Language/Values

Habibi حبيبي (pronunciation)

Habibi written in Arabic. (source)

Habibi written in Arabic. (source)

Habibi means my love, and is originally used in traditional arabic poetry, however it is used as a more slang term for darling (used for loved ones) or just to address a friend. It can also be used in a sarcastic way or with strangers as a way of addressing someone whose name you do not know. Most people use the term habibi to address males or females but the word habibi is the masculine version, with the term habibti being the feminine version. In Arabic there is a feminine and masculine form for most words, although sometimes the masculine version can be used for both genders. Traditionally, the word habibi is used by elders to address a younger child or someone they have affection for.

Today it is used by people of all ages as a slang term, the equivalent of “dude” in California. I think that part of the reason why the term is used widely is because of the romanticism attached to Arabic language. In Arabic, terms such as “my love” or “sweetheart” are used with family and friends and are not reserved for romantic relationships. Affection between friends of the same gender is seen as normal, both men and women hug when greeting a friend or even when meeting someone new. This also relates to Arab culture of being very hospitable and friendly. Everyone is seen as a brother and sister, and elders are seen as aunts or uncles. This sense of family that is apparent even with strangers is part of the sense of community and family that is valued in Dubai as well as most Arab countries. By changing it into a casually used term, younger people in Dubai have given the word a new meaning, however it is still used in the traditional sense.

Babies and young children are commonly addressed as "habibi". This baby's onsie says "I'm habibi, come on, kiss me". (source)

Babies and young children are commonly addressed as “habibi”. This baby’s onsie says “I’m habibi (come on, kiss me!)”. (source)

 

Insha’Allah إن شاء الله (pronounciation)

inshAllah written in Arabic calligraphy. (source)

inshAllah written in Arabic calligraphy. (source)

The phrase inshAllah means if God wills. This phrase is found in the Quran which holds a religious context. This term is used to mean that nothing will or will not happens unless God wants it to happen. Although this term is religious, it is now used as an Arabic expression of politeness instead of as just an Islamic word. Both muslims and non-muslims use this expression in Arab culture when talking about a future event. It is usually used as a polite way of declining an invitation. Instead of saying no, which would be considered rude, you indirectly decline by saying inshAllah, meaning that you do not have a choice in the matter as it is not decided by yourself if you will be able to attend the future event or not. This phrase is also used by parents or people who are being asked for something, as an indirect way of saying maybe. For example, if a child asks their parent if they can go to their friend’s house tomorrow, their parent will say inshAllah as a way of hedging the question and giving an unclear answer. This use might be equated to someone saying “hopefully”. They are not stating yes or no which means they are not responsible for the outcome.

The ambiguity of inshAllah. (source)

The ambiguity of inshAllah. (source)

This phrase is important in Arab culture where it is considered impolite to directly say no to a request or question. As a “high-context culture” indirectness is valued higher than being straight forward, which could lead to hurt feelings. It also points to how important religion is in Dubai and in Arab culture more generally. Using religious terms in everyday life is normal and is not seen as “very religious”, while if an American said “if God wills” every time they were asked about a future event, it might be assumed that they are a religious person. The value of religion is high in Arab culture where religion is not seen just as beliefs but more as a way of life, where prayers as well as using religious phrases are frequent throughout the day.

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