Saturday, November 13, 2004


Inshallah & Mashallah

Inshallah and Mashallah are commonly used expressions in Iraq. However, unlike shaku maku, they are not unique to this country and are used extensively all over the Muslim world. They are in fact also normally used also by Iraqi Christians.


Inshallah [Literally: If God Wills] Equivalent to: "God Willing"

An average Iraqi uses the expression Inshallah at least a dozen times in an average day! It is frequently used with the future tense of speech: "I'll see you tomorrow, Inshallah!", "I'll come to the meeting, Inshallah!", "I'll do it as soon as I finish this, Inshallah" and so on and so forth! In a way, it also offers some room for escaping firm commitments sometimes!

Iraqi Airways, when we had airways, had the initials "IA". Due to its frequent delays, some people referred to it as Inshallah Airways!


Mashallah [Literally: Whatever God Wills] Equivalent to: "Praise the Lord".

This is most frequently used to express exclamation at something good or pretty; a cause for happiness, a success, a fortune, a beautiful child…

The dear father of a dear, life-long Kurdish friend was terminally ill with cancer a few years ago. He had a wife, three sons and one daughter who were all abroad. Actually, they had taken the old man abroad but he insisted on coming back to Iraq. [Kurds are notorious for being rather stubborn - that's the general stereotype anyway!] There was no one to look after him but a niece.

She unfortunately had a husband who was paralyzed from the neck down whom she had to look after. Her home was several miles away from her uncle's. She solved the problem by moving her husband to her uncle's home. The two men didn't get along when they well both well. But under those conditions that didn't matter much!

So, she kept each in a separate bedroom and dedicated herself totally to looking after them. I and three other friends frequently visited them.

It so happened that both men died in the same morning. A mosque's Imam was duly informed and he came with some entourage. They brought one coffin with them. Someone told him that the deceased were two. Instead of the usual mumbles of resignation usually uttered in such occasions, the man raised his hands and reflexively exclaimed: "Mashallah!"

I and my friends were so surprised by his reaction! We kept referring to that incident for years. But some very devout Muslims look at death this way [The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away?]. They not only believe it but genuinely feel it!
Little did we know then that we are in for a lot more of this.

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