Somebody wrote on the web: “Say ‘mashallah’” is a request, or more of a command, that my family gave me habitually when I first moved back from the US.”
That doesn’t seem to be the case. The correct word to use in this case is ‘inshallah’. The phrase is a linguistic compression of three different words:
1 ‘In’, in this case, is a conditional proposition that functions almost exactly like ‘if’ in English. The wider usage is the same like English ‘in’, originally a full prehistoric root *’N.
2 ‘Sh’ (IPA ‘š’) is short for [sha’] “willing, want, prefer”, the last letter of which is a very short ‘a’ called a ‘hamza’.
3 ‘Allah’ is a name some people think it is specific to the Muslim God. This is not the case. The name ‘Allah’ is linguistically rooted in a prehistoric bilateral or mono syllabic root morpheme, i.e. made of two letters ‘il’ or ‘el’. It was originally the name given to God by a famous nation ‘Ud’ that lived in south east Arabia. ‘Il/el” is the prehistoric root for God in Judaism “El ohim” and Christianity ‘EL’ or ‘Eli’, as in Arabic translations of the New Testaments. Islam did nothing more than to claim the name for God known in Arabia before history. The rest followed, not vice versa.
Of course one can say ‘mashallah’ to mean ‘it is the course that Allah may choose’ but it is not common in Arabic. What is common in this case is the phrase ‘Ila mashallah’ “endlessly, to a time known only to God”.
Two requirements are needed for all types of communicative speech,
1- Consensus on pronunciation of the word,
2- Consensus on the meaning of the word.
Without this dual consensuses, some people may pronounce a word differently from others so people may be confused and assume it has a different meaning.
Like ‘inshallah’, ‘mashallah’ is made of three segments:
1- ‘Ma’ “whatever, whichever” but functions also interrogatively, “What (ma) is your name?” It is also a negation article like ‘la’ “no, not” with some differences. Example: “Did you see my flying carpet?” Answer: “Ma shift, maybe the cat is using it for prayer.” (I didn’t see it…
Some words or phrases become idioms or expressions. Most people agree on the meaning or meanings and use them so. ‘Mashallah’ is one of them.
Examples of popular usage:
1- Ridicule: ‘Mashallah, you’ve become the biggest liar in the Indian sub continent.”
2- Wonder, appreciation and fun: ‘Mashallah Katrina Kaif, what legs! Their elegance is sufficient to convert half the people of Zimbabwe to Islam.”
The religious aspect in these two examples does not apply because the expression is used by Christians; they are in the millions and it is their language as well. Most of them use ‘Allah’ for “God” and the same applies to Maltese, a unique tongue of mixed ancient “Semitic”, Arabic, English and Italian. Their number is small, 400,000, so they all live in the Hilton hotel.
You wouldn’t use such expressions in a mosque or religious ceremonies or very seriously. In this case the expression should be uttered in classical Arabic: Example, “Ma sha’ Allah, this is beautiful mosque.”
Should Salman Khan Katrina Kaif use ‘mashallah’ as the title of their song?
I’ve read some complains on the internet, probably on religious grounds.
I can’t think of any reason why not, and nobody should object. If the ban is not in the Holy Quran then there is no ban. Only the Quran is sacred. Everything else is not.
What we have to understand is that the Holy Quran did not invent Arabic so Islam does not have an exclusivity of usage of Arabic. It was the language of Arabians and others for thousands of years before Islam and all the roots of Arabic are prehistoric with hundreds of words in Akkadian. What is correct is to say he Holy Quran used Arabic for the holy texts.
Both ‘Islam’ and ‘Allah’ are from prehistoric roots so there is no exclusivity for Islam on either word. Those who read classical Arabic would know that the prayer of some people before Islam was ‘Lubayak Alllahhuma lubayak. “Allah, we give you our hearts”. This was exclusive to Qureish tribe (Yaqoobi history, vol. I, p. 255).
Katrina Kaif and Salman (his first name joins Islam in sharing the same prehistoric root *LM) Khan, sing away and make good Muslims happy. Muslims should enjoy the song. Those who believe the title is not Islamic may want to stick to Carmina burana and leave us, practical Muslims, alone. Nobody on Earth has the right to judge the true belief of other people – this is Allah’s exclusive right. For all we know, Katrina may be waving from one of the towers of heaven to all those languishing outside who thought they were really fantastic Muslims.
We should be very proud to have Katrina, OK and Salman not criticise unfairly. The are giving Muslims joy. Some others have given them phenomenal grief, destruction and terrorism. Here’s how an Arab Muslim girl may react to the song ‘Mashallah’: ‘Ya Allah shu helo!’ “Oh Allah, how sweet!”
Hey guys and girls out there: “Allah is beautiful and he loves beauty”. Relax people – Islam is a civilised, free-flowing silk mantle not a straight jacket.
My gratitude goes to Ms Serenity, Shaheen Maroye, for alerting me to the song Mashallah.
Bishtawi is author of 20 books including Assal Al Kalam: (Origin of Speech): The prehistoric ancestral origins of Ariba and Arabic
Mashallah song and dance