• Date: 2010 Jun 26

How was this long life granted to Al-Mehdi?

In other words, is it possible for a man to live for many centuries, as is the case with the Expected Leader, for the change of the world, whose age must be actually one thousand one hundred and forty years, or fourteen times the average age of an ordinary person who would pass through the phases of life from childhood to old age normally.
The word possibility here has one of the three following meanings, namely: Practical possibility, scientific possibility and philosophical or logical possibility.
I mean by practical possibility that a task is feasible in a manner that enables me, you or a third person to perform it, such as a journey across the ocean, reaching the depth of the sea or going to the moon, all of which are practically possible since they have actually been performed by people in one way or another.
By scientific possibility I mean that there are some tasks that neither I nor you nor a third per-son can practically perform with the means that are accessible to present civilisation. However there is nothing in the alterable trends of science which can indicate a justification for the rejection of the possibility of these tasks and their occurrence conforming to certain special circumstances and means. For example, there is nothing in science that could deny the possibility of travelling to Venus, because all its existing trends indicate the possibility of such a task, although that is still not possible for me or you since the difference between going to the moon and travelling to Venus is only one of degree. The latter representing a stage of overcoming some relative difficulties stemming from the fact that the distance is longer. From this we deduce that it is scientifically possible to travel to Venus even if it is still not feasible from a practical angle.
Contrary to that is the idea of travelling to the sun in distant space since it is scientifically impossible, meaning that science would never entertain the possibility of this task, for one can-not assume scientifically or empirically the possibility of inventing that preventive armour that could protect the body against the heat of the sun which is like an enormous kiln constantly burning with a degree impossible to imagine.
By logical or philosophical possibility I mean that there is nothing in the intellect, conforming to what it knows of previous laws - (preceding the experiment) that could justify the rejection of a task nor decide that it could not occur.
Say, for example, the grouping of three oranges into two equal parts, this is logically impossible, since the intellect knows - before carrying out such an experiment - that three is an odd number, thus it is impossible to divide it into two equal parts, first it would turn into an even number, which would be a contradiction, which is impossible in logic.
But if a man were to be exposed to fire, or if he were to go to the sun without burning, that would not be impossible from a logical point of view, since there is no contradiction in the assumption that heat does not penetrate into a body of Lower temperature from one of higher temperature. That would only run contrary to the experiment which proved that heat actually penetrates into a body of lower temperature from one of higher temperature until both bodies get an equal temperature.
Therefore, we come to realise that logical possibility has a wider scope than scientific possibility and that the latter is wider than practical possibility.
There is no doubt about the logical possibility of the prolongation of human life for some thousands of years, because that is not impossible from an abstract intellectual point of view, also there is no contradiction in an assumption of this sort, since life as it is understood does not fathom sudden death and no one can dispute this fact.
Also, there is no doubt or controversy that this prolonged life is not possible from the practical aspect, as is the case in going down to the depths of the ocean or ascending to the moon. That is because science with what it owns of mod-em means and instruments, that were made avail-able by concomitant human experiments, cannot prolong human life for hundreds of years, this is why we find that even those among people who are more eager about life and more able to utilise scientific possibilities can only live to the extent of what is usual.
As far as scientific possibility is concerned, there is nothing in science, nowadays which could justify the denial of that fact from a theoretical point of view. This inquiry is in reality related to the nature of the physiological interpretation of the phenomenon of old-age and decrepitude among people. Does this phenomenon indicate a natural law that compels the tissues of the human body and its cells to harden gradually and become less efficient in the performance of their task once they have reached the summit of theft growth, until they die at a particular moment, even if we were to isolate them from the influence of some external failure? Or is this hardening of the bodily tissues and cells and the lack of efficiency in the performance of their physiological tasks a result of their struggle against certain external factors, such as microbes or poison that penetrate the body from an excess in food or from the heavy work that the person might perform or any other factor.
Now this is the question that science has to find an answer to, yet many answers present them-selves on a scientific level in this respect.
