Upon suppressing President Donald Trump when the American public would see his long-anticipated tax returns, Biden questioned: “When? Inshallah?”
In some specific language, “inshallah” serves as a non-committal response to a question.
Taken literally, the word “Inshallah” includes three Arabic words (‘Allah in Sha’) which will be transformed into “if God wills”. Spiritually it represents the submission of God’s will. This can possibly be seen as the Muslim equivalent of the Yiddish proverb, “Man has a plan, and God laughs.”
Children in the Muslim world often say that when a parent answers a question with “inshallah”, it indicates an unfulfilled promise, while guarding the unbelievable time as “inshallah time” is.
Political commentator Wajahat Ali tweeted, “Joseph said ‘Inshallah’ during the #Debates2020 debate.” It literally means ‘God’s will’, but it often means, ‘Yes, it will never happen.’ Example: My wife: Will you finally pick up your socks? Me: Inshallah. No, to say that inshallah does not make you a Muslim. “
So when Biden spontaneously briefed the president about the timing of his long-promised tax return, “Inshallah” seemed to be beheaded for the well-known Muslim and Arab culture. Trump has never released his tax returns to the public, with past Republican and Democratic presidential candidates and some dissidents out-of-step.
While many saw Biden’s use of the phrase as a nod to their own experiences, others saw it as derogatory and drawing on cultural stereotypes about the Muslim and Arab world.
For many in the Muslim and Arab world, the phrase retains its original spiritual purpose. Far from granting license for fickle behavior, “Inshallah” represents a control over uncontrollable. It is accepted that where a person will try to accomplish his goal, there may be circumstances like God that can be found along the way. For many, the pronunciation of the phrase is an exercise in humility.
Political activist Maryam Masmoudi tweeted, “It is very disappointing that the Biden campaign has been able to present Muslim Americans amidst Islamophobic violence amidst a disgraceful, completely unreasonably enforced ‘inshallah’.”