Islam and the Quran

Shortening of Ajal

‘Ajal’ is a defined period; duration of something. The Glorified Allah commands:
We created not the heavens and the earth and all that is between them except with truth, and for an appointed term. But those who disbelieve turn away from that whereof they are warned.” (Al-Ahqaf/ The Dunes 46:3)
About human it is declared:
He it is Who has created you from clay, and then has decreed a stated term. And there is with Him another determined term (ajal musamma), yet you doubt.” (Al-An’am/ Livestock 6/2)
The skies and the earth are of a single duration while two periods are mentioned for humans. One of them is that of all creatures; ‘ajal musamma’, while the other one is the natural period; the duration of the body. When the time is over, the human is like a flower that fades on its own. Doctors consider this to predict people’s lifetime. ‘Ajal musamma’ is the length of a human’s life. At the end of this period, human dies like a flower cut off from its plant. It is also possible that a person with hundred years of natural period, has ‘ajal musamma’ of sixty years. Only Allah knows this duration.
‘Tin’ is the mixture of water and soil[1]. If water does not mix with soil there does not exist life. The seed of human consists of the nourishment from soil. The seed is placed in mother’s womb and develops with the nutrition that comes from soil. The body is fed by soil and water till the moment it dies. Everything leaving the body becomes soil. The Glorified Allah commands: “[2]He it is Who created you from dust, then from a small lifegerm, then from a clot, then He brings you forth as a child, then that you may attain your maturity, then that you may be old– and of you there are some who are caused to die before– and that you may reach an appointed term, and that you may understand.” (Al-Mu’minoon/ The Believers 23/67)
The earthly period of human, who is created for eternal life and carries an immortal spirit, is his ‘ajal musamma’. During this time the spirit uses the body as a house. The spirit leaves the body when the body goes to sleep and comes back at the waking time. Since, a dead body is like a collapsed house the spirit does not come back to it till the moment it is recreated.
The body that is going to be created on the Judgment Day is one that never ages and never gets sick. This is realized by the Arabic word _____= kha-lidoon mentioned in the verses. The root of this word is الخلد =el-khuld which means something that has the characteristics not to be spoiled, not to change its nature or situation and remain as is[3]. The Glorified Allah commands:
Those who believe and do good deeds will be the companions of the Garden. They shall be therein for good.” (Al-Baqara/ The Cow 2/82)
It is the same for the inhabitants of hell. For them is commanded:
Those who conceal and deny our evidences will be the companions of that Fire. They shall be therein for good.” (Al-Baqara/ The Cow 2/39)
Only the skins of the hell inhabitants change, as explained in this verse:
Those who ignore our Signs, We shall soon cast into the Fire; so oft as their skins are thoroughly burned, We will change them for other skins, that they may taste the chastisement; surely Allah is Mighty, Wise.” (An-Nisa/The Women 4/56)
The period the human of immortal spirit stays on earth is the period his body is alive. The death that comes to people by their own hands or by the hands of other people is before the end of –ajal musamma- designated for him. The Glorified Allah commands:
… For every ajal (term) is a decree (a book). Allah eliminates (shortens) or establishes what He pleases, and with Him is the Mother of the Book.” (Ar-Ra’ad/ The Thunder 13/38-39)
And Allah created you of dust, then of the life-germ, then He made you pairs; and no female bears, nor does she bring forth, except with His knowledge; 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.” (Fatir/ Initiator 35/11)
According to the verses two are the reasons that shorten the ajal; wrong behaviour and self-sacrifice for Allah.
1. Wrong Behaviour
A person as a consequence of misbehaviour might shorten his own period –ajal- or that of another person.
1.1. Shortening Self ‘Ajal’
The best example of shortening the period –ajal-due to committed mistakes is Jonah (a.s.) and his community. The Glorified Allah commands:
[37.139] And Jonah was most surely of the messengers.
[37.140] When he ran away to a ship completely laden,
[37.141] So he shared (with them), but was of those who are cast off.
[37.142] So the fish swallowed him while he did that for which he blamed himself
[37.143] But had it not been that he was of those who glorify (Us),
[37.144] He would certainly have tarried in its belly to the day when they are raised.
[37.145] Then We cast him on to the vacant surface of the earth while he was sick.
[37.146] And We caused to grow up for him a gourdplant.
