Istikharah: Prayer of Seeking for Goodness, How-to, & Why?
Translated By: Mrs. Salma Hashmi
Note: Written in light of the Qur’an and Sunnah and interpretations of the Salaf-e-Saliheen, this article was first published thirteen years ago in ” Bayyenat” ( A monthly magazine of Jamia Banuri Town, Karachi). As there are many grave misconceptions about Istikharah prevalent in our society this was an attempt to dispel these misconceptions. With only Allah Almighty’s blessings &, acceptance this article was repeatedly published in many magazines, journals, and newspapers of Pakistan and India. Now this detailed and complete article on Istikhara is presented here in English.
Meaning of Istikharah: Seeking goodness and benevolence
Istikharah is a word from the Arabic language, which means to “seek the best”; to seek goodness and benevolence in any matter, which means to turn towards Allah Ta’ala in any lawful matter which you may encounter in your daily routine life, to seek goodness, benevolence, and guidance from Allah in the related matter. If it is thought that the practice of Istikharah will give you a prediction about the future outcome of any matter, then it is a grave misconception and this reasoning has given rise to many misconceptions, which will be narrated in detail further ahead. Istikharah is a practice in accordance with the Sunnah, the method and prayer for performing Istikharah has been traditionally reported in the Ahadeeth of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). The Messenger (PUBH) of Allah would teach the Sahabah with essentiality the method of performing Istikharah prior to undertaking any task. Let’s contemplate upon the words of the Hadeeth, Hazrat Jabir bin Abdullah (RA) narrated that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) said:
إذا ھم أحدکم بالأمر فلیرکع رکعتین من غیر الفریضۃ (بخاری)۔
Translation: If anyone of you intends to do something, you should offer 2 rakahs Nafl Salah other than the Farz (compulsory) Salah.
Istikharah in the light of Hadith of the Holy Prophet (PBUH)
۱- عن جابر بن عبد اللہ قال کان رسول اللہ ﷺ یعلمنا الاستخارہ فی الأمور کلھا کما یعلمنا سورۃ من القرآن (ترمذی)۔
Translation: Hazrat Jabir bin Abdullah (RA) reported that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) of Allah would teach his Sahabah the performance of Istikharah before executing all tasks with such importance, as he would educate them about a surah of the Holy Quran.
Not performing Istikharah is deprivation and ill-fate
According to a Hadith the Holy Prophet (PBUH) said:
۲ – من شقوۃ ابن ادم ترکہ استخارۃ اللہ (مجمع الأسانید)۔
Translation: Not seeking Allah’s guidance through Istikharah is considered unfortunate and ill-fate for man.
Similarly, in a Hadeeth, Hazrat Saad bin Waqas (RA) has quoted the Messenger (PBUH) of Allah as follows:
۳- عن سعد بن وقاص عن النبی ﷺ قال : من سعادۃ ابن ادم استخارتہ من اللہ ، ومن شقاوتہ ترک الاستخارۃ ، ومن سعادۃ ابن ادم رضاہ بما قضاہ اللہ ، ومن شقوۃ ابن ادم سخطہ بما قضی اللہ (مشکوۃ)۔
Translation: It is blissful and fortunate for man to perform Istikharah for his tasks and ill-fate for him to abandon Istikharah, and it is in a man’s good fate to accept every decree ordained upon him by Allah, and it is unfortunate if he expresses grievance on Allah’s decree.
One who does Istikharah will not be unsuccessful
In a Hadith the Holy Prophet (PBUH) has said:
۴ – ما خاب من استخار وما ندم من استشار (طبرانی)۔
Meaning: A man who performs Istikharah for his transactions will never be unsuccessful, and a person who seeks advice for his dealings will never have to face embarrassment and regret as to why I undertook this task, or why I did not undertake this task, because he only undertook the task after seeking advice or did not undertake the task only after seeking advice, hence he will not be embarrassed.
In this Hadith, it is mentioned that one who performs Istikharah will not be unsuccessful, which means that as far as the result is concerned a person who does Istikhara must trust that he will definitely succeed. Even though at some point in time he might think the dealing that transpired was incorrect, however, in spite of this thought, a person who keeps on performing Istikharah with Allah Taa’la will be successful. Similarly, a person who will seek advice before undertaking a task will never regret, because God forbid if anything goes wrong, that person will have the satisfaction in his heart that he did not undertake the task solely on his own opinion or only on his own accord. Instead, he sought advice from his friends and elders prior to performing the task, now it is in Allah’s domain to decree as He wills. This is why the Holy Prophet (PBUH) has advised upon two things, that whenever faced with a dilemma prior to undertaking a task you should do two things:
- 1) Firstly, Istikharah meaning seeking goodness and benevolence from Allah Ta’ala.
- 2) Secondly, Istisharah meaning seeking advice.
Purpose of Istikharah
Maulana Syed Muhammad Yousuf Banuri (R.A) writes that:
“It should be clear that the purpose of Istikharah Masnoonah is that a person has performed the task which was assigned to him and has entrusted himself to Allah Ta’ala’s All-Encompassing Knowledge and Omnipotence. Hence, upon performing Isitkharah a person is relinquished from his responsibility. It is obvious that if a man seeks advice from an experienced, intelligent, and pious person, then that person will give him the correct advice and will also provide him assistance according to his capabilities. As though what is Istikharah? It is to seek counsel from Allah Ta’ala. To submit your plea in the form of Istikharah. Who is more merciful and generous than Allah Taa’la? His generosity is unsurpassed, knowledge is complete and authority is just. Now a situation that is beneficial in a man’s favor, Allah Ta’ala will give its opportunity, will provide guidance, then no need to contemplate, nor wish to see a dream. Whatever is best in his favor will happen. Even though its benefit may or may not be in his knowledge.
