Humankind and Time

In the near future, a chapter in our lives will be closed. As the years go by, we will enter a new chapter of our lives. Some of us may have already made various plans, and prepared to open a new chapter in their lives. While some do not have any plans. Ready or not, the future will come, and we will be there.

Life is essentially a transition from one chapter to another. Old chapters we leave behind and close, but we never close the book itself, do we? Before death approaches, the book of life will always be open. That's why we sometimes reread old chapters, traces that are engraved in certain chapters in our lives. For some reason, sometimes we are also tempted to erase one or more chapters from the book of our lives in the past. It may be that the part is embarrassing, or bad, so that it haunts us in the steps ahead. We forget that the chapter of our life is not a digital picture that can be deleted whenever we want.

The life we live is recorded in a book known as the Lawh al-Mahfuz” (The Mother of Books). When the time comes, we will be shown what we have lived in this world, and based on that record, we will be held accountable before God. God does not require us to be holy and perfect. In a hadith it is stated that every son of Adam makes mistakes, the most virtuous being those who realize their mistakes and abstain themselves from repeating the same mistakes. This could be interpreted as God compensated the children of Adam in the form of time to correct their mistakes. The amount of time given to anyone is relative. Some people are given a long life, some are short, but metaphysically, God has decreed that life in this world is only for a moment (Surah 23:114).

The difference between perceived time (which we experience) and metaphysical time shows that time is indeed relative, as scientist Albert Einstein once said. Islam itself, which I believe, adheres to this relative conception of time, as many have cited in several verses, for example, a day with your Lord is like a thousand years according to your reckoning (Surah 22:4 and 32:5), the angels and Gabriel ascend (facing) to God in one Day the duration of which is fifty thousand years (Surah 70:4).

In the Special Theory of Relativity, Einstein determined that time is relative—in other words, the rate at which time passes depends on your frame of reference. (Public Domain Image)

So, how do we understand the relativity of time and what are its implications for our lives? When one chapter of life closes and another opens, we are actually still at the same time. What we call the past, present, and future are actually one-dimensional, not three-dimensional because time is motionless. We are the ones moving. It is we who pass, not time. Mankind invented watches, wall clocks, to mark the passage of time, but time never passed.

Our understanding so far, time flows by our side like water. We understand that what is happening now is the present, and what will happen later is the future. It's as if time continues to flow and move while we just stand. In fact, in truth, we are the ones who flow and move. The proof is that we grow, from babies to small children, to teenagers, to adults, to old age, and finally death.

Time existed before we were born, and continue to exist after we die. So time is infinite. In that infinite span of time our life is just a moment, and that moment is here and now. When we realize that life is in this moment, here and now, we will not worry about the future. Why worry about the future when it's all here and now. Worry will only take our whole life out of our hands. That way, all our life we will be in anxiety, discomfort, restlessness, and still end at the door of death. In conclusion, we have lost our whole life.

On the other hand, if we cultivate an awareness of what is “here and now", we will not be burdened by the past and worries about the future. Our job is only to transform the current moment into the best moment in our lives by multiplying our good deeds, by doing good to others, while we can. That way our lives will be filled with gratitude, spaciousness, and happiness.

We do not know what will happen tomorrow, maybe we will not even meet what we call tomorrow. That is what the relativity of time means. So while "there is time", let's do our best, and continue to change for the better, because true courage is the ability to change.