How Muslims Actually Use the Phrase “Inshallah”

In light of the most recent #FlyingWhileMuslim incident, where a woman misheard another passenger use the phrase ‘Inshallah’ (God willing) and thought she’d heard something nefarious, resulting in his removal from the plane, I thought it might be helpful to explain some of the ways Muslims actually use the phrase:

  1. To console a friend who just got dumped the night before. Picture a boozy brunch the morning after, like in a Sex and the City rerun, or not.
  • Sincerity Level: HIGH (because drunk or sober, you’re a good friend)
  • Example: “Trust me, you totally dodged a bullet with that one. And Inshallah, you’re going to find someone. I know it..”

2. To soften the blow of having bailed on an acquaintance who figured out you were around because you stupidly checked in on Facebook.

  • Sincerity Level: LOW (because you don’t mean it. Typically delivered via emoji-filled txt so you don’t have to lie to their face, or see them generally.)
  • Example: “Ahhh 😞😞😞 Im so sorry I couldn’t make it — had this last minute work thing come up 😔 but will def ping you next time I’m in town. Would be great to see you, inshallah! 😘😘

3. To comfort aging parents who worry about your safety 24/7.

  • Sincerity Level: INCREASING (because as your parents get older, you realize how precious the time you have with them actually is.)
  • Example: “Ok, they’re telling us to turn off our phones. I’ll call you as soon as we land, Inshallah. Love you.”

4. To cover all of the Universe’s bases (in case God exists).

  • Sincerity Level: HIGH (but agnostic or secular in tone. Often paired with fingers crossed or a knocking on wood motion.)
  • Example:Inshallah, I get the interview” or “Inshallah, I think the Cubs have a real shot at winning the World Series this year.” (Inshallah inshallah inshallah)

5. To give yourself a loophole out of a current work or personal commitment you have no intention of keeping.

  • Sincerity Level: ZERO (you know you should’ve just said ‘no’ when they asked but it’s so hard to do that sometimes..)
  • Example: “Yeah, I should be able to turn in my part by Friday … Inshallah.” (Note: inshallah is either said aloud or muttered under your breath)

2018 John S. Knight Fellow at Stanford University.

2018 John S. Knight Fellow at Stanford University.