At the moment, he may or may not attain satisfaction and tranquillity. Eventually, only goodness will transpire. This is the meaning of Istikharah Masnoonah! This is why it is the prescribed routine procedure to follow for the entire Ummah till the Day of Judgement.” [Daur Hazir Kay Fitnay Aur Un Ka Ialaaj].
Wisdom of Istikharah
Shah Waliullah Dehlvi (R.A) has narrated two philosophies about Istikharah in his globally renowned book “Hujjatullah Al Balighah”:
1) Riddance from performing augury and its forbiddance
The first philosophy is that in the era of ignorance it was customary that if a significant task had to be performed, namely a voyage or a marriage or a big trade transaction, they would resort to augury using arrows. These arrows were in the possession of the priest of the Holy Kabbah. Some of these arrows had “أمرنی ربی” (my lord has given me a decree) written on them, and some had “نھانی ربی” (my lord has prohibited me) written on them, and some arrows were unmarked, nothing was written on these arrows. The priest would shake the bag and ask the person seeking an omen to put his hand in the bag and draw out an arrow.
If the arrow that said “amrne rabbee” (my lord has given me a decree) came out, then that person would perform the task, and if the arrow that said “nahane rabbee” (my lord has prohibited me) came out, then he would not perform the task, and if an unmarked arrow was picked then he would seek an omen again. Forbiddance from performing augury was revealed through Surah Maida ayah number 3, and there are two reasons for forbiddance:
- 1- This practice is baseless and is a mere coincidence. Whenever the hand is put in the bag, any arrow will definitely be picked.
- 2- Seeking an omen in this manner, this is a slanderous and false allegation against Allah Taa’la. When has Allah Taa’la decreed and when has He prohibited? And it is forbidden to slander Allah.
The Holy Prophet (PBUH) has preached Isitkhara to people instead of resorting to augury. The wisdom in this is that when an individual pleads for guidance to the All-Knowing Lord, he entrusts his matter with his Lord and is intensely desirous to inquire Allah’s will, and he rests on Allah Ta’ala’s doorstep, and his heart becomes suppliant, hence it is not possible that Allah Ta’ala will not provide guidance and help to His devotee. Allah Ta’ala widens the door of beneficence, and the secret surrounding the matter is revealed. Accordingly, Istikharah is not a mere coincidence, rather it has a solid foundation.
2) Resemblance with the angels
The second philosophy is that the greatest advantage of Istikharah is that a human being becomes angelical. The one who performs Istikharah abandons his personal opinion and submits his will to the will of Allah. His animalistic possession becomes dedicated to angelical qualities and his direction is completely inclined towards Allah so he develops a similarity with the angels. Angels administer Divine Intuition and when they have an intuition than with Divine Guidance, they spend all their effort in this matter. None of them are guided by their free will. Similarly, a person who frequently performs Istikharah gradually begins to resemble the angels. Hazrat Shah Sahab (RA) narrates that: To gain the resemblance of angels, this is infallible, tried, and tested formula whoever wants can attempt and see. [Hujjatullah Al Balighah].
Performing Istikharah in accordance with
the Sunnah and the right manner
According to Sunnah, the most simple and easy way of performing Istikharah is that any time (provided it is not a makruh time to offer Nafil) either during day or night offer two Rakat Nafil with the intention for Istikharah. Your intention should be that I am faced with this matter or problem, in this matter whichever path is favorable for me, may Allah Ta’ala grant that judgment.
