Time in the Islamic Tradition

As we try to understand time during this phase of our course by drawing on different sciences and traditions, I asked myself, as a person from the Islamic tradition, “What is time according to the Islamic Tradition?” My goal in this post and maybe the next one is to write a brief account whereby we can have a sense of the concept of time in the Islamic tradition. I benefited from the works of a Muslim scholar named Bediuzzaman Said Nursi during my research about time in the Islamic tradition.
Time is defined with a striking metaphor in Said Nursi’s work called “The Words”. He likens time to a notebook, a page, a parchemin, on which the creation is written. God, with His power, wisdom and knowledge, writes the creation on the page of time. Here, not only the notebook, but also the ink is likened to time. I leave you to consider the implications and impressions of this metaphor, but what struck me most here is the intrinsic relationship between time and existence. Without notebook, there is no writing! The question that we had asked “what if time stops everywhere”, from this perspective, becomes unanswerable. Without time, we stop being written, being created and only God knows what happens in this incident. Said Nursi also informs us of a complete book that was already written. Time that is now being written will be an identical book to this complete book. In other words, the complete book refers to the idea of destiny and “All-Knowing” attribute of God.
Time is also a relative concept in the Islamic tradition. However, what is different in this relativity is the fact that a center or a framework is established and God calls humans to adapt to this framework. In other words, even though one can measure and experience time on earth very differently, God wants from Muslims to act in accordance with a specific framework of time. The calendar of moon is used, and many acts of worship have a special time on the calendar. It is claimed that different levels of time in our universe resonate with each other through this framework, and humans partake in the harmony of the universe when they abide by the calendar and rules prescribed for them.
The last point that I would like to share in this post with regard to time in the Islamic tradition is the emphasis on reason, memory, intelligence, soul and a person’s deeds as the crucial factors determining one’s experience of time. For instance, it is claimed that a person who has strengthened his/her soul through good deeds can experience time much more fruitfully and productively. His or her five minutes might become equal to five hours of a normal person. Such instances and examples are narrated in many hagiographical accounts in the Islamic tradition. For example, a Muslim scholar from the 8th century AC claimed to have done an incredible amount of scholarly work ( having read thousands of pages) in one night.