Past, Present, and Future

By A Taha, PhD

London, United Kingdom

17 August 2016

Past, Present, and Future

There are basically two views regarding the nature of time.

First, “Conventional View” is that in daily life we divide time into three parts: past, present, and future; reality is associated with the present moment and the past slipped out of existence whereas the future is still unformed.


Symbolic signage of “Past, Present and Future” [15]

Second, “Block Universe View” is that time is laid out in its entirety with all past and future events located together with no special moment as the present or any process that would systematically turn future events into the present, then past, events. British physicist Julian Barbour (born 1937) argued that there are individual moments, but they are not ordered; there is only a “heap of moments”. The moments exist; but the time that connects them does not. In short; time does not pass or flow.


Potential representation of “Heap of Moments” notion in this image titled: “A Time for Everything” [16]

Modern conception of time is based on Einstein‘s theory of relativity (1905), in which rates of time run differently depending on relative motion, and space and time are merged into “space-time”, where we live on a “world-line” rather than a “time-line”. The world-line of an object is the path of that object in 4-dimensional space-time, tracing the history of its location in space at each instant in time. In other words, the path on which every event in your lifetime is located, from birth to death. That is every particle in the universe, has own world-line which is their fixed, permanent path in space-time.


Special Relativity World Line: Two-dimensional space depicted in three-dimensional space-time. The past and future light cones are absolute; the present is a relative concept different for observers in relative motion [17]

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) concluded (in 1952) that the past, present, and future all exist simultaneously (Block Universe View). Einstein said “The distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion“.

Quran frequently calls mankind not to regard humanity past as merely “tales of the ancients” or as historical footnotes that are irrelevant, see for example Ayah (83.13);


Quran Ayah (83.13)

When the Quran speaks of Moses and Aaron, other previous prophets, men and women that have already walked the earth before us it raises their stories, as living truths, out of their historical time. This is expressed in the key word “remember” in many Ayahs, such as (7.69, 7.74, 7.205, 19.16, 19.51, 38.48, and 88.21). The Quran uses direct expressions that encourage the elimination of time past by pulling these events to the forefront for immediate attention in the present. And that these past events also remain valid and relevant in the future. In these Ayahs, the Quran seems to ask us to look at time, in-line with the Block Universe View, as heap of moments systematically organized and connected (by their virtues rather than by time).


Quran Ayah (88.21)

Quran also brings status from then future (which, say now; 20-21st century) to the Arabs present (in the 6th century) who were really not in a position to fully understand Ayah (21.30) as we may understand it now. This Ayah (21.30) appears to refer to the unbelievers of now (including the many atheists among astrophysics scientists who are enabled by God to see or comprehend what they currently research) and not the 6th century unbelievers.


Quran Ayah (21.30)

Referenced Quran Ayahs

Approximate translations to English of Quran Ayahs cited in this Article;

(21.30)      Do the unbelievers not realize that the heaven and the earth used to be one solid mass that we parted them (exploded into existence)? And from water we made all living things. Would they believe?

(83.13)      when our revelations are recited to him, he says, “Tales from the past!”

(88.21)      you shall remind, for your mission is to deliver this reminder (for you are reminder).

Note on Citations from the Quran

A number of Quran Ayahs have been cited in this Article. Each of the cited Ayahs is preceded by a numerical code within two brackets; for example: (9.36) refers to Ayah Number 36 in Surah number 9. Ideally, the readers who know Arabic would refer directly to the original Quran in Arabic. Quran translation to any other language has always been difficult, even though many attempts have already been made. In 1982-84, a Quran Complex was established by Saudi Arabia government, named after King Fahd. This Quran Complex outlines Quran translation difficulties into English, considers all translations to be translations to the “meanings” or “interpretations” of the Quran and denotes own Quran translations as “Translations of the Meanings of the Quran”.

By A Taha, PhD

London, United Kingdom

17 August 2016


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