Istikharah in ways That Resemble the Divination of the Days of Ignorance

Their Supplication by way of Charms and Esoteric Symbols and Their Seeking of Help From Unknown Entities
April 12, 2017
Their belief that Rabb is their Imam
April 13, 2017

BACK⇒ Return to Table of contents


Discussion Seven

Istikharah in ways That Resemble the Divination of the Days of Ignorance


In their era of ignorance the Arabs would, when intending to journey or wage war or do anything else, spin arrows in order to divine the future. They would use three arrows; upon the first would be written “Do”, upon the other would be written “Don’t” and the third would be blank. Some say that upon one there would be written, “My Lord has commanded me”, upon the other, “My lord has prohibited me,” and the third would be empty. Hence, they would spin these arrows and if the “Do” arrow appeared they would go ahead, if the “Don’t” arrow appeared they would resist and if the empty arrow appeared they would repeat.[1]

A multitude of people had been affected by divination by way arrows just as they had been affected by erecting idols and worshipping them; Ansab is primarily the worship of others besides Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala and Azlam is fortune telling and seeking that knowledge which is the exclusive domain of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala. In essence, the former is for practice and the latter is for knowledge. And the religion of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala is in complete contrast to both of them.

Now, the Twelver Shia have made Istikharah by way of arrows part of their religion and they have made a few additions to it as well which they name al Riqa’. Therefore, we see that al Hurr al ‘Amili has established a chapter named, ‘chapter regarding the commendableness of Istikharah with al Riqa’ and its method’.[2] In this chapter he has cited five narrations. As for al Majlisi, he has mentioned many different ways in which this Istikharah can be done; he has established three chapters in this regard, ‘chapter regarding Istikharah with al Riqa’,[3] ‘chapter regarding Istikharah with Banadiq’[4] and ‘chapter regarding Istikharah with Subhah and Hasa’.[5]

The method of doing all these different types of Istikharah (as the books of the Shia elucidate) although might slightly differ from the ways of the people of ignorance in terms of them containing a salah and a supplication—a salah which is performed in an innovated way and a special supplication—but their end result is no different than the practice of the ignorant era, i.e. in terms of divining good by moving the beads of Tasbih (without recitation) or writing “Do” and “Don’t” on pieces of paper and doing that a few times.

An example of this is the narration documented by al Kulayni,[6] al Tusi,[7] al Hurr al ‘Amili[8] and others[9] which Harun ibn Kharijah reports from Abu ‘Abdullah. It reads as follows:


إذا أردت امرا فخذ ست رقاع فاكتب في ثلاث منها:بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم خيرة من الله العزيز الحكيم لفلان بن فلانة افعل،و في ثلاث منها :بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم خيرة من الله العزيز الحكيم لفلان بن فلانة لا تفعل،ثم ضعها تحت مصلاك،ثم صل ركعتين، فإذا فرغت فاسجد سجدة و قل فيها مائة مرة:أستخير الله برحمته خيرة في عافيه،ثم استو جالسا و قل:اللهم خرلي و اخترلي في جميع أموري، في يسر منك و عافية،ثم استو جالسا و قل:ثم اضرب بيدك إلي الرقاع فشوشها و أخرج واحدة واحدة،فإن خرج ثلاثمتواليات افعل. فافعل الأمر الذي تريده، و إن خرج ثلاث متواليات لا تفعل فلا تفعله، و إن خرجت واحدة افعل و الاخري لا تفعل فاخرج من الرقاع الي خمس فانظر أكثرها فاعمل به و دع السادسة لا تحتاج اليها

When you intend to do anything take six pieces of paper and write in three of them, “In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. This is seeking of goodness for so and so the son of such and such a lady from the All Powerful, the Most Wise; do”. And in the other three write, “In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. This is seeking of goodness for so and so the son of such and such a lady [10]from the All Powerful, the Most Wise; don’t”. Thereafter place them under your prayer mat and read two raka’ats of salah. After having performed the salah do a long Sajdah and say the following a hundred times therein, “I seek goodness from Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala through his grace, goodness without any hardship.” Then sit upright and say the following, “O Allah choose good for me and decide the best for me in all my affairs with ease and well-being.” Then take the pieces of paper mix them up and choose one. Do this three times. If three “Do” pieces emerge consecutively go ahead and do what you intend. And if the three “Don’t” pieces appear consecutively do not desist from doing what you intend. And if one “Do” and one “Don’t” emerge then continue drawing till you have drawn five pieces. See which one is more and practice accordingly. Leave the sixth for you will not need it.


