What is Istakhara? How to do it? Addressing some misconceptions about it

The need for Istakhara: There are various periods and phases of life in which we feel ourselves to be in a twisted situation. We need to take important decisions and these decision’s outcomes have a vast influence on our future. Sometimes some steps are very important to be taken on an immediate basis. Decisions related to picking professional studies, good career oriented jobs, choice of a marriage proposal, to buy a house or car, shifting to some other city and moving towards another foreign land. These are the most important phases of life where just one single decision can make our future life either miserable or prosperous.[irp]

Inspire of looking at all the good and worst aspects, seeking insurance of life, visiting counselors, legal advisors, educationalists or consulting friends, sometimes we still can’t make a safe and sound decision. It is doubtful and confusing. This is the time to consult from Allah, the Almighty who knows everything about us. Every Muslim prays to Allah or asks Allah in every matter for guidance. Honor, glory, and thanks to the Creator of the world (Allah) who never leaves his creatures in distress during crucial times. Allah provided us with full guidance and taught us a special prayer. This special prayer provides full guidance path in making decisions.

Dua for Istakhara: This special prayer is called Salat Al-Istikhara. When a Muslim performs this special prayer, he asks Allah to guide him towards the right path or show a way which is better or good for him.  The prayer of Istikharah was reported in a Hadith described by Jabir Ibn Abdullah Al-Salami, who said: “The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) used to teach his companions to make Istikhara 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.” Sunan an-Nasa'i 3253

What if Istakhara is against our will? We also need to realize that Istikharah does not guarantee or approves the lack of tests, proceedings, hearings or trials in life. Istikharah is a dua and Allah replies to his followers which may come in any of the three ways as narrated in the Hadith. “There is no Muslim who offers a dua in which there is no sin or termination of family relations. Allah will give him a response in any one of three ways either. Allah will reply his prayer soon, Allah will save it up for him in the eternity, or He will deflect an evil force away from him because of it (Jami` at-Tirmidhi 3604d). Allah says in Quran: “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)

So instead of approaching any legal advisor or qualified person, a Muslim should seek Allah’s guidance and follow His principles. The conclusion of Istikhara is recognized by being willing to do something and continuing to feel optimistic about it. If the decision is good for him in both of the world’s perspective, the correct path will automatically open up but if it’s not correct for him, then the path will become full of hindrances and Allah will take him somewhere else.  The quality of Istikharah is that the Muslim who solicits the guidance of Allah will be pleased with Allah’s decision for him even if it distracts him from what he thought was good. Allah knows better as what is good or bad for His creature. Allah always guides His servants to the virtuous path.

His creature knowledge is finite, narrow, limited and bounded.  So if someone of us experienced the worst marriage, got financial crisis or chose wrong professional studies, even after performing Istikharah, don’t take its negative impact on your mind. It must be that Allah wants its creature to come closer to Him by way of tolerance, patience, and dua. Allah also sends His blessings through some alternative way. Regrettably, many people nowadays refuse this beautiful Sunnah and avail baseless or prohibited ways to make significant decisions. Still, there are some who follow the Sunnah of praying Istikhara but also go with much misconceptions, myths, traditions and unreasonable assumptions to it. 

Is it fine to ask others to do Istakhara on our behalf? People often ask some religious personalities to do Istikhara on behalf of them and then expect the results of Istikhara to be shown into their dreams, imagination, reflection, sign or color indication. Although all of this is nothing besides acts of disbelief or ignorance, we need to highlight all these wrong customs, as it is a form of transformation to ask some other person to do Istikhara for you and get immediate results within few hours. Istikharah is a beautiful dua which is gifted by Allah, the Almighty, and the most merciful. So every Muslim needs to do Istikhara himself at any time of the day and then administer the matter for which he prayed. If the concerned matter is good for him then Allah will make give it a direction and provide a path for him.[irp]

But if the respective matter is not good for him, then Allah will change the direction and show the way which is best for him. We need to be confident and have full faith in Allah when doing Istikhara. Istikharah means we are asking guidance from Allah without any single doubt. Once Istikharah is done, we need to continue asking guidance and constantly pray to Allah. Allah always knows better and does better for His creatures. Being a Muslim, we all need to rely on and have complete, strong and firm belief in Allah in every walk of life. Allah loves His creatures, His servants, His followers, seventy times more than any mother’s love!

Source: Arab News

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