I have a question about istikhara. I have been told that in istikhara we get the answer in a dream. Is that correct? If it were correct then nobody in the world would take loss in their business or personal maters. Please guide me. I want to start business of garments. I have enough knowledge of the business but I made someone perform istikhara for me and he said I must not start the business. How do you suggest I should proceed?
Istikhara, in fact is seeking from God what is good for us. It basically giving expression to the general Muslim belief of depending on God and seeking His help in every matter. We believe that God knows what is better for us while we do not. Therefore, when we embark upon an important task in our life we seek God's help. We ask Him to make the task easy for us if it is better for our worldly life and for that to come. We invoke Him to make the task easy for us. We ask Him to keep us away from it if it is not better for us. The Prophet Muhammad (sws) advised his Companions to seek God's help before taking important decisions by offering two raka'aat of optional prayer and then praying for God's help. He suggested a very beautiful prayer for this purpose. However, it is not necessary that we utter the same prayer or perform the Istikhara in this formal manner before taking every act. The prayer in fact depends on our trust in God and the purity of intent. It does not work as a chant. We can pray in any language in which we can express ourselves and even it can be communicated without the use of medium of words. It is a call a dumb can make and it is a cry a child can try. God knows the inner most feeling of our heats and listens to His servants when they turn to Him. He listens to our prayers is they do not go against the plan he has ordained for us and if it fits in His wise scheme about our life and circumstances.
The prayer suggested by the Prophet (pbuh) is a very cogent expression of one's thrust for God's help. He is reported to have said:
You can see that prayer seeks God's help and there is no trace of asking His permission or His refusal to what we intend to do. We will just pray to God and do what we feel ourselves content with. Usually people think that the prayer almost makes it incumbent upon God to communicate His will in that particular matter. The Prophet (sws) never referred to this not does the prayer suggested by him contains a slightest clue to that. People usually expect dreams to come or any other manifest indication from God. We believe these things are mere misconceptions attached later to the concept of istikhara. Dreams are never a sure way of knowing anything. We cannot be sure of the fact whether a dream is from God or it is merely a satanic influence or a symbolized form of wishes. Therefore the correct way would be to proceed while using the other sure and concrete forms of knowledge. God has granted us the knowledge and understanding of what is good for us and what is not. We can use our intellect to assess whether a particular action would be beneficial for us or not. It can of course come the other way out but we proceed as we understand to be the right course and leave the rest upon God.
إذا هم أحدكم بالأمر فليركع ركعتين الفريضة ثم ليقل اللهم إني استخيرك بعلمك، واستقدرك بقدرتك، وأسألك من فضلك العظيم فإنك تقدر ولا أقدر، وتعلم ولا أعلم، وأنت علام الغيوب، اللهم إن كنت تعلم أن هذا لأمر خير لي في ديني ومعاشي وعاقبة أمري أو قال عاجل أمري وآجله، فاقدره لي ويسره لي ثم بارك لي فيه، اللهم وإن كنت تعلم أن هذا لأمر شر لي في ديني ومعاشي وعاقبة أمري أو قال عاجل أمري وآجله، فاصرفه عني واصرفني عنه واقدر لي الخير حيث كان ثم ارضني به ويسمي حاجته» رواه البخاري
If anyone of you considers doing something he should offer a two-rak'at supererogatory prayer, and then say, "(O Allah ! I ask guidance 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 know the unseen. O Allah! If You know that this thing is good for my deen and my subsistence and for my Hereafter - then ordain it for me and make it easy for me to obtain, and then bless me in it. If You know that this thing is harmful for me in my deen and subsistence and for my share in the Hereafter then keep it away from me, and keep me away from it. And ordain for me whatever is good for me, and make me satisfied with it)." (Bukhari)
Another misconception is the idea to employ someone to perform the istikhara prayer for us. This is extremely unfortunate that we do not realize the fact that the Almighty always listens to our prayers if we pray trusting him totally and confiding to him our limitations. One of the basic qualities of the prayer which makes it considerable before God is our trust in God and our belief in God that He will help us. It also depends on our feeling of dependence over God. Now none but the person involved can do that. It is possible that some peer or saint utters formal expression of prayer but he cannot understand our inner states and the gravity of the matter as we perceive it. He cannot give it what is the real force of the prayer. You might have noticed that the Prophet (sws) never asked people to come to him, considering the fact that he at that time was nearer to God than anyone else, or some other pious person to ask to render this service for them. He advised the believers to seek God's help themselves. The clear wording of the Prophetic Hadith does not leave any room for any to entrust others with this reasonability. I would suggest you not to depend on any other person's service in this regard. It is only you who knows how important something is for you and how dearly you need it. You should beseech your Lord mercy yourself. He will of course listen to your prayers and even if they are not accepted for being against His wise plan regarding your circumstances they will get you reward on any other occasion or on the Day of Judgment. You have after all put full trust in God and have done a virtuous deed.
I pray to the Almighty that He helps you in establishing the new business and makes it a pure means of earning your livelihood.