If we are to consider the scientific point of view that tends to interpret old-age and the weakness that goes with it, as a result of reactions against some external factors, it means that it is theoretically possible, once we have isolated the tissues that compose the body from these influences, to prolong life to the extent of surpassing the phenomenon of old-age and even overcoming it.
On the other hand, if we consider the other point of view which sees old-age as a natural process with regards to the living tissues and cells, it will mean that they hear within themselves the seed of their own ultimate death, once the phase of old-age has been completed.
I say: If we take this point of view into consideration it should not mean that there is no flexibility in this natural law, rather the assumption of its existence shows that it is in fact flexible, since we find in our everyday life, in addition to what has been found by scientists through the experiments that they carry out in their laboratories, that old-age as a physiological phenomenon has no fixed time, since a man can be very old and yet possess tender limbs, with no trace of old-age appearing on him as has been mentioned by some doctors. Moreover some scientists take advantage of this flexibility and prolong the life of some animals by a hundred times their natural age, by creating certain circumstances and factors that delay the process of old-age.
Thus it has been proved scientifically that this process can be postponed, by creating specific circumstances and factors, even if this experiment has not been carried out by science on a particular complicated creature such as the human being, owing to the difference in the difficulty of carrying it out on the human being and other organisms.
This means that, from a theoretical point of view, science, with all its alterable orientations, has never had any objection to the prolongation of human life, whether old-age has been interpreted as the product of a struggle and close con-tact with some external influences, or as a result of a natural process of the cells and tissues that leads them towards their death.
Thus we deduce that the prolongation of human life and its survival over many centuries is possible logically as well as scientifically but it is still impossible from a practical angle, and that nevertheless scientific progress has a long way to go before realising this possibility.
In light of what has been discussed we shall deal with the age of al-Mehdi (peace be upon him) and what has been surrounding it of wonder and surprise.
Thus we notice that since the possibility of this prolonged life has been confirmed both logically and scientifically, science is in the process of gradually transforming the theoretical possibility into a practical one. There is no room left for wonder except the remoteness of the probability that al-Mehdi might have preceded science in this transformation, before that the latter could have, in its evolutionary course, reached the standard of actual capacity for such a transformation, which would make him equal to that person who had pre-ceded science in discovering the cure for cancer.
The question now is How could Islam - which determined the age of the Expected Leader - have preceded science in the field of this transformation?
The answer is that this is not the only field in which Islam preceded science. Has the Islamic shari‘ah (revealed law) as a whole not come before science and the evolution of human thought by many centuries? Did it not promulgate certain symbols that submitted plans to be put into practice, which man could achieve only after hundreds of years of his independent activity? Did it not formulate certain regulations perfect in wisdom, the secrets of which were realised by man only after a certain length of time? Did the Divine message not reveal mysteries about the universe, that could never have occurred to people’s minds, which science came later to confirm and support?
So, if we are convinced by these facts why then should we regard as too much that the sender of this message - the Exalted - anticipates science in determining the age of al-Mehdi?
Here I mentioned only those aspects of precedence that we can notice in a direct manner, we can also include the aspects of precedence mentioned in the Divine message, for example, when it informs us about the night journey which the Prophet undertook from al-Haram Mosque to al-Aqsa Mosque. If we are to understand this journey within the frame of natural laws, we will find that it shows that these laws were utilised in a way that science could achieve only after hundreds of years.
Therefore, the same Divine knowledge which enabled the Messenger (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him and his progeny) to undertake this fast motion before science could achieve it, has also enabled his designated successors to have a prolonged life before science could realise such a project.
Certainly, this prolonged age that Allah, the Exalted, has bestowed on the Expected Saviour may seem rather strange, if it is considered within the limits of the everyday in people’s lives and what has been achieved by the experiments of scientists. But is the decisive and transformative role which has been prepared for this Saviour not strange within the limits of the ordinary in people’s lives and what they have experienced of historical evolution? Has he not been entrusted with the task of changing the world and rebuilding its civilisation on the basis of justice and truth? Why should we disapprove if the preparation of this great role is characterised by strange and unusual aspects, such as the prolongation of the Expected Leader’s age?
