Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), as per Allah’s command, while informing about the names of his successors to the people, explicitly and distinctly declared that:
“After me there shall be twelve successors in this nation.”
It was very clear that the number (12) mentioned shall remain till the Day of Judgment, the time of which is not fixed. This implies that either all the successors should necessarily have long lives, without which this chain would not continue till the Day of Judgment or at least one individual of this chain should have a long life. Allah, His Messenger and his true successors were aware that eleven of these noble personalities (peace be on them all) will not be able to complete their actual appointed term of life and each one of them would either be slain or poisoned. Thus, longevity and occultation was fixed for the last one, right from the beginning. His example was always compared to those who had long lives and Muslims were well aware of this distinct feature.
Imam Zainul Abedeen (a.s.) has informed:
In the Qaem is a tradition (Sunnah) of Hazrat Noah (a.s.) and that is long life.
[Muntakhab al-Athar, p. 341]
In verse 14 of Surah Ankaboot (29) it is mentioned:
And certainly We sent Noah to his people, so he remained among them a thousand years save fifty years. And the deluge overtook them, while they were unjust.
It is evident from this verse that Prophet Noah (a.s.) preached in his nation for 950 years before the deluge, after which his nation was destroyed. But Prophet Noah (a.s.) and those who boarded the ark along with him lived even after the deluge. This verse does not cap his age at 950 years; rather Prophet Noah (a.s.) obviously had to have lived for more than 950 years.
There are some people who make an excuse of long life to deny the existence of Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) and they also present this as an objection against the Shias.
If today someone claims that he can walk on water, the entire city will turn up to see this extraordinary feat displayed by this person. This is because people would be surprised as they would have never seen such an act before. But after some days if someone else performs the same act, people would still gather to witness it albeit the number would reduce. But what if a third person performs this feat? Now this time the number of people to witness it will decrease and so will their amazement towards this feat. Similarly if a fourth or fifth person performs this act, the amazement of people will reduce with every performer. If there are many people who can accomplish this act, then the act shall be deemed ordinary and there would remain no element of surprise nor would it be a crowd puller. Thus, we know that amazement is only seen for the first few times but when a thing becomes ordinary then the amazement attached to it finishes.
The long life of Imam-e-Zamana(a.t.f.s.) is not the first instance in history for people to be surprised and question its possibility.
The ordinary masses, especially Muslims, believe in the long life of many people, some of whom were born eons before the birth of Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) and are still alive. Prophet Idris (a.s.) is still alive in the heavens, Hazrat Khizr (a.s.) is still alive, at least from the time of Prophet Musa (a.s.) and Prophet Isa (a.s.) is alive conforming to the truthfulness of the Holy Quran. As per traditions, he is in the heavens awaiting the reappearance of Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.) and will pray behind him (a.t.f.s.) after his reappearance. When Allah the Almighty can grant long lives to all of these respected personalities, can He not grant the same to the last member of the household of the pure progeny of the noblest of the Prophets and the greatest of the Messengers Muhammad Mustafa (s.a.w.a.)? Some people are indeed strange; they agree to the excellence of all the others while the excellence of the progeny of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.a.) appears unacceptable to their so-called intellect and rationale? If man ponders in the light of intellect it becomes clear that if an inferior person can live a long life, why can’t a superior one be granted similar excellence?
People of the past nations having long lives
Hazrat Lutfullah Safi Golpaygani, may Allah prolong his life, has brought in his precious book Muntakhab al-Athar, pp. 341-342 instances of divine Prophets (a.s.) and people who had been bestowed with long lives as per the ancient editions of Torah which was published from Beirut in 1870. Here we list some of these personalities:
Prophet Adam (a.s.) 930 years
Prophet Shees (a.s.) 912 years
Prophet Anush (a.s.) 900 years
Prophet Kiyaan 910 years
Prophet Minheel 895 years
Prophet Yaroo 992 years
Prophet Akhnooq 365 years
Prophet Shushaleh 969 years
Prophet Noah 2500 years
Prophet Lamik 777 years
Luqmaan Ibn Aad 3500 years
Luqmaan the Sage 4000 years
Apart from these, others with long lives have also been mentioned. Shaikh Saduq (a.r.) has cited individuals who have been granted long lives, in the book Kamaaluddeen wa Tamaamun Ne’mah, written on the instruction of Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) himself, under the chapter of “Individuals with long lives”. For the sake of brevity we shall only discuss 10 such individuals in this article.
1) Umar Ibn Aamir 800 years; he was called Maziqsiya, spent 400 years of his life as an ordinary person and the remaining 400 years as a king
2) Hubla Ibn Abdullah Ibn Kinaana 600 years
3) Luqmaan Ibn Adi al-Kabeer 860 years
4) Duwayd Ibn Zayd Ibn Nahd 450 years
5) Satughar Ibn Rabeela Ibn Kaab Tamim 330 years
6) Ruwaa Ibn Kaab Ibn Zahal Ibn Qays an Nakhai 300 years
7) Ubaid Ibn al Leeras 300 years
8) Sharieyaa Ibn Abdullah 300 years
9) Saadi Korb Al Himyari 250 years
10) Rabi Ibn Bay’ 240 years
If 100 trees are planted together and it so happens that 10 out of these perish then what will the people ask? Will they question why these 90 trees are still alive? Or do they question the cause of death of those 10 trees? If 10 infants are born in a hospital on a single day and if after a few days, two of them die, will the life of the remaining infants be questioned or will the cause of death of the two be probed? Under normal circumstances will someone inquire the reason for living or about the cause of death? This proves that staying alive is a normal condition while there needs to be a reason for death.
