Whenever a Muslim is making a decision, he/she should seek Allah’s guidance and wisdom in every matter of life. “Istikhara” means to seek rightness from Allah (SWT), meaning when one intends to do an important task, they do Istikhara before starting the task. Muslims have strong conviction that no one is as Knowledgeable in Knowing things as Allah SWT, Allah alone knows what is best for them, and there may be good in what they perceive as bad, and bad in what they perceive as good as mentioned in the Holy Quran:
“….. 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.” (Quran, 2:216)
The above-mentioned Ayah described that in terms of making our decisions based on rightful judgment which is only possible through the Help of the Creator of the universe we should seek guidance from Almighty Allah. We can get closer to Allah (SWT) through prayers and get His guidance in solving the complex issues of our lives. Istikhara prayer is the prayer of guidance through which we seek Allah’s guidance while taking important decisions of our lives.
Salat al Istikhara or prayer of guidance is a powerful tool that Allah Almighty has given us to ask His guidance in all matters of life. We should not hesitate to perform this prayer with sincerity, knowing in our hearts that only Allah Almighty can give us the guidance we seek, and resolved to follow the guidance He gives us, even if it against our desires.
Jabir Ibn Abdullah Al Salami (RA) narrated that “The Messenger of Allah Prophet Muhammad (SAW) used to teach His companions to make Istikhara in all things, just as He (PBUH) used to teach them surahs from the Holy Quran. He (SAW) said: ‘If any one of you is concerned about a decision he has to make, then let him pray two Rakats of non-obligatory prayer, then say (translation):
“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 (then it should be mentioned by name) is good for me both in this world and in the Hereafter (or: in my religion, my livelihood and my affairs), 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 (or: for me both in this world and the next), 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.”” (Bukhari)
Method of Performing Salat al Istikhara
To perform Salat al Istikhara, one should first be cleansed, so perform Wudu (ablution) if necessary. After that, one has to perform two Nafl Rakats of Salah with the intention of Istikhara. In first cycle (Rakat), after Surah Fatiha, recite Surah Al-Kafirun, and in the second, read Surah Ikhlas, having similar format in the remaining prayer as is found in normal Namaz. After that, one has to read out the above mentioned Dua e Istikhara in Arabic.
It is always advisable to send blessings on the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in the form of Durood before and after any request to the Almighty Allah for instant completion of prayers. One should also sleep in the state of Ablution and keep its face towards Qibla as it has been the way of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). There is no general compulsion in performing Salat al Istikhara at particular time, but according to the traditions final third of a night is the best time for fulfillment of one`s supplications. Abu Hurairah (RA) described:
Allah’s Messenger Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “When it is the last third of the night, our Lord, The Blessed, The Superior, Descends every night to the nearest heaven of the world and Declares, ‘Is there anyone who invokes Me that I may respond to his invocation; is there anyone who asks Me for something that I may give (it to) him; is there anyone who asks My forgiveness that I may forgive him?’” (Bukhari)
One needs to be patient in terms of receiving the answer to their prayers. Always be patient and remember the words of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW), “The supplication of everyone is granted as long as he does not show haste and does not say that he made a supplication but it was not accepted.” (Tirmidhi)
Istikhara or prayer of guidance is a great from supplication, which does not only result in Allah`s guidance and supervision in the accomplishment of a task, but also purifies one`s heart and soul by bringing it near to the Almighty Allah. May Allah SWT give us will and desire to understand the great significance of this prayer and benefit from it in the most meaningful manner. Ameen!