Longevity and the Scholars of Ahle Tasannun
The long life of Hazrat Vali-e-Asr, Imam Mahdi al-Hujjah Ibn al-Hasan al-Askari (a.t.f.s.) has long been a topic of contention with the skeptics rejecting the belief of Mahdaviyyat on account of Imam’s (a.t.f.s.) long life.
Allah the Almighty’s reply to the skeptic is sufficient:
“They desire to put out the light of Allah with their mouths, and Allah will not consent save to perfect His light, though the unbelievers are averse.”
[Surah Taubah (9): Verse 32]
Even though such long life is not the norm, any true and sane Muslim will not oppose this belief. This is because longevity is as per the Will of Allah. A person’s lifespan is as per the wish of Allah and He lengthens or shortens the life of whomsoever He wishes.
Only the enemies of religion, who attribute everything to nature or astrology, consider longevity to be impossible. However, one who believes in the All-Powerful Creator shall not entertain such uncertainties and doubts.
To summarize the objections raised by the skeptics, of which two are striking:
- Such a long life is not a usual occurrence
- Apart from Prophets (a.s.), long life does not seem possible for anyone else
We reply to these objections with Allah’s Help.
Examples of people who have been granted long life
All Muslims are unanimous that the Ulul Azm Prophet, Prophet Noah (a.s.) lived for a very long time and he spent at many as 950 years of his life in the propagation of religion. This fact is established from the Holy Quran:
“And certainly We sent Noah (a.s.) to his nation then he lived among them for a thousand years save fifty…”
[Surah Ankaboot (29): Verse14]
All Muslims are unanimous that Prophet Khizr (a.s.) who was from the second generation of Prophet Noah (a.s.),witnessed the era of Prophet Moosa Ibn Imran (a.s.) as evidenced in Surah Kahf (18) and is still alive.
The above two examples are sufficient to prove our point and are from accepted and indisputable facts.
Historians are also unanimous in their belief that Hazrat Luqman (a.s.) likewise lived a long life.
Numerous traditions and reports have mentioned the long life of the great companion of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) –Salman-e-Muhammadi (a.r.). Some have even written that he was alive since the time of Prophet Isa (a.s.) and passed away during the time of Ameer al-Momineen’s (a.s.) apparent caliphate.
The great traditionalist, Shaikh Muhammad Ibn Ali Ibn Husain Ibn Babawayh al-Qummi (a.r.), famous as Shaikh al-Saduq (a.r.) in his book, “Kamaluddeen wa Tamaamun Ne’amah” has written a very interesting fact about those who have lived long lives. He writes,
“The incidents of people with long lives that have been documented are not an argument to establish the occultation of Imam Mahdi (a.s.). Rather, his occultation is established for us through the traditions of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and the Infallible Imams (a.s.). These traditions are as important for us as the traditions which mention the Basics of Religion, Laws of Shariah and Ahkaam. Undoubtedly, these traditions are more reliable for us than the reports of people who enjoyed long lives. The reason for documenting such incidents in this book is that everyone enjoys reading them no matter whether they conform to it or oppose it and when they read these incidents is it possible they might read other topics in this book as well and may learn about them.
The second reason for mentioning about people with long lives is that the Arabs were very particular about recording the family trees of individuals and in this regard, details about people who have lived a long life are recorded along with the names of their ancestors. Hence, it is established that these reports are not fables rather they are based on reality.”
Traditionalists and reliable narrators (regardless of their sects and beliefs) have written about people with long lives and have also narrated poems about them.
The famous and highly respected traditionalist, scholar and theologian Abu al-Salaah al-Halabi (374 A.H. – 447 A.H.) in his book, “Taqreeb al-Ma’arif” has mentioned people who lived long lives. Although he has mentioned several of such persons but for the sake of brevity, we will suffice in mentioning only a few. Those who wish to read further can refer to the aforementioned book.
Amr Ibn Hamhamatah al-Dawsi lived for 400 years. He says about himself, “I have become old and have lived long. I am like that person who has been bitten by a snake but is unable to die. Death has not overtaken me although I have seen many springs and winters. 300 years have already passed and I expect to live for 400 years.
