If you know Muslims, you’ve probably heard them say “Insha’Allah” at some point.

I thought it sounded interesting and I knew it meant something like “If God wants it”, but I didn’t really understand why they’d say it (and why they’d say it so frequently, sometimes).

I frequently heard it being used at the end of a sentence, say: “My family has been healthy throughout the lockdown, let’s hope it stays this way, Insha’Allah” or “I did my best and finished my article. Let’s hope people will read it, Insha’Allah”.

My first knee-jerk reaction was: Is it really necessary to bring your religion into this? And why do you have to praise your God so often?
But after looking into it and trying to understand what this phrase could mean, I changed my mind. I actually love the meaning, the deeper meaning (and if I was a Muslim I’d probably start saying it too).

According to Wikipedia, “Insha’Allah” can be translated as “if God wills”. It refers to “events that one hopes will happen in the future. It expresses the belief that nothing happens unless God wills it and that his will supersedes all human will.”

That definition alone still sounds somewhat cryptic and dogmatic. Yeah we get it God is strong and he’s the boss.

But here’s why I think this idea can be helpful, even to people who aren’t religious at all: “If God wills” also implies: We all have hopes for the future, we want things to turn out well for us. But ultimately we don’t know what’ll happen, and we’ll never be in full control of the future.
And we should come to terms with that.

I know it’s a hard pill to swallow, especially for neurotic Type A personalities. But I firmly believe this to be true: We will never be able to really tell what’ll happen. The future will always remain a black box, to some extent.
We can never fully understand the world with all its millions of actors and factors and hypercomplex interdependencies.

We tend to overemphasize our importance and the extent to which we can control things in our hyper-individualistic culture – but ultimately, most things are out of our control, and we’re like a little ant in the grand scheme of things.
Internalizing “Insha’Allah” can teach us humility and prepare us mentally if things go south unexpectedly.

I know, I know. We want life to be certain and predictable. We want to know for sure that if we do x and y, we’ll get outcome z. And that works in video games (which is a big reason for their huge popularity): If you kill 10 monsters, you’ll have enough XP to level up and enough gold to buy that new Sword.
But the world isn’t as easy and predictable as that, unfortunately.
You can’t eliminate uncertainty.
A comet might fall onto our heads in a second, for all we know.

I get that you might be annoyed by the “God” part. If you don’t believe in God, you can replace God with randomness.
If you attribute the uncertainty about the future to a God or to pure randomness doesn’t make much of a difference.
The lesson remains the same: A big part of our life’s outcomes are inexplicable to us and we can’t change them. There’s a good reason that the concepts of fate and prophecies have been so popular in the stories we enjoy.

There’s an important difference, however, between the “God wants it this way” and the “it’s all random” view:
Believing a God chooses whatever happens to us implies that it’s not totally random, it implies some underlying logic and fairness. Believing in cosmic justice gives us certainty and motivates us to behave in a “good” manner, whatever that may be for your religion.

The Buddhists call it Karma. The Christians call undesired behavior sinning and Muslims call it “haram”, and if you do too much of the bad stuff, you’ll end up in hell in afterlife (and in Buddhism you’ll be reborn as a cockroach or something like that). And if terrible things happen to you, there must be a reason (probably too much sinning. But ultimately God has a plan for you).

I digress – I think the idea of “Insha’Allah” is a valuable mental framework if you obsess over future events, if you want things to go a certain way (which we probably all do to some extent). Sure, it’s totally normal that you want that exam to go well and that you want that doctor to say it’s all ok. But ultimately, you don’t know, this isn’t something you can control. Endlessly ruminating won’t help.

If you’ve ever had something bad happen to you, you’ll realize how quickly your life can descend into chaos and everything we thought was good and stable can crumble in front of our eyes. We probably have to repress that knowledge to function in our everyday lives.

And yes, it certainly feels better if God gives me cancer (and later lets me chill in Heaven because that was kind of a dick move), versus the scenario where there’s no God in the picture and that one time I forgot the sunscreen in 1999 gave me skin cancer. So I’ll leave it up to you if you believe “God wanted that” or “yeah it’s all totally random and none of this is fair”. I reckon you gotta be pretty strong mentally to stick to the latter version.

Just don’t hate yourself because you forgot that sunscreen in 1999, or whatever mistake you regret. I know I’ve made that mistake and tormented myself. Trust that you always did your best with the information you had and the circumstances at that time. You couldn’t have acted differently, else you would have.

So maybe next time you think about some future event that makes you anxious, remember to add “Insha’Allah” or “we’ll see” at the end of your rumination session because eventually, it might all turn out different.
And sometimes different means better than you had hoped for, and sometimes it’s worse.

Short plug: If you want to hear more (personal) thoughts on this topic as well as extra segments and ASMR recommendations, you can check out my Patreon-only ASMR Bedtime Show.

😴 What might help you find calm

Intentional ASMR Picks:

  • Made in France always has the best props and videography in my opinion. Even though this the setting of this recent video wasn’t very relaxing to me (a doctor prepares a vaccine), I enjoyed it!
  • Latte’s made a false eyelash shop roleplay: highly recommended as well!
  • Here’s Turkish Barber Münür Önkan on PithoTV with an excellent intense massage of basically every part of the upper body
  • Finally, I’ve made a 5 part VLOG of our Roadtrip in Switzerland (which the picture above is taken from). My favorite is our VW Bus cooking session and my relaxing moments compilation

💎 Hidden Gem:
I enjoyed this whispered Origami session on ASMRsense – recommended!

Unintentional ASMR Picks:

  • I love Star Citizen demos videos like this one (and the voice-over is super relaxing), even though the game will probably never be finished
  • I usually don’t watch these, but honestly this 1 hour makeup tutorial by  Ariel on PatrickStarrr was quite relaxing
  • With all the crypto talk, here’s a good (and pleasantly narrated) video explaining Bitcoin on the great channel 3Blue1Brown
  • Finally, the (probably) most relaxing microscope product presentation and setup guide (the second part with smooth music is my favorite)