I’ll remember, insha’Allah

Published: February 19, 2013

It is quite easy to forget to say insha'Allah in our everyday lives, partly because the phrase has strayed so far from its intended meaning in popular usage. PHOTO: REUTERS

The other day I scheduled a long-overdue appointment for a dental cleaning. I had called a few days in advance and arranged for an early-morning slot so that I could arrive in the office before the workload got too heavy.

Leaving my apartment about 35 minutes before the appointment, I imagined I left enough time to arrive on schedule.

That is, until I got into a small car accident less than ten minutes later.

As I waited to turn right at an intersection not far from my apartment, the car behind me abruptly drove into the rear of my small hatchback, suddenly jolting me forward and setting back my initial plans.

I pulled over to the curb just beyond the intersection to assess the damage and the profusely apologetic young woman in the car behind me called the police so that we could file a traffic accident report. Once I knew officers were on the way, I called the dentist to reschedule the appointment for another day. My plans for the morning were swiftly unwritten and rather than visit the dentist, I took the police report to my insurance office to file a claim instead.

As the morning rush of traffic hurried passed, I thanked God quietly that the accident hadn’t been more serious. As I did so, I realised that not once the night before and earlier that morning had I said insha’Allah, the Arabic phrase meaning ‘God willing’ or ‘If God so wills’, when discussing my ill-fated plan to visit the dentist that morning.

The main reason for Muslims to say insha’Allah is to recognise that an event in the future will happen only if God wills it. So when I say “I’ll go to the dentist this morning before work, insha’Allah”, I am acknowledging that what I intend to do cannot be fully guaranteed.

I concede to the presence of God in my daily life, and His ultimate control over the coordination and course of the minute and substantial happenings of my life.

It is quite easy to forget to say insha’Allah in our everyday lives, partly because the phrase has strayed so far from its intended meaning in popular usage. Insha’Allah has in many cases become a slang way of avoiding commitment to anything. Especially when a person is too cowardly to say “no”, s/he will instead say insha’Allah in order to brush aside the reality; that they do not intend to do a thing, but can’t be bothered to be upfront about it.

In many modern contexts, Muslims and non-Muslims frown upon the use of insha’Allah because it carries with it the meaning that what someone is promising or intending is not reliable, always leaving the door open for escape.

This is quite paradoxical for me because growing up, I was taught that when I say insha’Allah, I am obligated before God to follow through with my word, save for some unforeseen circumstance beyond my control. By saying the phrase, I am giving my word that I will do what I say, unless God makes the event impossible to fulfill due to some unexpected event, such as the accident I was in the other morning.

Two meanings for this phrase, poles apart in their implications, have thus transpired.

One very beautifully encapsulates Islam, a state of mind where a person lives in submission to God and respects the time and commitments s/he makes. The other, void of consciousness of God, gives a person a false sense of absolute control over their lives. It is easy to overlook how fragile the progress of our lives actually is.

As an ocean has an unstoppable current guiding the movement of things beyond our daily comprehension, it would be egotistical to think that one single person has control over a force that guides the flow of their lives.

Facing the latter meaning in my daily life has led me to, in many cases, refrain from saying insha’Allah, even though I use it with the former intention. Having my schedule shaken up from time to time is always a good reminder of the importance of remembering to say the phrase, regardless.

In the banality of our daily routines, we often get the sense that we have control over the events of our days; that we can do and have anything we want. But the reality is we can never know what the future holds for us. All of our plans, ambitions and goals, indeed every step we take, are at God’s will.

Even the Quran has prompted us to never say ‘I shall certainly do this tomorrow’, without adding, ‘if God so wills’. If we put our trust in God, He will most definitely guide you the right path, the path best for you.

