Could you please give information about the Istikhara?

Details of the Question
Could you please give information about the Istikhara?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

How is Istikhara prayer (Salat) performed?

If a person who attempts to do something like business, marriage, travel, etc and hesitates whether that attempt will be good for him or not, he tries to find solutions to eliminate his doubt and hesitation. The first thing to do about it is to search whether that attempt is legitimate and halal or not, whether it is in compliance with religious principles or not. 

If a person cannot decide on his own, the best thing to do is to ask a person who is qualified in that topic, find out about his opinion and if necessary to discuss it with him in detail, that is to consult someone. The person to be consulted should be experienced, knowledgeable and reliable.

The Quran, which regards mutual consultation and talking as one of the characteristics of the believers, says, “they conduct their affairs by mutual consultation”1 warning that the people to be consulted should be qualified and they should not be outsiders in terms of ideas and beliefs:

O ye who believe! Take not into your intimacy those outside your ranks; they will not fail to corrupt you. They only desire your ruin: rank hatred has already appeared from their mouths; what their hearts conceal is far worse. We have made plain to you the Signs, if ye have wisdom.”2

As it is seen, a believer with foresight should not talk about his private issues to everybody or whoever he meets because he should estimate that while looking for someone to help him, he may make mistakes by making a wrong decision as a result of his talk to that person. Some decisions that a person makes may bind him to things and affect him lifelong. For instance, education, business, marriage… A person who sets up a business without calculating well may see one day that his business is going downwards and understands that he is going bankrupt; he may lose his capital, too. That state affects both his material and spiritual life greatly. A person who marries without searching well can suffer due to his haste and imprudence lifelong and it can transform his world to Hell. Therefore, we must always practice consultation; we must not do even the simplest thing without asking experienced and qualified people.

Our Prophet, who is an example for his umma in all phases of his life, consulted his relatives and companions about every issue, found out about their opinions and then decided. As a matter of fact, he received revelation; he was more intelligent, clever, sophisticated and considerate than everybody else. He asked his companions about almost everything that was not determined by revelation. He warned his umma not to do anything without consulting and said that he who consulted would never regret:

He who makes istikhara will not be harmed; he who consults will not regret; he who acts in accordance with economy will not suffer financial difficulties in his family.”3

As it is seen, the hadith bases the social life of a Muslim on acting in accordance with three things: consultation, istikhara and economy.

Istikhara, which is recommended in the hadith, is a sunnah that a person who cannot feel comfortable in his heart and who is not satisfied emotionally though he has consulted can practice.

Istikhara means, in the dictionary, asking good things from Allah. That is, to ask Allah whether something one wants to do is good or bad, whether to do it at once or later will be better and ask Allah to make his heart satisfied about it.  

Istikhara is a sunnah of our Prophet. It is a form of praying and worshipping he advised his umma. Our Prophet (pbuh) taught how to make istikhara and what prayer to read in person. Jabir bin Abdullah says the following regarding the importance of istikhara: 

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) taught us to make istikhara for our tasks, business, etc whether small or big as if he taught us the Quran and said:
‘When one of you decides to do something in his heart, he should perform a prayer of two rakats

Istikhara prayer has two rakats. Imam Ghazali recommends reading chapter al-Kafirun after al-Fatiha in the first rakat and chapter al-Ikhlas in the second rakat.5

After performing the prayer, the following prayer reported from our Prophet (pbuh) is recited:

Oh Allah! I seek Your guidance 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 Oh Allah! If in Your knowledge, this matter is good for my religion, my livelihood and my affairs, immediate and in the future, then ordain it for me, make it easy for me, and bless it for me. And if in Your knowledge, this matter is bad for my religion, my livelihood and my affairs, immediate and in the future, then turn it away from me, and turn me away from it. And ordain for me the good wherever it may be, and make me content with it. ”6

While reciting the prayer, the thing to be meant is used instead of the words “this matter”. Thus, the Turkish (English) translation of the prayer can be recited but it is more virtuous to recite the Arabic original. The original of the prayer is present in the resources we give and in books of ilm-al-hal.
After the person makes istkhara, he should do what his heart tends towards and he should leave his prejudice and conviction before the istikhara and act accordingly. If he does not feel content and satisfied despite the istikhara, he can make istikhara again. It is sunnah. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) says the following in a hadith reported by Anas bin Malik (may Allah be pleased with him):

O Anas, when you intend to do something important, then seek the good (istikhara) from your Lord seven times and then do that to which your heart (or mind) goes, because the good is in it.”7

If the matter is urgent and it is not possible to make istikhara again, the following prayer is recited:
Oh Allah! Give me what is good for me. Do not leave me on my own.”
Ibn Abidin writes the following regarding the sign whether the desire of the person who makes the istikhara is appropriate or not:

Before going to bed, the person makes wudu, recites the prayer and lies down turning towards qiblah. If he sees white or green in his dream, it indicates that it is good for him; if he sees black or red, it indicates that it is bad for him. It is necessary to avoid bad things.”8

However, istikhara is spiritual strength for believers who are in trouble. A believer who is hesitant about something performs two rakats of prayer and turns towards God Almighty. He asks Allah to create contentment in his heart towards the business he will attempt, the spouse he will choose, etc if it is good for his religion, world and the hereafter and to create strength in his body to do it; he asks God Almighty to eliminate the inclination in his heart towards it if it is not good for his religion, world and the hereafter. He feels relief in his heart. He becomes sure in his heart that the thing he made istikhara for will be good for him. He becomes content with the result. 

1. ash-Shura, 38.
2. Aal-e Imran, 118.
3. Tajrid Translation, 4:135.
4. Bukhari, Kusuf: 75.
5. Imam Ghazali. Ihya Ulumiddin. (Daru Ihyai’l-Kutubu’l-Arabi) 1:207.
6. Ibn Majah, Iqamatu’s-Salat: 188; Bukhari, Kusuf: 75.
7. Tajrid Translation, 4:143.
8. Ibn Abidin, 1:461.

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