After concluding the Nafil Salah, recite the prayer for Istikharah which is in accordance with Sunnah and was preached by the Holy Prophet (PBUH). This is a wondrous prayer. Only Allah Jalla Shanahu’s (The Most Sublime) Messenger (PBUH) could invoke this prayer; it is beyond anybody else’s capability. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) did not leave any aspect of life uncovered in this prayer. No matter how hard any person would have tried, he would never have been able to invoke a prayer like this which the Holy Prophet (PBUH) preached. If someone does not remember this prayer, they can look at the book and recite this prayer. If it is difficult to recite the prayer in Arabic then simultaneously recite the prayer in Urdu. The wordings of the prayer are the only wordings intended for it and are enough for the prayer. These wordings are as follows:
Prayer for Istikharah in accordance with the Sunnah
اَللّٰہُمَّ اِنِّیْ أَسْتَخِیْرُکَ بِعِلْمِکَ، وَ أَسْتَقْدِرُکَ بِقُدْرَتِکَ، وَ أَسْأَلُکَ مِنْ فَضْلِکَ الْعَظِیْمِ، فَاِنَّکَ تَقْدِرُ وَ لاَ أَقْدِرُ، وَ تَعْلَمُ وَلاَ أَعْلَمُ ، وَ أَنْتَ عَلاَّمُ الْغُیُوْبِ۔
اَللّٰہُمَّ اِنْ کُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ ھٰذَا الْأَمْرَ خَیْرٌ لِّیْ فِیْ دِیْنِیْ وَ مَعَاشِیْ وَ عَاقِبَۃِ أَمْرِیْ وَ عَاجِلِہٖ وَ اٰجِلِہٖ ، فَاقْدِرْہُ لِیْ ، وَ یَسِّرْہُ لِیْ ، ثُمَّ بَارِکْ لِیْ فِیْہِ ۔
وَ اِنْ کُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ ھٰذَا الْأَمْرَ شَرٌ لِّیْ فِیْ دِیْنِیْ وَمَعَاشِیْ وَ عَاقِبَۃِ أَمْرِیْ وَ عَاجِلِہٖ وَ اٰجِلِہٖ ، فَاصْرِفْہُ عَنِّیْ وَاصْرِفْنِیْ عَنْہُ ، وَاقْدِرْ لِیَ الْخَیْرَ حَیْثُ کَانَ ثُمَّ اَرْضِنِیْ بِہٖ۔ [بخاری،ترمذی ]۔
While reciting the prayer when you reach ھذا الامر “haza al amr” (this matter) [a line is drawn underneath it], if you know Arabic then think about your requirement and mention it, that is instead of saying “this matter”, address your specific matter at hand. For example, “this journey” or “this marriage contract” or “this trade” or “this transaction”, and if you don’t know Arabic then after saying “this matter” think and contemplate about your matter in your heart.
Meaning and elucidation of prayer for Istikharah
O, Allah! I seek Your guidance through Your knowledge and seek strength through Your power, and I beg You for Your magnificent grace because you have power and I do not have it, and You have the knowledge and I do not have it, and surely You are the best knower of things which belong to the Unseen.
O, Allah! if You know that this thing is better for me in terms of my faith and my worldly life and the outcome of my pursuit, then, make it come easy on me and thereafter make it blessed for me.
And if You know that this thing is bad for me in terms of my faith and my worldly life and the outcome of my worldly pursuit, then, make it stay away from me and make me stay away from it, and destine the better (alternative) for me in whatever way it may be, and then also make me be pleased with it.
How many times should Istikharah be performed?
Hazrat Anas (RA) narrates from a Riwayat that: “Holy Prophet (PBUH) said to me that”: “Anas! When you intend to undertake a task, then perform Istikharah seven times about it with Allah SWT. Then see what happens (its result) afterward. Whatever is transpired in your heart, that is, as a result of Istikharah whatever inspiration is sent towards you from the Court of Allah Ta’ala only adopt that as only that is better for you.” [Mazahir Haq]
It is better to perform Istikharah for three to seven days successively and with punctuality. Even after this, if ambiguity and doubt remain, then the practice of Istikharah must be kept continuous and constant. Until and unless you are inclined towards any one side, do not take any decisive action. In this situation, it is important to understand that there is no fixed timeline to perform Istikharah. Hazrat Umar (RA) performed Istikharah for one month, then after one month, he has ordained satisfaction of the heart. If the satisfaction of the heart were not ordained, then he would have further continued the performance of Istikharah. [Rahmatullah Al Wasiah]
Grand Mufti of Pakistan Maulana Mufti Muhammad Shafi (R.A) states that:
“The prayer for Istikharah means that keep on praying to Allah Taa’la for goodness. There is no penitence after performing Istikharah and it is not so as to seek advice, because advice is sought from friends. Istikharah is a practice in accordance with the Sunnah. Its prayer is well-known. When this prayer is recited, then within a period of seven days a predilection is deduced within the heart, however, it is not a compulsion by the Shariah that you must do if you see something in a dream, or follow this inclination of the heart. Those who ask others to do Istikharah on their behalf, this is nothing.
Some people have specified practices, turn the neck towards right or left, this is all incorrect. Yes, it is not sinful to ask someone else to perform Istikharah on your behalf, nevertheless, the wordings of its prayer are such that you should do it on your own”. [Majalis Mufti e Azam]
Result of Istikharah and indication of its acceptance
How will you receive guidance from Istikharah?
Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi (R.A) states that the only effect Istikharah has is that, a matter in which there is hesitance and doubt whether it is better to do it this way or that way? Or is it better to do this or not? Therefore, the practice of Istikharah in accordance with the Sunnah has two benefits:
- 1) The heart is satisfied upon one thing.
- 2) And reasons are rendered for this expedience, however, observance of a dream is not necessary in this. [Islah Inqilab Ummat]
Only the achievement of proclivity in Istikharah is proof that the Istikharah has been accepted. After this one should act upon its requirements. If proclivity and satisfaction towards any one side is still not achieved even after performing Istikharah many times, then along with Istikharah simultaneously do Ishtisharah, that is, seek advice from someone in this matter, nevertheless, it is not essential that proclivity is achieved in Istikharah. [Al Kalam Al Hasan]
Some people say that after performing Istikharah, a man’s heart is intuitively inclined towards one side. Just act towards this inclination and undertake that task, and this inclination is frequently achieved. However, suppose if inclination towards any one side is still not achieved, rather the heart is conflicted, even then the purpose of Istikharah is accomplished. This is so because after a person performs Istikharah, Allah Ta’ala ordains only that which is better in the person’s favor. After this such circumstances develop that only goodness transpires for that person and this is not even in the person’s knowledge beforehand. Sometimes a person thinks that a certain path is outstanding, however, suddenly hindrances arise and Allah Ta’ala turns that path away from that person. Consequently, after a person performs Istikharah, Allah Ta’ala creates such resources that only goodness transpires for that person. Now, goodness is in which matter? A person is not aware of it but Allah Ta’ala ordains his judgment.
