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There are two types of time. There is time as we use the word today (زمن zamān - وقت waqt) and time as a symbols of life and death (رموز الحياة والموت rumūz al-ḥayāt wa-l-mawt). Time is the determining factor of fate in pre-Islamic poetry and is not itself determined by some other power. And although time and fate are conceptually different, they are closely bound as seen in the multitude of terms used by the Arabian poets with dual meaning such as dahr (دهر), zamān (زمن era) and ayyām (أيام days) used for expressing reversals of fortune.

The word dahr is used the most, and although it's usually translated as eternity, dahr means a long time, perhaps a thousand years. Dahr could also mean nāzila (نازلة mischief from the heavens, literally, "coming down") and one would attribute their misfortune to dahr. The ancient Arabian oracle Satih, who interpreted a dream for the Yemeni king Rabia, said: "The time (dahr) sometimes is misfortune (dahārīr)". Satih knew much about fate and misfortune himself, as he was possibly born with a congenital disorder which left him either without bones or with really soft ones from his feet to his collarbone. For better or for worse, we are stuck with our own limitations.

The dream Satih interpreted for the Yemeni king foretold the annexation of his land by the Aksumite Empire, their later expulsion, and the coming of Islam. Today we have equations that let us calculate the motion of a pendulum and the trajectories of the planets. These equations have been tested and confirmed time and time again, and they allow us to calculate the movements of every object in the universe, given enough information about their past. This means that any universe that started in the same state as ours 14 billion years ago, with all of the particles in the same exact positions, would have eventually given rise to you reading this and me having posted it. And it also means that as you contemplate a difficult decision, there is really only one possible outcome. You are no more free to choose otherwise than water is to flow uphill. You can either see this as liberating and comforting, or as hopeless and damning.

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