For this remoteness of those aspects and their unusual aspects, however great they are, cannot surpass the remoteness of the great role that has to be achieved on the appointed day? Therefore, if we approve the validity of that unique role from a historical angle in spite of the fact that there has never been in the history of humanity a role similar to it, why should not we also approve that pro-longed age which is still unique in our ordinary life?
I wonder if it is a coincidence that only two individuals should carry out the task of emptying human civilisation of its corrupt elements and re-building it, which means that they must have been of an excessive age many times superior to our the applicability of a natural law under a certain circumstances, in order to preserve the life of a particular individual whose role is to cherish Divine message.
Yet this is not the only miracle of its kind, nor is it remote from a Muslim’s faith, which derives from the Qur’an and the Sunnah. More over the process of old-age is no more rigid than is the process of the passage of heat from a body of’ higher temperature to another of lower temperature until both of them become equal. This had occurred in the case of Ibrahim (peace be upon him) when the only way to preserve his life was by hindering that process, when it was said to the fire in which he was thrown:
We said, "O fire be cool on Ibrahim and keep him safe." (Qur'an, 21:69)
So, he emerged from it safe and unharmed. There are also other cases where natural laws were hindered to protect some of the prophets or Proofs of Allah on earth. When the sea was split for Musa (Moses), when the Romans were misled in thinking they had caught ‘Isa (Jesus) or when Muhammad (peace and blessing of Allah be upon him and his progeny) left his house while it was surrounded by the troops of Quraysh who were waiting for hours to attack him but Allah, the Exalted, hid him from their eyes while he was walking in their midst. All of these cases show a hindrance of the laws of nature to protect an individual, whom the Divine wisdom wished to preserve. Therefore, why not include here the process of old age and decrepitude?
From this we can deduce a general notion, which is that whenever the preservation of the Prophet’s life (the Proof of Allah on earth) depends on the hindrance of a natural law, and the prolongation of his life comes to be necessary for the performance of his task, Divine care then intervenes by delaying the process so that the task of that individual can be accomplished., On the other hand, once the Divine mission of that individual has been fulfilled he either dies naturally or as a martyr depending on what is determined by natural laws.
Thus we find ourselves confronted with the present question in connection with this general notion: How can the process be obstructed? How can the necessary correlation that exists between natural phenomena, be sundered? Does it not contradict science, which discovered the existence of that natural law or process and defined that necessary correlation on experimental and deductive bases?
The answer is that science has already solved the problem by giving up the idea of necessity as far as natural laws are concerned. To clarify this we can say that science discovers natural laws through systematic observations and experiments. For example, when the occurrence of a natural phenomenon is followed another one, we deduce from this a natural law which is: that whenever the first phenomenon comes into existence it is automatically followed by another phenomenon.
However, science does not propose a necessary correlation between the two phenomena stemming from their nature, since necessity is an invisible condition that experimentation and the instruments of scientific and inductive inquiry cannot demonstrate. Therefore, the logic of mod-em science emphasises that natural law as it is defined by science does not indicate a necessary correlation, but an uninterrupted connection, between two phenomena. But when the miracle occurs and separates one from the other, it does not mean that their correlation was sundered.
The truth of the matter is that the miracle, in its religious sense, has become, in the light of modern scientific logic, more understandable than before, under the classical view of causal correlation. This old view assumed that every two phenomena, in which one is followed automatically by the other, must have a necessary correlation, which means that it is impossible to separate one from the other. However, this correlation has been transformed thanks to modern scientific logic into a law of correlation or of consecutive succession between two phenomena without the hypothesis of invisible necessity.
Thereby the miracle becomes an exceptional condition with regard to this connective succession without running against a necessity or leading to impossibility.
So, in the light of the logical foundation of induction we agree with the modern point of view which says that induction does not demonstrate the existence of a necessary correlation between two phenomena. We find that it shows that there is a common interpretation for the consecutive connection between the two - Since this common interpretation can be formed on the basis of the assumption of subjective necessity, it can also be formed on the assumption of a wisdom that made the Creator of the universe to continuously combine some particular phenomena with others. The same wisdom sometimes calls for exception; thus a miracle occurs.
Reference: Imam al-Mehdi, Resaleh team

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