Originally published in the April 2014 issue of the Islamic Society of Kingston’s newsletter, The Bond.
There are a few instances in our lives when we are faced with making major decisions. They usually have to do with studies, marriage, job offers, large purchases (such as cars and houses) and our careers.
Our job is to consider all the options, conduct research, seek advice and make an educated choice, taking into consideration our priorities and the pros and cons associated with each choice.
While we can try to predict the future, none of us truly knows what’s coming. There are and always will be unknowns. This can lead to uncertainty, anxiety and stress.
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) has told us about a very powerful tool to guide us through the process of making decisions. It is called istikhara.
Jabir ibn Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to teach us to make istikharah in all things, just as he used to teach us surahs from the Qur’an.” [Recorded by Bukhari]
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) described the method of doing istikhara as follows:
“If any one of you is concerned about a decision he has to make, then let him pray two rak’ahs (units) of non-obligatory prayer, then say:
اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْتَخِيرُكَ بِعِلْمِكَ وَأَسْتَقْدِرُكَ بِقُدْرَتِكَ وَأَسْأَلُكَ مِنْ فَضْلِكَ الْعَظِيمِ فَإِنَّكَ تَقْدِرُ وَلَا أَقْدِرُ وَتَعْلَمُ وَلَا أَعْلَمُ وَأَنْتَ عَلَّامُ الْغُيُوبِ اللَّهُمَّ إِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الْأَمْرَ خَيْرٌ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي فَاقْدُرْهُ لِي وَيَسِّرْهُ لِي ثُمَّ بَارِكْ لِي فِيهِ وَإِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الْأَمْرَ شَرٌّ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي فَاصْرِفْهُ عَنِّي وَاصْرِفْنِي عَنْهُ وَاقْدُرْ لِي الْخَيْرَ حَيْثُ كَانَ ثُمَّ أَرْضِنِي
Transliteration: Allâhumma innee astakhiruka bi `ilmika wa astaqdiruka biqudratika wa as’aluka min fadhlikal-azeem fa innaka taqdiru wa lâ aqdiru wa ta`lamu wa lâ a`lamu wa anta `allamul ghuyoob. Allâhumma in kunta ta`lamu anna hâdhal amra khayrul-lee fee deenee wa ma`aashee wa `aaqibati amree faqdur-hu li wa yassir-hu li thumma barik li fihi wa in kunta ta`lamu anna hâdhal amra sharrun lee fee deenee wa ma`aashee wa `aaqibati amree fasrifhu annee wasrifnee anhu waqdir liyal-khayra haythu kâna thumma ardinee.
The meaning of the supplication is: “O Allah, I seek Your guidance by virtue of Your knowledge, and I seek ability by virtue of Your power, and I ask You of Your great bounty. You have power, I have none. And You know, I know not. You are the Knower of hidden things. O Allah, if in Your knowledge, this matter (mention by name or think about it now) is good for me both in this world and in the Hereafter, then ordain it for me, make it easy for me, and bless it for me. And if in Your knowledge it (mention by name or think about it now) is bad for me and for my religion, my livelihood and my affairs, then turn me away from it, and turn it away from me, and ordain for me the good wherever it may be and make me pleased (with it).”
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) taught his companions to do istikhara in all matters, so that indicates to us that istikhara is not just for major decisions and can also be done for minor decisions.
If it’s not possible to offer the prayer, the supplication can also be made without the prayer.
Istikhara is often misunderstood to be something like a crystal ball that leads to dreams and supernatural occurrences. However, if we pay close attention to the wording of the istikhara supplication, we notice that it is simply seeks Allah’s guidance and assistance. If there is good in the matter we are planning, we ask Allah to make it happen with ease. If there isn’t good in it, we ask Allah to make it evasive and instead grant us whatever is better.
Generally, it is a good idea to pursue a matter while making continuing to make istikhara regarding it. If Allah knows that the matter is positive for us, potential hurdles may be passed easily. On the other hand, if Allah knows that the matter is negative for us, hurdles may appear. By reading these signs, we can get a hint about which direction the matter is headed in. Eventually, if the supplication of istikhara is accepted by Allah, the matter either goes through successfully with ease and is filled with blessings or it fails.
Either way, the believers are confident that the end results are in their best long-term interest, even if it may initially appear to be otherwise.
Allah tells us in the Qur’an:
But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not. [Quran – 2:216]
A successful istikhara requires an emotional disconnect with the matter at hand and an open mind. Otherwise, our emotions and biases can get in the way of properly reading the signs that may appear and accepting Allah’s guidance, thus leading us into a fruitless chase after a matter that will very likely be fraught with difficulties and potentially even be harmful for us.
By seeking Allah’s guidance, we can empower our decision-making process and say goodbye to the stresses and anxieties that often come with uncertainties. May Allah always guide us to make the best decisions, ameen.