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Changes in Transition Period

Reader comment on item: A Neo-Conservative's Caution

Submitted by Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim (United States), Mar 9, 2005 at 02:20

Changes in Transition Period
The Arabic word Inshallah literally "if God let be" has been a very popular word in all Islamic cultures, whether Arabic or not, since the emergence of Islam. It has even gained an international status and is known almost everywhere alongside popular words like computer, although sometimes with a smile of irony. This expression is a contraction of three Arabic words. The constituent elements are:

In: meaning if
Shaa'a: meaning be, let happen
Allah: meaning God

Inshallah belongs to the many words which are religious in their origin and coined with the help of the word Allah since God is omnipresent in human life and of course particularly in Islam. A lot of Koran verses end with Allah. This overuse of Allah or God is foreign to modern Western culture but still persistent in Islam.

The original principle of Inshallah is that nothing can be guaranteed. It is important to keep in mind that reliability tends to be measured in "the number of 9s" – in other words 99.9 percent because nothing is 100 percent reliable. This lies in the nature of life in general and human nature in particular. Who can then guarantee anything 100 percent? There is always a scenario where something can get lost, change or stop to exist altogether. You can of course try to increase the degree of reliability and reduce the likelihood of failure. This will probably add another 9 to the reliability rating but cannot make it 100 percent bullet proof. There is always force majeure or Act of God. Thus it shows human vulnerability and submission to God.

However, the idea of Inshallah has also undergone some linguistic changes. In modern life it does not refer any more to the degree of likelihood. It has become a very convenient way of avoiding commitment or even refusal when Muslims are embarrassed to give a clear "no" answer. Thus, the idea of reliability is removed completely or even the opposite is meant. Inshallah used this way is a nuisance, unsatisfactory and devoid of meaning. In a way it reflects the Muslim mind in general: never commit yourself to anything. Always leave a door open for recluse. It can also be compared with some nonsense words in German such as Malzeit literally "time to eat" as a form of greeting beginning from 11 O'clock to 3 O'clock pm. This conflicts greatly with West European and North American cultures which expect a 100 percent reliability from nearly everything even from the unreliable technology. The nuisance of Inshallah becomes intolerable in business transactions or when concluding contracts where no escape from commitment or obligations can be accepted. The best way for European and American business people to fight Inshallah mentality is to give the same Inshallah reply when requested by Muslims to commit themselves to anything (the same weapons are the most effective).

The Muslims are not only witnessing major changes in their social, political, religious, economic and other areas, most prominently in technology, but are also confronted with modern concepts like time management and a different understanding of commitments away from the Inshallah mentality because the Act of God is self-explanatory or is implied and does not need to appear on the surface. When Muslims slowly but surely head to a new era of social order i.e. women emancipation and participation, sexual contacts outside wedlock, more respect to animal and human life, more environmental consciousness, modern management practices and new economic systems away from sate monopoly and dependence on oil, new political understanding away from dictators and tyrants and nationalist ideas of a glorious Muslim or Arab past, embark on a new role of Islam away from Jihad, Mullah systems, black and white statements and losing precious time on nonsense introductions like "In the name of God the merciful the benevolent, peace and prayers be on the great prophet" before answering any questions which have no relevance to what they say. The Inshallah mentality will be history then. Arabic or Muslim language will experience big changes and these changes trigger a different way of thinking since though is dependent on language.

Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim
Bremen - Germany

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