Solāh Istikharah: Rules and Signs of Response
In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and thanks is due to Allāh, the Lord of al-‘ālameen. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam is His Messenger.
Question:Respected scholars of Islam, As-Salamu `alaykum. What is Istikharah? What is the proper method of performing it? Is it true that for Istikharah to be valid, one must experience some kind of a dream indicating the proper course of action to follow? [ Questioner:Henna]
Wa `alaykum As-Salamu wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.
Bismillāhir Rahmānir Raheem.Al-Hamdulilahi Rabbil ‘ālameen Hamdan yuwafini’ma hu wayukāfi ūmazīdah. Was-Salātu was-Salāmu ‘ala Sayyidil Mursaleen waimamil Muttaqeen, Wa ‘ala ālihi baitihi wasahbihi ajmaeen
(In the Name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, Most Merciful; Praise is to Allāh, the Lord of the universe praise to all the immeasurable blessings and graciousness bestowed upon us; Salawāt and Sālam on the sayyid of all the Apostles and its righteous followers, his family, members of his household and all the companions).
Dear sister in Islam, Allāh commands Muslims to refer to people of knowledge to get themselves well-acquainted with the teachings of Islam as well as all aspects of life.
Solāh al-Istikhārah is a Sunnah or a highly recommended act. Solāh Istikhārah is a two-rak‘at nawafil solāh by which one seeks Allāh's Guidance when he is confused or cannot choose between permissible alternatives. In this case, the Muslim should pray to Allāh the Almighty to guide him to whatever He sees fit for him and make his heart satisfied with the decision.
Seeking Allāh's Guidance
In Solātul Istikharah, one asks Allāh to facilitate the matter if it is good and turn it away if it is not. Thus, after offering SolātulIstikharah, one should decide on a course of action, and trust that if the matter does not work out, it is because it was not good for him. One should not then feel disappointed if things did not go as hoped.
Solātul Istikhārah is only prescribed for matters deemed permissible by the Shāri‘ah and not for any issue that plainly opposes Allāh's Laws. It is when you have two permissible options and you do not know which is better for you that you should resort to Allāh the Almighty to seek His guidance.
In response to your question, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, states:
“Istikharah means, “seeking the best course of action.” In Islam, it is used for approaching Allāh through Solāh for guidance in a case when one cannot make up his mind. It should, however, be pointed out, that Istikharah applies strictly to cases that are halal (lawful or permissible), since there cannot be a question of choice concerning matters that are considered haram (unlalwful or impermissible).
When faced with important decisions in life, a believer is persuaded to use all of his Allāh-given resources, as well as to consult people who are known for their knowledge, piety and sound opinion. After having done so, he can turn to Allāh for guidance.
Humans are limited in knowledge, and Allāh alone possesses perfect knowledge. Allāh has told us that He alone possesses the keys to all that is good. He has also promised to help us if we turn to Him earnestly and sincerely.
We see around us people doing all sorts of things for confirmation when faced with important decisions in their life. The Pre-Islamic Arabs resorted to the practice of divining with arrows or the stirring of birds. In modern times, even some of the most prominent people consult astrologers, psychics, gurus or so called spiritual masters. Islam teaches that since Allāh alone knows the unseen realities, and He alone is aware of what is good for us in an absolute sense, we must seek His help.
The Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) taught us how to do so. Resūlullāh (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) told us that if we are faced with decisions in life and are unable to make up our mind, we must approach Allāh through solāh. This solāh is called Solāh of Istikharah. It is a Sunnah or a highly recommended act. The specific method of doing it, is as follows:
First, one must offer a Solāh of two rak`at with the intention of seeking guidance from Allāh. Then he should offer the following supplication:
"Allāhumma inni astakhiruka bi`ilmika, wa astaqdiruka bi-qudratika, wa as'aluka min fadlika al-azim, fa'innaka taqdiru wala aqdiru, wa ta`lamu wa la a`lamu, wa anta `allamu-l-ghuyub.
Allāhumma, in kunta ta`lamu anna hadhal-amra [here mention your case] khairun li fi dini wa ma`ashi wa `aqibati 'amri (or 'ajili amri wa`ajilihi) faqdurhu li wa yas-sirhu li thumma barik li fihi.
