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Harun Yahya - Eternity Has Already Begun - Chapter 2
Eternity Has Already Begun
   

 



Chapter 2

Timelessness and the Reality of Fate
 

Everything related so far demonstrates that "three-dimensional space" does not exist in reality, that it is a prejudice completely founded on perceptions and that one leads one’s whole life in "spacelessness." For there is no valid proof of the existence of a three-dimensional, material world. The universe we inhabit is a sum of images made up of plays of light and shade. To assert the contrary would be to hold a superstitious belief far removed from reason and scientific truth.

This refutes the primary assumption of the materialist philosophy, the assumption that matter is absolute and eternal. The second assumption, upon which materialistic philosophy rests, is the supposition that time is absolute and eternal. This is as superstitious as the first.


The Perception of Time

What we perceive as time is, in fact, a method by which one moment is compared to another. We can explain this with an example. For instance, when a person taps an object, he hears a particular sound. When he taps the same object five minutes later, he hears another sound. He perceives that there is an interval between the first sound and the second, and he calls this interval "time." Yet at the time he hears the second sound, the first sound he heard is no more than a mental imagining. It is merely a bit of information in his memory. The person formulates the concept of "time" by comparing the moment in which he lives with what he has in his memory. If this comparison is not made, there can be no concept of time.

Similarly, the occupant of a room 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 the newcomer sits in the armchair, the images related to the moments he opens the door, walks into the room, and makes his way to the armchair are compiled as bits of information in his brain. The perception of time occurs when he compares the man sitting in the armchair with those bits of information.

In brief, time comes to exist as a result of the comparison made between some illusions stored in the brain. If man did not have memory, his brain would not make such interpretations and he would never therefore have formed the concept of time. The only reason why someone determines himself to be thirty years old is because he has accumulated information pertaining to those thirty years in his mind. If his memory did not exist, then he would not think of the existence of such a preceding period, and he would only experience the single "moment" in which he lives — which is a very important point.


The Scientific Explanation of Timelessness

Let us try to clarify the subject by quoting various scientists’ and scholars’ explanations of the subject. Regarding the subject of time flowing backwards, the famous intellectual and Nobel laureate professor of genetics, François Jacob, states the following in his book Le Jeu des Possibles (The Possible and the Actual):


All events that seem to have taken place in the past, or which will take place in the future, or are taking place in the present, have actually already taken place and ended in the sight of God, Who is not bound by time or place. In the same manner, eternity has also been experienced and ended in the sight of God. Just like the concurrent existence of the shots in a reel of film.
Films played backwards make it possible for us to imagine a world in which time flows backwards. A world in which milk separates itself from the coffee and jumps out of the cup to reach the milk-pan; a world in which light rays are emitted from the walls to be collected in a trap (gravity center) instead of gushing out from a light source; a world in which a stone slopes to the palm of a man by the astonishing cooperation of innumerable drops of water which enable the stone to jump out of water. Yet, in such a world in which time has such opposite features, the processes of our brain and the way our memory compiles information, would similarly be functioning backwards. The same is true for the past and future and the world will appear to us exactly as it currently appears.23

Since our brain is accustomed to a certain sequence of events, the world does not operate as is related above and we assume that time has always flowed forward. However, this is a decision reached in the brain and is relative. Had the bits of information in our memory been arranged as in films played backwards, for us, the flow of time would be as in these films played backwards. In this situation, we would start to perceive the past as the future, and the future as the past, and live our lives in a totally opposite sequence.

In reality, we can never know how time flows or even whether it flows or not. This is an indication of the fact that time is not an absolute fact, but just a sort of perception.

The relativity of time is a fact also verified by one of the most important physicists of the 20th century, Albert Einstein. Lincoln Barnett writes in his book The Universe and Dr. Einstein:

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 colour, 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."24


Time is a psychological perception. It can be perceived differently by different people in different circumstances.

