I must have laughed the hardest as Wajahat Ali made InshAllah jokes at the MUBANY gala (Muslim Bar Association of NY) last week, and I exhaled decades of pent-up exasperation. If you were there, I was the woman at the front table, laughing long after everyone else had stopped, causing heads to turn. Sadly, it wasn’t my looks.
Before I explain, let me first apologize.
Dear Muslim readers, I don’t mean to be blasphemous or make light of the commandments of the Creator. If I come across that way, please accept my apologies.
So here is the deal: InshAllah, an Arabic word, means ‘God Willing’. Allah instructs us in the Quran: ‘Never say I will do such and such thing tomorrow, without saying God Willing.’ In other words, man proposes (or woman proposes), God disposes.
I always instructed my children to do that: make your intention, and end with an InshAllah.
For example, I will take my exam on June 1, InshAllah.
Translated: I have every intention of taking my exams on June 1, and God Willing, I will.
Things happen. One could fall sick, a speeding ticket, GPS starts recalculating—who knows. So exercise humility, and know that at the end of the day, God disposes.
So far, so good. Right?
On the ground, here is how it goes:
I have a friend, whom I shall call Timeless. Timeless is missing the punctuality gene, one that is replaced with the Pakistani-time gene. Timeless, believes that a 10:00 am appointment means anytime in the morning, and 7 pm dinner means anytime after 9 pm. I am a punctuality-freak. People freak out over blizzards; I freak out when my guests are late.
So when Timeless shows up at 9 pm, for a 7 pm dinner, and I politely ask:
“Did you get lost?”
“No”. The look says ‘what a way to greet a guest.’
“Is everything alright?”
“Yes, yes. Everything is fine.” I get the ‘why-would-anything-be-wrong’ look.
Then why the heck are you so late?
But the Pakistani breeding in me won’t let me be rude to my guest. So I just seal my lips.
Next time I will just remind, remind, remind.
“Timeless, show starts at 8:00 pm. You have the tickets. Please be there on time.”
Timeless just shifted the responsibility to God Almighty. Hey, don’t blame me if I am late, it’s God’s will.
Stumped & seething.
Maybe I can say: “But you can give yourself enough time for traffic jams, an overseas call from Pakistan just-as-you-were-out-the-door, a constipated grandchild having to go potty… and be there before the curtain call.”
Timeless will just say: InshAllah.
My run-in with the InshAllah escape route has been gnawing at me for decades. I could not even protest without sounding blasphemous. So imagine my release when Wajahat Ali took a punch at the InshAllah-ites. And yesterday, when I opened the Opinion section of the New York Times, there he was again, “InshAllah Is Good for Everyone,” this time, with a note of caution.
Excuse me, my phone is ringing.
“Sabeeha, would you like to go see the movie Jungle Book tomorrow? 4:00 pm show?
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