Chapter 4: Place and Time of the Hereafter

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Chapter 4: Place and Time of the Hereafter

“Day of Judgment has no time and no place”

Before discussing this subject, we must know the meaning of time and place and then prove that the Day of Judgment has no time and place. Is there time? What is a place? Is time real or is it an illusion? Many religious concepts can be understood if we understand the reality of time well.

For example, people ask when God has been? Or when God was created? Or when did creations begin? Or what did God do before He created the creatures? All these questions are because they do not know what time is and place God in the realm of time.

“The amount of motion of a matter is called time”. Meaning, time is the measure of motion. For example, we have a measure for weight or another measure for temperature. Similarly, if we want to know or measure the amount of motion, we need time. Suppose a car travels from city A to city B, the amount of motion from city A to city B is called time. Time is a relative unit. Each movement has its own time. But in order to identify different movements well, we define a single movement for ourselves as a reference. For example, the rotation of the earth around itself is called “one day”. And we also determine that if the clock hand goes from one place to another, we call it one hour. We might use an hourglass instead of a clock. Or, for example, it can be determined that the time it takes for an object to move from point A to point B is equal to burning one 10 cm candle.

Motion is necessary for matter, Meaning, matter cannot exist without motion so time cannot be separated from matter. Meaning, time or motion is one of the dimensions of matter. Since everything is moving in the “Material World” we have time.

Can time be imagined if there is no motion? No, because time is the amount of motion. If there is no motion, there will be no matter. In other words, motion cannot be separated from matter. Wherever there is time, there is also matter. Wherever there is matter, because there is motion, then there will also be time.

In philosophy, exit from power to action is called “motion”, like the motion of an apple seed from power until it reaches actuality, and the apple tree is complete. So, if something has become actual and reaches its perfection, it can no longer be imagined as a movement for that thing. That is why there is no motion in the “Non-Material World” because they have reached actuality. Since there is no motion, there is no time in the “Non-Material World”. Meaning, change is not there. In the “Non-Material World”, we do not have yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Question: “Can it be imagined a time that there was no universe at all?” No, because time is one dimension of matter and is always with the matter. If time can be imagined, it is necessary that the material world must be, and if there is no time, it will not be the material world. We cannot set a time before times’ existence. The question may arise as to whether the universe has always existed? Meaning, the “Material World” has always been, and it is not a timed event. Is that true, If the Universe has always existed, then it does not need a creator? Mulla Sadra explained in his books that we have two types of eternity, 1- the Inherent eternity and 2- the Dependent eternity. Mulla Sadra also explained the discussion of intrinsic occurrence and temporal occurrence of the universe in detail in his book (“Asfar”) – (Please refer to his well-known theory which is called “Harakat e Juhari”[1] in Arabic or “Substance Theory” meaning, “Motion in substance”. In short, He said, ” Essence and being of Material World is motion not that Material World has a motion” and also, he said, “Matter is an intellect that became sensible by us[2].

We must think a lot about time, but the important thing is to know that if there is no matter, there is no time or motion. God is the creator of the material world so; He is also the creator of time. The question of when God was created is invalid. To clarify the subject of time a little more, consider this example: “If we paint a rope in many colors and place an ant on it to move, the ant will first pass white, then red, black, green, yellow, white, red, and also the other colors till it reaches to the end of the rope”. In this case, there will be time for the ant, but for us, looking from above, this before and after no longer exists because we see all the colors in one place. Because the material world is constantly changing moment by moment and events occur one after the other then days, weeks, years, and time come for us. If someone looks at the “Material World” from above (out of time), everything is present for him/her. That is why in the Non-Material World, all truths are present together and there is no change, movement, or occurrence. So, for the angels, time or motion similar to what we have in this world cannot be imagined. Amir al-Mu’minin Ali (A) said in Nahj al-Balaghah that “God does not change from one state to another”. Because if this were the case, God Almighty would be under time.

The material world is associated with ignorance, but where there is no matter, there is no ignorance, there would be only knowledge, and everything is present. Time has a spirit which is called “Dahr”. The Hereafter surrounds time and place. Another point is that time and place cause cover, for example, we do not know about the next 100 years, nor do we know what will happen 10 kilometers beyond you. But the resurrection is not like this, and the resurrection surrounds time and place.

