(Continued from “Seeking Guidance” on October 19, 2011.)
There is no sure-fire way to be 100% certain that we’re making the right decisions. However, there is a way to be confident that we’re heading in the right direction. And it’s not by seeking out signs and omens or consulting tarot cards or fortune-tellers. There is only one source of perfect advice and guidance and that is God.
Some people dislike that answer. Either they don’t believe in God, or they don’t think God speaks to us clearly enough for us to know what He really wants. Some Christians, and Muslims, too, will open their Holy Books (the Bible or the Qur’an) to a random page and let their finger or eye fall on one verse or passage. They then try to interpret what God is telling them through His Word.
In my opinion, that’s no better than superstition. It’s also lazy. Because there’s only one way to obtain God’s guidance and that’s through prayer. But not just any prayer. Muslims have a special prayer which is called “Salat-I-Istikhara” or the Prayer for Guidance. We were given this prayer by the Prophet Mohammad (swt) and the English translation goes like this:
Oh Allah! I seek Your guidance by virtue of Your knowledge, and I seek ability by virtue of Your power, and I ask You of Your great bounty. You have power; I have none. And You know; I know not. You are the Knower of hidden things.
Oh Allah! If in Your knowledge, (this matter*) is good for my religion, my livelihood and my affairs, immediate and in the future, then ordain it for me, make it easy for me, and bless it for me. And if in Your knowledge, (this matter*) is bad for my religion, my livelihood and my affairs, immediate and in the future, then turn it away from me, and turn me away from it. And ordain for me the good wherever it may be, and make me content with it.
Even if you don’t remember the exact words, you can learn a lot about how to be guided by God from studying this prayer. First, we learn that we can’t hope to know the future; only God knows that. And because He’s the only one who knows the future, He’s also the only one who can give us the best advice about how to head into our future.
Second, we learn that whatever we decide, it must be good for our religion, our livelihood and our affairs, both immediate and in the future. If we’re contemplating something that would violate that guideline, we know right there that we’re heading the wrong way.
Third, because God knows not only the future, but knows us, He alone is able to guide us properly.
However, this still leaves the problem of how God guides us. And here is where I marvel at the wisdom of the Prophet (swt). For he tells us to trust God and have faith in His ability to make those things that are good for us also easy for us, and the things that are bad for us more difficult. We are also to trust that God will influence us to the point where, if we’re really submitted to Him, we will find ourselves losing interest or confidence in those plans that are not God’s will for us.
This requires time and repeated prayer. We can’t expect instant answers. Sometimes we have to wait for a while to see if we remain enthusiastic and positive about our intentions. We also need to give God time to work in us and in our circumstances.
I hope I don’t sound like I’m an expert about seeking God’s guidance, because I’m not. But I thank Allah that He gave us this model.