Assalamualaikum SS Mufti. Can istikharah prayer be performed in congregation?
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
Istikharah means asking for help in making choices. In Fiqh perspective, one asks to be given a determination upon something chosen by Allah SWT. Mainly, it is done through prayer or reciting du’a which are warid on istikharah.
Istikharah prayer is a syarak commandment to those who want to ask for help and assistance from Allah SWT in choosing upon every matter intended. In fact, the companions stated that the Prophet PBUH taught them istikharah prayer like how he taught them the Quran. Jabir bi Abdillah RA narrated that the Prophet PBUH said:
إِذَا هَمَّ أَحَدُكُمْ بِالأَمْرِ فَلْيَرْكَعْ رَكْعَتَيْنِ مِنْ غَيْرِ الْفَرِيضَةِ ثُمَّ لِيَقُلِ 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 ـ أَوْ قَالَ عَاجِلِ أَمْرِي وَآجِلِهِ ـ فَاقْدُرْهُ لِي وَيَسِّرْهُ لِي ثُمَّ بَارِكْ لِي فِيهِ، وَإِنْ كُنْتَ تَعْلَمُ أَنَّ هَذَا الأَمْرَ شَرٌّ لِي فِي دِينِي وَمَعَاشِي وَعَاقِبَةِ أَمْرِي ـ أَوْ قَالَ فِي عَاجِلِ أَمْرِي وَآجِلِهِ ـ فَاصْرِفْهُ عَنِّي وَاصْرِفْنِي عَنْهُ، وَاقْدُرْ لِي الْخَيْرَ حَيْثُ كَانَ ثُمَّ أَرْضِنِي بِهِ ـ قَالَ ـ وَيُسَمِّي حَاجَتَهُ
The Prophet (p.b.u.h) used to teach us the way of doing Istikhara (Istikhara means to ask Allah to guide one to the right sort of action concerning any job or a deed), in all matters as he taught us the Suras of the Qur'an. He said, "If anyone of you thinks of doing any job he should offer a two rak`at prayer other than the compulsory ones and say (after the prayer): -- 'Allahumma inni astakhiruka bi'ilmika, Wa astaqdiruka bi-qudratika, Wa as'alaka min fadlika Al-`azlm Fa-innaka taqdiru Wala aqdiru, Wa ta'lamu Wala a'lamu, Wa anta 'allamu l-ghuyub. Allahumma, in kunta ta'lam anna hadha-lamra Khairun li fi dini wa ma'ashi wa'aqibati `Amri (or 'ajili `Amri wa'ajilihi) Faqdirhu wa yas-sirhu li thumma 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 Thumma ardini bihi.' (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 job is good for my religion and my subsistence and in my Hereafter--(or said: If it is better for my present and later needs)--Then You ordain it for me and make it easy for me to get, And then bless me in it, and if You know that this job is harmful to me In my religion and subsistence and in the Hereafter--(or said: If it is worse for my present and later needs)--Then keep it away from me and let me be away from it. And ordain for me whatever is good for me, And make me satisfied with it). The Prophet (ﷺ) added that then the person should name (mention) his need
Sahih al-Bukhari (1166)
Pertaining the issue of whether it is permissible for sunnah prayer to be done congregationally or it should only be done alone, we state here that in madhhab al-Syafi’e, sunnah prayers are divided into two which are those encouraged to be done congregationally and those which are not. Among the sunnah prayers encouraged to be done congregationally are as the following:
- Prayers of the two festivities of ‘Eid al-Fitr and ‘Eid al-Adha.
- Prayers of the two eclipses which are solar and lunar eclipse.
- Istisqa’ prayer.
- Tarawih prayer.
While majority of sunnah prayers are encouraged to be done individually. Imam al-Nawawi rahimahullah said: Indeed, sunnah prayers are not sanctioned to be done congregationally except the two ‘Eids, eclipse and istisqa’ prayers. Indeed, congregation in performing all of these prayers is prioritized. While for the rest of the sunnah prayers like rawatib which is performed with obligatory prayers, dhuha prayer, and absolute sunnah prayer, it is not sanctioned to be performed in congregation, which means it is not sunnah to be performed that way. However, if one performs it in congregation, it is permissible. It is not stated that it is makruh (undesirable). Imam al-Syafi’e has stated this in Mukhtasar al-Buwaithi and Mukhtasar al-Rabi’ that it is permissible to perform sunnah prayer in congregation. Refer Al-Majmu' Syarah Al-Muhazzab, Al-Nawawi (3/197).
This is also the opinion of madhhab Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal. This is as stated by Imam Ibn Qudamah: It is permissible to (perform) sunnah prayer congregationally as it is individually. This is because the Prophet PBUH did both ways (sometimes in congregation, sometimes by himself). And most sunnah prayers of the Prophet PBUH are done individually. Refer Al-Mughni, Ibn Qudamah (1/442).
Pertaining the issue of whether sunnah prayers are not encouraged to be done congregationally and whether it is permissible to be done that way or not, here we quote the statement of Imam Khatib al-Syarbini which says: Indeed, every prayer not which are not encouraged to be done congregationally is still permissible to be done in congregation. This is taken by the actions of Umar who gather many people to perform tarawih prayer. Refer Mughni Al-Muhtaj, Al-Khatib Al-Syarbini.
In conclusion, we state that basically, istikharah sunnah prayer is among sunnah prayers to be performed individually and this is prioritized. However, we state that if it is done congregationally at times, it is permissible. To add, especially when it is pertaining to matters that are related to the welfare of majority or the congregation as a whole, for example, the decision of mosque authority whether their actions are reasonable or not, benefits the congregation as a whole or not, then it is permissible to perform istikharah prayer congregationally in this situation.
Pertaining to the signs after istikharah is done, this issue has already been discussed in-depth in Irsyad al-Fatwa Series 342: Is Dream a Condition for the Answer of Istikharah? Which could be read through the following link: https://bit.ly/2P7KhzM
Lastly, we pray to Allah SWT to bless us with the correct understanding for us in religion. Ameen.