Inshallah, God’s hands and South Park

The International Herald Tribune had an article today about the Arabic word “Inshallah” which is being used in Egypt like hookers in Vegas and I thought I’d say a word about it. Or a few words. First, click HERE for the article (thanks to my old friend Courtney for bringing this to my attention).

Effectively, Inshallah means “god willing” and the idea behind using it, of course, is that everything happens because God wills it. Egyptians are using this word for everything, it seems. It is the ubiquitous answer that applies to everything because everything, as life would have it, is in God’s hands. Fine for religious people, but I must say, this is not just going on in Egypt. Israelis have their own phrase for this: baruch hashem. It means, “God bless” but is used for everything in the same way that Inshallah is.

How are you?

Baruch Hashem.

Really, you’re God bless. Will we get there by 3 p.m.?

Baruch Hashem.

See, it’s as good as Inshallah, and I’ll tell you what, it used to annoy the shit out of me. Baruch hashem is not an answer to how you’re doing. It’s also not an answer to when we’re going to be there. And neither is Inshallah. I appreciate that you think everything is in God’s hands but you’re basically making speech worthless if you can’t provide a real answer. We should all walk around saying nothing but “Inshallah! Baruch Hashem!” if this is all everything is. We should lie down in the middle of the roads and say, “we won’t get hit, Inshallah,” or “that car is about to cruch my ribs, baruch hashem.” This is a silly approach to life. I appreciate that it emphasizes your piety and faith in God but it also breaks down working elements of society once it’s taken too far.

This is a point that South Park has not failed to make over the years, constantly insisting that we pay attention to the words we’re using. This is best conveyed in episode 502, “It Hits the Fan” when people are cursing too much and it releases evil forces, but also in the way the show treats our use of the words God and Jesus as common elements of our everyday lexicon. Think particularly of the episodes in the future with “Science H. Logic!” and “Science be praised!” I’ve made these points before, but in light of this article I think they’re worth throwing out again.

Inshallah we all start to pay attention to our language and recognize what its repititions and excessive use does to it and us. There’s nothing wrong with conveying the way you think the universe works, Inshallah, in your daily speech but if I constantly said, “Logic, determiner of all,” after every sentence you would get a little annoyed. I think that should be taken to account the next time an Egyptian says “Inshallah” or an Israeli says “Baruch Hashem.” Unfortunately it won’t be, but there it is.


5 Responses

  1. My mother has an equally annoying mantra that is currently driving me up the wall: “It’s all going to work out in the end!” (This said in a sing-song tone.) I, too, have attempted to explain the idiocy of this idea to her, as in: yes, eventually one day I will die and I will no longer have these problems, though my words continue to fall on deaf ears…

  2. Ditto your blog for people who say “goddamnit” to everything.

    (But “It’s all going to work out in the end!”, Inshallah)

  3. So true about the Egyptians – it would make me a bit crazy when I worked with them, though not quite because of the religious connotations. I just assumed they didn’t know the answer or didn’t feel like sharing; regardless, it felt like deliberate obfuscation and that’s annoying.

    On the other hand, a more laid-back attitude is probably warranted in the desert…

  4. Let’s not conflate “Israeli” with religious Jews. Baruch Hashem is something many Jews of the Diaspora say and many secular Israelis do not say.

    Nothing wrong with a little faith in the PERSONAL lexicon. Believing that things are “basherit” is a comfort.

  5. I’ll take this one step further. And it’s not isolated to Egyptians, Jews, or other brown middle easterners (my geography and ignorance is amazing I know) Blessings, mantra’s, prayers like this, in my mind, don’t show piety but rather a lack of responsibility.
    It’s similar to the fashion of, I believe so much and trust in the divine to guide me, but it’s abused to the point where it’s a safeguard from taking action and accepting shit happens to you. Sometimes you have control over your actions, and can prevent the inevitable being shat on, sometimes there’s a hint of no-matter-what-you-do-the-brown-rain-will-come-down-upon -you. However, if you find yourself in a situation where indeed shit is flying at you, it may be wise to find some cover. Personally if I was a deity on High exuding diaretic crap upon my subjects, I’d laugh at those throwing there hands in the air saying it’s my will, and admire those who got under an umbrella and said, “Today, fuck you, My hand is sheltering me from your shit storm.” They could thank me some other time.

    Keeping my hands at the ready.

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