When it is said that lifespan is lengthened through sadaqa, does it mean the time of death changes? how should we understand the hadith "Time of death does not change"?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Time of death does not change. Some people claim that one’s lifespan can be lengthened and hence time of death can change acting upon the following hadith of the Prophet (pbuh):

"Sadaqa drives trouble away and lengthens life." (see Haythami, Majmauz-Zawaid, III/63)

We should first say that whether sadaqa lengthens life or not, man is bound to die; it is known by the pre-eternal knowledge of Allah. From this viewpoint, the time of death and hence lifespan of a person is determined by Allah and it is impossible to change it. For instance, suppose that the life of a person lengthens with the sadaqa he gives for two years. Let us think that the lifespan of that person called ajal muallaq (suspended time of death) is fifty years if he gives sadaqa and forty-eight years if he does not. Allah Almighty determines his lifespan as fifty years because He knows that he will give sadaqa. That time of death does not change. 

The Prophet (pbuh) encourages believers to do charity with the hadith above and strengthens the bonds of love among them with sadaqa. Sadaqa’s driving trouble away is a grace and grant of Allah. We do not know what kind of trouble sadaqa drives away. We cause a lot of trouble to be driven away thanks to the sadaqa we give and charities we do. Those troubles, which we do not know because they do not take place are blessings for us; those blessings are expressed as negative blessings. The positive aspect of sadaqa is making believers attain good deeds and thawabs.

Taftazani, one of the great scholars of the science of kalam, explains sadaqa’s lengthening life from various viewpoints in his book called Sharhu Aqaid. He states the following regarding the issue:

"What is meant by lengthening life is making life blessed. Lengthening of human life, which is a capital for the hereafter in terms of good deeds and charity, means gaining more profits with that capital. Accordingly, the lifespan does not change but products increase through sadaqa, which means lengthening of life. Let us try to explain it with an example: Suppose that a tree yields four thousand fruits every spring. If Allah Almighty makes it yield eight thousand fruits instead of four thousand in one of the springs with His grace and grant, it means the lifespan of the fruit is spiritually lengthened for a year. Sadaqa is a means of increasing the productivity of man’s life. It lengthens lifespan in that sense."

Taftazani explains the fact mentioned above as follows:

"Sadaqa increases the most important purpose in lifespan. It is attaining perfection with righteous deeds. For, people can make their souls perfect and attain bliss in both realms through righteous deeds."

Another meaning of sadaqa’s lengthening lifespan is increase in sustenance and peace and tranquility in one’s life. 

Another meaning is as follows: Lengthening of life means the book of good deeds and charity of a person remaining open after his death. As it is known, along with wealth, sadaqa is possible through knowledge. The book of good deeds of a scholar who publishes a book that is useful for believers does not close. It means his life lengthens. Thus, a person who will continue doing good deeds and charities as he lives can do the same thing after his death; it means he is alive spiritually.

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