[Al-Moammaroon wa al-Wisaaya by Abu Hakim al-Sajistaani, p.58; Kanz al-Fawaid, p.295]
Mastoogar whose real name was Amr Ibn Rabee’ah Ibn Ka’b Ibn Sa’d Ibn Zaid Ibn Manaat Ibn Tameem Ibn Murr Ibn Adi Ibn Talha Ibn Ilyaas Ibn Mudharr, lived for 300 years and wrote many poems. [Al-Moammaroon wa al-Wisaaya – pp.12-14]
Zohair Ibn Janab – he lived for 200 years. He has written poems on the topic, “Surely I have lived a long life. Now, I do not care whether it is day or night, after passing 200 years of my life I have really become tired, now I do not desire to live anymore.”
[Al-Moammaroon wa al-Wisaaya – p. 34]
Zul Asbagh Udwani – He was an eloquent poet and was considered among the chieftains of Arabia. As reported by Abu Hatim, he lived for 300 years and many beautiful poems have been narrated from him.
[Al-Amaali by Syed al-Murtaza (r.a.), v. 1, pp. 244-251]
Rabee’ Ibn Zaba’ Fazari – He too lived for a long life. It is said that one day he visited Abdul Malik Ibn Marwan who told him, “O Rabee’! Tell me, how long have you lived and what have you witnessed in your long life?”
Rabee’ replied, “I have written this poem about myself. I am the same person who wished for an eternal life and undoubtedly I possess a sound mind and I was born in Hajar” (Hajar is the same city of Yamama and is the name of a locality in Bani Aqeel).
Abdul Malik commented, “I heard this poem in my childhood. O Rabee’ you are very fortunate. Please narrate further details of your life for me”.
Rabee’ said, “I spent 200 years in the time of Fatrah (period between Prophet Isa (a.s.) and Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)), 120 years in Jahiliyyah and 60 years as a Muslim.”
[Kamaaluddin, vol. 2, p. 549-550; Al-Amaali of Syed al-Murtuza (a.r.), vol. 1, pp. 253-255]
Abdul Maseeh Ibn Baqeelah – he lived for 350 years. He was alive during the advent of Islam but did not accept Islam and died as a Christian.
[Al-Amaali of Syed al-Murtuza (a.r.) vol. 1, pp. 260-262]
Aqsam Ibn Saifi al-Asadi – he lived for 330 years and attained the time of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). He believed in the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) even before he saw him (s.a.w.a.). Many traditions and words of wisdom have been narrated from him.
[Al-Moammaroon, pp. 14-25]
Saifi Ibn Ribaah – he lived for 270 years and retained a sound mind until his last breath.
[Al-Moammaroon, p. 146]
Zabirah Ibn Saa’d Ibn Sahm Ibn Amr – he lived for 220 years but never experienced old age.
[Al-Moammaroon, p. 25]
Harith Ibn MuzallizJarhaimi – he lived for 400 years and he saw the advent of Islam but did not accept Islam. He was sent to hell in the battle of Hunain.
[Al-Moammaroon, p. 8]
People acquainted with traditions are quite familiar with individuals who have been mentioned in this article. However, what is noteworthy is that along with divinely appointed Prophets (a.s.), disbelievers, polytheists, people of the Book and blatant sinners are also mentioned. Hence, those people who hold this belief that longevity of Imam Mahdi (a.s.) is miraculous and miracles are restricted only to Prophets of Allah (a.s.) have no basis for their belief since the aforementioned list contains both good doers and evil doers. Nevertheless, as we have mentioned, no Muslim can ever doubt the power of Allah Who can grant a long life to whomsoever He pleases and can cause whomsoever He wishes to die in the mother’s womb.
“Nay, We gave provision to these and their fathers until life was prolonged to them.”
[Surah Anbiya (21): Verse 44]
“O people! if you are in doubt about the raising, then surely We created you from dust, then from a small seed, then from a clot, then from a lump of flesh, complete in make and incomplete, that We may make clear to you; and We cause what We please to stay in the wombs till an appointed time, then We bring you forth as babies, then that you may attain your maturity; and of you is he who is caused to die, and of you is he who is brought back to the worst part of life, so that after having knowledge he does not know anything; and you see the earth sterile land, but when We send down on it the water, it stirs and swells and brings forth of every kind a beautiful herbage.”
