Alhamdulillah? Arabs' Mention of God in Everyday Life
By: Yaseen Rashed/Arab America Contributing Writer
One of the most notable phrases you could hear in any Arab country is “Alhamdulillah” which essentially translates to “thank god.” However, this phrase is used differently than simply thanking god. It is customary that whenever someone asks you “how are you?” you reply with “Alhamdulillah” essentially thanking god for whatever you’re going through.
This also feeds into the optimism many Arabs hold. Because Arabs want to remain optimistic and hopeful, we never say we’ve had a bad day, instead of saying “Alhamdulillah” it shifts the focus from negative to positive, further looking for manifestations in our lives to be grateful for. Even in dire times of hunger and war, you will still hear people looking on the bright side and thanking God for the little things they have, whether that being their families, shelter, or even still being alive. Arabs will always find something to be grateful and thank God for.
Another phrase many Arabs use is “Allahu Akbar” which here in the west, holds a relatively negative connotation. This phrase is usually associated with recent terror attacks and has become almost synonymous with suicide bombers, however, this phrase means something completely different in the Arab world. Allahu Akbar directly translates to God is greater and is used as a call to prayer by any Muslims across the globe.
However, this phrase isn’t exclusively used by Muslims as many diverse religions and sects in the Arab world also use this phrase. Its main purpose is to connect a situation to a greater purpose and meaning, like God. In dire situations of loss and deprivation, it’s very common for someone to say Allahu Akbar and refer this situation to a greater presence. Allahu Akbar is also used in the Islamic call to prayer which is called on loudspeakers 5 times a day in the Arab world. This call serves as a reminder to everyone listening to not get hung up on the petty little details of everyday life and that things are usually meant to be seen in a big-picture connotation, thus referring that God is greater than the everyday discrepancies we participate in.
One last phrase Arabs commonly use is “Inshallah” which roughly translates to “if God is willing.” This is mainly used when speaking of the future as Arabs hold many superstitions concerning what will be coming. Saying inshallah is essentially referring the future back to God and if good will come from it, God will find a way to make it happen. However, this phrase has also become a way of politely saying no in the Arab world. It becomes associated with procrastination and by saying “inshallah” one throws something they have to do down the line saying if God wills it will eventually happen. Inshallah is also used in everyday talking and is just another example of how mentioning god has manifested into Arabs’ everyday vocabulary and has become a hallmark of our culture, tradition, and language.
It’s very apparent that Arab culture is very intertwined with the notion of thanking or referring to a greater power. It’s transcended in our experiences as Arabs and crossed cultural and religious lines. These aspects of our culture are valuable and through all the turmoil Arab countries have been through, mentioning god has remained instilled within our experiences. It’s uniquely Arab and the next time you go and visit an Arab country, you will notice their heavy mention of God in everyday conversation.
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