[37.147] And We sent him to a hundred thousand, rather they exceeded.
[37.148] And they believed, so We gave them provision till a time.
” (Al-Saffat/ The Arrangers 37/139-148)
Later Jonah (a.s.) returned to his people. The people that denied believing him first, now did believe him and were saved from being overwhelmed. This has been informed by these verses:
And wherefore was there not a town which should believe so that their belief should have profited them but the people of Jonah? When they believed, We removed from them the chastisement of disgrace in this world’s life and We gave them provision till a time.” (Jonah 10/98)
The Glorified Allah commands:
Their messengers said: Is there doubt about Allah, the Maker of the heavens and the earth? He invites you to forgive you your faults and to respite you till an appointed term. They said: You are nothing but mortals like us; you wish to turn us away from what our fathers used to worship; bring us therefore some clear authority.” (Abraham 14/10)
Alif Lam Ra (This is) a Book, whose verses are made decisive, then are they expounded, by One Wise, All-aware:
[11.2] That you shall not serve (any) but Allah; surely I am a warner for you from Him and a giver of good news,
[11.3] And you that ask forgiveness of your Lord, then turn to Him; He will provide you with a goodly provision to an appointed term and bestow His grace on every one endowed with grace, and if you turn back, then surely I fear for you the chastisement of a great day.
” (Hood 11/1-3)
Surely We sent Noah to his people, saying: Warn your people before there come upon them a painful chastisement.
[71.2] He said: O my people! Surely I am a plain warner to you:
[71.3] That you should serve Allah and be careful of (your duty to) Him and obey me:
[71.4] He will forgive you some of your faults and grant you a delay to an appointed term.
” (Noah 71/1-4)
Repenting guaranteed both the salvation of Jonah (a.s.) and his people. The pharaoh, also, had repented but this had not saved him from drowning and dying as an infidel. This is why we should clarify this at the next topic.
1.1.1. The Time When Repentance is Accepted
Both Jonah (a.s.) and his people had understood their mistakes and had repented before facing death. The Glorified Allah commands:
Repentance with Allah is only for those who do evil in ignorance, then turn (to Allah) soon, so these it is to whom Allah turns (mercifully), and Allah is ever Knowing, Wise.
[4.18] And repentance is not for those who go on doing evil deeds, until when death comes to one of them, he says: Surely now I repent; nor (for) those who die while they are unbelievers. These are they for whom We have prepared a painful chastisement.
” (An-Nisa/ The Women 4/17-18)
Jonah (a.s.) was swallowed by a fish but he thought he was in a dark place. If he had known he was inside a fish he would have understood he was about to die and that repentance then would have been useless, because this is the law of Allah expressed in the previous verse. But as he was unaware about his location, he had started to repent and make the ‘tasbih’, as learned from these verses:
And remember Jonah, when he went away in wrath, so he thought that We would not straiten him, so he called out through the depths of darkness: There is no god but You, glory be to You; I was indeed wrong!
[21.88] So We responded to him and delivered him from the grief and thus do We deliver the believers.
” (Al-anbiya/ The Prophets 21/87-88)
When there was still time to repent Noah (a.s.) had called his son to repent. The Glorified Allah commands:
And it moved on with them amid waves like mountains; and Noah called out to his son, and he was aloof: O my son! embark with us and be not with the unbelievers.
[11.43] He said: I will betake myself for refuge to a mountain that shall protect me from the water. Noah said: There is no protector today from Allah’s punishment but He Who has mercy; and a wave intervened between them, so he was of the drowned.
” (Hood 11/42-43)
The pharaoh too repented but his repent was not accepted the moment he faced death. The Glorified Allah commands:
And We let the children of Israel pass through the sea, then Pharaoh and his hosts followed them for oppression and tyranny; until when overwhelmed with the flood, he said: I believe that there is no god but He in Whom the children of Israel believe and I am of those who submit.
[10.91] Ah now! But a little while before you were in rebellion and of mischief-makers.
[10.92] This day shall We save you in your body, that you may be a sign to those who come after you! But verily, many among mankind are heedless of Our Signs!