Einstein himself pointed out, as quoted in Barnett’s book: "Space and time are forms of intuition, which can no more be divorced from consciousness than can our concepts of colour, 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."25

Since time is based on 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 there is no natural clock in the human body to indicate precisely how fast time passes. As Lincoln Barnett wrote: "Just as there is no such thing as colour without an eye to discern it, so an instant or an hour or a day is nothing without an event to mark it."26

The relativity of time is plainly experienced in dreams. Although what we see in our dreams seems to last for hours, in fact, it only lasts for a few minutes, and even a few seconds.

Let us think about an example to clarify the subject further. Let us assume that we were put in a room with a single specially designed window and we were kept there for a certain period. A clock in the room would allow us to see the amount of time that had passed. At the same time, we are able to see from the window of the room the sun rising and setting at certain intervals. A few days later, the answer we would give to the question about the length of time we had spent in the room would be based both on the information we had collected by looking at the clock from time to time and on the computation we had made by referring to how many times the sun had risen and set. Suppose, we estimate that we spent three days in the room. However, if the person who put us in that room said that we spent only two days there and that the sun we had seen from the window was produced artificially by a simulation machine and that the clock in the room was regulated specially to work faster, then the calculation we had done would have no meaning.

This example confirms that the information we have about the rate of the passage of time is based on relative references.

Truly, a day in the sight of your Lord is like a thousand years of your reckoning.
( Surat al-Hajj: 47)

In the same manner, the fact that everyone perceives the flowing speed of time differently under different situations is evidence that time is but a psychological perception. For instance, when you have to meet a friend, a 10-minute delay on his part would seem to you like an interminable, or at least a very long time. Or for a sleepless person who has to wake up to go to school or work, an extra ten-minute sleep may seem very long. He may even think that he has had all his sleep in these ten minutes. In some circumstances, just the opposite happens. As you would remember from your school years, after a forty-minute lesson which seems to last for centuries, a ten minutes break may seem to pass very quickly.

The relativity of time 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 position in the gravitational field. As speed increases, time is shortened and compressed: it slows down as if coming to the point of "stopping."

Let us explain this with an example given by Einstein. Imagine twins, one of whom stays on earth while the other goes travelling in space at a speed close to that of light. When he comes back, the traveller will see 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 speeds near the speed of light. The same applies to a father travelling in space in a rocket, the speed of which is close to ninety-nine per cent of the speed of light, and his earth-bound son. If the father were twenty-seven years old when he set out and his son three; when the father came back to earth thirty years later (earth time), the son would be thirty-three years old while his father would be only thirty.27

This relativity of time is not caused by the deceleration or acceleration of clocks, or the deceleration of a mechanical spring. It is rather the result of the differentiated operation periods of the entire system of material existence, which goes as deep as sub-atomic particles. In other words, for the person experiencing it, the shortening of time is not experienced as if acting in a slow-motion picture. In such a setting where time shortens, one’s heartbeats, cell replications, and brain functions, etc, all operate more slowly. Nevertheless, the person goes on with his daily life and does not notice the shortening of time at all.

These facts revealed by the Theory of Relativity have been verified quite a few times by various scientists. In his book Frontiers, Isaac Asimov also states that it is 84 years since the publication of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, and each time the theory has been tested, Einstein has been proved right once again.28


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. What is most interesting is that this fact, undiscovered until the 20th century by science, was revealed to mankind in the Qur’an fourteen centuries ago. There are various references in the Qur’an to the relativity of time.

It is possible to see in many verses of the Qur’an the scientifically proven fact that time is a psychological perception dependent on events, setting, and conditions. For instance, a person’s entire life is a very short time, as we are informed in the Qur’an:

On the Day when He will call you, 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)

Some verses indicate that people perceive time differently and that sometimes people can perceive a very short period as a very lengthy one. The following conversation of people held during their judgment in the hereafter is a good 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: "Brief indeed was your sojourn, if you had only known!" (Surat al-Mu'minun: 112-114)

In some other verses God states that time may flow at different paces in different settings:

…Truly, 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 to Him in a day the measure of which is like fifty thousand years. (Surat al-Ma'arij: 4)

He rules all affairs from the heavens to the earth: in the end all will ascend to Him in a single day, the measure of which is a thousand years by your reckoning. (Surat as-Sajdah: 5)

These verses are clear expressions of the relativity of time. That this finding, which was only recently understood by scientists 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 God, Who encompasses the whole of time and space.

