I’ve recently been interested in a british tv-show called Dr. Who, a sci-fi space adventure that breaks the laws of physics and logic at every turn. A key concept throughout the series is that of time travel. The main character (the Doctor) is even called a TIME LORD for god’s sake! Now you might think you know where this is going but I’m here to tell you your wrong. Shows such as these are the stuff of fantasy and human creativity and thus are enjoyable to be absorbed into. What I want to explore is the peculiar question of the implications time travel has on the concept of God.
First of all, I want to explicitly state my opinion on the idea of travelling to the past. It is not possible. This is what I think and so far, scientific reasoning seems to agree with me. Why? Time travel to the past would result in multiple paradoxes that would literally shatter the present world. The famous Grandfather Paradox was the first argument against time travel. It goes like this, take me, let us assume I get into my Tardis or whatever time machine I have and go back into the past and kill my grandfather (I don’t know why the thought would occur to me o_o). The paradox is as follows, if I had killed my grandfather, this means he never married and had children which leads to the peculiar conclusion that I do not exist in the present, so how in God’s name did I get in a time machine and manage to kill him in the first place? There is an obvious difficulty here. Some physicist now suggest that by killing my grandfather, I create a parallel dimension where this action had occurred. But upon returning to the Present, I am living in the dimension where I had NOT gone back in time so everything is normal. I’ll get to that later.
Now, where does theology come into all this? It’s less obvious than you think. If we hold to the idea that travel back in time is possible, than it is theoretically possible for a person to be immortal. How so? A recent movie I watched: LOOPER demonstrates this concept. When you grow old, your sent back in time and your younger self shoots you dead, continues to live his life just as you had, until he/she is old and arrives at the same point in time when he/she will be sent back in time to be shot dead. It is a continues loop that never ends. As muslims we believe that the universe will come to an end and mortal beings are…well….mortal. Time travel into the past would allow us to use a loop hole to rise above our own mortality. This my friends is why it conflicts with Islamic teachings of the mortality of the Universe.
Another point I have to bring up is the theory of “The Arrow of Time.” You can view the whole theory in Dr. Sean Carroll’s presentation here
Basically, the idea is simple enough to understand, time moves in only one direction. It is not a highway where there are twists and turns nor is it like a river where going against the current is tough but possible. Time is the independent variable in the graph of our Universe and everything in existence and it can be said that time CAUSES everything to exist. A solid cube of wood is a solid cube of wood if it exists for a certain length of TIME. Thus everything has mortality under this law. It is also easy to theorize why God Himself is immortal. He is the creator of time and is outside it’s influence. Because of the static direction of time, it seems impossible enough to me to go to an earlier point of time using time travel.
Now I have a wild theory and it is just that, wild. For an individual to travel back in time and stay true to the law set by Allah, the idea of parallel universes have to come into the picture. Though I adhere to this theory cautiously, it is believed that the universe is not some random product of the big bang, rather it is ONE of the products of the big bang. Scientists believe the big bang produced all possible outcomes for our universe. If this is true, there are other dimensions in space, versions of our world very different from our own. Because there are infinitely many possibilities, it is not far-fetched to claim that some where in these parallel dimensions, a snapshot of our world in points in time exist. We could, in theory visit an earth which had not yet formed life, an earth were Adam and Eve were not sent down (Hmmm???), an earth where we as individuals made very different decisions. Travel to these parallel dimensions would not break the arrow of time, as each separate parallel world is following it’s own course in it’s own timeline. This I believe is the is the extant to which we can stretch our minds in thinking about travelling into the past, and even this is conjecture (and somewhat blasphemous). What has to be said is that Allah has created an amazingly intricate universe, far beyond anything we can even begin to understand through our limited human faculties. When Allah tells us in the Quran about the 7 heavens, we stare and think in wonder to what such a statement means and rightly so. The most we can do is write complex equations to prove theories that possibly do not adhere to reality (such as the parallel universe theory). The human race will continue to guess, test, ask and discover and Inshallah one day, I hope to learn from the horses mouth so to speak, ask Allah to tell me how He azzawazal, constructed such a device that baffles and will continue to baffel his greasiest creation, mankind.
Dr.Michio Kaku Professor of Physics City College NY
Dr.Brian Green from Columbia Unversity
Sean Carroll from Cal Tech