Remember to say Mashallah!

Something I learned the hard way in Saudi-Arabia was the importance of saying mashallah, maashallah, mashallaah, or mash’Allah. When I had just started working as a nurse I was full of excitement and I was very talkative with my patients. I wouldn’t give second thought to complimenting on a Saudi woman’s beauty, admiring her pretty dress or beautiful children. Then one day when I was returning to work and was anticipating on having the same patients assigned to me I was in for a surprise.

 

The family had thought I had been “too friendly” and had complained to the head nurse about me. They had mentioned how I didn’t say mashallah when I praised their kids, despite them requesting it. They had instructed me in Arabic to “say mashallah” and I hadn’t understood so they had gotten suspicious and requested another nurse. I was devastated, but I took it as a lesson. I was also another push for me to start learning Arabic. The hospital didn’t allow nurses who had been working under one year to take the Arabic lessons, so my only choice at the time was to learn it on my own. I started writing down and learning new words everyday at work. Read here about expats working in Saudi Arabia and learning Arabic.

 

So what does mash’Allah mean? The literal English translation is “as God has willed it”. It’s used for whenever someone or something is being praised or admired. It’s supposed to be a reminder that all good things come from God and are blessings from Him. Saudis and other Arabs also strongly believe that saying it prevents the “evil eye”. Sometimes Saudis might say mashallah when just looking at something nice.

 

When lots of children are present and people are talking about them, every other word seems to be mashallah! It can be quite frustrating to always remember to say it, but for Saudis it comes naturally and they expect westerners to know to say it too. The family at the hospital obviously was afraid that I had given them the evil eye. It might sound superstitious to some, but it’s dead serious business here.


So be warned, if you’re coming to Saudi-Arabia and see a cute baby (they are everywhere) don’t forget to say mashallah!

What a cute baby MASHALLAH!

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  • Lady StaplerAugust 16, 2011 - 7:48 pm

    Very informative, now I know.

    Good thing, they only asked that you say Mashallah when praising children, in our country – Philippines, traditional parents with newborns would demand that you wipe a little bit of spit on the soles of their kids to ward of the evil eye, eeew I know, but these traditional folks would not stop till you wipe saliva on their kids for fear of the babies incurring illness from having been in contact with an unfamiliar individual. It totally contradicts hygienic practices and its very hard for me as a nurse to explain the benefits of not succumbing to such rituals when they are adamant about it.

    I guess each culture has similarities when children are talked about.ReplyCancel

  • FajinaAugust 17, 2011 - 7:47 am

    Thank you for remember me, to say mashAllah, i will try to do it more often :) not just only for “rescue someone from the evil eye” just to prais Allah swt more often.

    By the way, is that your little princess? A very beautiful baby, mashAllah ;)ReplyCancel

  • LaylahAugust 19, 2011 - 2:30 am

    Lady Stapler-thanks for your comment! It was very interesting to read. I guess the evil eye is not only feared in the arab culture then.

    FAjina-thanks for your comment and yes that is a very cute baby mashallah ;)ReplyCancel

  • CAugust 19, 2011 - 3:28 am

    It’s because of evil eye :)ReplyCancel

  • Denise BomfimAugust 20, 2011 - 8:58 pm

    Salam, Laylah! Mash´Allah! Your blog is beautiful!
    Here in Brazil we also say “Mash´Allah” when we´re near a baby (specially country people say that, it is an old custom)

    Visit my blog, too:
    KissesReplyCancel

  • LaylahAugust 22, 2011 - 3:13 am

    C-yes that is I think the main reason in Saudi for people saying it..