Many other verses of the Qur’an reveal that time is a perception. This is particularly evident in the stories. For instance, God kept the Companions of the Cave, a group of believers mentioned in the Qur’an, in a deep sleep for more than three centuries. When they awoke, these people thought that they had stayed in that state for only a little while, and could not reckon how long they had slept:

Then We drew (a veil) over their ears, for a number of years, in the Cave, (so that they could not hear). Then We wakened them up so 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 roused them from sleep, so 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, "God alone knows best how long you have stayed here…" (Surat al-Kahf: 19)

The situation described in the verse below is also evidence that time is in truth a psychological perception.

Or (take) the instance of one who passed by a hamlet, all desolate and in ruins. He said, "How shall God ever bring it to life now that is dead?" but God caused him to die for a hundred years, then brought him back to life. He said: "How long did you tarry thus?" He said: Perhaps a day or part of a day." He said: "No, 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 so that We may make of you a sign to 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 God has power over all things." (Surat al-Baqarah: 259)

The above verse clearly emphasizes that God, Who created time, is unbound by it. Man, on the other hand, is bound by time, which is ordained by God. As in the verse, man is even incapable of knowing how long he has slept. This being so, to assert that time is absolute (just as materialists do in their distorted thinking) is very unreasonable.


Destiny

This relativity of time clears up a very important matter. Relativity is so variable that a period appearing to us to be billions of years’ in duration may last only a second in another perspective. Moreover, an enormous period of time, extending from the world’s beginning to its end, may not even last a second but just an instant in another dimension.

This is the very essence of the concept of destiny – a concept that is not well understood by most people, especially materialists who deny it completely. Destiny is God’s perfect knowledge of all events past or future. A majority of people question how God 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 only so for us. God is not bound by time or space, for He Himself has created them. For this reason, past, future, and present are all the same to God; for Him everything has already taken place and finished.

In The Universe and Dr. Einstein, Lincoln Barnett explains how the Theory of General Relativity leads to this conclusion. According to Barnett, the universe can be "encompassed in its entire majesty only by a cosmic intellect." The will that Barnett calls "the cosmic intellect" is the wisdom and knowledge of God, Who prevails over the entire universe. Just as we can easily see a ruler’s beginning, middle, and end, and all the units in between as a whole, God knows the time we are subject to as if it were a single moment right from its beginning to its end. People, however, experience incidents only when their time comes and they witness the destiny God has created for them.

Time is a concept totally dependent on the perceiver. A certain period of time can seem long to one person while it seems very short to another. To understand who is right, various devices such as a clock or a calendar are needed. Without these, it is impossible to make a precise reckoning about time.

It is also important to draw attention to the shallowness of the distorted understanding of destiny prevalent in our society. This distorted belief about fate is a superstition that God has determined a "destiny" for every man, but that people can sometimes change these destinies. For instance, people make superficial statements about a patient who returns from death’s door, such as "he defeated his destiny." No one is able to change his destiny. The person, who returned from death’s door, didn’t die precisely because he was destined not to die at that time. It is, ironically, the destiny of those people who deceive themselves by saying "I defeated my destiny" that they should say so and maintain such a mindset. In the verse, "…no living thing lives long or has its life cut short without that being in a Book. That is easy for God" (Surah Fatir: 11), it is stated that all things happen as a matter of destiny. Destiny is the eternal knowledge of God and for God, Who knows time like a single moment and Who prevails over the whole of time and space; everything is determined and finished in destiny.

