Wednesday, August 15, 2012

God Willing, Part 2

Yasmina returned from vacation and joined last week's conversation in which Grace & Tziporah discussed the topic of God's will. We invite you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Grace, you are absolutely right. The concept of God’s will is one of the central beliefs in Islam, and Tziporah’s explanation of this concept in Judaism describes what it means and entails in Islam, as well. This belief applies to past and future events, and we use the phrases “In Sha Allah” and “Ma Sha Allah” to express it. Believing in God’s will is actually one of the first concepts children learn as they hear their parents respond to their demands: When children ask about going to the park in the afternoon and parents respond, “In Sha Allah,” they wonder if the answer is a "yes" or a "no." Soon they realize that it’s a "yes, unless something happens to interfere with our plans."

The words “Ma Sha Allah” are used when referring to events that have already occurred and when expressing admiration—for someone’s children or home—to ward off the evil eye.  More importantly, they are a verbal expression of the heart’s eye that fully accepts and submits.  For example, Muslims will say “Ma Sha Allah” when misfortune befalls them, accepting what God has decreed for them. This verse illustrates the point that we must equally accept the good and the bad: “And if God should touch you with adversity, there is no remover of it except Him; and if He intends for you good, then there is no one who repels His bounty. He causes it to reach whom He will of His servants. And He is the Forgiving, the Merciful.” (Yunus, 10:107)

As to the matter of justifying one’s actions by stating that they are God’s will, this demonstrates ignorance or twisted motives. When catastrophes such as the recent shootings occur, the one thing to remember is that although God has allowed the perpetrators to act, this in no way means that He has blessed their deeds. Understanding and accepting the tragedy that befalls us may be a test of our patience and trust in God’s wisdom, but this is a topic for yet another conversation.


  1. As always, I am struck by the similarities we share with our cousins. And pray, b'ezrat HaShem, that we can one day live together as family in peace.

  2. At some point I'd love to read your meditations on human forgiveness: in whose power does it lie, can it be conditional and if so, when, and what are the consequences? It seems to me that much war, especially when anyone ties it to religion or abuses God by tying it to Him is making a statement about their own inadequacy and inability to forgive. Is this a culturally masculine trait, this willingness to take life rather than to pray, be angry even, but to refrain from meting out death?

    What is your take, dear women?

    1. You have anticipated our next post! Grace is working on a piece about forgiveness, and we hope it will go live the week of Sept. 24th.

      We are being "forgiving" toward ourselves, only posting every other week for now. The weekly pace was beginning to be a source of stress, as we are all working and busy. But we truly love this course of study and are grateful to hear from you and other readers.

      Meanwhile, I would venture to say that people who justify abuses, violence, war and intolerance in God's name are hijacking religion to serve their own agenda. Every major religion/faith tradition in the world includes the "Golden Rule" in some format. If adherents to these religions were truly faithful, and living according to God's rules, our world would look different from its current state. Unfortunately, some people insist that everyone else has to be wrong in order for them to be right. I don't believe this is a masculine trait. I think it's a flaw in human nature. That's just my take, though. We'll see what Grace & Yasmina cook up in the next 2 weeks.

      Blessings of peace for the Jewish New Year (5773), Tziporah