SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Agency) –
“Istikhara” means to ask for good or to weigh the importance of an option and to select the best one.4 It also means to ask God to give him the best.5
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
4. Abduh’s commentary on Nahj al-Balaghah, vol.3, p.45.
5. Ibn Maytham’s Sharh Nahj al-Balaghah, vol.5, p.11.
6. Sahifah al-Sajjadiyah, supplication 33.
7. Wasa’il, vol.5, p.207.
8. For further information concerning Istikhara and its kinds refer to the following: Bihar, vol.19, pp.222-288; Wasa’il, vol.5, pp.204-221, vol.4, p.875; Sahifah al-Sajjadiyah, (tr.) Fayz al-Islam, and (tr.) Sayyid ‘Ali Khan; and Allamah Kalbasi’s al-Istikhara.
9. For this, see Imam Khumayni’s Kashf al-Asrar, pp.89-97.
10. Bihar, vol.93, p.298.
11. In traditions, it is said the supplication could be recited once or one hundred times depending on the importance of the topic at hand.
Adapted from: “Imam ‘Ali’s First Treatise on The Islamic Ethics and Education” by: “Zainol Aabideen Qorbani Lahiji”