The fact about Istikharah is only this much that you offer two Rakat Nafl Salah and pray to Allah Ta’ala. Then whatever happens further ahead will have beneficence. Good, if the task is accomplished! Good, if it is not accomplished! The direction towards which your heart becomes attentive and the matter for which benefits are being generated, be rest assured that only this is better for you, and if the heart becomes disinterested, or benefits are not generated, or benefits were available however after Istikharah they ceased to exist. If the task is not accomplished then be confident; have faith in Allah that this will be for my betterment. My inclination is very much towards a certain direction, however, Allah Ta’ala knows my profit and loss better than me. Think like this and InshAllah (if Allah wills) you will be satisfied. If the heart is not inclined towards any one direction, then keeping only the reasons in view, whatever decision will be taken, it will have goodness. God forbid that even after Istikharah, if any loss is incurred, nevertheless, maintain the strong belief that due to the blessing of Istikharah, Allah Ta’ala has saved you from a major loss via a minor loss. In the prayer for Istikharah, the mention of deen (the Islamic way of life) is primary and the material world is secondary. This is because the primary objective of man is deen, and in reality, the material world is subservient to deen.
In spite of performing Istikharah, if a loss is incurred, so?!
Here a question arises in the mind that, in spite of performing Istikharah for a task, still what if a loss is incurred? To understand the answer to this, be mindful of the following Riwayat:
عن مکحول الأزدی رحمہ اللہ قال : سمعت ابن عمر رضی اللہ عنہ یقول : إن الرجل یستخیر اللہ تبارک وتعالی فیختار لہ ، فیسخط علی ربہ عز وجل ، فلا یلبث أن ینظر فی العاقبۃ فإذا ھو خیر لہ (کتاب الزھد)۔
A Riwayat from Makhool Azdi (RA) states that: “I heard an instruction from Hazrat Abdullah bin Omar (RA), he said that: sometimes a man does Istikharah with Allah Ta’ala that the task which is good for me, may that task be accomplished, so Allah Ta’ala ordains authorization for him for that task which is better in his favor.”
However, extrinsically the person is unable to comprehend the ordained task, so the person becomes displeased with his Sustainer that, I asked Allah Ta’ala to seek the task which is good for me, but the task that I received does not seem good to me. It has distress and restlessness for me. Although, after sometime when the consequences come forward, then he realizes that, in reality, the judgment that Allah Ta’ala made for me, only that was better in my favor. At that point in time, he did not know and he was thinking that I have been wronged and oppressed. The fact of the matter is that sometimes the correctness of Allah Ta’ala’s judgment becomes evident in this world and at other times it will become evident in the Hereafter.
Now that the task has been accomplished, sometimes it extrinsically appears that the task which transpired does not seem to be beneficial. It is not in congruence with the heart. So now the person complains to Allah Ta’ala that, O Allah! I did Istikharah with you but the matter which has transpired is against my volition and temperament and apparently, this matter does not seem to be right. With regards to this Hazrat Abdullah bin Omar (RA) is stating that: “O imprudent! You are thinking with your limited intellect that this task is not favorable for you, but He Who possesses knowledge of the entire system of the universe knows what was better in your favor and what was not. He did only that which was better in your favor. Sometimes you will discover in this world that, what was better for you and at other times you will never find it out even in your entire life.
When he reaches the Afterlife then he will realize that in reality this is what was better for me.”
Actual benefit or loss is known to Allah, not you!
Allah Ta’ala has revealed in the Quran Al Kareem that:
وعسی أن تکرھوا شیئا وھو خیر لکم وعسی أن تحبوا شیئا وھو شر لکم واللہ یعلم وأنتم لا تعلمون
Translation: It could be that you dislike something when it is good for you, and it could be that you like something when it is bad for you. Allah knows, and you do not know.
Human insight and judiciousness, and strategy and effort fail frequently with regards to its consequences and results. It is not improbable that even the most prudent and wise person may comprehend something beneficial to be harmful and harmful to be beneficial. If every person takes a glance at incidences that occurred in their life, then they will see and realize that in their lifetime itself, there are many incidences where they were acquiring something that they thought was extremely beneficial, but eventually, they learned that it was exceedingly harmful.
Or they thought that something was extremely harmful and were abstaining from it, and ultimately it was discovered that it was extremely beneficial. The humiliation of human intellect and strategy in this matter keeps coming into observation frequently. [Ma’arif ul Quran]
Consider an example of this, for instance, there is a child who is wriggling in front of his mother and father that he wants to eat something and the mother and father know that at this point in time it is harmful and fatal for the child to eat that thing. Accordingly, the mother and father do not give that thing to the child. Now due to his imprudence, the child thinks that his mother and father have oppressed him. I did not get the thing I asked for, and instead of that, they made me eat bitter medicine. Now, the child does not think that this medicine is good in his favor. However, when the child grows up and Allah Ta’ala grants him intelligence and wisdom, and he gains understanding, then at that moment he will realize that I was asking for death for myself while my parents were seeking the path of life and health for me. Allah Ta’ala is more kind to his servants than a mother or father. That is why Allah Ta’ala authorizes that path which is ultimately better for his servant. Now sometimes its betterment is realized in this world and sometimes its betterment will not be discovered in this world.
