How to Use the Islamic Phrase "Insha'Allah"

Islamabad - Shah Faisal Masjid
How to Use the Islamic Phrase Insha'Allah. Aliraza Khatri's Photography/Getty Images

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 truly sure that a given event will or will not happen. Muslims believe that it is arrogant of us to promise or insist that something will happen when in reality 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 the prescription for its use come directly from the Quran, and is thus its use is mandatory for Muslims:

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 by Muslims 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." This does occasionally happen—the use of "insha'Allah when a person wishes to decline an invitation or bow out of a commitment but is too polite to say so. If one does not later follow through on a social commitment, for example, you can always say it was God's will.

And unfortunately, it is also true that person who is insincere from the start may brush a situation off by uttering the phrase, similar to the use of the Spanish phrase "manana." Such persons use "insha'Allah" casually or ironically, with the unspoken implication that the event will never happen. This allows them to shift the blame—as though shrugging the shoulders to say "what could I do?  It wasn't God's will, anyway." 

However, use of the phrase "inshaa'Allah" ​is part of Muslim culture and practice, and believers are raised with the phrase constantly on the lips. "Inshaa'Allah" is codified in the Quran, and this is not taken lightly by Muslims. When you hear the phrase, it is best to interpret it as an expression of a person's genuine intention as well as their acquiescence to the will of God. It is inappropriate to use this Islamic phrase insincerely or sarcastically or to interpret it in such a way.