” (Jonah 10/90-92)
They do not wait aught but that the angels should come to them, or that your Lord should come, or that some of the signs of your Lord should come. On the day when some of the signs of your Lord shall come, its faith shall not profit a soul which did not believe before, or earn good through its faith. Say: Wait; we too are waiting.” (Al-An’am/ Livestock 6/158)
The pharaoh, just like Jonah (a.s.) had blamed himself but with one difference; Jonah (a.s.) had done it before death came, while the pharaoh had repented after sinking deep into the sea, aware of his near death. The Glorified Allah commands:
So We seized him and his hosts and hurled them into the sea and he was blamable.” (Adh-Dhariyat/ The Winnowing Winds 51/40)
Blaming self is what the spirit of everyone who died as infidel will do. The Glorified Allah commands:
When death comes to one of them, he says: Send me back, my Lord, send me back;
Haply I may do righteous deeds in that (world) which I have left. Never! It is but a (mere) word he speaks; and behind them is a barrier until the day they are resurrected.
” (Al-Mu’minoon/ Believers 23/99-100)
Our Prophet had claimed: “Allah accepts the repent of His ‘servant’ (abd) till the moment his spirit reaches his throat.[4]
1.1.2. The Time of Punishment
Allah does not punish immediately. Otherwise noone would be left on earth. The Glorified Allah commands:
And they ask you to hasten on the chastisement; and had not a term been appointed, the chastisement would certainly have come to them; and most certainly it will come to them all of a sudden while they will not perceive.” (Al-Ankaboot/The Spider 29/53)
And if Allah had destroyed men for their iniquity, He would not leave on the earth a single creature, but He respites them till an appointed time; so when their doom will come they shall not be able to delay (it) an hour nor can they bring (it) on (before its time).” (An-Nahl/ The Bee 16/61)
And certainly We sent messengers before you and gave them wives and children, and it is not in (the power of) a messenger to bring a sign except by Allah’s permission; for every ajal (term) is a decree (a book).
[13.39] Allah eliminates (shortens) or establishes what He pleases, and with Him is the Mother of the Book.” (Ar-Ra’ad/ The Thunder 13/38-39)
And Allah created you of dust, then of the life-germ, then He made you pairs; and no female bears, nor does she bring forth, except with His knowledge; 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.” (Fatir /Initiator 35/11)
Some behaviour of people or societies cause their life time -ajal musamma- to be shortened, that is, some portion of it to be deleted/eliminated. For example, if the ajal musamma of a person or society is a hundred years and they, with their actions, decrease this to eighty years than their life ends at the age of eighty. After that time, they cannot prevent death from coming or have the right to ask for a prolongation as the pharaoh did. But, if they understand their mistake and repent even a short time before the end of the eightieth year, then their lifetime –ajal musamma – turns back to be a hundred years.
1.1.3. Registration Moment of Events
The Glorified Allah commands: “No event befalls on the earth nor in your own souls, but is registered in a book before We bring it into existence; surely that is easy to Allah.
” (Al-Hadid/The Iron 57/22)
The happening of an event is the accomplishment of a made decision. As no death punishment is executed without a writ, no event happens without a written decision. Here is a verse proving this in a different way;
No event comes about without Allah’s permission; and whoever believes in Allah, He guides aright his heart; and Allah is Cognizant of all things.” (At-Taghabun/ Mutual Deception 64/11)
It is obvious in the verses related to repentance that, what happened to the pharaoh and Noah’s (a.s.) son, just like the salvation of Jonah (a.s.) and his people, were registered before taking place. The expression: “…before creating it (the event)” supports this idea. The Glorified Allah commands:
And no soul can die except by Allah’s leave – a decree with a fixed term. And whoever desires the reward of the present world, We will give him thereof; and whoever desires the reward of the life to come, We will give him thereof; and We will surely reward the grateful.
