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What does Insha'Allah Mean?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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The phrase insha'Allah means “God willing” or “if God wills it” in Arabic. Devout Muslims say "insha'Allah" whenever they make a statement about a plan to do something, in a way of requesting God to bless the activity. The phrase also acknowledges submission to God, with the speaker putting him or herself into God's hands, and accepting the fact that God sometimes works in inscrutable ways.

In the Qu'ran, Muslims are told that they should never say they will do a particular thing in the future without adding "insha'Allah" to the statement. Some Christians are surprised to learn that a similar sentiment also appears in the Bible, in the Epistle of James, which says that people should remember that they never know what tomorrow will bring, so the will of God should always be acknowledged when making plans.

In a classic parable about why Muslims should say "insha'Allah" before doing something, a Muslim encounters a friend on the way to market, and says that he intends to buy something there, but does not add "insha'Allah" because he is confident that the deed will be done. When he reaches the market and goes to complete the transaction, he discovers that his purse has been stolen, rendering him unable to make the purchase, and his wife chides him, saying that he should have said "insha'Allah."

As a general rule, one says "insha'Allah" when making any statement about a plan, such as “I am going to buy a car tomorrow, insha'Allah.” If the phrase is accidentally omitted, some people believe that it can be added later, as soon as the omission is realized, but "insha'Allah" cannot be said after the fact, because God's will has obviously already been done.

A related phrase is masha'Allah, which means “God has willed it.” Both phrases exemplify the idea that devout Muslims submit themselves to the will of God as part of their religious faith. A Muslim who follows the Pillars of Islam and behaves in a righteous way also hopes to incur the blessings of God by saying "insha'Allah," but he or she also accepts that God may have other plans for the outcome of a pledge to do something.

Visitors to the Middle East often hear "insha'Allah" used as a euphemism for “we'll see,” which can be a source of frustration for some people. It can help to remember that most people are too polite to say that something simply will not happen, so adding "insha'Allah" to a statement can express the idea that something is, in a sense, up to God, whether it be catching a train at the right time or completing a deal to sell a house.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Language & Humanities researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon319229 — On Feb 11, 2013

Politics, politics, politics: Hubris, hubris, hubris. We all have much more in common than we have differences, if we would but acknowledge it.

By anon248398 — On Feb 17, 2012

What does Subuhan'Allah mean?

By anon185175 — On Jun 10, 2011

More correctly, the phrase should be translated as "If God allows."

By anon155978 — On Feb 25, 2011

Regarding some of the comments about Islam recognizing Judaism and Christianity, I would like to clarify one thing. Islam says that both Moses and Eesa (Jesus Christ) were very important prophets of Allah. They brought forth true books - the Torah and Injeel (Bible) and the name of their religion was actually Islam.

Moses did not preach 'Judaism' and Jesus did not preach 'Christianity'. These terms were coined after them. Also, the rules preached by Jesus superseded those of Moses so that in the time of Jesus if somebody only followed Moses' teachings he would be committing a sin.

Similarly the teaching of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) have superseded those of Moses and Jesus. Furthermore, the Jews and Christians have made changes to their holy book so that at this point in time we cannot say which parts of the Bible or Torah are valid and which ones have been changed.

Islam is the one true religion of Allah and the teachings of the Quran and Muhammad (peace be upon him) are the only things which will lead to deliverance in life after death and safety from the wrath of Allah in both lives.

By anon107416 — On Aug 30, 2010

In response to anon38176, I would like to inform that Muslims do not see that the other monotheistic religions as fundamentally wrong. The Quran informs in-length and in several verses about the prophets Moise (Moussa) and Jesus (Issa).

However, Allah reveals in the Quran that Islam is the last religion revealed to people through the last prophet sent to all humanity: Mohammed (Peace be upon him). So by definition, Islam recognizes Jews and Christians.

By anon83816 — On May 12, 2010

Spanish speakers also use a derivative of this phrase, likely due to the fact that Arabic was spoken in the Iberian peninsula for over 700 years and many words became part of the spanish lexicon: "Ojala" - roughly meaning "may it come to pass."

By anon81898 — On May 03, 2010

Thank you for the explanation. In Spanish it is commonly used by Christian believers. "Si Dios quiere", always at the end of a wishful statement.

By anon38176 — On Jul 24, 2009

That would be awesome if it weren't those differences that make the three religions view each other as irreparably wrong by definition, and leads to significant numbers of members in each deciding that the members of the other religion deserve to suffer and die!

By stare31 — On Jun 08, 2009

Yep, there *is* a Christian equivalent: "God Willing." And, there is a Jewish equivalent: "Im Yirtzeh Hashem," which roughly translates to "if it pleases God." Though I think I hear Muslims use their phrase more frequently than Jews and Christians use their respective phrases. Still, perhaps the three monotheistic religions are a lot more similar than we typically acknowledge?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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