How to Pray Istikhara

How to Pray Istikhara

The meaning of the word “istikhara” is the best of affairs. Istikhara is a sunnah prayer, that Muslims offer by praying two rakat with the intention of seeking guidance from Allah.

This article will elaborate validity and significance of this prayer, the process of ‘How to pray istikhara’, the timings to offer this prayer, conditions for praying istikhara and the details incidental thereto.

This prayer is treated as a gift to Muslims from the lawgiver ‘Allah SWT’ in the form of salatul istikhara. According to Ibn-e-Aseer, the istikhara prayer is offered when something good is asked from Allah, the Merciful.

Whenever Muslims are confused regarding any matter, they seek Allah's guidance and wisdom through the istikhara prayer, hoping that they will be directed toward the best path.

References from hadiths and Sunnah

hadith books

For the validity of the prayer has been traced to the life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who used to offer this prayer while seeking guidance from the lawgiver. A few of the traditions reported from the last messenger have been mentioned below for quick reference: -

1.According to Jabir Bin Abdullah (May Allah be pleased with him) "The Messenger of Allah, Prophet Mohammed (SAW), used to teach his companions to seek counsel from Allah (Istikhara prayer) in all things, just as he used to teach them chapters from the Qur'an. He also said: 'If any one of you is concerned about a decision he has to make or wants to take an action then let him pray two units of rak’ah of voluntary Salah prayer and say as follows: -

"O Allah, I seek your counsel through your knowledge and I seek your assistance through your might and I ask you from your immense favor, for verily you alone decree our fate while I do not, and you know while I do not, and you alone possess all knowledge of the unseen. O Allah, if You know this matter ( mention matter here ) to be good for me in relation to my religion, my life and livelihood and the end of my affairs, my present and future, then decree it for me and facilitate it for me, and then place blessing for me within it, and if You know this affair to be harmful to me concerning my religion, my life and livelihood and the end of my affairs, then remove it from me and remove me from it, and decree for me what is good, wherever it may be, and make me content with it."

We could seek guidance in any matter regarding marriage proposal, career path, business Alliance, etc.

2.In another hadith, Prophet Mohammed (SAW) once said:

“ مِن سَعادةِ ابنِ آدمَ كثرةُ استِخارةِ اللهِ تعالى، وَرِِضَاهُ بِمَا قَضَى اللهُ لهُ، ومِن شَقاوةِ ابنِ آدمَ ترْكُه استِخارةَ اللهِ تعالى وسَخَطُهُ بِمَا قضَى اللهُ له”

Amongst the happiness of the son of Adam is the abundance in performing Istikhara (seeking the best) from Allah the exalted and contentment upon what is ordained by Allah for him. And amongst the misery of the son of Adam is his disregard for Istikhara to Allah the exalted and his resentment for what is ordained by Allah for him. (Sunan At-Tirmizi)

According to Islamic scholars whenever a Muslim is in doubt and cannot decide which path to take then he should perform istikhara prayer. It should be performed with the intent that Allah will guide him with his wisdom. After performing this prayer one should be satisfied with whichever path Allah chooses for him.

3.Allah says in the Quran,

فَبِمَا رَحْمَةٍ مِّنَ اللّهِ لِنتَ لَهُمْ وَلَوْ كُنتَ فَظًّا غَلِيظَ الْقَلْبِ لاَنفَضُّواْ مِنْ حَوْلِكَ فَاعْفُ عَنْهُمْ وَاسْتَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ وَشَاوِرْهُمْ فِي الأَمْرِ فَإِذَا عَزَمْتَ فَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللّهِ إِنَّ اللّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُتَوَكِّلِينَ

“By an act of mercy from God, you [Prophet] were gentle in your dealings with them –– had you been harsh, or hard-hearted, they would have dispersed and left you –– so pardon them and ask forgiveness for them. Consult with them about matters, then, when you have decided on a course of action, put your trust in God: God loves those who put their trust in Him.” (3:159)

Istikhara prayer usually is offered for matters that are permitted (mubah) or in mustahabb issues where you have to choose between two matters and decide which one should be prioritized.

According to Ibn Abi Jamrah: "As to issues that are waajib (mandatory) or mustahabb (supported), there is no requirement for Istikhara to be done in order to choose whether to do them and with respect to issues that are haram (prohibited) or makrooh (loathed), there is no requirement for Istikhara to be done to choose whether to stay away from them."

