It Doesn't Have To Be Right…

… it just has to sound plausible


Arabia Felix

À propos a recent discussion on Twitter regarding Matthew Cook’s story ‘Insha’Allah’ in the current issue of Interzone, below is an old and racist description of the phrase and its uses, taken from English-Arabic conversational Dictionary, first printed in 1909, my edition a 1969 edition, from Hirschfeld Brothers Ltd of Great Portland Street, London:

A favorite word of the Oriental, which he pronounces at every possible, suitable or unsuitable, opportunity, but with which he generally simply cloaks his innate laziness and indolence, frequently also his ill-will. As the European by hearing this inshallah always pronounced with the same nugatory, often even ironical tone, is at last reduced to sheer despair, he will do well to break his companion of it as soon as possible. The Muslims only should not be interfered with, because the Koran prescribes to them the continuous use of this showy phrase.

I have a second copy of the book, different cover but identical contents, which claims to be by Professor Anwar Hafiz and Moustafa Aziz, but does not give a publisher or year of publication. It also omits the footnotes. I suspect it is a pirate edition.

As noted above, the Qu’ran commands Muslims to use “insha Allah” when describing any future action – see Surat Al-Kahf:

18:23 – And never say of anything, “Indeed, I will do that tomorrow,”

18:24 – Except [when adding], “If Allah wills.” And remember your Lord when you forget [it] and say, “Perhaps my Lord will guide me to what is nearer than this to right conduct.”

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Kul Wahad!

English can be a wonderfully expressive language. But sometimes you wish your first language were some other tongue… Like Arabic – which has the word khadhuf, meaning “a she-ass… so fat that, if a pebble is thrown at her with the fingers, or the two fore fingers, or with the extremity of the thumb and that of the forefinger, it sinks into her fat” (at least it does according to The Penguin Anthology of Classical Arabic Literature, edited by Robert Irwin).