Istikhara, Prayer to seek Goodness

Salat Ul Istikhara (The Prayer for seeking guidance from Allah (SWT))

Allah (SWT) says in the Quran:

“And consult them (O Prophet) in affairs (of moment),” (Qur’an, 3: 159)

Characteristic of the believers is that “they (conduct) their affairs by mutual consultation” (Qur’an, 42: 38)

Qatadah said, “Every people who seek the pleasure of Allah and consult with one another are guided to the best course in their affairs.”

Sa’ d ibn Waqas reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “Istikharah (seeking guidance from Allah) is one of the distinct favors (of Allah) upon man, and a good fortune for the son of Adam is to be pleased with the judgment of Allah. And a misfortune of the son of Adam is his failure to make istikharah (seeking Allah’s guidance), and a misfortune for the son of Adam is his displeasure with the judgment of Allah.” Ibn Taimiyyah said, “He who seeks guidance from the Creator and consults the creatures will never regret it.”

How does one pray Salat ul Istikhara?
Salatul Istikharah is a sunnah of the Prophet (s). It is a prayer that one may pray if one must choose between permissible alternatives: it is two non-obligatory rak’at (that can be recited separately or in combination with the regular sunnah prayers or the prayer for entering the mosque […] during any time of the day or night, and to recite therein whatever one wishes of the Qur’an after reciting al-Fatihah. After the two-rak’ats, one praises Allah and sends salutations to the Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam and recites the following supplication which has been recorded by al-Bukhari in Jabir’s hadith (see full text below): “The Prophet sallallahu alehi wasallam would teach us al-istikhara for all of our affairs as he would teach us a surah from the Qur’an. He said: ‘If one of you is deliberating over an act, he should pray two non-obligatory rak’at and say: “O Allah, I consult You as You are All-Knowing and I appeal to You to give me power as You are Omnipotent, I ask You for Your great favor, for You have power and I do not, and You know all of the hidden matters . O Allah ! If you know that this matter (then he should mention it) is good for me in my religion, my livelihood, and for my life in the Hereafter, (or he said: ‘for my present and future life,’) then make it (easy) for me. And if you know that this matter is not good for me in my religion, my livelihood and my life in the Hereafter, (or he said: ‘for my present and future life,’) then keep it away from me and take me away from it and choose what is good for me wherever it is and please me with it.”

The following hadith (referred above in Fiqh-us-Sunnah) is narrated by Jabir bin Abdullah about Salat-ul-Istikhara in Sahih Bukhari (volume 2, hadith number 263 and again volume 9, hadith 487):
The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to teach us the way of doing Istikhara (Istikhara means to ask Allah to guide one to the right sort of action concerning any job or a deed), in all matters as he taught us the Suras of the Quran. He said, “If anyone of you thinks of doing any job he should offer a two Rakat prayer other than the compulsory ones and say (after the prayer): ‘Allahumma inni astakhiruka bi’ilmika, Wa astaqdiruka bi-qudratika, Wa asaluka min fadlika al-’azim Fa-innaka taqdiru Wala aqdiru, Wa ta’lamu Wala a’lamu, Wa anta ‘allamu l-ghuyub. Allahumma, in kunta ta’lam anna hadha-l-amra Khairun li fi dini wa ma’ashi wa’aqibati amri (or ‘ajili amri wa’ajilihi) Faqdirhu li wa yas-sirhu li thumma barik li Fihi, Wa in kunta ta’lamu anna hadha-lamra shar-run li fi dini wa ma’ashi wa’aqibati amri (or fi’ajili amri wa ajilihi) Fasrifhu anni was-rifni anhu. Waqdir li al-khaira haithu kana Thumma ardini bihi.

(O Allah! I ask guidance from Your knowledge, and Power from Your Might and I ask for Your great blessings. You are capable and I am not. You know and I do not and You know the unseen. O Allah! If You know that this job is good for my religion and my subsistence and in my Hereafter–(or said: If it is better for my present and later needs)–then You ordain it for me and make it easy for me to get, and then bless me in it, and if You know that this job is harmful to me in my religion and subsistence and in the Hereafter–(or said: If it is worse for my present and later needs)–then keep it away from me and let me be away from it. And ordain for me whatever is good for me, and make me satisfied with it).” The Prophet added that then the person should name (mention) his need.

Similar hadiths were reported by Jabir (r) in Sahih Bukhari (volume 8, hadith number 391).

