Salat-ul-Istikhara is a Sunnah prescribed by the Prophet (PBUH) for anyone who is hesitant in making a decision regarding some action.
The meaning of this word is to seek the good or seek that which is good. This implies that when you are starting any new task, whether it is big or small, you should seek guidance from Allah by offering Salat-ul-istikhara (that is the prayer for success) because Allah alone realizes what is best for us, and there might be good in what we see as bad, and terrible in what we see as great.
If you are uncertain about a decision you want to make, then offer two Rakat of Salat-ul-istikhara to ask for Allah’s assistance in settling your choice. Istikhara prayer is a powerful tool that Allah has blessed us with so that before making any choice big or small we can ask for Allah’s guidance in all matters.
There are various phases of life in which we find ourselves in twisted situations. For example, when we make decisions related to good jobs, marriage proposals, professional studies, shifting to some other city, etc; at these times we feel like our decision can make our future life either prosperous or miserable.
We should consult Allah as he knows what is in our best interests. Glory and honor belong only to the Creator of this Universe who never leaves us alone; with this special prayer we can always ask for His guidance in helping us to make difficult decisions.
Dua for Istikhara
By performing Salat-ul-istikhara, we are asking Allah to guide us towards the right path or show us a way that is best for us.
According to Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 21, Number 263: Narrated Jabir bin ‘Abdullah:
The Prophet Muhammad Salallahu alaihi wasallam 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 Qur’an. 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)”
Allâhumma inni astakhiruka bi ilmi ka 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.
What is the wisdom behind prescribing Istikhara?
The wisdom behind prescribing Istikhara is that you give total submission to the command of Allah. You learn that you do not have any power or strength of your own. You learn that if you want to combine the goodness of both worlds you need to turn to Allah to seek his guidance.
By doing Istikhara, you are actually asking for the consent of Allah in a particular matter, and if the consent of Allah is with you, then no force on the face of this earth can stop you from achieving your goals.
Can someone else perform Salat-ul-Istikhara on your behalf?
Most people ask that is it fine to ask religious professionals to perform Salat-ul-Istikhara on their behalf and tell them the results and what decisions to make within a few hours.
The answer to this question is that all of this is nothing besides acts of naivety. It is high time to highlight these incorrect customs because Istikhara is a beautiful Dua that Allah has gifted us so that we could seek his guidance in times of decision making.
So every Muslim should offer this prayer himself and put forward the concerned matter. If something is good for you, Allah will give you a direction and provide you a path, and if a certain matter is not in your favor, then Allah will change the direction and set you on a path that is best for you.
It is permitted to ask someone else to make 'Istikhara' as opposed to a 'Salat-ul-Istikhara,' given the conditions that they know you and know the considerations related to your circumstances. This is a form of seeking counsel which is a Sunnah.
After doing Istikhara, we have to keep asking for direction and should always appeal to Allah. Allah unfailingly knows better what is best for his creations. Being Muslims, we need to have a strong and firm conviction in Allah in every walk of life. Allah adores His creation seventy times more than any mom; this is why you must have faith that He will guide you and ease your pain.
Does Istikhara mean you are indecisive?
This is also a major misconception that people face regarding this prayer. Istikhara does not mean you are indecisive. The correct approach is to offer Salat-ul-istikhara after you have done proper background research on that matter, approached most educated professionals for seeking advice on the best way forward and now you require direction from Allah to make sure this is the correct choice.
As in the prayer of Istikhara you say“. O, Allah! If you know that this matter is good for my religion and my subsistence and in my Hereafter…..” you are actually asking for Allah’s guidance on a particular decision you want to embark upon. You are not saying “O Allah help me choose between the options A, B or C.” Istikhara is a supplication that you offer after you are leaning towards a decision and you approach Allah for the final guidance.
Are dreams a necessary component of Istikhara?
Another important question most people ask is whether dreaming is a necessary component of Istikhara?
Thinking that only dreams can provide the answer to your difficulty you put forward by offering Salat-ul-istikhara is a misconception. Shockingly in opposition to the guidelines provided by the Prophet (PBUH), Muslims today depend altogether on the supplication to settle on their choices for them. That is, they offer the prayer and then totally depend on dreams to give the responses to them.
Most of the people keep repeating Salat-ul-istikhara for several days before sleeping and consult different dream books to interpret the symbols in their dreams. All these beliefs have no basis in the methodology that was taught by the Prophet (PBUH). However, it is not necessarily the case that a good dream may not be followed upon as an affirmation of a decision about which the Istikhara was made.
The correct view is that it is not necessary that only the dreams can provide you with the right answer to your problem. Sometimes it happens that Allah opens your heart and makes you feel content in doing a task that is good for you.
In other times He gives you signs by putting different obstacles in your path to push you away from doing a certain task that is not good for you. Remember when you are leaning towards a decision, and then you read Istikhara for final guidance, you still have to work hard towards that decision. You have to work hard and pray to Allah for guidance at the same time!
What to recite in Salat-ul-Istikhara?
The Hanafis, Maalikis, and Shaafa’is said that it is mustahabb after reciting al-Faatihah to recite Qul yaa ayyuha’l-kaafiroon in the first rak’ah and Qul huwa Allaahu ahad in the second. Al-Nawawi said, explaining the reason for that: It is appropriate to recite these in prayer, to show sincerity and expressing the leaving of your affairs to Allah. They (the Hanafis, Maalikis, and shaafa’is) said that it is also permissible to add other verses from the Quran where the context refers to the idea of making a choice or decision.