” (Al-e-Imran/ The Family of Imran 3/145)
If Allah admits an event, registration is made and nothing can prevent it from happening. This verse proves this: “Then, after the sorrow (you fell into after the Battle of Uhud), He sent down peace on you – a slumber that overcame a party of you – while the other party was anxious concerning their own selves, thinking wrongly of Allah like unto the thought of ignorance. They said, “Is there for us any part in the government of affairs?” Say, “All government belongs to Allah.” They hide in their minds what they disclose not to you. They say, “If we had any part in the government of affairs, we should not have been killed here.” Say, “If you had remained in your homes, surely those on whom fighting had been enjoined would have gone forth to their deathbeds,” that Allah might bring about His decree and that Allah might test what was in your breasts and that He might purge what was in your hearts. And Allah knows well what is in the minds.…” (Al-e-Imran/ The Family of Imran 3/154)
1.2. ‘Ajals’ of Societies
Societies have their terms as well. The Glorified Allah commands:
And for every nation there is a doom, so when their doom is come they shall not remain behind the least while, nor shall they go before.” (Al-A’raf/ The Elevated Place 7/34)
“Say: I have no power to harm or benefit myself, unless Allah decides. Every nation has a term. When their term comes, they shall not be delayed for an hour, nor can they go before (their time).” (Jonah 10/49)
Societies, like the people of Jonah (a.s.), that understand their mistake and return to right path before encountering their ‘ajal’ gain right to complete their period. If a society was given 200 years and this term was decreased to 150 years due to their mistake, they would be given the right to complete their full time of 200 years as long as they realize their mistake before the end of 150th year.
This is because Allah has never changed a favor which He has conferred upon a nation until they change their own condition; and because Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing;” (Al-Anfal/The Spoils of War 8/53)
To this point we reviewed the verses about how individuals or societies shorten their own lifetime. Now we will analyze the verses about shortening the lifetime of another person.
22.2 Shortening the Life of Another Person
Moses (a.s.) and Khidr (a.s.) see a young boy playing with his friends. Khidr kills the boy. Moses, at once starts condemning Khidr for his act: “You just murdered a young guiltless lad, not even a recompense for another taken life (his family was not involved in blood feud). What an awful deed!” Khidr explains the reason like this:
…And as for the youngster, his parents were believers, and we feared lest he should cause them trouble through rebellion and disbelief. So we desired that their Lord should give them in exchange a child better than him in purity and closer in filial affection; …and I did it not of my own accord. ” (Al-Kahf / The Cave 18/75-82)
If the boy’s death time –ajal- was due, neither Moses (a.s.) would have contradicted Khidr (a.s.), nor would Khidr (a.s.) have given such a motivation.
There occured an event related to this issue when our Prophet was alive. It is narrated by sahaba Jabir: “As we were traveling, a stone fell on one fellow’s head; he was injured. He got ehtelam and he asked his friends if he was allowed for dry ablution ‘tayammum’ instead of water ablution. His friends told that necessary circumstances for him to avoid water did not seem to exist. After water ablution he died. When we arrived near our Prophet (s.a.v.) we told him what had happened and he said: “Allah’s curse is upon them, they killed the man! The cure to ignorance is asking and learning. Only dry ablution ‘tayammum’ would have been sufficient for him; or he could have done ‘mash’ (wiping with wet hands) over his strapped wound and have washed the rest of his body for ablution.”[5]
The situation is the same about murders. If a believer ‘mu’min’ is killed, ‘qisas’ the recompense is compulsory. The Glorified Allah commands:
[6]O you who believe! Retaliation is prescribed for you in the matter of the slain, free for the free, slave for the slave, woman for the woman, but if any remission is made to anyone by his (aggrieved) brother, then prosecution (for the bloodwit) should be made according to Maruf[7], and payment should be made to him in a good manner; this is an alleviation from your Lord and a mercy; so whoever exceeds the limit after this he shall have a painful chastisement.” (Al-Baqara/ The Cow 2/178)
‘Qisas’ recompense means to murder the murderer or to injure the injurer[8]. It is just like replacing the broken glass of the window; the repairing of the damage. As it is not possible to bring the dead back to life; the guilty person pays for the recompense ‘qisas’. The Glorified Allah commands:
And We prescribed to them in it that life is for life, and eye for eye, and nose for nose, and ear for ear, and tooth for tooth, and (that there is) reprisal in wounds; but he who foregoes it, it shall be an expiation for him; and whoso judged not by that which Allah has revealed: such are wrongdoers.” (Al-Maeda/ The Feast 5/45)
Allah is the One who makes creatures live and die. A person who ends a life Allah has given, has committed crime against Him. As a person who breaks a window cannot escape from punishment by replacing the windowpane, the murderer cannot escape from his punishment if ‘qisas’ is carried out. Allah has defined the punishment of this crime to be eternal hell and has commanded: “And whoever kills a believer intentionally, his punishment is hell; he shall abide in it, and Allah will send His wrath on him and curse him and prepare for him a painful chastisement” (An-Nisa/ The Women 4/93)
If the lifetime of the murdered person would have ended, that is ajal musamma was due, punishing the murderer would have been meaningless and prohibiting this action would not have made sense. The Glorified Allah commands: “And do not kill any one whom Allah has forbidden, except for a just cause, and whoever is slain unjustly, We have indeed given to his heir authority, so let him not exceed the just limits in slaying; surely he is aided” (Isra/ Children of Israel 17/33)
These show that the murdered person did not die at the end of his period; with his ‘ajal’.
