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Saying Inshallah

Praise be to God! There is no other god except God. Verses 23 and 24 of Chapter 18 of the Arabic Quran tell us that we should not say that we will do anything TOMORROW without saying “God willing.” Now, the question is, does this commandment apply only for tomorrow, or also for any other day after tomorrow? It turns out, that this word, which we translate as tomorrow, in the Arabic Quran, it is mentioned, and therefore defined in other verses, from which we can deduce that it refers to any day in the future. For example, verse 54:26 says that the disbelievers will find out tomorrow (same word) who the flagrant liar is. Obviously, in this verse, the word “tomorrow” refers to the distant future, when the Day of Judgment happens.

Again in verse 59:18, God says “O you who believe, you shall reverence GOD, and let every soul examine what it has sent ahead for TOMORROW…” Again, here we see that this same word in Arabic is used with a very wide definition, referring to the future, any day in the future.

So, this means that we should say “God willing”, whenever we say that we will do something in the future, whether it is tomorrow, or the day after it, or any other day after it.

Now, the question is, “What about today?” Does this commandment apply to things we will do today, let’s say, two hours from now? Well, logically, it definitely makes sense that we should say, “God willing”. However, it’s interesting that we find examples in the Quran about believers from the past who did not say “God willing” when they were about to do something in the future, if it was within the day, within today, with the same day when they said it.

For example, verse 27:20 says, “He, Solomon, inspected the birds, and noted: “Why do I not see the hoopoe? Why is he missing? I WILL punish him severely or sacrifice him, unless he gives me a good excuse?” See, Solomon said, “I will”, but did not even say, “God willing” and we can know that he was talking about the future in that same day because then the next verse says, “He did not wait for long, (and the hoopoe said…”. So, he was talking about the same day.

Here is another example: In verse 12:97, the sons of Jacob say, “Our father, pray for our forgiveness, we were wrong indeed, and Jacob says, “I WILL implore my Lord to forgive you.” He did not say, “God willing.” He intended to do it very soon on that same day.

Another example: In verse 18:60 Moses says to his servant, “I WILL not rest until I reach the point where the two waters meet, or until I am extremely tired.” No “God willing”. He was doing it on the same day.

Another example: In verse 18:78, God’s servant, whom God had sent to teach Moses says to Moses, “Now we have to part company. But I WILL explain to you everything you could not stand.” and he did not say, “God willing”.

The question is “Why?”  Well, in the past, they did not have busy lives like today, despite what people think. Business has changed from the time of Adam when he did not need to work to survive gradually to the last generation where they will have to be almost constantly working to survive. Now, given that the people of the past did not have many interruptions in their daily routine, it was almost completely unlikely that what they said they would do during the day, it would not get done, provided that when they said it they knew that they have all the means and capabilities, and the will to do it, provided that they really meant it, and knew that they can do it. Now, why would God leave these examples where righteous people don’t say God willing, when actually these days given the level of interruptions in our daily life, we are not 100% sure about what we will be able to do anyway, and therefore theoretically, the commandment to say “God willing” within the same day should apply to us anyway. Well, all these interruptions from a busy life, also imply that the person is a professional at whatever he is doing. A busy believer is a professional. If a believer is not that professional, he shouldn’t be that busy, and if a believer is busy, he should be a professional. Now, that same business which increases the need to say “God willing”, because of uncertainty, automatically implies professionalism, and when you are a professional, you actually go back to not using the word “I will” at all. And when you don’t say “I will” there is no need to say, “God willing”. For example, a professional, instead of saying, “It will rain tomorrow”, he says “The weather forecast for tomorrow is”. So, now it’s an estimate, not a promise about the future. Or instead of saying, “I will send you that document by noon.” He says, “It usually takes me about two hours to finish this type of document.” Or instead of saying, I will be there in one hour. He says, “The estimated travel time in Google maps is 1 hour”, and then, if he is early, he just sends a message, “I am already here”, or if he is late, “He says, I might be late about 10 or 20 minutes”. “I might”, not “I will” and there are so many other sophisticated ways of doing this. See, none of these cases involve saying, “I will”, and therefore none of them demand you to say “God willing”. Instead, they inform the listener about much more than just telling them your intentions, they tell the listener more sophisticated information, which is neither a full promise, and neither a vague statement of intentions which does not help at all in a business setting. See, the way, a lot of people use the word “inshallah” in the middle east, it kills professionalism, because it can mean anything, in the way they use it, it can mean anything from being 1% sure that he will do it, to 99% sure that he will do it. So, that statement does not help me at all, except creating distrust in a long term relationship with that business partner. Instead, a professional person helps you have a clear understanding about what is most likely to happen, but it also leaves a reasonable small possibility that it might not happen.

So, yes we should always say, “God willing” whenever we say that we will do something in the future, whether it is the near future today, or the distant future, but when it comes to the near future within the same day, there is at least one better way nowadays of informing the listener with more sophisticated details than simply saying, “I will do it, God willing”. See, we don’t say “God willing” to appear religious. We say it to be accurate in our statements, and if we manage to make accurate statements, without the need for the phrase, “God willing”, then that is what we do. The Quran tells us not to use God’s name in vain. We just don’t drop his name where it’s not needed. When you say, “I will” then the saying “God willing” is needed, but for things within a day, you have sufficient information to professionally arrange the sentence in such a way to where it is accurate even without saying “I will”.  And I am not trying to say that we should always be vague in our statements. We should let the other person know about the most likely option, without using the words “I will”. You can use the words like “in my estimate”, or “the general expectation is”, or “I am leaning towards this”  and phrases like that which inform him or her enough to understand that it’s not a direct promise that something will happen in the future, but it also informs him or her enough so they can lean more towards one way rather than another. Or when we do the Contact Prayer, we don’t say, “I will do the Noon Contact Prayer”, we say, “I intend to do the Noon Contact Prayer”. See, it’s a more sophisticated statement, which circumvents the need to use the words “I will”, and when we don’t use the words “I will” there is also no need to say “God willing” to make it more accurate.

Also, there are cases where statements which use the word “will” about the future, do not need the phrase “God willing” at all, and these are statements which are guaranteed directly in the Quran. For example, we don’t say, “Believers will go to heaven, God willing.” The statement “Believers will go to heaven” is already accurate enough, without the need to add the phrase “God willing.” God has already willed that believers will go to heaven. It’s a sure thing about the future. Whether a particular person is truly a believer or not, that’s another issue, but all believer will go to heaven, no matter what, and there is no need to add “God willing” to it. This is why predictions by prophets about the future, and my predictions which I extract directly from the Quran, they don’t have the phrase “God willing” in them. God has already willed them, but I use the phrase “God willing” a lot in other daily life circumstances, usually outside of specific professional settings. The most important thing is that what we say should be true. If we have to use the phrase, “if God wills” to make a statement true, then that is what we do, and if the statement is already true, without saying “if God wills”, then that is what we say.