8 Valuable Lessons to Learn from the Earthquake in Turkey | SoundVision.com

8 Valuable Lessons to Learn from the Earthquake in Turkey

As parents, we are constantly seeking ways to teach our children about the world we live in. As Muslim parents, added to that responsibility is ensuring that they also see the world and their purpose in it from an Islamic lens. To accommodate both, we have to take advantage of teachable moments and the recent earthquake in Turkey presents a unique opportunity. 

What We Know about the Facts

Earthquakes are a common occurrence in many parts of the world, including Turkey. An earthquake is a shaking of the Earth's surface that is caused by the movement of tectonic plates. When these plates collide, they create friction, which generates seismic waves that cause the ground to shake. The severity of an earthquake is measured using the Richter scale, which ranges from 1 to 9, with 9 being the most intense. 

In recent years, Turkey has experienced several significant earthquakes. But the earthquake that took place in the early morning hours of February 6, 2023, at 7.8, was the strongest in 80 years. The timing of the quake struck at the worst possible moment, while most of the residents were asleep, resulting in thousands of concrete buildings collapsing on top of them. 

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the epicenter of the quake was 23 kilometers (14.2 miles) east of Nurdagi, in Turkey’s Gaziantep province, at a depth of 24.1 kilometers (14.9 miles). Turkey has taken in the most Syrian refugees and this region, close to the border of Syria, was home to many of them. As of this writing the death toll is nearing 40,000. And with many still unaccounted for and winter conditions making rescue efforts even more challenging, the toll is expected to continue to increase significantly.

What We Know about Our Human Failings

Humans are at a loss to understand the complexities of the world we live in. Events like the earthquake exacerbate acknowledgement of our ignorance, especially when individuals imagine they can figure out the purpose behind Allah’s actions. The truth of the matter is that we can never know with certainty whether an event of international prominence or something that happens to us individually is a test or punishment. Those details are left to the One Who is The All-Knowing, The All-Wise.

Wonder or confusion about calamities, disasters, and lesser trials is not a new phenomenon. It has plagued humans since the beginning of our time in this world. And part of the challenge is an acceptance that, no matter how learned we are, there will always be meanings and knowledge that is hidden to us. One well-known example that comes to mind is found in Surah Al-Kahf, The Cave, which Muslims frequently read on Fridays. That is of Prophet Musa, peace be upon him, and his meeting with Khidr. The meeting came as a result of Musa priding himself as the most knowledgeable of men. Allah proved him otherwise by identifying Khidr as someone who indeed had more knowledge, and a meeting of the two was set in motion. It is a detailed story that is filled with nuance and, If you are not familiar with its entirety, there is a nice summary of it here.

It is important we humbly accept that, no matter how much knowledge we attain or pursue, we will always be limited in our capacity to understand everything about life and death. Alhamdulillah, all praise is to Allah, the source of all knowledge lies with Allah alone. That said, we can still routinely ponder on the guidance that He so mercifully provides. And there is much to learn from it and to teach to our children.

Lessons to Learn and Teach to our Children

Here are nine lessons we can glean from this catastrophic event that are connected to Islamic guidance in the Quran and Sunnah.

1. A lesson about the power of Allah.

Alhamdulillah, all praise is to Allah, everything we know about scientific facts about the world we live in we know because Allah has afforded us that knowledge. The Quran teaches us that everything in the world, including naturally occurring events like earthquakes, is a reminder of the power of Allah. In the Quran, He says: 

"And We sent not the signs except as a warning. So whoever gives heed, does so for his own soul, and whoever turns away, then surely We have not sent you as a keeper over them." 

(Surah Al-Isra, 17:59)

The earthquake clearly demonstrates that Allah is indeed in charge. Man was powerless to stop it while it was happening and we are essentially powerless to thwart the destruction left in its path. In Surah At-Talaq, we learn: 

“Allah is He Who created seven heavens, and of the earth the like of them; the decree continues to descend among them, that you may know that Allah has power over all things and that Allah indeed encompasses all things in (His) knowledge.”

(Surah At-Talaq, 65:12)

2. A lesson about struggle.

We have been taught about struggle and its purpose. In the Quran Allah warns:

“Certainly, we have created human in distress.”

(Surah Al-Balad, 90:4)

Imam Ali, may Allah be pleased with him, said: 

But Allah tries His servants with various tribulations, renders them to worship Him through struggles, tests them with various types of distresses, all in order to extract pride out from their hearts, and to settle humbleness in their souls, and in order to make all these open doors to His grace and an easy means to His pardon. 

(Mizan al-Hikmah #2981)

3. A lesson about the purpose of tests and trials.

Tests and trials will be a regular part of our lives in this world. These tests will challenge us emotionally, physically, psychologically, and spiritually. 

"Do the people think that they will be left to say, ‘We believe’ and they will not be tried? But We have certainly tried those before them, and Allah will surely make evident those who are truthful, and He will surely make evident the liars."

(Surah Al-Baqarah, 29:2)

And the prescription for all of these tests is the same - patience and gratitude.

“And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to As-Sabirun (the patient). Who, when afflicted with calamity, say: ‘Truly! To Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return.’”

(Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:155)

4. A lesson about death.

In the written reports and video feeds that document this catastrophic event, we have seen evidence of life and death. Within families, there were adults and children who were buried in the rubble, some of whom survived unscathed, some who were injured, some of whom died, and some who are still unaccounted for. The details of each outcome was known only by The Creator and Sustainer of All Things.  

