36. Forgetfulness is from Satan. So when a man remembers Allah, Satan departs. The person is then, in that situation, less likely to forget (Razi).
Commentators have said that if one forgets to say, “Allah willing,” he might do it whenever he remembers; while others have said, which seems to be more correct, that the persuasion is to remember Allah. Ibn ‘Abbas in fact said that if someone swore (to do something) but remembered that he did not say in-sha-Allah, he might do it later, even if it is after a year (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir). That is, he might break his oath without atonement due. Ibn Jarir and Ibn Kathir however believe that what Ibn ‘Abbas meant was that the Sunnah of saying in-sha-Allah be done by saying it whenever one remembered, but that does not mean one can break his oath.
In any case, the opinion of Imam Abu Hanifah in matters concerning human interactions was that an “in-sha-Allah” that is added afterwards (al-istithna’ al-munfasal), is invalid. According to him in-sha-Allah, must be uttered at the moment of the deal on the spot. Uttering the word later renders it null and void. (That is, by saying in sha-Allah later, one cannot make the deal vague). Mansur (the Abbasid Caliph) came to know of his opinion (and thought that for once he had caught him on the wrong foot). So he ordered him to appear in the court for explanation. But when he came, Abu Hanifah turned the table on him. He asked him, “Do you agree that when the people enter into allegiance with you here in the court (promising to obey you), then go back home, and uttering in-sha-Allah, break their oaths?” Mansur had no answer (Kashshaf).
Ibn Kathir reminds of an incident involving another Prophet who forgot to say in-sha-Allah and so things went awry for him. The report – in the Sahihayn – says, “Sulayman b. Da’ud said, ‘I shall go into all my wives tonight, about a hundred, each of whom will bear a son who will fight in Allah’s cause.’ He was told, ‘Say In-sha-Allah.’ But he did not. So, although he went into all his wives none of them gave birth to anything except one of them, and she too brought a mangled child. The Prophet added, ‘Had he said in-sha-Allah, he would not have had to brake his oath, but would have achieved his objective.”
Sayyid Qutb is aware of the prevalent misuse of the words, and the misconceptions that accompany it. He writes: “This does not mean that (after saying ‘Allah willing’) a man should sit back doing nothing, neither planning his future, nor preparing for it. Or that he should live, moments after moments, day after day, in idleness. Or that he should not survey his past and compare it with his present (to draw the obvious lessons). Of course not. But rather it means that he should take account of the Unknown and the Uunseen while he plans his course of action. He might resolve to do whatever he wishes, but he should seek the help of Allah’s Will over what he resolves. He should be conscious of Allah’s Hand over his own. It can never be ruled out that Allah’s resolve might be different from his own. If Allah guides him to accomplish what he wishes to accomplish, well and good. But if Allah’s Will does not correspond to his will, then, there need be no grief and no despair. The affair is, after all, Allah’s – at the beginning, and at the end.
“So, let man think and plan whatever he wishes to accomplish. But, he should realize that what he thinks can only come true if Allah smoothens the way for him and that, what he plans is also by Allah’s own Will. Further, he should also realize that he is incapable of accomplishing anything except that which is Allah’s own resolve and Will. This, of course, should not lead him to laziness or procrastination, weakness, or inefficiency. In fact, contrarily, he should go forward with his endeavor in full strength, confidence, trust, self-assurance and strong resolve. However, if the veils from that which is in the Unseen are removed, and things do not appear the way he had planned, imagined and thought, then, he should accept Allah’s decree cheerfully and submit himself completely..
“This is the spirit and approach that Islam approvingly places in the heart of a believer. A believer is never beset by doubts and uncertainties while he plans his affairs. Neither is he arrogant and self-assuring when he succeeds, nor is he in despair when he fails. Instead, in all cases he remains on good terms with Allah, drawing strength from Him, trusting Him, remaining grateful to Him, submitted to His decree: neither proudly optimistic, nor despairingly pessimistic.”
37. Yusuf Ali has an interesting illustration to offer: “In geometry the perfect circle is an ideal. Any given circle that we draw is not so perfect that we cannot draw one closer to the ideal. So in our life, there is always the hope of drawing closer and closer to Allah.”