Jabir ibn `Abdillah reported that the Prophet used to teach the Companions to make Istikharah Prayer in every matter, just as he would teach them the chapters of the Qur’an. He said,
“If you are about to make a decision, pray two rak`ahs, outside of the obligatory prayers, then say,
‘O Allah! I seek guidance by virtue of Your knowledge, I seek ability by virtue of Your power, and I ask of Your great bounty. For You have power, and I do not. You know, and I do not. You are the Knower of all that is hidden.
O Allah, if You know that this decision is good for me in my faith, worldly life, and the Hereafter, then make it easy for me, make it happen, and bless me through it.
And if You know that this decision is bad for me in my faith, worldly life, and the hereafter, then distance it from me and keep me away from it, then ordain for me goodness wherever it may be, and make me content. “(Al-Bukhari)
The decision-making prayer, Istikharah, is an indispensable tool that every Muslim must have to navigate their life. Life is made up of decisions. For many people, we only notice the decisions when they have huge, long-term consequences. But decisions of all kinds are there, filling up every moment and affecting our life.
In making a decision, big or small, we can only estimate its probable result. Based on our limited knowledge, we cannot predict the future nor be sure what the effects of our choices will be.
We may know what we want right now, but how will we know if that person, that job, that car, or that project will be good for us in the future? How can we make our important decisions victim to our flawed expectations and the randomness of life?
Imagine if we could find out what was the right decision—not the decision that would make us temporarily happy or achieve a short-term goal, but the choice that would be in the best interest of our faith and livelihood, and also lead us to the greatest level of contentment. Wouldn’t we check our decisions at every turn of the road? That is why we resort to the prayer of decision-making.
The prayer is simple. Perform ablution, pray two rak`ahs (cycles of prayer), and recite the words of the supplication. With this ritual, we surrender fully to God, placing our soul and our hopes in His hands, and then surrendering in peace to whatever the outcome will be. All of the stress and anxiety in trying to predict the future and consider every possibility vanishes because we have put our trust in the Most Knowledgeable, the Gentle.
Now we are consulting in our decision the One who knows the unseen, knows the future, and knows our own selves, hopes, and fears. Istikharah is to admit that we are unqualified to make the best choices, hence we ask Allah to take charge of our affairs.
It is not a dream or a sign that we wait for, but rather we place our soul in the charge of God and trust that He will guide us to what is right in His way.Once we have made the prayer, we can stop worrying and be at ease. We use our wisdom, insight, advice from others, and problem-solving skills to make the best decision we can. Whatever we choose from that point onward will be part of His wisdom and compassion for us, and will be best for our life in this world and the Hereafter. The relief and inner peace that Istikharah brings to our soul is priceless.