Istikharah & Istisharah : Overcoming Difficult Decisions

Take a moment and think about all the decisions you have had to make today, that you will have to make tomorrow. Most of them are so instinctual, that you likely don’t even think about them. Deciding when to pray, deciding what to eat, deciding what to wear. In fact, everything you do is a consequence of a decision, and most of those are made without a second thought. But what about the big ones? The decisions that you know are going to have an impact, beyond today, beyond tomorrow, sometimes they’re decisions that will affect the rest of your life. What university degree to do? Do I get married to this person? Take this job?

Considering those can naturally lead to crippling indecisiveness, but you shouldn’t feel alone when faced with such a choice. Everyone has to make difficult decisions, everyone has been faced with a choice of what to do, but it’s what you do in the face of that difficulty that can make all the difference. But more importantly, you’re not alone because you can always turn to Allah’s guidance when faced with difficult decisions.

Istikharah Prayer

There is a special way to seek Allah’s guidance when faced with indecision and that is the prayer of Istikhara. A special prayer prescribed by the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ  in order to ask Allah for his help in making a difficult choice. Istikhara’s significance for all Muslims is highlighted by the Prophet Muhammad teaching the dua’a to all his companions. Instructing them to offer a special two rakat prayer, recite the following dua’a and ask for Allah’s guidance.  

‘Allahumma inni astakhiruka bi’ilmika, Wa astaqdiruka bi-qudratika, Wa as’alaka min fadlika al-‘azlm Fa-innaka taqdiru Wala aqdiru, Wa ta’lamu Wala a’lamu, Wa anta ‘allamu l-ghuyub. Allahumma, in kunta ta’lam anna hadha-l-amra Khairun li fi dini wa ma’ashi wa’aqibati amri (or ‘ajili amri wa’ajilihi) Faqdirhu wa yas-sirhu li thumma barik li Fihi, Wa in kunta ta’lamu anna hadha-lamra shar-run li fi dini wa ma’ashi wa’aqibati amri (or fi’ajili amri wa ajilihi) Fasrifhu anni was-rifni anhu. Waqdir li al-khaira haithu kana Thumma ardini bihi.’ 

O Allah! I ask guidance from Your knowledge, And Power from Your Might and I ask for Your great blessings. You are capable and I am not. You know and I do not and You know the unseen. O Allah! If You know that this job is good for my religion and my subsistence and in my Hereafter–(or said: If it is better for my present and later needs)–Then You ordain it for me and make it easy for me to get, And then bless me in it, and if You know that this job is harmful to me In my religion and subsistence and in the Hereafter–(or said: If it is worse for my present and later needs)–Then keep it away from me and let me be away from it. And ordain for me whatever is good for me, And make me satisfied with it). The Prophet added that then the person should name his need. Al-Bukhari.

 In order to carry out Istikhara, you must perform three simple steps. 

  1.     Make Intention for Istikhāra Pray 
  2.     Pray two Rakaʿāt of Voluntary Prayer  
  3.     Recite the duʿāʾ of istikhāra and mention your need

Istisharah – Consulting Others

Asking Allah for guidance is an important tool for all Muslims. However, don’t discount the value of asking those around you for advice when faced with tough decisions. Often at times it’s those around you that know you best, where your view might be obscured by the emotions in your head, those you’re close to can often tell you what the best thing for you could be. As the saying goes:

He who seeks counsel from Allah (Istikhaara) will not fail and he who consults and seeks advice from people will not regret. 

Whether it’s seeking advice from your wife, or your best friend, or even a professional, it’s always a good idea to seek out help from others. If only because it can usually be beneficial to draw from the experience of others, who can often add value and intellect to a difficult decision. During the battle of Uhud, the Prophet Muhammad received consultations of military tactics from his companions.

And consult with them in (certain) matters (Sūrat Āli Imrān: 159).

If you are married you have somebody to consult in decisions, your wife. The Prophet consulted his wife on many occasions and took a decision based on her advice. In addition to strengthening your opinion, it has the added benefit of making them feel as partners in the family and teaches humility.

Seeking guidance from Allah, seeking advice from others, these are all things that hold little regret if it is unsuccessful. As it was a shared decision, it is much easier to bear than feeling regret on your own

Better and enduring reward is for believers who conduct their affairs through mutual consultation (Qur’an 42:39)

You can gain fifty years of experience from someone by asking him nicely: What do you think of this matter? And remember, he who consults wise men will be borrowing their minds. The likelihood of mistakes are reduced when more people think about a matter as varied intellects and experiences are less likely to be wrong. And  if the matter turns out successful, people will be happy and feel party to the success and if the matter is unsuccessful, the person will feel regret as many people shared in the decision.

Take a step forward

The simple truth is that very few decisions in life are irreversible. Of course it may be difficult, but rarely are you bound by what you decide. Don’t fear regret, don’t give in to fear, face the decision and take a step forward, because often, not doing anything is much worse. Make the best decisions you can, reach out to all avenues of support, so that you can gain the best understanding of the situation you can, and believe in the fact that Allah only wants the best for you.

Then when you have taken a decision, put your trust in Allah, certainly, Allah loves those who put their trust (in Him).) [Aal-’Imran, 159]. 

If your decision was good you’ll see that fulfilling it becomes easy. If that decision was not good, then you will turn away from it or will be prevented from it as it is made clear to you that it is not in your physical or spiritual benefit. In both cases, you have delegated the outcome to Allah and you will not be left alone. 

As humans we’re built for support, whether that’s to support one another or to be supported by others . So, the next time you feel at a crossroads, remember that you are not alone, not in your feelings and not with your decision. Trust yourself, trust others, and above all else, trust in Allah.

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