As for seeking good with lumps of sand (Banadiq), it is explained as follows:


انو الحاجة في نفسك ثم اكتب رقعتين في واحدة لا،وفي واحدة نعم،واجعلهما في بندقتين من طين،ثم صل ركعتين واجعلهما في ذيلك و قل:أني أشاورك في أمري هذا و انت خير مستشار و مشير فأشر علي مما فيه صلاح و حسن عاقبة،ثم ادخل يدك فإن كان فيها نعم فافعل،وإن كان فيها لا،لا تفعل.

Make an intention of the need you have in your heart. Then take two pieces of paper and write on one of them, “Yes,” and on the other, “No.” Place each of them into two lumps of sand. Thereafter, read two raka’ats of salah, place them under your garment and say, “O Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala I seek your council in this issue of mine; you are the best of those whose council is sought and the best adviser. Hence, guide me to that which is good and will have a pleasant result.” Subsequently, put your hands in the lumps; if it is “Yes” then go ahead and if it is “No” then do not.[11]


Likewise their narrations also state that:


استخارة مولانا أمير المؤمنين و هي أن تضمر ما شئت و تكتب هذه الاستخارة و تجعلهما في مثل البندق و يكون بالميزان و تضعهما في إناء فيه ماء و يكون علي ظهر إحدهما افعل و الاخري لا تفعل فأيهما طلع علي وجه الماء فافعل به،ولا تخالفه

The Istikharah of Amir al Mu’minin is that you should conceal your intention and then write this Istikharah (the above mentioned). Follow this by placing them in lumps of soil—which should be weighed with a scale.[12] Take the lumps and place them into two separate containers; write on one of them, “Do” and on the other “Don’t”. Whichever of the two lumps appears first to the surface of the water follow it and do not go against it.[13]


It goes without doubt that Amir al Mu’minin ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu was free from the blemishes of the ignorant era and its superstitions and that this is something that the Shia have forged against him. Therefore, we find that this is not narrated by anyone besides them.

With regard to Istikharah with al Subhah and al Hasa (pebbles), their Sheikh al Majlisi has written the following:


سمعت والدي يروي عن شيخه البهائي…انه كان يقول:سمعنا مذاكرة عن مشايخنا عن القائم صلوات الله عليهم في الاستخارة باسبحة أنه يأخذها، و يصلي علي النبي و آله صلوت الله عليهم ثلاث مرات، و يقبض علي السبحة، ويعد اثنتين اثنتين، فإن بقيت واحدة فهو افعل، وإن بقيت اثنتان فهو لا تفعل

I heard my father narrate the following from his teacher al Sheikh al Baha’i… We have heard the following from our teachers (merely by way of revision) who narrate from the Mahdi regarding Istikharah with a Tasbih. He should take it and send salutations upon Nabi salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and his household three times and then hold the Tasbih and count two beads at a time. If, at the end, one bead remains its positive and if two remain its negative.[14]


All these divinations have their roots in the pre-Islamic era of ignorance. The Shia have tried to give it an Islamic image.

Whereas, Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala has ordered the believers—when they are two-minded in their matters—to seek his council by worshipping him and imploring him for goodness in affairs that they intend. As is narrated by Imam Ahmed and Imam Bukhari, and the authors of the Sunan collections on the authority of Jabir ibn ‘Abdullah radiya Llahu ‘anhu. He narrates the following:


كان رسول الله صلي الله عليه وسلم يعلمنا الإستخارة كما يعلمنا السورة من القرآن. يقول: إذا هم أحد كم بالأمر فليركع ركعتين من غير الفريضة ثم ليقل: اللهم إني أستخيرك بعلمك وأستقدرك بقدرتك وأسألك من فضلك العظيم فإنك تقدر ولا أقدر وتعلم ولا أعلم وأنت علام الغيوب…

Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam would teach us Istikharah just as he would teach us a chapter from the Qur’an. He would say, “When any of you intend to do something he should read two raka’ats of optional prayer and then supplicate thus, “O Allah, I seek goodness from you due to your knowledge and I seek the ability from you due to your might and I ask you due to your immense grace. For verily, you are capable and I am not, you know and I do not and you are the possessor of the knowledge of the unseen…”[15]


Surprisingly, this form of Istikharah has been narrated in the books of the Shia with exactly the same words as the above narration which appears in the canonical hadith source texts of the Muslims (the Ahlus Sunnah)[16]. However, the doctrine of Taqiyyah which is one of the primary stimuli in distancing the Shia from concurring with the majority compelled some of the Shia scholarship to give preference to Istikharah with al Riqa’ over everything else with the lame pretext that this was the isolated practice of a group who digressed from the way of Mustafa salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, referring to the Ahlus Sunnah. This is because any of their narrations which are in complete harmony with the stance of the majority becomes problematic for the Shia in terms of practice due to there being the possibility of Taqiyyah, according to their paradigm. Al Hurr al ‘Amili states:

وقد رجح ابن طاووس العمل باستخارة الرقاع بوجوه كثيرة منها… أنها تحتمل التقية لأنه لم ينقله أحد من العامة.

Ibn Ta’us has given various reasons for why Istikharah with al Riqa’ is preferred. Among them… There is no possibility of it being narrated by way of Taqiyyah for none of the common populace (the Ahlus Sunnah) have narrated it.[17]


This is acknowledgement on their path that none of the Ahlus Sunnah has narrated Istikharah with al Riqa’.

Furthermore, it seems as if Istikharah with al Riqa’ troubled some of their scholars who felt it was rather something very odd. Hence, one of them says:

وأما الرقاع وما يتضمن افعل ولا تفعل ففي حيز الشذوذ.

As for al Riqa’ and the “do” and “don’t” that it contains, it falls in the realm of odd practices.[18]


Not forgetting that he has even criticized its chain of transmission.[19]

This opinion of his, nevertheless, did not resonate well with the later Shia who discarded it saying:


إنه لا مأخذ له مع اشتهارها بين الأصحاب و كيف تكون شاذة وقد دونها المحدثون في كتبهم والمصنفون في مصنفاتهم.

This opinion has no basis especially when it is popularly known among the learned scholars. How can it be an odd practice when the scholars of hadith have documented it in their collections, the authors have mentioned it in their books.[20]


They further claim that one of their scholars has compiled a voluminous book regarding the various types of Istikharah.[21] In this book, he considers the narration of Istikharah with al Riqa’ as reliable and makes mention of the weird and strange effects that it has.[22] Thus they assert that only a select few have rejected it but their rejection does not hold much weight due to them being in the minority.[23]

This was the detailed elucidation regarding Istikharah with al Riqa’, al Banadiq, al Subhah and al Hasa together with the dispute around them. These are without a doubt in complete conformity with the manner in which the polytheist would do Istikharah, i.e. “Do” and “Don’t”. The only difference is that they have added to it a salah and a supplication; and some narrations specify that the Istikharah should be done by the grave of Hussain[24], which makes the Shirk even more clear. This is an innovation exclusive to this cult which has made them attached to it, and base their planning around, that to which the arrows guide them.

Whereas Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala says:


حُرِّمَتْ عَلَيْكُمُ الْمَيْتَةُ وَالدَّمُ الى قوله وَأَنْ تَسْتَقْسِمُوْا بِالْأَزْلَامِ

“Carrion and blood have been prohibited for you” until Allah says, “and that you divine by way of arrows.”[25]


The meaning of which is abundantly clear that O you who believe, Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala has made it forbidden that you divine by way of arrows.[26] Istiqsam literally means to seek a lot or a share through the medium of arrows. Ibn ‘Abbas radiya Llahu ‘anhuma says, “Azlam are arrows by way of which they would determine their affairs”[27] i.e. the knowledge of that which has been apportioned for them.[28]

Likewise Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala says:

ذٰلِكُمْ فِسْقٌ

That is sinful.


In other words, practicing divination is sinful, misguidance, ignorance, and ascribing partners to Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala.

