The makeup of destiny

Predestination and the labor of hope in a Moroccan emigrant town

by Alice Elliot

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As young women in a Moroccan emigrant town search for suitable husbands, they frame seemingly irreverent practices such as using makeup and premarital romances as ways to precipitate their unknown conjugal destinies. This complex “labor of hope” flows from the Islamic precept of predestination, which, far from being a fatalistic backdrop to social life, compels people to act in the human world in view of a future that has already been divinely determined. Here, destiny effectively “folds” Islam into the very texture of mundane practices that, on the surface, may seem not just distant from Islam but even antithetical to it. This phenomenon obliges us to recast Max Weber's argument on predestination and action, as well as to reconsider current anthropological debates on “everyday Islam.”