How to perform isthikhara

Question: I have prayed isthikhara numerous times and never get clear dreams or feelings. I sometimes get a good or bad feeling, but they are not usually consistent. Several people I know are confused on the topic of salatul-Istikhara. Is it meant to be prayed several days in a row until a decision is made, or only once? Is it meant to be prayed after one has pretty much made up their mind, or when someone hasn’t really figured out what to do? Are their various valid opinions?

When one is not clear about the result of the istikhara, the fuqaha mention that it is recommend to repeat it, upto seven times if necessary (usually done on separate occassions). [cf: Radd al-Muhtar]

It is not necessary that you get a dream or even a “feeling.” Rather, the istikhara is a prayer that Allah guide you towards that which is best (khayr) for you. If you do the prayer of guidance (istikhara) with the proper manners, the most important of which is to truly consign the matter to Allah and suspend your own inclinations, then Allah will make events unfold in the direction that is the best for your worldly and next-worldly affairs.

In general, when it is not possible to perform the istikhara prayer itself (such as when one is out on the road, or in one’s menstrual period), it is recommended to simply read the dua itself. [Radd al-Muhtar]

The istikhara prayer may be made for a specific matter or be made for a general seeking of all that is best. Some scholars, including Imam Abd al-Wahhab al-Sha`rani and Ibn `Arafah before him saw this kind of istikhara prayer as being superior. Others, including Shaykh Ibn al-Arabi, recommended performing a general istikhara prayer for all that is good every day, ideally at the time of the Duha prayer (after sunrise).

Imam al-Nawawi mentioned that before the istikhara prayer, one should seek advice (istishara) from those whose knowledge, wisdom, and concern one is confident. Ibn Hajar al-Haytami and others mentioned that one of the benefits of this is to further distance oneself from the desires of one’s own egotistic inclinations.

It is recommended to open the dua of istikhara [below], with praise of Allah and sending blessings on the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace), and to close it in this manner, too.

Like other duas, it is recommended that one face the qibla.

It is disliked to ‘hasten’ in seeking the answer to one’s istikhara, like other duas, because the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) said, “Your prayers are answered, unless you hasten, saying, ‘I prayed, but no answer came.'”

One should be pleased with what Allah chooses for one, and not seek to follow one’s whims after the answer to one’s supplication becomes clear.

Question: There is a pious lady in our community who has offered to pray istikhara for me to help me make a decision for marriage…[..] my question to you is if you know if this idea of relying on someone else’s istikhara is a good idea and compatible with the teachings of Islam on how to make dua and decisions. Should I follow her advice (according to her dreams and feelings) to me on this issue or not?

This is one means you can take: to seek the istikhara of a pious person. The permissibility of this was mentioned explicitly by the Malikis and Shafi`is. The Hanafis do not appear to have discussed this issue [al-Mawsu`a al-Fiqhhiyya, Kuwait], but there is nothing in it that would indicate its impermissibility. Rather, it is merely the taking of a means, which is permitted as long as one knows that the one who gives and takes, benefits and harms is Allah alone.

In such cases, though, one should not leave doing the istikhara oneself.

Question: I received an email regarding istikhara and I had further questions regarding it if you could please clarify. I too have attempted to do istikhara regarding marriage and was unable to get some sort of dream or “feeling” as people commonly say. You had responded that one should do istikhara 7 times. Is this 7 times in a row? Also when is an appropriate time to perform istikhara? Some places I have read after isha, others after fajr. What is advisable? Must one also memorize the duaa or is it ok to read it from a book? It would be very helpful to me if you could perhaps provide elaboration on the correct manner in which to perform istikhara.

1. 7 times on separate occasions. When possible, on separate nights (e.g. for big non-urgent issues);

2. Any time, but after isha, before sleep is best.

3. After fajr??? It is not permitted to pray anything after the fard of fajr except makeup prayers until sunrise. And after fajr time comes in, one only prays 2 rakats of the sunna of fajr. All other prayers (including the prayer of greeting the masjid) are disliked, besides the fard of fajr itself, until sunrise.

4. It is best to memorize the dua, and to actually be ASKING Allah with it, not just reading it out or merely SAYING it. Allah’s turning to one is commensurate to one’s turning to Him.

5. The best way to know how the istikhara prayer works is to pray it regularly, for big and small specific matters and for general guidance. It becomes a knack, the scholars say.

And Allah alone gives success. Source :