In Arabic, all statements about the future are tempered by adding the phrase inshallah, meaning “God willing”. This comes from the Muslim precept that only God knows and determines the future; and therefore, it is a sign of arrogance and blasphemy to speak of the future without conditioning it on God’s will. Examples would include: I will see you later, inshallah; tomorrow I have an exam, inshallah; or I am going to Florida for Christmas, inshallah. Furthermore, its use is widely accepted by all Arabic speakers regardless of their religion (Islam, Christianity or Judaism). Even Spanish, heavily influenced by Arabic, adopted its own version of the expression — ojalá— to denote when one hopes for something to occur, i.e., ojalá que llueva café.
I wasn’t sure whether we had something similar in English until this morning when I heard Sarah Palin’s recent CNN interview. When asked what her role would be as vice president, Sarah Palin responded,
Well, we’ve talked a lot about that, John McCain and I have, about the missions that I’ll get to embark on if we are so blessed to be hired by the American people to work for them.
The “if we are so blessed” expression in American English is most commonly used by fundamentalist Christians to show that same degree of humbleness before God as does the Arabic inshallah. While I won’t doubt Sarah Palin’s sincerity, I can only imagine that by saying “if we are so blessed” she was also giving a wink out to her Christian voters.
Here’s what I would have liked to ask Sarah Palin in response. If ultimately you are not “so blessed”, but rather the will of God and that of a majority of American voters determine Barack Obama to be the next president, does that mean that Obama and Biden “are so blessed”? Could an Obama presidency be God’s will? And if so, wouldn’t you then have to accept God’s will and give Obama your full support?