Throughout our lives, we come across situations that call upon some big decisions to be made. Whether it is picking a school to attend or deciding if someone is right for your life, we struggle with committing to our choices no matter how minimal or monumental the decision is.
We often feel like we need outside help or advice to make these choices, but no matter how many opinions we receive, or how good the arguments are for or against our struggle, in the end the choice is ours to make.
In Islam, this is a fundamental principle of belief — form opinions, decide between right and wrong, and ultimately, make our decision. Yes, everything is written and the ink has dried, but we are given free will — which can sometimes be nerve-wracking.
In a recent personal experience, I found myself struggling with a friendship that I felt was becoming toxic. As someone who becomes friends with people very easily and has a very hard time letting people go, I went back and forth for a while on whether or not my choice to distance myself was the right way to go about things.
I worried about confrontations, as well as this friend having bad intentions toward me later on; and as time passed and I continued to worry over this choice, my mom recommended that I pray Salat-ul-Istikhara.
Salat-ul-Istikhara is a prayer that is often forgotten or misconceived. The term Istikhara directly translates to “to seek goodness from Allah (SWT),” and often times, we are under the impression that this prayer should only be done when deciding something huge.
However, Istikhara is something we can do at any given time and for any decision since we can always attempt to seek goodness from Allah (SWT) in our choices. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) used to teach his companions the way of doing Salat-ul-Istikhara and said, “Istikhara is one of the distinct favors of Allah upon man, and a good fortune for the son of Adam is to be pleased with the judgment of Allah. And a misfortune of the son of Adam is his failure to make Istikhara, and a misfortune for the son of Adam is his displeasure with the judgment of Allah.”
So, how do we pray Istikhara and how do we receive our answer? It’s actually much easier than you might think:
Make wudu with clear intentions.
2. Nafl prayer.
Perform two Rak’ah of Nafl prayer, and perform as you normally would.
This can be performed at any time of the day. Many believe that it should be performed after Isha prayer, however, this is not mentioned in the Hadith.
3. Read the du’a for Istikhara.
The Du’a: “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 no 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, 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, 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 a satisfied with it.”
Repeat the Istikhara continuously over a few days until you feel confident in a decision.
5. Understand and accept.
Whatever the result may be, regardless of if it’s different than what you expected, accept and understand it as the final answer.
Another misconception of Salat-ul-Istikhara is that you will only see your answer in a dream — this isn’t entirely true. Yes, you may see a clear answer in your dreams, however you may also just feel more inclined toward one decision and less interested in the other.
Sometimes, one of the biggest struggles after performing Salat-ul-Istikhara is accepting the decision that was made clear by Allah (SWT). There will always be that nagging voice in the back of our heads that will keep bringing up your pros and cons list for both choices and making you second guess everything.
This is especially hard if the result of your Istikhara is different from the choice you were initially more inclined toward. However, it is important for us to always remember that we have no idea what is best for us, only Allah (SWT) does. We might think something is beneficial, but we have don’t know the actual complications and harm it might bring to us later on.
As for my Istikhara, I found the result brought me instant ease. There’s something so comforting about not being on your own when deciding something, especially when you’re deciding something that affects other people. Knowing that Allah (SWT) was guiding me was so serene and it made the process much cleaner.
I ended up distancing myself from my friend, and although I had assumed that it would be the end of that friendship and that I might end up regretting that choice later on, I’m amazed at how beneficial that choice was.
Letting go of that friendship made room for better friends who continue to bring me closer to Allah (SWT) and away from petty jealousies. I’ve even been able to keep a mutual understanding with that old friend, which was something I had assumed would be impossible.
In the Qur’an (8:30), Allah (SWT) says, “They plan, and Allah plans, and Allah is the best of planners,” and truer words have never been spoken. Alhumdulillah.