Friday, December 25, 2009


One of my favorite phrases is "Insha'Allah".  God willing.

It's very amusing to me when I use that phrase and friends from the middle-east are surprised that I know it.  "How do you know that phrase?"

What?  You have to be fluent in Arabic to know it?  I often want to ask them how they know an English phrase, but that would just seem rude to me.

And really, insha'Allah indicates such a wonderful perspective, that everything is always conditional upon God's pleasure.  We may make our plans, but God's plans always triumph.  Sort of like the old phrase "man proposes, but God disposes".

There is that wonderful story in the history of the Faith where Mulla Husayn was having tea with the Bab during that first fireside, and wanted to excuse himself saying that he told his companions he would be back for evening prayers.  The story in the Dawn-Breakers says, "With extreme courtesy and calm He replied: 'You must surely have made the hour of your return conditional upon the will and pleasure of God. It seems that His will has decreed otherwise. You need have no fear of having broken your pledge.'"

In other words, Mulla Husayn had told his companions he would be back at a certain time, insha'Allah.  God willing.

I use this phrase so often in my daily life now, that I have almost become dependent upon it.

But then there was that one time I was at a youth conference (yes, another one) and said it.  A group of the Persian youth bristled.

"Don't use that phrase," they said.

"Why not?"  I was curious, as I thought it was fairly innocuous.

"Do you know what it means," they asked.

"I think so.  Doesn't it mean God willing?"

"No," one of the more outspoken youth said.  "It means 'no'.  If we ask our parents for a new video game, they say, 'Of course we'll get it for you, insha'Allah.'  That means that there is no way at all that they will even consider getting it for us, and we will only receive it if, by some miracle, God Himself places it upon our doorstep, and even then it will probably get tossed out before we ever see it."

I couldn't help but smile, trying to stifle my laughter, especially as that was all said in a single breath with no spaces between the words.

"So," he continued, "don't use that phrase around us.  I think we all hate it."  The nods were fairly unanimous.

"Well," I said, "I think it's great.  That gives you a wonderful excuse."

Now they were all puzzled.

"Excuse me?  What do you mean?"

"Well, don't you parents ever tell you to be home by a certain time?"

This seemed like a non-sequitor to them, so they agreed merely because they were too confused to do anything else.

"Next time, just tell them that yes, you'll be home by eleven, insha'Allah."

I don't think I've ever seen so many eyes go so wide at the same time in my entire life.

And a few weeks after that I started getting the irate phone calls from the parents.

"But really," I told each and every one of them, "didn't you teach them that phrase?"

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