The Real Meaning of Istikhara
Bismillahi al-Rahman al-Rahim, Alhamdu li Allahi Rabb al-'Alamin, wa Salla Allahumma 'ala Muhammadin wa Alihi al-Tayyibin al-Tahirin. Allahumma Salli 'ala Muhammadin wa ali Muhammad.
Of the discussions that the Fuqaha and jurists have in their books is a discussion of the recommendation of 'Al-istikhara'. When we speak about 'Al-istikhara', normally that which comes to our minds is the istikhara done through the Holy Qur'an or with certain prayers where I am directed as to whether this action is good for me or whether that this action should be avoided.
In our discussion, however, right now, when we say the word istikhara, we do not mean this meaning. So, we are not referring to using the Holy Qur'an or using Tasbih or using Salah to be guided in a certain way. Rather, when we use istikhara, we are using istikhara in its original meaning mentioned in the Riwayat and the Ahadith [traditions], which was literally asking Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala for the best of my affairs, and asking Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala for the best outcome. For Al-istikhara literally means 'Talab al-Khayr Mina Allahi Ta'ala' [seeking the best from Allah, The Most High].
And the Fuqaha and the jurists say that this Du'a of asking Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala for the best outcome and the best in my affairs, is something that was highly recommended in a number of situations. For example, when a person was going on a journey, especially if there was confusion or fear, or any important task, any dangerous tasks, any tasks where I have confusion. In fact, certain Fuqaha said that any big event in a person's life or anything of importance in that person's life before that event, they should do this Du'a known as Al-istikhara or asking Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala for the best.
In fact, the Riwayat of Ahl ul-Bayt 'alayhum as-salat wa as-salam, mentioned by Imam Al-Baqir salamu Allahi 'alayhi, and Imam Al-Sadiq 'alayhi as-salat wa as-salam, tell us that the Ahl ul-Bayt 'alayhum as-salat wa as-salam, would say that in the way that we learn Surahs of the Holy Qur'an; today, we learn Surahs of the Holy Qur'an by memorisation, likewise we should learn the Du'a of istikhara.
In fact, it is this Du'a that when Sayyid Al-Shuhada' [The Doyen of the Martyrs] Imam Husayn salawatu Allahi wa as-salamu 'alayhi left Madinah before he goes on this journey towards eventually Karbala', he does this Du'a of asking Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala for the best.
That the narration say, Imam al-Sajjad salamu Allahi 'alayhi, when he was concerned about something, when he would go on Hajj or 'Umrah, when he would buy or sell something, especially when there was confusion, before performing that, he would ask Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala for the best of his affairs.
And the way to perform this is istikhara is either I perform it after my Wajib prayers, or I perform two units of prayer, or even if I do not do these two things. Without these two things, I come, I stand towards the Qiblah [direction of Ka'bah]. After praising Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala, reciting Salawat, doing Tawassul [seeking intercession] with the Ahl ul-Bayt 'alayhim as-salat wa as-salam the recommendation mentioned is to say, 'Astakhiru Allah bi Rahmatihi' [I seek goodness from Allah by His mercy] 'Astakhiru Allah bi Rahmatih', after Bismillah and salawat and tawassul and Hamd [praise] and Dhikr [remembrance] when I say this and I can do this seven times, I can do this three times, I can do this 10 times, I can do this 100 times.
On doing this, I ask Allah Subhana wa Ta'ala for the best in my affairs. We are told that this is one of the most important supplications a person can do in their lifetime, especially when difficult tasks and difficult events arise in a person's life.
Wa akhiru da'wana, 'an al-hamdu li-Llahi Rabb al-'alamin (10:10) [Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds]. Wa salla Allahumma ala Sayyidina wa Nabiyyina Muhammadin, wa alihi, al-tayyibin, at-tahirin [and Peace and Blessings be upon our Master our Prophet Muhammad and his infallible progeny].