"I am Ad - Dahr (Time)" - Hadih Qudsi
Whenever a person in our times wants to sound profound, they like to bring up the idea of time not being real. It is almost an essential part of a modern day's mysticism. The naive mystics brings a certain insight about the nature of time, but the concept of time, is, metaphysically and philosophically slightly more complex. The title of this essay are the words of Hegel, by which he describes philosophy as "time captured in thought". Although Hegel describes himself as an Idealist and is considered the final product of German Idealism, the materialists placed his ideas in philosophical frameworks more suitable to their maxims and axioms. While materialistic philosophers may be comfortable with everything being product of the time and space, those who entertain the existence of higher realities will find it hard to accept the notion that there is no "above time" reality. The latter of the two, may without knowing, step into what Ibn Arabi & Corbin may label as metaphysical idolatry or dogmatism. They label it as idolatry, because such people, although of good intent, have a very fixed mental idea on what the Real (Haqq) is, so they end up worshiping a thought or a mental image of Divine, and therefore, cannot see the Names when manifest before them. The most distinctive differentiation between concepts of time in the West is the one between Aristotelian motionism and Plotinian duration. Muslim philosophers, although also accepting the Aristotelian and Plotinian perspectives, particularly loved Greek Atomism, and in this context, the Atomism of Democritus, who appealed even to the very orthodox and normative theologians. The reality is then composed of multiple particles called atoms, but these atoms and their accidents exist only for an instant, then they are destroyed and created anew. God is then, for Muslims constantly creating the world anew, the intermediate causes are imaginary. It looks to us that there is a continuity between the time, but God is constantly destroying the previous moment in order to create the new one, that's why, "Al Mumit (The Destroyer) is one of the Names of Allah.
In Indian traditions, one of the manifestations of the Supreme Reality, the mahavidya Kali, is often seen as the embodiment of time. In her iconography she carries weapon, a severed head, and her necklace is made of skulls - she destroys every moment and eventually even the time itself. In the act of destruction, she offers a chance for liberation. By destroying time, she destroys karma. It is eventually our head that should be offered to her sharp weapon, as our head is the source of ego - identity. This is also reflected in Bhagavad Gita: "The Supreme Lord said: I am mighty Time, the source of destruction that comes forth to annihilate the worlds." In the Western tradition, Saturn or Chronos is often called "The Father Time", and later he was often depicted as death carrying a scythe. Saturn is the very feared planet in Western astrology, because of his apparent lack of tolerance for any kind of illusion or pretension and his willingness to show everyone the truth. The Time unveiling Truth is a common theme in Western art (X).
Dahr, Zaman, Waqt
“If you have fully understood the fruits of time, time is clearly recognized, known to be the child of imagination. Similar to the natural world, its power lies in its effect; in itself, however, time, just as nature, is a non-entity. All things receive their particularity through time, although it itself has not being (‘ayn) through which to rule. Human intelligence cannot grasp its form, wherefore we say, time (dahr) is imaginary. Had it not honored His transcendence, God would not have called His existence by time’s name; thus in man’s heart it is glorified. Strictly speaking, time takes its origin from eternity (azal), even while ruled over, its own rule is eternal. Like the depths of space, it is a limitless extension, possessed of no physical shape; imagination alone gives it body.” - Ibn Arabi
When Ibn Arabi brings ideas of time, he uses the different Arabic words for time in order to describe the different modes of relation by which God, humans and time relate. Relations between entities are central part of Ibn Arabi's cosmology. It is in relation to a human that Divine is manifest as certain Name and it is in relation to his Lord that human manifests Divine into world. That's why, for Ibn Arabi the Real (he labels Divine as "Haqq", the Ultimate Reality rather than a deity; the Ultimate Reality is manifest through archetypes or Names) is "One in Manyness". All is One but One is manifest through the Divine Attributes and Names. Relation becomes important for the different modes of time as well. Dahr is the Absolute Time. This is the Time before any manifestation and before any attribute. That is why Ibn Arabi calls it "non-entity". In the Absolute, the Time is product of the Imagination of the Divine & just like Divine in its Absoluteness, is free from any attribute or entity. Or, beyond having any attribute, name or entity. Since us humans, cannot grasp something that has no attribute we call it imaginary. But because something is imaginary, that does not mean it is not real. This is a common misconception. The dream one dreams may be a product of imagination but the dream is real, as is the experience of the dream. Waqt on the other hand is the "moment in time". When a human dwells in waqt, is when the human experiences the atomic concept of time in which