USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘god willing’
Folk speech

Syrian Good-will Phrase

“They say a lot, the phrase ʾIn shāʾ Allāh which is ‘If God wants to.’ A lot of Arabs say that. Like if somebody invites you over, ‘yeah, ʾIn shāʾ Allāh, if I can or if I have time,’ but in that case it’s translated to ‘If God presumes it to happen’ or ‘If He wants it to happen then it will happen.’”


Having been exposed to this phrase by way of his Arab Christian upbringing, the interlocutor is familiar with this expression but has never used it. He mentioned that the employment of this phrase usually occurs within the adult and elder community in Syria, specifically Muslims and Christians that follow faith through their everyday life.

ʾIn shāʾ Allāh is meant to express “God willing,” demonstrating the prominence of quotidian religious allusions in Syria. I have also experienced a similar religious allusion in my own family, especially among the elders of the Hispanic community as well. Usually, as a person is leaving the company of another, the adult would say “Vaya con Dios,” or “Go with God.” It remains a standard method of bidding someone a happy and fortunate farewell. There seems to be a common thread woven through both expressions, asserting a sense of hope and good wishes from a divine power that has control over the course of respective destinies. Through this, there is a sort of reliance on powers beyond the realm of humans, furthering the notion that the future is in the hands of a higher being and not necessarily in the control of those that are concerned with it.

Folk speech

Insha Allah – “God willing”

Insha Allah – “God willing”

My informant has known this phrase as long as he can remember. His Syrian family uses it frequently. He claims it is also common among most Arabic speakers who are Islamic. Essentially you say it after a sentence like “He’s going off to college in Kentucky, Insha Allah.” or “I’ll see you next week, Insha Allah.” It’s meant as a constant reminder that although we make plans and do things with a purpose, it is ultimately in God’s hands what happens and where you end up. You never know what can happen or where life will take you.

Many times, however, it’ll be said essentially as a “no” or “maybe.” For instance a child can ask, “Can I get a Nintendo for my birthday?” and you’ll hear the parent say “Insha Allah.”

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