Inshallah

Inshallah

It’s been a year since we visited Morocco over Christmas–certainly one of the most memorable Christmases ever.  If you want to get back to the roots of why we celebrate Christmas, I’d highly recommend spending it in a place that is 99% Muslim.  I saw exactly two Christmas trees (and one was made of blue and silver tinsel) and zero Christian churches in ten days.  There was absolutely no effort to commercialize, hype or trivialize the event. It felt like we were visiting a strange new place in February or March when there was nothing to commemorate.

In Morocco, Islam penetrates the fabric of life all the way down to individual fibers.  Seeing and experiencing it confronted me with the many paradoxes of that faith. At times I was inspired by the devout faith of the people; many times I was disappointed.  But on a daily basis, I was struck by a concept that regularly showed up in even the most ordinary conversations. It is summed up in a single word: inshallah . . .  إن شاء الله . . . “Allah willing” or “if Allah wills it”. 

I have to be honest in admitting that in a lot of cases, the word is used as a kinder and gentler way of saying “no” in Arabic. When I was a kid, my mom used to say “we’ll see” when we asked her for something like Chips Ahoy or Froot Loops at the supermarket. If she were Moroccan, she would have answered our pleadings with “inshallah”. It’s an open joke that when Moroccan answers your request for a favor with “inshallah”, it really means “no”. 

But inshallah is much more than an appeasing platitude or a handy mechanism for remaining non-committal. Inshallah seems to permeate everyday life in Morocco in a broader way.  Say “see you later” and the response is “inshallah”. Ask a friend “Will you join us for lunch tomorrow?” and the response is invariably “inshallah.” 

This may be astonishing, but inshallah demonstrates a readiness of Moroccans to acknowledge the hand of God in every day life to a greater degree than I see in Las Vegas. But
 if God notes a sparrow’s fall (Matthew 10:29-31), then why not expect him to be aware of the little details of our lives? Inshallah also seems to demonstrate a certain fait accompli acceptance of God’s will in the lives of these people that we could learn so much from. To imagine that our will could or should supplant his will is supremely arrogant, yet remarkably common.

For some Moroccans, I suppose inshallah is simply a figure of speech. But hearing this phrase used so frequently was an poignant reminder for me to take note of the many evidences of God’s involvement in the mundane details of my life.  It also inspired me to realize on a personal level the fervent prayer of Joseph Smith when he dedicated the Kirtland Temple:

Help thy servants to say, with thy grace assisting them: Thy will be done, O Lord, and not ours.       D&C; 109:44

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