometimes gives the earth permission to breathe, which is when major earthquakes happen; this makes people feel scared, so they repent, give up sins, pray to Allaah and feel regret [for their sins]. When there had been an earthquake, some of the Salaf said: your Lord is warning you. When Madeenah was struck by an earthquake, ‘Umar Ibn al-Khattaab (may Allaah be pleased with you) addressed the people and said: “If there is another earthquake, I will not stay here with you.”

So, whenever we witness any calamity or Allah’s sign, earthquake, eclipse, tornadoes or tsunami, we should hasten to Allah, seek refuge in Him, call on Him and ask for His pardon and forgiveness, as the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said when there was an eclipse: “If you see anything like that, hasten to remember Him, call on Him and seek His forgiveness.”

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