In shaa Allah — what does it mean to you?

Based on your knowledge and personal experiences, the term In shaa Allah can take on different meanings.

Dubai: Yes or no? Maybe or definitely? Depending on how long you have lived in the Middle East and what your personal experiences are, the Arabic term ‘In shaa Allah’ could hold different meanings.


The UAE is home to over 200 nationalities, most of them non-Arab, and life in the UAE can lead to several new experiences. One of them is understanding cultural greetings and practices. Terms like ‘yalla’ or ‘Alhamdulillah’ are no longer restricted to conversations in Arabic.

So, what does the term mean?

Literally, the term In shaa Allah is a composite of three words, which mean ‘If Allah wills’.

But do UAE residents truly understand the meaning and significance of the term?

Nicart Obsuna, a physical education head at a Dubai-based school, felt that the term was often used to denote that a person would make their best effort at a certain task.

“I have heard it before, especially when running errands or when it comes to the submission of any work. But, I think, it is the politically correct way of saying ‘no’ nowadays,” he said.

For Joy Thomas Alookaran, a Dubai resident who runs a consultancy, In shaa Allah can practically mean that a task would take a lot longer than was being promised.

“I know the literal meaning of the word – ‘If God Wills it’. But my experience with people is that those who use it are saving themselves and not taking any guarantee. So, I feel the work will take time,” he said.

Ideal usage

However, according to Ahmad Al Jafflah, who is the senior presenter and protocol manager at the Shaikh Mohammad Centre for Cultural Understanding, In shaa Allah is not a term that should be used lightly as it holds both religious and cultural significance.

In shaa Allah is part of our lives. Even as children, we are taught to say In shaa Allah for everything that we plan to do. We use it when it comes to something that I am going to do tomorrow, in an hour or even in a minute,” he told Gulf News.

Ahmad added that this practice comes from a verse in the Quran, where believers are asked to use the term In shaa Allah for their future plans.

“And never say of anything, ‘Indeed, I will do that tomorrow,’ Except [when adding], ‘If Allah wills.’ …”

[Quran 18:23-24]

He added that people should also say it out loud.

“Unfortunately, some groups are using it as a joke, which means I am not going to attend. You sometimes hear people say In shaa Allah being used as ‘may be I’ll attend’. No, In shaa Allah means ‘I want to attend, but it is all in His Hands. Anything could happen – I could die, I could fall ill, I could get a flat tyre.”

Changing minds

However, Ahmad also felt that over time, expatriates learn the true meaning and spirit of the term and begin to use it the way it was meant to be used.

“I was in the annual meeting at the company where I worked and the manager, who was an Englishman, said that he was very happy with the way we performed this year and In shaa Allah we will meet next year with better results. After the meeting, I asked him if he realised that he used the term and what it meant. He told me, ‘Yes, Ahmad, it means God Willing and I am sure we will do it next year’. That made me so happy because In shaa Allah is not just for Muslims, it is for everyone.”

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