Ajaban l’helm’ellAh

Posted by Rezwan Razani on Jun 20, 2013 at 04:58 PM

What does “ajaban l helmellAh” mean and why is it my favorite phrase?

Ajaban Roots

Persians use the words “ajaban” “ajabA” and “ajab” interchangeably to mean “Odd!” “Strange!” “Wow!” “Gosh!” “How Wonderful!” “Amazing!”

When I was small and something perplexed me, I would exclaim “ajab!” and Daddy would laugh.

He’d say, “You’re just a baby. Only ancient, wizened religious men say “Ajab,” and only because they are too holy to curse.

“Say they witness some great injustice: a man beating his donkey, an orphan robbed. They are shocked and must cry out to God about this! But they can’t curse, and they certainly can’t accuse God of doing a poor job. So they are provoked to exclaim, “AJABAN l’helm’Allah!”

Isn’t God’s patience amazing.

Daddy would emphasize “PATIENCE” and you could just feel the tension in the bearing of the Holy Men. The reflexive praise for God’s “Patience” holding back the outrage at resulting injustice until they could regain composure.

Yes. Ajaban l’helmellah, a thoroughly Arabic phrase. Here I am, Persian-American, and my favorite phrase is Arabic. It’s like a Euro-American who has a favorite Latin catch phrase.

Hey! I do! “Cedamus Amori.”

Patience v. Grace

Isn’t God’s Patience AMAZING!

Look! From the sky!
It’s Patience!

How sweet the sound.

Ajaban l’helmellah can also mean “Isn’t God’s Grace Amazing.”

Puzzling Patience

Yes, this matter is puzzling to the pious. You’ve got this supercomputer God, keeping account of every flake of dandruff on every balding head, keeping track of the least meter violation to the most gruesome genocide, but then what? The deity seems to be content with keeping track (Like Gholombezom!). Where’s the action?

What is the poor devout cleric to do? A less spiritual man might utter an oath or curse. The pious are not supposed to curse or question the competence of the deity, hence “Ajaban L’Helm’Allah”.  “Isn’t God’s Patience Amazing!” 

But then comes consolation. Patience because this is all going on people’s tab, and there will be a JUDGEMENT DAY. Yay.

Elusive Judgement

And yet, the promised Judgement Day (patience, my friend) doesn’t satisfy many. Worse, some use some kind of Judgement Day model in the present, having painstakingly nursed every grievance and venting it all on some random or symbolic target to insure that “someone pays” for stuff.

This spectacular malevolent misplaced aggression pops up all the time. Fanatics and True Believers (See Eric Hoffer’s “The True Believer), have no use for Divine/Karmic Patience.

Pre-emptive strikes

So boom. The pendulum of injustice keeps swinging. Someone takes the pendulum that pulses in their direction, and swings it so hard back in the other direction, not expecting it to come back. Behold, it comes back and hits them from behind. And hilariously (OK, it’s not funny) They aren’t even there when it comes around. It’s their kid that gets it. Or some unsuspecting next door neighbor.

But Isn’t God’s Patience Amazing!  That he allows such horrible things to occur!  Repeatedly! 


Even non-fanatics remain frustrated by Divine patience.  Most have lost faith entirely, seeing the universe as uncaring. Which it is. Life is unfair. So many sociopathic, opportunistic bastards. Evolution all competition for resources and killing and eating.  (OK, evolution is also symbiosis and specialization in niches, but still…)

What blood thirsty creator came up with that?  Lovely for the gastronomist, but you realize that the deal with eating is that something has to die so that others can live!  It feels like a zero sum game, and who designed it anyway?” 

And while the sensitive ponder this, the strong and ruthless lunch on them.

Due Process

The other side of the coin of God’s Patience is his Grace.  Ajaban L’Helm’Allah means “Amazing Grace”. Amazing Grace brings relief, and rapturous praise, as we realize the patience of God is our salvation.  He’s giving us time and space to work it out.  He has more faith in us than we do.

I like the fact that this “Amazing Grace” is free-floating Grace.  You see how natural it is when in response to a senseless occurrence like the Attack on America the bereft turn to the chorus of “Amazing Grace”.  “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.  I once was lost, but now am found.  Was blind, but now I see.”  Why would anyone, at a time of grief sing about how they are lost wretches who now can see?  What can they see?

Ajaban L’Helm’Allah. Whether you’re shocked and barely holding back curses at the amazing patience, or stunned yet groping for rapturous relief to the tune of bagpipes is your choice.

Here at the Ajaban website we seek to both celebrate and lament that legendary patience by creating works of redemptive environmental science fiction, and exploring paths of redemptive environmental science fact.

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