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The True Meaning of Istikhara

I feel that often times people mistake Istikhara for having a different meaning than it truly does. For the most part, this consists of people assuming that seeing a dream from Allah, regarding the situation being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is a vital part of Istikhara. However, this is not the case. For this post, I decided to explain to you what Istikhara is, starting from the basics. Hopefully this gets rid of any misconceptions any of you have regarding Istikhara.

WHAT DOES ISTIKHARA MEAN?
The word Istikhara directly means, to ask Allah to guide one to the right sort of action concerning a job or deed. ‘Khair’ means good (asking Allah to guide you to the good or right answer). Meaning, you’re not asking Allah to show you a vision, through a dream.

DREAMS AND ISTIKHARA
People sometimes think of their dreams, as answers from God. However, dreams sometimes consist of our thoughts, ambitions, etc. which are already made up in our minds. Often times we mistake these dreams/thoughts for Allah’s word. In the time of marriage or finding a life partner, people ask their relatives to do Istikhara as well. However, the most important people in this marriage are the guy and girl getting married. So they should do Istikhara for themselves. We are taught from a very young age to ask Allah for a suitable life partner, this is also a sort of Istikhara. So once again, it is important that the guy and girl do Istikhara. If two people get contradicting dreams it could mean that the message was actually the same but misinterpreted. Be certain that you can’t get two different answers from Allah, it’s a mistake in our own interpretation. Which is why, the guy and girl should pray, and go with their gut feeling, not what others dream of.

THE IMPORTANCE OF ISTIKHARA
The importance of Istikhara can be seen from the following Hadith:
Narrated by Jabir bin ‘Abdullah:
The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to teach us the way of doing Istikhara, in all matters as he taught us the Surahs of the Qur’an. He said, “If anyone of you thinks of doing any job he should offer a two rak’at prayer otehr than the compulsory ones and say (after the prayer): “Allahumma inni astakhiruka bi’ilmika, Wa astaqdiruka biqudratika, Wa as’alaka min falika Al-‘azlm Fa-innaka taqdiru Wala aqdiru, Wa ta’lamu Wala a’lamu, Wa anta ‘allamu l-ghuyub, Alahumma, in kunta ta’lam anna hadha-lamra Khairun li fi dini wa ma’ashi wa’aqibati ‘Amri 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 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 no 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, 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, 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 a satisfied with it). The Prophet (peace be upon him) added that then the person should name (mention) his need.

HOW DOES ONE PERFORM ISTIKHARA?
If any problem comes your way, the following steps should be taken to perform Istikhara:

  • Perform 2 Rak’ah of (Nafl) prayer:
    • In the first Rak’ah read Surah Al-Kafiroon
    • In the next Rak’ah read Surah-Al-Ikhlas
    • (Perform the rest of the prayer as you would normally)
  •  Read the Dua for Istikhara
Many people say that the 2 Rak’ah of Nafl prayer should be read after Isha’a only because one can go to sleep directly after, and see a dream (if that’s meant to happen). However, no where in the Hadith is a specific time for performing Istikhara given. In the Hadith it shows that one should perform Istikhara whenever they need to.

CAN ONE DO ISTIKHARA WITHOUT KNOWING THE PRAYER?
It would be beneficial to memorize the Istikhara prayer. However, if one is unable to do so, then they can say the prayer in their own words. Basically, if you don’t know the prayer, you are still able to do Istikhara, but the words (of the prayer) that have been taught to us by the Prophet (peace be upon him) would be more effective and result in more blessings.

PRAYING FOR DECISION PURPOSES
Please remember that Istikhara is not only for marriages! Istikhara should be an important part of every important decision that you make in your life. For example, if something comes up, and you only have a few moments to make a decision, you can still do Istikhara because it’s technically just a prayer.

I do hope that this clears away any misconceptions that you had regarding Istikhara. It is beneficial to make it a habit to recite the Istikhara prayer whenever we can. I don’t think any one of us would want to make the wrong decision, leading to problems in the future. Whether this be a decision regarding school, people, friends, jobs etc., pray to Allah to help you make the decision that would be beneficial to you in this world and the next.

May Allah enable us all to be servants that aim to please our Lord, Ameen!
Note: If there’s anything that I’ve stated above that is incorrect, please let me know. I am in no way an expert on religion or Islam. May Allah forgive me for my mistakes, Ameen.

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