Anyone who served in the military in Iraq (and probably anyone who has done business in the Gulf) in the last 15 years is familiar with the term 'Inshallah.' I suppose it means 'God willing,' as in, "I will do this thing, Inshallah." Realistically, it is used to evade responsibility while giving the listener a hope that divine intervention will allow the task at hand to be completed (source).

In this context, I was noticing the similarity between this expression and a very different one, 'Deus Vult,' the battle cry of the crusaders after the 1095 Council at Clermont. That, I understand, translates to "God wills it!"

The difference between the two is basically one of verb conjugation. As far as internet dictionaries tell me, 'vult' is the third person singular present indicative. To make it more of a question or conditional, you would want it to be in the subjunctive, I think, 'velit.'

Would 'Deus Velit' express the same kind of abdication of responsibility in favor of divine will that 'Inshallah' represents? If not, what would be the correct expression? And for any correct expression, are there records of this phrase being used in the past, perhaps in the more faithful Middle Ages?

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    "Anyone who served in the military in Iraq (and probably anyone who has done business in the Gulf)" Or maybe people who, y'know, live there. This is an extremely US-centric introduction to your question. Did you think that only Americans are on the internet? I recommend editing your question to remove this bias. Apr 15 '17 at 20:26
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    Please be aware that DuffelBlog is a satirical publication. That doesn't mean their characterization of "inshallah" is false - as satire is about highlighting the truth through absurdity - but I wouldn't say it's academic. Apr 15 '17 at 20:39
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    @BoundaryImposition I believe the introduction is US-centric because the one to ask it is from the US. Introducing a question from one's own point of view is what makes it real. I see why some might be offended, but to me this is a genuine question about Latin based on someone's own experience without an intention to hurt. Pointing out the bias in a comment is fair, but let us now focus on the question: how should this phrase be translated into Latin and how does it compare to Deus velit/vult?
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Apr 16 '17 at 0:29
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    For what it's worth, in sha'a Allah is three words - literally "if God wills it". Having said that, I feel that Deo volente is exactly the correct answer. As far as I know, Arabic doesn't have anything like the ablative absolute. Apr 16 '17 at 3:24
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    The Spanish got there quicker with a word transliterated directly from the Arabic: "Ojalá".
    – Ian
    Apr 16 '17 at 13:54

A common Christian formula is Deo iuvante, literally "with God helping", more naturally rendered in English as "with God's help" or "if God helps". It signifies that the matter in question will only be completed successfully if God favors it and actively cooperates.

The phrase has a long history. Google Books returns about 65,000 hits total for deo juvante, deo iuvante, juvante deo, and iuvante deo. (Both spellings are equivalent, and the word order doesn't matter, though it's more common to put deo first.) In chronological order, here are some that seemed interesting.

The Last Pagans of Rome takes use of deo iuvante in letters around 400 A.D. as evidence that their authors had converted from paganism to Christianity.

The national motto of Monaco is Deo juvante. The phrase appears on the coat of arms of its ruling family, the Grimaldis. Apparently this dates to 1297, when François Grimaldi took control of the city by a ruse involving soldiers dressed as monks.

This odd book on freemasonry reports records of acceptance in Latin of a high masonic degree ("Supreme Master") in a long series starting in 1324 and ending in 1804, nearly all with deo juvante, e.g.:

Ego Arnaldus de Braque supremum magisterium deo juvante acceptum habeo anno domini 1340.

Around 1427, Thomas à Kempis wrote in The Imitation of Christ, book 1, ch. 4, "On resisting temptations":

Qui tantummodo exterius declinat, nec radicem evellit, parum proficiet, imo citius ad eum tentationes redient, et pejus sævient. Paulatim, et per patientiam cum longanimitate Deo juvante melius superabis, quam cum duritia et importunitate propria.

One who merely avoids [temptations] outwardly, not tearing out the root, will make little progress. Indeed, the temptations will return to him more quickly and rage worse than before. Little by little, through patience and long-suffering you will overcome them with God's help better than with harshness and your own crude ways.

This book reports seven Dutch cargo ships, built from 1925 to 2008, named Deo Juvante, as well as other ships with the comparable names Deo Favente ("God favoring"), Deo Volente ("God Willing"), Deo Confidentes ("Trusting in God"), Deo Gratias ("Thanks be to God"), Deo Data ("Given by [or to] God"), and Deo Duce ("With God as the leader").

Usage continues to the present day. A search on Twitter reveals one or two occurrences a month, sometimes stuck into sentences in other languages.

