Whenever I was asked by some non-Arab friends or co-workers to do something for them, I would say, “Insha Allah,” which means I’d be happy to. It always confused me to see some of their reactions: Disappointment, annoyance maybe on the verge of hopelessness!
Why is that? The reason, it appears, is that this word has taken on a new, undesirable meaning.
What does the Arabic “Insha Allah” mean? It’s actually a phrase and not one word, but the words are combined into one for easier pronunciation. This phrase is used worldwide by Muslims of all languages, even recognized among many non-Muslims, and it means “God willing.” Three words make up this phrase: “In”, which means “if”; “Shaa’ ”, which means “will;” and “Allah,” meaning “God.” Literally, it means “If God wills so.”
It’s part of every Muslim’s daily vocabulary, as we are taught by Islam not to make definitive statements about the future, since only God knows what will happen. This means that if someone asked me to provide him with something, instead of “I will give it to you today” I should say: “I will give it to you today, Insha Allah.”
Another reason it’s very commonly used in Arabic circles is that it’s a phrase of respect. As kids, when our parents tell us, “Do your homework” or “clean up your room,” it’s more respectful to say “Insha Allah” instead of plainly “OK.”
So those are two reasons this phrase is widespread here: Religious and cultural. Seems harmless enough. Except that some of the reactions that some non-Arabs have expressed make it seem as if the phrase means: “Keep dreaming!”
Apparently, this word has become associated with what is called “second-hand procrastination,” i.e. never getting things done…for other people. Say a guy visits the Jawazat, or Customs, or a company, to fix a problem with his documents. He hands the required papers to the official, and waits. When he checks the status of the application one week later, the response is: “Not finished yet, Insha Allah tomorrow it will be.” He checks tomorrow and gets to know it’s not done yet, but “Insha Allah next week.” He visits next week, hoping his papers are ok now, only for the official to indifferently mutter with his eyes on his monitor: “Not finished yet, Insha Allah next week.”
Aha! So that is how this word got this reputation. Misuse, nay, abuse!
I think it’s wrong to use this word in such a negative manner. Maybe these people are used to the word and utter it automatically, but in situations where it is likely to be attached to an undesirable meaning, it should not be used at all. It’s actually a great word.
We will all apply this principle from now on, Insha Allah!