Istikharah is a du'a made in conjunction with non-obligatory prayer; it is a voluntary prayer that Prophet Muhammad peace and blessings be upon him recommended to anybody wanting to do something but feeling hesitant about doing it. It is seeking guidance in order to make the right decision. It is reported that Prophet would teach his companions to make Istikharah just as he would teach them verses from the Quran. One should pray two units of non-obligatory (voluntary) prayer and then say the du'a of Istikharah.
Du'a of Istikharah:
اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْتَخِيرُكَ بِعِلْمِكَ وَأَسْتَقْدِرُكَ بِقُدْرَتِكَ وَأَسْأَلُكَ مِنْ فَضْلِكَ الْعَظِيمِ فَإِنَّكَ تَقْدِرُ وَلَا أَقْدِرُ وَتَعْلَمُ وَلَا أَعْلَمُ وَأَنْتَ عَلَّامُ الْغُيُوبِ اللَّهُمَّ إِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الْأَمْرَ خَيْرٌ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي فَاقْدُرْهُ لِي وَيَسِّرْهُ لِي ثُمَّ بَارِكْ لِي فِيهِ وَإِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الْأَمْرَ شَرٌّ فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي فَاصْرِفْهُ عَنِّي وَاصْرِفْنِي عَنْهُ وَاقْدُرْ لِيَ الْخَيْرَ حَيْثُ كَانَ ثُمَّ ارْضِنِي بِهِ
Allahumma innee astakheeruka bi ilmika wa-astaqdiruka biqudratika wa-as'aluka min fadhlika al-adheem. Fa innaka taqdiru walaa aqdiru. Wa ta'lamu walaa a'alamu wa anta allaamul ghuyoob. Allahumma in kunta ta'lamu anna haadhal-amr khayrun liy fiy deeniy wa-ma'aashiy wa-'aaqibat amriy, fa'qdruhliy wa-yassirh liy thumma baarik liy feehi. Wa in-kunta ta'lamu anna haadhal amr sharrun liy fiy deeniy wa-ma'aashiy wa-'aaqibat amriy. Fa asrifh annee wa-srif 'anhu. Wa aqdurh liyal khayr hayth kaana thumma a-rdhiniy bihee
O Allah, I ask You to show me what is best, through Your knowledge, and I ask You to empower me, through Your power, and I beg You to grant me Your tremendous favour, for You have power, while I am without power, and You have knowledge, while I am without knowledge, and You are the One who knows all things unseen.
O Allah, if You know that this matter (mention the thing to be decided) is good for me in my religion and in my life and for my welfare in the life to come, then ordain it for me and make it easy for me, and then bless me in it.And if You know that this matter is bad for me in my religion and in my life and for my welfare in the life to come, then distance it from me, and distance me from it, and ordain for me what is good wherever it may be, and help me to be content with it."
When to recite the du'a of Istikharah
It is permitted to recite the du'a of Istikharah either before or after the tasleem. Some scholars recommend before, because Prophet Muhammad himself used to make a lot of du'a before the tasleem.
When to pray Istikharah
Islamic scholars agree that Istikharah is suggested when a person does not know the right decision to make. If one is unsure about whether or not his possible actions would bring about good in both this world and the hereafter. If a person is hesitating, not knowing if "it" is the right thing to do then Istikharah is the du'a that may set his mind at ease. It is the du'a that acknowledges Allah as the only strength and only power in this world. His guidance is necessary to ensure that human beings follow the straight and correct path that leads to a blissful life everlasting. For instance, if a person wants to find out the right time to do something, such as whether or not to do voluntary Hajj this year, or to propose marriage to a particular person, then it is acceptable and recommended that he or she prays Istikharah. Understand carefully that Istikharah is for matters that are considered either recommended or permissible. It is for cases in which there is a conflict. Should I give to this charity or the other? Should I apply for this halal job or another? One should prays Istikharah concerning the thing he or she thinks is more likely to be better and then go ahead with doing it.
Istikharah is not prayed for matters that are considered obligatory acts of worship, or for staying away from sins and evil actions.
It is recommended, before praying Istikharah, to consult someone whom you know is sincere, caring and has experience, and who is trustworthy with regard to his or her religious commitment and knowledge.
· Believing that there is a set number of times to pray Istikharah.
There is no set time period for praying Istikharah and it is permissible to repeat it more than once.
· Believing in the need for a dream.
Some people believe that after praying Istikharah they should experience a dream or feeling of ease. This is not correct. Even without such a thing, if a person makes a decision it should be hoped, due to the sincere du'a of Istikharah, that this will be the best decision.
· Believing that the du'a was not answered.
If a person does not succeed in a decision he takes after praying Istikharah this does not mean that the du'a did not bring about what was best. Often it is a case of Allah knowing what is best while we human beings do not. If we take particular note of the words of the du'a we will notice we are not only asking Allah for what is best but also asking Him to remove from us, things of no benefit to us, either in this life or in the hereafter.
After praying Istikharah if Allah makes things easy for you then this is a sign that the thing you decided is good for you and if obstacles come in the way and things become difficult then this is an indication that Allah is pushing you away from a bad decision.