Anytime a Muslim is making a decision, he or she should seek Allah’s guidance and wisdom. Allah alone knows what is best for us, and there may be good in what we perceive as bad, and bad in what we perceive as good.
If you are ambivalent or unsure about a decision you have to make, there is a specific prayer for guidance (Salat-l-Istikhara) that you can do to ask for Allah’s help in making your decision. Should you marry this certain person? Should you attend this graduate school? Should you take this job offer or that one? Allah knows what is best for you, and if you are not sure about a choice that you have, seek His guidance.
Salat al-Istikhara is a powerful tool that Allah has given us to ask His guidance in all matters. We should not hesitate to pray Istikhara before making any choice in our lives, big or small.
It’s important to do this prayer with sincerity, knowing in our hearts that only Allah can give us the guidance we seek, and resolved to follow the guidance He gives us, even if it clashes with our own desires.
We should also say the dua with firm conviction, not begging or pleading, but asking Allah clearly for guidance.
And we should not be impatient after our dua. We do not put Allah on a timetable. And we should not expect some sort of miracle, or a dream full of signs and symbols. These things are not necessary. We simply say our prayers and trust that Allah has heard us and will answer us in the way that is best.
The secret is that one’s heart should not be attached to the matter in question, because that will result in a person becoming restless. Being pleased with something means that one’s heart is content with the decree of Allaah.
Salat-l-Istikhara is described in the Hadith narration below.
Narrated Jabir bin ‘Abdullah: The Prophet salallahu alaihi wasallam used to teach us the way of doing istikhara (istikhara means to ask Allah to guide one to the right sort of action concerning any job or a deed), in all matters as he taught us the Surats of the Quran. He said, “If anyone of you thinks of doing any job he should offer a two Rakat prayer other than the compulsory ones and say (after the prayer):
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 فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي فَاصْرِفْهُ عَنِّي وَاصْرِفْنِي عَنْهُ وَاقْدُرْ لِيَ الْخَيْرَ حَيْثُ كَانَ ثُمَّ ارْضِنِي بِهِ
‘Allahumma inni astakhiruka bi’ilmika, Wa astaqdiruka bi-qudratika, Wa as’alaka min fadlika al-‘azlm Fa-innaka taqdiru Wala aqdiru, Wa ta’lamu Wala a’lamu, Wa anta ‘allamu l-ghuyub. Allahumma, in kunta ta’lam anna hadha-l-amra Khairun li fi dini wa ma’ashi wa’aqibati amri (or ‘ajili amri wa’ajilihi) Faqdirhu wa yas-sirhu li thumma barik li Fihi, Wa in kunta ta’lamu anna hadha-lamra shar-run li fi dini wa ma’ashi wa’aqibati amri (or fi’ajili amri wa ajilihi) Fasrifhu anni was-rifni anhu. Waqdir li al-khaira haithu kana Thumma ardini bihi.’
(O Allah! I ask guidance from Your knowledge, And Power from Your Might and I ask for Your great blessings. You are capable and I am not. You know and I do not and You know the unseen. O Allah! If You know that this job is good for my religion and my subsistence and in my Hereafter–(or said: If it is better for my present and later needs)–Then You ordain it for me and make it easy for me to get, And then bless me in it, and if You know that this job is harmful to me In my religion and subsistence and in the Hereafter–(or said: If it is worse for my present and later needs)–Then keep it away from me and let me be away from it. And ordain for me whatever is good for me, And make me satisfied with it). The Prophet added that then the person should name (mention) his need.
Sahih Al-Bukhari | Book 21 Hadith 263
*When making the dua, the actual matter or decision should be mentioned instead of the words “hathal-amra” (“this matter”).
Ibn Abi Jamrah said: The wisdom behind putting the salaat before the du’aa’ is that istikhaarah is intended to combine the goodness of this world with the goodness of the next. A person needs to knock at the door of the King (Allah), and there is nothing more effective for this than prayer, because it contains glorification and praise of Allah, and expresses one’s need for Him at all times.
What needs to be noted is that the answer to one’s istikhara prayer does not come simply in the form of dreams and feelings but in how Allah facilitates and unfolds events for an individual after he or she genuinely strives to do what is best.
Take the most effective means, which includes consulting those whose knowledge and wisdom one has confidence in, and place your trust in Allah.
Lastly, one needs to be patient in terms of receiving the answer to their prayers. Remember the words of our Prophet salallahu alaihi wasallam,
“The supplication of everyone is granted as long as he does not show haste and does not say that he made a supplication but it was not accepted.”
Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah
And Allah knows best, He is the All-Seeing, All-Hearing, the best Planner. May He guide us and ease all our difficulties. Ameen.
Sources: IslamQA & Hadith of the day