Nothing Is True, Everything Is Permitted

Another translation request. This time it’s for an interesting aphorism.

I was wondering if you might be willing to translate the phrase “Nothing is true; everything is permissible.”

The saying has always fascinated me as it seems contradictory and at one turn seems to promote lawlessness but to my mind goes on to speak to responsibility and accounting for one’s own actions.

A fascinating phrase that seems to have been attributed to Hassan al-SabaaH, the founder of the Assassins. However, I could not find a reliable source that traced this saying back to this person. Apparently, Nietzsche first used this aphorism, followed by the novelist William Burroughs.

I’d translate it into Arabic as “لا شيء حقيقي وكل شيء مباح” (la shey’a haqeeqiyun wa kulu shey’in mubaaH).

There are three high quality tattoo designs for this phrase in my Arabic Tattoos eBook.

11 thoughts on “Nothing Is True, Everything Is Permitted

  1. I am looking into getting the word “strength” tattooed in Arabic, but I’m having trouble finding the true translation. Could you help?

  2. i’m arab and I can help
    the word strength in arabic is either
    Ba’s بأس
    or
    Qu’wa قوة

  3. Hassan i-Sabbah’s supposed last words were popularized and given a deeper meaning by Assassin’s Creed, so I’m guessing that whoever asked you to translate the phrase probably wanted it because of that game. In the game, an ‘Arabic’ translation of it is given once (at the end), which sounds to me as:

    “La sheya waqa un mutlaq bel kullm mumkin.”

    Which seems to me to be a mispronunciation of:

    “La shay’a haqiqiyun mutlaq bal kullahum mumkin.”

    I know that actually translates to ‘Nothing is absolutely true, though everything is possible.’, but I’d say it’s a reasonable alternative considering how popular the game is.

  4. Thank you Bart for directing my attention to that video game. In this video on YouTube from around 7:08 one of the characters says what I think amounts to the following:

    لا شيء واقع مطلق بل كل ممكن

    la shey’a waaqi3un muTlaq bal kullun mumkin

    This would translate as “nothing is absolutely real, but everything is possible”.

    I wonder, Bart, is there more usage of Arabic in that game?

  5. There’s quite a bit more useage throughout the game. I can’t remember much of the first one (which features Arabic, as Bart refered to), but in the sequel, set in Italy, you can actually change the settings on the options page so that all the spoken dialog throughout the entire game is in Italian, to fit in with the period/ loacale in which the game is set. I’ll update you next time I decide to play the first one again!

  6. Waaqi3un, ah, I didn’t know that word ;). Your sentence does indeed sound closer to what is said in the game.

    As James said, there is more spoken Arabic throughout the game. The main character often says an Arabic sentence to provoke guards (there are some examples in this YouTube video) and Saracen guards often speak in Arabic as well, and as far as I know, no one has bothered translating that to English yet. Apart from that there are also Arabic names, which are usually mispronounced. In the video you linked to you’ll hear the name Altaïr, for example, with the ‘l’ pronounced like any other ‘l’.

  7. لا شيء حقيقي وكل شيء مباح

    in your sentence above, where would be the comma? as in “nothing is true” and then “everything is permitted

  8. The quote actually originates from the novel Halamut, which was written in Slovene. I’m actually trying to find the original wording in that language.

  9. The quote might come from the Slovene novel Alamut by Vladimir Bartol. The Slovene translation for nothing is true, everything is permitted is “Nič ni resnično, vse je dovoljeno.”

  10. Thanks for the assist with this via Tumblr, I really appreciate the input!

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