Istikhara: Seeking Guidance from Your Lord Before Making Decisions

Feeling lost is a common experience in life's many crossroads. We often find ourselves at a loss, unsure of whom to turn to for guidance amidst the uncertainties of human advice. People, burdened with their own concerns or distracted by their moods, may not always lend a sympathetic ear or offer the wisdom we seek. Yet, in His boundless mercy, Allah is always there to listen, no appointment necessary.

In those moments of confusion, whether it's in career choices, matters of the heart, or even the simple decisions of daily life, we are reminded of Istikhara, the beautiful act of seeking guidance from the Divine. Istikhara is more than just a prayer; it's a heartfelt plea for clarity, a surrender of our worries, and a reaffirmation of our trust in Allah's wisdom.

Through Istikhara, we embody the essence of submission to the Almighty, recognizing that He alone holds the answers we seek. It's a humbling acknowledgment that no human counsel can compare to the guidance and compassion of the Creator. So, as we navigate life's twists and turns, let us find solace in the knowledge that Allah hears our prayers, guiding us with His divine wisdom and unfailing love.

Hardly does a small or significant event occur without one resorting to the prayer of Istikhara, seeking goodness from Allah. Narrated by Jabir ibn Abdullah, may Allah be pleased with him, the Prophet Muhammad , peace be upon him, instructed us in Istikhara for all matters as he would teach us a chapter from the Quran.

Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, in "Fath al-Bari," illustrates the vastness of Istikhara, encompassing matters of great and small consequence, as sometimes a minor issue may lead to significant outcomes. And Al-Ayni, in "Umdat al-Qari," emphasizes the generality of Istikhara, advising against limiting it to rare or trivial matters, urging Muslims to seek Allah's guidance in all decisions. 

Even Umm-al-Mua’mineen Zaynab bint Jahsh, may Allah be pleased with her, sought Istikhara when the Prophet proposed marriage to her, demonstrating its relevance even in those matters which are good apparently. 

And Al-Nawawi commented on that in his commentary on Sahih Muslim (9/224):

"In it lies the recommendation of performing the prayer of Istikhara for anyone who is concerned about a matter, whether it appears to be good or not. This is in line with the hadith narrated by Jabir in Sahih al-Bukhari where he said: 'The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, taught us Istikhara for all matters.' Perhaps Zaynab sought Istikhara out of fear of falling short in fulfilling the rights of the Prophet, peace be upon him."

Thus, it is erroneous to confine Istikhara to exceptional circumstances. Instead, it underscores the importance for Muslims to turn to Allah and seek His guidance in every aspect of their lives, just as the Prophet advised.

Timing of Isthikara prayer and method of performing it

The prayer of Istikhara consists of two voluntary units (rakats), performed with the intention of seeking guidance from Allah, at times other than those prohibited for prayer. There isn't a specific time designated for Istikhara; rather, it's permissible for a Muslim to perform it whenever a matter weighs heavily on them and they seek Allah's guidance regarding it. However, it's important to note that Istikhara should not be performed during disliked times, such as after Fajr until the sun rises to the height of a spear's length, before Zuhr when the sun is at its zenith, and after Asr until sunset.

During Istikhara, the individual may recite any portion of the Quran they choose after Surah Al-fatiha in each raka’at. But It's recommended to recite " (Surah Al-Kafirun) in the first unit and (Surah Al-Ikhlas) in the second. These selections symbolize sincerity of desire, truthfulness of delegation, and acknowledgment of dependence on Allah.

Some scholars suggest adding specific verses after Al-Fatiha in each unit. In the first unit, one may recite: 

﴿وَرَبُّكَ يَخْلُقُ مَا يَشَاءُ وَيَخْتَارُ مَا كَانَ لَهُمُ الْخِيَرَةُ سُبْحَانَ اللهِ وَتَعَالَى عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ ۝ وَرَبُّكَ يَعْلَمُ مَا تُكِنُّ صُدُورُهُمْ وَمَا يُعْلِنُونَ﴾ [القصص: 68-69]

  1. Your Lord creates whatever He wills, and He chooses. The choice is not theirs. Glory be to Allah, and exalted be He above the associations they make.
  2. And your Lord knows what their hearts conceal, and what they reveal. (Surah Al-Qasas, 28:68-69). 

