Marie Dhumières had a piece last month in the Guardian—which I just caught making the rounds on Facebook—in which she complains of the literal translation of insha’allah and other religious formulas, which, she says, make fundies of us all. (Well, all of us Arabic speakers, at any rate.)
I wrote about that issue last June after an interview with literature professor and critic Dr. Samia Mehrez. I happen to be a frequent user of insha’allah in conversation and, in texting, ISA. Not to mention masha’allah, which I find absolutely indispensable, as well as el hamdullallah.
I am—in English—also an enthusiastic, ironic OMG user, and also say Jesus when frustrated, and use God bless: sometimes ironically, sometimes in perfect, although non-religious, sincerity.
I never did get a satisfactory answer to “How do you translate insha’allah?” It depends on the context, the author, the character, and ultimately the answer is probably never satisfactory. Should you just leave it in Arabic, as insha’allah? Does it become God willing, or I hope?
I recently saw a (sneak) preview of a film, Maydoum, co-written by Ahdaf Soueif and Omar Robert Hamilton. Characters switch back and forth between Arabic and English, and I noted at some point that insha’allah, and perhaps other religious stock phrases, were generally not rendered in the captioning. Characters said them, you could hear it for yourself, but it didn’t appear in the English version.
This seemed like quite a sensible solution, although I’m not sure it works quite as happily with text. (If only the characters could be heard speaking in the background. Yes, that would do it….)