Chapter 19 : Relativity of Time and the Reality of Fate
Everything related so far demonstrates that we never have direct contact with the external world, that we only know the version of matter as it exists in our minds and that one actually leads one's whole life in “spacelessness.” Asserting the contrary would be to profess a superstitious belief removed from reason and scientific truth, for what is set out here are all technical and scientific facts even described in middle school textbooks.
This refutes the primary assumption of the materialist philosophy underlying evolutionary theory—the assumption that matter is absolute and eternal. The materialistic philosophy's second assumption is that time is also absolute and eternal—a supposition just as superstitious as the first.
The Perception of Time
What we call "time" is in fact a method by which one moment is compared to another. For example, when a person taps an object, he hears a particular sound. If he taps the same object five minutes later, he hears another sound. Thinking there is an interval between the two sounds, he calls this interval "time." Yet when he hears the second sound, the first one he heard is no more than a memory in his mind, merely a bit of information in his imagination. A person formulates his perception of time by comparing the moment in which he lives with what he holds in memory. If he doesn't make this comparison, he can have no perception of time either.
Similarly, a person makes a comparison when he sees someone enter through a door and sit in an armchair in the middle of the room. By the time this person sits in the armchair, the images of the moment he opened the door and made his way to the armchair are compiled as bits of information in memory. The perception of time takes place when one compares the man sitting on the armchair with those bits of recalled information.
Briefly, time comes about as a result of comparisons of information stored in the brain. If man had no memory, his brain could not make such interpretations and therefore, he would never form any perception of time. One determines himself to be thirty years old, only because he has accumulated in his mind information pertaining to those thirty years. If his memory did not exist, then he could not think of any such preceding period and would be experiencing only the single "moment" in which he was living.
The Scientific Explanation of Timelessness
We can clarify this subject by quoting various scientists' and scholars' explanations. Regarding the idea of time flowing backwards, François Jacob, a famous intellectual and Nobel laureate professor of genetics, states the following in his book Le Jeu des Possibles (The Play of Possibilities):
Films played backwards let us imagine a world in which time flows backwards. A world in which cream separates itself from the coffee and jumps out of the cup to reach the creamer; in which the walls emit light rays that are collected in a light source instead of radiating out from it; a world in which a stone leaps up to a man's hand from the water where it was thrown by the astonishing cooperation of innumerable drops of water surging together. Yet, in such a time-reversed world with such opposite features, our brain processes, and the way our memory compiles information, would similarly function backwards. The same is true for the past and future, though the world will appear to us exactly as it does currently.205
But since our brain is accustomed to a certain sequence of events, the world does not operate as related above. We assume that time always flows forward. However, this is a decision reached in the brain and is, therefore, completely relative. In reality, we never can know how time flows—or even whether it flows or not! This is because time is not an absolute fact, but only a form of perception.
That time is a perception is also verified by Albert Einstein in his Theory of General Relativity. In his book The Universe and Dr. Einstein, Lincoln Barnett writes:
Along with absolute space, Einstein discarded the concept of absolute time—of a steady, unvarying inexorable universal time flow, streaming from the infinite past to the infinite future. Much of the obscurity that has surrounded the Theory of Relativity stems from man's reluctance to recognize that sense of time, like sense of color, is a form of perception. Just as space is simply a possible order of material objects, so time is simply a possible order of events. The subjectivity of time is best explained in Einstein's own words. "The experiences of an individual," he says, "appear to us arranged in a series of events; in this series the single events which we remember appear to be ordered according to the criterion of ‘earlier' and ‘later'. There exists, therefore, for the individual, an I-time, or subjective time. This in itself is not measurable. I can, indeed, associate numbers with the events, in such a way that a greater number is associated with the later event than with an earlier one.206
As Barnett wrote, Einstein showed that, "space and time are forms of intuition, which can no more be divorced from consciousness than can our concepts of color, shape, or size." According to the Theory of General Relativity: "time has no independent existence apart from the order of events by which we measure it."207
Since time consists of perception, it depends entirely on the perceiver—and is therefore relative.
The speed at which time flows differs according to the references we use to measure it, because the human body has no natural clock to indicate precisely how fast time passes. As Barnett wrote, "Just as there is no such thing as color without an eye to discern it, so an instant or an hour or a day is nothing without an event to mark it.”208
The relativity of time is plainly experienced in dreams. Although what we perceive in a dream seems to last for hours, in fact, it only lasts for a few minutes, and often even a few seconds.
