Natural disasters of cataclysmic proportion always raise the subject of how a just and merciful God can permit or decree indiscriminate carnage and devastation. How can a just God allow such injustices to take place? The secularists including atheists and agnostics use such catastrophic events to reinforce their belief in a Godless universe where the role of God at most is confined to serve individual’s spiritual needs. They reason if God does exist He should stand trial for murder and cruelty.
It is not unreasonable to pose the question why God permitted or decreed such indiscriminate carnage and devastation but do the questioners have that right when they are guilty of the same! If death and destruction is problem for the secular pundits and the mass media then why do they turn a blind eye or make halfhearted noise when secular governments commit much greater levels of atrocities and destruction? Just as an example two of the biggest wars in the last century were the direct consequence of secular nations pursing material interests guided by the secular values resulting in millions being slaughtered.
Secular pundits do not exhibit the same outrage when secular regimes develop lethal weapons using their advanced scientific knowledge then profit from it at the cost of bringing indiscriminate carnage and destruction upon weaker nations. Rather they constantly brag about the merits of secular societies by highlighting scientific achievements but again overlooking how those achievements have been used.
Using such a criterion means that the Nazis are more civilized than many of the peaceful societies who are not as advanced in the realms of scientific achievements! The recent devastation in Iraq is one example of how the scientific inventions were used in the long brutal and ugly history of secular nations! The casualty figures in the Iraq war is similar to the recent disaster in the Indian Ocean and in both cases the majority victims comprised of women and children. Yet, one case is described as a tragedy where as the carnage and destruction of Iraq is acceptable as secular values of democracy and freedom are being IMPOSED there.
Now, coming back to the issue, why does God permit or decree such catastrophic events as secularist have charged Him with the murder of innocents; the following points will attempt to elaborate the answer from an Islamic perspective.
Unfortunately many of the Muslims have issued erroneous statements declaring or implying that the recent disaster in the Indian Ocean was some form of divine punishment. Only those who have been directly informed by God through some divine communication can know this for certain. If it was a wrath of God surely it is the US that should have been hit not a populous Muslim country. Even if the US was the victim, the Muslims cannot openly proclaim this as divine punishment and rant like those fraudulent TV Evangelists in the US. But as an individual one can reflect on the event and contemplate about the pos! sible reasons for it, all of which at best is speculative.
Let us first clarify some of the erroneous conception held about God Almighty by the Secularists and this is the central reason for them to pose questions that does not apply to the notion of God as understood from the Islamic viewpoint. Then we can examine if charges of murder can be levied against God.
Notion of God
There is a general consensus that the meaning of God within the Monotheistic religions is that He is sovereign and the creator of man, life and universe. There is a clear distinction between the creator and created. God created human beings and their mind, given it the ability to compose, analyze and deduce ideas. By rational necessity the finite human mind cannot comprehend the nature of the infinite and eternal God. Furthermore, the reality shows that the human mind being finite struggles to comprehend the creation itself let alone the nature of the creator.
In contrast, secularists have attempted conceptualize the essence of God using their limited mind and perhaps the Christian and Pagan traditions have also contributed to this; the end result is God is a more powerful being with super human qualities. Naturally God is now thought of as a being that can be understood in terms of having human qualities and therefore subjected to the same principles that are applied to human beings. And this is where the error begins.
By rational necessity the eternal and uncreated God can never be subjected to the principles that have been derived from the minds of those who HE has created. Similarly, He cannot be subjected to the laws and ethics derived from the human mind as He has created the mind, body and soul. Just as a slave cannot command his master in the same way the eternal sovereign God cannot be commanded or evaluated by His own creation.
Hence, any attempt to evaluate God’s nature is a futile exercise. Human beings are only capable of understanding the notion from an ontological perspective, is there a creator or not. Is it true or false? If true what then is the implication for our relationship with Him; which is one of obedience – not judging the master. This is pointed out in the Quran with a poignant example of Prophet Ibrahim ordered to slaughter his son Ishmael.
Is God a ‘Murderer’?
