Insha'Allah / Insh'Allah / Inshallah

Yes, I did a Google fight before asking (inshallah won), but I’m still not clear on whether the three spellings are interchangeable,or whether the spelling varies by country, by religion (Sunni vs. Shia), or the language being spoken.

I’m working on a book set in Baltistan (in Northern Pakistan). The characters are Shi’a Muslims and they speak speak Balti, but I’m rendering the majority of the dialog in English. There are certain phrases I’d like to keep in the native tongue, including “Insha’Allah.” When it comes up in dialog, how should I spell it?

Yes, I know Balti doesn’t transliterate perfectly into the Roman character set, but is there a convention to follow?


Write it so the reader can understand it without thinking. There is no one correct transliteration from Arabic to English.

I would go with the first one. It needs to show that pause between Insha and Allah. And technically you don’t need the a at the end of Insha, but that little a we use is hard for others to grasp, they then pronounce it Insh which isn’t right either.

The spelling varies by the translator not the Arabic. Not that there aren’t differences between regions in Arabic. But for this question consider the words Koran and Qur’an. Both refer to the scriptures of Islam but the difference is in how the translator wishes to convey the sounds in a Latin alphabet. This is very simplified. One introduction of a translated book related the evolution of romanized Arabic. Koran is old; Qur’an is new.


Insha’Allah - 1,890

Insh’Allah - 98 and it corrected to InshaAllah

Inshallah - 4,310 and case insensitive search came up “InsahAllah

Thank you. That’s exactly what I’m looking for.

And as an aside to Will Repair, I spell it Qur’an.

Since “Inshallah” is from Arabic, which also doesn’t transliterate perfectly, I’d suggest listening to a couple different Balti speakers say it and then coming up with a new transliteration. Use that scheme for all the non-English bits, and you’ve got yourself a distinctive vibe.

One more time…

At, “god willing” gets “Insha Allah” and “Insha-Allah”.

As someone who uses inshaAllah daily, I would include the a in ‘insha’. As in Allahu akbar there is vowel bridge (can’t remember the term but the French and English do it) between words. Oh, and Allah should be capitalized.

Why? Since when does English capitalize letters inthe middle of words?

Unless you’re also planning on writing words like “unGodly,” I suggest sticking with “inshallah.” It’s less pretentious, and it’ll blend better with the rest of the text.

Hooray! And I agree, you don’t have to capitalize Allah in the middle of the word. I don’t even know if Arabic has capital letters; Hindi certainly doesn’t.

Oh and I spell it Quran. But then I’m not writing a novel! In that case I would certainly spell it Qur’an. Koran is not right, really, it’s not a hard K but a different sound.

No it doesn’t but InvisibleWombat isn’t writing in Arabic.
If so, it would be

It’s only the middle of a “word” if you transliterate it into English as one word. It’s more than one word in Arabic.

I disagree. Boy, do I disagree. Given that correctness (as usually defined) is beyond the scope of any transliteration scheme, consistency is the only thing we can hope for. Consistency is what allows people to actually understand what is being written. Without that, you might as well be jamming the keys at random.

In Pakistan, the phrase might be pronounced with four syllables in careful speech to give emphasis. Or it might be elided into three syllables in casual rapid speech. The pronunciation depends on context, but the phrase is exactly the same words either way. In correct classical Arabic, it’s always four syllables.

Intuitively, and having listened to how it’s pronounced from quite a few different accents (Iraqi-Arabic, Kurdish Sorani, Eritrean, Algerian, Sudanese), I would go for the first one. There is a barely audible pause taking the place of the first ‘a’, when people are speaking slowly and precisely.

Sigh. Yes, we can hope for consistency, but we don’t seem to be graced with it yet. To my everlasting amazement, there does not seem to be a single scheme for transliterating Arabic into English that everyone agrees to. Don’t get me wrong, I understand some of the difficulties. But still. The absence of a consistent, universally used system is a drag.

It does not have to stay that way any longer. The US government now has a single Arabic transliteration system for use by intel agencies. It was adopted by act of Congress in 2003. If consistently applied, it would help prevent embarrassing goofs like the time ‘Umar ‘Abd al-Rahman* was issued a U.S. visa in Khartoum even though he was on a list not to be allowed entry. His name was transliterated differently on the terrorist watch list and on the visa application.

*a.k.a. Omar Abdel Rahman, mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The victims in that blast lost their lives to the slipshod attitude that it doesn’t matter how you transliterate Arabic. It infuriates me every time I see that old canard repeated. It may have been truer in the days of Lawrence of Arabia, but in the present situation counterterrorism analysts have come to realize the critical importance of metadata.

/nitpick/ 'Umar 'Abd-al-Rahman /nitpick/

Good catch! I wonder how many Dopers will even get what you’re talking about. Very subtle, but you‘re right.