Istikhara in arabic means taking Allahs help. Whenever one wants to undertake a decision or a matter or anything regarding his life whether it be an important matter or a casual matter, he can (should) pray two raka’ats nawafil prayer and supplicate the below mentioned dua of istikhara after it to seek the help of Allah in his matter/decision.,Istikhara is only and only allowed for matters which are mubah (allowed) or mustahab (recommended) in Islam concerning either an individual’s personal life (property etc) or religious life (marriage, help in Islamic issues).
“Jabir bin Abdullah (RA) said: The Prophet (SAW) used to teach us to seek Allah’s Counsel in all matters, as he used to teach us a Surah from the Qur’an. He would say: When anyone of you has an important matter to decide, let him pray two Rak’ahs other than the obligatory prayer, and then say:
Allahumma inni astakhiruka bi’ilmika, Wa astaqdiruka bi-qudratika, Wa asaluka min fadlika al-‘azim Fa-innaka taqdiru Wala aqdiru, Wa ta’lamu Wala a’lamu, Wa anta ‘allamu l-ghuyub. Allahumma, in kunta ta’lam anna hadha-l-amra Khairun li fi dini wa ma’ashi wa’aqibati amri (or ‘ajili amri wa’ajilihi) Faqdirhu li wa yas-sirhu li summa barik li Fihi, Wa in kunta ta’lamu anna hadha-lamra shar-run li fi dini wa ma’ashi wa’aqibati amri (or fi’ajili amri wa ajilihi) Fasrifhu anni was-rifni anhu. Waqdir li al-khaira haithu kana summa ardini bihi.***
[Ref: Sahih Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 21, Number 263 ]
Method for doing Istikhara :
In accordance to the hadith mentioned above one has to pray two rakats of nafil salah. You may recite any surahs in those 2 rakat’s as u wish , However certain scholars having considered the virtue of surah Ikhlas and Surah Al kafiroon suggested that one may recite Surah Al kafiroon (chapter 109) after surah al fatiha in the first raka’ and recite Surah al-Ikhlas (Chapter 112) after Al fatiha in the second rakat but this is merely a suggestion only and not a sunnah. After having completed the salah one has to recite the above mentioned dua of istikhara .Please note that salah is a way of communicating with our Lord, so be focused during the salah as well as during the dua after it. Also it is highly recommended that the person first praises Allah, then sends blessings upon the prophet (s.a.w) , then recite the dua for istikhara and then if you wish make more dua (you may make it in your language as well). The importance of sending blessings upon the messenger of Allah (s.a.w) is taken from the ahadeeth
It is narrated from Faddaalah ibn ‘Ubayd (may Allaah be pleased with him) who said: “The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) heard a man making du’aa’ in his prayer without glorifying Allaah or sending blessings upon the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, ‘This man is in a hurry.’ He called him and said to him or to someone else, ‘When anyone of you makes du’aa’, let him start by glorifying his Lord and praising Him, then let him send blessings upon the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), then let him pray for whatever he wants.’” [Ref: Abu Dawood (1481) and al-Tirmidhi (3477) ]