Istikhara means to ask Allah to guide one to the right thing concerning any affair in one’s life, especially when one has to choose between two permissible alternatives, e.g. a career choice, getting married, etc.
Anytime a Muslim is making a decision, he or she should seek Allah’s guidance and wisdom, and the best way t do that is by praying Istikhara. Allah alone knows what is best for us, and there may be good in what we perceive as bad, and bad in what we perceive as good.
If you are ambivalent or unsure about a decision you have to make, there is a specific prayer for guidance (Salah-l-Istikhara) that you can do to ask for Allah’s help in making your decision. Should you marry this certain person? Should you attend this graduate school? Should you take this job offer or that one? Allah knows what is best for you, and if you are not sure about a choice that you have, seek His guidance.
Istikhara was strongly recommended by Prophet Muhammad ﷺ before undertaking any major decision.
Can be performed anytime of day when prayer is permitted, along with wudu.
Number Of Rakahs
2 rakahs of non-obligatory prayer (or Nafl) followed by the Istikhara du’a.
How To Pray
There are several methods from various sources on how to pray Istikhara. The following one is the most recommended by scholars, and the others are mentioned below.
Do Wudu, pray the 2 rakahs prayer, and then sit facing the qiblah, thinking about the topic you are concerned about, and recite:
Allahumma inni astakheeroka bi ilmik. Wa’astaq-diroka biqodratik. Wa’as’aloka min fadlikal-azeem. Fa’innaka taqdiru wala aqdir. Wata lamo wala-a lam. Wa’anta-allamul ghuyoob. Allahumma in kunta ta lamu anna (hathal-amra*) khayul-lee fi deenee wama ashi wa ajila amri wa’ajilah, faqdorho lee, wayassirho lee, thomma-barik lee fih. Wa’in konta ta lamo anna (hathal-amra*) sharrul-lee fi deenee. Wama ashi. Wa ajila amri. Wa’ajilaho. Fasrifho annee. Wasrifnee anh. Waqdur leyal-khayr haytho kan. Thomma ardini bih.
h Allah! I seek Your guidance 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.
Oh Allah! If in Your knowledge, (this matter*) is good for my religion, my livelihood and my affairs, immediate and in the future, then ordain it for me, make it easy for me, and bless it for me. And if in Your knowledge, (this matter*) is bad for my religion, my livelihood and my affairs, immediate and in the future, then turn it away from me, and turn me away from it. And ordain for me the good wherever it may be, and make me content with it.
There are some other methods and duas for istikhara. A full list can be found here on duas.org.
Seeing a dream
A lot of people believe you will see a dream that will tell you what to do. Although that can happen, the main thing is that Allah will make it (whatever you are concerned about) easier for you if it is good for you, or if it is not beneficial then he will remove you from it. You might experience a feeling, such as if you are worried about whether you should marry a certain person, if it is good for you Allah will give you a feeling if peace that you should marry that person, or you might see a dream, but most likely Allah will just help the situation seem clearer to you.
What to ask for
Some people think you should only pray when there is something specific you need guidance with, but a lot of people pray istikhara regularly, and just pray that Allah guides them in their day-t-day decisions and that whatever happens is beneficial for them.
How often to pray
It is recommended to pray istikhara once a day over as many days as possible to get a clearer indication.
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said, “Istikharah (seeking guidance from Allah) is one of the distinct favors (of Allah) upon man, and a good fortune for the son of Adam is to be pleased with the Judgement of Allah. And a misfortune of the son of Adam is his failure to make istikharah (seeking Allah’s guidance), and a misfortune for the son of Adam is his displeasure with the Judgement of Allah.”
– Source unknown