At first, the realization that fortune telling is forbidden in Islam saddened me a bit. But I knew there must be an alternative that Allah (swt) must have provided for us Muslims. When Allah (swt) provides us with a dozen doors, and we have to turn the knob of only one then how can this laborious task become easier without a peek at the future? The Holy Prophet (sa) bestowed his Ummah with an ideal treasure that is enormously better than future prediction known as Salat-ul-Istikhara.
“Istikhara” means to seek goodness from Allah (swt). When a person does Istikhara, then it is as if he is entrusting Allah (swt) with his decision of a complex situation. He seeks His forgiveness, knows that He is All Merciful and Trustworthy, and will help him in making the best decision which no other person is capable of doing.
It was narrated by Jabir bin ‘Abdullah (rta) that: The Prophet (sa) used to teach the way of doing Istikhara in all matters as he taught us the Surahs of the Quran. He said: “If anyone of you thinks of doing any job, he should offer two Rakat prayer, other than the compulsory ones; and after praising Allah (swt) and asking for His forgiveness and mercy, he should recite:
“O Allah (swt)! I seek goodness from Your Knowledge and with Your Power (and Might); I seek strength, and I ask from You Your Great Blessings, because You have the Power and I do not have the power. You know everything and I do not know, and You have knowledge of the unseen. Oh Allah! If in Your Knowledge this action ———————————————— (which I intend to do) is better for my religion and faith, for my life and end (death), for here (in this world) and the hereafter then make it destined for me and make it easy for me and then add blessings (Barakah) in it, for me. O Allah! In Your Knowledge if this action is bad for me, bad for my religion and faith, for my life and end (death), for here [in this world] and the hereafter then turn it away from me and turn me away from it and whatever is better for me, ordain (destine) that for me and then make me satisfied with it.”
Once the person is done with Istikhara, then Allah (swt) will bless him with some form of indication- either through a dream, or through his inclination towards a particular direction. It is not necessary that a person will get a proper indication in his dream. Some Ulemah are of the opinion that a dream about some fruit, soothing thing is an indication that Allah (swt) is pleased with the decision. And, if he dreams about something burning, or any dangerous animal, or red color- then it means that the particular decision is not good for him. But, this answer of Allah (swt) in a person’s dream has become a misconception. It is not necessary that a dream will show Allah’s (swt) will. Instead, Allah (swt) will mold the person’s intention to what that is good for him, and will turn him away from that which is bad.
Istikhara can be repeated for seven days- in case a person does not feel satisfied with the particular decision. However, the misconception of Istikhara to be done only when a person is taking a life changing decision like marriage, switching jobs etc. should be removed. Istikhara can be performed for even little decisions of life like taking up courses, deciding a methodology for a project, doing a particular task or not etc. Imagine how an advice from Allah (swt) in small decisions of your life can make them the biggest and blessed ones. And, as a consequence, you will only find satisfaction, salvation and a determination to build a stronger relationship with the One responsible for writing your fate.