Istikharah: Seeking Allah’s guidance

Updated 26 August 2016

Istikharah: Seeking Allah’s guidance

AT certain stages of life we often find ourselves at crossroads, impelled to make important decisions that would have huge impacts on our future. These decisions could be about choosing a career, getting married to someone, buying a car or a house, relocating or moving to a foreign land and the like.
Despite considering all the positives and negatives and consulting family, friends or other qualified people, this task of reaching a sound decision leaves us doubtful and nervous. Praise and thanks to our Creator who doesn’t leave us fretting and worried during these crucial times. He has taught us, a special prayer for guidance in making decisions called Salat Al-Istikharah. When performing this prayer one asks Allah to guide him to the right choice concerning a certain essential matter.
The prayer of Istikharah was described in a Hadith narrated by Jabir ibn Abdullah Al-Salami, who said: “The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) used to teach his companions to make Istikharah in all things, just as he used to teach them surahs from the Qur’an. He (peace be upon him) said: ‘If any one of you is concerned about a decision he has to make, then let him pray two rakahs of non-obligatory prayer, then say: (Translation) O Allah, I ask for Your decision by Your knowledge and Your decree by Your ability, and I ask of You from Your great favor. For You are able and I am not able, and You know and I do not know, and You are the Knower of things concealed. O Allah, if You have known that this matter (naming it here) is good for me in my religion, my livelihood and the outcome of my affair, then decree it for me, make it easy for me and then bless it for me. And if You have known that this matter is bad for me in my religion, my livelihood and the outcome of my affair, then turn it away from me and turn me away from it, and decree for me what is good wherever it may be. And then make me content with it.’ (Al-Bukhaari, Al-Tirmidhi, Al-Nisa’i, Abu Dawood, Ibn Maajah and Ahmad).
The result of Istikharah is known by being inclined to do something and continuing to feel positive about it. In addition, if the decision one is about to take is good for him (in both worlds), the paths to it will open up and if it’s not, then the paths will become obstructed and Allah will direct him somewhere else. The beauty of Istikharah is that the person who sought the guidance of Allah will be content with Allah’s decision for him even if it diverts him from what he thought was good as he will know that this is the result of his Istikharah. This is because, Allah, the Creator knows what is best and will definitely guide His servants to what is best for them within His vast knowledge and infinite wisdom.
We need to understand that Istikharah does not guarantee the absence of tests and trials in life. Since Istikharah is a dua, Allah’s response to it may come in any of the three ways as stated in the Hadith: “There is no Muslim who offers a dua in which there is no sin or severing of family ties but Allah will give him one of three things in return: either He will answer his du’aa soon, or he will store it up for him in the Hereafter, or He will divert an equivalent evil away from him because of it.” (Ahmad)
So if one goes through a bad marriage even after performing Istikharah or suffers loss in his business, etc., it might be that Allah wants him/her to draw closer to Him by way of patience and dua and send His blessings through some other way. Allah says: “But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah knows, while you know not.” (Qur’an 2:216)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “It is from the happiness of the son of Adam to practice Istikharah and be pleased with what Allah had ordained for him. And it is from the misery of the son of Adam to drop the Istikharah of Allah and be displeased at Allah’s decrees.” (Tirmidhi and Ahmad)
Unfortunately, many people nowadays ignore this beautiful Sunnah and resort to baseless or forbidden ways to make important decisions. There are some who do follow the Sunnah of praying Istikharah but have added weird myths and unreasonable expectations to it. They ask some stranger or religious personality to do it for them and expect the results of Istikharah to be shown to them in dreams, visions, some special sign or color while all of this is nothing but acts of ignorance. Firstly, it is a form of innovation to ask someone else to do Istikharah for you or do it for others and secondly, it doesn’t give one instant results like giving a green signal to proceed in a certain affair.
Istikharah is a dua which one needs to make himself, at any time of the day and then execute the matter (for which he prayed). And if it is good then Allah will make it easy for him and bless him in that, and if it is not good for him, then Allah will turn it away from him and will make easy for him that in which there is good by His permission. For without doubt, the person who makes Istikharah, seeking guidance from his Creator and advice from His creation never regrets, as Allah says: id to His Messenger (peace be upon him): “... And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely (upon Him).” (Qur’an 3:159)


The beauty of prayer in Islam

Updated 23 September 2016

The beauty of prayer in Islam

GOING deeper into our spiritual state during prayers (salah) requires that we have a presence of heart and are mindful of the words being said during the prayers.
Our prayer will feel shorter, yet when we look at how much time we actually spent, we will think, “Did I just spend 10 minutes?” or even 15 and 20 minutes.
A person who began applying this said he wished the prayer would never end.
A feeling that Ibn Al-Qayyim describes as “what the competitors compete for… it is nourishment for the soul and the delight of the eyes,” and he also said, “If this feeling leaves the heart, it is as though it is a body with no soul.”

