Islamic Phrases: Insha'Allah

The Intention Behind the Islamic Phrase Insha'Allah

Arabic Calligraphy
Arabic Calligraphy. Fred de Noyelle

When Muslims say "insha'Allah, they are discussing an event that will take place in the future. The literal meaning is, "If God wills, it will happen," or "God willing." Alternate spellings include inshallah and inchallah. An example would be, "Tomorrow we will leave for our vacation to Europe, insha'Allah."

Insha'Allah in Conversation

The Quran reminds believers that nothing happens except by God's will, so we cannot be sure of anything that may or may not happen.

It would be arrogant of us to promise or insist that something will happen, when really we have no control over what the future holds. There may always be circumstances beyond our control that get in the way of our plans, and Allah is the ultimate planner. The use of "insha'Allah" is derived directly from one of the fundamental tenets of Islam, a belief in Divine Will or destiny.

This wording and its use come directly from the Quran, and is thus required of all Muslims to follow:

"Do not say of anything, 'I shall do such and such tomorrow,' without adding, 'Insha'Allah.' And call your Lord to mind when you forget..." (18:23-24).

An alternative phrasing that is commonly used is "bi'ithnillah," which means "if Allah pleases" or "by Allah's leave." This phrase is also found in the Quran in passages such as "No human being can die except by Allah's leave. ..." (3:145). Both phrases are also used by Arabic-speaking Christians and those of other faiths.

In common usage, it has come to mean "hopefully" or "maybe" when talking about events of the future.

Insha'Allah and Sincere Intentions

Some people believe that Muslims use this particular Islamic phrase, "insha'Allah," to get out of doing something, as a polite way of saying "no." It does sometimes happen that a person may wish to decline an invitation or bow out of a commitment but is too polite to say so.

Sadly, it also sometimes happens that a person is insincere in their intentions from the beginning and wishes simply to brush the situation off, similar to the Spanish "manana." They use "insha'Allah" casually, with the unspoken meaning that it'll never happen. They then shift blame, saying what could they do -- it wasn't God's will to begin with.

However, Muslims will always say this Islamic phrase, whether or not they intend to follow through. It is a basic part of Muslim practice. Muslims are raised with "insha'Allah" constantly on the lips, and it is codified in the Quran. It is best to take them at their word and expect a genuine attempt. It is inappropriate to use or interpret this Islamic phrase as sarcastically intending anything but an honest desire to fulfill the promise.