During the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, while the president was saying that he would release his tax returns once an ongoing IRS audit ends, Biden interrupted him by saying, “When—insha’allah?” . . .
For starters, why, in a purely American setting, would Biden suddenly resort to Arabic? It would have been one thing if he used this formulation before a Muslim audience—it would then be chalked up to diplomacy, pandering, etc.—but why use it when around Americans and during a distinctly American event such as a U.S. presidential debate?
Secondly, while insha’allah does literally mean “Allah willing,” and is regularly used to express modesty before the Supreme Being whenever Arabic speakers are discussing future events—as in, “Next year I plan on visiting the Arctic, insha’allah”—what very few non-native speakers of Arabic appreciate is that it is also used with great frequency by those who utter it to signal that they really have no intention of doing what they say they plan on doing, and by their listeners to express doubt or cynicism. . .
This interpretation may shed some light on a controversial thing Biden said in a video directed at Muslims in late July: “Hadith from the Prophet Muhammad instructs, ‘Whomever among you sees a wrong, let him change it with his hand. If he is not able, then with his tongue. If he is not able, then with his heart.’”
Amongst Muslims, this hadith, which is sahih, meaning deemed authentic/canonical by Sunni Muslims, concerns the enforcement of sharia, Islamic law (particularly in the context of the doctrine of al-amr bi’l ma’ruf w’al nahi ‘an al-munkir, “enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong”). Muslims are taught to enforce sharia (understood as the totality of all good things) any which way they can: ideally through their “hand” (physical force, or jihad); if that’s not possible, then through their “tongue” (words, ideas, propaganda); and if that too is not possible, then at least with their “heart” (their intention, niya). (Read more from “Biden’s Debate Comment About ‘Allah Willing’ May Not Have Been as Innocent as Some Claim” HERE)