The love of Allah
Some people’s relationship with Allah is limited to following orders and leaving prohibitions, so that one does not enter hell. Of course, we must follow orders and leave prohibitions, but it needs to be done out of more than fear and hope; it should also be done out of love for Allah. Allah says in the Qur’an: “… Allah will bring forth [in place of them] a people He will love and who will love Him.” (Qur’an, 5:54)
We often find that when a lover meets the beloved, hearts are stirred and there is warmth in that meeting. Yet when we meet Allah, there is not even an ounce of this same feeling. Allah says in the Qur’an: “And (yet) among the people are those who take other than Allah as equals (to Him). They love them as they (should) love Allah. But those who believe are stronger in love for Allah.” (Qur’an, 2:165)
And those who believe are stronger in love for Allah. There should be a feeling of longing, and when we raise our hands to start the prayer, warmth and love should fill our hearts because we are now meeting with Allah. A dua of the Prophet (peace be upon him): “O Allah, I ask You for the longing to meet You” (An-Nisa’i, Al-Hakim)
Ibn Al-Qayyim says in his book Tareeq Al-Hijratain that Allah loves His Messengers and His believing servants, and they love Him and nothing is more beloved to them than Him. The love of one’s parents has a certain type of sweetness, as does the love of one’s children, but the love of Allah far supersedes any of that. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Any person who combines these three qualities will experience the sweetness of faith: 1) that God and His messenger are dearer to him than anything else; 2) that his love of others is purely for God’s sake; and 3) that he hates to relapse into disbelief as much as he hates to be thrown in the fire.” (Bukhari)
Thus, the first thing he mentioned was: “… that God and His messenger are more beloved to him than anything else…”
Ibn Al-Qayyim says: “Since ‘there is nothing like unto Him’ (Qur’an, 42:11), there is nothing like experiencing love for Him.”
If you feel this love for Him, it will be a feeling so intense, so sweet, that you would wish the prayer would never ever end.
Do you truly want to feel this love? Then ask yourself: ‘why do you or should you love Allah?’
Know that you love people for one (or all, in varying degrees) of three reasons: For their beauty, because of their exalted character or/and because they have done good to you. And know that Allah combines all of these three to the utmost degree.

All-embracing beauty
We’ve all been touched by beauty. It is almost fitrah (natural disposition) to love what is beautiful. Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, said about the Prophet, peace be upon him, that it was “as if the sun is shining from his face.” Jabir (may God be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allah was more handsome, beautiful, and radiant than the full moon” (Tirmidhi)
Allah made all His Prophets have a certain beauty so that people would have a natural inclination toward them.
And beauty is more than what is in the face, because beauty is in all of creation and somehow has the ability to take our breath away and give us peace simultaneously. The glimmer of the crescent moon on a calm night, the intensity of a waterfall as the water drops for thousands of feet, the sunset by the sea … certain scenes of natural unspoiled beauty stirs something in us. As Allah is the One Who made it beautiful, so what of Allah’s beauty?
Ibn Al-Qayyim said: “And it is enough to realize Allah’s Beauty when we know that every internal and external beauty in this life and the next are created by Him, so what of the beauty of their Creator?”
This fitrah for loving what is beautiful is because Allah is beautiful. One of His Names is Al-Jameel (the Most Beautiful). Ibn Al-Qayyim states that the beauty of Allah is something that a person cannot imagine and only He knows it. There is nothing of it in creation save for glimpses.
Ibn Al-Qayyim says if all of creation were the most beautiful they could be (so let’s imagine, ever single human being looked as beautiful as Yusuf, peace be upon him, and the whole world was like Paradise), and all of them combined from the beginning of time until the Day of Judgment, they would not even be like a ray in comparison to the sun when compared to Allah. Allah’s beauty is so intense that we will not even be able to take it in this life. In the Qur’an, Allah describes Musa’s (peace be upon him) request: “And when Moses arrived at Our appointed time and his Lord spoke to him, he said, ‘My Lord, show me (Yourself) that I may look at You.’ (Allah) said: ‘You will not see Me but look at the mountain; if it should remain in place, then you will see Me.’ But when his Lord appeared to the mountain He rendered it level, and Moses fell unconscious.” (Qur’an, 7:143)
Even the mountain could not bear the beauty of Allah and crumbled, and when Musa, peace be upon him, saw this (he did not even see Allah), he fell unconscious. This is why on the Day of Judgment it is Allah’s light that will shine on everything. We talk about breathtaking beauty, but we have yet to experience Allah’s beauty. While things in this world can be beautiful or majestic or if they combine both they are finite, true majesty and beauty are for Allah: “And there will remain the Face of your Lord, Owner of Majesty and Honor.” (Qur’an, 55:27)
Keeping all of this in mind, the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Allah directs His Face toward the face of His servant who is praying, as long as he does not turn away” (Tirmidhi).
Remember this in your prayer, and ask Allah to allow you the joy of seeing Him in Paradise.