Inshallah, insh’Allah, insha’Allah -God willing is a very frequently used term among Muslims. It stands for “if God wills, it will happen” and it’s meant to be said as a positive thing. Responding with “inshallah” after having been asked to do something, should be like a promise to do ones best to get the job done. Only if God wills otherwise they wouldn’t be able to deliver that promise.
Despite it’s true meaning, in reality ‘inshallah’ is widely used to express something else altogether. In fact, it has become like a promise not do something. Within the workplaces in KSA, where multiple nationalities and cultures mix, ‘inshallah’ has caught on a negative connotation to it. The saying is commonly used and abused by expats and Saudis as well.
In Saudi hospital culture, which I’m familiar with due to my profession, ‘inshallah’ is generally used to brush things off as unimportant or insignificant. When there are no intentions to actually perform a task, a plain ‘inshallah’ is the most common response. ‘Inshallah’ is used as a sort ‘buffer’ to soften what the person really wants to say; “NO”. The saying can also be used when someone doesn’t take the person or question at hand seriously. Sometimes when people are just too busy, they say ‘inshallah’ to take the responsibility off oneself. Sort of like saying, if they don’t have time to do the job, it was not their fault, because ‘God willed it” so to say.
Simply not knowing the answer to something is more often an inshallah than “I don’t know”. ‘Bukra inshallah’ is something everyone in Saudi Arabia will hear every so often. In other words, ‘inshallah bukra’ means it’s not. gonna. happen. Person saying it is well aware of this but lets just say ‘inshallah’ if a miracle were to occur and the it would actually happen!
Inshallah has been abused to the point it has become something negative. It triggers ill feelings and it has the tendency to make people really annoyed.
More examples from the healthcare field: For instance patients sometimes get upset and refuse to accept an “inshallah” from the doctors as an answer. They know very well it’s like a false promise, that the doctor is in fact hiding something or it means a delay in treatment. Nurses at times tell patients “inshallah” rather than “I’m sorry I can’t” when too busy to perform certain tasks, giving patients false hopes.
Pharmacists might use ‘inshallah’ when asked for how long it will take for the medication to be prepared.
A ward clerk might opt to say “inshallah” to try 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 which is probably one of the worst instances to use the term.
And the list goes on unfortunately. It’s as if ‘inshallah’ has been turned upside down from its real meaning, to the point where people have begun using it in sentences like “Don’t inshallah me!”.
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Hello there, I’m Laura, the author of Blue Abaya, the first travel blog in Saudi Arabia established in 2010. I’ve been traveling around and exploring Saudi Arabia since 2008.
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