Inshallah (If Allah Wills)

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Inshallah (Arabic: إن شاء الله; lit. "if Allah wills") is an Islamic devotional phrase found in the Quran and widely used in the Muslim world and throughout Islamic history intended to affirm that Allah is directly responsible that has happened in the past and will happen in the future (a doctrine known as qadr, or predestination).[1] The phrase is employed to express the unknowable nature of the future, due to its being in God's rather than human hands. The phrase has also developed a connotation of positive expectation and is most frequently used to express hope rather than simple uncertainty about a certain event taking place in the future (the phrase is today rarely if ever employed to describe an undesirable future event).

The phrase has also, with time, taken on ironical connotations, and is sometime used to express sarcastic doubt about the likelihood of an unlikely event in the future. This use was seen most famously when American President Joe Biden during a 2020 presidential debate said, "When? Inshallah?", while asking his competitor Donald Trump when he would be releasing his tax records.[2]

The phrase has been adapted by Spanish in the in the form of the word ojalá (meaning "I/we hope") due to cultural and linguistic influences from the Islamic occupation of the Iberian Peninsula from 711-1492. Similar cognates have also been identified in other non-Islamic languages, including Portuguese (oxalá), Cypriot Greek (ίσσαλα, or "ishalla"), and Romanian (Doamne ajută).

Arabic composition

With diacritics the phrase is written as:

  • إِن شَاءَ اللَّهُ

In the old Qur'anic Uthmani script, the شَاءَ ("sha") is written with alif maddah, as follows:

  • إِن شَآءَ ٱللَّهُ

The phrase is comprised of three words:

  • إِن - in - (a particle) "if"
  • شَاءَ - sha' - (3rd person perfect verb) "wills"[3]
  • اللَّهُ - Allah - (proper noun) God

The three letters in شَاءَ are:

  • ش - shin
  • ا - alif
  • ء - hamza

Hamza is read as a glottal stop (closing the throat), which is indicated by the apostrophe "In sha' Allah".

The root of شَاءَ is شيا.

Common errors in rendition

A common misspelling places in and sha together, so one gets insha. انشاء الله ("insha' Allah") means "we created/invented Allah" (insha is from a different root نشا).[4]


In Ibn Ishaq's sira (one of the earliest biographies of Muhammad), it is reported that some people were sent to Jewish rabbis to ask them how to determine whether Muhammad was a real prophet. They prepared 3 questions for Muhammad and said that if he answered them correctly, then he would be a prophet. Muhammad replied that he would give them the answers the next day, but after 15 days he was still without any answers. He later explained that this was because he had not said "Inshallah":

...they sent him and `Uqba b. Abu Mu`ayt to the Jewish rabbis in Medina and said to them, 'Ask them about Muhammad; describe him to them and tell them what he says, for they are the first people of the scriptures and have knowledge which we do not possess about the prophets.' They carried out their instructions, and said to the rabbis, 'You are the people of the Taurat, and we have come to you so that you can tell us how to deal with this tribesman of ours.' The rabbis said, 'Ask him about three things of which we will instruct you; if he gives you the right answer then he is an authentic prophet, but if he does not, then the man is a rogue, so form your own opinion about him. Ask him what happened to the young men who disappeared in ancient days, for they have a marvellous story. Ask him about the mighty traveller who reached the confines of both East and West. Ask him what the spirit is. If he can give you the answer, then follow him, for he is a prophet. If he cannot, then he is a forger and treat him as you will.' The two men returned to Quraysh at Mecca and told them that they had a decisive way of dealing with Muhammad, and they told them about the three questions.

They came to the apostle and called upon him to answer these questions. He said to them, 'I will give you your answer tomorrow,' but he did not say, 'if God will.' So they went away; and the apostle, so they say, waited for fifteen days without a revelation from God on the matter, nor did Gabriel come to him, so that the people of Mecca began to spread evil reports, saying, 'Muhammad promised us an answer on the morrow, and today is the fifteenth day we have remained without an answer.' This delay caused the apostle great sorrow, until Gabriel brought him the Chapter of The Cave, in which he reproaches him for his sadness, and told him the answers of their questions, the youths, the mighty traveller, and the spirit.

I was told that the apostle said to Gabriel when he came, 'You have shut yourself off from me, Gabriel, so that I became apprehensive'. He answered, 'We descend only by God's command, whose is what lies before us, behind us, and what lies between, and thy Lord does not forget.
Sirat Rasul Allah, page 133

The last sentence by Gabriel became a verse in the Qur'an:

And we do not descend but by the command of your Lord; to Him belongs whatever is before us and whatever is behind us and whatever is between these, and your Lord is not forgetful.

