Thursday, December 20, 2012

It's Doha Time!

 
Where an 8:00p appointment could mean 9:00p, 9:30p, tomorrow…or never. Where an hour-long class begins 30 minutes late, breaks for prayer (15 minutes), and Teacher takes a phone call at her desk for another 10. Where restaurants are out of cheese until…well, whenever more arrives - and important life decisions (like taking a job in a faraway foreign nation) are determined with a week's notice.
 
Time: it's such an arbitrary term.
 
In his book, Don't they know it's Friday?, Jeremy Williams writes:
 
For the Muslim, God alone controls the future (and now) and therefore any attempt to lay down what shall happen, such as agreeing a date or time for a meeting, is presumptuous and for the very religious borders on the improper.  For Muslims timekeeping is not under human control at all; God will decide what shall happen, not humans - and certainly not non-Muslims...
 
There's a word for this: Inshaa Allah.
 
Literally, Inshaa Allah means "if God wills." Figuratively it means, "Yes (unless something more important comes up)."  It's used when scheduling business meetings, doctor appointments, class schedules, lunch dates - and sometimes to say no.
 
How can you tell the difference between a "yes, of course I'll be there" Inshaa Allah and a "not going to happen" Inshaa Allah?  (According to my Qatari conversation teacher), consider the tone of voice in the following use of the phrase:
 
Your teenager wants a car for Christmas. No way that's happening, and he knows it.  You smile, raise an eyebrow and respond, Inshaa Allah.

Yeah, like that.

The up side to the no-clockwatching-lifestyle is that Qataris (at least those I've met) never seem to be in a hurry.  No handshake-on-the-run from the businessman who both greets and pushes you away at the same time.  No harried "yeah-yeah-yeah" from the soccer mom as she rushes the conversation to get to the next activity.

No clockwatching translates to focused attention. This is pretty nice if you're the activity of the moment.
 
Kind of a bummer if you're the next patient in the ER.
 
Of course none of this applies to driving - where everyone, Qataris included, is in a hurry. But that's another blog for another time…when I'm not so busy.
 
Inshaa Allah.
 
Not me windsurfing at Zekrit
Post a Comment