How can this weak human being with his limited intellect perceive Allah Ta’ala’s judgments, only He knows what is better in which person’s favor? Man only looks extrinsically at a few things and complains to Allah Taa’la and expresses resentment towards Allah Ta’ala’s judgments. Nevertheless, the fact is that no one can ordain a better judgment than Allah Ta’ala as to what is favorable for whom and when is it better.
This is the reason that in this Hadith Hazrat Abdullah bin Omar (RA) states that when you have performed Istikharah for a task then afterward be satisfied with the notion that now whatever judgment is ordained by Allah Ta’ala, He will ordain the judgment for goodness only. Whether that judgment may apparently seem not good to you, however, with regards to consequences only that is going to be better. Then its’ betterment will be realized either in this world itself, otherwise, it will certainly be realized when the Hereafter is reached, that whatever judgment was ordained by Allah Ta’ala only that was better in my favor. [Islahi Khutbaat]
Few misconceptions and shortcomings about Istikharah
A lot of misconceptions have arisen amongst people regarding Istikharah due to remoteness from the teachings of the Quran and Sunnah, and lack of religious cognizance and awareness. Accordingly, Maulana Mufti Rasheed Ahmad (RA) states that:
“Now look, this [Istikharah] is such a simple task but even in this the Shaitaan has adhibit many traps:
- 1) First trap: one should offer two Rakats and without talking to anyone go to sleep. Sleeping is necessary otherwise the Istikharah will be in vain.
- 2) Second trap: he should lie down specifically on the right side.
- 3) Third trap: he should lie down towards the Qibla.
- 4) Fourth trap: after lying down, now he should wait for a dream. A dream will be observed during the Istikharah.
- 5) Fifth trap: is that if a certain color is seen in a dream then that task is better, some other color is seen so that is not better.
- 6) Sixth trap: which was adhibited is that an elderly person will come in this dream; wait for the elderly person so that he will come in the dream and tell everything. However, the thing to contemplate is who will be that elderly person? In the dream, if the Shaitaan himself comes in the form of an elderly person then how he will know whether this is the Shaitaan or an elderly person?
Remember that from these not a single thing is proven from the Hadeeth. Just without ascertaining these comments have been written in books by writers. May Allah Ta’ala have mercy on authors who have written these.” [Khutbaat Al Rasheed]
Being in a state of ablution, the direction towards the Qibla and laying on the right side is definitely among the etiquettes of sleep. However, before sleeping at night, it is not a prerequisite that Istikharah is performed thinking that the above-mentioned conditions are mandatory.
1) Istikharah is not only for a significant task
Usually, people think that Istikharah is only done for that task which is very significant and major, and where there are two ways in front of a person or that task in which a person has hesitance or doubt, Istikharah should be performed only for these tasks.
Accordingly, these days, only on certain occasions in their life, the common people are bestowed with the opportunity to perform the Sunnah practice of Istikharah. For example, Istikharah is done for matrimonial or for business transactions, that is it! Although we are seekers of goodness and benevolence from Allah Ta’ala on these few selected occasions, for all the other day and night affairs of life we are not concerned or bothered to seek goodness from Allah Ta’ala. Be well versed with the fact that Istikharah is not just for significant and major tasks, instead of in every task of yours, be it minor or major, seek goodness and benevolence from Allah Ta’ala. Similarly, it is not necessary even in Istikharah, that if there are hesitance and doubt in a task then only Istikharah should be performed. Nevertheless, even if there is no hesitance and there is only one possibility and only one path in this task, then also Istikharah should be performed. Wordings of a Hadeeth of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) are:
کان رسول اللہ ﷺ یعلمنا الاستخارہ فی الأمور کلھا (بخاری)۔
Meaning the Holy Prophet (PBUH) would educate the Sahabah about Istikharah that is to seek goodness from Allah in every matter.
2) There is no designated time for Istikharah
Some people comprehend that Istikharah must always be performed only at night while going to sleep or be performed only after Isha Salah. This is not a prerequisite. Rather, whenever one gets a chance, Istikharah should be performed at that time. Neither is there any constraint of the night nor is there any constraint of the day? Neither is there any constraint of sleeping, nor is there any constraint of awakening, provided it is not the makruh time for offering Nawafil.
3) It is not necessary to have a dream after Istikharah
Various types of misconceptions regarding Istikharah prevail amongst people. Normally people have this understanding that there are specific methods and specific acts for performing “Istikharah”. After this, you see a dream and a guideline is received in this dream whether to perform or not to perform a task. It must be understood with the conviction that this kind of circumstance does not exist in the Sunnah method of performing Istikharah which has been proven by the Holy Prophet (PBUH). Some people think that after performing Istikharah, an angel will descend from the sky, or there will be a revelation or intuition, or a dream will appear and through the dream, it will be revealed to us whether or not to undertake this task.
Remember! It is not necessary that a dream will appear, or that something will definitely be revealed in the dream or an indication will definitely be given in the dream. Sometimes it is revealed in a dream and at other times it is not revealed.
