AT certain stages of life we often find ourselves at crossroads, impelled to make important decisions that would have huge impacts on our future. These decisions could be about choosing a career, getting married to someone, buying a car or a house, relocating or moving to a foreign land and the like.
Despite considering all the positives and negatives and consulting family, friends or other qualified people, this task of reaching a sound decision leaves us doubtful and nervous. Praise and thanks to our Creator who doesn’t leave us fretting and worried during these crucial times. He has taught us, a special prayer for guidance in making decisions called Salat Al-Istikharah. When performing this prayer one asks Allah to guide him to the right choice concerning a certain essential matter.
The prayer of Istikharah was described in a Hadith narrated by Jabir ibn Abdullah Al-Salami, who said: “The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) used to teach his companions to make Istikharah in all things, just as he used to teach them surahs from the Qur’an. He (peace be upon him) said: ‘If any one of you is concerned about a decision he has to make, then let him pray two rakahs of non-obligatory prayer, then say: (Translation) O Allah, I ask for Your decision by Your knowledge and Your decree by Your ability, and I ask of You from Your great favor. For You are able and I am not able, and You know and I do not know, and You are the Knower of things concealed. O Allah, if You have known that this matter (naming it here) is good for me in my religion, my livelihood and the outcome of my affair, then decree it for me, make it easy for me and then bless it for me. And if You have known that this matter is bad for me in my religion, my livelihood and the outcome of my affair, then turn it away from me and turn me away from it, and decree for me what is good wherever it may be. And then make me content with it.’ (Al-Bukhaari, Al-Tirmidhi, Al-Nisa’i, Abu Dawood, Ibn Maajah and Ahmad).
The result of Istikharah is known by being inclined to do something and continuing to feel positive about it. In addition, if the decision one is about to take is good for him (in both worlds), the paths to it will open up and if it’s not, then the paths will become obstructed and Allah will direct him somewhere else. The beauty of Istikharah is that the person who sought the guidance of Allah will be content with Allah’s decision for him even if it diverts him from what he thought was good as he will know that this is the result of his Istikharah. This is because, Allah, the Creator knows what is best and will definitely guide His servants to what is best for them within His vast knowledge and infinite wisdom.
We need to understand that Istikharah does not guarantee the absence of tests and trials in life. Since Istikharah is a dua, Allah’s response to it may come in any of the three ways as stated in the Hadith: “There is no Muslim who offers a dua in which there is no sin or severing of family ties but Allah will give him one of three things in return: either He will answer his du’aa soon, or he will store it up for him in the Hereafter, or He will divert an equivalent evil away from him because of it.” (Ahmad)
So if one goes through a bad marriage even after performing Istikharah or suffers loss in his business, etc., it might be that Allah wants him/her to draw closer to Him by way of patience and dua and send His blessings through some other way. Allah says: “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.” (Qur’an 2:216)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “It is from the happiness of the son of Adam to practice Istikharah and be pleased with what Allah had ordained for him. And it is from the misery of the son of Adam to drop the Istikharah of Allah and be displeased at Allah’s decrees.” (Tirmidhi and Ahmad)
Unfortunately, many people nowadays ignore this beautiful Sunnah and resort to baseless or forbidden ways to make important decisions. There are some who do follow the Sunnah of praying Istikharah but have added weird myths and unreasonable expectations to it. They ask some stranger or religious personality to do it for them and expect the results of Istikharah to be shown to them in dreams, visions, some special sign or color while all of this is nothing but acts of ignorance. Firstly, it is a form of innovation to ask someone else to do Istikharah for you or do it for others and secondly, it doesn’t give one instant results like giving a green signal to proceed in a certain affair.
Istikharah is a dua which one needs to make himself, at any time of the day and then execute the matter (for which he prayed). And if it is good then Allah will make it easy for him and bless him in that, and if it is not good for him, then Allah will turn it away from him and will make easy for him that in which there is good by His permission. For without doubt, the person who makes Istikharah, seeking guidance from his Creator and advice from His creation never regrets, as Allah says: id to His Messenger (peace be upon him): “… And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely (upon Him).” (Qur’an 3:159)