The Prophet (Pbuh) taught his companions and followers in all generations to resort to Istikharah in practically everything of importance.
The concept of seeking God’s help when making a choice on any question of importance is known in Islamic terminology as Istikharah, or leaving the choice to God to make.
Istikharah does not mean a request to know what is stored for us in the future. It is merely a prayer that seeks God’s help in making the right choice.
Seeking God’s help in making a choice applies only to permissible matters. We may not resort to Istikharah over anything Islam requires of its followers as a duty, or anything forbidden.
The Right Choice
When Istikharah is done, one accepts what comes up in the matter concerned, trusting that God has made the right choice for him. This means that if things do not turn up in his favor in the way he expects, he should realize that the alternative would have been even worse. The Prophet (Pbuh) taught his companions and followers in all generations to resort to Istikharah in practically everything of importance.
The Hadith which teaches the Istikharah is related by Al-Bukhari, An-Nassaie, Abu Dawood, al-Tirmithi and Ibn Majah on the authority of Jabir ibn Abdullah, a companion of the Prophet. It runs as follows:
When any of you is considering a matter of importance, let him offer two rakaahs other than obligatory prayers and follow that with this supplication: “My Lord, I seek Your help, based on Your knowledge, in making a choice and seek Your assistance based on Your power, for You are powerful and I am not, and You know all while I do not know. My Lord, if You know this matter (he should specify the matter) is beneficial to me in my faith and my living, and in my short-term and long-term affairs, then facilitate it for me, make it easy for me to have, and bless it for me. But if You know this matter (he should specify it again) is disadvantageous for me in my faith and my living, and in my short-term and long-term affairs, then keep it away from me and keep me away from it. Give me what is beneficial to me whatever it may be and make me happy with it”.
Knowledge of Every Secret
The first thing to note about this supplication is the fact that we begin with acknowledging our lack of knowledge, and therefore we request God to choose for us because His knowledge is absolute. He knows what is beneficial for us and we are seeking His help to give us that. Moreover, we seek God’s help in making what is good and beneficial within our reach, because we may get to know what it is but we may not have the power to attain it. Therefore, we appeal to God to make it, by His power, easy for us to obtain. We also acknowledge God’s abundant grace, His power over all things and His knowledge of every secret.
Having established this basis, we then concentrate on the specific matter in hand. If God knows it to be good and beneficial for us in our present life and in the life to come, then we appeal to Him to make it easy for us to get and to give us His blessings to enjoy it. If He knows it to be otherwise, then our appeal trusts to His wisdom and seeks to be spared that totally. We further seek God’s help to forget all about it. We also appeal to Him to give us what is good and beneficial whatever it may be.
Sign of Strong Belief in God
All this supplication, made at a time when one is fully aware of one’s own inability and lack of knowledge, consciously and deliberately seeking God’s help, is a sign of strong belief in God, and a complete trust in His choice. It also shows a well satisfied heart. Hence, whatever result takes place, the believer who has done his Istikharah will accept it, knowing it to be the choice God has made, which means that it is certain to be good.
Answering supplication is something God will always do, because when we pray to Him, we actually acknowledge His Lordship, power and kindness. He returns that acknowledgment with a positive response. This is what He has promised us in the Qur’an: “Your Lord says: Pray Me and I will answer you.” (40:60) This is a very clear promise, and God never fails to keep His promises.
However, it is important to add whatever we can to ensure that we are sincere and consciously accept God’s will.