It is true, as far as common experience and the experiments carried out so far by the scientists are concerned, this long life granted by Allah to the Awaited Savior appears to be very unusual. But his role of revolutionizing the world order and rebuilding the entire system on the basis of justice and truth is also so extraordinary that neither are the people familiar with it nor has it ever been experienced in history. So, it should not be surprising if at the preparatory stage also, his role is preceded by some unusual and extraordinary events, like his long life. However, unfamiliar these events may be, they are not more unusual than the great role to be performed by the Mahdi on the appointed day. If we can relish that role, having no precedent throughout history, there is no reason why we should not relish his long life unprecedented in our ordinary life.
Similarity between Noah and the Mahdi
We wonder if it is a mere chance that each of the only two persons who undertook to purify the human civilization of all its impurities and to reconstruct the world should have had a very long life span, several times that of a usual one. One of them played this role in the past. He was Noah, about whom the Holy Qur’an has expressly said that he lived among his people for 950 years. He reconstructed the world after the Deluge. The other is to play his role in the future. He is the Mahdi who has already lived among his people for more than a thousand years and is destined to play his role on the appointed day and build the world anew.
How is it then that we accept the longevity of Noah who lived for at least about a thousand years and deny that of Mahdi?
We have learned that a long life is scientifically possible but let us suppose that it is not so and the law of senility is inexorable and cannot be defied either today or in future. Then what does this mean??
It means only this that to live for centuries, as is the case with Noah and the Mahdi, is contrary to the natural laws established by science through modern methods of experimentation and investigation.
Miracles / Suspension of natural laws in the Qur’an
In this case a long life may be accepted as a miracle which suspends a natural law in particular circumstances to preserve the life of a particular person entrusted with a celestial mission. This miracle is not unique in its kind, nor is it alien to the Muslim belief derived from the text of the Qur’an and the Sunnah. ( Some well-known miracles in the Qur’an, Hadith and apostolic texts)
The law of senility is not any the more relentless than the law of the exchange of heat, according to which heat passes from a body having a higher temperature to a body having a lower temperature. This law was suspended to protect Abraham when he was thrown into the burning fire, for this was the only way to preserve his life. The holy Qur’an says:
“We said: O fire, be coolness and peace for Abraham”. (Surah al-Anbia, 21:69)
Accordingly, he came out of the fire unscathed!
In many other cases also, natural laws were suspended to protect the prophets and other Divinely appointed people. The sea was parted for Moses. It appeared to the Romans that they had captured Jesus whereas they had not. Muhammad got out of his house while it was surrounded by a mob of the tribe of Quraish, waiting for an opportunity to assassinate him. Allah concealed him, so that the Quraishites could not see him when he walked out through their midst. In all these cases, natural laws were suspended for the protection of the people whose lives, the Divine Wisdom wished to preserve. The law of senility too, can be bracketed with these cases of suspension.
From the above discussion, we can arrive at a general conclusion and say: Whenever it is necessary to preserve the life of one of the chosen servants of Allah, to enable him to accomplish his mission, the Divine Grace intervenes to protect him and one of the natural laws is suspended. On the contrary if the period of his appointment comes to an end, and the task entrusted to him by the Almighty is accomplished, he meets death in accordance with the natural laws related to life or is martyred.
Science and Miracles
Question: In this connection, we are usually confronted with the following questions. “How can a natural law be suspended and the compulsory relationship existing between the various phenomena be severed? Will such a suspension not be in contradiction with science which has discovered that law determines the compulsory relationship on the basis of experimentation and investigations?”
Science itself has provided an answer to this question. It has already given up the idea of compulsion in respect of natural laws. It only says that these laws are discovered on the basis of systematic observation and experiment. When it is observed that one phenomenon invariably follows another, this invariability is treated as a natural law. But science does not claim that there exists a binding and compulsory relationship between any two phenomena, because compulsion is a factor which cannot be proved by experiment and scientific methods of investigation. Modern science confirms that a natural law as defined by it, speaks only of an invariable association between two phenomena and is not concerned with any compulsory relationship between them.
Hence, if a miracle takes place and the natural relationship between two phenomena breaks down, it does not amount to the breaking down of a compulsory relationship.
In fact, a miracle in its religious sense has become more comprehensive in the light of modern scientific theory than it was when the classical view of causal nexus prevailed. According to the old theory, it was presumed that the phenomena invariably associated with each other must have an inevitable relationship between them and this inevitability meant that their separation from each other was inconceivable. According to modern scientific thinking, however, this relationship has been transformed into a law of association or invariable succession.
Thus, a miracle need not come into clash with inevitability any longer. It is only an exceptional state of the invariability of association and succession.
We agree with the scientific view that modern scientific methods cannot prove the existence of an inevitable relationship between any two phenomena. Anyhow, we are of the view that there must still be some explanation of the invariability of association and succession. As it can be explained on the basis of the theory of intrinsic inevitability, it can also be explained if we assume that it is the Wisdom of the Organizer of the universe, which requires a particular phenomenon to be invariably related to some other phenomenon and that in certain cases, the same wisdom may require that there should be an exception. Such exceptional cases are called miracles.