The secular pundits charge that a merciful God would not commit mass murder referring to the mass casualties in the recent disaster. Murder by definition means to take a life unlawfully. But whose laws can determine that God Almighty has taken those lives unlawfully? Who has jurisdiction over God Almighty? The creator is the ultimate owner of the entire universe and its content; hence it is His prerogative to give and take, life.
Furthermore, God created mankind and placed them on earth with a limited life span as the giver and taker of life. Therefore, according to secular ‘logic’ He has been committing ‘murder’ from the death of the very first man! This is how ‘rational’ these so-called ‘intellectual’ secular nit-wits are! By the way: what is about the ‘mass murder’ of cattle, sheep and chicken in the slaughter-houses just to satisfy the nutritional needs of humans: how does this squares with ‘murder’ and ‘justice’ in the secular minds.
But let us come back to reality. God has the ability to recreate mankind after they have perished, as recreating is easier than creating from scratch. God Almighty can easily undo the alleged ‘murder’ of his subjects and He will on the Day of Judgment by resurrecting everyone! This is something a human being could not do to the murdered victims. So, the concept of murder can only be applied to those human beings that take another life unlawfully; they are guilty as they did not create the life in the first place, thus have no rights over it. And they are not able to resurrect the victims: the guilt persists for ever.
In addition, those that have perished, God may have given them a better life and spared them further sufferings in this world. So to pass quick judgment upon the divine without the full picture is premature, foolish and in reality impossible.
As for the hardship suffered by those who have survived the recent disaster, it cannot be construed as evil. Many tend to confuse between evil and suffering in general. According to the Islamic text, evil is rebelling against Gods commandments and the consequential suffering inflicted upon the victim. But not all forms of hardship constitutes evil by definition, a serious error often made by many of the secularists. God Almighty is more than entitled to test us from time to time and how quick are we to forget all the bounties that He has given us prior to that.
Adjectives like ‘love’, ‘merciful’ used in describing God Almighty should be understood not in terms of human qualities but as divine attributes. When for example God says He hears everything that does not mean He has big powerful ears but the use of such vocabulary allows the limited human minds to get an infinitely small appreciation of the power of the divine whilst remembering that HE is nothing like the creation, not part of it and not subjected to the laws of the creation.
There are certain groups of secularists that do advocate genocide or ethnic cleansing. Some have argued for racial purity by eliminating foreigners and other have argued for maintaining healthy genes of the nation by eliminating the undesirable elements. Eugenics like the gas chambers were the invention and practice of secular societies. Indiscriminate but targeted killing of certain groups of people is not evil according to them but a necessary cleansing process for survival and dominance.
They can find support for their viewpoint from Darwinism which shows that nature operates on the basis of: the survival of the fittest and elimination of the weakest. If nature functions in this manner why should human society also not function in this manner by adhering to such natural laws? Adolf Hitler and his party inspired by secular philosophers like Fredrick Nietzsche also pursued such policies representing a form of secularism. There is nothing to stop any secular society functioning under democratic principles to legislate for such notions of cleansing undesirable elements or foreigners or simply locking people up without trial and torturing them!
Most secular pundits tend to rant and dispense constant criticism against Islam (or religion in general) often hypocritically using religious values or like a coward without elaborating on their secular alternative. This is because it is easy to dispense blind criticisms like a masked man calling everyone else ugly.
This temporary short life is a test. God Almighty is testing the individuals and the collective community as to how they will respond to such catastrophic events. Answers will be revealed on the Day of Judgment. Hence, life is not meaningless without purpose. Every component in the universe has a purpose therefore the entire universe itself and human life must have a purpose. From the Islamic perspective those who have perished are martyr will be rewarded greatly and the young will enter paradise as they are innocent, they do not need salvation and no one needs to die for their ‘sins’.
And this universe will eventually end with the accounting of all our deeds finally reaching the eternal destination. That is far more consistent and meaningful position then to assert that life began and ended by chance, without any meaning. So a human being is only material, no different to a piece of metal or an animal in the jungle.