01 February 2010
It seems to be the most commonly used phrase in Egypt and its meaning is seemingly endless. “InshaAllah” - “God Willing.” “I’ll see you tomorrow, InshaAllah. The weather should be nice tomorrow, InshaAllah. Take me to the airport, InshaAllah.” Things, the Egyptians believe, only occur if it is god’s will.
Now that’s a fine belief system - if not a bit hands off - for most situations and circumstances. It’s entirely understandable that a person of faith would think that tomorrow’s weather is determined by god’s will even if I think it has more to do with barometric pressure, wind systems and the position of the moon.
The same holds true when it comes to situations that in some way assume that you will be alive tomorrow, next week, next year and so on because once again, if you’re a person of faith, your life and death is god’s will. So indeed, “I’ll see you tomorrow...if it is god’s will.” I, however, may die tonight and therefore it was not god’s will for me to see you. I, however, think life and death (especially in Cairo) has more to do with traffic patterns, road rage, a lack of barricades to protect you from steep ledges and football matches that lead to near riots in the streets whether Egypt wins or loses.
Still, there is still one situation where I honestly cannot grasp the use of this phrase. It involves directions. Our driver picked us up bright and early at 7am for a trip to the Camel Market. Did he know where it was? “Of course, InshaAllah.” I’m sorry, what? You know where it is if it is god’s will? No. You either know or you don’t know. we proceed to spend the next hour in the car lost nearly the entire time, pulling over every so often to ask for new directions. And what, might you think, passersby would respond with when we asked directions? “Ah, the camel market is just up this way, InshaAllah.” Again, what? “The Camel Market is this way if it is god’s will?” Unfortunately for someone in this equation, god’s will seemingly has very little to do with the location of the Camel Market. Either it’s this way or it’s not. God isn’t going to suddenly move it if he decides that is “his will.” It’s not like we’re going to finally get somewhere and the guy is going to say to us, “Oh yeah, it was here ten minutes ago where it has been for 100 years but then god’s will was for it to move over there, so it did. And now it’s not here. It’s over there. Because of God’s will. So yeah.”
It’s fascinating to see what activities, actions and situations people in different parts of the world leave up to god’s will. It’s like saying, “I have nothing to do with this. I am just a pawn so if it goes wrong, I had nothing to do with it. It was just God’s will...”