Ali owns an icon and picture shop in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. If you were to ask me how to navigate to his shop I couldn’t tell you, but if you pushed for an answer I would say that from Gate 2 you take the first right at the pottery stall, first right at the lamp shop, second left at the T-shirts, third right at the carpets, second left at the fabrics and materials shop and then walk to the very end of the alley past the gold and jewellery shops. However, I may have miscounted. Kismet brought me to Ali’s shop, not directions, not left, right, and straight on.
Kismet is more than fate, more than destiny, as, from my understanding, the will of Allah is involved. This was one of the many ideas that Ali and I discussed over tea after I had purchased an item from him. I asked him how business had been.
“Some days are good, some days are not, but I cannot control who comes to my shop – this is Kismet – did you know you were coming here when you entered the bazaar?”
I shook my head.
“How could you when there are many gates and over 4,000 shops here in the bazaar?
Perhaps, right now, there is an American sitting at an airport who tomorrow will spend
$5,000 in my shop.”
“How do you find North Americans?”
“Two came into my shop recently – ‘Oh I love your country’, ‘Oh I love your chicken kebabs’, they said. I asked them if they had been to Greece and they said no. I could tell
they were not telling the truth – this was not the whole story. They couldn’t be honest with me because they thought that Turks and Greeks hate each other – they thought that if they told me they’d been to Greece that I would attack them. They think that Muslims attack people.”
“What are other visitors like?”
“Some people like you understand. In fact you understand more than you think, but most Westerners don’t understand the way we think. People can’t accept that we think differently and that Kismet plays a role in our lives. They believe we should all think like Westerners and some people get angry about this. A man came in with a friend, I think from Belgium and asked about a certain item and I said I might be able to help him. He asked when and I said I wasn’t sure. He did not like that answer and stormed out of the shop.”
“How could you have known?”
“You can’t know everything; you can’t know when something will happen. You can work hard to make something happen, but that doesn’t mean it will happen. This is kismet – the will of God, the will of Allah. Only he can make this happen.”
“That’s fate then, that’s destiny.”
“It is but there is something else too, which is the will of Allah. For something to happen you need to work hard, very hard, but then you need the will of Allah for it to happen – it
won’t happen without that and it won’t happen if you don’t work hard in the first place. It’s a combination of hard work and Kismet.”