“Insha’Allah” is not an excuse to break your promise

Insha’Allah is a conditional Arabic statement that consists of three words:

  • إن: If
  • شاء: Wills
  • الله: Allah

Therefore, Insh’Allah means “if Allah wills.” In Wikipedia, I found the following quote which seems very close to the Arabic meaning: ‘If it is the Lord’s will’” (James 4:13-15 NIV).

Muslims believe that any thing to happen in the future is destined only by Allah’s will. So, it became a habit for us to say Insha’Allah whenever we are talking about something to happen in the future.

And never say of anything, “Indeed, I will do that tomorrow,” Except [when adding], “If Allah wills.”

[Surat Al-Kahf (The Cave) , 23-24]

Some usage of the term are:

  • Insha’Allah, I will see you tomorrow.
  • Insha’Allah, you will pass your exam.
  • Insha’Allah, you will feel better soon.
  • Insha’Allah, peace is going to be restored once again in the the Middle East.

Unfortunately, because some Muslims either don’t fully understand the meaning of Insha’Allah or they are misusing it many non-Muslims are confused of it’s usage and I fully understand their confusion.

The main reason for the confusion is how different cultures value time. Many Muslim cultures have no sense of time. For such cultures, the day is not categorized into 24 hours but to day and night only. For example, an American living in Jordan may tell someone, “Let us meet tomorrow at noon.” The Jordanian guy may answer, Insh’Allah. When the Jordanian shows up couple of hours late and when the same incident repeats again and again with every Jordanian the American guy meet he will think that Insh’Allah is an excuse for Jordanians to be late.

A non-Muslim Malaysian once told me that when a Muslim say Insha’Allah for a scheduled meeting and not show up the Muslim thinks he should not be blamed because God intended him to be late.

My friend’s American-born daughters have very interesting understanding of the term “Insh’Allah.” Whenever they ask their father for something and he answers “Insh’Allah” they insist he says “yes” instead. They understood that Insh’Allah means I may do the thing I promised or I may not.

Muslims should say Insh’Allah when talking about doing something in the future. But they should take full responsibility of keeping their promises. If you are not sure you will meet someone on time say Insha’Allah but I will be late. If you know it is not possible to take your children to a summer vacation don’t just say Insh’Allah and stop. You have to be honest whether you will take them or not. Don’t blame Allah for being late!

When someone answers me with just Insh’Allah I correct them to say “Insh’Allah, I will do it.” Muslims need to learn and teach their children that when we say Insh’Allah we have the full intention to keep our promise. Of course, there might be some circumstances that prevent us from keeping our promise but the time when we say Insh’Allah we should be sure that we will do what we said we will do. When we use the name of God it should be with complete openness and honesty.

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6 thoughts on ““Insha’Allah” is not an excuse to break your promise

  1. Couldn’t agree more! the “Say Yes” instead of “inshaAllah” happened to me when I was a student in the university.. A friend questioned my intention because I said inshaAllah! It’s sad how such a meaningful phrase turns meaningless because of its misuse.

  2. كلامك صحيح 100%. واحنا صغار لما كانوا اهلي يحكوا إنشاء الله احنا على طول نفهم انها بتوازي في المشمش, لحد اليوم ولاد خواتي لما حدا يحكيلهم هيك على طول بيكون جوابهم (لا ما بدي انشاء الله).

    1. للأسف الأهل عليهم اللوم لأنهم صاروا يستخدموا كلمة ان شاء الله دايما بدون ما يقدروا انهم ممكن يعملوا الشيء اللي حكوا عنه او لأ.ـ

  3. Great post! I just thought it was an overused phrase used out of habit so much that it lost its true meaning. Kind of like almost everyone you ask on the street in the US is “fine” even if they just lost their best friend, had a fight with their parents or any number of bad things happened that morning. It’s habit to answer “I’m fine” or “I’m doing all right” even when you are having the worst day of your life! I assumed “inshallah” had come to be a filler word in that regard. I do know what it means. You should never say it if you have absolutely no intention of doing what is asked. If you don’t want to meet me tomorrow at noon just say “I cannot” or “I don’t want to.” Don’t tell me inshallah knowing you will never show.

    1. “Filler” is the word I was looking for. Unfortunately, we overused “Insh’Allah” until it became a filler, used without its beautiful meaning.

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