ٱهْدِنَا ٱلصِّرَٰطَ ٱلْمُسْتَقِيمَ صِرَٰطَ ٱلَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ ٱلْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا ٱلضَّآلِّينَ
"Guide us to the straight path - the path of those upon whom You have bestowed favour, not of those who have earned [Your] anger or of those who are astray." —Qur’an 1:6-7
The opening chapter of the Qur’an Al-Fatiha, is something that we as Muslims will recite many times a day, multiple times in each of our five daily prayers. It ends with two verses in which we beseech Allah to guide us towards goodness, the straight path, the path towards doing wholesome righteous deeds that please Allah. But how do we know that we’re on this path and that we’re actually doing good?
As Muslims we can take solace that Allah will guide and protect us. Guiding us to what is best for us and trusting in his process.
قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ (ﷺ) " عَجَبًا لأَمْرِ الْمُؤْمِنِ إِنَّ أَمْرَهُ كُلَّهُ خَيْرٌ وَلَيْسَ ذَاكَ لأَحَدٍ إِلاَّ لِلْمُؤْمِنِ إِنْ أَصَابَتْهُ سَرَّاءُ شَكَرَ فَكَانَ خَيْرًا لَهُ وَإِنْ أَصَابَتْهُ ضَرَّاءُ صَبَرَ فَكَانَ خَيْرًا لَهُ "
The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said: "Wondrous are the ways of a believer for there is good in all of his affairs — and this is not the case with anyone else except in the case of a believer. If something good happens to him, he thanks (God), thus there is good for him in it — and if adversity befalls him he endures it patiently, and so there is good for him in it." [Sahih]
We see here the value of patience and acceptance in truly relying on only Allah. Even when something may appear unpalatable or difficult for us, it is potentially an opportunity for patience, learning and growth.
Gratitude & Guidance
إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَذُو فَضْلٍ عَلَى ٱلنَّاسِ وَلَـٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ ٱلنَّاسِ لَا يَشْكُرُونَ
"Indeed, Allah is the possessor of favours for the people, but most of them are not grateful" — Qur’an 40:61
The Qur’an and hadith also regularly remind us to be grateful. When things are hard it is natural for people to call out to God for help — however when things are easy and everything is going well that is when it’s really important to remember to thank Allah. Gratitude can be hard to remember in the moment, but we always aim to thank Allah for the countless blessings He has bestowed upon us, be that in good health, wealth, friends, family or any other form of success or enjoyment we may enjoy. It is all ultimately from Him.
وَإِن تَعُدُّوا۟ نِعْمَةَ ٱللَّهِ لَا تُحْصُوهَآ ۗ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَغَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
"If you tried to count Allah’s blessings, you would never be able to number them. Surely Allah is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful." —Quran 16:18
Oftentimes we may not know what it is we want or truly need in life. Perhaps when making decisions we are drawn towards opposing choices. Sometimes people find this with even very large decisions that they’re drawn in two diametrically opposite directions. When making big life choices it’s natural to have some apprehension about the future; big change can be exciting but often also filled with a sense of nervousness and some trepidation. How do we know what we’re doing is correct? How do we know that what we’re doing is good for us?
فَأَمَّا مَنْ أَعْطَىٰ وَٱتَّقَىٰ وَصَدَّقَ بِٱلْحُسْنَىٰ فَسَنُيَسِّرُهُۥ لِلْيُسْرَىٰ وَأَمَّا مَنۢ بَخِلَ وَٱسْتَغْنَىٰ وَكَذَّبَ بِٱلْحُسْنَىٰ فَسَنُيَسِّرُهُۥ لِلْعُسْرَىٰ
"So, as for him who gives, is pious, and sincerely believes in the fairest reward. Then We will soon ease him toward ease. As for him who is miserly, and thinks himself self-sufficient and cries lies to the fairest (reward) -- then We will soon ease him to the (great) Difficulty." — Qur’an 92:5-10
We believe that Allah always guides us to what is best for us, "the fairest reward", in this life and the next. We don’t despair of this path i.e "crying lies" and instead we accept what is best for us and try to see the silver lining. It is always there, we simply need to be open to accepting it.
Reliance — Seeking Guidance
This is beautifully encompassed in the dua for guidance (istikhara). Istikhara literally means "seeking goodness" and that mindset of seeking goodness only from Allah, without our own preconceptions, is beautifully captured:
اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْتَخِيرُكَ بِعِلْمِكَ وَأَسْتَقْدِرُكَ بِقُدْرَتِكَ وَأَسْأَلُكَ مِنْ فَضْلِكَ الْعَظِيمِ فَإِنَّكَ تَقْدِرُ وَلَا أَقْدِرُ وَتَعْلَمُ وَلَا أَعْلَمُ وَأَنْتَ عَلَّامُ الْغُيُوبِ اللَّهُمَّ إِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الْأَمْرَ خَيْرٌ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي فَاقْدُرْهُ لِي وَيَسِّرْهُ لِي ثُمَّ بَارِكْ لِي فِيهِ وَإِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الْأَمْرَ شَرٌّ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي فَاصْرِفْهُ عَنِّي وَاصْرِفْنِي عَنْهُ وَاقْدُرْ لِي الْخَيْرَ حَيْثُ كَانَ ثُمَّ أَرْضِنِي
Allâhumma inni astakhiruka bi ilmika wa astaqdiruka biqudratika wa as’aluka min fadlikal-azimi, fa innaka taqdiru walâ aqdiru wa ta’lamu walâ a’lamu wa anta allamul ghuyubi. Allâhumma in kunta ta’lamu anna hâdhal amra khayrun li fi dini wa ma-ashi wa aqibati amri faqdir-hu li wa yassir-hu li thumma barik li fihi wa in kunta ta’lamu anna hâdhal amra sharrun li fi dini wa maâshi wa aqibati amri fasrifhu anni wasrifni anhu waqdir liyal-khayra haythu kâna thumma ardini.
“O Allah, verily I seek the better [of either choice] from You, by Your knowledge, and I seek ability from You, by Your power, and I ask You from Your immense bounty.
For indeed You have power, and I am powerless;
You have knowledge and I know not; You are the Knower of the unseen realms.
O Allah, if You know that this matter is good for me with regard to my religion, my livelihood and the end of my affair then decree it for me, facilitate it for me, and grant me blessing in it.
And if You know that this matter is not good for me with regard to my religion, my livelihood and the end of my affair then turn it away from me and me from it; and decree for me better than it, wherever it may be, and make me content with it.”
Istikhara isn’t just about praying for what we desire, but about asking Allah to guide us to what is best for us, and accepting that choice. We are comfortable in this choice knowing that it comes from Allah, and his knowledge and power is immense while we are lowly and humbled. We ask not just for what we want, but for guidance to what is most beneficial to us long term and short term, in this life and the next insha’Allah.
I pray that Allah give us all the strength and foresight to remember Him, in hardship and difficulty. May we rely on Him and Him alone, and never be deceived into thinking ourselves self-sufficient — may He make us of those who are righteous and devoted to Him alone.
وَٱذْكُرِ ٱسْمَ رَبِّكَ وَتَبَتَّلْ إِلَيْهِ تَبْتِيلًا
" (Always) remember the Name of your Lord, and devote yourself to Him wholeheartedly." — Qur’an 73:8