An example will clarify the point. Assume that you were put into a room with a single window, specifically designed; and were kept there for a certain period of time. A clock on the walls shows you the amount of time that has passed. During this "time," from the room's window, you see the sun setting and rising at certain intervals. A few days later, questioned about the amount of time spent in the room, you would give an answer based on the information you had collected by looking at the clock from time to time, as well as by counting how many times the sun had set and risen. Say, for example, you estimate you'd spent three days in the room. However, if the person who put you in there says that you spent only two days in there; that the sun you saw from the window was falsely produced; and that the clock in the room was especially regulated to move faster, then your calculation would be erroneous.
This example dramatizes that the information we have about the rate of time's passing is based only on references that change according to the perceiver.
That time is relative is a scientific fact, also proven by scientific methodology. Einstein's Theory of General Relativity maintains that the speed of time changes depending on the speed of the object and its distance from the center of gravity. As speed increases, time is shortened—compressed—and slows down until it approaches to the point of stopping entirely.
Einstein himself gave an example. Imagine two twins, one of whom remains on Earth while the other goes into space at a speed close to the speed of light. On his return, the traveler will find that his brother has grown much older than he has. The reason is that time flows much more slowly for the person who travels at near-light speed. What about a space-traveling father and his son who stays behind on Earth? If the father were 27 years old when he set out, and his son was only three, the father, when he comes back 30 years later in Earth time, will be only 30, whereas his son will be 33 years old!209
This relativity of time is caused not by clocks slowing down or running fast. Rather, it's the result of the differentiated operational periods of the entire material system, as deep as sub-atomic particles. In such a setting where time stretches out, one's heartbeat, cell replications, and brain functions all operate more slowly. The person continues with his daily life and does not notice the slowing of time at all.
Relativity in the Qur'an
The conclusion to which we are led by the findings of modern science is that time is not an absolute fact as supposed by materialists, but only a relative perception. This fact, undiscovered until the 20th century by science, was imparted to mankind in the Qur'an 14 centuries ago. There are various references in the Qur'an to the relativity of time.
It is possible to see the scientifically-proven fact that time is a psychological perception dependent on events, setting, and conditions in many verses of the Qur'an. For instance, the entire life of a person is a very short time as we are informed in the Qur'an:
On the Day when He will call you, and you will answer His Call with words of His Praise and Obedience, and you will think that you have stayed in this world but a little while! (Surat al-Isra': 52)
And on the Day when He shall gather them together, it will seem to them as if they had not tarried (on earth) longer than an hour of a day: they will recognize each other. (Surah Yunus: 45)
In some verses, it is indicated that people perceive time differently and that sometimes people can perceive a very short period of time as a very lengthy one. The following conversation of people held during their judgment in the Hereafter is an example of this:
He will say: "What number of years did you stay on earth?" They will say: "We stayed a day or part of a day: but ask those who keep account." He will say: "You stayed not but a little, if you had only known!" (Surat al-Muminun: 112-114)
In some other verses it is stated that time may flow at different paces in different settings:
Yet they ask you to hasten on the Punishment! But Allah will not fail in His Promise. Verily a Day in the Sight of your Lord is like a thousand years of your reckoning. (Surat al-Hajj: 47)
The angels and the spirit ascend unto Him in a day the measure whereof is (as) fifty thousand years. (Surat al-Ma‘arij: 4)
He directs the whole affair from heaven to Earth. Then it will again ascend to Him on a day whose length is a thousand years by the way you measure. (Surat as-Sajda: 5)
These verses are all manifest expressions of the relativity of time. The fact that this result only recently understood by science in the 20th century was communicated to man 1,400 years ago in the Qur'an is an indication of the revelation of the Qur'an by Allah, Who encompasses the whole time and space.
The narration in many other verses of the Qur'an reveals that time is a perception. This is particularly evident in the stories. For instance, Allah has kept the Companions of the Cave, a believing group mentioned in the Qur'an, in a deep sleep for more than three centuries. When they were awoken, these people thought that they had stayed in that state but a little while, and could not figure out how long they slept:
Then We draw a veil over their ears, for a number of years, in the Cave, so that they heard not. Then We raised them up that We might know which of the two parties would best calculate the time that they had tarried. (Surat al-Kahf: 11-12)
Such being their state, We raised them up from sleep, that they might question each other. Said one of them, "How long have you stayed here?" They said, "We have stayed perhaps a day, or part of a day." At length they all said, "Allah alone knows best how long you have stayed here...” (Surat al-Kahf: 19)
The situation told in the below verse is also evidence that time is in truth a psychological perception.
Or take the similitude of one who passed by a hamlet, all in ruins to its roofs. He said: "Oh! How shall Allah bring it ever to life, after this its death?" but Allah caused him to die for a hundred years, then raised him up again. He said: "How long did you tarry thus?" He said: Perhaps a day or part of a day." He said: "Nay, you have tarried thus a hundred years; but look at your food and your drink; they show no signs of age; and look at your donkey: And that We may make of you a sign unto the people, Look further at the bones, how We bring them together and clothe them with flesh." When this was shown clearly to him, he said: "I know that Allah has power over all things." (Surat al-Baqara: 259)
It is clearly stated in the above verse that Allah, Who created time, is unbound by it. Man, on the other hand, is bound by time that Allah ordains. As in the verse, man is even incapable of knowing how long he stayed in his sleep. In such a state, to assert that time is absolute just like the materialists do in their distorted mentality, would be very unreasonable.
