Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

It’s All ‘Insh’allah’

(Forgive me if I ramble a little bit; New Year’s Eve day is always something of a day of reflection for me. It’s not something I plan, it’s something I just find myself compelled to do; I do it whether I want to or not.)

I joke with my friends that the Lord kept sending me back to the Middle East until I learned that it was less my mission to share, than to learn. Once I shut up and watched and listened, I began learning, and what I learned contradicted many of my ignorant prejudices. In learning about my friends in the countries of the Middle East, I learned a lot about our Christian culture, and about myself.

When Westerners first get to the Middle East, the phrase ‘Insh’allah’ (God willing, or ‘if God wills it’) makes them want to tear their hair out. When your heat breaks down in the midst of a cold winter (and yes, there are very cold patches in many Middle Eastern countries) and the heat people tell you ‘Insh’allah’ they will be there ‘in the afternoon’ but won’t give you an exact time, it makes us want to slam the phone down. When you make plans to meet up with a friend for coffee, set a time, and then she says she will see us ‘insh’allah’, we don’t know whether she is going to show up or not.

It was only after many many years in the Middle East that we relaxed and accepted ‘insh’allah.’ Now, living back in the USA, we laugh, because life here is insh’allah, too, it’s just that people don’t know it. We’ve had several things done with our house, and whether or not the workers show up – it’s all insh’allah. When making plans with our family, a lot depends on when the baby is awake or sleeping, insh’allah. How much money our investments are worth? It’s all insh’allah. The same factor is there, it’s just cultural as to whether you acknowledge it or not.

Today’s New Testament reading from The Lectionary is all about insh’allah:

James 4:13-17, 5:7-11

13 Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.’ 14Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.’ 16As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. 17Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.

7 Be patient, therefore, beloved,* until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. 8You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.* 9Beloved,* do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! 10As an example of suffering and patience, beloved,* take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

And I think my New Year’s resolution is clear: Not to grumble against one another. 🙂

December 31, 2011 - Posted by | Cross Cultural, Cultural, Education, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Interconnected, Middle East, Random Musings, Spiritual


  1. What a perfect scripture passage, and especially for me at the moment! That’s exactly where I am right now…Will I be able to have the academic career I’ve worked so hard for??? Insh-Allah! I came to love the phrase and stil use it frequently, only to quickly remember that nobody here knows what it means. I will be patient and wait to hear what He wishes, rather than grumble in 2012 🙂 Thank you for this post!

    Comment by AcadeMama | January 1, 2012 | Reply

  2. Amen! Preach it sister!

    Comment by Jean Teena | January 2, 2012 | Reply

  3. 🙂 yeah inshallah makes things a bit laid back i guess, but helps us to bring into perspective, atleast the greater things/plans in life!
    Wishing you a lovely year ahead! 🙂

    Comment by onlooker | January 2, 2012 | Reply

  4. haha! ur post made me laugh so hard.. my wetern friends want to kill me when i say “inshallah” they reply “so do u mean ur coming or no???!” lol its confusing to them we both dont understand the others view.. we grew up with it .. its like im asking u to always reply me with “yes” instead of “ok”
    if u know what i mean .. we just got used to the phrase and what it means.. sometimes the tone of voice or what we say after “inshallah” determines or let u know if it means yes or no :p or sometimes maybe :p

    anyways .. im glad ur doing well.. missed ur blog 🙂

    Comment by no3ik | January 2, 2012 | Reply

  5. Its not that we have a choice whether to say inshallah or not, you cannot do a thing without God’s willing. Saying inshallah is like stating the obvious. Can you make an appointment and guarantee that you’ll be there 100%? you can’t. no one can. coz when you make an appointment, what goes through your mind and the mind of the person you’re seeing is “If everything goes as planned we’ll meet at…”. So, making it on time isn’t guaranteed, coz things do happen, unless God’s allow it to happen; unless God wills it to happen. So Insha’Allah or God willing isn’t a Muslims’ thing as much as it is a believers’ thing.. as evident by the verses above 🙂

    I love your posts. If you call this rambling, then your rambling is better than most of the stuff we read online.

    Merry Christmas and Happy Newyear (I know I know) I’ll try not to forget to say them on time next year, Insha’Allah.

    Comment by Yousef | January 2, 2012 | Reply

  6. AcadeMama – You gave me a big grin. I imagine I will continue to grumble, but I am going to try very hard not to grumble about people in my life 🙂 “See the Judge is standing at the door!” I’ve read these verses so many times, but when I read it this time, I thought about that Judge standing by the door and judging me as I judge others – it’s enough to make me shudder in fear!

    LOL, Jean Teena, I’m not preaching as much as sharing my own journey in learning, and humility.

    Happy New Year to you, Onlooker! May your life be illuminated!

    LLOOOLLL, No3ik! It is one of those cross-cultural things, isn’t it? We Westerners want to pin you down. YES or NO???? None of this Insh’allah! And yet . . . there is another saying I love: Man plans and God laughs. 🙂

    LLOOLL, Yousef, my friend. 🙂 When you have a good heart, when you say them is less relevant. I know you mean it when you say it, and that means everything. 🙂 I hope you are doing well, and that you are happy. I’ve always wondered (re an old post) what color you ended up painting your room? And when will you travel next, Insh’allah? 🙂

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 2, 2012 | Reply

  7. Hi intlxpatr. Happy New Year! We just returned from Muscat where we had visited the Mariinsky Ballet’s performance of Swan Lake in the brand new Royal Opera House Muscat. Unforgettable. I had almost forgotten about insha’allah but soon liked it again, such as al hamdulillah and mashallah which were all around us. What a friendly and peaceful people they are!

    Cheers, Fahad

    Comment by Fahad | January 3, 2012 | Reply

  8. InshaAllah is something that I know well … it can be frustrating to hear at times, but somehow it also just fits into ‘life’ in general!

    Comment by PlumPetals | January 3, 2012 | Reply

  9. Ah! Fahad! Muskat! We love Muskat! I remember being there at just around this time of the year and while there is much to love about Oman, I remember loving watching the mountains meet the sea, something I grew up with in Alaska. Never mind that it is dry desert vs glacial timbered forested mountain meeting the sea, it is mountain meeting sea, and it is glorious!

    Mash’allah, I envy my friends who get to live in Muskat! And oh, they have opera and ballet! Mash’allah!

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 3, 2012 | Reply

  10. Plum Petals, It is only frustrating when you expect something to happen at a certain time, people to show up, and to show up when they are expected, and it doesn’t happen. Once you accept that it may not happen, insh’allah is much less frustrating, LOL! What is hilarious is finding how often it happens in our own very time-conscious culture, but we don’t see it. 🙂

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 3, 2012 | Reply

  11. My first reaction to hearing “InshaAllah” translated, Allah permitting (roughly), was that it reminded me of a childhood saying, “Lord willing, and the cricks don’t rise.” Ever after I could InshaAllah with the best of them, very sincerely!

    Comment by Hank | January 7, 2012 | Reply

  12. Hank, me too. Sometimes, living in the heart of the South, I almost find it crossing my lips and have to hold it back. I substitute ‘God willing.’ I treasure my time in the Middle East; through my friends there, I learned to live a more Godly life, and to think in more Godly ways. While some would have loved for me to convert to Islam, that was never a possibility; nevertheless, living with them increased my understanding of the Bible, biblical culture, and supplemented my understanding of how Godly people live.

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 8, 2012 | Reply

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