This post originally appeared here

Read more by Daliah here or follow her on Twitter @Desert_Dals

Daliah.Merzaban

Daliah Merzaban

An Egyptian-Canadian journalist, editor and economic analyst with a decade of experience in the Gulf region, Egypt and Canada. To read more of her views on Islam, spirituality and Arab women, visit daliahm.blogspot.com or follow her on Twitter @Desert_Dals.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Fahad Raza

    To be very honest. This word is taken too much for granted. Saying Insha-Allah is taken as ..” ill be lazy and hen if nothing happens ill say God wills it”. Recommend

  • Human

    I agree Fahad :)Recommend

  • doom

    @Fahad Raza:
    Yeah, the meaning has changed with usage. Basically, when people say Insha-Allah I take it to mean “no” or “maybe”. As in: “insha-Allah, I will come to xyz” means “Maybe, if I feel like it.” and in some cases, people think it is the polite way to say no when in fact it is annoying and rude, I think. Just say no.

    So really if the author said “Insha-Allah, I will come” out-loud to the dentist’s office; they wouldn’t be sure if she’s coming or not.Recommend

  • gp65

    “This is quite paradoxical for me because growing up, I was taught that when I say insha’Allah, I am obligated before God to follow through with my word, save for some unforeseen circumstance beyond my control. By saying the phrase, I am giving my word that I will do what I say, unless God makes the event impossible to fulfill due to some unexpected event, such as the accident I was in the other morning.”

    Thanks for providing this helpful perspective. I have always heard it used in the other sense you described.Recommend

  • Stranger

    Try saying Alhamadillulah – I am grateful. Thats more effective.Recommend

  • Zubair Ali

    These are all beautiful words that strengthen our own imaan and remind us how fragile we are. I would rather say Inshaallah than “I’ll try” for example.
    Lots of small good things do make an overall big difference to you as a person and its a good routine to code into our daily lives. Recommend

  • Awais

    @Stranger! Insha-Allah is used for a purpose and Allhumdulliah is for another. Can you say that Allhumdulliah I will come to see you tomorrow. Absurd comment.
    While working with non-Muslims in a Muslims dominated society i felt that non-Muslims say these words more than Muslims. Khair! its another story.Recommend

  • Aijaz Haider

    Nicely written, very true.Recommend

  • http://think-islam.blogspot.com PostMan

    I don’t mind being singled out in the whole world to be the one who for the first time heard the real meaning of inshallah. Thanks a lot.Recommend

  • Op

    felt good to readRecommend

  • Hardliner

    Beautiful article MA SHA ALLAH………Recommend

  • Working Woman

    Nice. Liked reading a different topic.Recommend

  • Working Woman

    Beautiful. Loved it.Recommend

  • Misha

    This was lovely :)Recommend

  • Stranger

    @Awais muslims or non muslims dont OWN any language. Any human can use any language .Language belongs to all .Religion might belong to believers . Yes I do agree that some words should be used to show gratitude and some to say – God Willing. Its clear now .Recommend

  • Working Woman

    I have gone through your previous posts. You are a beautiful mind.Recommend

  • I am a Khan

    Beautiful post. I will read more posts from you In Sha Allah. I also heard that the correct way to write it is In Sha Allah (If Allah Wills), three words. Recommend

  • Samuel

    @ Daliah Merzaban: I remember back in 1999 when I was in the Emirates our teacher used to tell us to do something and my classmates usual reply was insha’Allah (double meaning was I wont do it)

    Saying insha’Allah and doing your own will is really a mean thing to doRecommend

  • gp65

    @Awais: “While working with non-Muslims in a Muslims dominated society i felt that non-Muslims say these words more than Muslims. Khair! its another story.”

    Probably they are trying to fit in.Recommend

  • Moe

    this is an old blog.Recommend

  • Parvez

    As an explanation it was very good………………thank God you did not venture further.Recommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/britishmuslims Mohammed Abbasi

    Mashallah good article, Alhamdullilah for your words, Inshallah I will share this!Recommend

  • Assad

    Good article, its good to see some articles with an Islamic context.We need to stick to Islamic values in every aspect of our lives.Problem nowadays is the western culture gripping our societies.Recommend

  • Junaid

    @Puzzled citizen of the world:
    There is a Qudrat of God (Gods capability) and Sunnah of God (Gods style/modus operandi)/ He is capable (Qadir) to do something without the means and to stop something despite all means existing in its favor. However, he is made it incumbent upon himself to execute via means in the normal spheres of life. So he doesnt give wealth by showering it thru your roof but only if you struggle and work hard for it. And he doesnt cause harm/punishment just by striking lightning to the ill-doers but commands the people to create a just society with rewards and punishments via legal routes. Such is his Sunnah. I hope this helps clarify your doubt that something should always be done to stop injustice. Recommend

