Abstract Islanding of photovoltaic systems is a concern primarily because it can be hazardous to both utility personnel as well as to the components in the system. This paper aims to identify the major challenges of islanding detection in the grid-connected photovoltaic system (GCPVS) and suggests an appropriate islanding detection method (IDM) based on the criteria preference of the decision-maker. Related articles appearing on islanding detections in the field of GCPVSs as well as the other distributed generators are gathered and analyzed to identify all the dominating criteria of the IDM selection. A multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA), the analytic hierarchy process (AHP), is applied to evaluate different IDMs and to find an appropriate selection for GCPVS in general by evaluating their main operational characteristics. This research not only provides the application of MCDA to evaluate the IDMs for GCPVS applications but also aids the researchers and decision-makers in applying the approach effectively. Moreover, MATLAB simulation of different criteria to ascertain their clear-cut effects on the anti-islanding selection under multiple uncertainties is presented.