The long life of Imam Mahdi (as) has long been a topic of contention with skeptics rejecting the belief in Imam Mahdi (as) on this account. While the birth of Imam Mahdi (as) in 255 AH is established through historical and traditional sources, skeptics argue that it is not possible for an individual to live for so long.
As a general reply, we quote the verse of Quran which is Allah the Almighty’s reply in general to such people, “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, verse 32)
Even though such long life is unusual, it is not unique and definitely not impossible. Any true and sane individual will not oppose this belief.
At several places in the Quran, it is mentioned that Allah is the giver of life and death and also that Allah has power over all things. A person’s lifespan is as per the wish of Allah and He lengthens or shortens the life of whomsoever He wishes. So any Muslim who believes in the above verses of the Quran, should generally not harbour any doubt whether Allah can grant a long life beyond the ordinary to any individual. Having said that, some people whose knowledges are limited to the sciences of the world and those who attribute everything to nature or astrology, consider longevity to be impossible.
In the following article, we will attempt to answer two objections.
- Such a long life is not a usual occurrence
- Apart from Prophets (as), long life does not seem possible for anyone else
First of all, let us take a look at the examples of people who had been granted long life
All Muslims are unanimous that the Ulul Azm Prophet, Hazrat Nuh (as) 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 Nuh (as) to his nation then he lived among them for a thousand years save fifty…” (Surah Ankaboot, verse 14)
Hazrat Nuh (as) propagated the religion for 950 years. Traditions inform us that his actual age was 2,500 years. From that perspective, Imam Mahdi (as) is very young!
Another point where there is no dispute amongst Muslims is that Hazrat Khizr (as) who was from the second generation of Prophet Nuh (as), witnessed the era of Prophet Musa Ibn Imran (as). The Quran narrates an entire episode of the meeting between Hazrat Musa (as) and Hazrat Khizr (as) in Surah Kahf.
The above two examples are sufficient to prove our point and are from an accepted and indisputable source – the Holy Quran.
Apart from this, historians are also unanimous in their belief that Hazrat Luqman (as) likewise lived a long life. Numerous traditions and reports have mentioned the long life of the great companion of Holy Prophet (sawa) – Hazrat Salman-e-Mohammedi (ar). Some have even written that he was alive since the time of Prophet Isa (as) and passed away during the period of Ameerul Momeneen’s (as) apparent caliphate.
The great traditionalist, Shaykh Mohammed Ibn Ali Ibn Husain Ibn Babawayh al-Qummi (ar), famous as Shaykh Sudooq (ar) in his book, Kamaluddin brings forth interesting facts about those who were granted 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 (as). Rather, his occultation is established for us through the traditions of Holy Prophet (sawa) and the Infallible Imams (as). 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 AH–447 AH) 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, page 58; Kanz al-Fawaid, page 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 – pages 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 – page 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 (ar), volume 1, pages 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 (as) and Holy Prophet (sawa)), 120 years in Jahiliyyah and 60 years as a Muslim.” (Kamaaluddin, volume 2, page 549-550; Al-Amaali of Syed al-Murtuza (ar), volume 1, pages 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 (ar) volume 1, pages 260-262)
Aqsam Ibn Saifi al-Asadi – he lived for 330 years and attained the time of the Holy Prophet (sawa). He believed in the Holy Prophet (sawa) even before he saw him (sawa). Many traditions and words of wisdom have been narrated from him. (Al-Moammaroon, pages 14-25)
Saifi Ibn Ribaah – he lived for 270 years and retained a sound mind until his last breath. (Al-Moammaroon, page 146)
Zabirah Ibn Saa’d Ibn Sahm Ibn Amr – he lived for 220 years but never experienced old age. (Al-Moammaroon, page 25)
Harith Ibn Muzalliz Jarhaimi – 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, page 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 (as), disbelievers, polytheists, people of the Book and blatant sinners are also mentioned. Hence, those people who hold this belief that longevity of Imam Mahdi (as) is miraculous and miracles are restricted only to Prophets of Allah (as) 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.
Quran says, “Nay, We gave provision to these and their fathers until life was prolonged to them.” (Surah Anbiya, 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, 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, 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 Shiahs claim that Last Vicegerent Imam Mahdi (as) 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 (as), Prophet Ilyaas (as) and no one is aware of their real age. It is also mentioned in Old Testament (Torah) that Prophet Zulqarnain (as) lived for 3,000 years but Muslims believe that he lived for 1,500 years…”
Hafiz Ganji Shafei has compared the long life of Imam Mahdi (as) to that of Prophet Isa (as), Prophet Khizr (as) and Prophet Ilyas (as). Apart from this, he has also brought the long lives of Dajjal and Iblees (Shaitaan) as a proof. In order to establish his argument, he narrates traditions from Sihah-e-Sittah. (Al Bayan Fee Akhbare Sahebaz Zaman, chapter 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 Taoos (ar) in his book, “Kashf al-Mohajjah” Chapter 79. He writes that he had presented this argument before scholars of Ahle Sunnah 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 (as), Prophet Idrees (as) and Prophet Ilyas (as) then what is so surprising about Allah granting a long life to a descendant of Holy Prophet (sawa)? 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 (as)! You have also recorded that Prophet Isa (as) shall descend to the earth from the fourth heaven and shall follow Imam Mahdi (as) in prayers. This action too is more amazing than the long life of Imam Mahdi (as)!”
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 (as) 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!
Read more about the long life of Imam Mahdi (as)
- Can Imam Mahdi (as) Live For More Than 1,100 Years?
- Is Long Life of Imam Mahdi (as) Established in Quran?
- Some More Thoughts on Long Life Discussed in Quran
- What Aimmah (as) Said About Long Life of Imam Mahdi (as)
- Long Life? Relax! Its Just An Exception…
- Ordinary People Too Have Enjoyed A Really Long Life
- Imam Mahdi (as) and Hazrat Khizr (as)
- Does Science Endorse the Concept of a Long Life?
- Longevity: Al Imam Al Mahdi by Ayatollah Ibrahim Amini