Time is also a kind of perception resulting from conclusions we make from our sensory experience. This perception occurs as a result of apparently consecutive events taking place. We perceive the flow of time by comparing the changes in motions we observe one with another. We hear the door ringing, for instance. Ten minutes later it rings again. We perceive that there is an interval between the first ring and second, and interpret this interval as "time". Alternatively, a glass falls and breaks, coal burns and becomes ashes, we walk and find ourselves in one corner of the room while a moment ago we were in the opposite corner. The time passing between these causes and effects and the movements we observe around us gives us clues about the passage of time. Our past experiences also provide us clues enabling us to make almost accurate estimates about how much time an event needs to takes place. If we measure that it takes 10 minutes to walk from home to the nearest bus station, we can assume that it will take approximately 10 minutes to walk the same distance again. Yet someone who is asked how long it takes to walk this distance will probably have little idea if he has never walked that distance before, except according to his experience of having walked similar distances.
The sun rises, sets and by the time it again rises the next day, we say, "a day passed by." When this process is repeated for 30 or 31 days, we say this time, "A month passed." Yet, if you were asked about that month, you would confess that the whole month passed like a moment, realising that you do not recall many details about that month. Still, all the cause and effect relations together with all the actions we observe give us clues about time. If night did not follow day and we did not have a watch indicating the time, we would probably arrive at erroneous conclusions about how many minutes or hours passed by or when the day begins and ends. That is why time is, in fact, a perception we can never comprehend without the existence of points of comparison.
The way time's flow is perceived also shows that time is only a psychological perception. While you are waiting for your friend in the middle of a street, a ten minutes' delay seems like a long, almost everlasting period of time. Alternatively, a person who hasn't had enough sleep at night may perceive a ten minutes' nap in the morning as very long and relaxing. Sometimes just the contrary happens. At school, a boring forty minutes' lesson may seem to be like ages while a ten minutes break passes very quickly. Or, you perceive the weekend you impatiently await as a very short period of time while working days seem long.
No doubt, these are the feelings, shared by almost everyone, indicating that time changes according to the one who perceives it and his state. You must never plead ignorance about this OBVIOUS fact, which you also experience.
Allah, in the Qur'an, draws our attention to the fact that time is a psychological perception:
He will say: "How many years did you tarry on the earth?" They will say: "We tarried there for a day or part of a day. Ask those who keep account." (Surat al-Muminun: 112-113)
On the Day He calls you, you will respond by praising Him and think that you have only tarried a very short time. (Surat al-Isra: 52)
On the day We gather them together - when it will seem if they had tarried no more than an hour of a single day - they will recognise one another. Those who denied the meeting with Allah will have lost. They were not guided. (Surah Yunus: 45)
As the verses above also indicate, the perception of time changes from one person to another. What remains from a life which seemed to be everlasting, yet which ends abruptly, are only reminiscences that would occupy five to ten sheets of paper. In other verses, Allah relates that time takes different forms according to different conditions. Allah says:
The angels and the spirit ascend to Him in a day whose length is 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-Sajdah: 5)
Allah creates our perception of time. Allah, the Creator of time, is by no means dependent on it. This is a crucial fact and it provides the answer to a crucial question asked by many people: what is destiny?
Some people experience difficulty in understanding the meaning of the concept of destiny.
Destiny is the eternal knowledge of Allah, Who is independent of time and Who prevails over the whole of time and space, about all occurrences and situations of all the beings that are dependent on time. Allah is the Creator of all these actions and situations just as He is the Creator of "time." In the same way as we easily see a ruler's beginning, middle, and end, and all the units in between as a whole, Allah knows the time to which we are subject to as if it were a single moment right from its beginning to its end.
No doubt, this is certain. Allah, Who is not bound by the relative time-frame within which we are confined, encompasses everything time-related. So, never plead ignorance that All-Mighty Allah created you and that every important or insignificant occurrence you encounter in life is within the knowledge of Allah and predestined.
Despite this OBVIOUS fact, some people have a distorted understanding of destiny. They assume that they can step out of the boundaries of destiny, "overcome their destiny" or they can live a life separate and independent from destiny. However, as stated earlier, our destinies are in the eternal knowledge of Allah and Allah knows all incidents in the past, present and future, as a single moment. It is unlikely that human beings, who are subject to time, can exceed the boundaries of this single moment and change anything or manage it by their own will. To claim the contrary would be irrational.
We are again face to face with an irrefutable fact: it is implausible that one can change or divert one's own destiny. Surely, the existence of every moment of one's life is dependent upon the exercise of the will of Allah and man cannot do anything, even he cannot think, without the will of Allah. So, never plead ignorance of this CERTAIN fact.