Salat Al-Istikhara in Arabic
"Istikhara" means to seek goodness from Allah (Exalted is He), meaning when one intends to do an important task they do istikhara before the task.
The one who does the istikhara is asking Allah Almighty, the Knower of Unseen (Exalted is He) to guide him or her to know whether the task is better for him or not.
Salat al-Istikhara is a powerful tool that Allah has given us to ask His guidance in all matters. We should not hesitate to pray Istikhara before making any choice in our lives, big or small.
It's important to do this prayer with sincerity, knowing in our hearts that only Allah can give us the guidance we seek, and resolved to follow the guidance He gives us, even if it clashes with our own desires.
We should also say the duaa with firm conviction, not begging or pleading, but asking Allah clearly for guidance.
And we should not be impatient after our duaa. We do not put Allah on a timetable. And we should not expect some sort of miracle, or a dream full of signs and symbols. These things are not necessary. We simply say our prayers and trust that Allah has heard us and will answer us in the way that is best.
We have several articles about Salat-al-Istikhara on this website, IslamicAnswers.com. Take the time to read the articles and learn how to perform the Istikhara prayer properly. It will benefit you tremendously in your life choices.
According to Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 21, Number 263:
Narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah: The Prophet (Sallal Laho Alaihi Wasallam) used to teach us the way of doing Istikhara, in all matters as he taught us the Suras of the Quran. He said, "If anyone of you thinks of doing any action he should offer a two Rakat prayer other than the compulsory ones and say (after the prayer):
TRANSLATION: "O Allah! I seek goodness from Your Knowledge and with Your Power (and Might) I seek strength, and I ask from You Your Great Blessings, because You have the Power and I do not have the power. You Know everything and I do not know, and You have knowledge of the unseen. Oh Allah! If in Your Knowledge this action ------------------------------------------------ (which I intend to do) is better for my religion and faith, for my life and end [death], for here [in this world] and the hereafter then make it destined for me and make it easy for me and then add blessings [baraka'] in it, for me. O Allah! In Your Knowledge if this action is bad for me, bad for my religion and faith, for my life and end [death], for here [in this world] and the hereafter then turn it away from me and turn me away from it and whatever is better for me, ordain [destine] that for me and then make me satisfied with it."
WAY TO PERFORM ISTIKHARA:
First pray Two Cycles (raka') of ritual Prayer (nafil) such that in the first raka' after Surah Fatiha (Allhamd"¦) recite Surah al-Kafirun (Chapter 109) and in the second raka' after Fatiha (Allhamd"¦) recite Surah al-Ikhlas (Chapter 112). After finishing prayer recite this (supplication/dua'): Dua in Arabic Text above.
How many times?
It depends. Sometimes it takes only once to get the answer and sometimes it takes longer. It is better to do istakhara seven (7) times. If you have received an answer, you may stop doing istikhara. You do not have to continue to do isitkhara for 7 days. It is better that right after reciting the supplication, given above, sleep with ablution (people who cannot keep the ablution for longer times due to health problems do not have to worry about ablution before falling asleep) facing the direction of the Qibla (facing the Qibla is not required but it is a Sunnat of our beloved Prophet Peace Be Upon Him). It is better to recite salutations (durood/ salawat) on the Prophet Allah's Grace and Peace be upon him before and after the above Dua (supplication).
THE IMPORTANCE OF ISTIKHARAH
Allah says in the Holy Qur'an: "And it is very possible that you dislike something whereas it is good for you; and (similarly) it is very possible that you like something whereas it is bad for you". (Baqarah 16)
From the above ayah, we learn that man has limited knowledge and deficient intellect. Therefore, many a times, he may desire something, which may prove harmful to him, and on the other hand, he may dislike something, while it is good for him. The sole possessor of perfect knowledge, and the only knower of the unseen is Allah, the Creator of man and the Controller of the system of the entire universe. Therefore if man desires good, he can only find it in the hands of Allah. According to one Hadith: "It is from the good fortune of man that he makes Istikharah (seeks good) from Allah, and it is from his misfortune that he discards Istikharah."