In this chapter, Khajeh Nasir al-Din Tusi said that “the world is imperfect like a child, and because a child needs a midwife and a cradle to grow up, so does the world. The midwife of the world is time, and the cradle of the world is the place”. The relation of the world to the Hereafter is like the relation of imperfection to perfection, or it is like the relation of a child to an adult human being because of a defect which has the cradle (of place) and the midwife (of time). In other words, the father of the world is time, and the mother of the world is place.

Multiplicity is due to time and place. The reason we have had and will have many human beings throughout history is because of space and time. If we do not have space and time, we will have only one human being. That is why in the rational world, humans have a truth, which is called the first man, and we are all his children, like the sun that has different rays of light.

Place and time are each a manifestation of God Almighty. Prophet Muhammad (S), “Do not curse the Dahr (Era), because the Dahr (Era) is God.[3]” Time and space surround the material world. Islamic philosophers consider the essence of this universe to be motion. Physicists call the essence of the material universe energy. In short, Mula Sadra said, ” Matter is an intellect that becomes sensible for us”.

We have the first and last in time as God is the first and the last. We have a place, outwardly and inwardly, just as God is outwardly and inwardly. “He is the First, the Last, the Manifest, and the Unseen and He knows all things[4] (Al-Hadid:3). Of course, it should be noted that time is the manifestation of the first and last and place is the manifestation of the inward and outward of God. The first, the last, the outer, the inner are not inherent for matter, but these are relative. For example, the back of the wall is hidden for us, but it is visible to someone on the other side of the wall. Or, for example, next month is the future for us (at the moment of writing this sentence), but it will be the past six months later. The important point is that the past and the future are not time, but time is the moments that pass to us. If there is time, there is a present and has no value because it is very small.

Some things are gradually perfected, for example, apple seeds must be planted in the ground and cared for so that the roots of the plant germinate until the tree gradually becomes complete. But some actions are instantaneous, for example, two non-parallel lines become parallel at one moment. These are called instantaneous events, meaning that two parallel lines become parallel to each other in one moment. It is not like an apple seed that gradually turns into an apple tree. It is not from the past and it is not the future. What exists is the present, meaning continues moments.

It is very difficult to discuss the resurrection. The contents of the resurrection cannot be mentioned anywhere because people may not understand it correctly. Most people think that the Day of Judgment is when a heavy rock hits the earth and the earth explodes and dust takes over everywhere and there is no place to be seen, there would not be any moon or sun and everyone runs away from each other, and they are afraid of each other. If so, what about the humans before us? Where will heaven and hell be? They often answer that angels take us to another place where there is heaven and hell. Someone said that the soul returns to the body and that is why we will feel the pressure of the grave and we will be punished there. I said, well, if this is the case, whenever someone returns to his body, quickly take him out of the grave, because it will be alive!! The most interesting thing is that some people put cameras in the grave to see what the pressure of the grave looks like. They do not know that torment and punishment in the grave, are not the things they think. When Allameh Tabatabaei wanted to teach about the resurrection, he chose only a very small number of his students and said that people are not ready to hear and understand resurrection discussions yet. What you are reading here is the truth of the resurrection, of course, as far as it can be said, because Khawaja Nasir al-Din al-Tusi said at the beginning of the book that we cannot say anything we see intuitively.

As we have discussed before, if there is time, it is only a moment. If Khajeh Tusi said that the place surrounds all living beings, he does not mean a part of the place, but the whole place. So, The Hereafter has no time or place. Allameh Hassanzadeh in the description of this sentence of Khajeh says: The Hereafter is not like this worldly life. For example, where do you think? Can a place be considered for your thinking? No, because thought is not a matter. Our imaginations have no place. Our knowledge is not in time and space, as we proved in the introductory courses of self-knowledge, knowledge is free from matter and therefore has no time and place. It is a mistake to think of heaven or hell as part of the physical universe on which we now live. Because heaven and hell are out of place. Mulla Sadra said: People think that souls are in heaven and hell, but I say that heaven and hell are in souls. The hereafter surrounds the worldly life, like the soul, which surrounds our body. Imam Amir Al-Mu’minin Ali (A) said that This world is in the Hereafter, the Hereafter surrounds the world. Some people think that if heaven and hell do not have a place, they do not exist at all. No, this is not the case. As we have said, motion and time in this world are due to matter, so where there is no matter, there will be no motion and time. Motion in this world means having something that an object did not have before (for example change of place or shape), for example, the blossom gradually turns into a complete apple. If the universe does not have matter, it would be fixed.

