Whether you’re learning the Arabic language or interacting with Muslims, chances are you have heard expressions such as inshallah, mashallah or alhamdulillah. Admittedly, all these expressions might sound very similar at first.
Let me give you an overview of the most common Islamic expressions in Arabic, their meaning and how to use them correctly.
What’s good to know is that all these expressions originate from Arabic. Arabic is the language in which the holy Quran is written. However, they are also commonly used by Muslims in non-Arabic countries such as Turkey, Iran, India etc. In Arabic speaking countries like Jordan, these expressions have become part of the everyday language. As such, they are used by Muslims and Christians alike.
Inshallah, also spelled insha allah, (in Arabic: إن شاء الله) is one of the most used Islamic expressions in daily life. It literally translates as “God willing”. It’s based on the principle that nothing happens without God’s will, as the Quran teaches. Inshallah is used to talk about future events, such as: I’ll see you tomorrow, inshallah. Or: I’ll go on vacation next month, inshallah. It’s often used as a way to say hopefully or yes in Arabic. If you ask: Will I see you tomorrow? you can expect to hear inshallah as an answer. Most people will use this expression when they are serious about their plans, not as a way to avoid saying no. As such, inshallah is also a way of saying yes in Arabic.
While inshallah is originally an Islamic expression, it’s commonly used among Arab speakers regardless of their religion. Many Christian-Arabs use inshallah in their everyday conversations when talking about future events. Consequently, don’t hesitate to use inshallah when learning Arabic.
Another very common Islamic expression is alhamdulillah (in Arabic: الحمد لله). It literally translates to praise be to God. The English equivalent is thanks God. Alhamdulillah is supposed to be used for anything that happens in our life (both positive and negative). In daily life, people mostly use it to show gratitude for positive things. Alhamdulillah is commonly used as an answer to the question how are you in Arabic. Alhamdulillah is a way of saying I’m good. You can also use it when talking about your achievements or a situation in which you were lucky.
Besides, alhamdulillah is also used after completing your meal and after sneezing.
Same as inshallah, alhamdulillah is commonly used by Muslims and Christians in Arabic. If you learn Arabic, don’t hesitate to include alhamdulillah when being asked how you are doing or when talking about your achievements.
A common Arabic saying is: start with bismillah end with alhamdulillah. Bismillah (in Arabic: بسم الله) literally means in the name of God, and is used to mark a beginning. It’s meant to mark the beginning of an action for which a person requests blessings from God. A common daily life situation where you’ll hear bismillah is when eating. Bismillah is said before taking your first bite, and alhamdulillah after finishing your meal. Some people speak it out loud, others whisper it.
Note that bismillah is not an Arabic greeting. The word is not meant to start a conversation, but to start an action for which you like to receive God’s blessings.
While inshallah is used for future events, mashallah is used for events in the past. Mashallah (in Arabic: ما شاء الله) means “what God has willed”. Similar to alhamdulillah, mashallah can be used to express gratitude and joy for something that has happened. In daily life, mashallah is often used as a way to appreciate things like beauty.
While mashallah is another Islamic expression, the word has a deep cultural importance. This is based on the belief that saying mashallah protects from anything evil, such as jealousy. In daily life, mashallah is added when complimenting someone. For example: You’re beautiful, mashallah. Mashallah is commonly used by Muslims and Arab-Christians alike.
Another important Islamic expression to express gratitude is subhanallah (سبحان الله). Subhanallah means glory be to God. Its meaning and usage are similar to mashallah. It’s another way to express gratitude and appreciation, be it for events that have occurred to us, or simply for things that we appreciate.
By the way, I recently came across a cool quote on social media which combines these common Islamic expressions. It’s a great help to memorize and understand all of them.
Start with bismillah, end with alhamdulillah, appreciate with subhanallah, hope with inshallah, and life will be blessed by Allah.
Expressions at a Glance
Below is an overview of the Islamic expressions used in this article and a summary of the meaning. These expressions originate in the Arabic language, so I’ve included their spelling in Arabic for you to copy-paste.
|Islamic Expression||Arabic (Arabic Script)||Meaning / Usage|
|Inshallah||إن شاء الله||Means “if God wills”. Used to talk about future events.|
|Alhamdulillah||الحمد لله||Means “praise be to God”. Used to express gratitude (thanks God) for events or life circumstances. Also used after a meal and after sneezing.|
|Bismillah||بسم الله||Means “in the name of God”. Used at the beginning of an action to request God’s blessings, for example when starting a meal.|
|Mashallah||ما شاء الله||Means “what God has willed”. Used to express appreciation for things and beauty.|
|Subhanallah||سبحان الله||Means “glory be to God”. Used to express appreciation and gratitude for things.|