When istikhara Salah should be performed?

istikhara prayer timings

People are not sure about the right time when this prayer should preferably be performed. As we know the five obligatory prayers have specific timings in which they should be performed. However, as far as istikhara prayer is concerned, there is no specific time at which we should perform istikhara.

We can perform this Sunnah prayer at any time during the day except for the times in which it is forbidden to perform any Salah. The forbidden time periods in which we cannot perform any Salah are mentioned below:

  1. After the fajr prayer until the sun rises.
  2. 5 minutes before the Zuhr prayer.
  3. After the Asar prayer until sunset.

These timings are evident in a Hadith of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) which is as follows:

حين تطلُعُ الشمسُ بازغةً حتى ترتفعَ، وحين يقومُ قائمُ الظهيرةِ حتى تميلَ الشمس، وحين تَضيَّفُ الشمسُ للغروبِ حتى تغرُبَ “When the sun rises until it goes high in the horizon when the sun is at its meridian until it goes past the meridian, and when the sun sets until it is totally down." (Sahih Muslim)

Another hadith narrated by Umar (May Allah be pleased with him) states:

"The Prophet (SAW) forbade praying after the Fajr prayer till the sun rises and after the Asr prayer till the sun sets." Narrated Ibn Abbas (May Allah be pleased with him): Some people told me the same narration. (Sahih Bukhari).

Praying Istikhara: School of thoughts

school of thoughts

As muslim jurist Ibn Abideen (Al-Hanafi) suggested that one should offer istikhara prayer, then while being with wudu, should proceed to sleep forthwith and must direct his face towards Makkah. If he finds a dream in colors i.e. white or green the answer may be considered affirmative; while if that is seen in dark or red then it may be considered negative.

Jurists from the schools of (Shafi, Maliki, Hanabili & Jafari) are of the opinion one should proceed on the basis of appealing factors. If someone has seen a dream, a convincing one should proceed for the cause.

Imam Malik confirmed the opinion that the istikhara prayer can be performed by the one who is seeking guidance from the lawgiver or even the prayer can be performed for someone else.

How does the response of istikhara prayer appear?

Being Muslims, it is our firm belief that Allah is the best of planners. By performing istikhara prayer, we believe that Allah will give us an indication or direct us toward the path which is perfect for us.

You must have heard people saying that after performing the istikhara prayer you are guided towards the right path in a dream. This might not always happen therefore, you should get this notion out of your mind that you will get the answer in a dream because it can happen or not.

Although, dreams do have some hidden meaning you might not be qualified to interpret that meaning. So you should not analyze it further.

Regarding the types of dreams and the means of interpretation; the Holy Prophet (SAW) said: “Dreams are of three types:-

  1. Glad tidings from Allah
  2. What is on a person’s mind, and
  3. Frightening dreams from Satan.

If any of you see a dream that he likes, let him tell others if he wishes, but if he sees something that he dislikes, he should not tell anyone about it, and he should get up and perform prayer (by showing absolute obedience to Almighty Allah) .”(Ibn Majah)

Researchers discuss the phenomenon of "expansion of the chest (Inshirah al Sadr)" which is a feeling or a sensation a person gets that something is right has been informed to him by Allah.

However, you should not completely rely on a feeling or a dream. Once you have performed the istikhara prayer, you should implicitly trust Allah and know that He will guide you towards a path that is ideal for you.

Determination after the istikhara prayer

Are you still confused about the matter for which, you have performed the Istikhara prayer? If so; nothing to worry about because it is completely normal to feel confused about a certain matter even after performing the Istikhara.

You can continuously pray the Istikhara prayer until you are satisfied in your heart that the decision you are making is the best for you and Allah will guide you further on that path. No absolute conclusion or mind-making becomes obvious rather conditions take you in some way, which ultimately appears in your favor.

In another tradition; Ibn Masood’s (May Allah be pleased with him) emphasized on repetition of prayer where he is reported to have said about the Prophet (SAW) invoking Allah thrice for whatever he asked for describing one of the events before migration of Muslims to Madinah.