    Denise-Salaam aleikum and thanks for visiting my blog!I stopped by yours but didn’t understand because of the language barrier :)ReplyCancel

  • nicoleAugust 28, 2011 - 1:17 am

    I am always forgetting to say mashallah and my husband is always reminding me! :-) But last night I was having iftar (or fatoor, as the Saudis say) with a very good friend of mine, a fellow American Muslimah, and her little daughter, Juju, who is 20 months old, was playing near the door, and Juju put on a pair of her mother’s shoes, picked up my cell phone, waved at us, and said in her little baby voice, “Salaam alaikum!” It was the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen and neither I nor her mother had ever heard her say that, and before I could even think about it, the first thing that came out of my mouth was, “Ohhhh, MASHALLAH!!” So maybe I will get the hang of it yet. :-)

    Thanks for your post, and I love your blog! :-)ReplyCancel

    • GerrardMay 2, 2012 - 7:11 am

      I agree with a lot of what you’re saying here but it could do with more detail. They stayed away in droves.ReplyCancel

  • LaylahAugust 29, 2011 - 2:38 am

    I notice myself still forgetting to say it all the time..I guess it needs some getting used to before it comes 100% naturally everytime :)
    That sounds like one very sweet girl!ReplyCancel

  • AnonymousSeptember 23, 2011 - 2:24 am

    Lol, i always refuse to say mashalla when someone ask me to say it.. He:SAY MASHALLA.. Me:i won’t he:ana zalaan me:invite me to dinner and i’ll say it. he:Ok just say it. me:mashalla, yalla lets go to eat :)

    BandarReplyCancel

  • AnonymousNovember 28, 2011 - 3:15 pm

    Asslamo Alikum,
    Saying mashaallah is not culture-based thing. Instead, it is related to islam.
    Allah SWT said (68:51)(And indeed, those who disbelieve would almost make you slip with their eyes when they hear the message, and they say, “Indeed, he is mad).”
    from the tafsir of this ayah, we can prove that the evil eye is real.
    Also, prophet Muhammad PBUH told moslims to say mashaallah when they see something that they like, even of their owns
    Conclusion: Saying Mashaallah is a prophetic teaching. Therefore, every moslim should follow it if they love the prophet PBUH.
    Allah said in the holy quran (59:7) (So accept whatever the Messenger gives you, and refrain from whatever he forbids you. And fear Allah: verily Allah is Most Stern in retribution.
    I hope it helps!
    FaisalAlIslamReplyCancel

  • LaylahNovember 28, 2011 - 5:31 pm

    Faisal AlIslam- thank you very much for your comment! It’s based in Islam yes, but what I meant is culture here in Saudi is that even non-muslims are expected to say it all the time :)ReplyCancel

  • AbuYazeedUKDecember 30, 2011 - 3:09 am

    Faisal Al Islam – Good post. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The Evil eye is real”ReplyCancel

  • Cheeky ChicJanuary 28, 2012 - 6:13 am

    I guess this NORM is more related to the religion than a region.In my country they always say Masha Allah when they experience something extra ordinary;some one is talented/looking beautiful/cooked well/is blessed with something.I never knew it was that customary in Saudia.But many things are more intense specially from where they generate.Since Islam took birth from there thus it is more in to their souls..:)
    Very Great writing indeed…
    http://wemakeupblog.blogspot.com/ReplyCancel

  • AnisahJune 2, 2012 - 7:33 pm

    I never believed in the evil eye. I wouldn’t say that just to appease superstition. But that’s just me.

    AnisahReplyCancel

  • AnonymousFebruary 6, 2013 - 1:06 am

    The term is related to the tern InShallah (God-willing) in Arabic. It is recited by Christians as well when they is “God-willing”. Term has influenced other cultures as well including Spanish speakers who say Ojala=God-Willing or “I Hope so”, Yoruba speakers in Africa, Cuba and Brasil who Oxala. It is also used in Brasilian Portuguese especially.
    ReplyCancel

  • LolaJune 18, 2014 - 9:17 pm

    Mashallah is used in many cultures it means God willing.Now regarding, Portuguese speaking countries they use it a lot as oxalá, the origin of the word is Arabic when Portugal was invaded by Muslims. :)ReplyCancel

  • mytubeMarch 8, 2015 - 5:33 am

    Mashallah. Interesting post :)_ReplyCancel

    • Laura of ArabiaNovember 14, 2015 - 3:12 pm

      Hello mytube.I’m getting tons of spam from the same ip address you’ve used to submit this comment. Any idea what that might be about? I’m going to have to block that IP..ReplyCancel

    • Laura of ArabiaNovember 15, 2015 - 9:45 am

      I keep getting spam from the same ip address as you used for this comment. Any idea what could cause this?ReplyCancel

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