Monday, December 20, 2010

The abused "Inshallah"

Inshallah-God willing is a very frequently used term among Muslims. It stands for "if God wills, it will happen" and its meant to be a positive thing. If someone is asked to do something and then replies "inshallah" it should be like a promise to do ones best and only if God wills otherwise they won't be able to deliver the promise.

Nevertheless inshallah has become widely used to portray something else, like a promise to not do something. In the working environments in KSA where multiple nationalities and cultures mix, inshallah has caught on a negative sound to it. The saying is used and abused by expats and Saudis as well.

For example in the hospital culture inshallah is commonly used to brush things off as unimportant or insignificant. When there are no intentions to actually perform a task inshallah might be said to give false hopes. Or when someone does not take another person too seriously or is just too busy, inshallah comes in "handy" to take the responsibility off oneself. Simply not knowing the answer to something might be an inshallah.
Inshallah has been abused to the point it has become unfavorable and triggers bad feelings among co-workers.

For instance a physician replying "inshallah" after being asked to order a medication or to come see a patient on the ward will signal to the nurse that most likely the dr. will need to be reminded few times before this actually occurs.
The patients sometimes get upset and refuse to accept an "inshallah" from the doctors as an answer because they know it is like a false promise or a delay in treatment.
Nurses at times say to the patients "inshallah" rather than "I'm sorry" when they are too busy to perform a certain task.
Pharmacists might use inshallah when asked for the amount of time needed for a medication to be ready.
A ward clerk might opt to say "inshallah" in response to calm down and get rid of demanding relatives asking too many questions.
When discussing diagnosis or prognosis with patients some physicians rather say "inshallah" then reveal the truth of the matter.

And the list goes on unfortunately..It's as if the whole term has been turned upside down from its real meaning.


Lavender © said...

I had to stop using Enshallah the 'Slang' way, when my daughter looked at me in the face, and said... mommy I don't like enshallah. I then realised that I have been using enshallah the 'slang' way instead of the proper way. now I have made sure I use enshallah ONLY when I am 100 % sure the thing will happen. And she has grown to like the term once again.

طيب النازل said...

Totally agree with you about the misuse of word inshalah.

I think most of the Saudis (including myself) have misused this word tooooo much!

Thank you for being a good mirror for us.

Anonymous said...

I used to have the same problem with "insha'Allah" but mainly when I had first converted and thought "insha'Allah" could be used interchangably with "we'll see" or "maybe" (which, unfortunately, it was being used that way.) My ex husband (who is also Saudi) used to use "insha'Allah" whenever I'd ask him to do something and after awhile, I just freaked out and said "ya know, God helps those who help themselves so get off your butt and do what you said 'insha'allah' to!" lol.

Daisy said...

I agree 100% with this post. I don't like the term one iota! My husband uses it when I ask him something that he feels is not of importance. I say to him....YES OR NO... NOT INSHA'ALLAH! He will say why not? I respond that when he says Insha'Allah, it means no.

I am an American and he is Middle Easteren. There are alot of things I noticed about their "sayings" haha. The one thing I know for sure, is that if he says Insha'allah, the garbage will remain in the kitchen and I wont get my pictures hung up on the wall...hahaha

Layla said...

Hi everyone and thaks for your comments!
I have to admit I sometimes use it myself at work when I'm busy..I've tried to avoid saying it altogether at work to avoid all sorts of miscommunications between people.

It's such a deeply rooted saying for most arabs that its extremely hard for them to get rid of this habit.

The Burdened Mary said...

Although I don't like the term being mistreated, I think I've learned to just accept this second, cultural meaning as an existing thing. Language is an organism; it grows and changes over time and it lets new things in. This use of Insha'Allah is deeply rooted as it was consumed by language. I think that the use is hypocritical and annoying, but it is a reality and it is an effective way to get a certain message across. I don't blame you for using it as a convenient method :) It's good we remember what it TRULY means, though, even if it has taken on a secondary meaning in this new context.

ipv6 said...

I know fairly bit about the abuse of the word esp. in business/corporate dealing, many Muslim businessman from all around the world been mislead/dupe by the excessive used of Inshallah by their Middle East counter part, while unknow to 'em these fella merely utter the world without weight what soever.

But I never realize on how far it goes into the daily life of the people on the streets. This is absurd and a bit comical I must said.


Anonymous said...

while I dont like when "Insha'Allah" is used as a lazy way to not have to say yes or no, it is important for Muslims to not stop saying it all together. "Insha'Allah" reminds us that Gods will is at the center of absolutely evreything we do. I dont mind if someone says "insha'Allah" when I ask them to do something as long as they make the effort to do it.

Otherwise, its just as dangerous to ask your spouse or friends or to make yuorself stop using it. If you use it, just use it correctly :)

Aan said...

nice info