Istikharah, Mashwarah and Decision Making in Islam
Istikharah means to ask Allah for goodness.
From the words of the Istikharah dua, we understand that by virtue of making Istikharah, Allah will facilitate the means of what is beneficial for you. Equally, Allah will make the means of what is unfavourable for you difficult to acquire. Hence, one should do Istikharah is his daily affairs to make the acquiring of good easy.
Mashwarah is to seek counsel and advice from relevant people who can relate to your dilemma. It is highly encouraged to consult those who can relate to your dilemma and have an understanding of your life. Consulting those who do not have the relevant experience, insight and understanding may not be as beneficial.
The performance of Mashwarah is emphasised in the Qur’an and Sunnah. Scholars argue that Mashwarah is more emphasised than Istikharah due to its explicit command in the Qur’an.
With regards to decision making, there are four things one should do in the following order:
1) Seek Allah’s guidance (Istikharah) regarding your dilemma
2) Consult (Mashwarah) the right people concerning the dilemma
3) Resoluteness (‘Azm) upon a decision
4) Trust in Allah (Tawakkul) upon acting on the decision
Before doing anything in the world or with the creation, one should seek guidance and good from the Creator of creation. Seeking Allah’s guidance and assistance in our affairs can only bring goodness. Thereafter, one should consult people who understand and can relate to one’s dilemma and issue. Thereafter, whatever one is inclined to, one should have resoluteness and be firm on the decision. One should not entertain ‘what if’s’ and ‘buts’ in his mind. Finally, upon acting upon the decision made, one should now place his trust in Allah is what lies ahead in such a decision.
The above steps are understood from the verse:
“So by mercy from Allah , [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter. Then when you have made a decision, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him].” (Qur’an 3:159)