Are you overwhelmed by decisions to make and confused regarding the best options? Atefa Jamal reminds us of the Prophet’s (sa) advice about making the right choice and attaining the peace of mind. 

Life is full of choices affecting our future and the lives of those around us: career options, marriage proposals, selecting a school for children and the list goes on. Often, decisions make us feel uncertain and uneasy, even after deciding on an option. Unable to predict the outcome of our judgement, we often wish for reassurance from someone, who has more wisdom than ourselves. Hence, our beloved teacher Prophet Muhammad (sa) instructed us to make Istikhara for all the important matters of life.

“Allah’s (swt) Messenger used to teach his companions to perform the prayer of Istikhara for each and every matter, just as he used to teach them the Surahs from the Quran.” (Bukhari)

The term ‘Istikhara’ means ‘seeking/requesting guidance in what is good’ – hence, it is a means of asking Allah (swt) (the One, Who knows the seen and the unseen) to guide us to the right decision concerning any affair in our life, especially, when we have to choose between two or more alternatives.

Performing Salat-ul-Istikhara

The Prophet Muhammad (sa) informed us: “If anyone of you thinks of doing any job, he should offer a two Rakah prayer other than the compulsory ones and say (after the prayer)…” he then recited the Dua of Istikhara. (Bukhari)

Thus, performing Istikhara is really very simple:

  1. Decide on the option you wish to take.
  2. Make Wudu and prepare for Salah.
  3. Pray two Rakahs of Salah, other than the obligatory ones. The intention of Salah should be made in your heart, without saying it out loud. This prayer can be performed at any time, when Salah is permissible.
  4. After completing the Salah, recite in Arabic the Dua of Istikhara, clearly mentioning the affair you are concerned about (the affair can be said in the language you are accustomed to, if you do not know, how to translate it into Arabic).
  5. Trust that Allah (swt) will now guide you towards what is best for your future in this world and the Hereafter. Then, act upon what you feel is the best choice in the matter.

Note: There is no harm in repeating Salat-ul-Istikhara, before acting on a decision. Every person concerned with a particular affair should perform this Salah individually.

Misconceptions regarding Salat-ul-Istikhara

Many people feel that Salat-ul-Istikhara should be followed by a feeling or a dream, pointing towards the correct decision. The Prophet (sa) has warned us: “Dreams are of three types: glad tidings from Allah (swt), whispering from the soul, or frightening thoughts from Shaitan.” (Bukhari) Thus, we cannot be sure about the source of a dream.

The Dua of Istikhara asks Allah (swt) to make the right direction smooth and easy for us, and also make us satisfied with the outcome. Sometimes, after acting upon a decision, we find the outcome different from what we had anticipated. Only much later we realize that the results were definitely in our favor. We are hasty to taste the fruits of success and feel restless and unsatisfied, when things do not seem to go the way we plan. This Dua asks Allah (swt) to give to us a feeling of content, no matter what the outcome is, for truly, only He sees the fruits of our deeds.

The affairs Salat-ul-Istikhara can be made for

Istikhara can be made for all affairs affecting our lives, in which we have to choose between permissible alternatives. This includes making choices between obligatory matters, for example, trying to decide, whether to go for Hajj or postpone it in order to take care of a sick parent. However, it cannot be made for the following matters:

  • acts, which Allah (swt) has made obligatory on us, such as performing Hajj, giving Zakat, or fasting in Ramadan;
  • acts, which Allah (swt) has declared Haram (forbidden), such as drinking alcohol or giving bribes;
  • acts, which may involve harm or result in oppression of another Muslim.

Remember, making Istikhara does not mean that you should not turn for advice to those, who have more knowledge. Allah (swt) Himself instructs us, what can be translated as: “… and consult them in the affairs. Then, when you have taken a decision, put your trust in Allah (swt); certainly, Allah (swt) loves those who put their trust (in Him).” (Al-Imran 3:159)

Hence, make a decision after proper research and then put your mind at ease by entrusting Allah (swt) with the matter as “Allah (swt) is Sufficient for us, and He is the Best Disposer of affairs.” (Al-Imran 3:173)

Translation of Dua of Istikhara

“O Allah (swt)! I consult You, for You have all knowledge, and appeal to You to support me with Your Power and ask for Your Bounty, for You are able to do things, while I am not, and You know while I do not; and You are the Knower of the Unseen. O Allah (swt)! If You know that this matter (name your matter) is good for me both at present and in the future, (or in my Deen), in this life and in the Hereafter, then fulfill it for me and make it easy for me, and then bestow Your Blessings on me in that matter. O Allah (swt)! If You know that this matter is not good for me in my Deen, in this life and in my coming Hereafter (or at present or in the future), then divert me from it and choose for me what is good, wherever it may be, and make me be pleased with it.” (Bukhari)