To summarize, here is how you pray Salat-ul-Istikhara step-by step:

  • Perform Wudu (the ablution) if you do not have it already.
  • Pray 2 raka’at either with the intention of praying Istikhara separately by itself or jointly with two non-obligatory rak’at (e.g. the regular sunnah prayers or the prayer for entering the mosque, or tahajjud.) Please make sure that you are not praying during the three times when it is undesirable to pray [The Prophet (s) said: “There is no prayer after the Fajr until the sun (sufficiently) rises; and there is no prayer after the ‘Asr until the sun completely sets.” [Muslim, 1041, agreed upon]. Again, in another hadith reported in Muslim 1040, it is narrated: “ Three were the times at while Allâh’s Messenger ( ) forbade us from praying or burying our dead (ie. funeral prayer): when the sun begins to rise until it is fully up; when the sun is at its height until it passes the meridian; and when the sun begins to set until it is completely set. [Muslim, 1040]”
  • Immediately after you have completed the 2 rakats, recite the abovementioned Istikhara Dua.
  • Name the deed you wish Allah to provide you with guidance about.
  • Follow An Nawawi’s advice on how to interpret Allah’s guidance (please see section below).
  • There is no limit on the number of times you can pray Salat-ul-Istikhara.

What happens after one prays Salat ul Istikhara?

An-Nawawi holds that “after performing the istikharah, a person must do what he is wholeheartedly inclined to do and feels good about doing and should not insist on doing what he had desired to do before making the istikharah. And if his feelings change, he should leave what he had intended to do, otherwise he is not completely leaving the choice to Allah, and would not be honest in seeking aid from Allah’s power and knowledge. Sincerity in seeking Allah’s choice, means that one should completely leave what he himself had desired or determined.”

It is not necessary that you get a dream or even a “feeling.” Rather, the istikhara is a prayer that Allah guide you towards that which is best (khayr) for you. If you do the prayer of guidance (istikhara) with the proper manners, the most important of which is to truly consign the matter to Allah and suspend your own inclinations, then Allah will make events unfold in the direction that is the best for your worldly and next-worldly affairs.\r\n\r\nHow many times can one pray Salat ul Istikhara?

As stated above, there is no limit on the number of times you can pray Salat ul Istikhara.

Other things to be considered:-

  1. Before the Prayer
    • Istikhara is for any small or big matter in life
    • Istikhara cannot be done between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ things as declared by Quran and Hadith
    • Istikhara is between two or more ‘right’ options as declared by Quran and Hadith
    • Istikhara is for people without options as well
    • Istikhara does not hold valid between the things already prioritized by Quran and Hadith.
    • Isitkhara is for something within one’s reach
      • Limits of an individual, a society or a nation
      • Health is a limitation
      • Finance is limitation
      • Laws of a particular nation can also be limitation
    • Isitikhara is associated with the entire aspects of one’s life
  2. After the Prayer
    • Need to consult with one of more people
      • Whom to consult?
      • Feasibility report as governed by Quran and Hadith (Risk analysis)
    • Need to record the prayer (One may have to perform many prayers for same task)
    • The Result of action after Istikhara should again be within the limits described by the Quran and Hadith
    • One’s conscience Inclination (Conscience as an admonisher)
    • Peace and Satisfaction from the result
  3. Other Issues
    • Isitkhara is related with the entire issues of one’s life and the life of others (nearby relatives or friends or society or nation) associated with one and one’s decision. So, one needs to reflect on all the aspects related to this decision again in the light and guidance of Quran and Hadith
    • Istikhara’s result for a Non-performing muslim
    • Istikhara that involves other’s behavior (Non performing Individuals – muslims)
    • Isitikhara at an individual level, at the family level, at society and at the nation’s level.
    • ‘Isitikhara’ Vs ‘Destiny’
    • Importance of Isitkhara in Islamic Law and Jurisprudence
    • Istikhara for an Islamic Judge
    • Guidance through True Dreams of the Prophets
    • True Dreams of Believers
  4. Wrong things associated with Istikhara
    • To ask someone else to do Istikhara
    • Istikhara from Quran
    • Guidance through dreams
    • Istikhara and ‘Fortune Tellers’
  5. Conclusion:
    • One should have the basic knowledge of Quran and Hadith
    • Allah (SWT)’s priority of ‘Khair’ according to Quran and Hadith

This article was first published on 27-Nov-2011 and is republished as is.

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