Understanding The Islamic Concept Inshallah Through Psychogeography by Tini Ngatini

Image by Morag Rose.

Travel has always been illuminating for me—every place I visit presents me with experiences that shed light on things I was previously unable to fully understand. That this is so, is only natural to Mrs. Trang, an urban planner from a university in Hanoi. She introduces me to Psychogeography. Psychogeography is an urban planning concept which suggests that our geographical surroundings have a psychological impact on our emotions and, hence, our behaviors. According to Mrs. Trang, when designing a city, urban planners must first know the kind of feeling(s) they wish the inhabitants to experience. Only then will the urban planner be able to determine such things as building design to the kinds of trees and flowers to be planted. All of these elements, she says, will allow a city to emanate certain vibes—“Every city has its own personality.” These vibes are designed to affect the way people think and act. Therefore, it should be no surprise if people are to some extent different whenever they change their geographical locations.

Internationale Situationniste “Naked City” by Guy DeBord

Psychogeography is also a concept that allows me to better grasp the concept of Inshallah, a religious concept central to my own personal and professional life. The term Inshallah simply means “God willing” or “If God wills.” Muslims ought to say it, instead of “I will,” whenever they agreed or “promise” to do something in the future for another party. Looking at the practice of Inshallah from Arendt’s perspective, it appears as a social transaction of advanced request for forgiveness from the party who makes a promise, and a guaranteed release of forgiveness from the party to whom the promise is made. This social transaction of forgiveness would be important when the first party, for whatever reason, is unable to keep their promise. Such failure produces certain effects such as distrust or contempt which is, to some degree, damaging to the relationship between them. However, within the Muslim community, such negative effects are likely mitigated because forgiveness (understanding) has been given upfront, i.e. when they say “Insha’Allah” (“If God allows me to do so”).  Accordingly, the practice Inshallah offers a remedy for the damage that is not even there yet.

The practice of Inshallah does offer an insight into the irreversible and unpredictable nature of human action and its redemption, as Hannah Arendt mentioned in The Human Condition. Once a certain deed is performed, the consequences exceed time and space and are unforeseeable and impossible to undo. If the consequence is negative, it prevents the related parties, especially the wrongdoers, from moving on with their lives.  The way to free them from such an imprisonment, Arendt says, is through forgiveness. That way, the wrongdoer may release the guilt and the offended party is free from grudges. Then they will be able to interact with each other again, or at least, moving on with their lives. Finally, I should also like to say that to merely use the term Inshallah without genuine efforts to meet the promises is an irresponsible act that would also be damaging to social relationships.

One of the effects of the change in location that has always troubled me was that people are more likely to fail to meet their promises. Having many encounters of just such an experience, I lost my ability to trust people and their promises.  But, after four years of psychological, religious and physical homelessness, I think the Psychgeography concept has just dissolved the grudge I have for people and promises. It helps me to see that there are many factors at play in the failure in meeting promises including pyschogeography. Thus, releasing my resentments and people I despised become a natural and personal process which does not need the presence of remorse, nor request from the offender, and, that is I think what Derrida meant by giving yourself the gift of forgiveness. Finally, pyschogeography has shown me the intelligibility of Inshallah, which is helpful in better understanding the dilemmatic religion vs. science relationship.

 

 

 

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Braving the Days: Political Ethics and the Desire to Heal by Jordannah Elizabeth

Black-and-White-Seascapes-14

Photo credit: Matej Michalik

“Our culture can starve and condemn one another in relationships.”

(Feminism and Intimacy)

How far do I go with judgement? How far do I go to use my best judgement? What does a “best judgement” look and feel like? How does it translate in relationships and my interaction with my external circumstances?

To be honest, I am learning judgment doesn’t have a place in my feminism or reality.  In my quest to heal emotional wounds I’ve obtained from past relationships with cis men, yet continuing to agree to interact with them in friendships and intimate partnerships, I found myself faced with an existential dilemma: making a choice between my ability to maintain relationship with imperfect people which of whom I care for, and maintaining my diligence as a feminist. I hadn’t had to make these choices until recently because I am not sure if my awareness and education was where it is today, but even more so, I believe I have protected myself from relationships that challenged me and my political comfortability.

Abstinence is a way to protect the comfortability of feminism, particularly reproductive health in one’s personal life. As soon as intimacy is brought into the mix, a female identified being with a womb has many more choices to make. This can also be said for  non-sexual close relationships with cis Western men. To look into a man’s thoughts and life, to be brought in, there is also a responsible to protect them and ensure safety. This is outside of the guise of patriarchy, a woman taking responsibility to acknowledge the trauma of men while balancing a radical feminist outlook.

To be impatient with a man’s unpacking and deconstructing of their own sexist behaviors and colonizing after agreeing to enter a  relationship is unproductive and can quickly become wounding, not to their ego, but to their hearts.

I’m learning.

I’m learning that I should not agree to a social contract with men if I am not willing to balance my feminist ethics with the compassion of a human being I chose to bond with.  Me, choosing grew into my work towards balancing my feminist politics and beliefs with my relationships with cis men.

I was asked to do a workshop some months ago about forgiveness after surviving sexual assault, and I deeply feared backlash from other feminists, feeling that I have become overly sympathetic to patriarchal patterns in intimate and close relationships. But I have to learn that I cannot live completely guarded behind my strict beliefs. It’s okay to open to people who I care for, even if they are imperfect, even if they are men, even if they make mistakes. I don’t believe this makes me a bad feminist, I believe it makes me a human being who is attempting to be well-rounded, compassionate, flexible and able to bring healing to relationships.

How can I ask a man to be my ally when I condemn him? He would certainly be justified in finding cracks in the feminist system of thought if I did not afford an ally the ability to learn and grow.