by Izzah Zaroon
It was about 4 in the morning when I sat up, awakened by a low rumbling sound. All of a sudden the wind howled, and in the distance I heard an airplane flying above. The house started to shake and continued to do so for a few seconds to a minute. I was terrified, thinking that my neighborhood was being bombed. I kept asking myself how an attacker managed to get into U.S. airspace without getting shot. Then it registered – it was just a small earthquake. Soon the shaking stopped. I could hear the snow plows cleaning the streets—snow had fallen all day the day before and through the night. A few minutes passed, everything returned to normal, there was stillness again, and I was able to go back to sleep.
Later that day – February 10, 2010 – I was thinking about the earthquake, which had registered about 3.8 on the Richter scale. Wall Street Journal headlines read, “Minor earthquake strikes near Chicago,” and there was some damage to smaller towns out west. Haiti had been hard hit on January 12, 2010, not long before. The Haiti earthquake registered a 7.0 magnitude on the Richter scale with the death toll rising day by day. I continued to reflect on the natural disasters that have been accumulating over the past couple years accompanied by human suffering.
The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake registered between a 9.0-9.3 in magnitude, with a loss of 230,000 lives in fourteen countries, and the resultant tsunami is noted to be one of the deadliest natural disasters in history.
Breaking news – February 27, 2010, on CNN: Chile just suffered an earthquake measuring 8.8 in magnitude. According to CBS, this earthquake tied for fifth place on the list of most powerful quakes ever recorded and was 500 times more powerful than the one that shook Haiti the previous month. The Chile quake set off Tsunami warnings for Japan, Hawaii, and California.
March 16, 2010: Los Angles wakes up shaking to an earthquake that measured 4.4.
Looking at these, I felt they were a wake-up call. How infinitesimal are we as humans on this earth?
A specific line in a hadith (report of the sayings or actions of the Prophet ﷺ) about the signs of the Last Day echoed in my mind.
Allah’s Apostle said, “The Hour will not be established till…earthquakes will increase in number…” (Sahih al-Bukhari)
I kept on thinking to myself, “What if the earthquake in Chicago had been of a greater magnitude? What if the earth was to swallow me whole?” The increasing occurrences left me troubled. Have I done enough good? I question my existence because I’m one of those folks who are fond of this dunya (life). I’m being totally honest when I say I love my material possessions and all the fun stuff that is man-made. Along with that love, I have a deep appreciation for all the beauty that the Almighty has created from the snow-capped mountains to the vast ocean to serenity of the wooded forests to all the different races that spice up my little life with culture and food. But if my world were to get shaken upside-down and I were to account for my deeds, what would I have to show? This question started to bother me. Have I done enough?
Allah’s Apostle (ﷺ) came to us all of a sudden as we were busy in a discussion. He said, “What do you discuss about?” The Companions said: “We are discussing about the Last Hour.” Thereupon he ﷺ said: “It will not come until you see ten signs before and (in this connection) he made a mention of the smoke, Dajjal, the beast, the rising of the sun from the west, the descent of Jesus son of Mary (Allah be pleased with him), the Gog and Magog, and landslides in three places, one in the east, one in the west and one in Arabia at the end of which fire would burn forth from the Yemen, and would drive people to the place of their assembly.” (Sahih Muslim)
What have you done for your return? This is the question I asked myself and am posing to you. A very basic approach would be to start by increasing or strengthening your iman (faith). Granted iman varies and fluctuates in one’s life, which is natural as noted by the following hadith.
Al-Haakim reported in al-Mustadrak, and al-Tabaraani reported in al-Mujam, that the Prophet (ﷺ) said: “Faith wears out in the heart of any one of you just as clothes wear out, so ask Allah to renew the faith in your hearts.”
Here are some basic steps:
- Try to increase your prayers if you are not achieving all five. Ask for strengthening of your iman, and forgiveness in your du`a (prayers) along with guidance.
- Increase the dhikhr (remembrance) of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (glory be to Him) by reading the Qur’an – perhaps a few pages a time with translation for those of us who aren’t Arabic-speaking. (There’s another idea: learn the language of our religion.)
- Start attending Islamic gatherings, like halaqas (study circles) or weekend programs at the Masjid.
- Get involved with Islamic charities and organizations: volunteering helps one realize how truly blessed we are and help open the door to attaining more Islamic knowledge.
- Last but not least, think of death. There are benefits of thinking about death; as noted by Daqaq radi allahu `anhu (may Allah be please with him), “Whoever remembers death frequently will benefit in three ways: he will hasten to repent, he will become content, and he will be active in worship. Whoever forgets death will be punished in three ways: he will delay repentance, he will no longer be content with what is sufficient, and he will be lazy in worship.”
Waking up to rumbling and shaking served as wake-up call for me (literally). I know how easy it is to get caught up in the rat race. Sometimes a little reminder is all you need to remember that the daily grind isn’t the end-all be-all, but just a means to distract us and lure us away from what really is key, the Akhirah (the Hereafter).