Days of Other Orbs and Divine Names:
Ibn ‘Arabî then extends the meaning of the normal 'day' as described above to the spheres of all planets (and stars) and even to symbolic 'spheres' (i.e., the orbs of spirits and divine Names), where he calls the period—i.e. full revolution of each particular orb—the 'day' that corresponds to this specific orb. In this way there are shorter days and longer days, depending on the relevant orb:
…and when Allah caused the isotropic orb to rotate … and made its full cycle a complete day (i.e., the normal day) without daytime and night… So 'Days' are different: some Days are a half-cycle, some Days a full cycle, some Days twenty eight cycles (days); and some are more than that, (all the way up) until the 'Day of ascending ways' (yawm dhû-al-ma‘ârij, of 50,000 years, described in the Qur’an, 70:4), or less than that (all the way down) until the 'Day of event'; so the degrees of Days change between these two (extremes of the) Days.
There is no maximum limit to the 'Day' that one can count [I.292.17], but there is a minimum limit. The maximum limit is the Age (al-dahr), which is one unique day that does not repeat and has no daytime and night [III.202.5]. But this Age is infinite, whereas the smallest Day is the 'singular day' (al-yawm al-fard) or the 'Day of event' (yawm al-sha’n), [I.292.16], which is that Day in which Allah is upon one task (55:29). From the meaning of the 'singular day' as the time in which Allah creates by one single act every entity in the world, we can generalize to all other days: the 'Day' of every orb is the time in which that orb affects every entity in the world (i.e., by making a full revolution).
But again we should not confuse—as we have seen above—the revolution of a planet (such as the earth) around its axis in respect to its sun, and in respect to distant stars (that are appropriately considered fixed). In astronomy, the first revolution is called a 'rotational' day, while the other is called the 'sidereal' day. The sidereal day is the time the earth takes to rotate 360 degrees, in relation to distant stars. This equals, in modern calculations, 23 hours, 56 minutes, 4.09 seconds, while the mean solar day is 24 hours. The earth actually rotates 360.98 degrees in 24 hours; the difference is caused by the earth's orbital motion (around the sun). Similarly all other planets or orbs have their own respective sidereal and orbital 'days'. Also, the moon completes a cycle around the earth once every 27.3 days, with reference to distant stars, so this is the sidereal lunar month. The normal lunar month used in Islamic calendar calculations, though, is the time interval between new moons as observed from earth, which equals 29.5 days; this is called the 'synodic' lunar month. Therefore, the moon's 'Day', if calculated by Ibn ‘Arabî's approach to the earth's sidereal day, should be the sidereal lunar month. But we shall see in section III.2 that Ibn ‘Arabî insists that the lunar month equals twenty eight days exactly.
Ibn ‘Arabî made it clear in several places in his Futûhât [I.141.17, III.549.3] and other books that the fixed stars are not actually fixed at all, but that we can not notice their motion from earth due to the large distance, because our age is too short to notice their motion despite their very high speed (an observation well confirmed by modern cosmology). Therefore when we say 'the day is the period of motion of fixed stars', we now know today that this apparent motion is caused by the motion of the earth and not the stars, but since we move with the earth, we think that the stars are moving. Indeed the actual motions of the orbs of stars have much longer periods, as is well known in modern astronomy. Actually, Ibn ‘Arabî, following the accepted cosmological theories of his day, differentiates between two kinds of motion of the celestial orbs: natural or intrinsic motion, and forced or extrinsic motion:
The smallest Day is that which we count as the motion of the circumferential orb in whose day (yawm) the night (layl) and daytime (nahâr) appear. So that is the shortest day for the Arabs (i.e., in their language), and it corresponds to the largest orb, because it rules everything inside it. The motion of everything inside this orb in the daytime and night is a forced motion by this orb, through which it forces (a movement of) all the orbs that it surrounds. And each one of these orbs also has a natural (inherent) motion. So every orb below the surrounding orb has two motions at the same time: a natural motion and a forced motion. And each natural motion in every orb has a specific day which is measured in terms of the days of the surrounding orb.
