Salat al-Istikharah (Arabic: صلاة الاستخارة) is a prayer recited by Muslims when in need of guidance on an issue in their life. The salat is a two raka'ah salat performed to completion followed by the supplications Salat al-Istikharah.
The description of Salat al-Istikharah was narrated by Jabir ibn ‘Abd-Allah al-Salami, who said:
"The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to teach his companions to make Istikharah in all things, just as he used to teach them Surahs from the Qur'an. He (SAW) said: 'If any one of you is concerned about a decision he has to make, (or in the version narrated by Ibn Mas'ood as: 'if any one of you wants to do something...) then let him pray two rak'ahs of non-obligatory prayer and say (after the Salah)
A translation of the supplication is as follows:
"O Allah, I seek Your counsel by Your knowledge and I seek Your assistance by Your power and I ask You from Your immense favour, for verily You are able while I am not, and verily You know while I do not, and You are the knower of the Unseen. O Allah, if You know this affair ( mention affair here ) to be good for me in relation to my religion, my life and aftermath, my present and future, then decree it and facilitate it for me, and bless me with it, and if You know this affair to be ill for me concerning my religion, my life and end, my present and future, then remove it from me and remove me from it, and decree for me what is good, whatever it may be, and make me satisfied with it."
Another translation is as follows: O Allah, I seek Your guidance [in making a choice] 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. O Allah, if in Your knowledge, this matter (then it should be mentioned by name) is good for me both in this world and the hereafter, then ordain it for me, make it easy for me, and bless it for me. And if in Your knowledge it is bad for me and for my religion, my livelihood and my affairs (or: for me both in this world and the next), then turn me away from it, [and turn it away from me], and ordain for me the good wherever it may be and make me pleased with it." (Reported by al-Bukhaari, al-Tirmidhi, al-Nisaa'i, Abu Dawood, Ibn Maajah and Ahmad)
Ibn Hajr said, commenting on this hadith: "Istikharah is a word which means asking Allah to help one make a choice, meaning choosing the best of two things where one needs to choose one of them."
Istikharah is done when a decision is to be made in matters which are neither obligatory nor prohibited. So one does not need to do Istikharah for deciding whether he should go for hajj or not. Because if he is financially and physically able to do it then hajj is obligatory and he does not have a choice.
But Istikharah can be done in all kind of other permissible matters where a choice needs to be made such as buying something permissible, taking a job or choosing a spouse etc.
It is related in the Hadith that Muhammad used to teach the Istikharah to the Sahaabah for every matter just as he used to teach them the Sürah from the Qur'an. In another Hadith it is stated that 'He does not fail who makes Istikharah and he does not regret who makes consultation.'
Muhammad 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 prayer." Then with all sincerity recite the following Du'a.
اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْتَخِيرُكَ بِعِلْمِكَ وَأَسْتَقْدِرُكَ بِقُدْرَتِكَ، وَأَسْأَلُكَ مِنْ فَضْلِكَ الْعَظِيمِ، فَإِنَّكَ تَقْدِرُ وَلاَ أَقْدِرُ وَتَعْلَمُ وَلاَ أَعْلَمُ وَأَنْتَ عَلاَّمُ الْغُيُوبِ، اللَّهُمَّ إِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الأَمْرَ خَيْرٌ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي فَاقْدُرْهُ لِي وَيَسِّرْهُ لِي ثُمَّ بَارِكْ لِي فِيهِ، وَإِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الأَمْرَ شَرٌّ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي فَاصْرِفْهُ عَنِّي وَاصْرِفْنِي عَنْهُ، وَاقْدُرْ لِي الْخَيْرَ حَيْثُ كَانَ ثُمَّ أَرْضِنِي بِهِ
Allahumma innee astakheeruka bi ilmika wa-astaqdiruka biqudratika wa-as'aluka min fadhlika al-adheem. Fa innaka taqdiru walaa aqdiru. Wa ta'lamu walaa a'alamu wa anta allaamul ghuyoob. Allahumma in kunta ta'lamu anna haadhal-amr khayrun liy fiy deeniy wa-ma'aashiy wa-'aaqibat amriy, faqdur hu liy wa- liy thumma baarik liy feehi. Wa in-kunta ta'lamu anna haadhal amr sharrun liy fiy deeniy wa-ma'aashiy wa-'aaqibat amriy. Fa asrifhu 'annee wa-srifni 'anhu. Wa aqdur lial khayra haythu kaana thumma a-rdhiniy bihee
(At both instances where "haadhal amr" appears, mention affair here) Translation:
O Allah! Behold I ask You the good through Your Knowledge, and ability through Your Power, and beg (Your favour) out of Your infinite Bounty. For surely You have Power; I have none. You know all; I know not. You are the Great Knower of all things.
O Allah! If in Your Knowledge this matter be good for my faith (Deen), for my livelihood, and for the consequences of my affairs, then ordain it for me, and make it easy for me, and bless me therein. But if in Your Knowledge, this matter be bad for my faith (Deen), for my livelihood, and for the consequences of my affairs, then turn it away from me, and turn me away therefrom, and ordain for me the good wherever it be, and cause me to please with it.