What is Istikharah and How do I perform it?

By Yūsuf Badāt

What is Istikhārah?

Istikhārah literally means to seek the good. – (See: Lisān Al-ʿArab). In a religious technical context it refers to seeking good from the Almighty to make an appropriate decision, through formal prayer and a specified supplication. – (See: Qāmūs Al-Fiqh)

What is the Status of Istikhārah? 

Istikhārah is a sunnah (prophetic practice) –  (See: Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhārī)

When Does One Do Istikhārah?

Istikhārah is conducted when there is ambiguity and or confusion, in moving forward or deciding an islamicaly permissible matter, such as the purchase of a vehicle, accepting a marriage proposal or relocating to another city. There is no istikhārah in matters that are already known to be positive or clearly sinful, such as giving charity or committing theft. – (See: Ḥujjat-Allāhi Al-Bālighah)

What is the Istikhārah Supplication?

اللَّهُمَّ إنِّي أَسْتَخِيرُكَ بِعِلْمِكَ وَأَسْتَقْدِرُكَ بِقُدْرَتِكَ وَأَسْأَلُكَ مِنْ فَضْلِكَ الْعَظِيمِ فَإِنَّكَ تَقْدِرُ وَلا أَقْدِرُ وَتَعْلَمُ وَلا أَعْلَمُ وَأَنْتَ عَلامُ الْغُيُوبِ اللَّهُمَّ إنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الأَمْرَ خَيْرٌ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي فَاقْدُرْهُ لِي وَيَسِّرْهُ لِي ثُمَّ بَارِكْ لِي فِيهِ اللَّهُمَّ وَإِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الأَمْرَ شَرٌّ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي فَاصْرِفْهُ عَنِّي وَاصْرِفْنِي عَنْهُ وَاقْدُرْ لِي الْخَيْرَ حَيْثُ كَانَ ثُمَّ ارْضِنِي بِهِ)

“Allāhumma innī astakhīruka biʿilmika, wa astaqdiruka bi-qudratika, wa asʾaluka min faḍlika al-ʿadhīm fa-innaka taqdiru walā aqdiru, wa taʿlamu walā aʾalamu, wa anta ʿallāmul-ghuyūb. Allāhumma, in kunta taʾlamu anna hadhalamra khayrun lī fī dīnī wa maʿāshī waʿāāqibati amrī faqdirhu wa yas-sirhu lī thumma bārik lī fīh, wa in kunta taʿlamu anna hadhalamra sharrun lī fī dīnī wa maʿāāshī waʿāāqibati ʿamrī faṣrifhu ʿannī waṣrifnī anhu. waqdir lī alkhayra ḥaithu kāna thumma arḍinī bih.”

“O Allāh! I seek guidance from your knowledge, and power from your might, and I [also] ask for your great blessings. You are capable and I am not. You know [what is best for me] and I do not. You know the unseen. O Allāh! If you know that this matter is good for my religion, my sustenance and my hereafter, then ordain it for me and make it easy for me to attain thereafter bless me in it. If you know that this matter is harmful to me for my religion, sustenance and my hereafter, then keep it away from me and let me turn away from it, thereafter ordain for me whatever is good for me, and satisfy me with it.” – (See: Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhārī)

What is the Step by Step Procedure of Istikhārah?

  • Perform ablution (wuḍū).
  • Perform two units of optional (nafl) prayer.  
  • Have a clear mind when making istikhārah, not leaning to one particular matter.
  • Recite the istikhārah supplication  
  • Place your full trust in God and proceed with what you feel is the best action after also consulting others.

(See: Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhārī, Mirqāt Al-Mafātīḥ, Al-Dur Al-Mukhtār, Qāmūs Al-Fiqh)

How Many Days Can One Do Istikhārah for?

Jurists have stated that one can perform istikhārah for 3 days or maximum 7 days. – (See: Al-Dur Al-Mukhtār, Qāmūs Al-Fiqh)

Is There a Time When Istikhārah Cannot Be Done?

  • Avoid the istikhārah two units of prayer during the makrūh (disliked) timings for prayer [namely, after fajrto sunrise, when the sun is at it’s zenith at midday and after ʿaṣr up to sunset).  
  • Sisters should not perform the istikhārah two units of prayer during menses and post-natal bleeding.

(See: Al-Dur Al-Mukhtār)

What Should I Do If I Have Not Memorized the Istikhārah Supplication?

The istikhārah supplication can be read on a device or from a printed document after the two units of prayer. – (See: Al-Mawsūʿah Al-Fiqhiyyah)

Will I See a Dream After Conducting the Istikhārah?

It is not necessary to see a dream, nor is it necessary to have a particular feeling. After the procedure of istikhārah, do what one feels is the best action, knowing that the best outcome is what the Almighty has decided.  – (Al-Dur Al-Mukhtār, Qāmūs Al-Fiqh)

Is There Anything Else I Need to do After Istikhārah?

Istikhārah should always be coupled with consultation (shūra). Consult with loved ones, experts and responsible individuals. – (See: Al-Taʾlīq Al-Ṣabīḥ)

Can Someone Else Conduct Istikhārah on my Behalf?

Even though some have permitted istikhārah on behalf of another person, many islamic jurists are of the view that one should not be making istikhārah for another. The most genuine and accurate istikhārah is of the very person who needs clarity and divine help in deciding a particular matter.  – (See: Al-Fawākih Al-Dawānī)

“The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to teach us the way of doing istikhārah, in all matters as he taught us the chapters of the Qurʾān. He instructed, “If anyone of you thinks of doing any task they should offer a two unit optional prayer and say the supplication [of istikhāra ].”
(Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhārī)

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