So, for example—according to modern astronomy—the moon naturally rotates around the earth in about twenty eight days while at the same time it is forced to move with the earth around the sun. Likewise with most other orbs of the planets, in terms of the astronomy of Ibn ‘Arabî's time: the intrinsic motion of those orbs define a specific 'day' for every one, which equals the time needed to make full revolution around the earth. In general, however, the day is the revolution of the specific orb, so it may have many possible lengths or measurements depending on the reference-point (i.e., whether it is observed from the earth or from other orbs or planets), but here we only consider the days of the orbs with relation to the earth.
The relation between Days and orbs is that—in general—the longer Day corresponds to the larger orb. But this is not true for the isotropic orb, which is the first and largest (material) orb. The Day of this orb is the smallest Day, which is the day that we count, i.e., 24 hours. This is because the motion of this orb is a natural motion, whereas the motion of other orbs are a combination of this first natural motion (which is a forced motion on those other orbs) and another natural motion which is intrinsic to every orb. But if we consider the motion of the isotropic orb as expressing in reality the motion of the earth around itself, as in modern astronomy, we can then generalize and say that the larger the orb, the bigger its Day. However, still another factor that affects the length of the Day is the speed of motion of the relevant orb. Therefore, the day that we count—i.e. the 24 hours—is actually the shortest Day, though Ibn ‘Arabî sometimes mentions that a day could be a half cycle of the prime cycle of the Isotropic Orb, which is the 24-hour day [III.434.2], which is equal to the daytime (nahâr), but otherwise the day itself as the revolution of the Isotropic Orb is the smallest day. Then comes the Day of the moon, which is twenty eight earth-days (which is a little less than the actual day of the moon that we call the lunar month, as we shall give a more detailed discussion of this point in section III.2), and so on [II.441.29].
As in the case of the material orbs of stars and planets, Ibn ‘Arabî adds that every spirit and every divine Name of Allah has its own 'Day'. That is because every spirit and divine Name has effects on the world beneath it. So when they complete a full revolution around the world (i.e., without material motion but with regard to their effects on every entity), this is their 'Day'.
Based on particular references in the Qur’an and Hadith, Ibn ‘Arabî assigns Days with specific length to some divine Names. In addition to 'the Lord's day' which equals one thousand years of what you count (32:5), and 'the day of the ascending ways' (dhû al-ma‘ârij), which equals 50,000 years according to Qur'an the (70:4), Ibn ‘Arabî also mentions 'the day of Mithl' ('the Like', i.e., the cosmic 'Likeness' of the divine, referring to the famous Qur’anic verse 42:11—the 'Perfect Human Being' (al-insân al-kâmil), who is created, according to a famous hadith, 'on the Image of the All-Merciful', see: SPK: 27-30: 276) which equals 7000 years [Ayyâm Al-Sha’n: 18], and another day which equals 6454.54545 years, though he does not mention the relevant Name [I.121.23]. He also mentions yet another day which equals 3000 years, but says that he does not know the corresponding Name [III.238.13]. All this is summarized in Table II.1 which shows the length of some other days, in addition to those just mentioned above.
Table II.1: Days of some orbs and divine Names. The numbers have been collected from different books of Ibn ‘Arabî. We should add that—as noted in our table here—Ibn ‘Arabî actually considers the year to be 360 days rather than 365.25 days; see also section III.2 for more details.
|The day of …||Its length in terms of normal earth days|
|The moon||28 days|
|The sun||360 days = 1 year|
|Mercury||~ 30 years|
|al-rabb (the Lord)||1000 years|
|al-mithl (the Like)||7000 years|
|al-ma‘ârij (the ascending ways)||50,000 years|
|Longest planet (star) day||36,000 years|