Nov 1, 1999

"In sha'a' llah"

A friend came to visit me and we were talking about our children when she suddenly laughed as she remembered her small child who got angry and was crying because she responded to his request of buying a toy by saying “when God wills” or “In sha’a’ llah”. I did not see any point in laughing. Quite the contrary, I was frustrated.
In the Muslim world this phrase“In sha’a’ llah” is extensively used. The little child could deduce that his mother will never buy him the toy. When will God will? No one can tell. He was right when he came to the conclusion that his mother avoided the blunt refusal. He might have experienced other similar situations as well.

What will this child do when he gets older? He will learn that when people mean what they say they will never use “In sha’a’ llah”. How frustrating it is to see that a phrase that was originally used to stress the intention of fulfilling promises, is now used to escape them. “In sha’a’ llah” has become a meaningless phrase.
“In sha’a’ llah” should not be said unless one takes things seriously and intends to act accordingly. In that way, “In sha’a’ llah” will indicate his sincerity, not the opposite. If it is used in the right context, “In sha’a’ llah” means that a person is aware of the unseen will that could interrupt his procedure. In this sense, “In sha’a’ llah” assures others that he will do his best to fulfill his promise.
This awareness of the unseen power protects a human being from becoming overly confidant in controlling his destiny. Regardless of how much money one has, and how much power and authority he wields, once he is aware that he can loose everything, and that he cannot control his fate completely, he may then think a hundred times before he exploits others, dominates, oppresses, and humiliates the poorer and weaker. This awareness will induce an internal balance between a strong will, self confidence and self esteem on the one hand and modesty, self consciousness and feeling of God’s presence on the other.
It is a common occurrence that the rich tries to get richer, while the powerful seeks even more power, yet the awareness of God’s presence will protect man from manipulating others, and would make him more conscious for his behavior.
Contrary to all stereotypes that depict believers and specially Muslims as people who do not have sufficient will to progress in life, a true believer has a highly positive view towards life. He can overcome his failures. He continuously searches for open doors, never looses hope, and does not insist on entering a closed channel. In short, he is flexible, adaptive, and hard working. It is his internal strength that gives him that power.
Imagine a person who thought that he was going to realize certain dreams, (marrying a girl he loved, having the job he was looking for, taking the promotion that he expected … etc.) and suddenly every thing changed and he could not achieve his goals. It is a painful experience for any human being - a believer or not- but it may have a devastating impact on a non believer, he /she who believes in the supreme wisdom, will heal from his/her pain and search for the good side in the bad experience.
Another friend of mine who is now in her seventies, was telling me about an experiment that she wanted to make with God when she was a teenager. She was a happy girl from a religious Coptic family. She pondered “what if I challenged God ? what would He be able to do to me. I am free today and I can go out with my friends, how could God prevent me from realizing that.” She was very serious and determined.
On her way to the cinema, she fell down and broke her ankle. She went to the hospital instead. In retrospect, she says “ I know now how much God loves me, I could have gone to the cinema and proved to myself that there was no such thing as an unseen power. God did not stop helping me and talking to me through events. Whenever I feel disappointed, inhabited and depressed for things that do not come as I wish them to. Soon, I realized that what I considered unlucky was a luck. “I was dismissed unfairly from my school as a teacher. Every thing turned very dark at that moment. I lost my job so I searched for another. In the new place I met my mate, my very beloved husband. New doors opened in my career, even I would not have dreamed of. I learnt that I should never loose hope. When it is very dark, the dawn is about to be born.. We should just be a little patient and ask ourselves what is required from us to do now. I won’t see the sunrise if I imprison my self in a closed room. God loves us and He uncovers His wisdom gradually if we really wanted to know it.”
My friend, at her seventies, works hard, never wastes her time, knows very well her direction. She is a challenge for young people. My son visited her in her atelier - I forgot to tell you that she is an artist- she explained to him the process of hand printing scarves. It requires great effort and patience. He was struck. He went home with great enthusiasm, he started by cleaning and arranging his room and desk. A task that he hated to do before, regardless of how much I nagged He told me that whenever he remembers this lady, he feels very enthusiastic and wants to do a lot of things. Her will, persistence, and positive attitude towards life are unbelievable.
“In sha’a’ llah” could open the closed door, empower man with a strong will. Unexpected outcomes would never destroy his will, knowing that he is doing his best to accomplish his tasks, and believing that there is nothing in vain.
If one uses “In sha’a’ llah” , focusing on its meaning, one may change his whole world view and life may become wonderful journey.