Cumhuriyet Ilahiyat Dergisi 20 (2):299-299 (2016)
Human beings pass through a series of life stages since birth. These stages beginning at the infancy even in the mother’s womb are accompanied with a period extending to the senescence and the last stages of the life. Creation of human beings and various stages of the life are mentioned in the Qurʾān. Besides, it is referred to the senescence. In addition to the expressions sheikh, shayb, ʽajūz and kibar indicating to the senescence, ardhal al-ʿumur is also pointed out in the Qurʾān in this regard. This article aims to identify in which context and meaning the wording regarding ardhal al-ʿumur and senescence are used in the Qurʾān and to reveal the relation between these terms. Since, the term ardhal al-ʿumur and senile dementia are directly correlated in the commentaries usually and the interpretations build the perception that these two expressions are almost synonyms. Are ardhal al-ʿumur and dementia closely associated with each other? Are the other terms in the Qurʾān indicating to the senescence correlated with the dementia? Our study aims to explain the expression ardhal al-ʿumur in the Qurʾān in this regard. Furthermore, the other terms regarding the senescence expressed in the Qurʾān are reviewed in this respect. SUMMARY The Qurʾān tells the creation of human beings and refers to the various stages of their lives as well. The explanations beginning with the creation state the prenatal period, infancy and childhood, adolescence and adulthood of human beings. The Qurʾān refers to the senescence as well, the last stage of the life. In this regard, ardhal al-ʿumur, sheikh, shayb, ʽajūz and kibar are the terms in the Qurʾān associated with the senescence. Especially nowadays, the senescence is a considerable focus of the science, besides being mentioned in the Qurʾān. This article discusses the subject scientifically as well. The senescence is defined with various aspects since it expresses a period having physical, psychological and social dimensions. Furthermore, certain classifications regarding the senescence are made and physiological changes associated with the chronological age are more emphasized. It has been indicated that the senescence is divided into two: biological and chronological aging. According to this chronological aging is the same for everyone while biological aging varies from individual to individual. The senescence is acknowledged as the last development stage of the human life in terms of social sciences and considered as an on-going universal process between birth and death. Therefore, the senescence is interpreted relatively while the aging is interpreted universally. So, everyone gets old; however, the senescence means a life period varying from individual to individual. The senescence affects the individual both health-wise and psychologically, sociologically and economically. In other words; the senescence, a tough period, is a phenomenon which deeply affects the human beings and all their characteristics making them exist. The senescence is addressed in the Qurʾān with various expressions. Ardhal al-ʿumur, foremost among these, is mentioned twice in the Qurʾān (al-Nakhl 16/70, al-Ḥac 22/5). The exegetes generally consider ardhal al-ʿumur as the physiological exhaustion of an individual due to aging and as the period when dementia is experienced. The characteristics of the stage called as ardhal al-ʿumur in the Qurʾān are explained with the following statement: turning into a person who does not know anything from the person who used to know many things. Just because of this sentence, ardhal al-ʿumur is construed with dementia. Are arzali’l-ʽumur and dementia directly interrelated? This article also reviews the other terms stated in the Qurʾān regarding the senescence from this aspect. Sheikh, another expression stated in the Qurʾān regarding the senescence, is mentioned four times (Hūd 11/72, Yūsuf 12/78, al-Qaṣaṣ 28/23, al-Muʼmin 40/67) and it is described with the word kabīr in two of them. The lexical meaning of sheikh is an old person in terms of age and appearance. Moreover, sheikh is used as an adjective to describe the individuals who have wisdom in customs. So, the word sheikh both means an individual who is well on in life and is the expression of supremacy in terms of knowledge and experience. Shayb, another expression stated in the Qurʾān regarding the senescence, is mentioned three times (Maryam 19/4, al-Rūm 30/54, al-Muzzammil 73/17) and means hair greying and describes a physiological change in the senescence. ʽAjūz stated in the Qurʾān for the senescence is mentioned in four different chapters (Hūd 11/72, al-Shuʽarā’ 26/171, al-Ṣāffāt 37/135, al-Dhāriyāt 51/29) and expresses incapacity of performing many actions. ʽAjūz is another expression in the Qurʾān meaning elderliness. The senescence is implied with this expression too; however, the dementia is not mentioned. Kibar, the last wording associated with the senescence, is mentioned in six verses (al-Baqara 2/266; Āl-i-ʽImrān 3/40, Ibrāhim 14/39, al-Hicr 15/54, al-Isrā 17/23, Maryam 19/8). The word kibar means the senescence and physical power loss; nevertheless, is not interpreted as dementia. To our knowledge, the explanations regarding the senescence and dementia in most of the commentaries cannot be corresponded in the Qurʾān as if they are synonyms. This perception can be generated due to the statements pointing out the dementia in the lexical meaning of ardhal al-ʿumur. It is understood in the light of the data acquired by today’s science that the dementia is not a natural result of the senescence but rather one of its risks, which is already proved by the fact that the science discusses the dementia separately from normal aging process. Therefore, there is not a general picture of dementia including all elders. Thus, it is possible to define ardhal al-ʿumur as a later part of life which includes some elders and affects them physiologically, psychologically, sociologically, etc., in addition, they lose their mental faculties in that period. Each expression regarding the senescence in the Qurʾān reveals the picture of the senescence pursuant to the integrity of the Qurʾān. The senescence in the Qurʾān is an ineluctable reality. The fact that this period is clearly expressed in the verses aims that this reality can be perceived by human beings and they can be prepared for this period. Some problems that elders experience are also mentioned in the Qurʾān. When the other terms in the Qurʾān associated with the senescence apart from ardhal al-ʿumur are reviewed, it is seen that the aforementioned problems that may be observed at later ages are hair greying, bone diseases, incapability and weakness in doing some actions. Today, there are various disciplines concerning the elders and the information obtained from these disciplines shows that these problems are a lot more than the ones mentioned in the Qurʾān. However, it is not expected that the Qurʾān discusses the facts as a science book since it is a holy book. When ardhal al-ʿumur is evaluated in the light of scientific data, it appears as a sickness period when some elders experience mental problems such as dementia/blackout. On the one hand, there will be elders who experience these problems; on the other hand, there will be some who do not. All expressions regarding the senescence in the Qurʾān do not lead to the fact that the aging leads to the dementia directly. Ardhal al-ʿumur within the integrity of the Qurʾān expresses that senile dementia affects some individuals while it has not any impact on the others. Therefore, ardhal al-ʿumur is one of the life stages affecting not every elder but some of them. The fact that different terms are stated in the Qurʾān regarding the elders points out various aspects of the aging process creating different effects. The second important reason why the aging is mentioned in the Qurʾān is to emphasize the value of the elders and the respect that should be showed to them. Besides, it is also underlined in the Qurʾān that the elders are so precious that they cannot be left alone socially and psychologically. Furthermore, the elders are the individuals worthy of love and being valued. Thus, it is suggested in the Qurʾān to love, respect and honour the elders and to live with them regardless of whether they will experience ardhal al-ʿumur or not. Therefore, the human beings are reminded to look after the elders, esteem them materially and morally, as they deserve, and to act considering the characteristics of this period.
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