Search icon


30th Sep 2020

8 different types of Inshallah

On one level 'Inshallah' simply means 'God willing'. On another, it is one of the most versatile and multi-faceted words around. It's like a linguistic Swiss army knife.

Nooruddean Choudry

Inshallah never comes

Joe Biden caused something of a mini-meltdown on social media during the first Presidential debate on Tuesday night when he dropped the ‘I’ bomb on an unsuspecting Donald Trump and worldwide viewing public. It is not a curse word nor an insult, rather a wholly inoffensive Arabic pleasantry meaning ‘God willing’.

What’s the big deal about that, you may ask. Well firstly, any utterance in a vaguely Arab-sounding dialect will panic certain sections of the public into thinking the speaker has allowed ‘creeping sharia’ in through the front door and surreptitiously converted everyone within earshot to Islam.

Secondly, Arab speakers and Muslims around the world just weren’t prepared for the Democrat nominee to not only borrow the term, but use it in such a knowing way. You see, as simple as the translation of Inshallah seems, it serves all sorts of varied functions in every day parlance, and Biden absolutely nailed one of them.

His sarcastic use of the word when asking Trump when his tax returns would be made public was *chef kiss* perfect. It was the ‘Inshallah never comes’ version of the word. But there are sooo many others. Let’s have a look at some of the most popular…

The genuine Inshallah

“Inshallah I’ll get this job I really want…”
Translation: Inshallah I’ll get this job I really want…

This Inshallah literally means ‘God willing’. It is the most wholesome and pure of the Inshallahs. You really want a particular thing to happen, and so you say ‘God willing’ or ‘May God will it’. It’s like saying a little prayer at the end of a sentence, or saying ‘fingers crossed’ if you trust more in superstition.

The doomed Inshallah

“Inshallah United will win the league this year…”
Translation: United haven’t got the slightest chance of winning the league, no matter how much I want it.

This is more of a moonshot Inshallah. You’re really pushing your luck with this one. You know whatever precedes it is almost definitely not gonna happen, but you’re invoking the name of God to please pull a worldie and make it come true.

The never-never Inshallah

“Mum can I have the new United top?”
Translation: No. But this is the easiest way to shut you up.

Mums love this Inshallah. It is as intangible and frothy as Angel Delight. When you’re offered this version of the term, your heart sinks. It’s as good as a no. In fact it’s worse than a no – it leaves you with a tiny sliver of doomed hope that no doesn’t mean no (but it does.)

The guilting Inshallah

“Inshallah you’ll have kids one day too…”
Translation: I hope your future kids treat you as badly as you treat me.

Again, big with mums this one – but a bit more vindictive. This is the Inshallah that Livia Soprano would use on Tony if she was Muslim instead of lapsed Catholic. In fact it’s close to being a curse. It’s basically suggesting you’re such a disappointment of an offspring that you deserve to birth someone just like you as punishment.

The disingenuous Inshallah

“Great to meet you, inshallah we’ll speak soon…”
Translation: We met, and we’ll never meet again.

Another frothy, meaningless Inshallah. Usually dished out in fleeting exchanges in the street but increasingly during unwanted zoom chats. It’s a fake Inshallah. Inshallah as conversation confetti. It’s akin to telling someone you simply *must* do lunch soon, when you’d rather stick pins in your eyes, inshallah.

The absolving Inshallah

“I mean, inshallah it all works out for him but…”
Translation: It’s not going to work out for him. Not a chance.

This Inshallah usually comes before a ‘…but’ in the same way the phrase ‘I’m not being funny…’ or ‘I’m not a racist…’ do. Whatever comes next won’t be pretty. In fact it’ll be petty and small and probably quite mean. It’s the absolving Inshallah – getting your Inshallah in first before twisting the knife.

The disclaimer Inshallah

“Will you be home before 3pm? I need you to be home before 3pm?”
“I’ll be home before 3pm – inshallah”
Translation: I might not be home before 3pm.

Closely related to the never-never Inshallah, this variation allows a vital amount of wiggle room when the recipient demands a definitive answer and you’d rather not give one. This Inshallah usually follows a pause and is said softly and possibly inaudibly. But the key thing is you still said it – and the reason you were late is because God willed it.

The cynical Inshallah

“When will we get to see your tax returns? Inshallah?”
Translation: The bar is so low that me saying the word ‘Inshallah’ will impress you so much you’ll vote for me.

This is the Inshallah used as a cynical ploy to get Muslims and Arabs to vote for you. It’s the opposite of a dog whistle…but not a cat whistle. It’s a little Easter egg for a minority that’s been hugely ignored/vilified and will take anything at this stage.