4) Ask somebody else to “draw Istikharah” on your behalf
It is necessary to rectify a mistake that people make with the subject of Istikharah, that is, a lot of people instead of performing Istikharah themselves, ask others to perform Istikharah on their behalf. They say, that you “draw the Istikharah” for us, just as a matter is portended, similarly draw the Istikharah as well. The intent of asking others to perform Istikharah depicts the same practice that the polytheists would do during the age of ignorance, and for the abolition and termination of which the Holy Prophet (PBUH) taught the Sahabah the salah and prayer for Istikharah. The reason for this happening is that people have started thinking, as though some monition is received through Istikharah or intuition is received as to what should be done? During the age of ignorance, the manner in which it was written on arrows to ascertain a matter, similarly nowadays this type of Istikharah is being done on the beads of a rosary. This method is absolutely wrong and the extremity that has been reached is that now the rife which has become prevalent amongst the common people is that Istikharah is being asked to be drawn on the television and radio. Albeit, Istikharah is to seek goodness and benevolence from Allah Ta’ala in your matter, and not to ascertain a monition.
The instruction from the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) is that the person whose task is at hand, that person must perform the Istikharah himself/herself. There is no evidence of asking others to perform Istikharah on one’s behalf. When the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was present in this world, at that time there was no one practicing the religion more than the Sahabah and even there was no one performing Istikharah better than the Holy Prophet (PBUH), nevertheless, till today it is not written anywhere that a Sahabi went and said to the Holy Prophet (PBUH) that you (PBUH) perform Istikharah on my behalf. The Sunnah method is that the person whose matter is at hand, must perform the Istikharah on his/her own; the blessing is in this.
5) “Does our Istikharah have reliance?”
People think that “we are transgressors, what is the reliability of our Istikharah?” This is why instead of performing Istikharah on their own accord, they ask some elderly person or a religious scholar, or a virtuous person to do Istikharah on their behalf considering that this will be a blessing. This creed and belief of people are incorrect. The concerned person must perform Istikharah on his/her own accord, whether he/she is virtuous or a transgressor. There is no fact with regards to asking others to perform Istikharah on one’s behalf. The same is also interpreted by the wordings of the prayer. The wordings of the prayer refer to the speaker in the first person. This is why the person whose task is at hand must perform the Istikharah by himself/herself. It is not unlawful to ask others to perform Istikharah on one’s behalf, however, it is also not better nor in accordance with the Sunnah. The safe method is the method of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) which is, the concerned person must perform by himself/herself.
6) We are transgressors!! How can we perform Istikharah?
No matter how great a transgressor a person is, he is still a servant of Allah and when the servant will invoke Allah, a response will definitely come. The Entity Whose decree is this: “Call Me, I will respond to you”, which means, invoke Me, I will accept your prayer. If we do not have faith in the aforementioned decree, then this is mistrusting the Greatest and Most Magnificent Entity. That Entity is such that, when the Shaitaan is being driven out of the heaven, is being cast off from a saint’s threshold, at that moment the Shaitaan prayed to Allah, Allah accepted his prayer. The One Who accepts Shaitaan’s prayer, will he not accept the prayer of us transgressors, and if someone performs Istikharah with the view that it is in accordance with the Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger (PBUH), then it is not possible that Allah will not listen to the prayer. Instead, He will definitely hear the prayer and will ordain goodness. Everyone’s prayers are heard in the Court of Allah. Yes, one must definitely refrain from sins so that the prayer is accepted soon.
The concept that transgressors cannot perform Istikharah often prevails amongst people. This concept is false and incorrect for two reasons:
- 1) First reason is that refraining from sins is under your own volition. Being Muslims, why are we, transgressors? If sin has ensued, then repent with sincerity; you will be cleansed of all sins. You are no more a transgressor; you are now included in the group of virtuous people. Allah Ta’ala has cleansed you with the beneficence of repentance. Now value this blessing of Allah and subsequently do not intentionally commit a sin.
- 2) Secondly the Shariah has not stipulated any such conditions for Istikharah, that a person who is a transgressor must not perform Istikharah and only a Waliullah should perform Istikharah. If the Shariah has not stipulated this condition, then why do you raise this condition on your own accord? The Shariah decrees that whomsoever has the need must perform Istikharah on their own, whether he is a transgressor or a pious person. Whosoever he is, he must perform Istikharah by himself. The common public says that Istikharah must be performed by the elderly, hence, professional people who deduce Istikharah also started to think that yes this is the way it is! What they are saying is correct. We are supposed to perform Istikharah. The common public is not supposed to perform Istikharah. Instead of reprimanding the common public for this mistake, they became an accomplice to this mistake. Whomsoever goes to them, they are sitting prepared, yes bring it to us! We will “deduce” your Istikharah, and instead of saying perform Istikharah, they say “deduce Istikharah”. Remember this is an incorrect practice, and reparation of this incorrect practice is obligatory.
7) Findings of an event that occurred in the past or will occur in the future by means of Istikharah
Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi (RA) says that: “The fact about Istikharah is that if there is any hesitance in judiciousness or injudiciousness of a task then recite the particular prayer and direct your attention towards Allah Ta’ala. Consider that thought which comes to your heart with resoluteness and steadfastness as goodness. The purpose of Istikharah is to eliminate hesitance and doubt, it is not to find out the outcome of a future event.