After 15 days Muhammad was revealed answers to the questions. The revealed answers were drawn from ideas circulating in Arabia at the time and did not answer two of the three questions posed, instead regarding them as being impossible to answer. The verses responding to the question on the number of the Sleepers of Ephesus include phrases like "some people say" with a list of different theories, instead of giving the exact number. In response to the question regarding peoples' souls, the verses conclude that "Allah knows best" (Allahu A'alam). The following verse deals with the number of the sleepers of Ephesus:

18:22 (Some) say: (They are) three, the fourth of them being their dog; and (others) say: Five, the sixth of them being their dog, making conjectures at what is unknown; and (others yet) say: Seven, and the eighth of them is their dog. Say: My Lord best knows their number, none knows them but a few; therefore contend not in the matter of them but with an outward contention, and do not question concerning them any of them.

Immediately after that Quran 18:22, come Quran 18:23-24 about the necessity of saying in sha' Allah:

18:23 And never say of anything, "Indeed, I will do that tomorrow," 18:24 Except [when adding], "If Allah wills." (أَن يَشَآءَ ٱللَّهُ) And remember your Lord when you forget [it] and say, "Perhaps my Lord will guide me to what is nearer than this to right conduct."

The third of the responses was a general and, at the time, common formulation of the Alexander Romance.

Criticism and historical evaluation

Critics argue that the 15 days between the questions being posed and answered were employed by Muhammad to prepare his response, which was in any case extremely limited in content and not indicative in anyway of divine inspiration.

Historians, by contrast, consider the entire interaction to have been fabricated for the reason that it would have been senseless on the part of the Meccans and Rabbis to ask questions only a prophet could answer to test Muhammad's prophethood if those posing the questions (not being prophets themselves) would have been unable to verify the correctness of the responses. Historians also argue that this story appears to be a variation on a very similarly themed (and equally implausible) tale from Muhammad's life were a man by the name of Abdullah bin Salman interviews Muhammad with three other questions intended to verify Muhammad's prophethood (see this section in Convenient Revelations).

In Islamic scripture

In the Quran

18:23 And never say of anything, "Indeed, I will do that tomorrow,"

18:24 Except [when adding], "If Allah wills." (أَن يَشَآءَ ٱللَّهُ) And remember your Lord when you forget [it] and say, "Perhaps my Lord will guide me to what is nearer than this to right conduct."
They said: Call on your Lord for our sake to make it plain to us what she is, for surely to us the cows are all alike, and if Allah please we shall surely be guided aright.
Then when they came in to Yusuf, he took his parents to lodge with him and said: Enter safe into Egypt, if Allah please.
He said: If Allah pleases, you will find me patient and I shall not disobey you in any matter.
He said: I desire to marry one of these two daughters of mine to you on condition that you should serve me for eight years; but if you complete ten, it will be of your own free will, and I do not wish to be hard to you; if Allah please, you will find me one of the good.
And when he attained to working with him, he said: O my son! surely I have seen in a dream that I should sacrifice you; consider then what you see. He said: O my father! do what you are commanded; if Allah please, you will find me of the patient ones.
Certainly Allah had shown to His Messenger the vision with truth: you shall most certainly enter the Sacred Mosque, if Allah pleases, in security, (some) having their heads shaved and (others) having their hair cut, you shall not fear, but He knows what you do not know, so He brought about a near victory before that.
On this world and the hereafter. And they ask you concerning the orphans Say: To set right for them (their affairs) is good, and if you become co-partners with them, they are your brethren; and Allah knows the mischief-maker and the pacemaker, and if Allah had pleased (وَلَوْ شَآءَ ٱللَّهُ), He would certainly have caused you to fall into a difficulty; surely Allah is Mighty, Wise.

In the hadith

It was narrated from Ibn 'Umar: "Whoever swears an oath and says In sha' Allah, will never break his oath."
Narrated 'Umar bin Al-Khattab: That the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said: "If I live - if Allah wills - I will expel the Jews and the Christians from the Arabian Peninsula."
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "(The Prophet) Solomon once said, 'Tonight I will sleep with ninety women, each of whom will bring forth a (would-be) cavalier who will fight in Allah's Cause." On this, his companion said to him, "Say: Allah willing!" But he did not say Allah willing. Solomon then slept with all the women, but none of them became pregnant but one woman who later delivered a halfman. By Him in Whose Hand Muhammad's soul is, if he (Solomon) had said, 'Allah willing' (all his wives would have brought forth boys) and they would have fought in Allah's Cause as cavaliers. "

See also


  1. And never say of anything, "Indeed, I will do that tomorrow," Except [when adding], "If Allah wills." And remember your Lord when you forget [it] and say, "Perhaps my Lord will guide me to what is nearer than this to right conduct." Quran 18:23-24
  2. Aymaan Ismail, Slate, September 30, 2020 (archived from the original), 
  4. Insha is used in the Qur'an. For example in 23:78:
    • وَهُوَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أَنشَأَ لَكُمُ
    • It is whe who created (أَنشَأَ) for you