Throughout history, “time” was assumed to apply equally in every imaginable spot in the universe and in every medium. If we consider this conception, we can see the radical change that the above verses brought. The Quran said that, according to circumstances, the “day” concept might equal even up to fifty thousand years. These verses which must have encountered objections have been elucidated in the twentieth century and shed light on important truths.
To Him ascend the angels and the spirit in a day the measure of which is fifty thousand years. (70:4)
He regulates all affairs from the heaven to the earth. Then they ascend to Him in a day, the measure of which is a thousand years as you count. (32:5)
The theory of relativity is Einstein’s best known discovery. However, many people whose interests are not in any way related to physics are at a loss to understand what this theory signifies. The Quran had already touched on these facts 1400 years ago. Einstein’s theory of relativity has two main divisions, namely the special theory of relativity and the general theory of relativity.
According to Einstein, time would pass more slowly for somebody driving a vehicle at a speed close to the velocity of light. In a medium in which an inhabitant of the earth passes one hundred days, it may take a person fifty days to displace at a speed nearing the propagation speed of light. This finding is the most interesting fact of the relativity theory. Time slows down in direct proportion with speed. Time is therefore a relative conception, as indicated in the Quran. Hours differ and days are conceived differently according to the medium, place and speed involved.
The general theory of relativity deals with gravitational fields and tries to demonstrate that time is slower in the fields of greater gravitation. A man walking on the surface of the sun will see that his clock runs more slowly, as do the biological and anatomical functions and all the motions in terms of his atoms. Recent experiments have corroborated this fact. One of these experiments was conducted in the
British National Institute of Physics. John Laverty, researcher, synchronized two clocks indicating the exact time (two clocks of optimum
perfection; error of precision in the course of a space of time of 300,000 years would be not more than 1 second). One of these clocks was kept at a laboratory in London; the other was taken aboard an airplane shuttling between London and China. The high altitude at which the aircraft flies is subject to a lower gravitational force. In other words, time was expected to pass at a faster rate aboard a plane in conformity with the general relativity theory. There is not so great a difference in terms of gravity between someone treading upon the earth and someone flying in the air. This difference could only be established by a precision instrument. It was established that the clock aboard the aircraft had a greater speed, one per fifty five billion seconds. This experiment is one of the proofs of the relativity of time. According to the prevailing prejudice, there should not be any difference between the two clocks. This supports the dispelling of prejudices as foreseen in the Quran. Had it been possible to make this experiment on a planet with greater gravitational force, there would be no need for precision instruments to measure the difference, since normal watches could do the job.
THE USE OF THE WORD “DAY” IN THE QURAN
Verse 5 of the sura The Prostration and Verse 4 of the sura The Heights not only point to the relativity of time, but give also a clear meaning of the Arabic word “yawm” that denotes not only the space of time of one day – which comprises 24 hours – but also a certain period of time. This makes it easier to understand the six “yawm”s mentioned in the Quran (See: 7-The Purgatory, 54; 11-Hud, 7; 10- Jonah, 3; 25-The Distinguisher, 59; 32-The Prostration, 4; 57-Iron, 4.) Before the creation of the universe and the world there was no notion of “day,” a period of 24 hours. Therefore, the six “yawm”s must be understood as six “periods.”
This gives a clue to the Jews and Christians for the interpretation of the Biblical account according to which the world was created in six days. Findings in the domain of space physics show that the universe and our world passed through many stages, from a gaseous state to galaxies, to the formation of the atmosphere surrounding the Earth, and of waters and metals. The fact that the Quran refers to the stages that the process of creation went through is also better understood by modern cosmology.
If we remember the stories of creation of ancient Egypt, China and India, we encounter wild fancies such as a universe standing on a tortoise or as an eternally existing entity. None of the past civilizations had made any reference to the stages of this evolution. This message of the Quran contributes to a correct interpretation of Biblical exegeses of the concept of day. The message in the Bible that reads: “And on the seventh day God finished His work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done.” (Genesis 2, 2) was thus corrected, as fatigue was certainly out of the question for God.
We created the heavens and the earth, and all that lies between them in six days, and no fatigue touched us. (50:38)
CONTRIBUTION OF THE RELATIVITY THEORY
Einstein postulated that the concept of time was relative. For Kant time was an innate function of reason. He contended that the perception of time was an a priori category. Einstein’s physics was henceforth the science that integrated time and space, so that, instead of space we had now space-time.
