The Prayer of Seeking Allah's Guidance (Salat Al-Istikharah)

The Prayer of Seeking Allah
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The Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) was keen to teach the believers the Du’aa' (supplication) for Istikharah (seeking Allah’s guidance). Jaabir, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated: "The Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) would instruct us to pray for guidance in all of our concerns, just as he would teach us a chapter from the Quran. He  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) would say: “If any of you intends to undertake a matter, then let him pray two supererogatory Ra’kahs (units of prayer) after which he should supplicate: “Allahumma innee astakheeruka bi'ilmika wa astaqdiruka bi qudratika wa asáluka min fadhlikal-'Atheem, fa innaka taqdiru wa laa aqdir, wa ta'lamu wa laa a'lam, wa anta 'allaamul-Ghuyoob. Allahumma in kunta ta'lam inna– and here he mentions his need – khayrun lee fee deenee wa dunyay wa 'aaqibatu amree wa 'aajilihi wa aajilihi faqdurhu lee wa yassirhu lee thumma baarik lee feeh, wa in kunta ta'lam inna haatha al-Amra sharrun lee fee deenee wa dunyay wa 'aaqibatu amree wa 'aajilihi wa aajilihi fasrifhu 'annee wasrifnee 'anhu waqdur lee al-Khayru haythu kaan thumma radh-Dhinee bih” (O Allah! I seek Your counsel by Your knowledge and by Your power I seek strength and I ask You from Your immense favour, for indeed You are able while I am not and indeed You know while I do not and You are the Knower of the unseen. O Allah! If You know this affair – and here he mentions his need – to be 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.)” [Al-Bukhari]

The benefits and rulings of Istikhaarah:

1. This Hadeeth tells us the precise words with which to invoke Allah for guidance. There is, therefore, absolutely no doubt left about how to seek guidance.

2. It is recommended to perform a two-Rak'ah prayer before the Istikharah Du’aa' (supplication) is recited. Imam Ibn Abu Jamrah  may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him who was one of the early scholars, stated: "The wisdom behind the performance of the two-Rak'ah prayer before supplicating lies in the fact that the purpose of Istikharah 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., Allah) and nothing is better and more effective in this regard than praying to and glorifying Allah and showing one’s need for His bounty and constant assistance.

3- The believer should then praise Allah Almighty as He deserves to be praised, for Allah loves that His servants do this.

4- An important rule for any Du’aa' is that one should ask Allah by His sublime Attributes; he should select that attribute which reflects Allah’s power and ability to do the thing being asked of Him; one should therefore supplicate by saying, for example: ‘O Razzaq (i.e., Provider)! Sustain me.”

5- As with every Du’aa', the supplicant should have humility before His Lord. The slave recognises that Allah alone can do everything and that there is no strength or power except His, and that he is utterly helpless without His Lord’s help.

6- The Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) would teach his companions to begin their supplications by asking Allah for benefit and safety in their religion, for indeed nothing is more precious than that and no calamity worse than its loss.

7- The Companions, may Allah be pleased with them, were extremely diligent in performing Istikharah. The Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) would teach his companions, may Allah be pleased with them, to pray for guidance in all of their concerns, just as he would teach them a chapter from the Quran. Imam Ibn Hajar  may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him stated that this shows the great importance of consulting Allah through supplication because it was mentioned here, in the same breath, with the importance and necessity of reciting the Quran in prayer.

What matters should Istikhaarah be performed for?

The Hadeeth states that we should consult Allah about all matters. Imam Ibn Abu Jamrah  may  Allah  have  mercy  upon  him stated: “This is a general statement pertaining to something specific. Istikharah should not be about things understood to be an obligation, nor about things that are known to be Haram (forbidden). For example, Salat, (Prayer), is compulsory and so we should not ask Allah whether to perform it or not; when Allah and His Messenger  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) have made something clear to us we must accept it completely.

Allah confirms this by saying (what means): “It is not for a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter, that they should [thereafter] have any choice about their affair.” [Quran 33:36]

This tells us that before we act, we should find out the Islamic position regarding it and then comply accordingly. Istikharah is performed for matters where we have a choice, (such as marrying a particular person, buying a car, etc…) regardless of whether they are small or big matters or whether one finds them to be good or not. Yet some people only resort to Istikharah when they are confused about a matter; if they see good in it, they proceed, relying on their own judgement, thus forgetting the Sunnah.

What does one do after performing Istikharah?

Once the Muslim has consulted his Creator about a particular matter through Istikharah, he should proceed to undertake what he is content with, relying on Allah to achieve his purpose, fully convinced that whatever Allah wills happens, and whatever He does not will, never happens.

It is not a condition that after Istikharah has been made, one should expect a dream relating to something unusual happening, even though Allah may choose to make such things occur. Therefore, Istikharah is, in essence, a form of faith-education, after which the Muslim should proceed to undertake a matter with full confidence of his success, having consulted his Creator in whom he has full confidence and trust.

Thereafter, even if he faces difficulties, he never loses faith in the wisdom of Allah, because as a Muslim he does not see success merely in worldly terms, for he is more concerned with the rewards and blessings of the Hereafter. Part of his faith is the belief that calamities may be of benefit to him in the sense that Allah forgives his sins if he is patient through them. When the believer reaches this level of understanding of Istikharah and the results it brings about, his satisfaction will be great, as will be his contentment and perseverance, Allah willing, since he fully believes, having consulted his Creator, that whatever the situation is, it is his Lord’s chosen one.

This increases his faith and he will never feel regret for anything he misses in life, nor will he indulge in the use of the expression: “If only this or that happened…” This level of understanding is subsequently reflected in his personality to such an extent that he will always appear firm and self-confident.

These etiquettes are derived from the aforementioned Hadeeth, which many Muslims have unfortunately turned their backs to in lethargy and absent mindedness.

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