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. However, they all have different meanings and usages.
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. For this reason, some of the expressions are not only used by Muslims, but even by Arab Christians.
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 if you are a non-Muslim 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 beautiful quote 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.
Another very known Islamic expression with a deep meaning is astaghfirullah (استغفر الله). Astaghfirullah is a prayer to seek forgiveness. It literally means “I ask forgiveness from Allah”. Muslims use this expression to show their willingness to repent for a sin or wrong. Astaghfirullah is also commonly said after hearing or seeing anything awful.
La Ilaha Illa Allah
An Arabic Islamic expression that most Muslims use on a daily basis is la ilaha illa Allah (لا اله الا الله). It’s an Islamic expression that signifies “there is no god but Allah”. This expression is one of the foundations in the Islamic religion, being the first of the five pillars of Islam. Muslims use the phrase during their daily prayers and other religious meetings and ceremonies. The declaration can be seen as a confession of faith.
Jazak Allah Khair
Did your friend, family member or colleague do something good for you? In Islam it’s very customary to ask God to compensate for someone’s good deeds. One Arabic Islamic expression that you can use to show gratitude to someone who did something good to you is jazak allah khair (جزاك الله خير). People understand this expression as a way to convey gratitude for a favor.
In addition to saying the expression to the person itself, it can also be used in prayers.
Wallah has become a sort of a buzzword. It’s widely known beyond the Middle East. Something that many people don’t know is that wallah is an important Arabic Islamic expression with a very deep meaning.
Wallah is the Arabic word for “I swear” in everyday speech. It’s used to stress the sincerity and authenticity of a statement. For example, when someone doubts what you’re saying, you’ll make yourself more credible by adding wallah to your statement. As wallah is an expression that most Muslims will only use when telling the truth, it can also be used in more serious circumstances, such as legal or religious issues.
Only use wallah when speaking the truth! Don’t use it to cover a lie.
Salam alaikum is a common Muslim greeting. It literally translates to “peace be upon you”. While this Arabic greeting is originally an Islamic expression, it’s commonly used to address Muslims and non-Muslims in the Middle East.
Salam Alaikum is a greeting that expresses one’s hope for peace and prosperity for another person. While it has a deep meaning, it’s a very common Arabic greeting that is popular across the entire Middle East in everyday life.
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. Learning the Arabic alphabet will greatly help you with the correct pronunciation of Arabic words.
|Arabic (Arabic Script)
|Meaning / Usage
|إن شاء الله
|Means “if God wills”. Used to talk about future events.
|Means “praise be to God”. Used to express gratitude (thanks God) for events or life circumstances. Also used after a meal and after sneezing.
|Means “in the name of God”. Used at the beginning of an action to request God’s blessings, for example when starting a meal.
|ما شاء الله
|Means “what God has willed”. Used to express appreciation for things and beauty.
|Means “glory be to God”. Used to express appreciation and gratitude for things.
|An expression or prayer to ask forgiveness to God. Also used when witnessing something awful.
|La Ilaha Illa Allah
|لا اله الا الله
|There is no God but Allah. An expression used in prayers and as a confession of faith.
|Jazak Allah khair
|جزاك الله خير
|Expressing gratitude and seeking God’s blessings for someone who has done good deeds.
|An Arabic expression to convey seriousness and truth of a statement. Equivalent to “I swear”. Only use when speaking the truth!
|An Islamic greeting, literally translates to “peace be upon you”.
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