The Prophet ﷺ was praying alongside the Ka’bah. Abu Jahl ordered a camel’s fetus be placed upon his shoulders when he went down in prostration. The Prophet ﷺ stayed in the same position until Fatima (May Allah be pleased with her) came to remove the fetus off his shoulders. When the Prophet ﷺ had finished his prayer, he invoked Allah’s imprecations upon them in a loud voice. When he prayed, he prayed thrice, and when he asked for God's blessings, he asked thrice. (Sahih Muslim)

Conditions precedent for praying istikhara

Following are the acts, you must bear in mind before proceeding to offer istikhara prayer: -

1. Cleanliness

you must wear a clean dress before proceeding to the prayer. You must also take care of your personal hygiene before offering the istikhara prayer. Although the prayer is not of obligatory character the conditions for the performance of prayer are the same as those that appear for the obligatory prayer.

2. Intention (Niyyah)

Forming of niyyah (intention) is necessary before any Salah. It is the declaration of intention to perform the istikhara prayer, which is a must to seek guidance from the lawgiver. As mentioned by Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) "actions are judged by intentions." Likewise, meditation on the word of God is also involves deep intention and obedience to the will of Almighty. To know more about meditation read article How to Meditate on the Word of God

3. Conviction

You should have complete trust in the process of Istikhara. Before performing the istikhara prayer one should have absolute trust in Allah that whatever He chooses for you would be the best decision. Once the circumstances appear, either way, one is supposed to follow blindly without interpreting his own opinion.

4. Choose the correct time

Choosing the right time to perform the istikhara prayer is also very essential. According to Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) the Prophet Muhammad Muhammad (SAW) said " Allah the merciful comes down to the worldly Sky every night last moment of the night, Allah the merciful announces his creatures to call upon him: is there anyone to call me, who so ever calls him he accepts and fulfils his prayer and demands and forgives him." Therefore it is recommended to manage the performance of the prayer in the late night hours.

Method of praying istikhara

It is widely asked question ‘How to pray istikhara’ and for praying istikhara how many rakats are to be performed and what is the entire process to undertake the salat. Primarily, istikhara prayer is offered in the form of two raka’ts. The step-wise process to offer this salat is as follows: -

Make wudu (Ablution)

wudu for prayer

No Salah can be performed without making wudu (ablution). Likewise, making wuzu is essential before offering the istikhara prayer as well. Start by washing your hands, mouth, nose and forearms three times. Next, wash your head and ears one time. Then wash your feet three times starting with your right foot.

Allocate and clean space for praying

Prepare the space in which you will pray your istikhara prayer. Ensure that you pray in a neat and clean area. Now place your prayer mat on the floor facing the Qibla and start searching for bounties from Allah (SWT).

Intention (Niyaah)

When you are ready to start performing the istikhara prayer you need to make your intention clear by saying the following words: أُصَلِّي سُنَّةَ الاِستِخَارَةِ رَكعَتَينِ لِلَّهِ تَعَالَى  Usolli sunnatal-Istikharati rak'ataini lillah ta'ala

"I intend to pray the Sunnah Istikhara prayer, two raka'at, for Allah s.w.t."

Praying Istikhara

The Sunnah Istikhara prayer is performed in two rak’ahs. After making the intention (niyyah) of the prayer: -

  1. Raise your hands to your ears and say: الله أكبر Translation: “Allah is the Greatest.”
  2. Next, recite Isteftah Dua which is: سُبْحَانَكَ اللَّهُمَّ وَبِحَمْدِكَ وَتَبَارَكَ اسْمُكَ وَتَعَالَى جَدُّكَ وَلاَ إِلَهَ غَيْرُكَ “Glory be to you, O Allah and all praises are due unto you, and blessed is your name and high is your majesty and none is worthy of worship but you.”
  3. Isteftah dua should be followed by the recitation of Ta’awwuz (which means “I seek Allah's protection from Satan who is accursed”) and Tasmiah (which means “In the name of Allah, the kindest and the most Merciful”).
  4. Then recite Surah Fatiha which is written below. ٱلۡحَمۡدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ ٱلۡعَٰلَمِينَ ٱلرَّحۡمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ ٱلرَّحۡمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ مَٰلِكِ يَوۡمِ ٱلدِّينِ إِيَّاكَ نَعۡبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسۡتَعِينُ ٱهۡدِنَا ٱلصِّرَٰطَ ٱلۡمُسۡتَقِيمَ صِرَٰطَ ٱلَّذِينَ أَنۡعَمۡتَ عَلَيۡهِمۡ غَيۡرِ ٱلۡمَغۡضُوبِ عَلَيۡهِمۡ وَلَا ٱلضَّآلِّينَ Translation: “Praise is only for Allah, Lord of the Universe. The most Kind, the most Merciful. The master of the Day of Judgement. You alone we worship and to you alone we pray for help. Show us the straight way, the way of those whom you have blessed. Who have not deserved your anger, nor gone astray.”