Some people say that the intention of Istikharah is to find out the outcome of an event that happened in the past or of an event that will occur in the future. Istikharah is not narrated in the Shariah with this purpose, instead, it is merely to clear any hesitance and doubt that may occur prior to performing or not performing a task. Nor it is to find out about events, instead, it is unlawful to even believe in the benefit and result of these types of Istikharah.” [Aghlaat Al Awaam]
8) Finding out about robber or interpreting something in a dream through Istikharah
It should be remembered that as one cannot know about an event that occurred in the past whence Istikharah, likewise one cannot ascertain the outcome of an event that will occur in the future either. If someone believes that the intention of Istikharah is for this purpose, then they must make reparations for this incorrect opinion, that this is absolutely false credence. For instance, if someone is robbed, then performing Istikharah with the intention of knowing who the robber is, is not lawful nor beneficial. Some kinds of Istikharah are associated with some elderly people in which an event is explicitly or implicitly seen in a dream. However, this is not Istikharah, it is merely an act of seeing a dream, and its influence is also not compulsory. A dream is sometimes seen and at other times it is not seen, and if a dream is observed, then it is dependent on interpretation. Even if a dream is seen with clarity, its interpretation will be uncertain and not definite. There are innumerable doubts in this; hence it is a misnomer to call it Istikharah if this name is quoted by these elderly scholars, or else they are common mistakes. [Islah Inqilaab Ummat]
9) Perform Istikharah prior to the intention of undertaking a task
It is not the method of Istikharah to intend the undertaking of a task and then also perform Istikharah perfunctorily. Istikharah must be performed prior to the intention of undertaking a task so that the heart attains tranquillity towards one side. People make big mistakes in this. Istikharah is beneficial for that person who is clear-minded, or else the heart becomes inclined towards the thoughts which are already filled in the mind and that person becomes and remains a victim of the misapprehension that this matter has transpired whence Istikharah.
10) Performance of Istikharah is only for lawfully permissible tasks
One thing that must be understood is that the basis of Istikharah is for lawful acts. Istikharah must only be done for those tasks which are lawful meaning legally permissible. There is no need for Istikharah in those things which Allah has made obligatory (Farz) or are compulsory (wajibaat and Sunnan Muakkadah).
Similarly, there is no need to perform Istikharah for those tasks which have been deemed forbidden and unlawful by Allah and His Messenger (PBUH). For instance, someone who performs Istikharah that whether I should perform Salah or not perform?
Whether I should observe fast or not observe? There is no requirement for performing Istikharah here. Allah Ta’ala has made these tasks obligatory (Farz). Or someone performs Istikharah about whether I should drink alcohol or not? Should I take the bribe or not? Should I deal in business transactions of video films or not deal? Should I deal in interest (usury) based transactions or not deal? Hence, Istikharah will also not be performed for all these prohibited acts. Instead, all these acts are forbidden. Istikharah must be performed for those things which are permissible actions. Istikharah is not required for acquiring lawful livelihood and for financial gains because these are duty-bound. Istikharah should be performed for acquiring permissible livelihood by undertaking employment or undertaking trade? Trade should be done in clothing materials or food provisions? Now Istikharah is required here. Similarly, if you have to go for Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah), then do not perform Istikharah whether you should go for Hajj or not go? Instead, perform Istikharah that whether you should go on a certain day or not?
Istikharah for matrimonial proposals
Matrimonial matter is different from other common matters. This matter does not only concern children but is also the concern of parents. Only the parents can select the right proposal. This is their responsibility and they have to deliberate with regards to the future as to where their children should get married? That is why it is better for those girls and boys whose matrimonial matter is at hand that they perform Istikharah on their own accord, and if their parents are alive then they should also perform Istikharah.
Istikharah is the solution to salvation from all kinds of difficulty, distress and trials
Maulana Syed Mohammad Yousuf Banuri (RA) writes that:
“In present times the atrocious way in which unity of the Ummah has been scattered, there seems no possibility of its unification in the near future. Since the way for Istisharah is closed, now only the way remaining is for Istikharah.
It was narrated in Hadeeth Shareef:
ما خاب من استخار وما ندم من استشار
Translation: One who does Istikharah will not be unsuccessful and a loser and one who does Istisharah will not be penitent and embarrassed.
This should be the common practice amongst the general public that if someone cannot stay neutral in these trials and tribulations, then he should adopt the Sunnah method of performing Istikharah and act upon it accordingly, and it is expected that after performing Istikharah, the step taken will be in the right direction.
The meaning of masnoon Istikharah is that when a person is astounded and undecided about a matter, and a manifest and clear facet is not visible to him, his knowledge is bereft of guidance and his lack of strength does not allow him to better perform an action, then he requests in Allah Ta’ala’s court of Mercy and Kindness and he prays to Haq Ta’ala’s court through the paths of reliance on Allah, entrusting Allah, acknowledges and is satisfied with the Will of Allah that Allah provides him a helping hand and guidance, and provides him the ability to proceed in a better manner. (Ameen)” [Daur Hazir Kay Fitnay Aur Unka ilaaj]
Fabricated and fictious ways of performing Istikharah and their evils
In today’s era, Muslims have by themselves fabricated many such methods of Istikharah which are not even remotely related to the Masnoon method of performing Istikharah. The method of Istikharah which was narrated by Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) is in fact the method ordained by Allah Ta’ala, which Allah Ta’ala conveyed to the people through His Messenger (PBUH). However, the people honored it by shelving it and contrived many methods on their own accord. The method of Istikharah taught by Allah Ta’ala to His Messenger (PBUH) is the exact same method Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) taught his Ummah, and he (PBUH) taught this method with such diligence just as a Surah from the Quran is taught.
