By: Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
17 June 2016
Istikhara comes from the word “khayr” which means good and istikhara means to seek good.
In Islamic terminology it refers to seeking good or khayr from Allah regarding any matter that you are involved in.
Istikhara practically has two applications:
Firstly for anything that you do, one should always ask Almighty Allah to guide you and place good in what you doing or about to do. Examples from daily life would include before purchasing a new house, starting a new job, entering into marriage, acquiring a new business, etc. One seeks Allah’s guidance for your venture to be successful.
One thus performs 2 rakaats salaah of istikhara for the work you intend performing and then make dua for a good outcome in that venture.
This format of istikhara is the one that is most emphasized and considered to be the the original istikhara.
The second application of Istikhara is when you want to do something but are doubtful whether it is good for you or not.
For example you want to acquire a new business and after having performed your own investigation and research and analysis, you remain undecided and double minded with a “fifty/fifty” view.
Under these circumstances, you can perform istikhara to ask Allah to guide you to which option is good for you.
There are different methods to perform this type of Istikhara but I will mention 2 of the most common methods used.
Istikhara with a Tasbeeh (Beads)
It has been narrated from al-Qa’im (Imam Mahdi (a.s)) regarding the Istikhara by the tasbih that: “The tasbih should be taken (in the hand), and blessings should be sent on Muhammad and his family (s) three times, and then pick a spot on the beads and count them two by two. If at the end only one bead remains, then you should perform that action; and if two beads remain, then you should not perform it.”
Istikhara Through Quran
The Prophet of Allah (s) said: “Whenever you want to seek the best by the Book of Allah, the Glorious and Great, recite Surah al-Ikhlas three times send blessings on the Prophet and his family three times, then say:
O Allah! I am seeking the best by Your Book and I am relying upon You so show me from Your book that what is written from Your secrets and known from your Unseen Knowledge.’ Then open the Qur’an and take what is best for you from beginning of the first line on the right side page. “
So if the verses that one see relate to the Mercy of Allah or good news and promises of Jannah, etc. then the outcome is positive and one should continue with the venture.
And if the verses that one sees relate to the Punishment or Anger of Allah, Jahannam, etc. then the outcome is negative and one should not continue with the venture.
If the verse that comes is one in between these two types, then the Istikhara should be taken as neutral.
WORD OF CAUTION
This format of Istikhara is open to abuse as many people start become mentally paralyzed in not being able to decide on matters which are straight forward and think that they need to perform this form of Istikhara to decide.
I must emphasize that this form of Istikhara is only appropriate when you cannot get to a conclusion on own after serious research which includes seeking the advice of others.
Furthermore, for the real effectiveness of this method of Istikhara, one needs to really make a sort of connection with Allah. Thus people often ask a pious person to perform this Istikhara on their behalf.
Thus in Qum and Najaf there were certain ulama that were known for the effectiveness of their istikhara and there are many stories in this regard.
Ayatullah Behjat (r.a) is one of those pious ulama who was famous for his Istikhara. It is well known that people would stand in a queue in Masjid Fatima where he was the Imam to request him to perform the Istikhara.
This type of Istikhara is most popular for entering into marriage – even though it is not necessarily a condition of marriage or even recommended to do it in this form for marriage.
WHEN OUTCOME IS OPPOSITE TO EXPECTATION
Sometimes the outcome is opposite to what you expected. Example – the Istikhara said that entering into a business would be good for you and you go end up in liquidation afterwards!
And we then love to jump to conclusions that Istikhara has no benefit!
But the fact that one relied on Almighty Allah requires one to have faith in the fact that the outcome is good, even though the external form appears bad.
That’s because Almighty Allah says in Surah Baqarah Verse 216:
وَعَسَى أَن تَكْرَهُواْ شَيْئًا وَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ وَعَسَى أَن تُحِبُّواْ شَيْئًا وَهُوَ شَرٌّ لَّكُمْ
“Yet it may happen that you dislike a thing while it is good for you; and it may happen that you love a thing while it is evil for you.”