Time's variable relativity reveals a very important reality: A period of time of apparently billions of years' duration to us, may last only a second in another dimension. Moreover, an enormous period of time—from the world's beginning to its end—may not last even a second, but just an instant in another dimension.
This is the very essence of destiny's reality—one that is not well understood by most people, especially materialists, who deny it completely. Destiny is Allah's perfect knowledge of all events, past or future. Many, if not most, question how Allah can already know events that have not yet been experienced, and this leads them to fail to understand the authenticity of destiny. However, events not yet experienced are not yet experienced by us only. Allah is not bound by time or space, for He Himself has created them. For this reason, the past, the future, and the present are all the same to Allah; for Him, everything has already taken place and is finished.
In The Universe and Dr. Einstein, Lincoln Barnett explains how the Theory of General Relativity leads to this insight. According to him, the universe can be "encompassed in its entire majesty only by a cosmic intellect."210 What Barnett calls "the cosmic intellect" is the wisdom and knowledge of Allah, Who prevails over the entire universe. Just as we easily see the beginning, middle, and end of a ruler and all the units in between as a whole, so Allah knows the time to which we're subjected right from its beginning to the end, like a single moment. People experience incidents only when their time comes for them to witness the fate Allah has created for them.
It is also important to consider society's distorted understanding of destiny. This distorted conviction presents the superstitious belief that Allah has determined a "destiny" for every man, but sometimes that people can change these destinies. For instance, speaking of a patient who's recovered from a fatal disease, people make superficial statements like, "He defeated his destiny." Yet no one is able to change his destiny. The person who recovers is destined not to die then. Again, it's the destiny of those people to deceive themselves by saying, "I defeated my destiny" and maintain such a mindset.
Destiny is the eternal knowledge of Allah. And for Allah, Who knows the whole time as a single moment and Who prevails over the whole time and space, everything is determined and finished in its destiny.
We also understand from what is related in the Qur'an that time is one for Allah: some incidents that appear to happen to us in the future are related in the Qur'an in such a way that they already took place long before. For instance, the verses that describe the account that people are to give to Allah in the Hereafter are related as events which already occurred long ago:
And the trumpet is blown, and all who are in the heavens and all who are in the earth swoon away, save him whom Allah willeth. Then it is blown a second time, and behold them standing waiting! And the earth shineth with the light of her Lord, and the Book is set up, and the prophets and the witnesses are brought, and it is judged between them with truth, and they are not wronged... And those who disbelieve are driven unto Hell in troops... And those who keep their duty to their Lord are driven unto the Garden in troops... (Surat az-Zumar: 68-73)
Some other verses on this subject are:
And every soul came, along with it a driver and a witness. (Surah Qaf: 21)
And the heaven is cloven asunder, so that on that day it is frail. (Surat al-Haqqa: 16)
And because they were patient and constant, He rewarded them with a Garden and (garments of) silk. Reclining in the (Garden) on raised thrones, they saw there neither the sun's (excessive heat) nor excessive cold. (Surat al-Insan: 12-13)
And Hell is placed in full view for (all) to see. (Surat an-Nazi‘at: 36)
But on this Day the believers laugh at the unbelievers. (Surat al-Mutaffifin: 34)
And the sinful saw the fire and apprehended that they have to fall therein: no means did they find to turn away therefrom. (Surat al-Kahf: 53)
As may be seen, occurrences that are going to take place after our death (from our point of view) are related as already experienced and past events in the Qur'an. Allah is not bound by the relative time frame that we are confined in. Allah has willed these things in timelessness: people have already performed them and all these events have been lived through and ended. It is imparted in the verse below that every event, be it big or small, is within the knowledge of Allah and recorded in a book:
In whatever business you may be, and whatever portion you may be reciting from the Qur'an, and whatever deed you humanity may be doing, We are witnesses thereof when you are deeply engrossed therein. Nor is hidden from your Lord so much as the weight of an atom on the earth or in heaven. And not the least and not the greatest of these things but are recorded in a clear record. (Surah Yunus: 61)
The Worry of the Materialists
The facts discussed in this chapter, namely the truth underlying matter, timelessness, and spacelessness, are extremely clear indeed. As expressed earlier, these are not some sort of philosophy or way of thinking, but crystal-clear scientific truths, impossible to deny. On this issue, rational and logical evidence admits no other alternatives: For us, the universe—with all the matter composing it and all the people living on it—is an image, a collection of perceptions that we experience in our minds and whose original reality we cannot contact directly.
