I was overjoyed when I received the acceptance letter from two universities of my choice, but I was also perplexed. Both the universities had their merits; studying at either would be great for my education and career opportunities.
I made pros and cons lists, asked advice from friends and family, and yet I could not arrive at a decision. My father suggested Istikhara, and I decided to undertake this dua to help me make my mind.
If you, too, are having trouble choosing between two options or deciding on a course of action, then one of the ways that you can find a solution is by performing Dua Istikhara.
This post takes a close look at Dua-e-Istikhara and how you can perform it to find the will of the Almighty.
What Is Istikhara?
Istikhara (Arabic: استخارة) means to seek the goodness of Allah, a method taught by the Prophet (ﷺ) to ask Allah’s help when in doubt.
For those of you that do not know, Istikhara is a Nafli or voluntary Ibadah that allows one to seek guidance from the Creator in times of indecision.
Muslims may perform Istikhara to seek assistance in all matters of life. In fact, most Muslims use the Istikhara prayer to ask for Allah’s will in every small or big life decision.
Allah (SWT) mentions in Surah Al Imran: 159,
“It was by the mercy of your Lord that you are lenient with them, for if you had been stern and fierce, they would have dispersed. Therefore, pardon them and seek forgiveness for them and also consult with them about their affairs. And when you are resolved, put your trust in Allah. Behold! Allah loves those who put their trust in Him.”
When we consider the very end of this verse, it is clear that Allah wants us to place our trust in Him in all matters of life. When we are resolved, i.e., we have made our decisions through logic and research, and yet we wish to know whether this decision or course of action would prove beneficial for us, it is best to perform Istikhara, to beseech Allah for his guidance.
And what better way to do that than by performing Dua Istikhara, a method practiced by the Prophet (ﷺ).
The Philosophy of Istikhara
Istikhara is not a magic solution. It is a method shown by hadith to make life decisions that have the least chances of failure or are the most suitable for you.
The philosophy of Istikhara is that humans do not know enough to make accurate judgments. However, Allah is all-knowing, and hence, only He can help us choose a path that will be most beneficial for us.
By making Dua Istikhara, you show Allah that you are open to placing your absolute faith in Him, and in turn, He directs you towards the preferred course of action.
Some Muslims jump right to Istikhara when they have to make a decision. However, you should know that there are two prerequisites of Istikhara; Aq’al and Ishtisharh.
First, you must make use of Aq’al or the intelligence Allah has blessed you with. Allah emphasizes the importance of knowledge and using one’s own brainpower many times in the Quran. The first word of the Quran is Iqra or Read, and hence when we must use our own intelligence and wits to research, gather information, and equip ourselves with the knowledge to make the right decision.
The second prerequisite is Ishtisharah, which means to seek counsel from wise people around you. These can be your family, friends, scholars, and trusted peers.
Once you have satisfied the two prerequisites, only then can you move to seek guidance and goodness from Allah, i.e., the Istikhara.
How Does Istikhara Work in Real Life?
Let’s say that you wish to purchase a car. You go to the car dealership and ask them for cars in your range; they show you a few options, and all of them seem good to you. Now you are confused and don’t know which car to choose. So, what do you do?
You come home and offer Dua Istikhara, and a light guides you to the best car? Of course not.
You must first use your Aq’al or intelligence to research and find the most suitable cars for your need and budget. Secondly, you must seek advice from experts. For instance, you may call a friend who knows a lot about cars and ask his opinion, or you may ask your parents which car they think is most suitable.
Once you have all the information, you are now in a position to make a well-informed decision. However, if you are still uncertain, you may now offer Dua Istikhara and then beseech Allah to help you make the right decision.
Don’t expect an arrow to point to the preferred car; that’s not going to happen. Instead of looking for a miracle solution, reflect within yourself after saying the dua, and open your heart to the guidance you may receive in the form of strong feelings and intuitions.
When Should I Perform Istikhara?
Some scholars recommend performing the Istikhara prayer at any time of the day. In their opinion, the best way to do so is by simply saying the dua and then taking the course of action that seems most suitable.
However, other scholars recommend that the ideal time to make the Dua is by offering two ra’kat of voluntary Salah and then reciting the Dua-e-Istikhara before sunrise or after the Isha prayer. Then, we must be pleased with whatever Allah (SWT) chooses for us and avoid following our whims until everything becomes apparent.
You can also perform Istikhara after Fajr Prayer or during Qiyamullail.
Common Reasons for Istikhara
Muslims perform Dua Istikhara to seek Allah’s guidance in all matters of life; the following are some of the most common reasons:
- Dua Istikhara for marriage
- Dua Istikhara for business
- Dua Istikhara for property and assets
- Dua Istikhara for healthcare
- Dua Istikhara for education
Dua Istikhara for marriage is perhaps the most common reason for all. Muslims perform Istikhara when deciding to marry someone as it is a major life decision. Dua Istikhara for marriage is offered after offering two units of voluntary prayer (more on this below).
How To Do Istikhara?
Here we discuss the most preferred and verified method; Salah-Al-Istikhara.
The following are the 3 steps of Salah-Al-Istikhara:
1. Perform Ablution
When you’re ready to do Istikhara, perform partial ablution or Wudu to cleanse your body.
To perform Salah-Al-Istikhara, it is crucial that you are first cleaned. This means that you will need to perform ghusl (full ablution) or Wudu (partial ablution) according to Islamic jurisprudence.
