No Problem, God Willing

Two phrases make my blood boil:

  1. No problem
  2. Inshallah


Let me begin with the least offensive of the two: No Problem.

no problem


This term is actually used as a way to show willingness to cooperate, or an offer to do something, or as a way to soften the tone of a statement. I know that many people use this phrase in the same way that native English speakers say “sure” or “OK”, like a habit that means nothing. In linguistic terms, this is a “filler”, meaning that it is basically a sound that has no meaning.

But to me, “no problem” means literally, NO PROBLEM. So, if we are discussing a problem, don’t tell me that there isn’t a problem!

Case in point:

Students show up to class without a pencil or any note paper. “No problem,” they tell me, “I will go to my sister’s classroom and get it from her.” No. that is a problem. Not having what you need for class is a problem. Leaving the classroom after class has begun is a problem. Interrupting another class to get what you need from another person is a problem. Do not tell me “no problem” when clearly, we have a problem.


And now for the second of the two: “Inshallah”

oh hell no


This term means “God willing”. Defenders of the term and its usage will say that God is the Almighty and knows all, including the future, i.e., all the things we humans can’t know, so they must say “inshallah” every time they say they will do something. After all, this promise or commitment they are making might NOT be God’s will, and if it isn’t God’s will, they can’t possibly do it! In addition, they will have a double negative on them if they say they will do something that turns out to NOT be God’s will: negative #1) failing to do what they said they would do; and negative #2) failing to consult God first before making a promise.

But as we see in the example above with the term “no problem”, things are NOT literal.

Case in point:

When I tell students that they need a pencil and paper for class the next day and tell them to bring these things, they say to me, “Inshallah”, as if it could even be possible that God doesn’t want them to have these things in class. Seriously?

Honestly, every time I hear the term “Inshallah”, I interpret it my head as a is just a cheap excuse, a polite way of saying “Oh, hell no!”

Defenders will be shocked by my conclusion, but only because they think my interpretation is blasphemous.

Seriously? I’m telling you: the blasphemy is in the defense!

It is blasphemous to blame carelessness, forgetfulness, or blatant intention to disregard the request of someone on “God’s will”. In the case of the students, they have no intention of taking responsibility for their own supplies (i.e., preparations and efforts for learning); saying “inshallah” frees them from shame or guilt; it covers up their lack of self-responsibility.

And in my opinion, this is a problem (so don’t tell me, “no problem”)!

And here’s my most recent story:

You may recall that I bought a car 94 days ago. Well, after 3 weeks and driving only to and from work, the breaks went out. I paid a lot of money to get it fixed after fighting with the salesman and convincing him to pay part of the cost. Then, after driving less than 200 km, the new set of brakes went out.

As you can see, there is a problem.

Boss Man continued to insert the phrase “no problem” in all of our conversations, even as we were fighting about a clear PROBLEM.

Our conversations went something like this:

Boss Man: OK, no prrroblem. I get you another carrr. (FYI – the rolled r’s don’t bother me)

Me: Not just any car, I need a reliable car. Show me a car.

Boss Man: No carrr. I don’t have carrr now.

Me: This is a problem.

Boss Man: Surrrre. No prrroblem. Maybe tomooorrow. Inshallah. Inshallah I have carrr tomooorrow.

Me: (interpreting that to mean, “oh hell no”), What time? Exactly what time? You don’t want to see me angry. If I come and you are not here, or you do not have a car, I will be angry. I promise you, I will be angry. What time?

Boss Man: Ya’A’ani (means something like “um”). No prrroblem. Inshallah I will be here.

Me: No. ‘Inshallah you will be here’ is not good enough. And, we have a problem.

Boss Man: Surrrre. No prrroblem. Inshallah, I call you tomooorrow. Maybe 10.

Me: Can we agree that we have a problem?

Boss Man: Surrrre. This is Big Prrroblem. You are Big Prrroblem for me.

Me: Thank you. I agree. So please do not say ‘no problem’ any more. We have a problem and we are going to fix it.

Boss Man: Ya’A’ani. OK.  No prrroblem. Inshallah, I stop for you. Just for you, Inshallah, I say “no prrroblem” no morrre, Inshallah.


My blood boils.

Yes, these two phrases bother me. A lot. But I am channeling my ZEN as I practice selective hearing and focused concentration on restating my requests. Over and over and over again.

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