LAHORE – Moderate Islamic scholars have thrown their weight behind claims that the earthquake which killed more than 200 people on Monday was divine punishment for Pakistan’s sins.

They made their comments after Jamat ud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed said the quake was a warning from God for mankind to obey His teachings.

It created a wave of criticism on social media sites with leading Pakistani commentators rejecting his claims.

Saeed, whose JuD group is carrying out one of the largest earthquake relief operations, said: “It is a warning from God. We should not obey the system of non-believers but of God. We should give up drinking liquor, gambling, and support the weak people of society. We should not obey the superpowers,” he said.

His claim drew criticism that many of those most affected are in fact some of the country’s poorest people, many of whom live pious lives.

Nazrana Yousufzai, a UK-based writer and activist said:” Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's biggest and unforgivable sin is that it's in #earthquake zone. That's it.”

But Saeed’s comments won the support of leading moderate Barelvi, Deobandi and Shia and Ehlehadith scholars.

“Science explains the apparent facts but doesn’t explain the basic reason behind the scene. It is God who directed the land to shake,” Allama Zubair Ahmad, a leading Ehlehadith scholar and former member of Islamic Ideological Council told The Nation.

The head of religious seminaries working under Jamaat-e-Islami Maulana Abdul Malik said it did not matter where earthquake happened but that such disasters are always a warning from God.

 “Scientists explain apparent things but it is God who gave them wisdom even to explain the visible stuff,” he explained.

Top Barelvi scholar Maulana Raghib Naeemi said the fact that Monday’s earthquake measure higher on the Richter Scale than those of 2005 revealed the divine power behind it. “It explains that it is Allah who controls the affairs. It also predicts the Day of Judgment is so near.”

Maulana Naeemi said that mankind was destroying natural eco-system inviting God’s wrath.

JUI-S General Secretary and Deobandi scholar Maulana Rauf Farooqi said the whole universe is governed by God but we need to think about why God punishes his own creatures. “It is only when they invite his wrath and stop following his teachings,” he said.