Wa in ta`lamu anna hadhal-amra sharrun li fi deeni wa ma`ashi wa `aqibati 'amri (or `ajili amri wa ajilihi) fasrifhu `anni was-rifni `anhu, waqdur liya al-khaira haithu kana thumma 'ardini bihi.”
(O Allāh, I seek Your help in finding out the best course of action (in this matter) by invoking Your knowledge; I ask You to empower me, and I beseech Your favor. You alone have the absolute power, while I have no power. You alone know it all, while I do not. You are the One Who knows the hidden mysteries.
O Allāh, if this thing (I am embarking on) [here mention your case] is good for me in my religion, worldly life, and my ultimate destiny, then facilitate it for me, and then bless me in my action.
If, on the other hand, You know this thing is detrimental for me in my religion, worldly life, and ultimate destiny, turn it away from me, and turn me away from it, and decree what is good for me, wherever it may be, and make me content with it.)
After having done so, he should follow the decision that he is strongly inclined to. If he feels no such inclination, then he should choose one of the options; he can rest assured that Allāh will guide his steps. It has been reported that the Prophet, (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam), said, “One who asks Allāh for guidance in choosing the best course of action will never be a loser.”
It is not at all necessary for a person to have visions or dreams following Istikharah. However, if a person does experience a vision or dream, and he feels strongly about it, he should follow it.” [Source: www.islam.ca]
Imam An-Nawawi (rahimahullah) adds:
“After making Solāh Istikharah, a person must do what he or she is wholeheartedly inclined to do and feels good about doing and should not insist on doing what he had desired to do before making theIstikharah. And if his or her feelings change, he or she should leave what he or she had intended to do, for otherwise he or she is not leaving the choice to Allāh, and would not be honest in seeking help from Allāh's power and knowledge. Sincerity in seeking Allāh's choice means that one should completely abandon what one desired oneself.”
Also, Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, former head of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and member of the Fiqh Council of North America, states:
“Doing Istikharah does not mean that one should not use one's reason or experience. Allāh the Exalted has commanded us in the Qur'an that we should use our intellect and seek knowledge. If we do not know something, we should ask those who know. But human reason has limitations. We do not know everything; only Allāh does know all things. When we are faced with a dilemma then we should turn to Allāh to seek His guidance.
After offering Solāh Istikharah, you may do whatever is best in your understanding or whatever convinces you. You may repeat the Du’a’ Of Istikharah several times if you are still hesitant. It is not necessary to dream about anything and you do not have to wait for an answer in your dreams. It is reported in a Hadith that the Prophet (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) said: "O Anas, when you intend to do some important things, then seek the good (seek Istikharah) from your Lord seven times and then do that to which your heart (or mind) is inclined, because the good is in it."
Most of the hadiths on this subject do not talk about any dream. However, the famous Hanafi jurist Ibn `Abdeen has suggested in his Hashiyah that one should make the Solāh Istikharah before sleeping, and should sleep after having performed Wudhu'. The face should be towards Makkah. If one sees something white or green in one's dream, then the answer is yes, but if one sees something dark or red then the answer is no.
Other jurists of Shafi`i, Maliki, Hanbali and Ja’fari schools say that one should do that which is most convincing. According to Imam Malik, other people can also perform Istikharah on behalf of someone.
There is nothing strange about dreams. If you did not see any dreams, then it does not mean that dreams do not occur. After the Solāh Istikharah , some people may see a dream and some may not. We know that some of our dreams become true. Some time we see something in a dream and it happens exactly the same way later. As there are good dreams and bad dreams, so there are also true and false dreams. The interpretation of dreams is a special knowledge that some people have. In the Qur'an many dreams are mentioned. Prophet Ibrahim (‘alayhissalam) saw in his dream that he was sacrificing his son. Prophet Yusuf (‘alayhissalam) had dreams and Allāh also gave him the knowledge of interpreting dreams. Prophet Muhammad (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wasallam) also sometimes interpreted the dreams of his Companions.”
May Allāh guide us all to the Straight Path!
Allāh Almighty knows best.
