Among the many difficulties that man undergoes in life is 'confusion' and 'perplexity'. Almost everyday in his life, man is faced with the task of making a decision between two or more choices. Generally the decisions are not major but occasionally they do become quite serious. Even in these circumstances, our beloved guide, Rasulullah (sallallahu
alayhi wa sallam) taught us what to do, and clearly outlined the solution. This solution is called Istikhaarah.
The Importance Of Istikharah
Allaah says in the Qur'an:
"And it is very possible that you dislike something whereas it is good for you; and (similarly) it is very possible that you like something whereas it is bad for you" (Q2[Baqarah]:16)
From this verse of the Qur'an, we learn that man has limited knowledge and deficient intellect. Therefore, in many situations, he may desire something, which may prove harmful to him, and on the other hand, he may dislike something, while it is good for him.
The sole Possessor of Perfect Knowledge, and the only Knower of the Unseen is Allaah, the Creator of man and the Controller of the entire universe. Therefore if man desires good, he can only find it in the Hands of Allaah. In some part of the duaa of the Prophet (sal/allahu alayhi wa sallam), the following phrase is recorded
"Here I am at Your service. and Grace is to You and the whole of good is in Your Hand. and one cannot come close to You through evil. My (power as well as existence) is due to You ('(our grace) and I turn to You (for supplication). You are Blessed and You are Exalted". (Muslim)
Thus, a Muslim should never overlook any matter due to its insignificance and discard Istikharah. How many matters are regarded as insignificant and Istikhaarah is not made for them, and then great harm is suffered when carrying them out or due to abandoning them.
Today, Istikharah has become as equally difficult as making a decision. People hesitate so much to perform this great act of worship, that only at the last alternative, when no other way can be perceived would they turn to some innovated act that has no basis in the Sunnah. Such include the taking of a good omen by opening the Qur'an and counting lines and letters, or asking someone else to perform Istikhaarah on their behalf etc. Many have also erroneously restricted istikhaarah only to making marriage decisions. All of these are part of the general fallout of the estrangement from the Sunnah.
How Istikhaarah Is Performed
When making Istikhaarah begin with performing two Rakaats Nafl Salaat. Then with all sincerity recite the following Du'aa:
'Allaahumma innee astakheeruka bi ilmika wa-astaqdiruka biqudratika waas'aluka min fadhlika al-adheem. Fa innaka taqdiru walaa aqdiru. Wa ta'lamu walaa a'alamu wa anta allaamul ghuyoob. Altaahumma in kunta ta'lamu anna haadhal-amr khayrun liy fiy deeniy wa-ma'aashiy wa-aaqibat amriy, fa'qdruhliy wa-yassirh liy thumma baarik liy feehi. Wa in-kunta ta'lamu anna haadhal amr sharrun liy fiy deeniy wama'aashiy was-'aaqibat amriy. Fa asrifh annee wa-srif 'anhu. Wa aqdurh liyal khayr hayth kaana thumma a-rdhiniy bihee
O AIlaah! Behold I ask You the good through Your Knowledge, and ability through Your Power, and beg (Your favor) out of Your infinite Bounty. For surely You have Power; I have none. You know all; I know not. You are the Great Knower of all things. O Allah! If in Your Knowledge this matter be good for my faith (Deen), for my livelihood, and for the consequences of my affairs, then ordain it for me, and make it easy for me, and bless me therein. But if in Your Knowledge, this matter be bad for my faith (Deen) for' my livelihood, and for the consequences of my affairs, then turn it away from me, and turn me away there from, and ordain for me the good wherever it be, and cause me to be pleased therewith). (Bukhari)
While reciting this du'aa when one reaches haadhal amr (this matter) at both places he should think of his problem.
Are the two Rakaahs Compulsory?
In some ahadeeth that deal with istikharah', mention has been made of two raka'at, while others contain no mention of Salaah before istikharah'. Since the narration of jabir (RA) mentions the performance of two raka'at before istikharah', some of the scholars have stated that it is Sunnah to perform two raka'at before istikharah'. In fact, the narration of Abu Ayyub Ansari (RA) contains the following words: 'Thumma salli maa katabaltaahu laka' (Then perform how many rakaat Allah has destined for you) referring to the fact that if more than two raka'at (whether 4, 6, 8 etc.) are performed, it will be preferable. This narration of Abu Ayyub Ansari (RA) also mentions the performance of 'wudu" properly before the Salah, and praising AIlaah before the du'a.
According to some scholars, the wisdom behind the performance of the two-Rak'ah prayer before supplicating, lies in the fact that the purpose of istikhaarah is to achieve success, both in this life and in the Hereafter. For this purpose, the servant needs to knock at the door of the King (i.e., AIlaah) and nothing is better and more effective in this regard than praying to and glorifying Allaah and showing one's need for His bounty and constant assistance.
However, since most of the narrations do not have any mention of Salaah, Istikhaarah will be correct by reciting the du'a only, especially when circumstances do not allow one to perform Salaah.