  • Taher

    @Puzzled citizen of the world – As a muslim, our belief is that everything is predestined and in the knowledge of Allah from the beginning. However, this knowledge is not manifested upon a person or affect anyone’s judgment/decision making. God has already given 2 things to every human being – the free will to choose and the decision making ability. God does not force upon HIS will on anyone but HE knows the results. Everyone will get his/her rewards/punishments based on their deeds. Recommend

  • http://tribune.com p r sharma

    “All of our plans, ambitions and goals, indeed every step we take, are at God’s will.” – something whose occurrence which was not planned ( against our wishes)or something which we are unable to explain are said to be the will of God (an easy explanation) Recommend

  • Kajamohideen

    @Junaid:
    This is a perfect example of logical inconsistency caused by the opium of religion. Take your statement “*So he doesn’t give wealth by showering it through the roof but only if you struggle and work hard for it.”

    There are tens of thousands of people living off the inheritance of their parents and ancestors. The feudals, wadheras, pirs etc in your country are a good example of this. God showered wealth on them through the roof and rewarded them for not doing any work.
    RegardsRecommend

  • Taher

    @BlackJack/Kajamohideen
    If God does not know what we will choose or what will be our fate, he isn’t much of a God, is he? Commonsense and logic say that HE should be such a knowledgeable entity who should know it all to be the one and only GOD.

    Now, God has given us the free will to choose and inherit us with the sense of good and evil inside ourselves. Based on this free will, whatever decisions we take we will be held accountable. The path we choose to our ultimate fate is in our hands due to the fact that despite being so knowledgeable, God does not let us affected by HIS knowledge or distort our free will in any way in taking our own decisions.Recommend

  • I am a Khan

    @Kajamohideen:
    Everything has indeed been predestined by God and happens by God’s will, but humans have a free mind and sense to do as they wish. God gives them the chance to do as they wish and based on their actions, God judges them on resurrection. However in some instances a human may try his best to do something but if God does not will it, the human will not succeed. Now the question is why are humans accountable if everything has been predestined by God?. The answer is simple. God has sent down the dos and dont for humans through His Messengers (peace be upon them), However God has given Humans a free mind to either accept or not accept God’s sent way. Hence they will be accountable for what they did despite having the guidance from God. Hence this life is called a test for the Humans. You have the preparation material/guide for the Test, in the form of God’s word (The Glorious Quran). Its your choice to follow the guide and pass the test or ignore the guide and fail the test. God knows who will pass and who will fail, but those that fail will do so due to their stubbornness. As the Quran mentions, God chooses to leave astray those who are arrogant and gives them a respite for some time in this world. Hope it clarifies.

    Finally the Pirs, Waderas, etc are rich because of the ignorance of the masses. God has given them a respite for a while and shall judge them on resurrection. Saying ‘In Sha Allah’ means we muslims accept that whatever we do can only succeed, if God wills it. If your next question is why is there so much suffering in this world? The answer is that 99% of the world’s suffering is caused by Humans due to their actions, ie the rich oppressing the poor, etc, and by not following God’s guidance. Hence God has allowed the humans to continue as they wish in this test of this world. The oppressors will be punished and the oppressed will be rewarded as mentioned in the Glorious Quran. If you read the Quran with translations, you will get a clear perspective on this world and the afterlife. Recommend

  • http://tribune.com p r sharma

    @I am a Khan: ” However in some instances a human may try his best to do something but if God does not will it, the human will not succeed.” -
    Not agreeable. There are always reason of success and failures too. The problem is that since we do not know the reasons of our failure ( our ignorance) we find solace in saying that God does not will it while the fact is totally different. Recommend

  • I am a Khan

    @Puzzled citizen of the world:
    I may have replied to your comment in my previous post, but just to make it clearer.

