The Prayer of Seeking Guidance and Clarity
If we view our lives from the perspective of true submission to our Beloved Lord, it becomes clear that Allah has certain qualities which He owns completely and we (human beings) have different qualities. In his book The Path to Allah, Most High, Sidi Muhammad, (qaddasallahu sirrahu) writes, “There are four attributes of lordship: wealth, glory, power, and knowledge, whereas, the qualities of the slave are poverty, humility, weakness, adn ignorance.”
The istikhara prayer is a way of doing salah in order to ask Allah, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise, the All-Powerful, the Wealthy, the Glorious, for guidance and clarity on what is best for us. The Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) taught us this method of asking for guidance and encouraged all of his companions (radiyallahu anhum) to do the istikhara regularly, for questions large and small.
When to do Istikhara
It is extremely helpful to do istikhara when you have an important decision to make. It can also be useful for less critical decisions and day-to-day decisions.
To Ensure Istikhara is Valid
- As with all salah, before beginning you must be in a state of wudu‘.
- As with all salah, face qibla (towards the Ka’ba in Mecca).
- The istikhara prayer can only be done for decisions between options that are permissible according to the shari’ah (Divine Law). Doing istikhara on whether or how you should commit a sin or engage in something forbidden automatically invalidates the prayer.
How to Perform the Istikhara Prayer
- Perform the obligatory prayer.
- Set your intention to pray that istikhara, being sure to avoid times where it is disliked to offer 2 rak’ah.
The Prophet, sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam, never prayed 2 rak’ah after fajr prayer before sunrise and he never prayed 2 rak’ah after asr prayer. Therefore, it is not recommended to offer the istikhara during these times.
- Pray 2 rak’ah with the intention to wholeheartedly surrender to the guidance Allah gives you through the istikhara.
- Recite the du’a below.
“allahumma inni astakhiruka bi ‘ilmika
wa astaqdiruka bi qudratika wa as’aluka min fadlika
fa innaka taqdiru wa la aqdir
wa la a`lam
wa anta `allam al-ghuyub
allahumma fa in kunta ta`lamu haadha’l-amra (then the matter should be mentioned by name) khayran li fi ‘ajil amri wa ajilihi faqdurhu li wa yassirhu li thumma baarik li fihi
allaahumma wa in kunta ta`lamu annahu sharrun li fi dini wa ma’aashi wa ‘aqibati amri fasrifni ‘anhu [wasrafhu ‘anni] waqdur li al-khayr haythu kaana thumma radini bihi”
“O Allah, I seek Your guidance [in making a choice] 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.
O Allah, if in Your knowledge, this matter (then it should be mentioned by name) is good for me both in this world and in the Hereafter then ordain it for me, make it easy for me, and bless it for me.
And if in Your knowledge it is bad for me and for my religion, my livelihood and my affairs, then turn me away from it, [and turn it away from me],
and ordain for me the good wherever it may be and make me pleased with i.” (Bukhari, 1166)
- It is best, but not necessary, to recite it before sleeping
- As with all du’a, it is ideal to open it by praising Allah, subhanahu wa ta`ala, and sending blessings upon the Prophet, sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam, and to end it in the same way.
- After offering the du’a, surrender to Allah completely, trusting that Your Lord, the Knower of All, the Most Merciful, Most Compassionate, only gives you what is ultimately best for you. Wherever He puts you, it is the perfect place for you in that moment. Alhamdulillah, Allah is always giving us the best guidance, subhanallah al-adhim.
The answer may come in the form of a dream or a vision, or it may just be known to the asker. Once you have surrendered the affair to Allah, subhanallah wa ta’`ala, you will feel yourself naturally inclining toward what is best for you. Trust your natural inclinations at this time and Allah will unfold it all in the perfect way, alhamdulillah.
Be careful not to rush the answer or to lose hope if you do not feel clarity about it immediately. Our beloved Messenger, sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam, said, “Your prayers are answered unless you hasten, saying, ‘I prayed but no answer came.'” And Allah knows best.