Almost All You Need to Know About Istikharah Prayers

Outline

Introduction

Alhamdulillah… All thanks and praise are due to the Almighty Allah. I send peace and blessings upon Ḥabībī Muḥammad, his household, his companions and all those who follow his guided path till judgement day.

Every one of us has endeavours through which he achieves his dreams. Some dreams are achieved by making important and crucial decisions. Being wise may not always lead to making a decisive, and possibly a correct decision. However, being divinely guided ensures a successful endeavor, with a pleasant and satisfying outcome, no matter what the challenge you have to experience. That’s exactly the reason why Istikhārah prayer was prescribed.

This article presents almost all you need to know about Istikhārah prayers. It defines Istikhārah prayer. It presents when and how it’s performed, the way the Prophet allā Allāhu ‘alaihi wa sallam taught his companions to perform it. It also discusses what you can expect after you’ve performed your Istikhārah. How you get the response for your Istikhārah is also highlighted. The article also discusses the relationship between Istikhārah and dreams. Ever wondered if you can ask someone to do it for you? Keep reading!

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What Is Istikhārah?

The word Istikhārah is an Arabic word which means “seeking guidance in choosing the best.” In Islam, we are encouraged to perform alāh al-Istikhārah when we are about to commit to an activity, affair or any matter of importance to us. It’s an optional, but a divine way to seek guidance in choosing the best out of what one is about to engage himself in.

Istikhārah doesn’t keep you away from challenges and may not bar you from encountering some painful experiences and challenges. It rather helps you to choose the challenge that is the most blessed and most fruitful. It protects from the more painful experience to the less painful, should one has to encounter any painful experience.

The Prophet allā Allāhu ‘alaihi wa sallam gave emphasis to Istikhārah to the companions. As it’s important, though non-obligatroy, he made some time to teach them how to perform it, similar to the way he taught them reciting chapters of the Qur’an.

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When is Istikhārah Performed?

We perform Istikhārah when we are about to commit to any permissible activity or affair. For instance, when one is considering committing to a business proposal or partnership, or buying a house in a particular neighbourhood or location, proposing to a person for marriage, or even buying a vehicle, you are encouraged to perform Istikhārah pertaining to that.

One may also perform Istikhārah prayers when he’s planning to go for a holiday, which is not purposefully to commit sins. Istikhārah can also be performed when you have two options to choose from, but unsure which is the best for you. For instance, you are give admission to two different schools, both of which you have great interest in, and hence you can’t decide on which is the best for you.

It’s worth indicating, that we are not entitled nor expected to perform Istikhārah for that, which we are obliged to. For instance, one shouldn’t do Istikhārah whether he should show kindness to his parents and bear his responsibilities as a family member. You shouldn’t be performing Istikhārah before giving charity, or even giving a gift to your loved one. One can’t do Istikhārah pertaining to whether he should pray uhr on time or delay it, or whether he should stop smoking or she should start donning ijab.

Similarly, we don’t have to perform Istikhārah pertaining to acts we are commanded to abstain from. One shouldn’t perform Istikhārah on whether he should buy a stake/share in beer company, or partnership with a company that deals with or promotes usury. There may also be no need for one to perform Istikhārah pertaining to working for a company that mocks Islam, promotes immorality or disallows Muslims to pray or observe their basic religious duties as Muslims.

These are fundamentals in Islam. They are what make us Muslims. It’s for the purpose of ensuring the strength and solidness of these fundamentals, that we are encouraged to perform Istikhārah prayers.

In other words, we perform Istikhārah for several reasons. All of such reasons have to be permissible and free from sins. So, one should ensure he performs his Istikhārah only when he’s about to commit to that which is halāl, and not that which is or associated with harām.

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What Before Istikhārah?

It’s important that, before we make the Istikhārah, we consult experts and the experienced, especially whom we trust, regarding our intended endeavour. Once we’ve listened to different opinions which are based on knowledge, experience and more so, based on honesty and trust, with that, we can have a broader perspective about the matter in hand. Thereafter, we can proceed to the next level, which is Istikhārah.

