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What Is The Nature of Time?

Questioner

Nick

Reply Date

Jan 01, 2017

Question

As-salaam `alaikum dear Islamic scholars,Thank you for your views on Islam. They have helped me better understand Islam. My question is related to the creation of the universe and in particular how to interpret the assumptions that science makes, regarding the 17 billion years since the big bang, in relation to the 6 days of creation, as stated in the Qu'ran. Can you please explain what you understand by the 6 days of creation? Are these 6 days the same length of time as our 6 days are now? Then, what about the fossils that are carbon dated to be 6 million years old? What about evolution, which dates creation around 17 billion years ago? From my interest in astronomy, I have come to understand that science has specific periods following creation, darkness initially, then the slow formation of matter, then the slow formation of stars and galaxies. This would seem to take billions of years. I am confused because my background in astronomy would indicate around 5-6 billions years from creation, before the first galaxies and stars were formed. Our own planet belongs to a solar system that would appear to be around 7 billions years old. With so much evidence pointing towards a slow progressive creation over billions of years, I am having problems in accepting creation took only 6 days. I would appreciate your thought on this subject.

Consultant

Answer


Asalamu Alaikum Nick, 

Thank you contacting About Islam with your question.
I understand from your question that your knowledge of science might prompt you to believe in the scientific theory of the formation of the universe.

In fact, it does speak in terms of billions of years. Yet, the Quran says that Allah created the universe in six days. It seems this confuses you. 

Well, I feel I need first to draw your attention to the fact that the Quran has the merit of encouraging scientific studies and research, as many of its verses clearly show. See for instance the verses: 3:190-191, 45:3; 29:20, 21:30, 24:45; 42:29, etc. 

In fact, some of the statements of the Quran were clarified through the discoveries made by scientists, hundreds of years later. Dr Maurice Bucaille’s book: The Bible, The Qur’an and Science, could really help you with that if you are interested. 

Now, I think I need to draw your attention to the recent scientific developments, which have shed light on the nature of time.

For instance, let’s consider the Theory of Relativity, by Albert Einstein. Until Einstein propounded his theory, people did not know that time was a relative concept and that it could change according to the environment. 

Einstein was able to prove that time is dependent on mass and velocity. “In the history of humanity, no one had expressed this fact clearly before. With one exception though; the Qur’an included information about time being relative!” 

Let us read some of the relevant verses:

{They ask you to hasten the punishment. God will not break His promise. A day with your Lord is equivalent to a thousand years in the way you count.} (Quran 22:47)

Then:

{He directs the whole affair from heaven to earth. Then it will again ascend to Him on a Day which length is a thousand years by the way you measure.} (Quran 32:5)

Also:

{The angels and the Spirit ascend to Him in a day whose length is fifty thousand years.} (Quran 70:4)

The above verses clearly point to the idea that time from one perspective is different from another perspective. A day with God is like our thousand years; or a day for the angels and the Spirit as they travel to the presence of God is like fifty-thousand years! 

This points to the fact that the day that God mentions in the context of creation of the universe must also be – relatively – a long period of time. In other words, a ‘day’ before creation can never be a day after creation. It cannot be a mere 24-hour day – a day calculated on the basis of the revolution of the earth on its axis. 

For this reason, no one can say that the Quran contradicts science here. One of the Quranic verses that mentions the six days of creation reads as follows:

{It is Allah Who has created the heavens and the earth, and all between them in six days, and is firmly established on the Throne [of Authority]: you have none, besides Him, to protect or intercede [for you]: will you not then receive admonition?”} (Quran 32:4)

Referring to the ‘six days’ mentioned in the verse, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, the well-known translator of the Quran, says: 

In the history of our material earth, we may reckon six great epochs of evolution.

This clearly shows that there need not be any problem for a scientist to accept the Quranic account of creation. 

And Allah knows best. 

Thank you and please keep in touch. 

Walaikum Asalam.

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

Time Travel: Gate to Mysteries Unknown

Time: A Blessing and a Trust

Time Relativity in the Qur’an




About Professor Shahul Hameed

Professor Shahul Hameed is an Islamic consultant. He also held the position of the President of the Kerala Islamic Mission, Calicut, India. He is the author of three books on Islam published in the Malayalam language. His books are on comparative religion, the status of women, and science and human values.


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