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Ajal

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Ajal (Arabic: الأجل, lit: limit or term) is a Qur'anic term, which means something's timespan or the end of something's period. In humans, "ajal" means the time of their death. In the Qur'an, "ajal" and its cognates were used fifty six times concerning different issues. For example, each nation is said to have a specific "ajal" (term) that is not hastened or postponed.

According to some Quranic exegetes, Quranic verses refer to two types of ajal for humans: ajal musamma (specified term) or the inevitable time of death, and ajal mu'allaq (suspended term) or the changeable time of death.

Ajal is discussed in Islamic theology under the problem of free will and predestination.

Notion and Significance

"Ajal" refers to something's timespan or the end of something's period. With regard to humans, it refers to the end of one's life, that is, the time of death.

The word, "ajal", and its cognates were used fifty six times in the Qur'an concerning different things, including the following:

  • The creation of the sky and the earth has a specific term, and thus, they will expire after a specific period.[1]
  • The movements of the sun and the moon will come to an end at a specific time.[2]
  • The fetus's stay in the mother's womb has a specific term.[4]
  • Nations have specific terms, and when their end comes, it will not be delayed, nor hastened.[5]
  • God specified a determinate lifespan for every human person.[6]

Types

Some exegetes appeal to the second verse of Qur'an 6, "It is He who created you from clay and then decreed a term and a specified time [known] to Him; then [still] you are in dispute," to show that there are two types of ajal: musamma (specified term) and mu'allaq (suspended term).

Ajal musamma (specified term) is an inevitable and unchangeable time of a human person's death, of which only God is aware. Ajal mu'allaq (suspended term) is the natural time of one's death which is subject to changes. Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i explains these two types of ajal as follows, the suspended term is the time of one's death in accordance with his bodily conditions. And ajal musamma is the inevitable time of one's death. In his view, given one's bodily conditions, he might be able to live one hundred years, which is his suspended term, but his actual time of death may be sooner or later than one hundred years, which is his specified term.

In Islamic Theology

Muslim theologians discuss ajal under their discussion of human free will and predestination. Verses of ajal were first appealed to by the Asha'ira as objections to the Mu'tazila who believed in free will. They claimed that since these verses talk about pre-determined times of everything, all actions should be attributed to God. For example, when a person murders another, the murderer has no free will, because the murdered person's ajal (time of death) was already specified by God.

The Mu'tazila replied that humans do wrong actions, and since wrong actions cannot be attributed to God, they should be attributed to human persons themselves.

Notes

  1. Qur'an 30:8
  2. Qur'an 13:2
  3. Qur'an 20:129
  4. Qur'an 22:5
  5. Qur'an 7:34, Qur'an 10:49
  6. Qur'an 6:2, Qur'an 39:42

References

  • The material for this article is mainly taken from اجل in Farsi WikiShia.