This means, when we want to commit to any worldly or religious affair, we start by thinking about it thoroughly, after which, we consult experts in that field, as well as seek advice from people we trust. After we have reached to the conviction that the affair is good to be considered, we have certainly reached where human capacity can reach. Next… Istikhārah! With Istikhārah, we transfer the files of the matter in hand from human level to the divine level.

Once we’ve come to an agreement on what we can perform Istikhārah for, and what we should do before Istikhārah, let’s take a look at the du’a of Istikhārah followed by its meaning in English:

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Du’a of Istikhārah

اللَّهُمَّ إنِّي أَسْتَخِيرُكَ بِعِلْمِكَ، وَأَسْتَقْدِرُكَ بِقُدْرَتِكَ، وَأَسْأَلُكَ مِنْ فَضْلِكَ الْعَظِيمِ، فَإِنَّكَ تَقْدِرُ وَلا أَقْدِرُ، وَتَعْلَمُ وَلا أَعْلَمُ، وَأَنْتَ عَلامُ الْغُيُوبِ. اللَّهُمَّ إنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الأَمْرَ خَيْرٌ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي، فَاقْدُرْهُ لِي وَيَسِّرْهُ لِي ثُمَّ بَارِكْ لِي فِيهِ. اللَّهُمَّ إِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الأَمْرَ شَرٌّ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي، فَاصْرِفْهُ عَنِّي، وَاصْرِفْنِي عَنْهُ، وَاقْدُرْ لِي الْخَيْرَ حَيْثُ كَانَ، ثُمَّ أَرْضِنِي بِهِ.

“O Allah, I seek Your guidance [in making a choice] by virtue of Your knowledge, and I seek ability by virtue of Your power, and I ask You of Your great bounty. You have power, I have none. And You know, I know not. You are the Knower of hidden things. O Allah, if in Your knowledge, this matter is good for me both in this world and in the Hereafter, then ordain it for me, make it easy for me, and bless it for me. And if in Your knowledge it is bad for me and for my religion, my livelihood and my affairs, then turn me away from it, [and turn it away from me], and ordain for me the good wherever it may be and make me pleased with it.”

After learning the du’a of Istikhārah, it’s time to learn how it’s performed.

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How is Istikhārah Performed?

How Istikhārah is performed is not different from how we perform our regular prayers. Do you know how to perform Fajr prayers? Of course you do! That’s simply how you can perform Istikhārah prayer. Ok. Let me put the question differently, as Fajr prayers may require Qunūt if you are a follower of the Shāfi‘ī school of thought. Do you know how to pray 2 Raka‘ahs between the Adhān and Iqāmah of uhr prayers? The answer is likely yes. That’s exactly how you do your Istikhārah prayer. The only difference, though, will be your intention, and the du’a you’ll have to recite after your salām.

This means, you need to have your intentions for Istikhārah in your heart, before you start the prayer. And after the prayer, raise your hands up, and say the du’a of Istikhārah. Say them in English, or your native language, if you can’t say them in Arabic. Then at the end of your du’a, say: “O Allah! I intend/want to do so and so.”

According to the adīth authenticated by Imām al-Bukhārī from the narration of by Sayyidinā Jābir ibn ‘Abdillāh, the Prophet allā Allāhu ‘alaihi wa sallam said prior to teaching the companions the du‘a of Istikhārah:

إذَا هَمَّ أَحَدُكُمْ بِالأَمْرِ فَلْيَرْكَعْ رَكْعَتَيْنِ مِنْ غَيْرِ الْفَرِيضَةِ ثُمَّ لِيَقُلْ…ـ

“If any one of you is deliberating about a decision he has to make, then let him pray two raka‘ahs of a non-obligatory prayer, and then say…(say the du‘a above)”

Is it as simple as that? Yes. It is!

The simplicity in the Prophet’s teaching with regards to Istikhārah makes it easiear for any Muslim who intends to commit to any affair, ranging from small matters to bigger and major issues to do Istikhārah at ease. All you need to do is to perform 2 raka‘ahs in a permissible time for prayer, and raise up your hands, after your salām and supplicate with the du‘a (of Istikhārah). Just like any other du‘a, it’s important to initiate your du‘a with singing praises for Allah, the Almighty. Follow that with singing peace and blessings upon Habibi Muhammad, allā Allāhu ‘alaihi wa sallam, and then say your du‘a (of Istikhārah).

