I’ve found myself praying Istikhara multiple times in 2014 when faced with very tough decisions. Four days into 2015 and I’ve already prayed it once. While we make du’a all the time, Salatul-Istikhara (the prayer of seeking a God-guided outcome in times of decision) is an extra special prayer to me because we, as human beings, are resigning ourselves fully and completely to the will of Allah (SWT). One is asking for his guidance and is relying on him totally and that experience is a humbling one. As Suhaib Webb says, “such a powerful tool we have been given, to admit our complete lack of knowledge, power, ability, and sight, and the absolute dominance of Allah (SWT) in all these abilities.” Surprisingly, it is also one of the most underused prayers by Muslims. The translation to the du’a recited after the two rakahs is below:
O Allah! I seek goodness from your knowledge and with your power (and might) I seek strength, and I ask from You Your Great Blessings, because you have the power and I do not have the power. You know everything and I do not know, and you have knowledge of the unseen. Oh Allah! If in your knowledge this action ------------------------------------------------ (you list the action here which you intend to do) is better for my religion and faith, for my life and end [death], for here [in this world] and the hereafter then make it destined for me and make it easy for me and then add blessings [baraka'] in it, for me. O Allah! In your knowledge if this action is bad for me, bad for my religion and faith, for my life and end [death], for here [in this world] and the hereafter then turn it away from me and turn me away from it and whatever is better for me, ordain [destine] that for me and then make me satisfied with it.
Funny enough, it wasn’t until recently when I found myself in a position to ask how Istikhara actually works. For the longest time, my assumption was that God gives us a sign somehow. I’ve heard numerous interpretations as well so it sounds like there are many misconceptions about it. Some people say that one has dreams. Others say that one has colorful dreams and the colors that appear in those dreams determine whether whatever it is you asked for help on is a good thing for you, or a bad thing for you. While other people say Allah (SWT) provides you with situations that allow you to determine what kind of a decision to make. It seems that majority have very different ideas on how the prayer actually works. Suhaib Webb says that Istikhara isn’t about signs or dreams but that one can have dreams and that it’s not impossible. But let’s not forget that that’s not the main idea behind the prayer.
Intrigued by a post from one of my Facebook friends who mentioned she had prayed Istikhara, I privately messaged her to relay my concerns. I expressed to her that I had made the prayer on several occasions wholeheartedly but was wondering if I was missing the signs.
She said she had been in a similar situation before and one day, after freaking out a bit, she decided to go to a mosque to ask her local imam. He said that “waiting for a sign is... something people made up to go along with it but that’s not what you should be expecting.” The idea is that if you are to make Istikhara with a clear mind, then the decision you end up making or feel most strongly about is the decision you were meant to make. Therefore, the du’a is answered by the final decision that you make. She also mentioned that when she has made decisions after praying Istikhara, she felt at peace with the decisions she had made. When I prayed Istikhara the other day and made a very tough decision, I can genuinely say I felt at peace with that decision. That’s not to say that it was easy at all and it continues not to be easy but it felt like it was the right thing to do and I have not, for a second, doubted that decision. As my friend says: “he is the best of planners. If this is not meant to be, it is not meant to be. And having that clarity and being able to ‘let go’ of the situation is an out-of-this-world blessing.”
To summarize, here is a short video on how Istikhara works:
I hope in times of difficulty, whether on a major or minor issue, that you take the time to pray Istikhara and that Allah (SWT) brings the best outcomes for us all inshallah.