Istikhara: The Guidance Prayer
by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Several people I know are confused on the topic of salat ul- Istikhara. Is it meant to be prayed several days in a row until a decision is made, or only once? Is it meant to be prayed after one has pretty much made up their mind, or when someone hasn’t really figured out what to do? Are their various valid opinions?
When one is not clear about the result of the istikhara, the fuqaha mention that it is recommend to repeat it, upto 7 times if necessary (usually done on separate occasions). [cf: Radd al-Muhtar]
It is not necessary that you get a dream or even a “feeling.” Rather, the istikhara is a prayer that Allah guide you towards that which is best (khayr) for you. If you do the prayer of guidance (istikhara) with the proper manners, the most important of which is to truly consign the matter to Allah and suspend your own inclinations, then Allah will make events unfold in the direction that is the best for your worldly and next-worldly affairs.
In general, when it is not possible to perform the istikhara prayer itself (such as when one is out on the road, or in one’s menstrual period), it is recommended to simply read the dua itself. [Radd al-Muhtar]
The istikhara prayer may be made for a specific matter or be made for a general seeking of all that is best. Some scholars, including Imam Abd al-Wahhab al-Sha`rani and Ibn `Arafah before him saw this kind of istikhara prayer as being superior. Others, including Shaykh Ibn al-Arabi, recommended performing a general istikhara prayer for all that is good every day, ideally at the time of the Duha prayer (after sunrise).
Imam al-Nawawi mentioned that before the istikhara prayer, one should seek advice (istishara) from those whose knowledge, wisdom, and concern one is confident. Ibn Hajar al-Haytami and others mentioned that one of the benefits of this is to further distance oneself from the desires of one’s own egotistic inclinations.
It is recommended to open the dua of istikhara [below], with praise of Allah and sending blessings on the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace), and to close it in this manner, too.
Like other duas, it is recommended that one face the qibla.
It is disliked to ‘hasten’ in seeking the answer to one’s istikhara, like other duas, because the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) said, “Your prayers are answered, unless you hasten, saying, ‘I prayed, but no answer came.’”
One should be pleased with what Allah chooses for one, and not seek to follow one’s whims after the answer to one’s supplication becomes clear.
There is a pious lady in our community who has offered to pray istikhara for me to help me make a decision for marriage…. [ .... ] my question to you is if you know if this idea of relying on someone else’s istikhara is a good idea and compatible with the teachings of Islam on how to make dua and decisions. should I follow her advice (according to her dreams and feelings) to me on this issue or not?
This is one means you can take: to seek the istikhara of a pious person. The permissibility of this was mentioned explicitly by the Malikis and Shafi`is. The Hanafis do not appear to have discussed this issue [al-Mawsu`a al-Fiqhhiyya, Kuwait], but there is nothing in it that would indicate its impermissibility. Rather, it is merely the taking of a means, which is permitted as long as one knows that the one who gives and takes, benefits and harms is Allah alone.
In such cases, though, one should not leave doing the istikhara oneself…
CONCERNING THE RITUAL PRAYER FOR GUIDANCE IN CHOOSING THE BEST OPTION [SALAT AL-ISTIKHARA], AND THE PRAYER OF SUPPLICATION [DU'A'] APPROPRIATE TO IT.
According to a traditional report transmitted on the authority of Muhammad ibn al-Munkadir, it was Jabir ibn ‘Abdi’llah (may Allah be well pleased with him and with his father) who said:
“Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) used to teach us how to seek guidance in choosing the best option available in a practical enterprise [al-istikhara fi 'l-amr], just as he would sometimes teach us a Chapter [Sura] from the Qur’an. :
“‘If one of you is concerned about some practical undertaking, or about making plans for a journey, he should perform two cycles of ritual prayer [rak'atain], not as an obligatory observance [farida], but voluntarily. Then he should say:
‘”O Allah, I ask You to show me what is best, through Your knowledge, and I ask You to empower me, through Your power, and I beg You to grant me Your tremendous favor, for You have power, while I am without power, and You have knowledge, while I am without knowledge, and You are the One who knows all things invisible.
Allahumma inni astakhiru-ka bi-’ilmi-ka wa astaqdiru-ka bi-qudrati-ka wa as’alu-ka min fadli-ka ‘l-’azim fa-inna-ka taqdiru wa la aqdiru wa ta’lamu wa la a’lamu wa Anta ‘Allamu ‘l-ghuyub :
O Allah, if You know that this undertaking is in the best interests of my religion, my life in this world, and my life in the Hereafter, and can yield successful results in both the short term and the long term, then make it possible for me and make it easy for me, and then bless me in it.
Allahumma in kunta ta’lamu anna hadha ‘l-amra khairun li fi dini wa dunyaya wa akhirati wa ‘aqibati amri wa ‘ajili-hi wa ajili-h :fa-’qdir-hu li wa yassir-hu li thumma barik li fi-h :
If not, then turn it away from me, and make it easy for me to do well, wherever I may happen to be, and make me content with Your verdict, O Most Merciful of the merciful.’”
wa illa fa-’srif-hu ‘an-ni wa yassir liya ‘l-khaira haithu kana ma kuntu wa raddi-ni bi-qada’i-ka ya Arhama ‘r-rahimin :
The South African Jamiatul Ulama Transvaal collected this:
The Etiquette of Du’
These etiquettes are narrated in the Hadith. For reasons of brevity, only the following summary and reference of each Hadith is mentioned instead of the entire Hadith.
