Short Answer: To Allah, all times are the same. To Him, yesterday, today, and tomorrow are basically the same. So no, God is not bound by time or space or any other human construction. He merely uses concepts of time and space to explain things to human beings in terms we will understand.
Salam (Peace) Dear Celine,
Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.
Yes, what you have heard is true.
Muslims believe that Allah (God), the Creator of the whole universe and everything in it, is not bound by time or space, simply because He is beyond time and space.
He is the Creator of time and its particles, and the Creator of space and its parts
Allah is beyond these limited things which govern our lives and restrict our beings. How can the Creator of time be subject to something He created?
Or how can God, Who is Sublime, Eternal and Perfect be restricted with these limitations?
To Allah, all times are the same. To Him, yesterday, today, and tomorrow are basically the same.
It is because of this that in the Quran He uses past tense verbs to talk about future events, because to Him, tenses are all the same.
We need the parts of time in our life to separate what we have already done and achieved from things we are yet to achieve.
This is because our power is limited, and we are bound by human memory, which tends to forget things.
God’s Understanding: Beyond Our Wildest Imagination
When it comes to Allah, all things are not only achievable, but under His eternal control.
Therefore, He does not have to use past or present or future because they mean the same to Him.
To Him a day, a month, and a year are all the same.
The terms “century”, “decade”, or “year” do not exist in the dictionary of God. It is we who are restricted by them.
Because God has created time, He is beyond it, and therefore, the laws of time do not apply on Him at all.
Yet, as human beings, we cannot understand things unless they are made clear to us in our own language.
He Revealed His Truth in Our Words for Our Understanding
For example, suppose you are talking to a 4-year-old boy.
Will you be able to explain to him about how a factory works the same way you will explain to a 30-year-old person? Of course not!
Why is that? Why do you not speak the same language, using the same vocabulary, and the same sentences?
The simple answer is that the knowledge of a 4-year-old boy is not enough to enable him to understand the details given to a 30-year-old person.
Therefore, it is a fact that based on our experiences and limitations, we do understand or perceive things in certain ways.
In fact, if things are presented to us in a way that is higher than our understanding and intellect, it will be very difficult for us to understand them
It is for this purpose that the verse you have referred to has been revealed: Allah wants to tell people that the Day of Judgment is immensely long.
Understanding Descriptive Words in Arabic
Since the terms “day” and “year” are imaginable to a human mind, people will tend to think that the Day of Judgment is just a normal day or maybe a bit longer.
This is what a human mind can visualize.
To draw a clearer picture and make things understandable to human beings, Allah told us that this “day” will not a normal day; in fact, it will be a very long day.
Therefore, the phrase “thousand years” has come to give an indication that the day will be very long.
The word “thousand” is not a quantifier; that is, it does not tell people exactly the length of the day.
Rather, it is a descriptive word that describes how long it is.
Normally, in the Arabic language, the word “hundred” and the word “thousand” are used not to refer to a specific number, but rather to the extreme length.
An example of this is when someone says to a person, “I will not forgive you, even if you apologize a thousand times.”
This does not mean that literally the person will come and apologize a thousand times.
Rather, it means “even if you apologize many times.”
With this understanding, we realize that Allah wanted to give us an approximation that suits our limited human minds.
To Him, all these terms of day and number do not mean anything and do not carry any significance. It is us who need them to understand and realize things around us.
I hope this answers your question. Please keep in touch.
(From Ask About Islam’s archives)