Life span and predestination

Q331 :May I take issue with you regarding an answer you had given concerning observation that life expectancy is much higher in Europe than it is in Muslim countries. In your answer you said that lifestyle is responsible for such differences. This is not true because it is reported in a Hadith that sometime after conception an angel is sent to the fetus to write down its provision, life span, actions and whether he or she will be happy or miserable. Hence, the duration of every-one's life is determined by what has been written at that time. Therefore, nothing that he does or omits to do will affect that. A person may smoke, eat fatty food, be lazy or do the opposite things, and his span of life will not be affected. Your answer was not based on any Islamic information, but on the so-called modern science. You would have done better to confine yourself to answers that are based on Islamic teachings.


A331 : No sir, my answer has taken Islamic teachings into account, because God has instructed us to look around us and learn from the lessons that life events may place before our eyes. He says in the Qur'an: "Say: Reflect on what there is in the heaven and on earth. But of what benefit can signs and warnings be to the community that would not believe." The Qur'anic verses and the Hadiths that call on us to study, reflect, take heed and learn are numerous indeed. Besides, we have learned from Islam as well as from what we see around us that there is a law of cause and effect which operates by God's will. For example, fire burns. Therefore, when you put something close to a fire, it is burned. If you light up a match and put your finger on top of its flame, you will immediately feel a burning sensation. If you do not, no such feeling will be experienced by you. This is an example of the working of the law of cause and effect. You do not place your finger close to the flame of a match and say that God's will may prevent the fire from burning it. It is certainly true that God may stop the action of the fire, but it is His will that fire should burn. Therefore, when we place things in a fire they are burned. This applies to everything and all conditions and situations in life. A person who smokes has a much higher risk of suffering one of the serious diseases that smoking causes, such as a wide variety of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, chronic bronchitis, etc. Most of these are fatal. Therefore, the effect of being a heavy smoker is likely to be the suffering of one or more of these diseases, any of which can cause death. That same person would most probably not suffer from the disease which kills him if he does not smoke. If we were to say that he would still have suffered the same disease, which is caused by nicotine or carbon monoxide, when he did not have either of them through smoking, then we are saying that an object could be burned without a fire, or drowned without coming near water. Perhaps you would say that he might not have suffered that disease, but he would still die at the same moment, by some other reason. I would say that we do not know that, but most probably he would have lived longer, because he would be enjoying better health over a longer period of his life. Here we come to the Hadith which you have mentioned, and which is at the center of this argument. There is no doubt that the Hadith is authentic. Let us not speak about the details of the writing and why it should be written, or where it is written, etc. We know than an angel writes down four things, including the duration of the life of the yet unborn baby. Now, the angel does not determine that duration. It is God who determines it, according to His knowledge which is perfect, absolute, unlimited by the confines of time or place. I have explained on several occasions that God's knowledge is perfect and complete. Nothing is added to it as a result of any event, because time does not apply to God in the same way as it applies to us. When God instructs the angel to write these four things, He is fully aware what the person concerned will be doing in his life and what harm he will cause to himself and what damage to his health he may perpetrate. He takes into account the effect of all these on his health and knows whether he will have lung cancer as a result of smoking or coronary heart disease as a result of drinking, or he would be obese as a result of overeating and lack of exercise. So He gives him forty or fifty or sixty years of life in accordance with the effect of so many factors on his health and on his life as a whole. God will certainly give a longer life duration to a person whom He knows will be following a healthy lifestyle. Now the choice of lifestyle is a personal choice, which we do by our own free will. Had our actions been imposed on us by God's will, then God would not have held us to account for what we do in this life. It is because He has given us free will that He subjects us to His judgment on the day of resurrection. He knows that what we do is our own personal choice. Therefore, we cannot escape the consequences. Moreover, there are authentic Hadiths which speak of prolonging life. In one of these, the Prophet is quoted as saying: "He who likes to be given an increase of provisions and a longer duration of life should be dutiful to his parents." Another Hadith which uses the same wording in its first part mentions that the results of increased provisions and longer life depend on being kind to one's close relatives. Again, dutifulness to parents and kindness to relatives are things that we do by our own free will. They are not imposed on us. But we should reflect that both the things that depend on them - increased provisions and longer life - are written down by the angel when everyone of us is still a fetus. Scholars have explained this and given two points by way of explanation. The first is that they point out a fact to which reference is made in Verse 39 of Surah 13 which includes this statement: "God may erase or confirm whatever He pleases." This is in direct reference to what is written concerning the future. So, what has been written may be changed as a result of what we do. The other explanation is that when the angel is given his instructions to write down four things, he is told to write: "This person shall live for sixty years if he is not dutiful to his parents, but will continue to live until he is seventy if he is dutiful to them." Now, God knows in advance that the person concerned will be dutiful or not dutiful and at what moment exactly he will die. The angel does not know. Therefore, the extension in the person's age as a result of his actions is true in relation to all creatures, including human beings, angels and all living things on earth and in the wide universe. To God the extension is known in advance. Could we not say that the same thing applies in relation to the lifestyle that we follow. To my understanding, the way God has created us and the world around us makes it clear that it is His will that we will be affected by a wide variety of causes. Therefore, if we lead a healthy lifestyle we are likely to live longer than if we are heedless of all the lessons that life brings to us.


Our Dialogue ( Source : Arab News - Jeddah )