The Meaning and Context of the Arabic Phrase Mashallah

Is there a right time to say 'Mashallah'?

Two young female friends reading smartphone texts on park path
Eugenio Marongiu / Getty Images

The phrase masha'Allah (or mashallah)—believed to have been coined in the early 19th century—is closely 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" in reference to future events. 

The Arabic phrase mashallah is supposed to be a reminder that all good things come from God and are blessings from Him. It is a good omen.

Mashallah for Celebration and Gratitude

Mashallah is generally used to express amazement, praise, thankfulness, 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, the Arabic phase mashallah is used to acknowledge and thank Allah for the desired outcome.

  • See the following examples:
  • 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." It is most often used to avert trouble when a positive event has occurred. For example, after noting that a baby is born healthy, a Muslim would say mashallah 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 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.