Istikhaarah: The Guidance Prayer
As humans, we are truly powerless, especially when it comes to the unseen future. So why shouldn’t we turn to Allaah and seek His perfect help whenever we require it? Allaah responds to the call of His servant when he asks Him for guidance. After all, we are seeking to do something in order to please Him.
Istikhaarah means to ask Allah to guide you to the path best for you between two Islamically permissible options. In matters that are waajib(obligatory), haraam (forbidden) or makrooh (disliked) there is no need to pray Istikhaarah. Salaat-ul-Istikharah 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.
Many wrong notions exist concerning Istikhaarah. Many Muslims will pray, read the supplication of Istikhaarah, and run to bed expecting to see a dream showing them their future husband, what her favourite colour is, and some other weird fantasy. That is not the purpose of this Salaat.
The results of an Istikhaarah can take many forms. Basically, you go by your feelings, whether you now feel more favourable or not. Also, you may notice events have changed, either for or against you. You then follow the results of the Istikhaarah, if you don’t then it tantamounts 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.
How Is Salaatul-Istikhaarah Performed?
It is a SunnahWay/method/saying or deed of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). that, if one needs to choose between permissible alternatives, one should pray two non-obligatory Raka’aat (Units of Prayer), even if they are of the Sunnah prayers or a prayer for entering the Masjid and recite therein whatever one wishes of the Qur’an after reciting SurahA chapter/section of the Qur’aan. al-Faatihah. Then one should praise Allah and sends Salutations to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and recite the following supplication mentioned in the Hadeeth Prophetic Narration(Prophetic Narration).
The description of Salaat-ul-Istikhaarah was narrated by Jaabir ibn ‘Abd-Allah as-Salami (may Allah be pleased with him) who said,
The Messenger of Allah used to teach his companions to make istikhaarah in all things, just as he used to teach them surahs from the Qur’an.He said, ‘If any one of you is concerned about a decision he has to make, then let him pray two rak’ahs of non-obligatory prayer, then say:
‘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 (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.”
The Prophet added that then the person should mention his need. [Saheeh al-Bukhaari]
Therefore, Salat-ul-Istikhaarah is just two raka’aat of a non-obligatory prayer, prayed at anytime during the day, with a specific supplication at the end. While reciting the du’a, you should be thinking about the situation you want to be advised about with pure intentions and from the bottom of your heart. Then remember that Allaah 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 du’aa should be your decision. If you’re still in doubt, you can repeat.
Imaam an-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) wrote, “after performing the Istikhaarah, 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 Istikhaarah. 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 Shaytaan might try to deceive you in your dreams.
Salaat-ul-Istikhaarah 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-ul-Mustaqeem. The Prophet (peace be upon him) guidance regarding the Istikhaarah is for all Muslims, 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 towards the creation for guidance, we must begin to consult Allah, the Creator.
I cannot provide a better conclusion than advising that you must put your trust in Allah. You must have trust in His concern for us, and His ability to help us. Allah swt says in the Holy Quran,
Put your trust in Allâh, certainly, Allâh loves those who put their trust (in Him). [Surah Al-Imran Ayah 159]