There is something that must not escape attention, however: the perception of time is achieved by the intellect. Since according to our estimation, just as the special relativity theory establishes that velocity makes time relative and the general relativity theory postulates that gravity makes time relative, one should elaborate on “the intellect’s relativity” which posits that the intellect’s perception manner would render the relative perception of time. Like a key that fits the lock, our intellect also has the capacity of perceiving time and the universe. That is (1) time exists in the universe, (2) and the intellect is created with a priori abilities to perceive time and the universe. The two processes are coexistent, just like the coexistence of the world seen by us and the eyes.
It seems to us only fair to add the intellect’s perception factor to Einstein’s concepts relating velocity and gravity and time. Comprehension of time’s relativity will contribute to a better understanding of the Quran. For instance, it is said in the Quran that the dead will think when resurrected that their span on the earth had been very brief. Once time’s relativity has been conceived, the puzzling
question of the time to elapse from one’s death till the Day of Judgment will be clear. Such questions for the inquisitive mind that sees the time upon the earth as the only valid time regardless of the attending circumstances will find their answer, once time’s relativity is understood. Given the fact that a deceased person is outside the confines of the temporal dimensions of the earth, the time to elapse after his death, regardless of its actual duration, would be of no consequence.
On the day when He gathers them, it will appear to them as if they had tarried an hour of a day… (10:45)
He said: “How many years did you stay on earth?” (23:112)
They said: “We stayed a day or part of a day, ask those who account.” (23:113)
ANYONE AMONG US TIRED OF WAITING FOR EONS?
The reason why the fifteen billion years that elapsed from the moment the universe was created until the creation of man was made clear by time’s relativity. In a different context, fifteen billion years may be conceived as one minute or even less. The length of its duration depends on our perception and standpoint.
Scientists, based on the most recent and accurate calculations, assert that approximately fifteen billion years have elapsed since the creation of the universe until this very moment. Is there anyone who feels tired of waiting for eons? The evident answer being in the negative, the time the departed will have to wait as from their decease until resurrection will not cause anxiety in them. Comprehension of time’s relativity renders possible the solution of many problems believed to be beyond the grasp of the intellect.
PROOF FROM NECESSARY VERSUS POSSIBLE BEING
A host of celebrated philosophers like Avicenna, Farabi, Taftazani and Jurjani had recourse to this argument in proving God’s existence. They asserted that all the possible creatures upon the earth could not exist by themselves as they owed their existence to a Creator. “The created” requires a Creator while God, “the Self-Existent” (whose existence is a necessity) does not need a creator. The created is a product of causality; their existence or non-existence are within the confines of possibility. To think of the non-existence of the existent poses no contradiction. However, this does not hold true for the Self-Existing, God; otherwise the contradiction would be evident. Philosophers like Leibniz argued in like manner the principle of “Sufficient Reason.” According to him, the universe is made of possible beings. The universe itself is a possibility. If we try to trace back the chain of causality (which is impossible) until the infinite this would not explain the universe. Yes, the universe is a possibility but requires a Sufficient Reason outside its confines. To allege that the reasons may be traced back to the infinite would mean that we were created after eternity. But since eternity is endless there would be no question of any lapse of time after eternity; if there has been a chain of causality, it would necessarily follow that it had had an end. If there had been a chain of causality that came to an end, it would prove the existence of a “first cause.” There may be persons who would find the existence of a first cause difficult to grasp. On the other hand, an eternal chain of causes would be a self-contradiction.
Absurd and incomprehensible are not the same thing. For instance, the structure of a space-shuttle may be incomprehensible for us, but we cannot deny its existence. The number 5 cannot be higher than the number 10; that is absurd. As the contrary is absurd (that the eternal chain of causes has led to this point), the existence of a first cause is a necessity (although there are those who contend that this argument is “beyond comprehension”).
What I propose to do is to reformulate the approaches of a series of thinkers from Avicenna to Leibniz in the light of scientific data obtained in the twentieth century in a richer and more scientific context. Findings related to the relativity theory may be used for this end. That the perfect use of time existing only in relative terms in the universe, in the formation of the universal targets, can only be grasped by the existence of an Absolute and Indispensable Regulator, that the existence of time can only be explained in a satisfactory way by the Cause behind the creation of time, that the harmony existing between time and intellect can be imagined to exist by the presence of a Regulator outside the confines of time and intellect and that even time is a possibility depending on a Creator should be integrated for use with the explanation of the “proof from necessary versus possible beings.”
And He shows you His signs: Then which of the signs of God will you deny? (40:81)