Some of the Salaf said that in praying Istikhara it is good to add, after reciting al-Faatihah, the following verses in the first Rakat:
“And your Lord creates whatsoever He wills and chooses; no choice have they (in any matter). Glorified is Allah, and exalted above all that they associate (as partners with Him).And your Lord knows what their breasts conceal, and what they reveal.
And He is Allah; Laa ilaaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshiped but He), all praises and thanks be to Him (both) in the first (i.e. in this world) and in the last (i.e. in the Hereafter). And for Him is the Decision, and to Him shall you (all) be returned.”
[al-Qasas 28:68 – interpretation of the meaning]
And the following verse in the second Rakat:
“It is not for a believer, man or woman when Allah and His Messenger have decreed a matter that they should have any option in their decision. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he has indeed strayed into a plain error.”
[al-Ahzaab 33:36 – interpretation of the meaning]
The Hanbalis and some of the fuqaha’ did not say that any particular verses are to be recited when praying Istikhara.
When should one pray Istikhara?
The Hanafi’s, Maliki’s, Shaafa’is and Hanbalis stated that the right time for reciting the Dua is immediately after offering the prayer. This is in accordance to the hadith that was narrated by Prophet (PBUH).[Al-Mawsoo'ah al-Fiqhiyyah, part 3, p. 241]
It is permissible to recite the dua both after and before saying the Salam, regardless of whether you are offering proper Salat-ul-istikhara or any other prayer. Making dua before the salaam is ideal because the Prophet (PBUH) used to make lots of dua before the salaam. It is said that before saying the Salaam the worshiper is still in the state of prayer, so it is preferable to recite the dua then.
How many times do you need to perform Istikhara?
The answer to this question is that it depends on your situation. For example, sometimes it takes only once to get the answer, but in other times it can take longer. If you are unclear about a decision even after offering the Salat-ul-istikhara, then it is recommended that the prayer should be repeated seven times. But if you receive your answer earlier and you get to know if something is good for you or not then there is no need to continue Salat-ul-istikhara for seven days.
How does Istikhara work?
When you recite the dua of Istikhara you say “…..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."
Through this dua, you leave the decision to Allah the Almighty to make you opt for the things that are in your best interest. Allah makes the matter easy for you by giving signs regarding what is good for you and what is not. Undoubtedly Allah knows best; He is the All-Seeing, All-Hearing and the best Planner.
What if the result of Istikhara is against your will?
Allah says in Qur’an: “But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you, and perhaps you love a thing, and it is bad for you. And Allah knows, while you know not. ” (Qur’an 2:216)
We need to realize that through Istikhara we are asking Allah to guide us towards what is best for us. So even if the result is against your will, you should have a belief that Allah is the best planner and only he knows what is best for you. So you should be content with the ruling of Allah.
What is the outcome of Istikhara?
Salat-ul-istikhara is a Sunnah prescribed by the Prophet (PBUH) that you should follow in order to seek guidance from Allah in all matters of your life. If you follow the footsteps of our Holy Prophet (PBUH) you will secure the following benefits:
Divine Inspiration to the right path
Allah, the Glorious and the High is the purest perfect Being. There is no withholding in showering of His kindness and gifts onto His servants. When a true worshiper of Allah, with a genuine and an immaculate heart approaches Him for direction, then without uncertainty Allah will guide him towards that which is great and beneficial for him.
A way out of confusion
The Prophet (PBUH) said "O' 'Ali! Whosoever asks the best (from Allah), will never be confused, and whosoever asks for advice will never be regretful.”
In this hadith it is clearly indicated that if you consult Allah to guide you towards what is best for you, then you will never be confused.
Removal of remorse and sorrow
The greatest benefit of putting forward all your problems and asking for the best from Allah is to arrive at the stage where your heart is satisfied, all doubts are removed and there is no confusion or distress. You attain this strong belief that only Allah knows what is best for you and whatever he decides is in your best interest so you should follow His command wholeheartedly.
What is the best time to perform Istikhara?
The prohibited times for offering Salat-ul-istikhara is from the beginning of sunrise until 15-20 minutes later, when the sun is at its height (Zenith or Meridian), from the beginning of sunset until it is fully set. The ideal time to offer Salat-ul-istikhara is at the time of Duha prayer (after sunrise).
The best way of performing Salat-ul-istikhara is enlisted below;
Istikhara after a two Rakat mustahab Salah
Imam Al-Jawad (as) said: “It is best that you seek the best (from Allah) after a two Rakat Salah.” That is, you offer two Rakat Salah and then recite Istikhara prayer and then put your matter in front of Allah.
Istikhara after Salah
You should start by offering salah and then praise Allah and send blessings on the Holy Prophet and his family and then recite the dua of Istikhara;
"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."
Allah knows what is best for us so we should feel content with whatever Allah chooses for us and we should not seek to follow our own will especially when the answer to the Istikhara becomes clear. We should ask Allah to bestow His blessings upon us and give us beneficial knowledge. May He help us to act upon His commands in ways that are beloved to Him and assist us in following the footsteps of His beloved Prophet (PBUH). No doubt Allah is the All-Seeing, All-Hearing and the best Planner. May He guide us and ease all our difficulties. Ameen.