Materialists have a hard time in understanding this—for example, if we return to the example of Politzer's bus. Although Politzer technically knew that he could not step out of his perceptions, he could admit it only for certain cases. For him, events take place in the brain until the bus crash takes place, then events escape from the brain and assume a physical reality. At this point, the logical defect is very clear: Politzer has made the same mistake as the materialist Samuel Johnson, who said, "I hit the stone, my foot hurts, therefore it exists." Politzer could not understand that in fact, the shock felt after a bus impact was a mere perception too.
One subliminal reason why materialists cannot comprehend this is their fear of the implication they must face if they comprehend it. Lincoln Barnett tells of the fear and anxiety that even "discerning" this subject inspires in materialist scientists:
Along with philosophers' reduction of all objective reality to a shadow-world of perceptions, scientists became aware of the alarming limitations of man's senses.211
Any reference to the fact that we cannot make contact with original matter, and that time is a perception, arouses great fear in a materialist because these are the only notions he relies on as absolutes. In a sense, he takes these as idols to worship; because he thinks that he has been created by matter and time, through evolution.
When he feels that he cannot get to the essence of the universe he lives in, nor the world, his own body, other people, other materialist philosophers whose ideas he is influenced by—in short, to anything—he feels overwhelmed by the horror of it all. Everything he depends on and believes in suddenly vanishes. He feels the despair which he, essentially, will experience on Judgment Day in its real sense as described in the verse "That Day shall they openly show their submission to Allah; and all their inventions shall leave them in the lurch." (Surat an-Nahl: 87)
From then on, this materialist tries to convince himself that he's really confronting external, original matter, and makes up "evidence." He hits his fist on the wall, kicks stones, shouts, and yells. But he can never escape from the reality.
Just as materialists want to dismiss this reality from their minds, they also want other people to discard it. They realize that if the true nature of matter becomes known to people in general, the primitiveness of their own philosophy and the ignorance of their worldview will be laid bare for all to see. No ground will be left on which they can rationalize their views. These fears explain why they are so disturbed by the facts related here.
Allah states that the fears of the unbelievers will be intensified in the Hereafter. On Judgment Day, they will be addressed thus:
One day shall We gather them all together: We shall say to those who ascribed partners to Us: "Where are the partners whom you (invented and) talked about?" (Surat al-An‘am: 22)
In the Hereafter, unbelievers will bear witness to their possessions, children and close friends leaving them and vanishing. They had assumed themselves to be in contact with their originals in the world and associated them with Allah. Allah stated this fact in the verse "Behold! How they lie against their own souls! But the (lie) which they invented will leave them in the lurch." (Surat al-An‘am: 24)
The Gain of Believers
The facts—that matter is not absolute and that time is a perception—alarm materialists, but for true believers, just the opposite holds true. People with faith in Allah become very glad to have perceived the secret behind matter, because this reality is the key to every question. With this, all secrets are unlocked, and one can easily understand many issues that previously seemed hard to grasp.
As said before, the issues of death, Paradise, Hell, the Hereafter, and changing dimensions will be comprehended. Important questions such as, "Where is Allah?," "What existed before Allah?," "Who created Allah?," "How long will the life in cemetery last?," "Where are Paradise and Hell?," and "Do Paradise and Hell currently exist?" will be easily answered. Once it's understood that Allah created the entire universe from nothingness, the questions of "When?," and "Where?" become meaningless, because there will be no time or place left. When spacelessness is comprehended, it can be understood that Hell, Paradise and Earth are all actually in the same location. If timelessness is understood, it will be understood that everything takes place at one single moment: Nothing need be awaited, and time does not go by, because everything has already happened and finished.
When this secret is comprehended, the world becomes like Paradise for any believer. All distressful material worries, anxieties, and fears vanish. The person grasps that the entire universe has one single Sovereign, that He creates the entire physical world as He pleases, and that all one has to do is to turn unto Him. He then submits himself entirely to Allah "to be devoted to His service." (Surah Al ‘Imran: 35)
To comprehend this secret is the greatest gain in the world.
With this secret, another very important reality mentioned in the Qur'an is unveiled: the fact that "Allah is nearer to man than his jugular vein." (Surah Qaf: 16) As everybody knows, the jugular vein is inside the body. What could be nearer to a person than his inside? This situation can be easily explained by the fact that we cannot get out of our minds. This verse can also be much better comprehended by understanding this secret.
This is the plain truth. It should be well established that there is no other helper and provider for man than Allah. Nothing is absolute but Allah; He is the only absolute being in Whom one can seek refuge, appeal for help, and count on for reward.
Wherever we turn, there is the Face of Allah …