Islam Misunderstood: Tawakkaltu Ala-Allah, In God we Trust

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 There are always people, who are are eager to draw conclusions about different situations, they don’t even use their brains to google the meaning, and if they went there, they don’t use the common sense to check out three to five versions. It is sheer ignorance, that some of the most beautiful Arabic phrases like Insha Allah, Allahu Akbar and Alhmadu Lillah are misunderstood.

Here is an abuse of  one such phrase, Tawakkaltu Ala-Allah

Meaning: I Trust in Allah
Explanation:  Tawakkaltu Ala-Allah, I am putting my trust in Allah and depending on Him. Sometimes, this expression and its alternative Tawakkalna Ala-Allah  is said upon concluding a deal or making an agreement. (courtesy Islam fyi).

THE CRASH OF EGYPTAIR: THE STATEMENT; Arabic Speakers Dispute Inquiry’s Interpretation of Pilot’s Words

”I put my trust in God,” the voice repeated on the recorder that was recently recovered from the underwater wreckage of EgyptAir’s fatal Flight 990. The enigmatic prayer uttered in Arabic, ”Tawakilt ala Allah,” has prompted some investigators to suspect that a crew member may have intentionally caused the Boeing 767 jetliner to crash into the Atlantic Ocean near Nantucket on Oct. 31.

Yet Islamic scholars and other Arabic speakers caution that the phrase is so common in the Middle East that it carries no particularly ominous overtones. The Arabic spoken by Egyptians and others, they say, is peppered with prayerful affirmations.

”The mere utterance of this kind of phrase would in no way indicate criminal behavior or criminal intent,” said Ibrahim Hooper, the national communications director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an advocacy group in Washington. Someone bent on destruction, Mr. Hooper said, would have far stronger Arabic phrases to draw upon.

”There’s an information gap when it comes to Islam and Muslims, and this gap is easily filled with ignorance,” Mr. Hooper said. ”If the inference was by a Christian pilot who said, ‘God help me,’ we wouldn’t even have this conversation.”

Prof. Nasser Rabbat, a professor of Islamic architecture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, explained, ”Religious Muslims usually say it even for the slightest of beginnings, such as turning the ignition in a car or putting the key in a keyhole to open a door.”

Such expressions are used often in Egypt today, said Professor Rabbat, who was born in Syria but visits Egypt often.

”God is involved in practically every single decision,” Professor Rabbat said, ”and if a person was religious, he would say this, even if he was entering the cockpit” of the jetliner.

Mahmoud el-Azzazzay, a travel agent in Queens who formerly worked for EgyptAir, called such a prayer commonplace. ”We say it probably 200 or more times a day,” Mr. Azzazzay said. ”This is what God recommended us to do. It means all my future is in God’s hands.”

The debate over the meaning of the phrase, which is transliterated into various English spellings, lies at the heart of Egypt Air’s request that the American investigators step back and let the Egyptians interpret the reference to God themselves. And confusion about the phrase and its meaning has only been deepened by the fact that it has been reported differently by different newspapers and television networks, each of which has been relying on sources involved in the investigation.

”I made my decision now. I put my faith in God’s hands,” was the translation of the phrase offered by USA Today and several television networks. And other dailies variously reported ”Tawakilt ala Allah” or ”La Allahu lil Allah wa Mohammad rasul Allah,” which means ‘There is no God but Allah and Mohammad is Allah’s messenger.”

Rosalind Gwynne, an associate professor of Islamic and Arabic studies at the University of Tennessee, said the bumper sticker on her car bore the phrase, which she transliterated as ”tawakkalt ala Allah.”
”While it may indicate that the pilot had taken drastic action,” Professor Gwynne said, ”it might also indicate that he had done the last thing he could to save the plane.”

Vincent J. Cornell, an associate professor of religion at Duke University who has worked in North Africa, said the Arabic declaration had some significance.

”It’s typically used to initiate something, if you’re embarking on a situation where you don’t know the outcome,” Professor Cornell said. The meaning of the phrase, he emphasized, would depend upon the context in which it was used.

Hala Arafa, a native Egyptian who works in Washington for the Voice of America’s Arabic branch, said the Arabic language is full of prayerful expressions that tend to be cited out of habit.

”I say it as soon as I get into my car to pick my daughter up from school,” Ms. Arafa said. ”I also say it when I start cooking in the kitchen and when I arrive at work and start my assignments.”

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