Thursday, December 7, 2017

Cyclone Ockhi: Divine Signs in Our Times

Nature's Fury, Shattered Lives 

Innal-Lillaahi wa inna ilayhi raajiuun. 
To God we belong and to Him we shall return.

That’s the defining thoughts for everyone who face the trial of misfortune and loss. 

Tragedy has come home to people in our land this week. Cyclone Ockhi, the most devastating cyclonic storm in the northern Indian Ocean region since 2015 has struck many lands in its tentacles: the coastal regions of Sri Lanka, the South Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the Lakshadweep Islands, and also the Maldives.

Nature’s fury in the form of bad winds and cyclonic storms has taken away the lives of scores of people; hundreds of fishermen are missing after the storms, with no information about their whereabouts and search and rescue operations by the Indian agencies still ongoing till now. Beyond the shattered lives, possessions and property worth millions and millions has been destroyed. The damage to electricity transmission lines, agricultural crops, roads and passageways will continue to leave a chain of negative effects on the everyday life world of the affected regions and peoples for the months to come.

The trail of devastation caused by the Cyclone Ockhi raises significant questions. For the living victims and the heirs of the dead, coping with the tragedy requires robust support and meaningful assistance. The government as well as the civil society, beyond humanitarian relief, need to focus on enabling people to pick up the threads to their shaken lives.

There is already anger on the streets. The colossal failures of the local administration in responding to the disaster have come under the scrutiny of searing critique: clearly, the governments at various levels  failed in taking measures in time to prevent or reduce the effects of damage and suffering. The work of those who are charged with managing the disaster-relief  and response operations, the efficacy of the weather forecasting department, the mechanisms for passing on relevant information to fishermen venturing into the sea by the local authorities in real time, etc. requires to be robustly looked at. The bureaucracy and the technocrats should be held accountable under law for the gross mismanagement of people’s affairs as revealed on every time a disaster strikes the land.     

We, the members of Jamaat Ul Sahih Al Islam in India and elsewhere; stand in solidarity with the victims of tragedies- both natural disasters and man-made disasters- in our times. It needs to be noted that based on Divine prophecies contained in the spiritual texts of all religions, especially as preserved in the Holy Qur’an and the sacred traditions of the Holy Prophet (sa); our beloved Imam, the Muhyi-ud-Din Al Khalifatullah, Hadhrat Munir Ahmad Azim Saheb (atba) of Mauritius has been inviting the attention of the world through his recent sermons to the signs of our times, the End Times. In this context, it is instructive to note that Hadhrat Saheb (atba) points to the need for taking (lots of) precautions against the looming dangers around us. In his Friday sermon of 29 September 2017(08 Muharram 1439 AH), Hadhrat Saheb (atba) observed:

Today is the 8th of Muharram of the year 1439 AH… I ask you to listen to all that I am telling you. From this Muharram 1439 AH to the next Muharram 1440 AH - believe me brothers and sisters - there are a lot of happenings/ events/ catastrophes which shall occur: earthquakes, floods, lots of people shall lose their lives, atrocious crimes, wars/ fights (nations against nations), blood of innocents shall be shed. Corruption shall cause havoc in several countries; the powerful (more precisely, the powerful countries) shall crush down the weak ones, and don’t forget that Islam also is in danger. That is, the Muslims’ lives are in danger, especially wherever they are in minority.

I ask you to take this into consideration and start counting - from the 1st Muharram of this New Year 1439 AH till its end. Write down all that which shall happen throughout the world and even small islands and even all that which is found in the Indian Ocean (and its vicinity) shall not be spared from divine punishment, in the form of earthquakes, floods, great wars which shall be very difficult to stop. Believe in what I am saying.

O Muslims and Humanity at large. Take precautions and stock your food- buy, keep, preserve….”

Making Sense of the Signs of Our Times

In a world riven with issues of inequity, injustice and oppression; the effects of natural calamities such as cyclonic storms are often aggravated and exacerbated by the dismal state of our governance systems. The dysfunctional institutional  frameworks and processes invariably fail the victims, especially the marginalized poor, at their most vulnerable moments such as disasters. Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an: 

That which they spend for the present life bears likeness with the wind wherein is freezing cold which smites the tilth of the people who have done injustice to themselves, so it destroys it. Allâh does no injustice to them but they wrong themselves”.  (3:118)

Ours is an age in which the profound challenges of global warming and climate change are increasingly being recognized as a direct consequence of man's excesses in the name of economic growth and industrial development . The unbridled quest for material prosperity by the 'advanced' nations as well as those other nations who follow in their footsteps,  has come at the cost of far-reaching deleterious impact upon the lands and the oceans. The onslaught of natural calamities, earthquakes, hurricanes and  other devastating storms, that are raging across the world every now and then, is a grim reminder of the limits of human hubris and arrogance in the names of wealth, power, nationalism, racial identity or other 'imagined' communities. 

The shifting of the winds and the change of fortunes is part of the Holy Will of God to test the mettle of the humans. Every fortune contains within it the seeds of a trial; just as every tragedy and misfortune can also be an opportunity for new thinking and course correction. There is no alternative to sustained engagement for finding appropriate solutions to the issues of diverging fortunes of the nations and peoples. The questions of distributive justice at various levels of human affairs require the foregrounding the considerations of equity, justice and fairness to people everywhere. As a spiritual message, the words of Hadhrat Saheb (atba) are not just meant to be an advice for people in their individual paths; but also a solemn guidance for governments in the management of local, national and international affairs.

The servants of God are here precisely to invite attention to the fundamental spiritual norms of human engagement in all spheres of life: to advice on morals, prudence and rectitude for leading a pure and ethical life in full awareness of the fleeting nature of our moments in this world. If only the people cared to listen to the Divine messages of our times and introspect on the precarious state of the world, the wise among them could have appreciated and profited by the moral clarity, ethical sincerity and essential fairness of the spiritual approach on offer, All Praise belongs to the Almighty Alone.