Where There's a Will-
scene is a cafe in Tangiers. Tomorrow is Saturday. I've just invited a Moroccan
friend to a picnic at the beach. Will he come? "Perhaps," he says in
English, translating from the Arabic "Inshallah,"
which literally means "If God is willing." I'm feeling hurt. What does
he mean, "Perhaps"? Either he wants to come or he doesn't. It's up to
him. If he doesn't want to come, he only has to say so. He doesn't understand
why I seem upset, and I don't quite grasp "Perhaps." Our two cultures
confront each other across the teacups.
Only several years later, reading a book about culture, did I understand. He would come, he meant, if Allah willed it. His wanting to come and his being permitted to come were not one and the same. In Morocco, unlike in America, where there's a will there is not necessarily a way.
So who was I to demand an answer to my questions? And who was he to give one?