To abstain from haraam food, clothing and earnings. (Muslim : Tirmidhi)
To make Duaa with sincerity. In other words, one should firmly believe that nobody but Allah Ta’aala will fulfill his objectives. (Haakim)
One should perform a good deed prior to making the Duaa & he should mention this during the course of the Duaa. For e.g. He should say, O Allah! I had performed so & so deed solely for Your pleasure. O Allah! accept my Duaa due to the barkat of that deed. (Muslim, Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud).
To make Duaa whilst one is paak & clean. (Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah, Nasai, Ibn Hibbaan, Mustadrak).
To make wudhu before the Duaa (All six major hadith collections)
To face the Qiblah (All six major hadith collections)
To sit as in the Tashahhud position (Abu Awanah)
To praise Allah Ta’aala at the beginning as well as at the end of Duaa (All six major hadith collections)
To convey Durood upon Rasulullah ( ) at the beginning as well as the end. (Abu Dawud, Musnade-Ahmad)
To spread out both the hands. (Tirmidhi, Mustadrak)
To raise both the hands up to the shoulders (Abu Dawud, Musnade-Ahmad)
To sit with humility and respect. (Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud)
To mention ones helplessness and dependence. (Tirmidhi)
To abstain from raising the eyes towards the sky whilst making Duaa (Muslim)
To mention the Asmaal-Husnaa (the names of Allah Ta’aala ) and the sublime qualities Of Allah Ta’aala. (Ibn Hibbaan and Mustadrak)
To abstain from ceremonies rhyming of the Duaa phrases (Bukhari)
To abstain from saying the Duaa in a “sing-song” tone if the Duaa is in a poetic form (Hisn)
One should make Duaa through the medium of the Ambiyaa (alayhimus-salaam) and other Pious servants. (For e.g. He should say. O Allah! Accepts my Duaa through The good offices of these saintly people). (Bukhari, Bazzaar, Haakim)
To make the Duaa in a soft voice (All six major hadith collections on the authority if Abu Musa )
To utter the Duaa phrases transcribed from Rasulullah Sallalahu Alayhi Wasallam because Rasulullah Didn’t leave out a single need of the Deen nor of the dunya whilst teaching us how to make Duaa (Abu Dawud/Nasai)
To make a Duaa that encompasses most of the needs of Deen and the dunya. (Abu Dawud)
To make Duaa in favour of oneself first, thereafter ones parents and to include the other Muslims in the Duaa as well (Muslims)
If the Imam is making Duaa, he should not make Duaa for himself only but he should Include all the congregants in the Duaa (Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah)
Abu Dawud (R.A.) Narrates that Rasulullah Said that the Imam who makes Duaa for himself only, has betrayed the people.” In other words, the Imam should not Make a Duaa that is restricted to him alone. For e.g. He should not say, “O Allah! cure my son.” or “O Allah! Return my lost item.” etc. but he should make a Duaa that includes all the congregation for e.g. He may say “O Allah! Forgive us and have mercy upon us.”
To make Duaa with firm conviction (for e.g. he should not say: “O Allah! If you wish fulfil so and so task of mine.” (All six major hadith collections)
To make Duaa with enthusiasm & yearning. (Ibn Hibbn & Abu Awana).
As far as possible endeavour to bring about a “presence of heart and mind” and cherish a high hope of the Duaa being accepted. (Haakim)
To make Duaa repeatedly. (Bukhari, Muslim)
This repetition should be at least thrice (Abu Dawud)
Note One may repeat the Duaa thrice in none sitting or he may repeat it on three different occasions. The “repetition of the Duaa” can be interpreted in both ways.”
To make Duaa earnestly and insistently. (Nasai, Hakim, Abu awanah)
To abstain from making Duaa of severing family ties or other sins. (Muslim, Tirmidhi)
Avoid making Duaas of pre-determined and fixed things (for e.g. woman should not make a duaa of being transformed into a man or a tall person shouldn’t make Duaa thus: “O Allah! Make me short .” etc) (Nasai).
Don’t Make Duaa for impossible things. (Bukhari)
Don’t make a Duaa in which you ask Allah Ta’aala to confine His mercy to yourself Only (Bukhari, Abu Dawud, Nasai, Ibn Majah)
Ask only Allah Ta’aala alone for all your needs. Do not depend upon His creation. (Tirmidhi/Ibn Hibbaan)
The one making the Duaa as well as the person listening to it, both should say Aameen at the end. (Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Nasai)
Rub both hands over the face at the termination of the Duaa (Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Ibn Hibbaan, Majah, Hakim)
Don’t be impatient over the acceptance of Duaas. In other words, don’t say: “I’ve made Duaa repeatedly but to no avail.” (Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Nasai, Ibn Majah)