a folk tale adapted
Radwan the old farmer scowled at the sky of the early morning. It looked like a beautiful day was ahead, with sunshine and a few puffy clouds in the forecast. Radwan scowled because he was thinking and he needed to be serious and in charge of his thoughts and the day. With this weather, he could do lots of different work projects around the farm, or he could go into town and see about buying that new plow horse he had been saving to purchase. Probably he ought to go today to town, and maybe he could get some work done in the late afternoon using the new plow horse to help him.
"Subhanallah, what a beautiful day," said his son, as he stepped out from the house behind him with his water pail. He walked to their well with a smile on his face as he felt the blessing of having a bright sunny day ahead. "Inshallah I will be able to wash the blankets and get them well dry before sunset with such a day."
"Well I'm going to town to buy the new horse. You know your chores. Keep yourself busy," said Radwan shortly.
"Of course, Father. But please say 'Inshallah' about buying the horse, to ask Allah for help to get a good one," said his son.
"Don't bother me with nonsense. I've got my money. I know how to judge a horse and I know how to bargain. I'll be home before asr prayer and use the horse to pull the wagon and get that pile of wood up from where we stacked it last year. It should be cured enough to burn well by now."
So Radwan the old farmer set off down the road that led to town. The road was long and winding though the hills, and an hour later, about halfway to town, an armed robber jumped out from behind the rocks and bushes beside the road. At gunpoint he demanded all of Radwan's money and he made a quick escape on horseback.
In a daze of confusion and anger, Radwan continued down to town to file a complaint with the sheriff. It did no good to him to hear he was the 4th person to be robbed that week and that the sheriff was working hard to search for the robber. Radwan took the attack as a personal attack, on his ability to control his world. He was mad!
It was long after asr prayer when Radwan finally arrived home. He met his son in the yard, taking down the clean sweet smelling blankets that had been hanging in the sun to dry all day. At least Allah had helped his son with HIS project today! Was that why people bothered with that 'inshallah' stuff?
"Father, I worried about you coming so late. What happened? Where is the new horse?"
Radwan the old farmer sighed in angry resignation. "I was robbed of all my money on my way down to town, inshallah!"
"Do not say about anything: "I am doing that tomorrow" unless [you add] 'inshallah!'" (Surah 18, verse 23)
"Prayers of all of you are granted provided you do not get impatient and start grumbling that, "I prayed to my Lord but He did not grant me." (Bukhari and Muslim)
This story helps teach the importance of saying 'inshallah' whenever we begin anything. The dua (prayer) actually means 'God willing' or 'if God wills it'. Notice how when Radwan finally gives in and uses it he uses it incorrectly. We can discuss that with children when we read them the story. People who are new to the use can make errors.
I remember fondly a message on my answering machine, "This is Sandy inshallah .... I hope you are doing well..." As she paused at the wrong place to think out her message, she ended up saying "God willing this is Sandy."
It is sad that some Muslims use 'inshallah' very improperly. When I lived in Kuwait years ago, the expatriate English speaking community, which consisted of British and Americans, used to joke that the word meant something wouldn't happen. Too often they would be promised, "Inshallah I will deliver that to you on Tuesday" or some similar statement. Muslims would say things like that with no intention of following through. It was like, "If Allah wants it to happen, it will, but I will make no effort for it." (I don't mean to imply that those misusing the dua were all Kuwaiti. There were many different nationalities of Muslims working in Kuwait then and the bad habit could not be attributed to one ethnic group.)
I can say, "Inshallah it will rain" and that means I'm asking Allah for rain and I want rain. But if I tell my child, "Inshallah I will take you to the park this afternoon", I must do my best to make it happen and I'm asking Allah to help me in my efforts. Perhaps it was too many parents who promised and didn't fulfill their promises that made so many people in Kuwait use the dua so carelessly.
"Anyone who calls a child saying that he would give him a certain thing and did not give it, then it's a lie." (Ahmed)
Sometimes when people who aren't Muslim are around I'll use the English translation. A number of people have responded very positively when I do that. Depending on your circumstances you might want to teach your children that as well.