It is preferred for the person to begin his prayer with one of the supplications that the Prophet, upon whom be peace, used to begin his prayers. This occurs after the opening takbir and before the recitation of al-Fatihah. Some of the supplications that have been related are:
1. Reported Abu Hurairah, “When the Prophet, upon whom be peace, made the opening takbir, he would be quiet for a little while before his recitation. I asked him, ‘O Messenger of Allah, may my father and mother be sacrificed for you, why are you quiet between the (opening) takbir and your recitation? What do you say (at that time)?’ He said, ‘I say, O Allah, make the distance between me and my sins as far as you have made the distance between the East and the West. O Allah, cleanse me of my sins as a white garment is cleansed of dirt. O Allah, purify me from my sins by snow, rain and hail.” (Related by al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, an-Nasa’i and Ibn Majah.)
2. Reported ‘Ali, that when the Prophet stood for prayer, he would make the takbir and then say, “I have turned my face to the one who created the heavens and the earth as a sincere submissive (person), and I am not one of the polytheists. My prayers, my sacrifice, my life and my death are all for Allah, the Lord of the Worlds. He has no partner. That is what I have been ordered and I am of those who submit. O Allah, you are the King and there is no Lord besides You. You are my Lord and I am Your slave. I have wronged my soul and You are aware of my sins, so forgive all of my sins. No one forgives sins save You. Guide me to the best character. No one can guide to the best of that save You. Turn me away from its evil, and no one can turn me from its evil save You. At your beck and call, all the good is in Your hands and evil is not to You. And I am for You and to You are the blessings and the exaltedness. I seek your forgiveness and return unto You.” (Related by Ahmad, Muslim, at-Tirmizhi, Abu Dawud and others.)
3. It is related that ‘Umar used to say, after the beginning takbir, “Glory be to You, O Allah, and to You is the praise. Blessed is Your name and most high is Your honour. There is no Lord besides You.” This hadith is related by Muslim with a broken chain. Ad-Daraqutni traces it back to the Prophet and back to ‘Umar.
Commenting on it, Ibn al-Qayyim says, “It has been authenticated that ‘Umar began with that in the place (of the preceding prayer) of the Prophet, upon whom be peace. He would recite it aloud and teach it to the people. And owing to that fact, it is considered to have its source with the Prophet, upon whom be peace. For that reason, Imam Ahmad says, “I act by what has been related from ‘Umar. If a person begins with something that has been related, it is good.”
4. ‘Asim ibn Humaid asked ‘Aishah how the Prophet, upon whom be peace, began his late-night prayers. She replied, “You have asked me about something that no one before you has asked. When he would stand for prayer, he would make the takbir ten times (after the opening takbir), and then say ‘Al-hamdu lillah’ ten times. He would then ask forgiveness ten times, and then would say, “O Allah, forgive me, guide me, provide for me, sustain me and give me refuge from a constraining place on the Day of Resurrection.” (Related by Abu Dawud, an-Nasa’i and Ibn Majah.)
5. ‘Abdurahman ibn ‘Auf asked ‘Aishah how the Prophet, upon whom be peace, began his prayer when he would pray during the night. She said, “When he would get up during the night, he would begin his prayer with, ‘O Allah, Lord of Gabriel, Mikhail and Israfil, Creator of the heavens and the earth, Knower of the Unseen and the Seen. You will judge between Your slaves concerning matters wherein they differ. Guide me to the truth in those matters wherein they differ by Your permission, for You guide whom You will to the straight path.” (Related by Muslim, Abu Dawud, at-Tirmizhi, anNasa’i and Ibn Majah.)
6. Nafa’ ibn Jubair ibn Mut’am related from his father who said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah say in his voluntary prayer, ‘Allahu akbar kabeera’ three times, ‘al-Hamdu lillah katheera’ three times, ‘Subhanallahi bukratan wa asila’ three times, and then ‘O Allah, I seek refuge in You from Satan the accursed and from his pricking, spittle and puffing.’ I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, what are his pricking, spittle and puffing?’ He said, ‘His pricking is the insanity by which he takes the children of Adam. His spittle is arrogance, and his puffing is (evil) poetry.” (Related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Ibn Majah and Ibn Hibban.)
7. Ibn ‘Abbas related that when the Prophet, upon whom be peace, got up for the night prayer, he would say, “O Allah, to You is the praise. You are the support of the heavens and the earth and whatever is therein. To You is the praise. You are the light of the heavens and the earth and whatever is therein. To You is the praise. You are the Truth. Your promise is true. The meeting with You is true. Your speech is true. Paradise is true. Hell-fire is true. Your prophets are true. Muhammad is true. The hour is true. O Allah, to You have I submitted, and in You have I believed. In You I put my trust, and to You do I come. For You do I dispute, and to You is the judgement. Forgive me my earlier and later sins, and what has been private and public. You are the predecessor and the successor. There is no god except You. There is no lord other than You. There is no power or might except in Allah.” This hadith is related by al-Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, at-Tirmizhi, an-Nasa’i, Ibn Majah and Malik. In Abu Dawud’s version, the Prophet, upon whom be peace, said that after the opening takbir.
8. It is a preferred act for the one in prayer to seek refuge from Satan between his opening supplication and his Qur’anic recitation. Allah says, “When you recite the Qur’an, seek refuge in Allah from the outcast Satan.” In the preceding hadith of Nafa’ ibn Jubair, the Prophet is reported to have said, “O Allah, I seek refuge in you from Satan, the outcast.” Said Ibn al-Munzhir, “It has been related from the Prophet, upon whom be peace, that he would say, ‘I seek refuge in Allah from Satan, the outcast’ before reciting.”
9. It is sunnah to say, “I seek refuge in…” silently. In al-Mughni, it states, “One should say the seeking of refuge silently and not aloud, and I do not know of any difference of opinion on that point.” But ash-Shaf’i was of the opinion that one may choose between saying it silently or aloud in those prayers recited aloud. It has been related that Abu Hurairah recited aloud, but this report has a weak chain.
10. The seeking of refuge is to be done in the first rak’ah only. Reported Abu Hurairah, “When the Prophet, upon whom be peace, would get up for the second rak’ah, he would begin with ‘al-Hamdu lillahi, rabb ul-‘aalimeen’, without having any period of silence.” (Related by Muslim.)
Speaking of it, Ibn al-Qayyim says, “The jurists differ over whether or not that is a time to say, ‘I seek refuge…’ But they agree that it is not a place to make the opening supplication. On the former point, there are two opinions, both of them related from Ahmad. Some of his companions concluded that either the prayer is only one recitation, so it is sufficient just to seek refuge once, or that each recital is a recital by itself that requires the seeking of refuge. They do not dispute the fact that the opening supplication is for the whole prayer. It is sufficient to seek refuge only once, as it is apparent from the authentic hadith.” Then he mentions the preceding hadith of Abu Hurairah, and says, “It is sufficient just to make one opening supplication, since there is no real break between the recital of the prayer. The only thing that is between them is the remembrance of Allah, and so on. Therefore, it will be considered as one recital. Ash Shaukani has the final word, and says, ‘It is best just to do what has been related from the sunnah, and that is to seek refuge in the first rak’ah only.”