We also understand from what He relates in the Qur’an that time is one for God: some incidents that appear to us to happen in the future are related in the Qur’an as if they had already taken place long before. For instance, the verses that describe the accounts that people must give to God in the hereafter are related as events which occurred long ago:

And the trumpet is blown, and all who are in the heavens and all who are on the earth swoon away, save him whom God wills. Then it is blown a second time, and behold them standing waiting! And the earth shone 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 into hell in troops… And those who feared their Lord are driven into Paradise in troops... (Surat az-Zumar: 68-73)

Some other verses on this subject are:

And every soul came, along with a driver and a witness. (Surat al-Qaf: 21)

And the heaven is cloven asunder, so that on that day it is frail. (Surat al-Haqqah: 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 realised they are going to fall into it and find no way of escaping from it. (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 in the Qur’an as past events already experienced. God is not bound by the relative time frame in which we are confined. God has willed these things in timelessness: people have already performed them and all these events have been lived through and are ended. He states in the verse below that every event, big or small, is within the knowledge of God 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 (mankind) may be doing, We are witnesses of these things when you are deeply engrossed in them. Nor is there hidden from your Lord so much as the weight of an atom on the earth or in heaven. And there is neither the least and nor the greatest of these things but is recorded in a glorious book. (Surah Yunus: 61)


The Gain of Believers

The issues discussed in this chapter, namely the truth underlying matter, timelessness, and spacelessness, are indeed extremely clear. As expressed before, these are definitely not any sort of philosophy or way of thought, but scientific outcomes that are impossible to deny. In addition to its being a technical reality, the evidence also admits of no other rational or logical alternatives on this issue: the universe is an illusory entity with all the matter composing it and all the creatures living in it. It is a collection of perceptions.

Materialists have a hard time understanding this issue. The basic reason why materialists cannot comprehend this subject is their subliminal fear of what they will face when they comprehend it. Lincoln Barnett tells us that some scientists "discerned" this point:

Along with philosophers’ reduction of all objective reality to a shadow-world of perceptions, scientists have become aware of the alarming limitations of man’s senses.29

While the fact that matter and time are perceptions alarms materialists, the opposite holds true for believers. People of faith become very glad when they perceive the secret beyond matter, because this reality is the key to all questions. With this key, all secrets are unlocked. One comes easily to understand many issues that one previously had difficulty in addressing.

As for those who do not believe in God's Signs, God will not guide them and they will have a painful punishment.
(Surat an-Nahl: 104)

As said before, the questions of death, paradise, hell, the hereafter, changing dimensions, and questions such as "Where is God?" "What was before God?" "Who created God?" "How long will life in the grave last?" "Where are heaven and hell?" and "Where do heaven and hell currently exist?" are easily answered. It will be understood with what kind of order God created the entire universe from out of nothing, so much so that, with this secret, the questions of "when?" and "where?" become meaningless because there are no time or space left. When spacelessness is grasped, it will be understood that hell, heaven, and earth are all actually the same place. When timelessness is grasped, it will be understood that everything takes place at a single moment: nothing is waited for and time does not go by, because everything has already happened and finished. That means that in truth, eternity has already begun.

With this secret out in the open, the world becomes like heaven for a believer. All distressful material worries, anxieties, and fears vanish. He grasps that the entire universe has a single sovereign, that He changes the entire physical world as He pleases and that all one has to do is to turn to Him. He then submits himself entirely to God "to be devoted to His service." (Surat Al 'Imran: 35)

To comprehend this secret is the greatest gain in the world.

 
    

23. François Jacob, Le Jeu Des Possibles, University of Washington Press, 1982, p. 111
24. Lincoln Barnett, The Universe and Dr. Einstein, William Sloane Associate, New York, 1948, p. 52-53
25. Lincoln Barnett, The Universe and Dr. Einstein, William Sloane Associate, New York, 1948, p. 17
26. Lincoln Barnett, The Universe and Dr. Einstein, William Sloane Associate, New York, 1948, p. 58
27. Paul Strathern, The Big Idea:Einstein and Relativity, Arrow Books, 1997, p. 57
28. Isaac Asimov, "Frontiers"
29. Lincoln Barnett, The Universe and Dr. Einstein, William Sloane Associate, New York, 1948, p. 84