Prophetic Guidance – Repentance, Prayer & Charity in Times of Earthquakes

Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad

وَمَا نُرْسِلُ بِٱلْـَٔايَـٰتِ إِلَّا تَخْوِيفًا
{And We never send the signs except to instill fear} (Surat al-Isra’ 17:59).
The Prophet said, upon him blessings and peace: (i) “The Hour will not come until knowledge is taken back, earthquakes abound, time shortens, strifes predominate, and harj abounds–namely killing” (Bukhari).
(ii) “Allah has made the punishment of my Umma in this world killing, earthquakes and strifes” (Ahmad, Abu Dawud, al-Hakim).
(iii) “There will be a tremor (rajfa) in my Community in which shall perish ten thousand, twenty thousand, thirty thousand, and which Allah Most High shall make an admonishment for the Godfearing, a mercy for the Believers and a punishment for the disbelievers.” Narrated by Ibn `Asakir in Tarikh Dimashq and Ibn al-Sakan in Ma`rifat al-Sahaba.
Ibn `Asakir also narrated that Allah Most High said: “I shall cause a tremor in the best of nights, whatever disbeliever dies in it, it will be because his term of life has reached him, and whatever Believer dies in it, it will be for him shahada.”
Anas asked our Mother `A’isha about earthquakes: “Is it a punishment?” She replied: “A mercy and a blessing and an admonishment for the Believers, and an exemplary punishment and wrath and bane on the disbelievers.” Ibn Abi al-Dunya narrated it in al-`Uqubat and al-Hakim in the Mustadrak.
So the Believers are also meant to be rebuked by such terrible events. There was an earthquake in al-Kufa in the time of Ibn Mas`ud whereupon he said: “O people! Your Lord is rebuking you, so do what He is commanding you.” Al-Tabari narrated it in his Tafsir. Ibn Mas`ud also said: “We the Companions of Muhammad (upon him blessings and peace) were shown signs of blessings… we would hear the tasbih (glorification) of food while it was being eaten… while you all are shown only signs of terror.” Al-Darimi narrated it in his Musnad.
`Ata’ al-Khurasani said, “When five things happen five consequences follow: when riba is consumed there are sinkholes and earthquakes; when governors commit injustice rain is blocked; when fornication appears death abounds; when zakat is withheld livestock perishes; and when protected non-Muslims are victimized reverses in power follow.” (Abu Nu`aym, Hilya)
Ibn `Abbas said, the Messenger of Allah — upon him blessings and peace — said, “When you see a great sign, prostrate” (Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi–hasan— and Bayhaqi). [I.e. pray.]
Hence both the congregational Kusuf prayer and individual voluntary prayers should be prayed in such an event… but in our school “it is desirable to pray all the prayers of the acts of God other than the two eclipses (earthquake, intense darkness, tempests and hurricanes) INDIVIDUALLY NOT IN CONGREGATION” (Nawawi, Majmu`)…, much du`a and dhikr raised,* and almsgiving including freeing slaves as narrated from `Ali, Ibn `Abbas, `A’isha, Ibn Mas`ud, and Samura ibn Jundub Abu Dawud, Ibn Abi Shayba’s Musannaf, al-Shafi`i’s Umm and al-Muzani’s Mukhtasar, and al-Bayhaqi in his Sunan
* Especially tasbih, takbir, and salat on the Prophet upon him blessings and peace [al-Suyuti].
Al-Shafi`i in al-Umm and al-Bayhaqi in the Sunan narrated from `Ali b. Abi Talib — may Allah honor him — that he prayed at the time of an earthquake [two rak`as totalling] 6 ruku`s and 4 prostrations. Namely, in the first rak`a, 5 ruku`s and two prostrations, and in the second rak`a one ruku` and two prostrations.
Al-Bayhaqi said: “It is well-established on the part of Ibn `Abbas.” Sa`id b. Mansur narrated that Ibn `Abbas prayed it as imam and he made takbir then recited, bowed, then raised his head and recited, then bowed, then raised his head and recited, then bowed, then raised his head and recited, then bowed, after which he prostrated, whereby his prayer consisted in 6 rak`ats and two prostrations.”
(Ibn Abi Shayba; al-Sunan al-Kubra; Sunan Sa`id b. Mansur).
Ibn Abi Shayba narrated with a sound chain from `A’isha — Allah be well-pleased with her — that she said, “The prayer of the great signs of Allah is six ruku`s with four sujuds” (Muslim, Ibn Abi Shayba).
The righteous caliph `Umar ibn `Abd al-`Aziz ordered such a prayer in his time as well as massive alms-giving.
Source for all of the above: Imam al-Suyuti, Kashf al-Salsala `an Wasf al-Zalzala (The Piercing Alarm Fully Describing Earthquakes), ed. `Abd al-Rahman b. `Abd al-Jabbar al-Faryawa’i (Medina: Maktabat al-Dara, 1404/1984).
Blessings and peace on the Prophet, his Family, his Companions and all his Umma.