Muslim Response by Kamran Meer
Date: Thu, 07 Aug 1997

Resolving the "Days" Conflict with reference to the Qur'anic Surahs 22:47, 32:5 and 70:4.

I want to enlighten readers that the above three verses do not appear contradictory to me because of the following facts:

1. The English translation used by Jochen (I don't know which translation he is using) has an error at the end of Verse 70:4. In Arabic it reads, "khamseen alfa sanatin" (translation: "fifty thousand years"). However, the Verses 22:47 and 32:5 in Arabic both end with: "alfa sanatin mimma ta'addoon" (translation: "one thousand years of your reckoning") which is correct. Note that the omission of the phrase "of your reckoning" (or "from your perspective" or "as you comprehend it") in Verse 70:4 and its presence in Verses 22:47 and 32:5 is of profound significance which becomes apparent when the full verses are read in context, as explained below.

2. First, I will give a full rendering of 22:47 and 32:5 in English (Mohammad Asad's translation, 1980);

22:47, "and they challenge thee to hasten the coming upon them of chastisement: but God never fails to fulfil His promise and, behold, in thy Sustainer's sight a day is like a thousand years of your reckoning."

32:5, "and in the end all shall ascend unto Him on a Day the length whereof will be a thousand years of your reckoning."

As one can see, even if taken literally, 22:47 simply states that a day for Allah is the equivalent of a thousand years for humans. However, Muslim scholars read into this the context of the duration of the Day of Judgement (since that is the topic of this verse) which will appear as long as a thousand years to humans. Nevertheless, even if Jochen wants to ignore what Muslim scholars read into 22:47 and wants to insist on "scientific facts", (which is quite fair and not unreasonable), he should at least agree that at minimum, 22:47 is telling us that a day for Allah is the equivalent of a thousand years for humans.

In Verse 32:5, again Muslim scholars read into this the context of the duration of the Day of Judgement, however let us take only one of its literal meanings viz. that in the end, the time it will take all to ascend to Allah will be the equivalent of a thousand years for humans.

Verse 70:4 when translated (Mohammad Asad, 1980), renders as follows: 70:4, "all the angels and all the inspiration ascend unto Him in a day the length whereof is fifty-thousand years." Now, in 70:4, we can see that the creatures being ascended are specifically mentioned as "angels" and "inspiration", not humans. (Also note that Asad has used "inspiration" as the translation of the Arabic "Ar-rooh" whereas other translators have used "spirit" or "soul" instead. Whichever word one uses, in Arabic "Ar-rooh" denotes not humans but the human spirit or soul or the human mind etc. which does not have physical shape as a human body does yet spirits reside inside the bodies of humans).

So therefore if the length of time described in 70:4 is fifty-thousand years without any mention of in whose reckoning or perspective, we should not take it to mean that it must also be in the perspective of humans which is specifically stated only in 22:47 and 32:5. As a matter of fact, this time-frame may very well be in the perspective of "angels" and "spirits", however, just as Allah has not given knowledge to humans about what the angels and spirits are made of, so He may have deliberately ended 70:4 at the figure of fifty-thousand years, for humans to guess (or never know!) what the perspective is.

Nevertheless, speaking from the point of view of facts, it is a fact that 70:4 does not contain the words "mimma ta'addoon" as do Verses 22:47 and 32:5, and therefore it is not correct to conclude that these verses are contradictory. In fact after pondering over these verses, one only marvels at the astonishing precision and accuracy with which these verses have been handled by the Qur'an.

3. Before leaving this topic, I would like to take this opportunity to enlighten readers about some of the recent scientific developments in the field of both Nuclear Physics and Astronomy which shed light on the nature of time itself. As of today, most leading physicists and research institutes are unanimous in their conclusion of the fundamental structure of matter and forces, and describe it mathematically by what they call "The Standard Model". I am not going to describe this model here but would only like to say that the nature of time itself has come under great scrutiny as physicists have probed into nuclear structures through giant instruments called "particle colliders". And one of the most profound conclusions of the Standard Model is that time by itself is nothing but is inter-twined with space in a mathematical concept called "space-time", which itself is not an absolute but a relative measurement dependent on the place of the observer in the universe as well as the speed of the observer. It has been observed in the behaviour of sub-nuclear particles that time (or rather space-time) can flow both forward as well as backward and can slow down or speed up. Modern hypotheses in Astronomy point to similar conclusions. (For a fuller account of current developments in these fields, one can refer to such excellent books as James Trefil's "From Atoms to Quarks", (Anchor Books, NY 1994), Chapters 8 & 13, or to "Shadows of Creation" by Michael Riordan & David Schramm, (Oxford University Press, 1993), or to Stephen Hawkings' "A Brief History of Time", (Bantam Books, 1988). One can also visit the web-site of Fermilab, Chicago where most of the ground-breaking research results of particle collision are reported).

Net, for humans to simplify the concepts of time and space travel simply because humans are not endowed with the same capabilities that other beings may be endowed with, is not correct. But glimpses into sub-nuclear matter and into the history of the universe do give a clue regarding the abstruseness of these issues and that they may well be outside the scope of human comprehension, or may need further evolution of the science of physics.

4. In the end, I would like to inform readers that the well documented Ascent of Muhammad, pbuh (see Sahih-al-Bukhari, Vol. 1, no. 345 and Vol. 5, no. 227) is also not a mundane phenomenon and could well be the ascent of Muhammad's (pbuh) spirit or soul whose context of space-time may be different to the concept of time of ordinary humans. I will now leave the readers with the following verses of Surah no. 70 of the Qur'an to ponder.

"Hence, leave them to indulge in idle talk and play until they face that day of theirs which they have been promised - the Day when they shall come forth in haste from their graves, as if racing towards a goal-post, with downcast eyes, with ignominy overwhelming them: that Day which they were promised again and again." from Surah-al-Ma'arij (literally "The Ways of Ascent")