In my 25-ish years here in UAE, it was only around late last year when this word was introduced to me. It’s a text from the Islamic religion. I mean, I hear this word all the time but it was the first time someone taught me how to use it.
I was new at my new job, still a little confused. I recall a draft email that I have been staring at since morning because it was Cc’d to my boss. Cc-ing a boss is always a nerve-wrecking experience for me because of the fear that I might screw something up – maybe the email is too boring to have to Cc, maybe wrong grammar, wrong information…anything.
Then a Muslim colleague came up and he started to ask me some trivial stuff about work. I happily engaged in the conversation to take my mind off my worry from the email. Our conversation became casual towards the end. I guess to get rid of my anxiety, I suddenly blurted out “oh, this email!” I am not sure if my colleague noticed the nervousness that came along with that phrase, but then he suddenly said, “say ‘Bismillah'”.
Officemate: “It’s what we say in everything we do – like asking that everything goes well after it.”
Then he left.
And again, there I was. Staring at the email again. I was staring while trying to absorb the word my colleague mentioned. Like I said, I’ve already heard the phrase many times in my lifetime here in UAE but never used it because (1) I have NOOO idea what it meant exactly, (2) I did not want to offend anyone especially knowing that it’s a religious script, and (3) I did not want to disrespect the religion itself due to my ignorance of its beliefs.
Fine print: I am not a devotee of any religion but I do believe that all types of religion should be respected. Therefore I never argue about it.
However, due to my desperation to get rid of the email which needs to be sent and cc’d to my boss and since I’ve got the blessing from a believer of Islam, I whispered “Bismillah”, then clicked Send!
The email kept rolling with my boss cc’d and no reaction from her till the end! Meaning she’s letting me do my thing and everything was ok!!
Since then, with utmost respect to Islam, I whisper “Bismillah” before making any move here in the office.