Likewise, vis-a-vis Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.), investigating the reason of his being still alive is baseless; rather the martyrdom of the remaining eleven Imams (a.s.) must be investigated. The reasons of martyrdom of the remaining eleven Imams (a.s.) are not discussed due to the fact that this will result in not just unveiling their killers and oppressors but even those who were related to their martyrdom will be put to shame and disgrace; this list will also comprise of those personalities who are considered sacrosanct and holy for some groups even today. This is the root cause that people continue to object the longevity of Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) so that the discussion of the martyrdom of the remaining eleven Imams (a.s.) does not come to the fore.
Why this amazement?
It has already been discussed that amazement is seen only for a rare phenomenon. When something occurs for the first time, there can be scope for amazement and surprise. But for an act that is no longer a rarity, there remains no element of surprise attached to its occurrence. From the time of the father of mankind, Prophet Adam (a.s.) till date, Imam-e-Zamana(a.t.f.s.) is not the first person to live a long life; rather; the list of those who have been bestowed with long lives is exhaustive. Hence, the longevity of Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) is nothing new and there remains no scope for any surprise or objection concerning it.
Something more amazing than longevity
Something repeated several times is more amazing or a thing that has never come into existence at all? It is evident that something that has never come into existence is more deserving of surprise and amazement.
Since the time of creation of this world there has not come a time when the earth has been filled entirely with justice and equity and oppression and inequality been completely eliminated, monotheism spread across everywhere in this earth and Allah being worshipped with utmost sincerity and humility, no type of fear of anxiety be felt by any individual and safety and security prevailing at every nook and corner. Now, if someone claims that there shall come a day when this whole earth will be filled with justice and equity then this statement is worthier of surprise more than the longevity of Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.). But it is indeed surprising that those who doubt and object to the longevity of Imam-e-Zamana (a.t.f.s.) readily accept this tradition of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.):
“If there remains one day in the life of this world, the Almighty Allah shall prolong that day such that a person from the progeny of my Ahle Bait (a.s.) shall appear, whose name shall be my name and whose agnomen will be my agnomen. He will fill the earth with justice and equality as it would be filled with injustice and tyranny.”
All Muslims accept that this prophecy of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) shall be fulfilled through the existence of Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.). For the earth to be filled with justice and equity is more difficult to accomplish than leading a long life because long life is connected to just one person while for the earth to be filled with justice and equity, all the inhabitants of the earth have to reformed. What can be said about the skeptics who readily accept something that is extremely difficult to achieve while they object to a common and repetitive occurrence?
In the light of traditions narrated by the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.), we are awaiting Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.). Only he (a.t.f.s.) shall fulfill the Promise of Allah in this world. He shall have a prolonged occultation, enjoy a long life and at the time of his reappearance, despite his long life, will appear like a youth of forty years. These traits also act as distinguishing features to separate the real Promised Mahdi from the impostors.
Reason of longevity is the knowledge of Imam (a.t.f.s.)
Imam Mahdi (a.s.), through whom Allah has promised to fill this earth with justice and equity, is bestowed with the knowledge of the first and the last. His Imamate is not restricted to just a few people; rather, it extends over every particle in this universe. There are ignoramuses who do not believe in his Imamate and do not submit to him but the fact is that every particle of this universe accepts Imam Mahdi’s (a.t.f.s.) mastership and Imamate and submits to his authority. He (a.t.f.s.) is also cognizant of each and every particle of this universe.
Firstly – Allah has created man’s body in a manner that it is capable of staying alive timelessly. If it was not so then it was not possible for people to have such long lives.
Secondly – bad diet and carelessness towards physical wellness causes deterioration of the body. Since we do not have complete knowledge of an adequate diet, despite practicing it we are unable to take complete precaution, whereas for Imam (a.s.) there is no such restriction. He has the knowledge of all things. Moreover, harmful things will reveal their harm when placed on his blessed hands. Thus, the ill effects of food on his body are ruled out from his case.
Thirdly – Things that affect well-being more than food are worldly sorrows and grief. The Imam whose heart is tranquil with the remembrance of Allah, is safe from worldly concerns.
Fourthly – Since he is the Imam of the time, he can influence time and not vice-versa. Thus, he is not affected by the vicissitudes of time. Since age is calculated based on passage of days and years, and days and years come into existence due to the rotations of the sun and moon, one upon whom the revolutions of sun and moon affect his body, will become old. But what about the one due to whom the sun and the moon are controlled and through whose effulgence, they acquire their brightness? How is it possible that they impact the body of Imam (a.s.)? So the passage of days has no effect on Imam (a.s.) and he lives and remains young till Allah wishes.
Fifth – Life and death are all in the hands of Allah. Everything else is the means and not the cause. The real cause of life and death of each one of us is the infinite Grace of Allah. Allah can keep an individual alive and young till He wishes, in the way He wishes, in a manner He likes and whomsoever He desires. Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.) is the representative of Allah, His vicegerent and His Caliph in this world and thus He can keep His vicegerent alive till the time He wishes and in a way He wishes. There is no scope for any type of objection by any one in His case. We are awaiting that same Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.) who is the vicegerent of Allah and a medium of grace and blessings between the Creator and the creatures. Hence, the long life of Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.) can, in no way, be a source of his denial and rejection.
If the basic principles of research are analyzed and if we perform a reality check on the whimsical interpretations, self-established deviations and the poisonous effects of differences and its dangerous consequences and wash them away with the pure water of the prophecies of Allah and His Messenger then at least Muslims can unite over Imam Mahdi (a.t.f.s.).
Time, as it passes by us, is informing us: Beware, all is not lost even now! Reappearance of Imam (a.t.f.s.) is fast approaching. It is the rise of a new dawn and only “they (the enemies) consider it to be far while we see it to be near”.