the present moment is constantly erasing the previous. The Sufis, often call themselves "the children of waqt", because they, due to their openness and receptivity towards the Divine, allow the Divine to manifest in them, therefore the Divine is creating them in time and they are creating their Lord by allowing the Name to be manifest through them. It is here where the Hegelian "time captured in thought" comes to be. God calls Himself "Time", by being in waqt (in the moment), the child of waqt "captures" his Lord who is manifest in that very moment. It is only in this mode of existence that the Divine can be manifest because thinking of future or past invites the "I" focus, and "I" creates noise that makes it difficult for one to be the ear of the Divine. Ibn Arabi therefore, describes nthe Dahr, the Absolute Time, as the human heart, because although it is a non - entity as the Absolute, when it becomes manifest, its quality is the one of constant transition. Gerhard Böwering beautifully elaborates on this: "Ibn al-‘Arabī further develops his dynamic understanding of God as time (dahr) by comparing the nature of dahr with that of the human heart (qalb). In a familiar Arabic pun, the heart is so called because God makes it fluctuate from one mood to another (taqlīb), i.e., the heart changes. The nature of time (dahr) also includes change; its inherent quality is transition (taḥawwul) and alteration (qalb). God is time. He undergoes transition in fashioning the forms (ṣuwar) of creation and “every day (yawm) He is upon some task,” as stated in the Qur’ān (55:29). The day is the measure of the divine life-breath (nafas) that ensouls all living beings by virtue of this particular divine name, dahr." Finally, zaman is subjective time. This time has two principles - a cosmological and relative one. As cosmological, it refers to day and night, months, years and further divisions. However, from the perspective of relation, Time perceived by God is real but it has no existence outside of God, so when humans experience time, they see it as imaginary and as having no existence of its own.
Night, Day & the Constant Birth of Light
"And [of Our sway over all that exists] they have a sign in the night." - (Muhammad Assad Translation; 36:37)
Daylight and nighttime are qualities of a day. During each day, they two are in the embrace, constantly generating their offspring. When night comes and the day is covered by it, the individual things born during the daytime are the father's progeny, when night is taken by the day, the individual things born during nighttime are mother's progeny.
Muslims use a lunar calendar, and the beginning of the new day is not at sunrise, rather at sunset. The verse from the chapter Yasin beautifully explains the symbolism of this. When the day begins at night, it symbolises the Light entering the Darkness of Divine Womb. The Light is ready to be born so the night is the mother of the daylight. When the Light is born and daylight appears, he is the father of the offspring that will be in the womb during the nighttime, so entire exchange between night and day is nothing but the constant birth of the Light. That's why when it is said that Fatima is Muhammad's mother ("Ummu Abiha" or "Her Father's Mother"), despite being his daughter in the time as we experience it on earth. This is to reflect the constant embrace of Night and Day that exists in the infinite time. The Essence (Dhat Al Haqq), as the "innermost", cosmic womb which unites everything inside of it & carries all the Names, gives birth to the Intelligence, who comes to know Her when He sheds his Light into Her as the Universal Soul (Nafs Kulliya). Hence, she is both his mother and daughter, and he is both her son and father. The events that happen in the subjective time (Zaman), are the manifestation of the Absolute Time (Dahr) existing in a single, atomic instant of time (Waqt). Al - Din Iraqi reflects the same concept when he describes Muhammad as the Father of Adam:
"Outwardly", he says, "I am of Adam's children yet in every way far above him in station. I gaze at the glass which reveals my beauty and see the universe but an image of that image. In the paradise of theophany I am the Sun: marvel not that every atom becomes a vehicle of my manifestation. What are the Holy Spirits? the delegates of my secret; and the shapes of men? the vessels of my bodily form. World-encircling Oceans? a drop of my overflowing effusion; purest Light? but a spark of my illumination. No, I am Light! All things are seen in my unveiling and from moment to moment my radiance is more manifest. The Divine Names bear their fruit in me. Look: I am the mirror of the shining Essence. These lights which arise from the East of Nothingness are myself, everyone - yet I am more. From the Throne to the outstretched carpet of the world all the things are motes in the sun-ray of my illuminated mind. The world would shed its darkness in my bright being if I tore the curtain from my attributes. What is the water that gave life to the undying Khezr? a drop from my Spring of Abundance. And that breath of Christ which brought the dead to life? One breath of my breath, the nurture of Spirits. My essence? the locus of theophany of all Names. No. When I look in truth, I am the Greatest Name."
Links Light upon Light: Essays in Islamic Thought and History, Gerhard Bowering Time in Islamic Thought and Culture, Professor A. Sayeed (Free to read) Fakhruddin Iraqi: Divine Flashes (Classics of Western Spirituality)