'Allamah Aini (RA) writes: "Man should never overlook any matter due to its insignificance and discard Istikharah. How many matters are regarded as insignificant and Istikharah is not made for them, due to which great harm is suffered when carrying them out or abandoning them. It is for this reason that Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) is reported to have said: "(Every) one of you should ask his need from his sustainer to the extent that he should ask Him for salt, and for a shoelace when it breaks."
"Allamah Ibnul Qayyim (RA) has written: "The person who makes Istikharah (seek good) from his Creator and makes 'mashwarah' (consults) the creation never regrets, since Allah said to (His Nabi (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam)): "Consult them in matters. Thus, when You make a decision, place your trust in Allah".
Shaikh Tahir bin Husain bin Abdullah bin Tahir wrote in a letter to his son after he had become an amir or governor: "Whenever any matter of importance comes upon you, seek assistance in it by making Istikharah to Allah and fearing him". He also advised him thus: "and perform Istikharah abundantly in all your matters". (Al-Istikharah by M.T. Hakeem)
A GREAT BENEFIT OF ISTIKHARAH
Hadrat Shah Waliyyullah (RA) writes: "From amongst the greatest benefits of Istikharah is that man becomes detached from his carnal desires, his animalistic characteristics become subject to his angelic nature and he hands himself over to Allah. When he does this, he reaches the stages of the angels whose quality is that they await the command of Allah. When Allah's command is received, they exert themselves through divine motivation and not carnal motivation. I believe that excessive Istikharah is a proven tonic for the inculcation of angelic qualities."
But alas, today, Istikharah has become as equally difficult as making a decision. People hesitate so much to perform this great act of worship, that only at the last alternative, when no other way can be perceived, they would turn to some innovated act that has no basis in the Hadith, such as the taking of a good omen by opening the Qur'an and counting lines and letters, etc.; or asking someone else to perform Istikharah on their behalf. Shaikh Nuruddin Itr says: As far as the common practice today which people aspire to uphold, that Istikharah will only be correct if it is carried out by certain persons, and that a dream is necessary, this is extremism and obstanance, and is not the command of Allah nor His Rasul (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam). This all stems from such constraint among the Muslims that does not behove of them. This led them to abandoning one great Sunnah of Rasulullah (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam), thus they deprived themselves of the merits of this great Sunnah and it’s blessings, and from blemishing it's purity. Similarly Hadrat Moulana Shah Hakim Muhammad Akhtar (RA) states in his book "Sunnats" on page 49, that "asking another person to make Istikharah on one's behalf is not substantiated from any Hadith. To make mashwarah' (consult) with someone else is Sunnah.' Sometimes Istikharah becomes a means of greater confusion. A person who does not generally see dreams, nor perceives an inclination towards or away from the object of his Istikharah, now finds himself in a greater predicament. As for the person who does see a dream, he is put through the inconvenience of finding someone to interpret it for him. And if he saw a clear dream, or received an interpretation indicating to one particular option, and thereafter was not able to overcome the obstacles obstructing his path to achieving his aim, this person is left in sheer perplexity.
STATUS OF DREAMS IN ISTIKHARAH
Firstly, one must understand that none of the narrations in the Ahadith have any mention regarding a dream, or even about performing the 'Istikharah' before sleeping. However, some "Ulama do prefer that Istikharah be performed before sleeping.
With regards to the person who does see a dream after performing 'Istikharah', this dream is just like any other dream that a person sees. This means that just as other dreams fall under one of three categories (which will be explained shortly), likewise will the dreams seen after Istikharah1 be. It is reported in a Hadith narrated in Sahih Bukhari and other books of Hadith that dreams are of three types:
1. Hadeeth-un-Nafs (imaginations)
2. ‘takhweefus shaytaan’ a dream instilled in the mind by shaytan. This also known as ‘wasaaisu-us-shaytaan’ or ‘tahzeenu-us-shaytaan’.
3. ‘Bushraa minallaah’ True dreams, which are also known as ‘mubash-sharaat’
It is mentioned in a Hadith that the dreams of pious muminin (believers) are generally true dreams.
Another Hadith states: "The most true dreams are those seen at the time of Sahar (early dawn).