These Rawafid in these variant Istikharahs of theirs have followed the path of the polytheists and they have given preference to divination[29] over the method of Istikharah prescribed by the Shari‘ah. Solely because of its exclusivity to their creed, which according to them is a sign of its authenticity. They have in a similar manner made it mandatory upon their followers to follow the result of the divination and have warned against opposing it.[30] It is as if they believe that it brings knowledge from Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala. And this is exactly what the polytheists would do. Ibn al Qayyim radiya Llahu ‘anhu says, “Divination is that they would compel themselves to practice on that which the arrows commanded them to do as is the case when taking an oath…”[31]

So how is it possible for a Shia to claim that the result of these pieces of paper with which he seeks good is the precisely the decree of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala. Did he somehow become aware of the unseen or does he have a promise by Allah (that he will be informed)? These pieces of paper compel him to do something or not to do it without any sound evidence or proof, as was the condition of the polytheist. And maybe there is no disparity whatsoever between that and between the saying of the astrologist, “Do not travel due to this star or that star.” Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala says:

وَمَا تَدْرِيْ نَفْسٌ مَّاذَا تَكْسِبُ غَدًا

No souls knows what it will earn the next day.[32]


Whereas the Shia continue to base their decisions on the outcome of pebbles and inanimate entities.


NEXT⇒ Chapter Two – Their belief that Rabb is their Imam

[1] Tafsir Ibn Kathir 2/12; Tafsir al Tabari 9/510

[2] Wasa’il al Shia 5/208-213

[3] Bihar 91/226-234

[4] Ibid 91/235-240

[5] Ibid 91/247-251

[6] Al Furu’ min al Kafi 1/131

[7] Al Tahdhib 1/306

[8] Wasa’il al Shia 5/208

[9] Al Muqniah p. 36; al Misbah p. 372

[10] The attribution is to the mother. Whereas Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala says:

ادْعُوْهُمْ لِآبَائِهِمْ

Call them by their fathers.

[11] Al Furu min al Kafi 1/132; Al Tahdhib 1/306; Wasa’il al Shia 5/209.

[12] This is the explanation given by al Majlisi in al Bihar 91/239.

[13] Bihar 91/238

[14] Ibid

[15] Al Bukhari 2/51: under the chapters regarding nocturnal prayer, 8/168: chapter regarding the Ayah Say he is the most powerful; Sunan Abi Dawood 2/187-188; Sunan al Tirmidhi 2/349; Sunan al Nasa’i 6/80-81; Sunan Ibn Majah 1/440; Sunan Ahmed 3/344.

[16] Bihar al Anwar 91/265; Makarim al Akhlaq p. 372.

[17] Wasa’il al Shia 5/211

[18] Ja‘far ibn al Hasan al Hilli (d 676 A.H.). He is titled al Muhaqqiq by the Shia.

[19] Their scholar Ibn Idris states, “It is a very rare narration because it has been narrated by the Fathiyyah who are worthy of being cursed. E.g. the likes of Zur’ah and Sama’ah. (Bihar 91/287).

[20] Bihar 91/288.

[21] His name is Radi ibn Ta’us al Hasani.

[22] Bihar 91/288.

[23] The Shia have differed as to who was the first of their scholars to reject it. Sheikh al Shahid claims that no one besides Ibn Idris and those who followed suit like al Sheikh Najm al Din rejected it. (Bihar 91/288).

However, al Majlisi claims that al Mufid was the first to reject it. After citing the narration he mentions, “This is a very odd narration… we have mentioned it to reveal its status of permissibility not so that any one should practice upon it.” Then came along the later scholars who claimed that no such statement was made by al Mufid; someone had included it in his book without it being from him. (Bihar 101/285). This is also proof that they change the books of their scholars.

[24] Wasaíl al Shia 5/220; Bihar 101/285.

[25] Surah al Ma’idah: 3

[26] Tafsir Ibn Kathir 2/12

[27] Tafsir al Tabari 6/78

[28] Ibn al Qayyim: Ighathah al Lahafan 1/227

[29] Al Hurr al ‘Amili: al Iqaz min al Hajah: p. 3, 71-71

[30] “And if he finds all of them to be “Don’t” he should be wary of not going against them.” (Bihar al Anwar 91/288

[31] Ighathah al Lahafan 1/227

[32] Surah Luqman: 34. This discussion is taken from Ighathah al Lahafan 1/227

Back to top