By Nadeem F. Paracha –
Why almost every sentence uttered by my fellow Pakistanis is punctuated with an Inshallah?
Like most urban middle class folks these days, a friend of mine too has a habit of using the term Inshallah (God willing) a lot. So one day I asked him why is almost every sentence uttered by my fellow Pakistanis punctuated with an Inshallah?
His reply was the usual: “So? What is wrong with using Inshallah?”
“Absolutely nothing,” I said. “In fact I sometimes use it myself. But why do some of us use it constantly? Will things not happen the way we want them to if we don’t use it?”
“Perhaps,” he said.
“Then this means God didn’t will them to happen, right?” I asked.
“But, of course,” my friend replied.
“But maybe we too had something to do with them not happening?” I suggested.
“We can give it our best shot. The final decision is with God,” he said.
“But then what happens to the whole concept of free will?” I asked. “Hasn’t God given us the physical and intellectual faculties to carve out our own destiny?”
“What’s your point?” He asked.
“Doesn’t using Inshallah so often makes it lose its meaning?” I asked.
“Like how?” he inquired.
“For example,” I explained, “A friend of mine ordered some pizza yesterday. When he asked the pizza delivery guy how long it will take for him to deliver the pizza, the guy answered, ‘in forty minutes, Inshallah!”
“Well,” he smiled. “There’s really no harm in it.”
“But why involve God in the simple matter of delivering a pizza, for heaven’s sake!” I laughed.
“So, how did your friend respond?” he asked.
“He was pretty peeved. So he responded by shouting Jazzak Allah!” I laughed.
“That’s nice of him,” he said.
“Really?” I said with a sideways smile. “There is an Urdu word for thank you as well. It’s called, ‘shukria’. If you remember, the national language is still Urdu and not Arabic!”
“Listen,” he responded, “If someone wants to say Jazzak Allah instead of thank you, what’s the big deal?”
“True,” I said. “Just like there’s no big deal if somebody wants to say thank you instead of shukria, or shukria instead of Jazzak Allah.”
My friend shook his head: “What’s with you and your dislike of Arabic?”
“I never said that, did I?” I protested. “All I am saying is that most Pakistanis are forgetting that Urdu, Sindhi, Punjabi, Sariki, Balochi and Pushtu are our languages and not Arabic! What’s this new fetish with folks trying to make us all spout Arabic words? How does this make us better Muslims?”
“But you do not have a problem with using English words!” He retorted.
“Dude, I’m not sending emails and a barrage of SMS text messages asking people to become secular by using English words!” I replied.
“What do you mean?” He asked.
“Oh, come on, you know what I mean,” I said. “People sending text messages and emails telling Muslims to become better Muslims by saying ‘Allah Hafiz’ instead of ‘Khuda Hafiz;’ ‘Jazzak Allah’ instead of ‘thank you;’ ‘salat’ instead of ‘namaz.’. What’s more, what is this other new idea of shouting Alhamdulillah instead of answering with a simple ‘yes’ or a ‘haan?”
“Chalo jee, now you have a problem with that too,” my friend chuckled.
“Of course, I do,” I said. “Sometimes I feel one can now hear more Urdu on the streets of Dubai than in the drawing-rooms of Pakistan!”
“Stop exaggerating!” He protested.
“No, really,” I explained, “How has using Arabic words made our society any better? Also, now more Pakistanis go to the mosque than before, how has that made things any better?”
“This is an old argument of yours,” my friend said, in a shrugging tone. “So what should one do? Stop going to the mosque?
“No,” I said. “But you must admit it is a valid argument.”
“Fine, but that is because we are still not following true Islam!” he explained.
“Oh?” I replied. “And who decides what true Islam is?”
“God will decide!” He announced, rhetorically.
“Doesn’t seem that way in this country, though,” I said. “It seems every other middle-class person, young or old, has become an expert religious adviser. They sound as if they are saying something profound but in reality they are only spouting clichéd traditionalist tirades that they hear from televangelists or what they read on various Internet websites!”
“You’re being judgmental,” my friend claimed.
“Judgmental?” I retorted. “Dude, have you ever heard your born-again Jazzak Allah brigade? Forget infidels, they do not hesitate in calling some of their fellow Muslims atheists and kafir as well.”
“I know,” my friend replied. “They are misled.”
“So this means only misled people say Inshallah, Jazzak Allah and Alhamdullilah?” I smiled.
“Don’t twist my words,” he protested.
“I won’t, but only if this pseudo-Arabic brigade stops asking Pakistanis to twist their tongues in pursuit of bagging God’s approval. It’s downright bizarre hearing some perfectly sane Pakistanis talking as if they’re from Yemen!” I said, exasperated.
“Well, using ‘dude’ and ‘mate’ is as weird,” he said.
“Sure,” I smiled. “But I promise you, mate, there’s no divine approval attached to it.”
The writer is a art critic based in Karachi. He tweets @NadeemfParacha