 Of course, the important point to keep in mind is that because there is no matter in heaven and hell, the perception of punishment or the reward of our action is much stronger than the natural world.

I read somewhere that a Christian pope said that several thousand angels could be placed on a needle’s head. This is because people do not understand time and matter deeply and therefore, they cannot understand the facts accurately. When we say that heaven and hell are “Methali”, never imagine that, for example, heaven and hell are illusions, but heaven and hell have exemplary shapes without matter, and therefore the pleasures and torments of the Hereafter are much stronger than this world (because in this world matter acts as a barrier for pain or joy).

The Hereafter is not destroyable.

Whatever you possess is transient and whatever is with God is everlasting[5] (An-Nahl:96). The Hereafter and worldly life are two separate things. The Hereafter is not on earth as most people think. There is a resurrection right now, and if the curtains are lifted, you can see the resurrection.

(It will be said): ‘Of this you have been heedless. Therefore, we have now removed your covering. Today your sight is sharp’[6] (Qaf:22).

On the Day when the earth is changed into other than the earth and the heavens, all shall come before Allah, the One, the Conqueror[7] (Ibrahim:48).

Some people ask if this is what you say and the resurrection already exists, then why does the Holy Quran say that “(On the day) when the sun is made to cease shining, (1) the stars are made to fade away, (2) the mountains are scattered about as dust, (3)?[8] (At-Takwir:1-3). Do we see that the sun gives light and mountains are stable? The answer is that we must understand the issue of monotheism and resurrection well in order to witness this.

The Day they come forth nothing concerning them will be concealed from Allah. To whom belongs [all] sovereignty this Day? To Allah, the One, the Prevailing![9] (Ghafir:16).

What is described in the previous verses is actually happening right now. God is the real owner, and the Sun does not shine by itself, and the mountains are not stable. People do not see this, but those who have reached a certain spiritual level are able to.

The power altogether belongs to Allah[10] (Al-Baqarah:165).

We think the light belongs to the sun while God is the light of the heavens and the earth. “Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth[11] (An-Nur:35). The mystic sees that the sun has no light of its own or the mountains have no strength of their own. All belong to God. One who reaches monotheism has understood the resurrection.

Mulla Sadra says that the Hereafter is perfect and is not as imperfect as the world, which needs place and time. We have a narration that says, “heaven and hell created”[12]. It is not as if heaven and hell will be built one day. The Holy Prophet said that heaven and hell are closer to you than your shoelaces.

We have sent no Messenger except in the tongue of his own nation, so that he might make everything plain to them. But Allah leads astray whom He will and guides whom He will. He is the Almighty, the Wise[13] (Ibrahim:4).

People are in time and space, so the prophets of God speak to them in a language so that people will understand because it is very difficult to imagine not having time and place. For this reason, Khajeh says that the signs that prophets give to the people of the worldly life from heaven and hell are signs of time and place. If they want to talk about the Day of Judgment, they are talking about the shortest time so that people can easily understand that the Day of Judgment is very close, and it is now.

The Hour has come near[14] (Al-Qamar:1). How close?

And the coming of the Hour (Day of Judgment) is just a blink of an eye or closer to it[15] (An-Nahl:77)

The Day of Resurrection is very near. If the resurrection was in a close time, why has it not arrived yet? These verses talk about the closeness and surroundings of Resurrection.

If they want to talk about the place in the Day of Judgment, they talk about the largest example of place (to show that the Resurrection place is limitless).

And Paradise the width whereof is as the width of the heaven and the earth[16] (Al-Hadid:21).

After that Khajeh Tusi explained that Resurrection is out of time and space and surrounds worldly life. Then he poses a notable discussion of how the world was created. What did God do before the creation of the world? Is it possible to have time before the matter? Can we have a beginning of time for creation?

Philosophers say, “the world is eternal” but Theologians say, “God is eternal and the worldly life is limited (meaning there is a beginning for worldly life) and you have become infidels if you do not believe this because you want to eliminate God”.

Islamic philosophers say that “the world is dependent eternal (not self-eternal), that is, it has always been a world, but God creates it moment by moment”. Like the sun and sunlight, it is impossible to imagine that it was the sun but not the sunlight. For example, one can not imagine what the sun did before it shone.

