Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas
Question: If you die in an earthquake, are you considered a shaheed? I know that if you die giving birth, or due to stomach pains, or in water, you’re a shaheed. But are you a shaheed if you die in an earthquake or any other natural disaster? For example, what kind of water-related death is the death of a shaheed? Say you die in a tsunami, would that considered death in water or death due to natural disaster?
Answer: assalamu `alaykum
Dying due to a natural disaster, such as an earthquake or flood, is a form of martyrdom.
The scholars have mentioned that martyrdom (shahada) can be of three types:
1. The one who is considered a martyr in this world and the next,
2. The one who is considered a martyr in this world but does not attain its full reward in the next, and
3. The one who is considered a martyr only in the next world, meaning he or she will get the reward a martyr gets.
Dying due to a natural disaster falls into the third category. As such, unlike the first two categories, such an individual will be washed and shrouded in a normal manner. [Nawawi, Sharh Sahih Muslim; Taqi Usmani, Darse Tirmidhi]
The fact that such people are considered to have the reward of martyrdom is based on the statement of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace), “The martyrs are five: the one who dies of a stomach illness, the one who dies of the plague, the one who drowns, the one who is crushed, and the one who dies [fighting] in the path of Allah.” [Bukhari, Muslim]
Other narrations add to the list individuals who die of burns, woman who die while pregnant, and so forth. [Muwatta, Musnad Ahmad]
Imam Suyuti has a complete treatise on the issue citing many of the narrations that mention who is considered a martyr titled Abwab al-Sa`aadat fi Asbab al-Shahada. The categories are many, and so we pray that Allah make us amongst them.
And Allah knows best
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani