Biden Said ‘Inshallah.’ Many Arab Christians Do Too.
Arabic phrase invoked during presidential debate parallels James 4 and offers a window into how Christians and Muslims view God’s will.
Unnoticed by many during the contentious first presidential debate, Joe Biden introduced a new Arabic word into the American lexicon.
Technically, it is three words, in both Arabic and English: “in sha’ Allah,” or “if God wills.”
However, “If you take it literally, you won’t get the intent,” said Ramez Atallah, general director of the Bible Society of Egypt.
“It can also mean, ‘It will never happen,’ and this is probably what Biden meant.”
Asked by the debate moderator about his tax returns, President Donald Trump answered, “You’ll get to see it.”
To which the former vice president interjected, “When? Inshallah?”
Trump continued, and the moment was lost to almost all but Arabic-speaking viewers. Muslim Twitter users lit up in astonishment, wondering if they heard correctly.
“Enchilada” was about as close as other ears heard.
But while one Muslim writer has humorously called inshallah the Arabic equivalent of “fuggedaboudit,” what should Christians make of the phrase?
“Everything is uncertain,” Atallah said. “We live in an unpredictable world, and no one is ever sure that what they plan will be accomplished.”
He highlighted the biblical equivalent in James 4:15: “You do not even know what will happen tomorrow … Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’”
Born in Egypt but educated in Canada and the United States, Atallah returned for good in 1980 and was soon given a crash course in inshallah. Calling a plumber to fix his leaky pipe, he paid about $28 in US dollars in advance and then waited endlessly …
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May 18, 2021