At the turn of the sixteenth century, Egyptian polymath Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti compiled a study about earthquakes he titled Kashf al-salsala ‘an wasf al-zalzala (Revealing the Chain of Echoes/Meaning in the Description of Earthquakes; shortened to Zalzala). Arguing that they constituted divine signs, al-Suyuti chronicled 130 earthquakes that occurred in the Muslim world. Curiously, Zalzala reemerged more than three centuries later in the modern world of colonial expansions. In the aftermath of the 1927 earthquake in Palestine, American seismologist and Stanford professor Bailey Willis would make use of Zalzala for his authoritative “Earthquakes in the Holy Land.” The chronological sections of Zalzala would become indispensable for future seismological scholarship. This article tracks Zalzala's journey into seismology. Seismology's reception of Zalzala was possible by splitting it into two parts (theological and factual), receiving the factual and bracketing the theological, and by converting Zalzala from a chronology of horrors to a catalog of normal quakes of a unified seismic earth. This splitting was at odds with Zalzala's own structure, which joined the two dimensions. Consequently, signs of divinity persisted in seismic factuality, engendering a seismological-theological hybrid. This hybrid tells of the enduring difficulty seismology faces in transforming the earthquake-disaster into a seismological object. It also tells of the persistence of wonder and the enduring relevance of ethical reflection.

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