"و اخلص في المسألة لربّك فانّ بيده العطاء والحرمان واكثر الاستخارة"
There are significant points in this statement, two of which will be dealt with here:
"Sincerity in prayer" means that a believer should ask God only for his needs and in carrying the prayer out a believer should not be in doubt, neither should he employ hypocrisy.
Regarding this, the Holy Qur’an says:
وَادعُوهُ مُخْلِصِينَ لَهُ الدِّينَ
"…and call on Him, being sincere to Him in obedience".1
In this regard, Imam Rida (as) narrates from Imam ‘Ali (as), his saying:
"طُوبَى لِمَن اَخلَصَ لله العِبَادَةَ وَالدُّعَاء وَلَم يَشْغَل قَلبَهُ بِمَا تَرى عَينَاهُ وَلَم يَنسَ ذِكرَ الله بِمَا تَسمَعُ اُذُنَاهُ وَلَم يَحزَن صَدرُهُ بِمَا اَعطَى غَيرَهُ".
"Blessed is he who is sincere to God in his worship and supplication, and does not occupy his heart with what his eyes see, nor forgets God’s remembrance through what his ears hear, and does not become sorrowful at what others have been given".2
Then Imam ‘Ali (as) shows the reasons of the philosophy of sincerity in the following manner: since bestowal and withholding is in the hands of God, it is absurd for man to ask or supplicate anybody else or to worship anybody else or assume any partner for God.3
But in the language of Shari’ah (or religion) it means to ask God for the best. We read in supplication 33 of Sahifah al-Sajjadiyah:
"الَّلهُمَّ اِنِّي اَستَخِيرُكَ بِعِلمِكَ فَصَلِّ على مُحَمَّدٍ وَآلِهِ وَاقْضِ لِي بِالخَيرَةِ وَاَلهِمنَا مَعْرِفَةَ الاِختِيَارِ، وَاجْعَل ذَلِكَ ذَرِيعَةً اِلى الرِّضَا بِمَا قَضَيتَ لَنَا وَالتَسْلِيمَ مِمَّا حَكَمْتَ فَأزِح عَنَّا رَيبَ الاِرْتِيابِ وَاَيِّدنَا بِيَقِينِ المُخْلِصِينَ"
"O God! I ask of You the best in Your knowledge, therefore bless Muhammad and his Household, and decree for me the best. Inspire us with knowledge to choose the best and make that a means to being pleased with what You have decreed for us and submitting to what You have decided. Banish from us the doubt of misgiving and confirm us with the certainty of the sincere”.6
And in Zurarah's tradition narrated from Imam Baqir (as) we read:
"قُلْتُ لاَبِي جَعْفَرٍ عليه السلام: اِذَا اَرَدْتُ اَمْراً وَاَرَدتُ الاِستِخَارَةَ كَيفَ اَقُولُ؟ فَقَالَ: اِذَا اَرَدتَ ذَلِكَ فَصُم الثَلاثَاءَ وَالاَربِعَاءِ وَالخَمِيسَ ثُمَّ صَلِّ يَومَ الجُمُعَةَ في مَكانٍ نَظِيفٍ رَكعَتَينِ، فَتَشَهَّد ثُمَّ قُل وَاَنتَ تَنظُر اِلى السَّمَاءِ: (الَّلهُمَّ اِنِّي اَسألُكَ بِانَّكَ عَالِمُ الغَيبِ وَالشَّهَادَةِ الرَّحْمَنُ الرَّحِيم اَنْتَ عَالِمُ الغَيبِ، اِن كَانَ هَذا الاَمْرُ خَيراً فِيمَا اَحاطَ بِهِ عِلمُكَ فَيَسِّرهُ لِي وَبَارِك لِي فِيهِ، وَافتَح لِي بِهِ، وَاِن كَانَ ذَلِكَ لِي شَرّاً فِيمَا اَحاطَ بِهِ عِلمُكَ فَاصرِف عَنّي بِمَا تَعلَمُ فَاِنَّكَ تَعلَمُ وَلا اَعلَمُ، وَتَقدِرُ وَلا اَقدِرُ، وَتَقضِي وَلا اَقْضِي وَانتَ عَلاّمُ الغُيوبِ)، تقولها مئة مرّة".
Zurarah said: ‘I asked Imam Baqir (as): “If I intend to do something and wish to perform Istikharah, what should I do”? He said: “If you wish to do that, then fast on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; then on Friday perform a two rak'ah (a unit of salat) prayer in a clean place; after performing the tashhahud, look at the sky and say: ‘O Allah, I ask You, for You are the Knower of the Unseen and the witnessed, the All-merciful, the All-compassionate – You are the Knower of the Unseen - if this matter is good in what Your Knowledge encompasses of it, then make it easy for me, bless me in it, and open it for me.
If it is bad in what Your Knowledge encompasses of it, then turn it away from me with what You know, for You know and do not, You determine and I do not, and You decree and I do not, and You are the Knower of the Unseen’. Repeat that a hundred times.”7
Of course, there are other kinds of Istikhara: Istikhara with the Qur’an, with writing on a piece of paper, and Istikhara with the rosary (tasbih). It is written in the books on Prayers and traditions that a person resorts to Istikhara when he is caught between two seemingly good options, but he is unable to choose one option. He does not know whether it is good or evil. When he starts to carry out Istikhara, his doubts are eliminated and he will have faith in the option he selects.8
Which one is better? Your worthless idols or the One Who fulfills your needs when you are left with nothing except depression?"9 And God will help him if He thinks it proper.
They tell us to pray (use supplication: du'a) abundantly, because when we knock on a door, there is hope that it will open;10 However, this work should be continuous, depending on the intention of the performer of the supplication.11