    When a suicide bomber kills innocents, he does it out of the free mind and free will Allah has given him. The fact that this happens while Allah is watching and knows it will happen, is due to two things. Firstly Allah has given the evildoers a respite, to see how much do they want to go against the commands of Allah, despite having received Allah’s guidance from the Holy Messengers of Allah. Secondly, life is a test and the victims of the tragedy will be greatly rewarded in the afterlife. Now remember that Allah is just and fair as mentioned in the Quran. So in the afterlife, when you see the victims of a tragedy and their family at a much higher level and enjoying much more than yourself, you will not be able to complain to Allah, why are they enjoying more than me? This is because you have not suffered as much as they have, hence they deserve a greater reward. Also when the killer or bomber is severely punished in the afterlife, he will not be able to say why am I being punished? If he killed 100 people, he can be killed only once in this life, but in the afterlife Allah will kill him 100 times In Sha Allah.

    Coming to your comment about why should the law punish the perpetrators in this life. This is required because again it is the command of the All Mighty to punish the killers, evildoers, as per Islamic laws in this world also. So if we are to follow the command of Allah, we have to work towards punishing any evil doer. Remember that they will be punished by the law in this world, at the will of Allah. However because the law enforcers caught them and punished them according to the command of Allah, the Law enforcers will be rewarded by Allah in the afterlife for following Allah’s command. Hope it clarifies. Recommend

  • I am a Khan

    @Puzzled citizen of the world:
    “The suicide bomber and his planning associates who executes this job are actually doing Gods will and hence are destined to goto heaven. So we should not protest against such organisations who are executing Gods will.”

    They are not doing God’s will. They are acting on the free will Allah has given to all Humans. They succeed in their crime, because it is the will of Allah to test them, to see how much do they want to err from the guidance Allah has sent. So that when Allah punishes them in the hereafter, they cannot complain. Also Allah wills to reward the victims and their family greatly in the afterlife, thats why He allows the tragedy to befall them. So in the afterlife when the victims and their families are at a much higher rank and enjoying much more than yourself/others, you/others cannot complain to Allah, because you did not suffer as much as they did in this life. Hope you had it clarifed dear.Recommend

  • Kajamohideen

    @Puzzled citizen of the world: Beautifully put. Your logic is unassailable. But as I have pointed in one or two posts on this blog people with too much religion on their minds have their rational faculties all messed up and because of their desire to have their cake and eat it too will indulge in verbal gymnastics to make two plus two into five or three.

    regardsRecommend

  • Kajamohideen

    @Taher: On the one hand you state:” If God does not know what we will choose or what will be our fate, he isn’t much of a God, is he?”

    Next you claim: “The path we choose to our ultimate fate is in our hands due to the fact that despite being so knowledgeable, God does not let us affected by HIS knowledge or distort our free will in any way in taking our own decisions.”

    The statement that god does not let us be affected by HIS knowledge or distort our free will is in contradiction to your first statement as if it is true then then second cannot also be true. Because free will implies that god cannot have knowledge of our actions before they are performed. We might have the illusion that we have free will, that is all.

    RegardsRecommend

  • Taher

    @Puzzled citizen of the world:
    I want to thank you and everyone who is taking part in this interesting discussion for keeping it civil. I am trying to answer as per my understanding. Just to clarify, when I say that everything is predestined and in the knowledge of God, I also stress that God’s knowledge is not interfering with anyone free will to take his decision. And that HE is not making the choices for us, we are.
    Now, to your questions:
    1) It’s certainly NOT God’s will that a bomb goes off and kills hundreds of people, HE, however, knows this. The principle through which God is running the world (as understandable from Quran) is that HE has given complete and utter freedom to us on our actions. HE has told us through prophets and HIS books that HIS verdict will come forth on the day of Judgment only when HE will tell us what we did in our lives as an individual and we will be given a just trial and judgment will be given.
    2) Again, the suicide bombers who are blowing up people are doing so on their own free will, NOT God’s will. These suicide bombers will be answerable to God on the day of judgment. In Quran it’s clearly mentioned that killing an innocent life is an unforgiving sin that can account to eternal punishment.Recommend

  • I am a Khan

    @observer:
    You quoting me saying

    A.Everything has indeed been predestined by God and happens by God’s will,

    B.but humans have a free mind and sense to do as they wish.