Although you can recite any surah in both the rak'ahs after Surah Al-Fatiha. However, it is recommended to recite Surah Al-Kafiroon in the first raka'ah and Surah Al-Ikhlas in the second ra'akah after Surah Al Fatiha.



We conclude the istikhara prayer by saying Tasleem after the second raka'at. Tasleem is the final portion of your prayer where the following is recited: السلام عليكم ورحمة الله “Peace and blessings of God be unto you.” You recite the above words once while facing to the right and again while facing to the left.

After this, you should raise your hands and start to pray. It is preferable that you start by stating the names and attributes of Allah. After praising Allah, send blessings upon Prophet Muhammad (SAW). it is preferred that you read the Tashahhud as one reads during their prayer. The Tashahhud is mentioned below:

اللّهُمَّ صَلّ عَلَى مُحَمَّدٍ وَعَلَى آلِ مُحمَّدٍ كمَا صَلَّيْتَ عَلَى إبراهيم وَعَلَى آلِ إبْرَاهيمَ وَبَارِكْ عَلَى مُحمَّدٍ وعَلَى آلِ مُحمَّدٍ كمَا بَارَكْتَ عَلَى إبْرَاهيمَ وَعَلَى آلِ إبْرَاهيمَ في العالمينَ إنَّكَ حَمِيدٌ مَجِيدٌ

The dua of Istikhara

According to Ibn Abi Jamrah: “The wisdom behind putting the Salat before the dua is that Istikhara is intended to combine the goodness of this world with the goodness of the next.

A person needs to knock at the door of the King (Allah the Merciful), and there is nothing more effective for this than prayer, because it contains glorification and praise of Allah the Merciful, and expresses one's need for Him at all times.” As taught by Prophet Mohammed (SAW) we should read the following Dua after the istikhara prayer.

dua of istikhara

“O Allah! I seek Your counsel 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 not, and You are All-knowing of the unseen (hidden),

O Allah! If You know that this matter is good for me in my religion, my livelihood and my affairs in the Hereafter, if it is better for my present and later, then ordain it for me and make it easy for me, and then bless it for me,

And if You know that this matter is harmful (bad) for me in my religion, my livelihood and my affairs in the Hereafter, or if it is bad for my present and later, then ward it off from me and keep me away from it. Then ordain for me with whatever is good for me wherever it may be found, and help me be content with it."

During the istikhara Dua when you reach the following part you should state the matter for which you are seeking guidance from Allah. اللَّهُمَّ إِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الأَمْرَ,

For instance, if you are seeking guidance regarding a marriage proposal, migrating to another country or buying some property, do state the reason of performing istikhara. After you have stated your reason, continue reciting the dua from: خَيْرٌ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي.

Once you have recited the Dua you should send blessings upon the Prophet (SAW) again. You can also substitute this by reciting Tashahud as mentioned earlier. The process of istikhara has ended. Surely, Allah will guide you towards a better path.


It is believed that having read the article you must have got a comprehensive idea of praying istikhara, the significance and purpose behind the prayer, the manner of its performance from beginning to end ‘how to pray istikhara’, the sources indicating validation of this prayer in the Islam, the best time to offer the prayer. Istikhara is performed when you are trying to seek guidance from Allah.

Do not expect to get your answers in your dreams or get a positive feeling immediately after praying istikhara. Instead, have complete faith in Allah that He will guide you towards the ideal path. Even if the decision you make after praying istikhara doesn’t turn out the way you envisioned it, know that it was good for you since you sought Allah’s guidance and He directed you towards it.


How to do Istikhara prayer step by step?

It is performed in the pattern of two rakats like any other sunnah prayer starting with ‘Allah ho Akbar’ ending on ‘asslam u alaikum warahmattulahey wa barakatuhu’. It is followed by a specific dua for seeking guidance from Allah.

At what time should Istikhara be performed?

It is recommended to perform the istikhara prayer at night time, just before going to bed so focus cannot be deviated. It is advised to recite surah e kafiroon and surah e ikhlas in two rakats.

What is the prayer for guidance in Istikhara?

“O Allah! I seek Your counsel 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 not, and You are All-knowing of the unseen (hidden).

What do you say in Istikhara dua?

It is to praise Allah that he knows everything seen or unseen. Make supplication that may Allah drive us to the path/ decision which is best for us in this world and also hereafter.

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