How does the perception of time come about?
How does gravity slow down time?
Does the speed of an object change the passage of time?
How has the relativity of time once again been proved in a study published in Science magazine?
How does the Qur’an refer to time as a relative concept?
The Theory of Relativity revealed that there are different time zones in space, dependent on velocity and position.
Time is a perception, just like smell or touch or sight, and is a means of comparing one moment with another. And just like other perceptions, it takes place in the brain and appears when various imaginary entities within the brain are compared. For example, when we strike an object a specific sound is given off. The same sound is given off when we hit it again 5 minutes later. One imagines that there is an intervening period between the first sound and the second and refers to that as “time.” But the fact is that when he hears the second sound, the first is merely an illusion in his mind and exists solely within his memory. One obtains the perception of time by comparing the moment in one’s memory with the present one. Were it not for that process of comparison, there would be no perception of time.
Time Changes According to the Perceiver
The relativity of time can clearly be experienced in dreams. Even if we imagine that we have been dreaming for hours, they in fact take place in just a few minutes or seconds. Almighty Allah refers to this in the Qur’an in the story of the cave. According to the Qur’an, our Lord kept a community of believers, the Companions of the Cave, in a sleep-like state for some 300 years. When He later woke them they thought they had only been there for a very brief space of time and were unable to estimate how long they had been asleep. This is revealed as follows in the Qur’an:
“So We sealed their ears with sleep in the cave for a number of years. Then We woke them up again so that we might see which of the two groups would better calculate the time they had stayed there.” (Surat al-Kahf, 11-12)
“That was the situation when We woke them up so they could question one another. One of them asked, ‘How long have you been here?’ They replied, ‘We have been here for a day or part of a day.’ They said, ‘Your Lord knows best how long you have been here. Send one of your number into the city with this silver you have, so he can see which food is purest and bring you some of it to eat. But he should go about with caution so that no one is aware of you,” (Surat al-Kahf, 19)
This example from the Qur’an shows that our knowledge regarding the passage of time is based on reference point that alters according to the person perceiving them. The reason why a person says, “I am 30 years old” is that information pertaining to those 30 years has accumulated in his brain. Were it not for his memory, he would be unable to think of the intervening space of time and would live in a constant single “moment.” We think that time is always moving forward because our brains are used to such a method of ordering events. The fact is, however, that this is a decision made in the brain, and is therefore completely relative.
Time Has Been Scientifically Proved to Be a Perception
It was Albert Einstein, regarded as the greatest physicist of the 20th century, who launched the theory of “the Relativity of Time.” According to this theory, known as the theory of relativity, time and space are perceptions. To put it another way, there is no such thing as absolute time. The way we perceive time and space depend on where we are and how we are moving:
The Passage of Time Changes According to the Effect of Gravity:
The position of a body influences time. According to Einstein’s theory of relativity, time slows down under the effect of gravity. Accordingly, the passengers on a plane flying somewhere with lower gravity will age by a few extra nanoseconds on every trip. The renowned physicist Stephen Hawking describes this using the example of twins:
“Consider a pair of twins. Suppose that one twin goes to live on top of a mountain while the other stays at sea level. The first twin would age faster than the second. Thus, if they met again, one would be older than the other.” (Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time, p.54)
Einstein and Hawking’s theory that that time passes more slowly near centers of gravity has been proved by experiments conducted by American scientists. A rocket at high altitude and two separate sites with different gravitational fields were selected for the first experiment. Two very sensitive atomic clocks, capable of measuring atomic vibrations were installed in these two locations, which had different gravitational fields because of their different altitudes, and the relative nature of time was confirmed. The scope of the experiment has today been increased and relativity has been observed in daily life. Two atomic clocks hundreds of times more sensitive than the original ones were used for this experiment. But it was not the two sensitive atomic clocks that distinguished this experiment from the earlier one. The difference in elevation between the two clocks was a mere 33 cm.
According to the results of the experiment, published in the American magazine Science on 24 September, being 33 cm higher, in other words two steps higher, causes time to pass faster because pressure is slightly reduced, and someone standing above these two steps ages slightly faster. However, since Almighty Allah has not created this phenomenon in such a way as to eliminate the need for free will, the difference is only one 90 billionth of a second in a life span of 97 years, and is therefore imperceptible to anyone.