[Surah Hajj (22): Verse 5]
“… and no one whose life is lengthened has his life lengthened, nor is aught diminished of one’s life, but it is all in a book; surely this is easy to Allah.”
[Surah Faatir (35): Verse 11]
Allah, the High, has attributed fixing the duration of a person’s life to Himself. It means this is an action which Allah performs through His own Authority and Wisdom. Those who doubt about His Authority are not only expelled from the realm of Islam rather they are even devoid of humanity. Especially if you pay attention to the verse of Surah Faatir wherein Allah has clearly expounded that providing longevity to someone is very easy for Him.
The famous Sunni scholar, Sibt Ibn Jawzi writes in his book Tazkerah al-Khawaas on page 377, “All Shias claim that Last Vicegerent Imam al-Mahdi (a.s.) is alive and receives his sustenance from his Lord. They present several arguments to establish this belief of theirs of which some are as follows:
Several people have been granted long life like Prophet Khizr (a.s.), Prophet Ilyaas (a.s.) and no one is aware of their real age. It is also mentioned in Old Testament (Torah) that Prophet Zulqarnain (a.s.) lived for 3,000 years but Muslims believe that he lived for 1500 years…”
Hafiz Ganji Shafei has compared the long life of Imam Mahdi (a.s.) to that of Prophet Isa (a.s.), Prophet Khizr (a.s.) and Prophet Ilyas (a.s.). Apart from this, he has also brought the long lives of Dajjal and Iblees as a proof. In order to establish his argument, he narrates traditions from Sihah-e-Sittah.
[Al-Bayaan fee Akhbaar Sahib al-Zamaan, p. 25]
If we refer the Torah, then the Book of Creation under chapter 5, verses 5, 11, 14, 17, 20, 23, 27 and 31 mentions the long lives of several people.
In this regard, it would be appropriate to put forth an argument which has been recorded by the great scholar Syed ibn Tawoos (a.r.) in his book, “Kashf al-Mohajjah” Chapter 79. He writes that he had presented this argument before Ahle Tasannun scholars during a debate:
If someone in Baghdad claims that he can walk on water, then a large group would gather in order to witness this miracle and once he performs this extraordinary feat then people would express their amazement at this. The next day, another person makes the same claim and performs the same action, but now the amazement of the people will not have the same level and intensity as earlier. Since, prior to him, this act had already been performed by someone else. On the third day, another person makes the same claim but now hardly any people will gather since two people have already performed this action earlier and now the expressions of amazement will also be muted. If ten or more people were to perform this action then people will no longer express any amazement since this action will be a common thing among them. When you already accept the long lives of Prophet Isa (a.s.), Prophet Idrees (a.s.) and Prophet Ilyaas (a.s.) then what is so surprising about Allah granting a long life to a descendant of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.)? You have mentioned this in your very books that a person shall fill the earth from the east to the west, with justice and equity just as it would be filled with injustice and tyranny. Definitely, this matter i.e. filling the earth with justice and equity is more amazing than longevity of Imam Mahdi (a.s.)! You have also recorded that Prophet Isa (a.s.) shall descend to the earth from the fourth heaven and shall follow Imam Mahdi (a.s.) in prayers. This action too is more amazing than the long life of Imam Mahdi (a.s.)!
After such clear proofs, there is no room for any doubt. When so many people in history have lived long lives and their incidents have been recorded in the Torah, Bible, history, the Holy Quran and in traditions, then what is so surprising about Imam Mahdi’s (a.t.f.s.) longevity? What is truly astonishing is that Muslims do not have an iota of doubt about the long lives of Iblees and Dajjal but when it comes to the Hujjat (Proof) of Allah, they are engulfed in doubt and skepticism. It is likely that these doubts are due to satanic whisperings and serve to distance them from Allah and His Hujjat!
“Then take heed, O people of vision!”