When the earth is shaken with its quake, and the earth brings forth its burdens…

“The waves look like horses, Mama. When I watch the waves, I imagine that they are a lot of horses, running.” 

We arrived in Cyprus, my hometown, about a month ago. A few days after we arrived, my husband and I went to Istanbul for a few days to finalize the sale of our house there. It was bittersweet. We took our two youngest daughters including Fatima who was born in Istanbul 3 years ago but had no memory of our life there. Our memories relating to that episode of our lives are beautiful and for that we are thankful. We prayed that the new owners will likewise have a similar experience. I am also forever grateful to my parents who have been there for us from day 1 of our move to Istanbul in 2016, and finally my father was there during the selling process of our home too as we closed our chapter in Turkey for the foreseeable future.

Unfortunately we were reminded of why we left Istanbul in the first place during the few days we were there — intolerance and an overwhelming feeling of unsafety, and I wanted to write a blog post about that, until the earthquake incidence, so I will leave that to another time…

There have been a few thoughts running through my mind in the aftermath of the earthquake which was, albeit to a lesser degree, felt in Cyprus. I slept through it but my mother and both my sisters were awakened by it. It is a strange feeling having to find out that the same earthquake we experienced here had a devastating impact not a very far distance away. I was up for fajr around 6a.m. when I first saw my mom’s text message on our family group chat reading


‘You are all ok (?)’

Sent at 3.20a.m. Cyprus time.

Soon after, we found out the true magnitude of it and that the effects of it in Southeastern Turkey as well as bordering Syria were much more tragic.

Everything that happens in life has several explanations from a multitude of angles that simultaneously hold true. Let’s take the case of disease… a state of disease in a person has pathological, biological, emotional, spiritual reasons and explanations. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. In the same way, natural disasters have several explanations. I have been hearing a lot of people asking what the theological explanations are for the earthquake, the geological explanations. And the cheap construction of the buildings that now lay in crumbles over helpless people which led to a lot more deaths than there could have been if the buildings were made differently. It’s not new that Turkey is an earthquake prone zone. It’s also not new that a lot of buildings in Turkey are just not fit for earthquakes. And yes, I do believe that if Allah willed, even with what we have set as standard specifications for earthquake proof buildings, those buildings can be toppled down. However, those buildings were not made so in the first place because someone preferred to save some money at the expense of lives.

I have been thinking of the concept of responsibility a lot because of this. The responsibility of an engineer, a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher is significant, their impact on people can have severe ramifications. And yet, I was reminded that we don’t need to have any of those professions to take responsibility seriously. Even a waiter or an employee at a mobile center — and I give this example because I couldn’t make sense of the carelessness of the Turk Telekom employees at our local branch in Istanbul who seemed to wake up every morning just to have another meaningless day — has responsibilities with considerable consequences. Not just for a business to do well. But to make things easy and not difficult. To have a meaningful life. We have responsibilities even if we are officially jobless because we have a responsibility towards one another as humans. I don’t care if I am never going to see someone again. I don’t want to be remembered for hurtful words or something of the like. Even if I am not remembered, I don’t want leave them knowing I might have caused difficulty or hurt. And even if I don’t remember, Allah remembers.

Of course I have had a lot of other thoughts in the aftermath of the earthquake… Immense gratitude, reassessing what matters in life, making tawbah, sorrow… renewed hope in humanity seeing the international response to the disaster. Alhamdulillah.

I took my eldest out a couple of days ago for some special bonding time just around sunset, and it was so beautiful watching the Mediterranean wash onto the shore, taking in the salty scent of the sea and listening to the sound of the tumbling pebbles forming a sweet tune after every retracting wave. I hope we can do it again before we return to Evanston.