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Time Relativity in the Qur’an

Angular Momentum

Angular momentum is a conserved property of objects rotating on an axis, meaning that rotation remains constant in both direction and magnitude. This phenomenon was explained in the 17th century by German mathematician and astronomer Johannes Kepler.

Kepler’s law of planetary motion explains that during a planet’s elliptical orbit around the sun, the planet moves faster when it is closer to the sun (perihelion point), and slower when it is away from the sun (aphelion point).

This is because the closer the planet is to the sun, the stronger is the sun’s gravitational pull on the planet, and the faster the planet moves – and the opposite is true.

Kepler’s law also states that a line that connects a planet to the sun sweeps out equal areas in equal times. It is due to these variations that the angular momentum is conserved, and planet remains in constant orbit [4].

A Day in the Holy Qur’an

We live in a universe where the notion of time is very versatile. In the early 20thcentury, renowned German scientist Albert Einstein developed the theory of relativity, explaining this flexibility of time and space and relating them to gravitational fields.

Much earlier in the 7th century, the Noble Qur’an was revealed with indications to this concept. In several verses in the Qur’an, Allah SWT emphasizes that the duration of a day in His measures is different from its duration in the human measures.

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In the following verses, Allah SWT states that a day in His judgment is equivalent to a thousand Earth years.

“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.” (Surat Al-Haj 22:47).

“He directs the whole affair from heaven to earth. Then it will again ascend to Him on a Day whose length is a thousand years by the way you measure.” (Surat As-Sajdah 32:5).

In another verse, which denotes another context, a day in Allah’s measures is equal to fifty-thousand years: “The angels and the Spirit ascend to Him in a day whose length is fifty thousand years.” (Surat Al-Ma’arij 70:4).

Other verses explain that people in the Hereafter will perceive time to be much shorter than Earth time; “He will say, ‘How many years did you tarry on the earth?’ They will say, ‘We tarried there for a day or part of a day. Ask those able to count!’ He will say, ‘You only tarried there for a little while if you did but know!” (Surat Al-Mu’minun 23:112-114).

This verse, while carrying deep semantics in signifying that our time for Earth is too short to be wasted, also shows that the duration of a day on Earth is not the same as its duration in Allah’s SWT specific time-keeping measures that only He Almighty knows of.

Atheists claim that there is a contradiction between verses 32:5 and 70:4, because the first states that the day in Allah’s measures is equivalent to a thousand years and the latter states that it is equivalent to fifty thousand years.

This claim, besides being too naïve, is easily shattered by the scientific facts: the verses may very well refer to different things traveling to different places, which explains the different durations. In addition, the latter verse doesn’t state that the fifty thousand years are in terms of ‘Earth’ years.

In another claim they argue that verses don’t differentiate between synodic and sidereal periods. This claim is also simply counter-argued by understanding that the Noble Qur’an is a book of guidance, and not science.

The Noble Qur’an doesn’t contain a simple definition of different notions of time; neither does it literally explain the idea of time relativity.

Initially, the verses can be interpreted according to their context which results in different psychological perception of time. However, as science and research reveal more about this concept, scientific signs included in these verses become evident.

Reading the related verses with the comprehension of the scientific knowledge that time is relative rather than absolute will allow for better understanding of the Qur’an.

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