The Greatest Master Muhyiddin Ibn al-Arabi
The Greatest Master Muhyiddin Ibn al-Arabi

Most of these introductory articles are exracted from Volume I of the Single Monad Model of the Cosmos: Ibn al-Arabi's View of Time and Creation... more on this can be found here.

Physical Time and Spiritual Time

Physical Time and Spiritual Time:

Ibn al-Arabi distinguishes between two kinds of time; physical or 'natural time' (zaman tabi‘i) and spiritual or 'para-natural time' (zaman fawq-tabi‘i). The first is used to compare the motion of bodies and orbs, while the latter is used to compare the changes in spiritual states, such as realizing and knowing. He explains that the existence of time does not necessarily require the existence of matter [IV.337.5], because there is time that is associated with material motion that is under the effect of Nature, and time that is associated with immaterial motion that is above the effect of Nature: i.e., in the spiritual world. Thus he says that 'you should know that some of time is above Nature and some of it is below Nature' [I.377.12], and he explains further by saying that the time that is under Nature 'is defined by the motion of orbs …and the time that is beyond Nature is defined by (spiritual) states' [I.477.12]. So when Ibn al-Arabi says: 'and the origin of the existence of time is Nature, whose state is below the Universal Soul and above the Universal Dust' [III.548.19], this actually refers to natural time which is used to compare the motion of bodies and orbs - while spiritual time is used to compare the change of spiritual states, and its origin preceded the existence of the physical world.

We can fairly say that Ibn al-Arabi's conception of natural time is the time known in physics and cosmology, and that this spiritual time resembles what is called by many modern philosophers 'psychological time'. The psychological time is our feeling of time's passage even when everything around us is standing still, including ourselves: we feel this time because our inner state is continuously being updated through changes in our consciousness, unless we fall into deep sleep as for what happened for example with the 'people of the cave' (ahl al-kahf) who stayed over 300 years in deep sleep, yet when they awoke they thought it was like a day or part of a day (Qur’an 18:9-25, see also [II.9.21]).

Physical time seems to flow uniformly and continuously (at least locally), while psychological time depends greatly on the mood, as Ibn al-Farid referred to nicely in one of his poems:

With her for me a year is like a glimpse,

  and an hour of parting for me is like a year.

(Mahmud 1995: 344)

Also Ibn al-Arabi says that 'minutes are years while sleeping' [IV.337.1], and we shall discuss this relative aspect of 'para-natural', psychic time in section 7 below.

Please note that some contents are translated Semi-Automatically!