2. Get in the Right Mindset
Dua Istikhara requires you to have the right mindset. To develop the right mindset, remove all unnecessary thoughts from your mind and get in the right mindset to perform the prayer. Your niyyah or intention should be that you are sincerely seeking guidance from Allah and will accept His counsel.
You must be honest and speak from your heart when asking for guidance from the Helper. Instead of begging God to show you an answer, you must pray with firm conviction.
If you plead, you are asking for something that you desire rather than seeking guidance. Hence, you must have a firm belief that Allah (SWT) will guide you.
Similarly, you must not be impatient after making the prayer. God has a plan for you which is why you have to be patient.
3. Performing the Salah-Al-Istikhara
Jabir bin Abdullah (رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهُ) narrated that,
The Holy Prophet (ﷺ) taught us the way of doing Istikhara for all matters as he taught us the recitation of the Quran. The Prophet said, “If anyone of you thinks of doing any job, he should offer a two rak’at prayer other than the compulsory ones and say (the Istikhara prayer). The Prophet (ﷺ) added that then the person should name (mention) his need. al-Bukhari: 1166
Thus, it becomes clear that Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) encouraged fellow Muslims to perform Dua Istikhara after offering two units of voluntary prayer for Allah’s guidance.
To offer the Salah, make sure that your prayer space is clean, and offer two rak’at of voluntary Salah of Salah-Al-Istikhara. After which, you can recite the Istikhara supplication.
It is important that you recite Surah Al-Kafirun during the first rak’at and Surah Al-Ikhlas during the second rak’at. Once you have completed the two ra’kat, you should recite the Dua-e-Istikhara.
اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْتَخِيرُكَ بِعِلْمَكَ، وَأَسْتَقْدِرُكَ بِقُدْرَتِكَ، وَأَسْأَلُكَ مِنْ فَضْلِكَ الْعَظِيمِ، فَإِنَّكَ تَقْدِرُ وَلَا أَقْدِرُ، وَتَعْلَمُ، وَلَا أَعْلَمُ، وَأَنْتَ عَلَّامُ الْغُيُوبِ، اللَّهُمَّ إِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الْأَمْرَ- خَيْرٌ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي- عَاجِلِهِ وَآجِلِهِ- فَاقْدُرْهُ لِي وَيَسِّرْهُ لِي ثُمَّ بَارِكْ لِي فِيهِ، وَإِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الْأَمْرَ شَرٌّ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي- عَاجِلِهِ وَآجِلِهِ- فَاصْرِفْهُ عَنِّي وَاصْرِفْنِي عَنْهُ وَاقْدُرْ لِيَ الْخَيْرَ حَيْثُ كَانَ ثُمَّ أَرْضِنِي بِهِ
Allaahumma ‘innee ‘astakheeruka bi’ilmika, wa ‘astaqdiruka biqudratika, wa ‘as’aluka min fadhtikal-‘Adheemi, fa’innaka taqdiru wa laa ‘aqdiru, wa ta’lamu, wa laa ‘a’lamu, wa ‘Anta ‘Allaamul-Ghuyoobi, Allaahumma ‘in kunta ta’lamu ‘anna haathal-‘amra-[then mention the thing to be decided] Khayrun lee fee deenee wa ma’aashee wa ‘aaqibati ‘amree – [or say] ‘Aajilihi wa ‘aajilihi – Faqdurhu lee wa yassirhu lee thumma baarik lee feehi, wa ‘in kunta ta’lamu ‘anna haathal-‘amra sharrun lee fee deenee wa ma’aashee wa ‘aaqibati ‘amree – [or say] ‘Aajilihi wa ‘aajilihi – Fasrifhu ‘annee wasrifnee ‘anhu waqdur liyal-khayra haythu kaana thumma ‘ardhinee bihi
O Allah (SWT)! Lo, ask for good from you through your knowledge and the ability through your power, begging for your infinite bounty. For certainly, you have the power, and I have none. You know everything, and I do not. You are the Knower of Everything. O, Allah! If this matter is good for my faith and my livelihood in your knowledge, then make it easy for me and bless me. However, if the matter is bad for me and my faith in your knowledge, then turn me away from it and ordain good for me and make me pleased with it.
Remember to substitute “this matter” with the issue you need guidance on. It is best to say the issue by name during the prayer.
Once you have said the dua, wait for his guidance by introspection. In the coming days, you may get an answer by reflecting on the matter, seeking advice from wise people around you, or developing an intuition or gut feeling.
Some people experience that they become more inclined towards one decision than the other. Moreover, if a decision is not good for you, you may also experience that you do not feel like taking that course of action anymore or that ‘your heart is not in” the decision/tasks anymore.
You can simply recite the Dua Istikhara before you go to bed. You can recite the Dua before you have to make a decision. You will find this powerful prayer of guidance to be just what you need. Ask for guidance in matters such as marriage, employment, and education.
The above prayer can be made as many times and for as many days as desired. It is up to you to perform just the Dua Istikhara or also perform the Salah. Once you have the answer, you can stop.
Now You Know How to Perform Dua Istikhara
Performing Dua Istikhara is voluntary, but it is highly encouraged in Islam. As a Muslim, you can take advantage of the teachings of the Holy Quran and Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) to find an answer to just about everything.
When it comes to making Istikhara for marriage, a job, or any other important life-changing decision, you must remain patient at all times as God only tests His best warriors, and Dua Istikhara is the doorway to that.