Al Istikhaarah is a prayer for guidance. This is highly recommended for muslims when they are faced to doubtful choices, or before making important decisions. This means to ask Allah to guide us to the right thing concerning any affair in our life, especially when we have to choose between two permissible alternatives.
The importance of doing this is because God knows what is best for us. And only God knows what troubles will wait for us if we depend on our own. So when we are in doubts to marry a certain person, to take a spesific job, to continue education, etc., we really should seek guidance from God.
The Prophet Muhammad salallahu alaihi wasalam once said :
“If one of you is concerned about some practical undertaking, or about making plans for a journey, he should perform two cycles (rak’atain) of voluntary (non-obligatory) prayer.” Then he/she should say the following du’a:
Oh Allah! I seek Your guidance by virtue of Your knowledge, and I seek ability by virtue of Your power, and I ask You of Your great bounty. You have power; I have none. And You know; I know not. You are the Knower of hidden things.
Oh Allah! If in Your knowledge, (this matter*) is good for my religion, my livelihood and my affairs, immediate and in the future, then ordain it for me, make it easy for me, and bless it for me. And if in Your knowledge, (this matter*) is bad for my religion, my livelihood and my affairs, immediate and in the future, then turn it away from me, and turn me away from it. And ordain for me the good wherever it may be, and make me content with it.
When making the du’a, the actual matter or decision should be mentioned instead of the words “hadzal-amra” (“this matter”).
There are mentioned that the guidance will come in several ways :
1. guidance through dreams
2. guidance through intuition
3. guidance through determination
4. guidance to keep the person from which not good for them and get closer to what is good.
There is no limit on the number of times we can recite the du’a, and also as Imam Nawawi said that :
“after performing the istikharah, a person must do what he is wholeheartedly inclined to do and feels good about doing and should not insist on doing what he had desired to do before making the istikharah. And if his feelings change, he should leave what he had intended to do, otherwise he is not completely leaving the choice to Allah, and would not be honest in seeking aid from Allah’s power and knowledge. Sincerity in seeking Allah’s choice, means that one should completely leave what he himself had desired or determined.”
Note : Istikhaara does not demand a special prayer to be done, as long as the dua is mentioned outside the obligatory prayer, then it is enough. So if there is a person does sunna prayer without any intention for istikhaara, but then he remembered the doubts inside his mind, and he mentioned the dua (once or several times), then it is enough.