Excerpted from Islam Today.
The Prophet commences the Tahajjud prayer with a heart full of reverence, love and longing for his Lord. His words are full of invocations of awe and praise. Among the words he uses to commence his prayers are the following:
“O Allah! Lord of Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael, Creator of the heavens and Earth, Knower of the seen and unseen, You will judge between Your servants in what they used to differ. Guide me by Your grace to the truth in what the differ about. Indeed, You guide whomever You please to a path that is straight.”
“O Allah! Our Lord, Yours is the praise. You are the light of the heavens and Earth and all that they contain. Yours is the praise. You sustain the heavens and Earth and all that they contain. You are the King of the heavens and Earth and all they contain. Yours is the praise.
You are the truth. Your promise is true. The meeting with You is true. Your word is true. Paradise is true. Hell is true. The Prophets are true. Muhammad is true. The Final Hour is true.
O Allah, to You I have submitted and in You I have believed, and upon You I rely. I repent my sins to You. For your sake I dispute and by Your standards I judge, so forgive me for what I have sent before me and what I have left behind, for what I have committed secretly and what I have committed openly and what only You know that I have done. You are the one who sends forth and You are the one who delays. There is no God but You. There is no might or power except with You.”
“I turn my face to the Creator of the heavens and Earth upon the pure faith, and I am not from among the polytheists. Indeed my prayer, my sacrifice, my life, and my death are for Allah, the Lord of all the worlds, who is without partner. This is as I was commanded, and I am of those who submit.
O Allah! You are the King. There is no God but You. You are my Lord and I am Your servant. I have been unjust to myself and I confess my sins, so forgive me all of my sins, for indeed no one forgives sins but You. Guide me to the best conduct.
No one guides to what is best except You. Keep me away from bad conduct, for no one can do this for me except You. Here I am. I heed Your call, happy to serve you. All good is in Your hands and no evil belongs to You. I exist by Your will and shall return to You. You are blessed and sublime. I seek Your forgiveness and repent unto You.”
Then the Prophet begins to recite the Quran. He recites in a slow and melodious voice and is attentive to every word. When he recites a verse that speaks about God’s mercy, he beseeches God. When he recites a verse that warns of God’s wrath, he seeks refuge from it. When a verse of the Quran speaks of God’s glory, he glorifies God. He stands for a long time in recitation. Ibn Mas`ud tells us:
“I prayed with Allah’s Messenger one night, and he stood for so long that I almost resolved to do a very bad thing.” When asked what that bad thing was, he said:
“I considered sitting down and not continuing to follow the Prophet in prayer.”
Sometimes the Prophet prolongs his recitation and offers a few very long units of prayer. On other nights, he stands in recitation for a shorter time and offers more units of prayer. When he bows, he remains bowing for a long time, almost as long as the time he spends standing in recitation. He says:
“O Allah! I bow to You. In You I believe, to You I submit, and upon You I rely. You are my Lord. My hearing, my sight, my flesh, my blood, my mind, my bones, my sinew, and what my feet bear up, all of it submits in humility to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds. Glory be to the Possessor of Might, Pride, and Greatness, the Glorified and Holy, the Lord of the angels and of the Holy Spirit.” Near the end of his life, he will often say while bowing and prostrating: “Glory and praise be to Allah, our Lord. O Allah, forgive me.”
Aisha asks him about this, and he says:
“My Lord has told me that I will see a sign in my community, and if I see that sign I should start saying:
“Glory and praise be to Allah. I seek Allah’s forgiveness and repent to Him.” I have seen this sign (which is found in the following verses of the Quran): (An-Nasr 110)
The Prophet understands from this verse that the end of his life is near. The Prophet prolongs his prostration in Tahajjud. He spends almost as much time prostrating as he does bowing. It is here that he asks of God’s grace and beseeches Him in many ways. The Prophet tells us:
“The nearest we are to our Lord is when we are in prostration, so beseech Him often at that time.” (Muslim)
He also says while in prostration:
“O Allah, to You I prostrate myself and in You I believe. To You I have submitted. My face is prostrated to the One who created it, fashioned it, and gave it the faculties of hearing and sight. Blessed is Allah, the Best of Creators. O Allah! Forgive me all my sins, great and small, the first and the last of them, those that are apparent and those that are hidden. O Allah! I seek refuge in Your pleasure from Your anger, and in Your forgiveness from Your punishment. I seek refuge with You from You. I cannot count Your praises. You are as You have praised Yourself.”
This is how the Prophet relates to his Lord in the depths of the night, in communion filled with worship, exaltation, reverence and submission. His spirit is raised up to great heights from his devotion and longing for his Lord. It is as if the world with all its vast mountains and starry skies recedes and regards him from a distance, bearing witness to his compliance with Allah’s command:
“Remember the name of your Lord and devote yourself to Him with full devotion.”
The Prophet remains in worship throughout the night, reciting the Quran with reverence, beseeching his Lord in humility, and praising Allah’s holy name, until only one-sixth of the night remains. At this time, he pauses from his prayers and wakes up his wife so they can offer the Witr prayer together.
He performs the Witr prayer as three consecutive units. In the first, he recites al-A`la. In the second, he recites al-Kafirun. In the last, he recites al-Ikhlas. Sometimes, in the final unit of prayer, he also recites al-Falaq and al-Nas. At the end of the Witr prayer, he says:
“O Allah! I seek refuge in Your pleasure from Your anger, and in Your forgiveness from Your punishment. I seek refuge with You from You. I cannot count Your praises. You are as You have praised Yourself.”
After completing the Witr prayer, he says three times: “Glory be to the Holy King.”