Time is one of the dimensions of matter and time cannot be separated from matter, so it is not possible to consider the beginning of time for creation, that is, it cannot be said that creation began from time. Because there were no beings, there was no time. God is eternally kind (Ghadim Al-Ihsan[17]). To whom He was kind all times? that is, He always is kind. So, Creation is eternal.

Ibn Arabi met with one of the souls of a prophet in the Kaaba and asked him about Adam. The soul of the prophet answered which person you are talking about because there are many Adams here. Ibn Arabi asks I am asking about Adam, who is our ancestor. It means, there were other people before Adam.

Salman Farsi came to Amir Al-Mu’minin (A) to ask him a question: Amir Al-Momenin said to ask your question from Imam Hussain (A) (his son), Salman Farsi asked Imam Hussain “how old is your father?” Imam Hussein said, “We have 12,000 worlds. The distance from each world to the next is a thousand years, and in every world, there are a thousand Adam, and the distance from each Adam to the next is several thousand years. My father was with the first Adam in the First World as Guardian of God “Wail Allah)”. That is, Amir al-mu’minin was the guardian of God before time and place.

So, it does not make sense to ask the question that “when was the universe created”?

Verily, His command, when He intends a thing, is only that He says to it, “Be!” — and it is![18] (Yasin:82).

And Our commandment is but one as the twinkling of an eye[19] (Al-Qamar:50). It is also important to remember Time and Place are creatures themselves.

All praise is to God to the extent that He deserves it.


[1] – حرکت جوهری

[2] – ماده معقولی است که محسوس ما واقع شده است

[3] – لا تسبُّوا الدهر، فإنَّ الله هو الدهر

[4] – هُوَ الْأَوَّلُ وَالْآخِرُ وَالظَّاهِرُ وَالْبَاطِنُ ۖ وَهُوَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ

[5] – مَا عِندَكُمْ يَنفَدُ ۖ وَمَا عِندَ اللَّهِ بَاقٍ

[6] – لَّقَدْ كُنتَ فِي غَفْلَةٍ مِّنْ هَٰذَا فَكَشَفْنَا عَنكَ غِطَاءَكَ فَبَصَرُكَ الْيَوْمَ حَدِيدٌ

[7] – يَوْمَ تُبَدَّلُ الْأَرْضُ غَيْرَ الْأَرْضِ وَالسَّمَاوَاتُ ۖ وَبَرَزُوا لِلَّهِ الْوَاحِدِ الْقَهَّارِ

[8] – إِذَا الشَّمْسُ كُوِّرَتْ ‎﴿١﴾‏ وَإِذَا النُّجُومُ انكَدَرَتْ ‎﴿٢﴾‏ وَإِذَا الْجِبَالُ سُيِّرَتْ

[9] – يَوْمَ هُم بَارِزُونَ ۖ لَا يَخْفَىٰ عَلَى اللَّهِ مِنْهُمْ شَيْءٌ ۚ لِّمَنِ الْمُلْكُ الْيَوْمَ ۖ لِلَّهِ الْوَاحِدِ الْقَهَّارِ

[10] – أَنَّ الْقُوَّةَ لِلَّهِ جَمِيعًا

[11] – اللَّهُ نُورُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ

[12] – الجنه و النار مخلوقتان

[13] – وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِن رَّسُولٍ إِلَّا بِلِسَانِ قَوْمِهِ لِيُبَيِّنَ لَهُمْ ۖ فَيُضِلُّ اللَّهُ مَن يَشَاءُ وَيَهْدِي مَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ

[14] – اقْتَرَبَتِ السَّاعَةُ وَانشَقَّ الْقَمَرُ

[15] – وَلِلَّهِ غَيْبُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۚ وَمَا أَمْرُ السَّاعَةِ إِلَّا كَلَمْحِ الْبَصَرِ أَوْ هُوَ أَقْرَبُ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ

[16] – وَجَنَّةٍ عَرْضُهَا كَعَرْضِ السَّمَاءِ وَالْأَرْضِ

[17] – قدیم الاحسان

[18] – إِنَّمَا أَمْرُهُ إِذَا أَرَادَ شَيْئًا أَن يَقُولَ لَهُ كُن فَيَكُونُ

[19] – وَمَا أَمْرُنَا إِلَّا وَاحِدَةٌ كَلَمْحٍ بِالْبَصَرِ

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