  • All this is true, but "in sha'a Allah" actually means "if God wills" or "God willing". It doesn't mean "God helping" or anything to do with God's help. So this is a correct answer to a different question, not this one. May 19 at 19:38

Si Deus velit would be quite satisfactory, 'if God should wish [it]', but is, I think, neither as usual or as forceful as the more familiar ablative absolute form Deo volente, 'with God willing', often abbreviated as 'DV'.

On old British coinage, etc., Dei Gratia, by the grace of God' used to appear, later shortened to 'DG', with very similar meaning. [The full inscription included abbreviations for the phrases Dei gratia Rex, Fidei Defensor and Indiae Imperator, the last of which was dropped after independence was granted to India.]

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    Not quite sure how the second paragraph is related to the first, but FWIW current coins have the abbreviations DEI.GRA.REG.FID.DEF, since Elizabeth still is Queen by the grace of God, and Defender of the Faith. Apr 15 '17 at 19:21
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    I've never seen Dei Gratia used with promises or statements in the future tense, though. AFAIK the idea behind this phrase was that the monarch reigned as a sort of a feudal vassal of God, and the rite of coronation (which was considered almost an eighth sacrament) corresponded to the granting of Divine Grace to the new monarch. Apr 15 '17 at 21:15
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    I feel that these senses of Dei Gratia might be better rendered in Arabic as bismillah, or bi ismi Allahi (Arabic has lots of rules around silent vowels), which literally means "in God's name", but is commonly used the way Dei Gratia is used here. Apr 16 '17 at 19:02
  • @DavidWallace: a closer approximation to Dei Gratia would be حمد الله hamdulillah, which means "thanks to God".
    – JavaLatte
    Apr 17 '17 at 11:22

From Bibliander's translation of the Qur'an, surah 18, ayah 69,

Dixit Moyses, Deo uolente, me quilibet sustinentem, nec te in quoquam offendentem semper inuenies.

This is not a literal translation. The original Arabic, transliterated here into a more familiar alphabet is

Qala satajidunee in sha'a Allahu ṣabiran wa la a`ṣee laka amra

Bibliander clearly felt that Deo uolente was the nearest Latin equivalent to the Arabic in sha'a Allahu.

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    Welcome to the site and thank you for the answer!
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Apr 16 '17 at 4:03
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    Curiosity mostly, but what is the meaning of the character?
    – KRyan
    Apr 17 '17 at 17:06
  • @KRyan—The ṣ grapheme is used to transliterate the Arabic letter ص, which represents the phoneme /sˤ/. English has no equivalent. Apr 18 '17 at 1:59
  • @SimpliciterChristianus thanks for that. I was going to write a long paragraph about the differences between ص and س and now I don't have to. Incidentally, I am firmly of the opinion that the sound of ص in Qur'anic Arabic is better represented by /sˠ/ than by /sˤ/, but that's just me. Apr 18 '17 at 7:22

For a monotheist, Tom Cotton's answer is best; for a polytheist (like the ancient Romans), it would be in the plural, so something like dis volentibus.

Another way to word it, which is very similar to Tom Cotton's answer, is si di vol-. I found it in several places, though it doesn't seem as common as an ablative absolute:

Plautus Bacchides 239:

Extexam ego illum pulchre iam, si di volunt.

Plautus Poenulus 911

Hercle qui meus conlibertus faxo eris, si di volent.

Cicero In Verrem

Fac sciat improbitatem aratorvm; ipsi svdabvnt, si di volvnt.

Historiae Augustae 45.2.5

scriptum esset: 'illa die, illa hora ab urbe sum exiturus et, si di voluerint, in prima mansione mansurus',

Fronto Ad M. Caesarem et Invicem

Sed venies saepe et tecum celebrabimus, si dei volent, omnia festa nostra.


C.M. Weimer has given an expectedly excellent answer to the Latin part of this question. Otherwise, it might be permitted to add that the Muslim usage is in response to an explicit Qur’anic injunction (18:23) that one must not make any statement about the future without adding the proviso “if God wills”. This is not about “evading responsibility”. It is about the future not being predictable. Ever.

  • Interesting, I did not know that. Do you perchance know the verse number?
    – cmw
    Apr 16 '17 at 21:33
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    @C.M.Weimer. 18:23
    – fdb
    Apr 16 '17 at 21:47
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    ...echoing very closely James 4:13-16. (ἐὰν ὁ Κύριος θελήσῃ; Si Dominus voluerit).
    – fdb
    Apr 16 '17 at 21:53
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    @fdb Those comments would make an excellent addition to the answer, since James 4:13-6 provides a phrase with the same religious meaning.
    – Draconis
    Apr 16 '17 at 22:41
  • One English translation of these verses of the Epistle of James, chapter 4, is: (13) Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” (14) Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (15) Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (16) As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. (New International Version) Apr 17 '17 at 10:27

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