Friday, June 20, 2008

"Brick Lane" and Inshallah

As we read, the alternatives of fatalism and free will as guides to life are central to Monica Ali's Brick Lane. Nazneen's mother refuses to intervene as her daughter hangs between life and stillbirth and prevents her husband from taking the child to the hospital; announcing instead that Fate will decide Nazneen's life. The mother eventually commits suicide while Nazneed rejects Fatalism and choses her future course -- life in England.

An article today in the New York Times looks at Fate and Islam in Egypt, through a study of the growing ubiquity of the phrase "God Willing":

Inshallah,” or “God willing,” the counterman said as he walked off to see about a burger without onions at the McDonald’s on the Alexandria Desert Road, 30 miles from the center of Cairo.

Egyptians have always been religious, from Pharaonic times to the present. Any guidebook to Egypt alerts tourists to Egyptians’ frequent use of inshallah in discussing future events, a signal of their deep faith and belief that all events occur, or don’t occur, at God’s will. “See you tomorrow,” is almost always followed by a smile and, “inshallah.”
But there has been inshallah creep, to the extreme. It is now attached to the answer for any question, past, present and future. What’s your name, for example, might be answered, “Muhammad, inshallah.”

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