In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.
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. the means to ask Allah to guide one to the right action concerning any job or a deed) 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 a two rak`ats other than the compulsory ones and 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
O Allaah! I seek Your guidance 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]
After Istikhaarah, one also seeks the advice of upright people, who are able give 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 [ And (the Believers) who (conduct) their affairs by mutual consultation]. [Surah Ash-Shurah. Ayah 38]
Al-Allaamah Zayd Bin Haadi [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said: When a difficulty that is related to a Muslim’s religious and worldly affairs occurs, it is befitting 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 narration places emphasis on the fact that consultation guides to the best outcomes, and due to this it is said, “The one who consults 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. (1)
The One Consulted Must Fear Allaah: 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 is in a position of trust with regards to what he is asked, and it is not permissible for him to deceive the one who consults him by concealing the affair that would bring about benefit. (2)
This hadeeth is evidence, showing that the consultee must (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)
After you have employed all the legislated means and consulted the best people regarding the affair, then do not be disheartened or disappointed, because only Allaah knows the beginning and end of all affairs – hidden and apparent. Allaah said:
وَعَسَىٰٓ أَن تَكۡرَهُواْ شَيۡـًٔ۬ا وَهُوَ خَيۡرٌ۬ لَّڪُمۡۖ وَعَسَىٰٓ أَن تُحِبُّواْ شَيۡـًٔ۬ا وَهُوَ شَرٌّ۬ لَّكُمۡۗ وَٱللَّهُ يَعۡلَمُ وَأَنتُمۡ لَا تَعۡلَمُونَ
And it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know.” [AI-Baqarah. Verse 216]
Imaam Ibnul Qayyim [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said:
There is for the servant -in this verse – a number of insightful guidelines, underlying benefits and welfare, because indeed if he knows that Al-Makrooh (what is disliked) can bring forth Al-Mahboob (i.e. what is beloved), and vice versa, then neither would he feel safe from the harm that might occur from something that makes him happy nor would he lose hope whilst expecting a final source of happiness from a situation of harm. That is because he does not have (infinite or perfect) knowledge of the Awaaqib (i.e. the final outcomes), but Allaah knows that which he does not know.
The servant should hand over his affair to the One (Allaah) who knows – (perfectly without anything hidden from Him)- the end result of affairs. He should be pleased with what Allaah chooses and decrees for him because of the good end result he hopes for.
Neither should he make suggestions to his Lord nor put forward his choice over that of his Lord, nor does he ask for something about which he has no knowledge, because it maybe that what will bring about harm and destruction on him is found in what he asks, whilst he does not know. Therefore, he does not choose anything over what his Lord chooses; rather he asks his Lord to choose the best for him and make him pleased with what has been chosen for him, because there is nothing more beneficial for him than this.
When he hands over his affair to his Lord and is pleased with what has been chosen for him, his Lord facilitates him with strength, determination and patience in that which has been chosen for him; repel the afflictions he would have encountered due to the choice he makes and show him some of the good end results of the choice his Lord made for him, which could not have been attained through the choice he makes for himself.
If he is pleased with Allaah’s choice, then what has been decreed will come to him, whilst he is deserving of commendation and graceful in it; otherwise, what has been decreed will come to him while he is blameworthy and ungraceful, because he is left with the choice he made for himself. (4)
Finally, let us ponder upon this story that will teach us a lesson regarding the fact that we should always be pleased with Allaah’s decree if the one we desired to marry chooses someone else, because only Allaah knows the end result of affairs. Ibn Abbaas [may Allaah be pleased with him and his father] said, “Barira’s [may Allaah be pleased with her] husband was a slave called Mughith [may Allaah be pleased with him], as if I am seeing him now, going behind Barira and weeping with his tears flowing down his beard. The Prophet [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] said to `Abbas, “O `Abbas! Are you not astonished at the love of Mughith for Barira and the hatred of Barira for Mughith?” The Prophet then said to Barira, “Why don’t you return to him?” She said, “O Allah’s Messenger! Do you order me to do so?” He said, “No, I only intercede for him.” She said, “I am not in need of him.” (5)
[Ref 1: Awnul Ahadis Samad, Sharh Al-Adab Al-Mufrad. Vol 1. Hadeeth Number 256. page 283]
[Ref 2: Mirqaat Al-Mafaateeh Sharh Mishkaat Al-Masaabeeh. Vol 4. Hadeeth 5062. page 259]
[Ref 3: Awnul Ahadis Samadi, Sharhu Al-Adab AlMufrad. Vol 1. Hadeeth Number 256. page 283]
[Ref 4: Al-Fawaa’id. page 204. slightly paraphrased]
[Ref 5: Sahih al-Bukhari 5283]