After the du’a, which you may say in your native language if you can’t say it in Arabic, say to Allah what you intend to do. You may also read it from a written paper, if you’ve not memorized it.

An easy example of singing Allah praises and sending peace and blessings upon the Prophet are as follows:

اللَّهُمَّ لَكَ الحَمْدُ كُلُّهُ.. وَلَكَ الشُّكْرُ كُلُّهُ.. وَبِيَدِكَ الخَيْرُ كُلُّهُ.. وَإِلَيْكَ يَرْجِعُ الأَمْرُ كُلُّهُ.. لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ أَنْتَ.. أَسْتَغْفِرُكَ وَأَتُوبُ إِلَيْكَ

“O Allah, all praise is due to You… All thanks is due to You… All good is in Your Hands… To You, shall all affairs return… No god (deserves to be worshiped) but You… We seek Your Forgiveness, and we repent to You”

اللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ عَلَى مُحَمَّدٍ وَعَلَى آلِ مُحَمَّدٍ كَمَا صَلَّيْتَ عَلَى إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَعَلَى آلِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ إِنَّكَ حَمِيدٌ مَجِيدٌ. اللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ عَلَى مُحَمَّدٍ وَعَلَى آلِ مُحَمَّدٍ كَمَا بَارَكْتَ عَلَى إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَعَلَى آلِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ إِنَّكَ حَمِيدٌ مَجِيدٌ.ـ

“O Allah, send prayers upon Muhammad and the family of Muhammad, just as You sent prayers upon Ibrahim and upon the family of Ibrahim. Verily, You are full of praise and majesty. O Allah, send blessings upon Muhammad and upon the family of Muhammad, just as You sent blessings upon Ibrahim and upon the family of Ibrahim. Verily, You are full of praise and majesty.”

Now, let’s decide on the permissible time for Istikhārah prayer… Are you ready?

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The Permissible Times for Istikhārah

There are various permissible times you can choose from, to perform your Istikhārah prayer. Thus, there’s no one fixed time for it. Any time when we can perform a non-obligatory prayer (Nāfilah/Sunnah) can be used for Istikhārah. These times include the time between Zuhr and ‘Asr prayers, between Maghrib and ‘Ishā’ prayers, anytime between ‘Ishā’ and Fajr prayers, and within uā time. Ḍuḥā time starts 15-20 minutes after sunrise until 15 minutes before Ẓuhr prayers. Thus, we shouldn’t do it between Subh prayers and sunrise, nor in the time that falls between ‘Asr and Maghrib.

What if there’s a persisting need for one to do it in a non-permissible time for prayer? If you really have to make a decision and you need to make Istikhārah or else you might loose an opportunity, you can pray in the non-permissible time. Remember… It’s if… there’s a persisting need…

What if I can’t pray? The woman who can’t pray due to her menstruation, or the person, who due to time constrain can’t have the time to pray, can just recite the du’a of Istikhārah and proceed with the matter in hand, and insha Allah, Alllah will help guide them accordingly.

With this, we notice, that you don’t have to restrict your time of performing Istikhārah to night time. Also, there’s no need for you to put yourself to sleep immediately after Istikhārah, just because you’ve just done Istikhārah. People, who do this, do associate the results of Istikhārah to dreams. This is discussed in a later section in this article. So, hang on!

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What After Istikhārah?

After one has successfully done his Istikhārah, all he has to do next is to go ahead with whatever lawful affair/matter he made the Istikhārah for. Many expect to see some [kind of] dreams as response for their Istikhārah. The adīth in which the Prophet, allā Allāhu ‘alaihi wa sallam taught the companions Istikhārah is so simple in its wordings, so much so that confusion is unlikely to occur in understanding it, especially that, a dream is never mentioned.

Once the Istikhārah (the final stage) is done, go ahead with the affair… If it’s good (for you) and meant for you, the doors will open, widely and broadly, for you. If it’s not, you won’t go further. And Allah will open doors of which is the best for you.

Also, upon looking at the du’a of Istikhārah, which the Prophet is teaching us (his Ummah) to supplicate when we intend to commit to any affair, either pertaining to our worldly affairs or related to our Hereafter, we understand that, although we humbly pray and submit requests before Him subānahū wa ta‘ālā, and although we have to put in all the effort required for the project/affair, for which this prayer is been performed, we leave things up to Him to decide the best for us. What is best for us may not match our perceptions. So once you are done with the Istikhārah, go ahead with the matter, for which you’ve performed the Istikhārah, with a heart filled with trust in Allah’s Choice for you.

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Istikhārah and Dreams

There’s a perception that, when one performs Istikhārah, he should wait for some sort of response which should likely come through dreams. But the truth is, good dreams are good, and bad dreams are bad, but they may not be good or bad based on our perception, or based on the scenarios we see them in. This means, a dream that seems good may not necessarily be so, and that which seems bad may not necessarily be bad.

Moreover, I’m afraid; some dreams that one may see, may be due to the psychological impact (eagerness or fear) of the affair, rather than an answer for Istikhārah.

However, if someone else sees dream (be it good or bad) related to his Istikhārah, then, that may be a kind of honour for him, but it’s not a requirement related to Istikhārah, as far as the common Muslims are concerned.

Thus, when you do Istikhārah, keep your expectations of dreams out of your mind. That way, you free yourself from all sorts of illusions.

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Doing Istikharah on Behalf of Someone

One of the common questions that arise regarding to Istikhārah is, “can I ask someone to do Istikhārah on my behalf?” Well… there’s no evidence that you can’t ask someone to do Istikhārah on your behalf. But I wonder why can’t one spare some time to humble himself before His Lord, pertaining to matters that matter a lot to him, more than it matters to anyone else? If one can’t impress Allah by humbling himself before Him, I wonder who else would be in the position to do that better, for him?

In the bid to escape humbling oneself before Allah, one may say to himself, “I’m sinful, and it’s better to get a pious person to do it for me.” Piety is not measured by assumptions. In addition to that, the sense of guilt, and the thoughts that one is sinful are all indications of piety. Would you be glad if someone was to tell you that your du‘as (supplications) are not accepted due to your sins and impurity? Why then, do you say that same thing to yourself?!

In addition to that, the Prophet was the most pious of his time. And it was he, who taught the companions to perform Istikhārah pertaining to their worldly and religious (Ākhirah) affairs. We know that, the companions were not angels. And no doubt, they did perform Istikhārah from time to time, but not even once was it reported that any of them went up to the Prophet, asking him to perform Istikhārah on his behalf. Let’s take the Prophet and his companions as our examples, and we will be in a better position before Allah.

If one is really ashamed of his sins–and who among us is free from sins?, the suggestion is that he repents to Allah, purifies himself and then proceeds with his Istikhārah. Allah’s doors are always open to repentants. Thus, do not deceive yourself, by keeping it away from His mercy.

Having said that, one can make Istikhārah for, but not solely on behalf of, someone who’s under his custody or care (wilāyah). For instance, a child who’s going to the college or university may make Istikhārah for himself. In addition to that, one or both of his parents may make it for him too, as he’s their responsibility. Similarly, a child can make Istikhārah pertaining to whom is proposing to her or who he is proposing to. And one or both of his parents may join him or her to make Istikhārah for that same matter, because he or she is under the custody or care of their parents at that point of time.

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Conclusion

If we are to reflect upon decisions we’ve made in the past and regretted about later on, it’s likely that we’ll realize that we failed to pray Istikhārah pertaining to them. This includes marriage, choice of school, choice of teachers, choice of students, and certainly business partnership or career. This also includes where we choose to go for holidays and the company we choose for such.

Performing Istikhārah, requires one to consult the experts regarding what he intends to embark on. Once he’s been given the wise and honest opinions, and he decides to proceed, then he should pray Istikhārah. He’s expected to carry on with what he intends to do, once he’s done with the Istikhārah. The answer to his Istikhārah is revealed only after he’s taken the first step towards his intended affair. The rest will be taken care by Allah. Enjoy!

Something to always remember is that Istikhārah is a form of du‘a, and it’s etiquettes require the person in need to involve himself and humble it before Allah.

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Until our next article, I leave you in Allah’s protection.

Allah knows best.
Allahu Hafiz 🙂

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