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Can’t make decision despite doing istikhaara for months

Answered as per Hanafi Fiqh by FatwaCentre.org
Question

Assalamualaikum, I have been doing istikhaara for many months regarding an important career decision to go to another Muslim country. The circumstances didn’t allow me to go along what my heart wishes (as I wanted to go) so I knew this is the sign from Allah but at the same time, I remained highly unsatisfied with choice I made and really it depressed me a lot. I am continuing istikhaara again for months now and not sure what to do as it is effecting my and my family’s mental health with respect to not making mind where we want to settle. I’m not sure how to deal with situation. JazakAllah khair for your advice.


Answer

In the name of Allah, the Inspirer of truth.

Advice on this matter is not straightforward as it forces us to revaluate how we view causation and Allah’s decree.

Firstly, it is mandatory upon Muslims to be content with Allah’s decree. While this is easier said than done, it forces us to recognise that everything takes place according to Allah’s will. The Qur’an continuously reinforces Allah’s omnipotence and control over all things – everything that takes place occurs according to his will. Thus, al-Tahawi (d. 321) writes in his creed:

As the Sublime said in His book, “He is not questioned about what He does – it is they who will be questioned” (Q. 21:23). Hence, anyone who asks, “why has He done this?” has rejected the judgement of the Book.[1]

The scholars of our past have epitomised the acceptance of Allah’s decree. Reflect upon the following story from the life of a muhajir scholar called Mufti Shafi‘ Uthmani. Mufti Shafi intended to leave his homeland of India for Pakistan following the partition of India. There were Muslim-Sikh tensions in the Punjab region at this time, and so the journey to Pakistan was not safe. He had sold his belongings and bought a gold necklace that could be easily concealed. The family planned that they would sell this necklace in Pakistan and use the proceeds to rebuild their lives. On arriving in Pakistan, they found that the necklace they bought was fake, thus leaving them penniless, without savings or an income in a fledgling nation. Despite this, Mufti Shafi was incredibly content with Allah’s decree, laughing whenever retelling this event.

The reason for retelling this story is to remind us that one should not feel bitter over the losses and difficulties one have had to overcome. Instead, one should be content with Allah’s decree and reevaluate their emotions through this. Not relocating to this country has been upsetting for you. But the circumstances that have disallowed you from relocating are beyond you – Allah has decided this matter. While I recognise that this may be easier said than done, this is not a matter that should upset a believer.

Now, reading your question, it is likely that you are not approaching your istikhara with the right mindset. You have your mind set on a decision and you wish for a certain outcome, hoping for Allah’s affirmation that this is a good decision. You are then sad when the outcome you are wishing for is not being realised. Istikhara should not work like this.[2] Let us refer to the hadith:  Jabir bin ‘Abdullah reports:

The Prophet (ﷺ) used to teach us the way of doing Istikhara in all matters as he taught us the Suras of the Qur’an. He said, “If anyone of you thinks of doing any job, he should offer a two rak‘at prayer other than the compulsory ones and say (after the prayer): — ‘O Allah! I ask guidance from Your knowledge, And 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 know the unseen. O Allah! If You know that this job 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 job 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 (ﷺ) added that then the person should name (mention) his need.[3]

I draw attention to the translation of the du‘a itself. In Istikhara, one puts aside their own inclinations as much as they can, and they consign the entire matter to Allah. One approaches the matter as objectively as possible, ready to walk away if necessary, and says: O Allah! You know everything; I know nothing. If there is good in this matter, bring it nearer to me. If there is evil in this matter, repel it from me and repel me from it and allow me to be happy with your decision. Reflect on what is being said in this du’a as it is very insightful.

It is not necessary that one sees a dream following the istikhara prayer – one should get an inclination towards a decision. Alternatively, Allah may allow events to unfold in a way that one’s decision is made for them. In any sense, one feels content with Allah’s decision as they have tried their level best to suspend their own emotions and consign the matter to Allah. If things unfold to make the matter very easy for them, this is from Allah. If things unfold to create a blockage, this is also from Allah. Either way, one accepts this as Allah’s decree and tries to find contentment with it.

You may re-orient your mindset and offer istikhara again, trying your level best to suspend your own inclinations and approach the prayers with humility and objectivity. If Allah does not facilitate this move for you, take it as Allah’s will, be content and try to move on. As Allah says in the Quran: “Perhaps you dislike something which is good for you and like something which is bad for you. Allah knows, and you do not know” (Q. 2:216).