In the second unit, the verse:

﴿وَمَا كَانَ لِمُؤْمِنٍ وَلَا مُؤْمِنَةٍ إِذَا قَضَى اللهُ وَرَسُولُهُ أَمْرًا أَنْ يَكُونَ لَهُمُ الْخِيَرَةُ مِنْ أَمْرِهِمْ وَمَنْ يَعْصِ اللهَ وَرَسُولَهُ فَقَدْ ضَلَّ ضَلَالًا مُبِينًا﴾ [الأحزاب: 36]

 "It is not for a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter, that they should [thereafter] have any choice about their affair. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger has certainly strayed into clear error" (Surah Al-Ahzab, 33:36).

Supplication of Istikhara

The supplication should be made after completing the prayer and beginning with praise and glorification. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "When one of you is considering a matter, let them pray two units of voluntary prayer (nafl) other than the obligatory prayers, then say: 'O Allah, I seek Your guidance through Your knowledge...' until the end." It is recommended to raise one's hands and supplicate after the two units of prayer. But is someone wants in Sujood or after Tashahud before completing prayer, he can use this recommended supplication there also. 

After completing the two rakat’s prayer, one should raise his hands, praise Allah, send blessings upon the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and then make their specific supplication. The Prophet says:  "When one of you supplicates, let them begin by praising their Lord and adoring him, then sending blessings upon the Prophet (peace be upon him), then supplicating for whatever they wish"

Here is the text of supplication as reported by Jabir in the above-mentioned hadith. 

اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْتَخِيرُكَ بِعِلْمِكَ وَأَسْتَقْدِرُكَ بِقُدْرَتِكَ، وَأَسْأَلُكَ مِنْ فَضْلِكَ الْعَظِيمِ، فَإِنَّكَ تَقْدِرُ وَلاَ أَقْدِرُ وَتَعْلَمُ وَلاَ أَعْلَمُ وَأَنْتَ عَلاَّمُ الْغُيُوبِ، اللَّهُمَّ إِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الأَمْرَ خَيْرٌ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي فَاقْدُرْهُ لِي وَيَسِّرْهُ لِي ثُمَّ بَارِكْ لِي فِيهِ، وَإِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الأَمْرَ شَرٌّ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي فَاصْرِفْهُ عَنِّي وَاصْرِفْنِي عَنْهُ، وَاقْدُرْ لِي الْخَيْرَ حَيْثُ كَانَ ثُمَّ أَرْضِنِي بِهِ

Transliteration of the Supplication 

Allāhumma innī astakhīruka biʿilmi-ka wa astaqdirūka bi-qudratika, wa as'alūka min faḍlika al-ʿaẓīm. Fa innaka taqdiru wa lā aqdiru wa taʿlamu wa lā aʿlamu wa anta ʿallāmu al-ghuyūb. Allāhumma in kunta taʿlamu anna hādha al-amra (mention your issue here) khayrun li fī dīnī wa maʿāshī wa ʿāqibati amrī, faqdirhu lī wa yassirhu lī thumma bārik lī fīhi. Wa in kunta taʿlamu anna hādha al-amra (mention your issue here) sharrun li fī dīnī wa maʿāshī wa ʿāqibati amrī, fasrifhu ʿannī wa srifnī ʿanhu, waqdir li al-khayra haythu kāna thumma arḍinī bihi.

Translation of the Supplication 

"O Allah, I seek Your guidance through Your knowledge, and I seek Your assistance through Your power, and I ask You from Your immense bounty. Indeed, You have power, and I do not have power, and You know, and I do not know, and You are the Knower of the unseen.

O Allah, if You know that this matter (mention your matter here) is good for me in terms of my religion, my livelihood, and the outcome of my affairs, then decree it for me, facilitate it for me, and bless me in it. And if You know that this matter (mention your matter here) is bad for me in terms of my religion, my livelihood, and the outcome of my affairs, then turn it away from me, and turn me away from it, and decree for me what is good wherever it may be, and make me pleased with it."

Making Decision After Istikhara 

After Istikhara, people find themselves in diverse situations: very rarely some might experience a dream guiding their decision. Others may feel an inner inspiration favoring one option, but this insight is reserved for those aware of its occurrence. There are those whose hearts feel at ease with a certain choice, following the path of least resistance. 

Yet, some may lose all signs, left in a state of confusion, unsure of their next steps. In such moments, repeating Istikhara is advised. Seeking counsel from people of wisdom and virtue is also encouraged. Afterward, they should act upon the guidance received. Seeking advice is a known practice, as is seeking the wisdom of others. 

Ultimately, whatever path is chosen thereafter becomes their destiny, even if later they find aspects of it unsettling. Indeed, Allah's wisdom in matters may not be immediately apparent, revealing itself only in due time.


The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily mirror Islamonweb’s editorial stance.

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