Bismillah Walhamdulillah Was Salaatu Was Salaam 'ala Rasulillah
As-Salaam Alaikum Wa-Rahmatullahi Wa-Barakatuhu
DESCRIPTION OF ISTIKHARAH
By Dr. Muhammad al-Jibaly and Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips
Islaam, being the natural way, recognizes the innate human need for help in making decisions and has protected the faith of its followers from corruption and given them a sense of contentment and peace in their daily lives by providing guidance in this regard. That guidance consists of clear instructions to the believers to put their trust ultimately in God whenever decisions are to be taken.
Istikharah means seeking good through putting ones complete trust in Allah. A believer should perform istikharah before starting any important undertaking. Since marriage is one of the most important decisions that a person takes, it is important for both the man and woman to perform istikharah before they give the final word that binds them together.
Jabir Bin Abdillah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that Allahs Messenger (peace be upon him) used to teach his companions to perform istikharah in all of their affairs - as though he was teaching them a surah from the Quran. He told them:
“When one of you is about to do something (important), let him pray two non-obligatory rakat and then say:
“Allahumma inni astakhiruka bi- 'ilmika, waastaqdiruka bi-qudratika, wa-as'aluka min fadlik al-azim, fa-'innaka taqdiru wa-la aqdir, wa-ta'lamu wala a'lam, wa-'anta 'allam ul-ghuyub. Allahumma in kunta ta'lamu anna hatha 'l-.'amra (and he names his intended affair) huwa khayrun li fi dini wa-ma'ashi, wa- 'aqibati amri wa- 'ajilihi wa- 'ajilihi, fa-qdurhu li, wa-yassirhu li, thumma barik li fih. Wa-in kunta ta'lamu anna hatha 'l-'amra huwa sharrun li fi dini wa-ma'ashi, wa-'aqibati amri wa.'ajilihi wa-'ajilihi, fa-srifhu 'anni wa-srifni 'anhu, wa-qdur liy-al-khayra haythu kan, thumma raddini bih -
O Allah, I ask You to choose for me with Your knowledge and decree for me with Your might, and I ask You of Your great favor. Indeed, You decree and I do not, and You know and I do not; You surely are the Knower of all that is hidden. O Allah, if You know that this affair (and he names it) is good for me in regard to my religion, my living, and its outcome --, both immediate and future, decree it, facilitate it, and then bless it for me. And if You know that this affair is harmful for me in regard to my religion, my living, and its outcome - both immediate and future, divert it from me and divert me from it, and decree for me good wherever it may be, and then make me content by it.
And indeed, never would he regret who asks the Creator to choose for him, and consults with the creation, and ascertains his actions.” [Saheeh Bukhaari, Volume 8, Book 75, Number 391
From this hadith, it is obvious that the istikharah is a special duaa that has the following characteristics:
1. It is said when intending to perform an important act, and just before embarking on that act, with the expectation that Allah will choose the best.
2. It is preceded with a voluntary prayer consisting of two rakaat. One may raise ones hands while saying it - as is recommended for any duaa.
3. After a person makes istikharah, he should undertake what he was planning to do before it. If that is good for Him, Allah would surely facilitate it, otherwise, He would bring about some circumstances to hinder it.
4. Contentment with its outcome may not be felt immediately, but will surely materialize with time.
In keeping with the instruction of the Prophet (peace be upon him), given in the above mentioned hadeeth, when faced with a choice between two or more Halaal (permissible) actions [Ibn Abee Jamrah quoted in Fat-h al-Baaree, p.188 ] a decision should be arrived upon using ones intellect and knowledge of Islaam. Having done this, one should then seek Allaahs guidance as to the choice that has been made by making a two unit prayer (at a permissible time
[The five prohibited times are: after the morning prayer (Salaatul-Fajr) until sunrise, while the sun is rising, when the sun reaches the meridian, after the afternoon prayer (Salaatul-Asr) until the setting of the sun and while the sun is setting]), after which the aforementioned supplication called duaa al Istikhaarah should be said.
Unfortunately, contrary to the instructions of the Prophet (peace be upon him), Muslims today depend entirely on the prayer to make their decisions for them. That is, they make the prayer and supplication prior to making any decision, and rely on dreams to provide the answers for them. It is even common for people to ask others to make Istikhaarah on their behalf. The prayer is often repeated, prior to sleeping, for a set number of days and dream books are consulted to interpret the symbols in their dreams. All of this has no basis in the methodology taught by the Prophet (peace be upon him). However this is not to say that a good dream may not be acted upon as confirmation of a decision, about which Istikhaarah was made.
MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT ISTIKHARAH
a. A misconception concerning istikharah is that it is made when a person is undetermined between two or more alternatives. It is clear from the above hadith that it should only be made after he had decided which of the alternative to undertake.
b. Some people think that one of the important requirements of istikharah is to perform it just before going to sleep, and that some dreams should indicate what to do.
c. Other people think that the istikharah puts in the heart an inclination toward the proper choice.
There is no basis for either of these two assumptions, and the above Hadith supports neither. In fact, the Hadith indicates that when, as a result of the istikharah, Allah hinders an affair that a person was about to undertake, that might bring some dislike into his heart, and he therefore asks Allah to give him contentment.