More often, there comes a time in our lives when we look for someone`s help in successful implementation of any critical matter of our lives. That particular somebody who we refer to in this regard is deemed as an expert, who would give us the best possible advice, like in deciding whether to pursue a certain job or not, reaching destination by which means of transport or route etc. Eventually, we take the option about which we at first might have thought of as secondary in importance, but when a professional recommends it to us, all of a sudden, it becomes essential to do. Being a Muslim, we have strong conviction that no one is as Knowledgeable in Knowing things as Allah SWT, Who has made certain deeds compulsory for us and following the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) so that we could benefit from them.
….. 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]
Although the above mentioned Ayah is related to Jihad (fighting for sake of the Almighty), but it also conveys a general message about adhering to what is best for us as prescribed in Islam. It could well fit into the topic under discussion as well, in terms of making our decisions based on rightful judgment which is only possible through the Help of the Creator of the universe. Prayers are generally one of the most useful ways to get closer to Allah Almighty and get His guidance in solving complex issues. Besides obligatory five Namaz, there are some other forms of prayers which are proved from the life of Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH), including Tahajjud (night prayer), Istikhara. The former more of a general kind of prayer and is meant for the fulfillment of duas (supplications), gaining steadfastness etc. while the latter is concerned solely with attaining the Wisdom and Help of the Gracious Lord in making the best decision.
Meaning And Description of Salat Al-Istikharah
The term “Istikharah” generally means to look for Allah`s support and supervision in the easiness or removal of any confusions in any matter before making any crucial decision or taking up any key task. It requires to have absolute faith in the Almighty as the ultimate Knower of things (both seen and unseen, and whatever lies in the entire universe), to be able to seek His direction for successful execution of a matter.
Jabir Ibn Abd`Allah Al Salami (R.A) narrated that “The Messenger (PBUH) of Allah used to teach His companions to make istikharah in all things, just as He used to teach them surahs from the Quran. He said: ‘If any one of you is concerned about a decision he has to make, then let him pray two rakats of non-obligatory prayer, then say (translation):
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)
The greater implication of the above mentioned Hadith is that the act of Istikhara makes one able to attain the spiritual leadership from Allah SWT in unraveling intricate things only by considering Him as the Supreme Judge of everything. Dua (supplication) includes asking for the Almighty`s blessings in easiness of a matter under reflection. It should also be noted that one has to pray to God with a view to be able to benefit from task both in the world and hereafter, which means Istikharah must not be carried out for any forbidden matters in Islam.
Conditions Of Salat
As it is to be performed right after praying two rakats of optional Namaz, so, it is necessary for one to remain in complete state of cleanliness and maintaining Wudu (ablution). Also one must also have clear conscious of asking for clarity of stuff that is unclear, and is not beyond the boundaries of the Islamic faith.
Method Of Performing Istikharah
First, one has to perform two Nafl rakats of (non obligatory) Salah with the intention of Istikharah. In first round (rakat), after Surah Fatiha, recite Surah Al-Kafirun (Chapter 109), and in the second, it has to read Surah Ikhlas (chapter 112), having similar format in the remaining prayer as is found in any other normal Namaz. After that, one has to read out the above mentioned Dua e Istikhara in Arabic.
It is always advisable to send blessings on the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in the form of Durood before and after any request to the Almighty for instant completion of prayers. One should also sleep in the state of Ablution and keep its face towards Qibla as it has been the way of Rasulullah (PBUH).
There is no general compulsion in carrying out at particular time, but according to the traditions forwarded from the companions of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), final third of a night is the best time for fulfillment of one`s supplications. Abu Hurrerah (R.A) descibed:
Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) said, “When it is the last third of the night, our Lord, The Blessed, The Superior, Descends every night to the nearest heaven of the world and Declares, ‘Is there anyone who invokes Me that I may respond to his invocation; is there anyone who asks Me for something that I may give (it to) him; is there anyone who asks My forgiveness that I may forgive him?'” (Bukhari)
So, by acting upon the Sunnah of Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH), one should carry out Istikharah in later part of a night to be able to get closer to Allah SWT, as He listens to prayers and readily accepts them in this period of time. And as per the conclusion of a problem is concerned, one can keep offering this dua` till it gets the most suitable answer to its worries.
Apart from transparency in complex matters, and being able to get Allah`s Help in, Istikharah also brings us closest to the Almighty.
The sacred Angels of God, the Exalted are the only creatures that are very near to the Lord, but when a person on earth pleas to Him after waking up from one`s sleep, Allah SWT highly admires this action, listens to its requests, and tells its Divine Messengers about that particular individual.
Hazrat Shah Waliyyullah (R.A) writes:
“From amongst the greatest benefits of Istikharah is that man becomes detached from his carnal desires, his animalistic characteristics become subject to his angelic nature and he hands himself over to Allah. When he does this, he reaches the stages of the angels whose quality is that they await the command of Allah. When Allah’s command is received, they exert themselves through divine motivation and not carnal motivation. I believe that excessive Istikharah is a proven tonic for the inculcation of angelic qualities.”
It means that by Istikharah, one can clean itself from all the harms of the worldly pleasures, and gets the honor to have the characteristics of the Celestial Beings of Allah Almighty.
The biggest delusion attached to Istikharah is that it results in getting solution to uncertainty in one`s dream. Rather, it only serves as easiness of matters for a person either through a Waseela (nearness to God) through prayers, and receiving the ability to accomplish one`s actions in the best way.
Another common misunderstanding regarding Istikharah is that it is solely down to the experts to execute this action successfully. No, that is not true. Every Muslim, who has strong belief in Allah Almighty being the Supreme Helper and Knowing of everything, can ask the Most Beneficent to take its matters in His own hands, as the Almighty says in the Holy Quran:
And your Lord says, “Call upon Me; I will respond to you.” Indeed, those who disdain My worship will enter Hell [rendered] contemptible. [Quran, 40: 60]
It shows that Allah SWT directs us all to request from Him. So, there is need for asking anyone else to do Istikhara for us.
It is also falsely supposed that one only has to carry out this deed while being in confusion over two choices. No, rather we should take help from Hadith in which Rasulullah (PBUH) has prescribed it while embarking upon something that means it could be any sort of endeavor, and not necessarily has to choose from options.
This supplication is also not limited to only matters like travelling or marriage decisions, but it could be for all kinds of crucial matters concerning one`s life.
In short, Istikharah is a great from supplication, which does not only result in God`s guidance and supervision in the accomplishment of a task, but also purifies one`s heart and soul by bringing it near to the Almighty Lord. May Allah SWT give us will and desire to understand the great significance of this prayer and benefit from it in the most meaningful manner! Aameen!