1.3. Self Sacrifice in Allah’s Way
People can shorten their life time ‘ajal musamma’ by sacrificing their life in Allah’s way. Allah rewards this abundantly. The Glorified Allah commands:
And if you are slain in the way of Allah or you die, certainly forgiveness from Allah and mercy is better than what they amass.” (Al-e-Imran/ The Family of Imran 3/157)
Death is the termination of offered time for a person; which is with his ajal musamma’. But if he is killed in His way, Allah bestows him another spirit to compensate for the lost one. The Glorified Allah commands: “And do not speak of those who are slain in Allah’s way as dead; nay, (they are) alive, but you do not perceive” (Al-Baqara/ The Cow 2/154)
And reckon not those who are killed in Allah’s way as dead; nay, they are alive (and) are provided sustenance from their Lord;
[3.170] Rejoicing in what Allah has given them out of His grace and they rejoice for the sake of those who, (being left) behind them, have not yet joined them, that they shall have no fear, nor shall they grieve.
[3.171] They rejoice on account of favor from Allah and (His) grace, and that Allah will not waste the reward of the believers” (Al-e-Imran/ The Family of Imran 3/169-171)
Those who have been killed in Allah’s way are multi-rewarded. The Glorified Allah commands:
“Whoever comes with a good deed will have ten times the like thereof, and whoever comes with an evil deed will not be recompensed except the like thereof; and they will not be wronged. ” (Al-An’am/ Livestock 6:160)
If this good deed is spending in Allah’s way, then recompense will be greater. To be concrete, the goodness mentioned in the verse returns to the donator multiplied by 700 or more. The Glorified Allah commands:
“The situation of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is like a grain which grows seven ears; in each ear is a hundred grains. And Allah multiplies for whom He pleases. And Allah is All-Encompassing, All-Knowing. ” (Al-Baqara/ The Cow 2/261)
A person’s life, who is murdered in the way of Allah, is prolonged to the Judgement Day. If his lifetime had ended he would have not been supposed to make such a sacrifice and would have been no reason for him to deserve such reward. And this is the advantageous difference of dying and being killed in Allah’s ways.
Ibn Mes’ud relates that the Prophet (s.a.v.) drew a rectangle on the ground. Then he drew two parallel lines that passed through and ended outside the rectangle. In the middle of the rectangle he drew a very small figure, saying: “This is the human, while the rectangle is his ajal that has enclosed him in all sides. The part that surpasses the ajal rectangle and goes outside are the deeds of this human. And these small arrows all around are the troubles he encounters in life; if not one, the other will knock him down.[9]
The scheme drawn by the Prophet can be shown like this:
The Glorified Allah protects the human from the arrows of trouble. A verse says thus:
For his sake there are angels following one another, before him and behind him, who guard him by Allah’s commandment; surely Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change their own condition; and when Allah intends evil to a people, there is no averting it, and besides Him they have no protector.” (Ar-Ra’d/ The Thunder 13/11)

[1] Raghib Al-Isfahani, Mufredat
[2] Alaq (__)mentioned in the Arabic text is a sticking object. For this reason the word ‘alaq’ or ‘alaqa’ is used for the ruby sticky blood, congealed blood or clotted blood.
[3] Mufredat
[4] Tirmidhi, Dawat 98; Ibn Majah, Zuhd 30; Ahmed b. Hanbel, 2/132, 153.
[5] Abu Davud, Taharat 127.
[6] Meaning the relatives.
[7] Maruf; shortly it can be defined as the beauty and meaning of something, which can be comprehended only by the mean of religion or reason.
[8] Lisan ul-Arab
[9] Bukhari, Ar-Riqaq 4.

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