However, Muslims of today have fabricated various methods of their own preference in confrontation with the method commanded by Allah Ta’ala. They do not have confidence in the method stipulated by Allah’s Messenger (PBUH). Hence none of those methods are in accordance with the Sunnah. Some involve keeping something beneath the pillow, some are to do with turning off the head, some are to read on a rosary, etc. None of these methods are proven from the Sunnah, instead, there is a risk of doubt in these methods. It is unknown that Allah may or may not like the abandoning of the Sunnah method of Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) and adopting other methods.
Due to shortage of time and urgency of decision, there is another
method of performing Istikharah in accordance with Sunnah
A detailed method of performing Istikharah in accordance with the Sunnah has been elucidated in the preceding elaboration. However, we are in awe that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) even suggested a concise method of Istikharah in case of shortage of time and urgency of decision so that we are not bereft of Istikharah. The Masnoon method of Istikharah which has been detailed previously is for the occasion when a person has the time and opportunity to perform Istikharah.
At that time, perform ablution and offer two Rakahs of Nafil salah, then recite the Masnoon prayer for Istikharah. Many times a person has to make so quick and immediate decisions, that there is no chance of even offering two Rakahs and reciting the prayer because suddenly a matter has arisen and it requires an immediate decision whether to do it or not to do it. When there is no time at all to even offer two Rakahs of Nafil and do Istikharah, so for that occasion the Holy Prophet (PBUH) himself preached a supplication, which is as follows:
اَللّٰہُمَّ خِرْ لِیْ وَاخْتَرْ لِیْ[کنز العمال]۔
Translation: O Allah! choose and select for me (the better of the two things).
Just recite this supplication.
Other than this, there is another supplication that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) has preached, which is as follows:
اَللّٰہُمَّ اہْدِنِیْ وَسَدِّدْنِیْ[صحیح مسلم]۔
Translation: O Allah! Direct me to the Right Path and make me adhere to the Straight Path.
Likewise, there is another Masnoon supplication:
اَللّٰہُمَ اَلْہِمْنِیْ رُشْدِیْ[ترمذی]۔
Translation: O Allah! Inspire in me guidance (to make the correct decisions and best decisions in times of dilemma)
From these supplications, whichever supplication you remember, recite it at that time. If you do not remember the supplication in Arabic then make the prayer in Urdu that, O Allah! I am faced with this dilemma, You show me the right path. If you cannot say it with your tongue, then say it to Allah Ta’ala in your heart that, O Allah! I am faced with this difficulty and perplexity, You guide me unto the right path, that path which is in accordance with Your Will and which has good for me in it.
Throughout his lifetime, it was customary for Grand Mufti of Pakistan Maulana Mufti Mohammad Shafi (RA) that whenever he faced a matter which required immediate decision that there are these two courses of action, from these a single course of action has to be adopted, then at this time he would momentarily close his eyes. Now a person who is unaware of his habit will not even know that what is going on with closed eyes. However, in reality, he would close his eyes and very briefly he would direct his attention towards Allah Ta’ala and in his heart, he would pray to Allah Ta’ala that, O Allah! I am faced with a dilemma in this matter. I do not understand which decision should I take. You strengthen my heart with that thing which is better in close proximity to You. Just within the heart, this short and brief Istikharah is done.
Dr. Abdul Hai Aarfi (RA) used to say that, Allah Ta’ala definitely helps that person who directs his attention towards Allah Ta’ala before undertaking every task, because you have no idea what you have accomplished within this one moment. This means that within this one moment you have established a relationship with Allah Ta’ala. You have established your own connection with Allah Ta’ala. You have asked Allah Ta’ala for goodness and requested the right path for yourself. The outcome of this is that on one side you have found the right path and secondly you have also been rewarded for establishing a connection with Allah Ta’ala and you have also received the Divine reward for offering the prayer. This is because Allah Ta’ala likes it very much that the person requests Me on these occasions and also grants him special Divine rewards. Hence, a human being should make it a habit to request Allah Ta’ala. From morning till evening, a person is faced with innumerable incidents where he has to decide whether to perform a task or not. At this time, immediately request Allah Ta’ala for a moment, O Allah! Strengthen my heart with that thing which is in accordance with Your Will. [Islahi Khutbaat]
In short, Istikharah is the Masnoon (in accordance with the Sunnah) way of asking for goodness and seeking benevolence from Allah Ta’ala. Therefore, an effort should be made to ensure that only Istikharah’s original manner and vital principle is maintained which is clearly narrated by the Islamic Shariah. Instead of merely listening to heresy, one should seek guidance from respected religious scholars.
I pray that Allah Ta’ala guides all of us to understand the true meaning of Deen, to practice it, and make us the ones to practically establish it on the surface of Earth. Ameen.
To read this article in Urdu, click on the link below: