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FAQ

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Question:

Assalamualaikum wbt. What is meant by istikharah prayer? Hope for an explanation from ustaz.

Answer:

Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.

The word istikharah is from the word خير  which means goodness. The addition of alif, sin and ta’ changes its meaning. استخار means asking for a choice. This is stated by Ibnu Munzir in Lisan al-Arab. Refer Lisan al-Arab (4/264)

Regarding istikharah prayer, it is one of the sunnah taught by the Prophet PBUH. This is in accordance with a narration from Jabir bin Abdullah:

كَانَ رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يُعَلِّمُنَا الاِسْتِخَارَةَ فِي الأُمُورِ كُلِّهَا كَمَا يُعَلِّمُنَا السُّورَةَ مِنَ القُرْآنِ ، يَقُولُ: إِذَا هَمَّ أَحَدُكُمْ بِالأَمْرِ فَلْيَرْكَعْ رَكْعَتَيْنِ مِنْ غَيْرِ الفَرِيضَةِ ، ثُمَّ لِيَقُلْ : اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْتَخِيرُكَ بِعِلْمِكَ ، وَأَسْتَقْدِرُكَ بِقُدْرَتِكَ ، وَأَسْأَلُكَ مِنْ فَضْلِكَ العَظِيمِ ، فَإِنَّكَ تَقْدِرُ وَلاَ أَقْدِرُ ، وَتَعْلَمُ وَلاَ أَعْلَمُ ، وَأَنْتَ عَلاَّمُ الغُيُوبِ ، اللَّهُمَّ إِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الأَمْرَ خَيْرٌ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعِيشَتِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي ، أَوْ قَالَ : فِي عَاجِلِ أَمْرِي وَآجِلِهِ ، فَيَسِّرْهُ لِي ، ثُمَّ بَارِكْ لِي فِيهِ ، وَإِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الأَمْرَ شَرٌّ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعِيشَتِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي ، أَوْ قَالَ : فِي عَاجِلِ أَمْرِي وَآجِلِهِ ، فَاصْرِفْهُ عَنِّي ، وَاصْرِفْنِي عَنْهُ ، وَاقْدُرْ لِي الخَيْرَ حَيْثُ كَانَ ، ثُمَّ أَرْضِنِي بِهِ ، قَالَ : وَيُسَمِّي حَاجَتَهُ.

“The Prophet PBUH used to teach us the way of doing Istikhara (Istikhara means to ask Allah to guide one to the right sort of action concerning any job or a deed), in all matters as he taught us the Suras of the Qur'an. He 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 (after the prayer): -- 'Allahumma inni astakhiruka bi'ilmika, Wa astaqdiruka bi-qudratika, Wa as'alaka min fadlika Al-`azlm Fa-innaka taqdiru Wala aqdiru, Wa ta'lamu Wala a'lamu, Wa anta 'allamu l-ghuyub. Allahumma, in kunta ta'lam anna hadha-lamra Khairun li fi dini wa ma'ashi wa'aqibati `Amri (or 'ajili `Amri wa'ajilihi) Faqdirhu wa yas-sirhu li thumma barik li Fihi, Wa in kunta ta'lamu anna hadha-lamra shar-run li fi dini wa ma'ashi wa'aqibati `Amri (or fi'ajili `Amri wa ajilihi) Fasrifhu anni was-rifni anhu. Waqdir li al-khaira haithu kana Thumma ardini bihi.' (O Allah! I ask guidance from Your knowledge, And Power from Your Might and I ask for Your great blessings. You are capable and I am not. You know and I do not and You know the unseen. O, Allah! If You know that this job is good for my religion and my subsistence and in my Hereafter--(or said: If it is better for my present and later needs)--Then You ordain it for me and make it easy for me to get, And then bless me in it, and if You know that this job is harmful to me In my religion and subsistence and in the Hereafter--(or said: If it is worse for my present and later needs)--Then keep it away from me and let me be away from it. And ordain for me whatever is good for me. And make me satisfied with it). The Prophet (ﷺ) added that then the person should name (mention) his need.”

Jami` at-Tirmidhi (480), Ibn Majah (1383). Imam al-Tirmizi stated that the status of this hadith is hassan sohih ghorib

Syeikh Abdurrahman al-Mubarakfuri state that the istikharah meant in the above hadith is istikharah prayer. He further adds, the hadith is also evidence that it is impermissible for someone to neglect anything even if it may seem trivial. For example, when someone neglects istikharah, but it may greatly affect him in the future. Refer Tuhfah al-Ahwazi Syarah Jami’ al-Tirmizi (2/482)

This means that istikharah prayer is one approach to ask for guidance and the best way in whatever situation one is in. This is one of the sunnah taught by the Prophet PBUH to his ummah.

Istikharah prayer is sunnah for those who have a need or is asking for guidance to make the right choice. It is a two rakaat prayer together with a supplication taught by the Prophet PBUH as stated in the above hadith from Jabir. Some scholars such as al-Aini and Umdah al-Qari said that istikharah prayer is necessary even in choosing shoelaces.

Imam al-Nawawi details the following methods in istikharah prayer:

  1. In the first rakaat after al-Fatihah, surah al-Kafirun is recited.
  2. In the second rakaat after al-Fatihah, recite surah al-Ikhlas.
  3. Supplicate with the supplication taught by the Prophet PBUH or other suitable supplications.

Refer al-Majmu’ Syarh al-Muhazzab (4/54)

Wallahua’lam.