What is Istikhara?
The description of Salaat al-Istikhaarah (Istikhara Prayers) was reported by Jaabir ibn Abd-Allah al-Salami (may Allah be pleased with him) who said:
“The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to teach his companions to make istikhaarah in all things, just as he used to teach them soorahs from the Quran. He said:
‘If any one of you is concerned about a decision he has to make, then let him pray two rakaahs of non-obligatory prayer, then say:
Translation: 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 (or: in my religion, my livelihood and my affairs), 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 (or: for me both in this world and the next), 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 it.”Allaahumma inni astakheeruka bi ‘ilmika wa astaqdiruka bi qudratika wa as’aluka min fadlika, fa innaka taqdiru wa laa aqdir, wa ta’lamu wa laa a’lam, wa anta ‘allaam al-ghuyoob. Allaahumma fa in kunta ta’lamu haadha’l-amra (then the matter should be mentioned by name) khayran li fi ‘aajil amri wa aajilihi (or: fi deeni wa ma’aashi wa ‘aaqibati amri) faqdurhu li wa yassirhu li thumma baarik li fihi. Allaahumma wa in kunta ta’lamu annahu sharrun li fi deeni wa ma’aashi wa ‘aaqibati amri (or: fi ‘aajili amri wa aajilihi) fasrifni ‘anhu [wasrafhu ‘anni] waqdur li al-khayr haythu kaana thumma ardini bihi
(Reported by al-Bukhaari, 6841; similar reports are also recorded by al-Tirmidhi, al-Nisaa’i, Abu Dawood, Ibn Maajah and Ahmad).
Are Dreams Necessary for Istikhara?
Some people wait for dreams and for special indications to guide them in their affairs. However, this is not necessary. The correct view is that when Allah makes something easy for you – after having decreed it and accepted your du’a – this is a sign that it is good to go ahead and do it. The existence of obstacles and difficulties is an indication that Allah is pushing His slave away from doing it. This meaning will be very clear when one ponders the meaning of the hadeeth of Jaabir concerning al-istikhaarah, where the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
“… O Allah, if You know this affair – [and here he should mention it] – is good for me in relation to my religion, my life, and end, then decree and facilitate it for me, and bless me with it, and if You know this affair to be ill for me towards my religion, my life, and end, then remove it from me and remove me from it, and decree for me what is good wherever it be and make me satisfied with such.”
How does Istikhara Work?
We see from the above hadith that the Dua clearly is asking Allah that if the matter is good for one, that Allah make it easy for one and if if not, to take it away. So, Allah facilitates the matter for you because of the dua that you make to Allah about your matter.
The Key to Istikhara
The secret is that one’s heart should not be attached to the matter in question, because that will result in a person becoming restless. Being pleased with something means that one’s heart is content with the decree of Allah.
(Summarized from the commentary of al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar (may Allah have mercy on him) on the hadeeth in Saheeh al-Bukhari, Kitaab al-Da’waat and Kitaab al-Tawheed. Also, commentary based on on islamqa.info).