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Sunday, November 26, 2006
Al- Zaman & Kalachakra: The Physics of Time in Two Major Religions
Time in Islam: The nature of Al-Zaman (time in Islam) is explained by Abu al-Barakat like this: Al-zaman miqdar al-wujud or, “time is the dimension of existence”. Such a definition helps the Muslim absorb life’s events as a continuous experience, and helps him remain sane. In every religious system though, the structure of time is centered around a divine uncertainty – that which cannot and should not be known. The Prophet forbade intercalation, or correction of the thirteenth month to fall in line with the seasons, because it is in the very “irregularity of the phases of the moon, they revere the manifestation of mysterious Will…independent of the solar seasons[1].” It is not permissible in Islam to “foresee” the moon by tables. It must be watched and established by at least two “witnesses of the instant”. At the most, one is allowed to use a calendar with 28 lunar mansions (364 days) that gives an indication as to which najm (stellar constellation) the moon will occupy, not when it will occupy it. Astrology is prohibited too, since in such a universe, where everything happens by the Will of one supreme God, how can stars, planets or the sun exert any influence over the destinies of men?

2. Ghurrat-al-hilal or ‘sighting of the new moon’ marks the beginning of a new era for the Muslims, and opens up a period for legally embarking on a pilgrimage, a period of widowhood, etc. When a new era begins, it is intended as a stopping place for the faithful mind, as a place of regeneration of the tired human spirit. The life sanctioned by God is not linear, moving seamlessly towards a future, but follows an algorithmic recursion from announcement to sanction, on and on till the yawm akhir, or the Ultimate Day. There is a sudden rise in the number of catastrophes leading to the Great Review, the Great Judgment. It represents the rising of eschatological phenomena, the accelerating process of God decomposing an imperfect world, only to start all over again with a blank slate. That Ultimate Day alone is perfect because on that day alone there is no delay between the divine decree and the apocalypse. Islam is “occasionalist”, and postulates atoms of time, or a constellation of epochal instants resembling the twinkling of an eye of God, the eye that confers a hukm (decree) upon nascent human actions. There is assumed to be no continuous duration in Islam, but only an announcing and another ending instant of divine sanction. It is in the waiting for discontinuous moments, that the devout Muslim finds continuity. The delay between these two instants (imhal) implies that all such days that pass in the waiting for Sa’a, the hour of Last Judgement, are imperfect. Those philosophers who divinize duration are regarded by Islam as being dahriyun, the materialists or atheists who do not believe in the Creator. Fakhra Razi wrote that psychological phenomena in human beings (such as pleasure or pain) have no duration, and therefore there is no such thing as eternal bliss. “The instant of anguish is not a fragment of duration; it is beyond doubt a divine touch of theologal hope, which transfigures our memory forever.” According to scholar Kalabadhi, when the sufi mystic Al-Hallaj was asked what an instant is, he replied, “It is a breeze of joy (farja) blown by pain, Wisdom is waves which submerge, rise and fall, so that the instant of the sage is black and obscured.”

3. Time In Hinduism: Here is a story that illustrates the Hindu theory of time, or kalachakra: While traveling through a forest, Narada asks Lord Vishnu about maya, the illusory world. After a while Vishnu feels thirsty and sends Narada to a nearby village to fetch him some water, where Narada falls in love with a farmer’s daughter and sets up a household. He lives happily with his new family for many years, before a terrible flood wipes out the whole village and he finds himself wandering through the forest. Upon hearing his footsteps, Vishnu says, “O Narada, where have you been? I have been waiting for half an hour.” Mircea Eliade contends that this is the Hindu myth, an invocation of sacred time that periodically relieves us from the Now ( hal in Arabic) which is considered material or ‘profane’ time. The Hindu concept of time is illustrated well by the myth cited above, and it also serves as a mnemonic to periodically invoke the original rules of the cosmic game. According to the above theory, maya manifests itself through time, the cyclical Kalachakra, and time dilates from human being to gods. Time occurs in differing durations of cycles, in wheels within wheels where one second for a God may be experienced as millennia for a mortal.

4. These cycles are normally broken down into four key ages (or yugas) which bear a correspondence with geometric figures and their harmony. Krta Yuga is the age in which human society accomplishes things of greatness, the perfect age (corresponding with the perfection of the square, the number 4), when the ideal of dharma is totally aligned with human existence. In the Treta Yuga, things go downhill and men see only 3/4th of dharma, ½ in Dwapara Yuga and so on to Kali Yuga where man’s moral integrity is at its lowest before the advent of darkness, or destruction. It is useful to note that these periods are of descending duration, in a perfect mathematical series, with Krta being the longest, or 4000 divine years of Brahma. These larger cosmological cycles are also complemented by the routines cycles of everyday life, and the cycles of birth, death and rebirth until complete realization of the cosmic harmony relieves one from the eternal washing machine that is existence, leading to moksha. The Hindu idea of creation and destruction came most likely from watching the growth and decay of the moon, but they chose a quasi-solar calendar that needed correction every once in a while.

5. While the traditional Muslim sees Time as the twinkling of God’s eye, the Vedic Hindus measured time by the blinking of his own eyes (paramanu, approximately 4 seconds in Vedic metric system). Both Hindus and Muslims invoke sacred time by the use of mantra and azaan, which represent a verbal program for a release from the immediacy of human existence, to a place beyond time and closer to God. They are both followers of a code of conduct based on daily, seasonal or lunar routine, while these may differ greatly in practice. The Muslims worship no idols, and the Hindus have no evidence of any Prophet who started the religion (so they endlessly keep inventing new images to deify). Both religions believe that the universe is in a state of becoming, and imperfection pervades through it all, justifying the temporary presence of evil, towards a final reconciliation. In the case of the Muslim, the reconciliation is a perfect moment, and in the case of the Hindu, it is the self-assembly of God’s body (the original universe). If everything happens with the decree and sanction of Allah for a Muslim, it also happens for Hindus because only one God is the player of the cosmic game in Hinduism[2] - Lord Krishna: I am Mârgasirsha among the months, the spring among the seasons, of cheats, I am the game of dice, I am the greatness of the great, I am victory, I am industry, I am the goodness of the good. And yet, in spite of an all-powerful God, both Islam and Hinduism allow a human being some free will in changing his destiny. A Hindu can keep earning good karma from his actions and ascend the levels in the game of life, whereas a Muslim can indulge himself in innovations (tajaddudat) and thereby receive a positive feedback in God’s will leading him closer to Oneness with Him. In Hinduism, human existence forms a part of the body of God, and in Islam it exists as a symbiotic feedback relationship[3].



[1] Louis Massignon, Time In Islamic Thought.

[2] Quote from Bhagawad Gita

[3] A popular film song called Tu Hi Meri Shab Hai (Gangster) has an interesting line that echoes this sentiment : “Tu waqt mere liye, main hoon tera lamha..” (trans. “You are my Time, and I am your Moment.”

2 Comments: Post a Comment
Anonymous Greg Turner said ..

I Bali they traditionally have several calendars occuring simultaneously. Their concept of time has depth which I find interesting

6:44 AM 
Blogger smspoonam said ..

Hi Fadereu/Soumyadeep Paul

I liked your site, but i got confused viewing it, might be because am unknown to all this,
But It feels gr8 when i view it!
Thanks.

everything is made to understand!
Bye have a nice day!

Poonam Sheth
http://smspoonam.blogspot.com/
Mumbai

11:30 PM