The Meaning and Context of the Arabic Phrase Mashallah

Is There a Right Time to Say Mashallah?

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The phrase masha'Allah or mashallah is literally translated to mean "As God has willed" or "what Allah wanted has happened." It is used after an event, as opposed to the phrase inshallah, which means "if God wills" -- referring to future events. 

Mashallah for Celebration and Gratitude

Mashallah is generally used to express thanks, gratitude, or joy for an event that has already occurred. In essence, it's a way to acknowledge that God, or Allah, is the creator of all things and has bestowed a blessing.

Thus, in most cases, mashallah is used to acknowledge and thank Allah for the desired outcome.

For example:

You've become a mother, mashallah!

You passed your exams, mashallah!

It's a beautiful day for an outdoor party, mashallah!

Mashallah to Avert the Evil Eye

In addition to being a term of praise, mashallah is often used to avert trouble or "the evil eye." In this sense, it is much like the phrase "touch wood," often used in western culture. "Touch wood," which actually means "touch the cross," is most often used when a positive event has occurred, to avert trouble. For example, after noting that a baby is born healthy, a parent might say "touch wood" as a way to avert the possibility that the gift of health will be taken away.

Mashallah is used specifically to avert jealousy, the evil eye, or a jinn (demon). In fact, some families tend to use the phrase every time praise is given (for example, "You look beautiful tonight, mashallah!").

Mashallah Outside of Muslim Usage

The phrase mashallah, because it is used so often by Arabic Muslims, has also become a common part of the language among Muslims and non-Muslims in Muslim-dominated areas. It is not unusual to hear the phrase used in areas such as Turkey, Chechnya, South Asia, parts of Africa, and any area that was once part of the Ottoman Empire.

When used outside of the Muslim faith, it usually refers to a job well done.

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Huda. "The Meaning and Context of the Arabic Phrase Mashallah." ThoughtCo, Sep. 8, 2017, Huda. (2017, September 8). The Meaning and Context of the Arabic Phrase Mashallah. Retrieved from Huda. "The Meaning and Context of the Arabic Phrase Mashallah." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 21, 2018).