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This life is a combination of constant trials and the choices we end up making. Often, we are faced with life-changing decisions where we find ourselves unsure and uncertain of which choices would prove to be beneficial for us. The truth is, man can never be truly certain about what will turn out to be better for him – only Allah (SWT) possesses that quality. It is only Him who is All-Seeing and All-Knowing and it is only Allah (SWT) who knows what is better for us, not only in this world but in the Hereafter as well. So why do we delude ourselves into thinking that we can achieve success or happiness in our affairs in this world or the next, without Allah’s (SWT) guidance? We cannot.
Hence, Allah (SWT) has equipped humanity with a special tool of guidance, which serves as a direct link between man and Allah (SWT): the Salat al-Istikhara. The word istikhara literally means to ask Allah (SWT) for guidance when it comes to making a decision regarding something. In other words, it means to seek Allah’s (SWT) guidance in making the ‘right’ and more beneficial decision by means of prayer. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) used to encourage all his companions to offer Salat al-Istikhara for all their decisions – no matter how big or small those decisions were. The purpose of the prayer is to fully surrender to Allah’s (SWT) will and command and trust Him to lead you to what is better for you.
Here is a step by step guide on how to perform the istikhara prayer:
When do you pray Istikhara?
If you find yourself at a crossroad and you do not know what is the ‘right’ choice or what is the ‘better’ decision to make, you offer the prayer of istikhara. However, it is only applicable for a decision that is related to something that is permissible. Deliberating on things, which are sinful or haram in nature renders the istikhara prayer invalid. For example, if you have two job offers and you do not know which one you should go for, you should perform istikhara in order to come to the right decision. The individual seeking Allah’s (SWT) help in making a certain decision must have good intent and sincerity in his heart.
However it is not necessary that you only do istikhara for decisions over which you have a dilemma, you can also do istikhara for any decision you are about to make no matter how big or small it is.
How do you offer Salat al-Istikhara?
Once you have made the intention of offering istikhara, you must offer two rakahs of prayer after performing your obligatory prayers (any obligatory prayer) and upon offering the two rakahs, recite the following dua that has been provided to us by the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in the following hadith:
“The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) used to teach his companions to make istikhara in all matters, just as he used to teach them Surahs from the Quran. He said: ‘If any one of you is deliberating about a decision he has to make, then let him pray two rak’ahs of non-obligatory prayer, then say:“Allaahumma inni astakheeruka bi ‘ilmika wa astaqdiruka bi qudratika wa as’aluka min fadlika, fa innaka taqdiru wa laa aqdir, wa ta’lamu wa laa a’lam, wa anta ‘allaam al-ghuyoob. Allaahumma fa in kunta ta’lamu haadha’l-amra (then the matter should be mentioned by name) khayran li fi ‘aajil amri wa aajilihi (or: fi deeni wa ma’aashi wa ‘aaqibati amri) faqdurhu li wa yassirhu li thumma baarik li fihi. Allaahumma wa in kunta ta’lamu annahu sharrun li fi deeni wa ma’aashi wa ‘aaqibati amri (or: fi ‘aajili amri wa aajilihi) fasrifni ‘anhu [wasrafhu ‘anni] waqdur li al-khayr haythu kaana thumma radini bihi”(O Allah, I seek Your guidance [in making a choice] 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 (then it should be mentioned by name) is good for me both in this world and in the Hereafter (or: in my religion, my livelihood, and my affairs), then ordain it for me, make it easy for me, and bless it for me. And if in Your knowledge it is bad for me and for my religion, my livelihood and my affairs (or: for me both in this world and the next), 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).” (Bukhari, 1166)
After offering Salat al-istikhara, surrender to the Will of the Almighty with your whole heart and put your trust in His infinite Wisdom and guidance. It is important to note that offering istikhara does not necessarily mean that the answer will come to you in the form of dreams or visions. In fact, Allah (SWT) embeds the answer in the heart of the believer and guides the course of action the believer takes from then on. Once you pray istikhara and you leave your affairs, and their possible outcomes, in the hands of Allah (SWT), you will feel yourself being inclined towards what is better for you – the answer resides in the natural direction that you start taking post istikhara, you must trust it. Allah (SWT) unfolds events in a certain way that automatically lead to the outcome that is beneficial for you in not only this world but the Hereafter as well.
Moreover, you must also learn to exercise patience. You cannot expect the answer to just drop in your lap from the sky the very next day. Allah (SWT) will present you with the right direction and answer when He feels you are ready to receive it and when the time is right for you. Until then, you must follow your gut and keep striving towards what you want to achieve. Keep making dua and have tawakkal – Allah (SWT) will never let you down and inshaAllah the decision you make after the istikhara will be the better decision for you.
If you have surrendered to the Will of Allah (SWT) and you trust Him to guide you to what is best for you, then you have nothing to worry about.
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