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Praying Istikhara – How to Read the Results?

We are humans, powerless in this sphere of life, knowledgeable only enough to survive. So why shouldn’t we turn to God and seek His perfect help whenever we require it?

God responds to the call of His servant when he asks for guidance, and we are after all seeking to do something in order to please Him.

Istikhara means to ask Allah (God) to guide you to the path best for you concerning an affair with two lawful options. In matters that are obligatory, forbidden or disliked there is no need to pray Istikhara.

Istikhara prayer should only be used for matters that are allowed or in matters that are liked or encouraged, in which there is a decision to be made as to which one should be given priority (i.e. get married or go to graduate school…).

Many wrong notions exist concerning istikhara prayer. Many Muslims will pray, read the du’a (supplication), and run to bed expecting to see a dream showing them their future wife, what her favorite color is, and some other weird fantasy. That is not the purpose of this prayer.

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The results of an istikhara prayer can take many forms. Basically, you go by your feelings, whether you now feel more favorable or not. Also, you may notice events have changed, either for what you have expected or not.

Note that you must follow the results of an istikhara, because not doing so is tantamount to rejecting God’s guidance once you’ve asked for it. Also, you should firstly clear your mind, not have your mind already decided, and then afterwards follow the results willingly.

The Prophet’s Sunnah

It is a sunnah that, if one must choose between permissible alternatives, one may pray two non-obligatory rak’ahs, even if they are of the sunnah prayers or a prayer for entering the mosque, and so on, during any time of the day or night, and to recite therein whatever one wishes of the Quran after reciting al-Fatihah chapter. Then one praises Allah and sends salutations to the Prophet Muhammad and recites the supplication in the Hadith below:

The description of Istikhara prayer was narrated by the companion Jabir ibn ‘Abd-Allah al-Salami who said:

“The Messenger of Allah used to teach his companions to make istikhara in all things, just as he used to teach them suras from the Quran. He said: ‘If any one of you is concerned about a decision he has to make, then let him pray two rak’ahs of non-obligatory prayer, then say:

“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 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, and 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.”

The Prophet added that then the person should mention his need.” (Al Bukhari)

Istikhara prayer is just two rak’ahs of a non-obligatory prayer, prayed at anytime during the day, with a specific du’a at the end. While reciting the du’a, you should be thinking about the situation you want to be advised about with pure intentions and from the bottom of your heart. And God says that whenever He guides a heart aright it can never be misguided.

What Next?

Afterwards, you should “have a good feeling” about one of your options. Whatever option you feel is best right after you say the supplication should be your decision. If you’re still in doubt, you can repeat.

The Muslim scholar, An-Nawawi holds that “after performing the istikharah, a person must do what he is wholeheartedly inclined to do and feels good about doing and should not insist on doing what he had desired to do before making the istikhara.

And if his feelings change, he should leave what he had intended to do, otherwise he is not completely leaving the choice to Allah, and would not be honest in seeking aid from Allah’s power and knowledge. Sincerity in seeking Allah’s choice means that one should completely leave what he himself had desired or determined.”

Some people mistakenly wait for a dream to give a clear sign as to what decision to make, but this is not true, and often times it never really happens. In fact, dreams may lead you away from what God wants you to do, as Satan might try to deceive you in your dreams.

Istikhara prayer is for everybody. It’s a way for all of us to implore God for divine guidance and mercy. It is yet another invaluable resource from God to keep us on the Straight Path.

The Prophet Muhammad told all Muslims about Istikhara, not just the scholars. Despite this gift, too many of us take the advice of our friends and parents, or accept the norms of our society and act without ever wondering what God wants us to do. We must stop looking to this world for guidance. We must begin to consult God.

I cannot provide a better conclusion than saying that we must put our trust in God. We must have trust in His concern for us, and His ability to help us. God says:

{Put your trust in Allah, certainly, Allah loves those who put their trust (in Him)} (Al-Imran 3: 159)

Source: Mission Islam