[Excerpted with minor modification from Q&A published in Islam Online (Ask About Islam) 9 Feb 2003]
Istikharah (Seeking Guidance)
By Al-Imam An-Nawawi (rahimahullāh)
In the name of Allāh, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;
All the praise and thanks is due to Allāh, the Lord of al-'ālameen. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allāh, and that Muhammad, Sallallāhu`alayhi wasallam, is His Messenger
Allah, the Exalted, says:
"And consult them in the affairs." (Ali- ‘Imran 3:159)
"And who (conduct) their affairs by mutual consultation." (Ash-Shura 42:38)
718. Jabir bin Abdullah (radiyallāhu`anhu) reported: Messenger of Allah (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) used to teach us the Istikharah (Seeking Guidance From Allah) in all matters as he would teach us a Surah of the Qur'an. He used to say: "When one of you contemplates entering upon an enterprise, let him perform two Rak'at of optional prayer other than Solāh Fardhu and then supplicate: "Allahumma inni astakhiruka bi 'ilmika, wa astaqdiruka bi qudratika, wa as-'aluka min fadlikal-'azim. Fainnaka taqdiru wa la aqdiru, wa ta'lamu wa la a'lamu, wa Anta 'allamul-ghuyub. Allahumma in kunta ta'lamu anna hadhal-'amra (and name what you want to do) khairun li fi dini wa ma'ashi wa 'aqibati amri, (or he said) 'ajili amri ajilihi, faqdurhu li wa yassirhu li, thumma barik li fihi. Wa in kunta ta'lamu anna hadhal 'amra (and name what you want to do) sharrun li fi dini wa ma'ashi wa 'aqibati amri, (or he said) wa 'ajili amri wa ajilihi, fasrifhu 'anni, wasrifni 'anhu, waqdur liyal-khaira haithu kana, thumma ardini bihi." (O Allah, I consult You through Your Knowledge, and I seek strength through Your Power, and ask of Your Great Bounty; for You are Capable whereas I am not and, You know and I do not, and You are the Knower of hidden things. O Allah, if You know that this matter (and name it) is good for me in respect of my Deen, my livelihood and the consequences of my affairs, (or he said), the sooner or the later of my affairs then ordain it for me, make it easy for me, and bless it for me. But if You know this matter (and name it) to be bad for my Deen, my livelihood or the consequences of my affairs, (or he said) the sooner or the later of my affairs then turn it away from me, and turn me away from it, and grant me power to do good whatever it may be, and cause me to be contented with it). And let the supplicant specify the object."
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
Commentary: Literally Istikharah means seeking goodness from Allah through a particular prayer. This Hadith lays emphasis on it and displays its significance. We should, therefore, practise Istikharah regarding every important matter. However, it is imperative only in cases where one is ignorant of good and evil. Yet, with regard to obligatory and indisputable rules, practices of the Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wasallam) and commendable deeds, no Istikharah is allowed. Similarly, commands and prohibitions of the Shari'ah are categorical and nobody is allowed to seek further guidance by performing Istikharah Prayer. Moreover, to set aside the example of the Prophet (Sallallāhu `alayhi wa sallam) of Istikharah, and to trust astrologers, palmists and soothsayers seeking the knowledge of future events is sheer ignorance and unpardonable error. The knowledge of the Unseen (or Ghaib) is the domain of Allah Alone and man is supposed to seek His Blessings. Only Allah is Omnipotent and humans must turn to Him to seek inspiration and strength, trusting everything to His Care.
Istikharah Prayer can be offered at any time except in the forbidden hours for prayer because the performance of two Raka`at is a prerequisite to it. Some people think that the right time for it is before going to bed. This is not true. This Supplication (Du'a) can be offered even after performing the two Raka'at of Solāh Istikharah, or before Taslim (i.e., saying Assalamu 'Alaikum to conclude the prayer) after Tashahhud or in the state of Prostration.
If somebody does not know this Du'a by heart, he may, after performing the Solāh, read it from some prayer book.
And Allāh Almighty Knows best.
[The Book of Good Manners, Chapter # 97, Riyad-Us-Saliheen, Compiled by Al-Imam Abu Zakariya Yahya bin Sharaf An-Nawawi Ad-Dimashqi]