Originally published 2013
The Abandoned Prayer
A few years ago, I came across a book that one of my relatives had called: “The Three Abandoned Prayers”. In it, the author discusses three prayers that have been largely underused by many Muslims, but which hold great power. They were Salat-ut-Tawbah (The Salah of Repentence), Salat-ul-Istikhara (The Salah of Seeking A God-Guided Outcome in Times of Decision), Salat-ul-Tasbih (The Salah of Glorification of God).
No doubt, many of us have been heedless of these powerful tools for growing in our closeness to Allah, but one in particular which is important to re-think is Istikhara.
The procedure for this Salah, is best described by the hadith:
On the authority of Jaabir Ibn ‘Abdullah he said: The Prophet (S) would instruct us to pray for guidance in all of our concerns, just as he would teach us a chapter from the Qur’an. He (S) would say ‘if any of you intends to undertake a mater then let him pray two supererogatory units (two rak’ah naafilah) of prayer and after which he should supplicate:
‘O Allaah, I seek Your counsel by Your knowledge and by Your power I seek strength and I ask You from Your immense favour, for verily You are able while I am not and verily You know while I do not and You are the Knower of the unseen. O Allaah, if You know this affair -and here he mentions his need- to be good for me in relation to my religion, my life, and end, then decree and facilitate it for me, and bless me with it, and if You know this affair to be ill for me towards my religion, my life, and end, then remove it from me and remove me from it , and decree for me what is good wherever it be and make me satisfied with such.’
Such a powerful tool we have been given, to admit our complete lack of knowledge, power, ability, and sight, and the absolute dominance of Allah (swt) in all these abilities. Such a great and mighty prayer, comprehensive in its outlook, its span of time, and its effect on our lives. Balanced within this world and the Hereafter. Something which only Divine Guidance could have brought us.
Many of us use this prayer, rightfully, to seek Allah’s assistance in making decisions concerning school, getting a job, getting married, going to Hajj, or maybe even choosing a house. Unfortunately though, we have relegated one of the most powerful duas available, to only the most important decisions.
What we don’t realize however, is that this prayer need not only be for the most important, crucial decisions in our lives. Why do those who are in Islamic Work, not use this prayer when making decisions in the organization? Why not use it when making difficult choices at work? For a specific project choice or topic choice for a paper in school? Why do we not use it every time we say: “Ya Allah…I wish you would just me what is best for me!” or “Ya Allah! I wish you would just show me what to do!”
So many decisions that the activist brother or sister has to make. So many decisions at our workplaces. But in these decisions, we don’t remember that much of our worry can be removed by leaving the decision to Allah (swt).
What made the Companions the unique Quranic generation, was that their entire thought process revolved around the Quran and around supplication to Allah. The relegated to Allah and His Messenger, every decision in their lives, after putting forth an intelligent and sincere effort at solving their problems
As the Prophet said: “Ad-Dua mukh-ul-‘ibaadah”.
Supplication is the essence of worship.
So next time we have a decision, big or small, that is of some consequence, remember – No one who ever consults with his Lord in sincerity, shall ever be displeased with His Decree.
Make use of istikhara! Once an Imam sat with me when I asked his advice and told me something about one of the leaders of the Muslim community. He told me: “Brother, every person who has success in the Deen, has a secret, some worship he does that sets him above and beyond and helps him towards Allah. You know what his [the leader] secret it? Every time he travels, and I’ve seen him, he prays istikhara. He asks for guidance in his travels, and on the various affairs of his life, and he makes use of his times of travel to do it. So have some secret that you use also.”
Secrets aside, istikhara is powerful. So inshAllah lets use it.
Misconceptions about istikhara:
1. Istikhara is not about having a dream. If one reviews the wording of the hadith, one finds that it is not asking for a dream, it is asking God to make one’s affairs occur in the best way. Because one did not have a dream, a sign on a bus or a billboard go by them on the highway, does not mean it didn’t “work”.
2. You CAN have a dream or a sign, and this is totally possible. But one should recognize that this is primarily about asking Allah to take control and that one is relegating his will to Allah’s will, knowledge, and infinite insight about what is best for you. And when you make this, you are finding the best way of putting your heart at ease, by asking Allah (swt) to handle your affairs with what He knows is best and finding comfort that the King of the Heavens and the Earth has your back, inshAllah.
3. Another dua of the Prophet we should all be aware of along this same line can be found here
http://www.makedua.com/display_dua.php?sectionid=27 (scroll to sixth from the bottom for Arabic text)
‘O Ever Living, O Self-Subsisting and Supporter of all, by Your mercy I seek assistance, rectify for me all of my affairs and do not leave me to myself, even for the blink of an eye.’
May Allah give us the best in this world and the hereafter.