How to Perform Prayer for Istikhara (Prayer for Guidance from Allah)
“Istikhara” - Prayer for Guidance
We are humans, powerless in this sphere of life, knowledgeable only enough to survive. So why shouldn't we turn to Allah and seek His perfect help whenever we require it? Allah responds to the call of His servant when he asks for guidance, and we are after all seeking to do something in order to please Him.
Istikhara means to ask Allah to guide you to the path best for you concerning an affair with two halal options. In matters that are waajib (obligatory), haraam (forbidden) or makrooh (disliked) there is no need to pray Istikhara. Salaat-ul-Istikhara (Prayer for Guidance) should only be used for matters that are mubaah (allowed) or in matters that are mustahabb (liked or encouraged), in which there is a decision to be made as to which one should be given priority (i.e. get married or go to grad school).
Many wrong notions exist concerning Istikhara. Many Muslims will pray, read the Dua e Istikhara, and run to bed expecting to see a dream showing them their future wife, what her favorite color is, and some other weird fantasy. That is not the purpose of this salaat (prayer).
The results of an Istikhara can take many forms. Basically, you go by your feelings, whether you now feel more favorable or not. Also, you may notice events have changed, either for or against you. Note that you must follow the results of an Istikhara, because not doing so is tantamount to rejecting Allah's guidance once you've asked for it. Also, you should firstly clear your mind, not have your mind already decided, and then afterwards follow the results willingly.
It is a Sunnah that, if one must choose between permissible alternatives, one may pray two non-obligatory Rakah, even if they are of the Sunnah prayers or a prayer for entering the mosque, and so on, during any time of the day or night, and to recite therein whatever one wishes of the Quran after reciting Surah Al-Fatihah. Then one praises Allah and send salutations to the Prophet (S.A.W.) and recites the supplication in the Hadith below.
The description of Salaat-ul-Istikhara (Prayer for Guidance) was narrated by Jaabir ibn Abdullah Al-Salami (R.A.) who said that The Messenger of Allah (S.A.W.) used to teach his companions to perform the prayer of Istikhara for each and every matter just as he used to teach them the Surahs from the Quran He used to say, "If anyone of you intends to do something, he should offer a two rakat prayer other than the compulsory prayers, and after finishing it, he should say:
اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْتَخِيرُكَ بِعِلْمَكَ، 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- عَاجِلِهِ وَآجِلِهِ- فَاقْدُرْهُ لِي وَيَسِّرْهُ لِي ثُمَّ بَارِكْ لِي فِيهِ، وَإِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الْأَمْرَ شَرٌّ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي- عَاجِلِهِ وَآجِلِهِ- فَاصْرِفْهُ عَنِّي وَاصْرِفْنِي عَنْهُ وَاقْدُرْ لِيَ الْخَيْرَ حَيْثُ كَانَ ثُمَّ أَرْضِنِي بِهِ
Allaahumma 'innee 'astakheeruka bi'ilmika, wa 'astaqdiruka biqudratika, wa 'as'aluka min fadhtikal-'Adheemi, fa'innaka taqdiru wa laa 'aqdiru, wa ta'lamu, wa laa 'a'lamu, wa 'Anta 'Allaamul-Ghuyoobi, Allaahumma 'in kunta ta'lamu 'anna haathal-'amra-[then mention the thing to be decided] Khayrun lee fee deenee wa ma'aashee wa 'aaqibati 'amree - [or say] 'Aajilihi wa 'aajilihi - Faqdurhu lee wa yassirhu lee thumma baarik lee feehi, wa 'in kunta ta'lamu 'anna haathal-'amra sharrun lee fee deenee wa ma'aashee wa 'aaqibati 'amree - [or say] 'Aajilihi wa 'aajilihi - Fasrifhu 'annee wasrifnee 'anhu waqdur liyal-khayra haythu kaana thumma 'ardhinee bihi
O Allah, I seek the counsel of Your Knowledge, and I seek the help of Your Omnipotence, and I beseech You for Your Magnificent Grace. Surely, You are Capable and I am not. You know and I know not, and You are the Knower of the unseen. O Allah, if You know that this matter [then mention the thing to be decided] is good for me in my religion and in my life and for my welfare in the life to come, - [or say: in this life and the afterlife] - then ordain it for me and make it easy for me, then bless me in it. And if You know that this matter is bad for me in my religion and in my life and for my welfare in the life to come, - [or say: in this life and the afterlife] - then distance it from me, and distance me from it, and ordain for me what is good wherever it may be, and help me to be content with it. Whoever seeks the counsel of the Creator will not regret it and whoever seeks the advice of the believers will feel confident about his decisions. Allah said in the Qur'an: "And consult them in the affair. Then when you have taken a decision, put your trust in Allah."
The Prophet (S.A.W.), added that then the person should mention his need."
Salaat-ul-Istikharaah (Prayer for Guidance) is just two rakats of a non-obligatory prayer, prayed at anytime during the day, with a specific dua at the end. While reciting the dua, you should be thinking about the situation you want to be advised about with pure intentions and from the bottom of your heart. And Allah says that whenever he guides a heart aright it can never be misguided. Afterwards, you should “have a good feeling” about one of your options. Whatever option you feel is best right after you say the dua should be your decision. If you’re still in doubt, you can repeat.
Imam An-Nawawi holds that:
"After performing the Istikhara, 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 istikhara. 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."
Some people mistakenly wait for a dream to give a clear sign as to what decision to make, but this is not true, and often times it never really happens. In fact, dreams may lead you away from what Allah wants you to do, as Iblis (Satan/Devil) might try to deceive you in your dreams.
Salat-ul-Istikhara is for everybody. It’s a way for all of us to implore Allah for divine guidance and mercy. It is yet another invaluable resource from Allah to keep us on the straight and narrow Siraat Al-Mustaqeem. The Prophet (S.A.W.) told all Muslims about Istikhara, not just the scholars. Despite this gift, too many of us take the advice of our friends and parents, or accept the norms of our society and act without ever wondering what Allah wants us to do. We must stop looking to the people of this world for guidance and we must begin to consult Allah. Allah says:
"Put your trust in Allah, certainly, Allah loves those who put their trust (in Him)." (Surah Al-Imran: 3: 159)