“Indeed, Allah [alone] has knowledge of the Hour and sends down the rain and knows what is in the wombs. And no soul perceives what it will earn tomorrow, and no soul perceives in what land it will die. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” 

(Surah Luqman, 31:34)

"And it is not [possible] for one to die except by permission of Allah, at a decree determined. And whoever desires the reward of this world - We will give him thereof; and whoever desires the reward of the Hereafter - We will give him thereof. And we will reward the grateful."

(Surah Al-Imran, 3:145)

As for those who lost their lives in the earthquake? The hour and manner of their death was ordained by the One who is The Most Wise and The Most Merciful. And we know that He also makes no mistakes. The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, reminds us that:

“Five are regarded as martyrs: They are those who die because of plague, abdominal disease, drowning or a falling building (under debris) etc., and the martyrs in Allah’s Cause.”

(Sahih Al-Bukhari #2989)

We can pray that Allah accepts this end as a means to Jannah. And about our own deaths? Only Allah knows and He is the best of planners.

5. A lesson about our shared humanity.

It is difficult to watch the photos of destruction and despair without feeling the pain of those who are suffering. We have been glued to reports of any kind related to aftershocks and continued danger as well as the miracle of life in the recovery. Just yesterday, an 18-month old baby was pulled from under the concrete rubble a full week after the quake struck. 

The care and concern we feel for our brothers and sisters are genuine, as the hearts of the believers are connected. Our Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

“The parable of the believers in their affection, mercy, and compassion for each other is that of a body. When any limb aches, the whole body reacts with sleeplessness and fever.” 

(Sahih Al-Bukhari #5665, Sahah Muslim #2586)

And we should strive to strengthen this connection as it is good for our souls. Anas ibn Malik reported that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, also said:

“None of you will have faith until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” 

(Sahih Al-Bukhari #13)

Volunteers jumped into action to offer assistance, donations of food, clothing, supplies, and medicines have poured into the region, and millions of dollars have been donated from around the world for relief efforts. And these are our obligations, one-to-another, as mentioned by our Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him: 

“Verily, the believers are like a structure, each part strengthening the other (and the Prophet clasped his fingers together.)”

(Sahih Bukhari) 

6. A lesson about how we conduct our own lives.

We have no way of knowing when our time in this world will end. Those victims of the recent earthquake did not go to sleep the night before even imagining they would not wake up and go about their normal routines the next day. We can’t help but worry about the increased incidence of calamity and destruction and our own demise. In this manner, the affliction that befalls our brothers and sisters can act as a reminder and inspiration. We must each as ourselves - with no promise of tomorrow, how will we conduct ourselves today? 

7. A lesson about collective responsibility and the Day of Reckoning.

In Surah Az-Zalzalah, The Earthquake, Allah describes the violent events that will take place on the Day of Judgement.

“On that Day people will proceed in separate groups; to be shown ˹the consequences of˺ their deeds. So whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it; And whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it.”

(Surah Az-Zalzalah, 99:6-8)

The description is detailed and the implications striking. But how does this relate to our recent experiences with the earthquake in Turkey?

We are promised that there will be signs of the coming of the hour and we see many of them in front of us:

  • Knowledge is being taken away with the death of our scholars.
  • Earthquakes increase in numbers and strength.
  • Our time lacks blessings.
  • Murder will increase and neither the murderer nor the victim will know why their life is taken.
  • Money will spread through greed.
  • Corruption will be rampant in the land.

Rather than suggest the blame for the calamity on the indiscretions of the victims, we must reflect on how we are collectively responsible for the increase in fitna, trial, affliction, and distress. Are these catastrophic events increasing because of an increase in sin and wrongdoing on the earth as a whole? And what part of that are we going to be held individually accountable for?

8. A lesson about tawakkal, trust in Allah.

If we believe that Allah is The All Powerful, The Allah Knowing, and The Sustainer of All Things, then we must also place our trust in His decree, and in Him Alone. There is a beautiful duaa that can provide comfort and also protection in times of distress and challenge. It is a duaa that Allah taught to our beloved Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, in the form of revelation:

“But if they turn away, [O Muhammad], say, ‘Sufficient for me is Allah; there is no deity except Him. On Him I have relied, and He is the Lord of the Great Throne.’"

(Surah At-Taubah, 9:192)

As parents, it is important to educate ourselves and our children about the world we live in and the tests that define our purpose in it. We can and should use the struggles both inside and outside of our homes as teachable moments. Be prepared to reflect and take the time to teach your children to look at these obstacles, frustrations, and calamities of our daily lives through a lens of Islamic guidance. By putting these tests and trials into perspective we can meet them with renewed strength and resolve and we can teach our children to do the same. 

And Allah promises the believer a great reward. As The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

“How wonderful is the affair of the believer, for his affairs are all good, and this applies to no one but the believer. If something good happens to him, he is thankful for it and that is good for him. If something bad happens to him, he bears it with patience and that is good for him.”

(Sahih Muslim #2999)


Zahirah Lynn Eppard is the managing editor of the Muslim Home parenting newsletter project. As Sound Vision’s Director of Religious Education, she has also spearheaded the production of more than 500 online classes serving children ages 3-12 in the Adam’s World and Colors of Islam Clubs. Eppard has also worked in the field of education as a teacher, homeschooler, and Islamic school principal, as a marital and crisis intervention counselor, and as a lobbyist, and social justice activist. She lives with her husband and six children in Maryland.

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