Insha’ Allah: if Allah wills
Instead of being annoyed at, what seems to me, people not doing their jobs this phrase is employed. When an item is out of stock in the store this expression justifies the item not returning to the shelf for another month or more. It was used when my children’s visas weren’t processed. The store is closed for prayers and is supposed to open in 5 minutes but this statement justifies the opening time being delayed 15, 30, or even 60 minutes.
When things don’t work out here, everyone just sits back and utters, “Insha’ Allah.” To me it has become an excuse for inaction which goes against my mindset of “make it happen”, you know, do what it takes to make things work. Being a woman of faith myself, I can accept a philosophy of “It’s in God’s hands” but such an attitude juxtaposes personal effort to work seriously towards the goal. Only after I've exhausted all my own ideas is it acceptable to acknowledge an alternate plan. Here, however, it seems to me that if something doesn’t happen right away, everyone just nods and utters “Insha’Allah, accepting the fate. Sometimes it feels to me like a fatalistic approach to life resulting in a lack of motivation to take action.
I began to think that if I heard the utterance “insha’ Allah” one more time I’d explode. “Your order will be ready on Saturday, insha’ Allah.” “Your visa will be ready in 2-3 days, insha’ Allah.” “Insha’ Allah, the store will open at 10:00.” “Insha' Allah, your food will come out in 15 minutes.” “So we have an appointment at 7:30, insha’ Allah.”
In the classroom, looking at the review sheet for one of our chapter tests sitting in front of each student it is clear to me that most of the students haven’t completed it.
“Did you not do the review packet?”
“Insha’ Allah, Dr. Markham.” My blood threatens to boil.
“What do you mean?” Of course I’m not really sure if I want to walk down this path.
“Insha’ Allah. If Allah wants us to do well on the test, we’ll do well on the test.” An explosion is hanging in the air.
The words are on the tip of my tongue, “I guess you won't do well on the test because you weren't inspired to do the review packet.” But I do not utter them. I also want to remind them that they will need to be pushing the pencil when they sit to write the exam and no one else can do it for them, however I do not. This expression, 'Insha' Allah', while part of the culture may mean "hopefully" is also linked to the religion that many of these students adhere to and in that case it is linked to deity. Thus, I do not wish to offend and must find away to work with the situation as is.
I’ve been pondering how to handle it. How can culture remain in-tact while building motivation to work?
Midterm exams. This time I have prepared an in-class review with questions in a Power Point format for the students to respond to and initiate discussion with. Empowered with white boards and note taking paper the students begin to reply to the queries appearing before them.
“Will you give us a copy of this Power Point?” If the answer is affirmative then all note-taking will cease so, of course, my retort is “no.” And I follow up with, “All of these questions are directly related to the exam, if you want to do well you must take notes and make sure you understand each point we discuss today in class.”
A student queries, “If we know everything from this review will be do well on the exam?
“Insha’ Allah” I reply. To my surprise, the entire class erupts in cheers.
“Here’s the deal,” I continue, “There are two ways to phrase this. Either ‘Insha’ Allah I’ll do my best and do well on the test’ or….” Students are silent, almost holding their breath, as they await my upcoming thought.
“Or….I’ll do my best and insha’ Allah I’ll do well on the test.” Another giant eruption of cheers accompanied by the outburst, “Oooh” follows. It’s as though I've performed some tricky move in a sports event upsetting the opponent.
With a magnificent smile a student confirms, “We get it Dr. Markham. We get it. We have to do the work.”
Just the simple implementation of my own personal syntax has eliminated my individual frustration with what I perceive as an excessive use of “Insha ‘Allah.” It is my motto to appreciate and embrace the culture in which I live. And, by employing the use of “Insh’Allah” in my classroom rather than shunning it as I was initially inclined to do, my students and I have each taken one step closer to each other.
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