How Many Times Should it Be Performed?
As far as this is concerned, the "Ulama have regarded it as 'mustahabb' i.e. preferable to perform it three times. This is on the basis of the narration of Ibn Mas'ud (RA) wherein he states that when Rasulullah (sallaltaahu alayhi wa sallam) made du'aa, he would repeat it three times.
Moreover, it is recorded that some of the salaf would do Istikharah in multiple numbers. When Abdullah ibn Zubayr wanted to rebuild the Ka'bah when it was damaged, he said:
"I would seek good advice from my lord thrice and then I would make up (my mind) about this affair." (Muslim)
Can It Be Done On Behalf of Another Person?
What the text indicates is that each individual should perform Istikhaarah by and for himself. Part of the hadeeth of Istikhaarah reads:
"... if one of you is concerned about an affair ...”
So the affair is associated with the person it directly concerns.
Is Dream Associated with Istikhaarah
Firstly, one must understand that none of the narrations in the ahadeeth have any mention regarding a dream or even about performing the 'Istikhaarah' before sleeping. However, some ulaama do prefer that Istikhaarah be performed before sleeping.
With regards to a person who does see a dream after performing Istikhaarah', this dream is just like any other dream that a person sees.
If the Heart Inclines to a Choice Before the Istikhaarah?
It is still recommended to perform Istikhaarah even if one's heart is already inclined to a choice. Istikhaarah also includes seeking ease from Allaah in one's affairs and turning one away from it with His Knowledge and Power so that one is not engaged in an affair that will be fruitless in the end.
Does Istikhaarah Prevent Seeking Advice From Human Beings?
It is permissible for the one making istikhaarah to seek advice and help from those he knows to be righteous and competent. It makes no difference whether this is before the Istikhaarah or after it. There is no contradiction whatsoever between Istikhaarah and Istishaarah (seeking the advice of people). Allaah says:
"And consult them in the affair. Then once you have taken a decision, put your trust in Allaah, certainly Allaah loves those who put their trust in Him." (Q3[Aal lmraan]: 159)
How Do You Recognize The Guidance Of Allaah After Istikhaarah?
Some people say you should go ahead with whatever you feel happy with based on a narration from ibn Sunni that the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) said:
"If you are concerned about a matter, then make istikhaarah seven times, praying to your Lord, then see what you feel most drawn towards, and the good will be in that." AI-Nawawi (RAH) said: its isnaad is ghareeb, and it includes narrators whom I do not know. (al Adhkaar).
AI-Haafiz ibn Hajar (RAH) said:
if this was proven, it could be taken as evidence, but its isnaad is very weak (waahin jiddan). (al-Fath, 11/223)
The correct view is that when Allaah makes something easy for you – after having decreed it and accepted your du'aa' - this is a sign that it is good to go ahead and do it. The existence of obstacles and difficulties is an indication that Allaah is pushing His slave away from doing it.
This meaning will be very clear when one ponders the meaning of the hadeeth of Jaabir (RA) concerning al-istikhaarah, where the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) said:
“… O Allaah, if You know this affair - [and here he should mention it}·- is good for me in relation to my religion, my life, and end, then decree and facilitate it for me, and bless me with it, and if You know this affair to be ill for me towards my religion, my life, and end, then remove it from me and remove me from it, and decree for me what is good wherever it be and make me satisfied with such. "(Bukhari)
Ibn 'Allaan(RAH) said: Therefore it was said that after (doing istikhaarah) he should do what he wants (i.e., even if he does not feel that sense of being happy), because whatever happens after doing istikhaarah is good.
Another myth that is widespread among the people is that after praying istikhaarah you should sleep, and whatever good you see in your dream that makes you happy means that what you want to do is good and will be made easy for you, otherwise it is not good. There is no saheeh daleel (evidence) for this.
The above does not mean that if you feel happy it is not a sign, but this should not be regarded as the only sign about whether or not the matter is good. People often make istikhaarah about something they like or want to do, so they feel happy about it from the outset.
Shaykh al-lslam [Ibn Taymiyah] (RAH) said concerning the matter of feeling happy about something:
"If he makes istikhaarah, then whatever Allaah makes him feel happy about and makes easy for him, this is what Allaah has chosen for him." (Majmoo' al-Fataawaa).
There is a difference between making 'feeling happy' the only sign and making it one of several signs.
A lot of people when faced with a small deterrent in an affair, they quickly conclude that it wasn't meant to be. Or if things weren't "miraculously" beautiful and fast to them, it wasn't meant to be.
The reality is that people can be "over-sensitive" or try to read too much into normal events. Yes, it's true that sometimes after Istikhaarah, things happen very quickly or smoothly or miraculously. But it's not always like that. After making your decision, carry on as normal with confidence and assurance. You might still encounter the normal stumbling blocks of life, but that's not a problem. Keep going. If it's not meant for you, it just won't happen. Allaah knows best!