Shama-il Tirmidhi Chapter 39, Hadith Number 13 (260).

Hudhayfah bin Al Yamaan Radiyallahu ‘Anhu says he performed salaah with Rasulullah Sallallahu ‘Alayhi Wasallam one night. (It has been reported in a few narrations that this incident took place during a night of Ramadaan. It is possible that this was tahajjud or Taraweeh salaah). After commencing the salaah he recited:

Allahu Akbar, dhul malakuti wal jabaruti wal kibri-yaa-i wal a-za-mati.
Translation: Allah is supreme! Lord of Dominion, Power, Majesty, and Magnificence.

He then recited (after the Faatihah) Surah Baqarah, and performed ruku’. The length of the ruku’ was as long as the qiyaam (standing posture). (The ‘ulama give two meanings to this and both are possible. The first is that the ruku’ was as long as the qiyaam. For example, if the qiyaam was for one hour, the ruku’ was also for about one hour. Accordingly, this mas-alah is established, that if the ruku’ and sajdah are longer than normal, the salaah will be valid. The second is that the qiyaam was longer than normal. In this instance if the qiyaam was for an hour, and the ruku’ for fifteen minutes, then too it will be truly explaining this hadith. According to this saying the salaah remains in the normal manner. i.e. a fundamental action of salaah that was long, like qiyaam, remained long. And those that were short, like ruku’ or sajdah, remained short. But certainly every fundamental action was longer than normal). Rasulullah Sallallahu ‘Alayhi Wasallam repeated:

Subhaana rabbiyal azimi-Subhaana rabbiyal azimi.
Translation: Glory be to my Lord the Magnificient.

He lifted his head from the ruku’ and stood. This standing was also long like that of the ruku’. At this moment he repeated:

Li rabbiyal hamdu-Li rabbiyal hamdu.
Translation: All praises are for my Lord. All praises are for my Lord.

He then performed the sajdah. The sajdah was as long as the qawmah (standing in between the ruku’ and sajdah). and he recited:

Subhaana rabbiyal aa’laa-Subhaana rabbiyal aa’laa.
Translation: Glory be to my Lord the Exalted. Glory be to my Lord the Exalted.

He then sat up from the sajdah. This sitting was also long as that of the sajdah. Here he repeated:

Rabbigh-fir lee-Rabbig-fir lee.
Translation: O Lord forgive me. O Lord forgive me.

Rasulullah Sallallahu ‘Alayhi Wasallam recited in this salaah Surah Baqarah, Surah Aali ‘Imraan, Surah Nisaa, