In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.
What is Al-Istikhaarah?
It is widespread amongst some people that Istikhaarah and seeking the best outcome in an affair necessitates that one goes to the astrologers and soothsayers. This is contrary to what is found in the Islamic legislation; rather Istikhaarah and seeking the best outcome in an affair is that one performs two optional Rak’ats and then supplicate with the legislated supplication. Jaabir Bin Abdillaah [may Allaah be pleased with him and his father] said, “Allaah’s Messenger [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] used to teach us the way of doing Istikhaarah (i.e. to seek guidance regarding an affair) in all matters as he taught us the Suras of the Qur’an. He said, ‘If anyone of you wants to do any task [i.e. wants to decide on a matter], he should offer two rak`ats other than the obligatory (five daily prayers) and then say (after the prayer):
اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْتَخِيرُكَ بِعِلْمِكَ وَأَسْتَقْدِرُكَ بِقُدْرَتِكَ وَأَسْأَلُكَ مِنْ فَضْلِكَ الْعَظِيمِ فَإِنَّكَ تَقْدِرُ وَلَا أَقْدِرُ وَتَعْلَمُ وَلَا أَعْلَمُ وَأَنْتَ عَلَّامُ الْغُيُوبِ اللَّهُمَّ إِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الْأَمْرَ خَيْرٌ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي فَاقْدُرْهُ لِي وَيَسِّرْهُ لِي ثُمَّ بَارِكْ لِي فِيهِ وَإِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الْأَمْرَ شَرٌّ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي فَاصْرِفْهُ عَنِّي وَاصْرِفْنِي عَنْهُ وَاقْدُرْ لِي الْخَيْرَ حَيْثُ كَانَ ثُمَّ أَرْضِنِي
Allaahumma Innee Astakheeruka Bi ilmika Wa Astaqdiruka Bi Qudratika Wa as’aluka Min Fadlika, Fa innaka Taqdiru Wa laa Aqdir, Wa ta’lamu Wa laa A’lam, Wa anta Allaam Al-Ghuyoob. Allaahumma Fa in kunta ta’lamu haadhaa Al-amru [at this point you mention the affair about which you are seeking guidance]; then you continue and say: khayran lee Fee Aajil Amri Wa Aajilihee [or you say: Fee Deenee wa Ma’aashee wa Aaqibati Amree], Faqdurhu lee Wa Yassirhu lee Thumma Baarik lee Feehi. Allaahumma Wa in kunta ta’lamu Annahu Sharrun lee Fee Deenee wa Ma’aashi wa Aaqibati Amree [or you say: Fee Aajili Amree wa Aajilihee], Fasrifnee anhu wasrafhu Annee Waqdur lee al-khayr haythu kaana thumma Radinee bihee.
English Translation: O Allaah! I seek the counsel through Your Knowledge, and I seek Power from Your Might, and I ask for Your great blessings. You are capable and I am not. You know and I do not and You (alone) know the unseen. O Allah! If You know that this task (or affair) is good for my religion and my subsistence and in my Hereafter- (or said, ‘If it is better for my present and later needs), 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 task (affair) is harmful to me in my religion and subsistence and in the Hereafter-(or said, ‘If it is worse for my present and later needs’), 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 satisfied with it’. The Prophet [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] added that then the person should mention his (or her) need [i.e. the affair or task]. [Bukhaari: 1162] (1)
After Istikhaarah, one also seeks the advice of upright people who are capable of giving advice in the affair. Al-Hasan al-Basree [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said, “By Allaah! Never have a people sought advice except that they were guided to the best of what was available to them”. Then he recited [the statement of Allaah]: [وَأَمۡرُهُمۡ شُورَىٰ بَيۡنَہُمۡ – And (the Believers) who (conduct) their affairs by mutual consultation.] [Surah Ash-Shurah. Verse 38]
Al-Allaamah Zayd Bin Haadi [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said: Allaah [The Mighty and Majestic] commanded His Messenger Muhammad [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] to consult his companions in some affairs. Allaah [Glorified be He and free is He from all imperfections] said: [وَشَاوِرۡهُمۡ فِى ٱلۡأَمۡرِۖ فَإِذَا عَزَمۡتَ فَتَوَكَّلۡ عَلَى ٱللَّهِۚ – and consult them in the affairs. Then when you have taken a decision, put your trust in Allah]. [Surah Aal Imran. Verse 159]
He [i.e. the Prophet] is the example to be followed by the Ummah, therefore when it is the case that Allaah commanded him to consult his companions, then there is even a greater reason that the Muslims are in need of consultation amongst themselves.
When a difficulty that is related to a Muslim’s religious and worldly affairs occurs, then indeed it is fitting that he consults someone whom he considers reliable, wise, truthful and sincere. He examines [the advice] given by that person, then he makes a choice –either to take that advice or decides not to take it based on what he is satisfied with, in relation to his personal affairs. The hadeeth places emphasis on the fact that consultation guides to the best outcomes, and due to this it is said, “The one who consults (others) does not regret (thereafter InShaaAllaah) and the one who performs Istikhaarah will not fail (to achieve what is good for him or her)”. Both Istikhaarah and consultation are legislated and a lot of good is achieved by way of them, as opposed to when affairs are pursued in a rigid and haphazard manner, for indeed this might lead to regret and harm. (2)
The One Consulted Must Fear Allaah And Give Sincere Advice
Abu Hurairah [may Allaah be pleased with him] said that the Messenger [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] said, “The consultee is in a position of trust”. [Saheeh Sunan Abee Dawud. Number 5128]
The Consultee is the one whose opinion is sought after regarding an affair of Maslahah (i.e. an affair that will bring about benefit and repel harm). He (or she) is in a position of trust with regards to what is asked and it is not permissible to deceive the one who consults by concealing the affair that would bring about benefit. [Mirqaat Al-Mafaateeh Sharh Mishkaat Al-Masaabeeh. Vol 4. Hadeeth 5062. page 259]
This hadeeth is an evidence, showing that the consultee has to (advise) with the course of action and opinion -in relation to the consultation – that which he would do for himself. And it is not permissible that he directs his Muslim brother to something he would not be pleased with for himself. (3)
Some people believe that one should either go to someone who is more pious or a person who is so called ‘Yaa Bupa’ – (as they refer -in the wollof language – to someone who they claim or believe can see hidden matters, or has knowledge of the unseen or affairs are revealed to him in a dream) – to perform Istikhaarah on their behalf! This is absolute nonsense – neither found in the Qur’aan nor the authentic Prophetic narrations. As for knowledge of hidden matters, then indeed this is not known except to Allaah. Neither do the Prophets, Messengers and Angels possess knowledge of unseen nor does Allaah reveal the unseen to anyone, except what He wishes to inform the Prophets and Messengers. Allaah (The Most High) said: [وَعِنْدَهُ مَفَاتِحُ الْغَيْبِ لَا يَعْلَمُهَا إِلَّا هُوَ – And with Him are the keys of the Ghaib (all that is hidden), none knows them but He].
In his explanation of the above Ayah, Imaam Ash-Shanqeetee (may Allaah have mercy upon him] brought a number of robust proofs to demonstrate and establish that even the most knowledgeable amongst the creation- Allaah’s Messengers and Angels-do not posses knowledge of the Unseen. The Imaam [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said:
Proof A: Aa’isha (may Allah be pleased with her] was falsely accused and the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him] did not know whether she was innocent or not until Allaah informed him, saying: [ أُولَٰئِكَ مُبَرَّءُونَ مِمَّا يَقُولُونَ- ‘Such (good people) are innocent of (each and every) bad statement which they say].
Proof B: Prophet Ibraaheem (peace be upon him) slaughtered a lamb for the angels, whilst not knowing that they were angels until they informed him that they were angels. Allaah said that the angels said to him: [إِنَّا أُرْسِلْنَا إِلَىٰ قَوْمِ لُوطٍ – We have been sent against the people of Lout (Lot). (11:70)]
Proof C: When the angels came to Prophet Lut (peace be upon him), he did not know that they were angels, and due to that Allaah said: [عَصِيبٌ سِيءَ بِهِمْ وَضَاقَ بِهِمْ ذَرْعًا وَقَالَ هَٰذَا يَوْمٌ – He was grieved on their account and felt himself straitened for them (lest the town people should approach them to commit lewdness with them). He said: This is a distressful day]. And because of this Allaah said that lut said: [لَوْ أَنَّ لِي بِكُمْ قُوَّةً أَوْ آوِي إِلَىٰ رُكْنٍ شَدِيدٍ – Would that I had strength (men) to overpower you, or that I could betake myself to some powerful support (to resist you). (11:80)]. He did not know the news the angels brought until they said to him: [إِنَّا رُسُلُ رَبِّكَ لَنْ يَصِلُوا إِلَيْكَ – Verily, we are the Messengers from your Lord!]
Proof D: Prophet Ya’qoob (peace be upon him) lost his eye sight due to grieving for Yusuf (peace be upon him), whilst he was in Egypt. He did not know anything about Yusuf until Allaah reveal news about him.
Proof E: Prophet Sulaymaan (peace be upon him), even though Allaah gave him authority over the devils and subjugated the wind in his service, did not know about the people Bil Qees until the Hud’hud came with news about them. Allaah said that the Hud’hud said: [أَحَطْتُ بِمَا لَمْ تُحِطْ بِهِ وَجِئْتُكَ مِنْ سَبَإٍ بِنَبَإٍ يَقِينٍ – I have grasped (the knowledge of a thing) which you have not grasped and I have come to you from Saba’ (Sheba) with true news].
Proof F: Prophet Nuh (peace be upon him) did not know that his son – who was drowned- was not from those members of his household who were to be saved, as Allaah said that Nuh said: [رَبِّ إِنَّ ابْنِي مِنْ أَهْلِي وَإِنَّ وَعْدَكَ الْحَقُّ – O my Lord! Verily, my son is of my family! And certainly, Your Promise is true.(11:45)]
He did not know the reality of the affair until Allaah informed him, saying:
[بِهِ عِلْمٌ ۖ إِنِّي أَعِظُكَ أَنْ تَكُونَ مِنَ الْجَاهِلِينَ قَالَ يَا نُوحُ إِنَّهُ لَيْسَ مِنْ أَهْلِكَ ۖ إِنَّهُ عَمَلٌ غَيْرُ صَالِحٍ ۖ فَلَا تَسْأَلْنِ مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ – He said: “O Nuh (Noah)! Surely, he is not of your family; verily, his work is unrighteous, so ask not of Me that of which you have no knowledge! I admonish you, lest you be one of the ignorant].
And indeed Allaah (The Most High) also stated in Surah Hud about Nuh that he said to his people: [وَلَا أَقُولُ لَكُمْ عِنْدِي خَزَائِنُ اللَّهِ وَلَا أَعْلَمُ الْغَيْبَ -And I do not say to you that with me are the Treasures of Allah, “Nor that I know the Ghaib (unseen)].
Proof G: And when Allaah said to the Angels: [هَٰؤُلَاءِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ صَادِقِينَ أَنْبِئُونِي بِأَسْمَاءِ -Tell Me the names of these if you are truthful]; Allaah said that the angels replied: [قَالُوا سُبْحَانَكَ لَا عِلْمَ لَنَا إِلَّا مَا عَلَّمْتَنَا -They (angels) said: “Glory be to You, we have no knowledge except what you have taught us.
Therefore, it is very clear that the most knowledgeable amongst the creation, the Messengers and the Angels, do not know anything of the unseen except what Allaah makes known to them. Allaah (The Most High) informs His Messengers what He wishes from the knowledge of the Unseen, as Allaah stated:
[وَمَا كَانَ اللَّهُ لِيُطْلِعَكُمْ عَلَى الْغَيْبِ وَلَٰكِنَّ اللَّهَ يَجْتَبِي مِنْ رُسُلِهِ مَنْ يَشَاءُ ۖ- Nor will Allah disclose to you the secrets of the Ghaib (unseen), but Allah chooses of His Messengers whom He pleases].
And Allaah said: [إِلَّا مَنِ ارْتَضَىٰ مِنْ رَسُولٍ عَالِمُ الْغَيْبِ فَلَا يُظْهِرُ عَلَىٰ غَيْبِهِ أَحَد- (He Alone) the All-Knower of the Gha’ib (unseen), and He reveals to none His Gha’ib (unseen).” Except to a Messenger (from mankind)…(4)
Therefore, regardless of the claims of the people, one cannot be oblivious of the fact that the religion of Islaam is not based on mere opinion, views, fables, fabricated narrations or the experiences of the Soofee masters and guides; rather it has been established -without any doubt- that none has knowledge of the unseen besides Allaah, and that Allaah only reveals the unseen to Prophets and Messengers when He wishes. We cannot simply fix our gaze on the humble physical appearances, devotion in prayer and the long prayer beads displayed by the soofee masters and guides; rather all affairs of the religion- beliefs, practices, manners, morals etc- is to be based on the The Qur’aan and The Authentic Sunnah of the Messenger as practiced by the companions of the Prophet.
Indeed, Allaah does not reveal knowledge of the Unseen to anyone, except to Prophets and Messengers when he wishes to do so. So, if anyone claims that he (or she) knows the future or his (or her) Shaikh knows the future, then remind them of what has already been stated above as well as the following authentic hadeeth reported by Imaam Al-Bukhaari: Abu Hurairah (may Allaah be pleased with him) said, “The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, “When Allah has ordained some affair in the Heaven, the angels beat with their wings in obedience to His statement, which sounds like a chain dragged over a rock.” (`Ali and other sub-narrators said, “The sound reaches them.”) “Until when fear is banished from their (angels) hearts, they (angels) say, ‘What was it that your Lord said? They say, ‘The truth; And He is the Most High, the Most Great.’ (34.23) Then those who gain a hearing by stealing (i.e. devils) will hear Allah’s Statement:– ‘Those who gain a hearing by stealing, (stand one over the other like this). (Sufyan, to illustrate this, spread the fingers of his right hand and placed them one over the other horizontally.) A flame may overtake and burn the eavesdropper before conveying the news to the one below him; or it may not overtake him till he has conveyed it to the one below him, who in his turn, conveys it to the one below him, and so on till they convey the news to the earth. (Or probably Sufyan said, “Till the news reaches the earth.”) Then the news is inspired to a sorcerer who would add a hundred lies to it. His prophecy will prove true (as far as the heavenly news is concerned). The people will say. ‘Didn’t he tell us that on such-and-such a day, such-and-such a thing will happen? We have found that is true because of the true news heard from heaven.” The above hadith is also narrated by Abu Huraira, starting: ‘When Allah has ordained some affair…’) In this narration the word foreteller is added to the word wizard. (5)
[Ref 1: Al-Haqeeqatush Shar’iyyah Fee Tafseeril Qur’aanil Adheem Was-Sunnatin Nabawiyyah. Page 95]
[Ref 2: An Excerpt from ‘Awnul Ahadis Samad Sharh Al-Adab Al-Mufrad’ 1/285. slightly paraphrased]
[Ref 3: Awnul Ahadis Samadi, Sharhu Al-Adab AlMufrad. Vol 1. Hadeeth Number 256. page 283]
[Ref 4: An Excerpt from ‘Tafseer Al-Qur’aan Bil-Qur’aan Min Adwaa Al-Bayaan’ pages 169-170’ Daar Hady An-Nabawiy’ 2nd ed. (1431AH -2010)]
[Ref 5: Saheeh Al-Bukhaari Vol 6’ Hadeeth Number 4701]