Thursday, July 14, 2011

Don't make promises you can't keep


A gift for every guest.
American celebrity Samuel Ward McAllister reputedly said the following:
“A dinner invitation, once accepted, is a sacred obligation. If you die before the dinner takes place, your executor must attend.”

The Arabic term InsyaAllah which means “God willing” or “If is God’s will” essentially conveys the same message.

Muslims are taught to add InsyaAllah to the end of a declaration of intent. For example, a friend invites you to his son’s wedding party and you graciously accept the invitation: “Thank you very much for inviting me to your son's wedding. I will be there, InsyaAllah (God willing)”.

The phrase InsyaAllah reminds Muslims that they are not privy to God’s plan and they cannot say with any certainty where they will be at a particular point in time. Sickness, death -- whether that of a family member or their own -- and other compelling situations could prevent them from fulfilling all their obligations, social or otherwise.

The above argument allows Muslims to break their commitments when circumstances beyond their control force them to go back on their promises to friends and relatives.

Yet many have chosen to interpret InsyaAllah as a means of avoiding duty and have used the term without paying serious attention to its significance. To them, it is a euphemistic way of saying “I don’t really want to attend your son’s wedding but I don’t want to make you feel bad either.” So they say InsyaAllah and don’t turn up. Somehow, that makes them feel better about their ambivalence towards the invitation, not realising that they have degraded the value of InsyaAllah.

What’s behind this talk about obligation? I am searching for the right words to explain my recent predicament. I had said “yes” to a wedding invitation last weekend but changed my mind later and began hatching a plan to evade it.
Love this elegant kebaya wedding cake. 
Blame it on fatigue. The last few months have been hectic social-wise. I had received invitations to several social gatherings back to back. I had no energy for one more evening of flashing tired smiles and making small talk to friends and strangers.

How do I decline it? Since I could not offer a plausible excuse I reluctantly made my way to the wedding reception last Saturday.

Much to my surprise the evening was better than I had imagined. My friend was very happy to see me -- the genuine look of happiness on her face touched my heart. It was well worth the effort.

McAllister’s publicly quoted utterance and the Arabic expression are useful reminders of keeping one's word.

2 comments:

mumsie said...

I've come across so many who used that term so loosely to evade responsibilities at work. It gives the idea that you are not committed, as if it is a 'come what may' attitude towards appointments and deadlines.

Faezah Ismail said...

Sadly, that is true. They have no awareness of standards and the need to be punctual and keep their appointments. It is very annoying when that happens!