    C.God gives them the chance to do as they wish, but they only succeed in their actions (Good or Bad) if God wills it to Happen. This does not mean God is forcing them, it means God is allowing them. They only succeed in carrying out their will if God allows them to, per God’s will

    My dear there is no contradiction. Please do not call your inability to understand, as a condradiction. let me recap and re explain:

    everything which happens in this world (Good or Bad) happens by the will of Allah. So when a murderer kills an innocent, he can only succeed if Allah wills it. Similarly, when a kind man saves another person, he can only succeed if Allah wills it. However this does not mean that Allah is forcing the murderer to murder or the kind man to save a life. The humans are doing their acts based on their own free will which Allah has given them, however they only succeed when Allah wills that they are able to. The reason why Allah allows bad to happen in this world is because this world is a test for both the evil doer and the person on whom evil befalls. So on the day of judgement when the person on whom tragedy befell is rewarded no one can complain to Allah, that why are they more rewarded than us. Similarly when the murderer is punished, he cannot complain about why he is being punished because he committed bad acts even after receiving guidance from Allah. Recommend

  • Puzzled citizen of the world

    well, I want to thank all my well meaning friends here who have taken such pain to explain to me in great detail the way God might have meant it. All these answers have definitely broadened my understanding about different points of views. But unfortunately somehow I still have not been able to comprehend the full explanation.

    I have gone through the replies again and again but I have not been able to separate the contradiction in many statements. I am still not in a position to answer my question if everything that happens is predestined and is Gods will then whether an act of terror is predestined and if it is Gods will or not.

    For example if I take the last argument by @ I am Khan about a murder taking place then Mr Khan says that “However this does not mean that Allah is forcing the murderer to murder or the kind man to save a life.”

    Assuming a scenario that murder of Mr X takes place. Allow me to imagine three scenarios:

    1) Mr X is being murdered by Mr M and this combination is already decided by God.

    2) Mr X is murdered by any human being including or excluding Mr M.

    3) God has left it to the will of Mr M and other people whether Mr X will be killed or not.

    In the 1st case if God has already decided that Mr M is going to murder Mr X then Mr M can not really do anything about it. And there is no point we blaming Mr M.

    In the second case if ,at the time of murder, every human being (including Mr M) exercises his free will and chooses not to murder Mr X then murder of Mr X will not take place. Which is not possible because it is predestined and God has already decided to have Mr X killed.So because the murder has already been decided hence God will have to ensure that either Mr M or someone in his place will have to do the murder. If thats the case even then we can not blame either Mr M or someone else. They are not really exercising their will but are rather being an accessory to a murder which has already been decided much in advance by God.

    In the third case If God has left it to the will of Mr M or some other human being to kill Mr X then murder of Mr X may or may not happen. In that case murder of Mr X is not predestined and God has actually not decided in advance what is going to happen. So then it can not be Gods will that Mr X gets killed.

    In short either its gods will and then we can not blame the murderer or its not Gods will and not predetermined.

    So this is my quandary. whichever angle I look from, I cant understand the contradiction. Recommend

  • I am a Khan

    @Puzzled citizen of the world:
    You do not seem to get it dear. there is no contradiction.

    Lets try to simplify it- last attempt by me :))

    There is a free will of a Human Being which is given to him/her by God. This includes the will to accept Islam or not, the will to do a good act or not, the will to commit sin or not. It is because of this Humans will be judged by God in the afterlife.
    There is the will of God which is over and above the will of the Humans. The humans can only do what they want to, if God wills them to do it. What this means is God is all powerful and all encompassing and the will of humans to do an action is subservient to God’s will. This does not mean God is forcing them to do an action. It means God knows in advance what humans will do and allows them to do what they want to do, if God want’s it to happen.
    Humans will be judged by God because even though they succeeded in carrying out their action because of God’s will, They actually initiated the action out of their own free will which God has given them.

    A simple example of this is if a non muslim wants to accept islam, he/she will have to initiate the process out of their own free will, but they will only succeed in becoming a muslim, if Allah wills them to be muslim. So they will be rewarded for accepting Islam because of the initiation they did out of their own free will. Hope it clarifies now. Good Bye. Recommend

  • Historian 1

    Can I say ” inshallah, innocent people will not be killed in Pakistan in future?”Recommend