The conclusion from these scientific findings summarized very briefly here is that the fact that time is a perception has once again been confirmed. This fact was also revealed hundreds of years ago in the Qur’an. The relevant verses read:
“ ... A day with your Lord is equivalent to a thousand years in the way you count.” (Surat al-Hajj, 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-Sajda)
“The angels and the Spirit ascend to Him in a day whose length is fifty thousand years.” (Surat al-Ma’arij, 4)
The Velocity of an Object Affects the Passage of Time
Time passes faster or slower depending on the velocity of an object and its position (proximity to center of gravity). The more an object accelerates (in proximity to the center of gravity), the slower the effect of time on it. In other words, time contracts as velocity increases; it passes more slowly, as if approaching a “stop” point. We can clarify this with another example from Einstein. One of two twins of the same age stays on Earth while the other sets off on a space voyage at a speed approaching that of light. When the person who goes into space returns, his twin will be older than he is. The reason is that time passes more slowly for the twin who travels at high speed in space. This conclusion that Einstein arrived at in the 1900s has been confirmed by a NASA-supported project.
NASA confirmed Einstein’s claim that large object such as the Earth bend time and space as they revolve around their own axes by taking measurements using two satellites orbiting the Earth. At the end of the study, the measurements performed showed an annual 2-meter deviation in the direction of the Earth’s movement of the satellites’ orbit around it. In other words, the satellites were being propelled 2 meters outward off their orbits. This is in 99% agreement with Einstein’s calculations regarding the interface of time and space.
The varying effect of an object’s velocity on the passage of time revealed by the NASA satellites has also been determined in daily life by NASA researchers. It appears that when one travels faster than 32 km an hour, time passes more slowly.
The scientific experiments in question prove that we can never know how or even if time passes. That, in turn, shows that time has no absolute reality, that it is simply a perception. This fact, corroborated by modern science, that time is simply a psychological perception and that it can be perceived differently depending on events, location and prevailing conditions, is revealed thus in the Qur’an:
“On the Day He calls you, you will respond by praising Him and think that you have only tarried a very short time.” (Surat al-Isra’, 52)
Time Is a Perception
Let us imagine we are sitting in a room specially designed to have just one window, and that we are spending a specific length of time there. There is a clock by which we can see time passing. We can also see the Sun rise and set periodically from that window. When asked, after a few days, how long we have been in that room, the answer we give will be a calculation based on information acquired from looking at the clock and on how many times the Sun has risen and set. For example, we calculate we have been in the room for three days. But if the person who put us in the room says, “You have actually been here for two days,” and then tells us that the Sun we saw from the window was actually created artificially and that the clock in the room had been specially designed to run fast, then our earlier calculation will be meaningless. This example also shows that our information regarding the passage of time is based on reference points themselves based on perception.
Since all events appear to take place in a specific order, we think that time always moves forward. For example, a skier always skis downward on a mountain, not upward, or a drop of water always flows down a window and not up. The skier’s state at the bottom of the run is the future, and that at the top of the mountain is the past. But if all the information in our memories began to be played backward, like rewinding a film, then the past would be his state at the bottom of the run, and the future would be the condition applying before he sets off.
Almighty Allah Is Unfettered by Time and Space. Human Beings Are Bound by Time and Space Because They Are Weak
Time and space are not absolute concepts, but rather ones with beginnings and that were created out of nothing by Allah. It has been scientifically proved that time is a relative concept, that it is not fixed and unchanging in the way that materialists believed for hundreds of years, and that it is a variable form of perception. In this way, it has totally refuted the materialist claim of “absolute time and an eternal universe.”
Almighty Allah created the “moment” in an infinitely brief moment, together with an eternal past and infinite future. Time was created subsequently, for human beings. Allah, Who created time and space, is of course unfettered by them. Allah determined every moment of time within timelessness, and then created it. That is the essence of the fact of “destiny” that materialists are so at a loss to understand. Everything that for us has happened in the past or will happen in the future, is included within the omniscience and dominion of Allah, Who is unfettered by time and Who created it out of nothing.
Modern science also confirms truths that our Lord revealed in the Qur’an 1400 years ago and that believers have believed in with all their hearts. This once again bears witness that the Qur’an is the word of Allah.
“...They said, ‘Glory be to You! We have no knowledge except what You have taught us. You are the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.’” (Surat al-Baqara, 32)
- http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/ abstract/ 329/5999/1630;
- http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100923/ full/news.2010.487.html#B1