Part 1 - Earthquakes!
Earthquakes are the most devastating natural forces on earth. The worst loss of life occurs during earthquakes. Research reveals that every two minutes somewhere the surface of the earth cracks. According to statistics, the earth shakes hundreds of thousands of times a year. Twenty of them are powerful earthquakes which convulse the land. Yet since they often do not hit densely populated areas, they kill few people, if any, and cause little economic loss. Only five of these earthquakes reduce buildings to heaps of rubble.
This information shows that people do not frequently encounter earthquakes. No doubt, this is Allah's special protection against disasters for humankind.
In our day, only a city or a province becomes subject to damaging earthquakes. Yet, by the will of Allah, an earthquake affecting the whole planet could happen at any time. This type of shaking of the ground could end life on earth. The structure of the earth is quite vulnerable to quakes; a sudden movement or rupture of large masses of rock within the earth's crust or upper mantle would make catastrophe inescapable.
An earthquake has no relation with the type of soil that amplifies the effects of seismic waves travelling through it. An earthquake may still occur even when the natural conditions for an earthquake do not exist. By the will of Allah, an earthquake may happen at any time. Yet, Allah specially creates insecurity and instability in some parts of the land. This is to remind people that, at any time, an unexpected incident may place their lives in jeopardy. In the Qur'an, Allah warns people against a possible calamity:
Do those who plot evil actions feel secure that Allah will not cause the earth to swallow them up or that a punishment will not come upon them from where they least expect? Or that He will not seize them on their travels, something they are powerless to prevent? Or that He will not seize them little by little? For your Lord is All-Compassionate, Most Merciful. (Surat an-Nahl: 45-47)
These earthquakes shaking the earth for only seconds can last for hours, even days. While recovering from a devastating disaster, people can suffer another. This is surely easy for Allah. However, by His mercy, Allah protects man and with such disasters reminds him, now and then, that he has no control whatsoever over his life.
At this point, it could be beneficial to remember a major earthquake, which took place in the 20th century.
Technology Defeated: Kobe
Today's advanced level of science and technology inspires man with the feeling that he has control over nature. Yet, those who are overwhelmed by such a notion may soon feel disappointment. Technology is a tool provided by Allah for the service of man and is entirely under His control. Various events show that even the most advanced technology is impotent to rule nature.
For instance, despite the "earthquake-resistant technology" developed by Japanese scientists, Kobe fell victim to widespread subsidence caused by twenty seconds of intense shock waves during the 1995 quake. The world's most earthquake-resistant structures built to withstand an intense jolt simply collapsed during a momentary 6.9 magnitude quake. During the previous three decades, the Japanese government had invested one billion dollars in academic research to develop warning systems for earthquakes. Yet, these efforts yielded no conclusive results at all. As the millennium draws to a close, scientists are still unable to devise systems to issue warnings that could reduce the destructive effects of dangerous seismic events. Kobe was a recent example, among many others, demonstrating how vulnerable to unexpected patterns of seismic hits a modern industrialized city is.
The public was reassured that modern technology developed to predict major earthquakes would save them from complete destruction. Yet, after the disaster which reduced Kobe to heaps of rubble, it became apparent that no technology had been available to alert people to the danger. It also became apparent that the so-called "quake-resistant structures" had no resistance at all to the earthquake whose epicenter was 15 miles south-west of downtown Kobe.
The region affected by the earthquake included the populous cities of Kobe and Osaka. That is why appalling damage occurred, leaving 5,200 people dead and another 300,000 injured. The total damage was put at 200 billion dollars.
There are certainly lessons to be drawn from such a disaster. City-dwellers, used to leading comfortable lives, were suddenly confronted with many hardships after the disaster. In a state of shock, they were unable to figure out what to do with their lives,- let alone make plans for the future.