Allah and the Limits of Human Imagination
In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Merciful
And they urge you to hasten the punishment. But Allah will never fail in His promise. And indeed, a day with your Lord is like a thousand years of those which you count.”
(Qur’an: Surah Al-Haj: 22:47)
When Allah is timeless, why He talks about a time frame for humans?
This question has a lot of components e.g. time, space, boundaries; this life/world (duniya), the next life/Hereafter (akhirah); and Allah is not bound by our space time dimensions.
Allah tells us in a Divine Hadith (Hadith Qudsi) “I am Time,” meaning that He created time or rather He created the means by which we can measure time. Time relates to change and Allah does not change. That is time started when Allah created it.
Also, time consists of the past, the present and the future, all of which are present with Allah, yet He is beyond time, or outside of our space time dimension.
Another way of looking at time is that total knowledge is with Allah, there is no knowledge outside of His knowledge thus the past, present and future are all known to Him. His knowledge is over everything.
How can we understand the concept of past, present and future being one? It is beyond our comprehension. In the same way, how are we to understand time when there is no time, or no space time dimension or boundary?
We simply cannot understand this. So, Allah makes our understanding easy by explaining what is outside of our dimension in our terms, the comparison of “days.” A short time for Allah is an inordinately long time for us.
In the above verse, Allah answers the challenge of the wrongdoers “to hasten the torture (in Hell)” by saying that “(even) a day of your Lord (in the next life) is like a thousand years of what you count (in this life).”
Allah has been speaking of the wrongdoers and the punishment meted out to them, how He has given respite and how He has destroyed them.
He also asks, “Have they traveled and seen the consequences for themselves of the people who do wrong and have they understood.” Then, Allah says, “They ask you (O Muhammad) to hasten on the torment.”
Yet, the wrongdoers are being warned, do they really want to hasten the punishment in the next life, when even what would appear to be a short time there, is, in reality, a long time according to their measure of time.
If that is the case, why seek to hasten it? Again, why not change while you have time following the examples that can be seen if one travels in the earth? The warning has dire consequences and is ignored at one’s peril.
Allah also mentions in another verse what is translated as: “He directs the ordinance from the heaven unto the earth; then it ascends unto Him in a Day, whereof the measure is a thousand years of that ye reckon.” (Qur’an, 32:5)
It is mentioned in a scholarly book, “Towards Understanding the Qur’an” concerning the above verse: “This means the annals of a thousand years of man’s history are no more than a day’s work for God. Whatever tasks God entrusts to His angels today are completed by them before they are entrusted with the tasks for the following day. This day that we are speaking of however, is equal to a thousand years according to human computation.” Allah has created time for us so we may count days, months, and years as explained in the following verse: “And We appoint the night and the day two portents. Then We make dark the portent of the night, and We make the portent of the day sight-giving, that you may seek bounty from your Lord, and that you may know the computation of the years, and the reckoning; and everything have We expounded with a clear expounding.” (Qur’an, 17:12)
So the comparison that Allah gives in the above verses are relevant to the context, since in another place Allah mentions that the Day of Judgment is equivalent to 50,000 years: “A questioner questioned concerning the doom about to fall, Upon the disbelievers; which none can repel, From Allah, Lord of the Ascending Stairways, (Whereby) the angels and the Spirit ascend unto Him in a Day whereof the span is fifty thousand years.” (Qur’an, 70:1-4)
The book mentioned above explains concerning the last verse above: “In Al-Haj (22:47) and Al-Sajdah (32:5), the measure of a day is stated to be a thousand years. But here, in response to an unbeliever’s challenging demand that God’s chastisement visit them, one day of God’s reckoning is stated to measure 50,000 years.
In order to grasp the two statements it is necessary that we relinquish our own, restricted scales of measurement when we speak of time with reference to God. When we speak of a hundred or even 50 years with reference to human beings, it’s a fairly long time span.
But when we speak of time durations with reference to God, each chunk of time consists of a thousand or even 50,000 years; and even these figures are for the purposes of illustration only.”
So for Allah to account His creation, it will take 50,000 years of what we count; this measure would become meaningless for us since everything ceases to exist upon Allah destroying life as we know it; and the beginning of a new life begins, the Day of Reckoning.
Similarly the people who are in their grave, their time is not the same as the time of the living; time has seized for them as we know it, and each depending on their deeds will feel the time differently.
So time after death is the perception that each person feels, depending on his or her status in the Hereafter; yet it is still equivalent to what Allah has mentioned if to be compared to this worldly life.
After all what is 50,000 years compared to eternity; it is just like a drop of water in an ocean and even smaller. For someone in bliss during this great tribulation, that will indeed be a very short time just like the time between Zuhr and Asr in comparison to an everlasting life.
The time appears to pass by quickly in order for the believers to enjoy the blessings waiting for them in Paradise. Similarly, when we enjoy a good time in this world, we feel that time passed by extremely fast.
As for the unbelievers, their perception of time after death will appear to be a very long time; just like when we say that those few minutes of my life took forever, when facing an extremely difficult moment in this world.
(By Daud Matthews-Arab News)