And Allah knows best.

Answered by:
Maulana Ikramul Hoque Miah

Checked & Approved by:
Mufti Abdul Rahman Mangera
Mufti Zubair Patel

[1] «متن الطحاوية ت الألباني» (ص50):«والتعمق والنظر في ذلك ذريعة الخذلان وسلم الحرمان ودرجة الطغيان فالحذر كل الحذر من ذلك نظرا وفكرا ووسوسة (1) فإن الله تعالى طوى علم القدر عن أنامه ونهاهم عن مرامه كما قال الله تعالى في كتابه: (لا يسأل عما يفعل وهم يسألون) [الأنبياء: 23] (2) . فمن سأل لم فعل؟ فقد رد حكم الكتاب ومن رد حكم الكتاب كان من الكافرين»

Tahawi makes various points about our belief in Allah’s decree. As muslims, it is imperative that we know these matters of creed. Please refer to the Hamza Yusuf Translation of Al-Tahawi’s Creed, pg. 58-62.

[2]              «شرح القسطلاني = إرشاد الساري لشرح صحيح البخاري» (9/ 216):(إذا هم) فيه حذف تقديره يقول: إذا هم (بالأمر) قال الشيخ عبد الله بن أبي جمرة: ترتيب الوارد على القلب على مراتب الهمة ثم اللمة ثم الخطرة ثم النية ثم الإرادة ثم العزيمة فالثلاثة الأول لا يؤاخذ بها بخلاف الثلاثة الآخر فقوله: إذا هم يشير إلى أول ما يرد على القلب (فليركع ركعتين) أي من غير الفريضة في غير وقت كراهة (ثم يقول) دعاء الاستخارة فيظهر لم إذ ذاك ببركة الصلاة والدعاء ما هو خير بخلاف ما إذا تمكن الأمر عنده وقويت فيه عزيمته وإرادته فإنه يصير له إليه ميل وحب فيخشى أن يخفى عنه وجه الأرشدية لغلبة ميله إليه قال: ويحتمل أن يكون المراد بالهم العزيمة لأن الخاطر لا يثبت فلا يستمر إلا على ما يقصد التصميم على فعله وإلا لو استخار في كل خاطر لاستخار فيما لا يعبأ به فتضيع عليه أوقاته اهـ.»

[3]           صحيح البخاري (حديث 1166) حَدَّثَنَا قُتَيْبَةُ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنُ أَبِي الْمَوَالِي، عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ الْمُنْكَدِرِ، عَنْ جَابِرِ بْنِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ ـ رضى الله عنهما ـ قَالَ كَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم يُعَلِّمُنَا الاِسْتِخَارَةَ فِي الأُمُورِ كَمَا يُعَلِّمُنَا السُّورَةَ مِنَ الْقُرْآنِ يَقُولُ ‏ “‏ إِذَا هَمَّ أَحَدُكُمْ بِالأَمْرِ فَلْيَرْكَعْ رَكْعَتَيْنِ مِنْ غَيْرِ الْفَرِيضَةِ ثُمَّ لِيَقُلِ اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْتَخِيرُكَ بِعِلْمِكَ وَأَسْتَقْدِرُكَ بِقُدْرَتِكَ، وَأَسْأَلُكَ مِنْ فَضْلِكَ الْعَظِيمِ، فَإِنَّكَ تَقْدِرُ وَلاَ أَقْدِرُ وَتَعْلَمُ وَلاَ أَعْلَمُ وَأَنْتَ عَلاَّمُ الْغُيُوبِ، اللَّهُمَّ إِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الأَمْرَ خَيْرٌ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي ـ أَوْ قَالَ عَاجِلِ أَمْرِي وَآجِلِهِ ـ فَاقْدُرْهُ لِي وَيَسِّرْهُ لِي ثُمَّ بَارِكْ لِي فِيهِ، وَإِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الأَمْرَ شَرٌّ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي ـ أَوْ قَالَ فِي عَاجِلِ أَمْرِي وَآجِلِهِ ـ فَاصْرِفْهُ عَنِّي وَاصْرِفْنِي عَنْهُ، وَاقْدُرْ لِي الْخَيْرَ حَيْثُ كَانَ ثُمَّ أَرْضِنِي بِهِ ـ قَالَ ـ وَيُسَمِّي حَاجَتَهُ ‏”‏‏.‏

This answer was collected from FatwaCentre.org, which is overseen by Dr. Mufti Abdur-Rahman Mangera.

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