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The Politics of Insha Allah

January 4, 2011

Welcome 2011! May this year bring so much happiness and glory into our lives, Insha Allah.

Yes, Insha Allah – this strong phrase – it triggers that hit song by Maher Zain, doesn’t it? It’s so beautiful listening to Maher Zain singing Insha Allah so beautifully. It gives me a sense of hope that dictates the imminent presence of Beauty in this world. I think Insha Allah has a special meaning for many people, and this is especially true for my research participants in Kelantan. For them, Insha Allah was the most flowery thing to say in their text messages whenever I set an appointment for a speaking or listening experiment. I’ll see you at 4 p.m., I said. Insha Allah, they replied. I’ll see you at Room 4, I said. Insha Allah, they replied. I’ll see you on Monday, I said. Insha Allah, they replied. I was like, hey, the magic of Maher Zain really works. Thank God. Thank you, Awakening Records. You rock!

However, to my surprise, I found out that these were the people who didn’t turn up on time or, to the worst extent, totally forgot the appointment. I don’t have any statistics to illustrate this finding but, at the end of my fieldwork at Universiti Malaysia Kelantan, I could easily predict whether a person was trustworthy or not by simply looking at their SMSes – those who said Insha Allah were the ones with attitude problems, and those who said Okay or Alright were the ones who kept their promises. Wait wait wait, don’t get too emotional over this wild association, my dear friend. It is only hypothetical in the context of where I encountered them. Insha Allah, in this regard, was wrongly politicized for one’s personal gain. For these people, Insha Allah was just another polite way of saying “We’ll see” or “Whatever” or “Who cares?”


Now, what’s the true meaning of Insha Allah? Where does this powerful phrase come from? First of all, Insha Allah is an Arabic term which implies Hope for an event to occur in the future. The English equivalent is “God Willing”, or DV, the latin abbreviation for Deo Volento. There is also a Jewish equivalent – Im Yirtzen Hashem – which is roughly translated as “if it pleases God”. The Spanish phrase for this is ojala (que). In some cultures, the phrase does not denote any religious significance. But for Muslims, they are always told to add Insha Allah when they will undertake a certain action in the future. It originates from Surah Al Kahf (18):24: “And never say of anything, I shall do such and such thing tomorrow, except (with the saying): If God wills!” For this reason, devout Muslims (and sometimes famous celebrities) always insert Insha Allah in their statements, acknowledging their submission to God, putting themselves in God’s hands, and accepting the fact that God can sometimes work in unexpected manners. But, do they really mean what they mean?

I know the answer. Personally, I know why I made such a ruckus over this seemingly petty issue. The notion of Insha Allah talks deeply about my deeply-rooted problem – I have a serious control issue. Yes, I’m a hardcore planner and an extreme organizer. Everything has to be under my control, be it my present life or my future life. I’m like, ahem, God of my own life. I have come to a sickening stage of King Control where everything has to be executed perfectly as it is. If things don’t turn out as they should be, I would just make sure that they will go as planned no matter what. That’s why, sometimes, I feel uncomfortable saying Insha Allah – it’s like I’m losing control over myself and let the fate handle the tasks. And I would feel sick when I hear someone says Insha Allah – it’s like they don’t take their words seriously and it’s up to other forces to determine the course of their future actions. Maybe it’s just my stupid delusion, thinking that Insha Allah equates looseness, casualness and weakness. But, gradually, I have to admit the fact that, while I make a good plan, God definitely makes a better plan.

Well, some people might have abused the phrase Insha Allah to feel good about themselves if things don’t turn out the way they ought to be, coming late to a meeting or missing an appointment. Many times, I have a strong feeling that Insha Allah has been used for wrong reasons. Maybe it’s just trendy to say Insha Allah these days, or it is just a euphemism, a politically-correct way of saying: “I’ll see what I can do, but don’t you hope too much!” For one thing, this kind of politics was apparent during my fieldwork. I didn’t want to jump into any conclusion, but if that was how things worked, don’t blame the chief editor of Oxford Dictionary if he adds a corrupted definition to Insha Allah in 2011 edition, maybe something like, Insha Allah: A sure sign of a promise about to be broken. But whatever I have rambled so far, it is nothing religious or serious. Don’t you worry about that. I still believe in the true meaning of Insha Allah. As much as Maher Zain sings Insha Allah to his heart, I do hope that my research participants will find their ways soon.

Insha Allah.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. January 4, 2011 9:40 pm

    I think it’s akin to the Aussie’s “no worries, mate”….an assurance but nothing gets done, really. May 2011 be a merry and happy year for you and yours. InshaAllah….*winks*


    • January 5, 2011 10:49 am

      I wouldn’t say “No Worries Mate” is equivalent to Insha Allah. It’s just an Aussie way of saying “Hey, I’m friendly. Welcome to Australia”. Thanks, mate. May 2011 bring more cute cats into the world.


  2. January 4, 2011 11:31 pm

    insha allah as to them “tengoklah ya”. does it?


  3. ikpunye permalink
    January 5, 2011 12:16 am

    Sometimes I’ll ask back mereka yg bilang Insya Allah, “Insya Allah buat ke Insya Allah tak buat?” 🙂

    ..and I got that ‘quote’ from my arwah ustaz masa darjah 4. Dia marah seorang budak tapi tempias kena satu kelas:

    “Insya Allah buat ke Insya Allah tidak buat? Awak ni selalu salah guna perkataan Insya Allah. Insya Allah tu maknanya dengan izin Allah, tapi kena la tentukan dulu, iya, awak mahu buat, baru la sebut Insya Allah. Ini tidak, awak kalau sebut Insya Allah, memang maknanya awak tak buat la tu .”


  4. January 5, 2011 1:11 am

    hey dude….
    I love your blog and I love everything and every words you wrote here…. keep it up… Cheers bro for 2011 and onnwards… inshaallah i’ll keep visiting yours… i’m also on your fb….


  5. January 5, 2011 5:41 pm

    Che Mie,

    Tepuk dada tanya hati. Pada Aliff, kalau dah sebut InsyaAllah itu kenalah bersungguh-sungguh cuba laksana.

    Aliff tidak suka berjanji. Kalau mahu / tidak terus aja kata dengan terang jelas! Kalau tidak jadi mohon maaf.


    • January 6, 2011 4:53 pm

      Good attitude, Aliff. If the whole world has a lot of Aliffs, it will be a better world to live.


  6. Anonymous permalink
    January 8, 2011 11:02 pm

    they (some of your research participants) had definitely misused the phrase of InsyaAllah. but feeling sick on hearing someone says insha Allah is quite harsh, dont you think?


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