What to do at time of Earthquake or other Calamity?

Earthquakes are one of the great signs of Allah in this universe, with which He tests His slaves as a reminder or to instill fear of Him or as a punishment. Man must remember, when the signs occur, his weakness, incapability, humble status before Allah and his need of Him, so he turns to Allah, may He be exalted and glorified, in supplication, beseeching and humility, in the hope that Allah will lift this great distress from the people.

Allah says in the Quran:

“Verily, We sent (Messengers) to many nations before you (O Muhammad (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam)). And We seized them with extreme poverty (or loss in wealth) and loss in health (with calamities) so that they might humble themselves (believe with humility).

When Our Torment reached them, why then did they not humble themselves (believe with humility)? But their hearts became hardened, and Shaytaan (Satan) made fair?seeming to them that which they used to do.

So, when they forgot (the warning) with which they had been reminded, We opened for them the gates of every (pleasant) thing, until in the midst of their enjoyment in that which they were given, all of a sudden, We took them (in punishment), and lo! They were plunged into destruction with deep regrets and sorrows” [Surah al-An’am, 6:42-44]

Hence the fuqaha’ (may Allah have mercy on him) regarded it as mustahabb to offer a great deal of prayers for forgiveness and supplications, to beseech Allah and to give charity when earthquakes happen, as is also mustahabb when solar and lunar eclipses occur.

It is narrated in a saheeh report from Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allah be pleased with him) that he prayed when an earthquake struck Basra, offering a prayer like the eclipse prayer. Then he said: “This is how prayers should be offered at the time of these signs.”

[Narrated by Ibn Abi Shaybah, 2/472; ‘Abd ar-Razzaaq, 3/101; al-Bayhaqi in as-Sunan al-Kubra, 3/343. And he said: This is proven from Ibn ‘Abbaas. End quote. Classed as saheeh by al-Haafiz in Fath al-Baari, 2/521]

Shaykh Ibn Baaz (rahimahullah) said that:

“What must be done at the time of an earthquake or other calamity, or an eclipse, strong wind or flood is to repent to Allah, may He be glorified, and to beseech Him and ask Him for well-being, and to remember Him a great deal and ask Him for forgiveness, as the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) said at the time of an eclipse:

“When you see that, then turn to remembrance of Allah and call upon Him and ask for His forgiveness.”

It is also mustahabb to show compassion to the poor and needy, and to give charity to them, because the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) said:

“Those who show mercy will be shown mercy by the Most Merciful. Show mercy to those who are on earth and the One Who is in heaven will show mercy to you.” [Narrated by al-Tirmidhi.]

It was related from ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azeez (rahimahullah) that he used to write to his emirs when earthquakes took place telling them to give charity.”

The great scholar Zakariya al-Ansaari (may Allah have mercy on him) said:

“It is mustahabb for everyone to beseech Allah in supplication and so on when earthquakes and similar events, such as thunderbolts and strong winds, happen, and to offer prayers on his own in his house lest he be negligent, because the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) said, when the wind blew strongly: “O Allah, I ask You for its good and the good of what is in it and the good of what it is sent with, and I seek refuge in You from its evil and the evil of what is in it and the evil of what it is sent with.” [Narrated by Muslim]”

[Asna al-Mataalib Sharh Rawd al-Taalib (1/288). See also Tuhfat al-Muhtaaj (3/65)]

But there is no evidence in the Sunnah — as far as we know — to suggest that there is a particular dhikr or du’aa that it is mustahabb to recite when an earthquake occurs. Rather one should offer du’aa as inspired by Allah to ask for mercy and help from Allah, may He be exalted and glorified, so that He might divert this calamity from the people.

And Allah knows best.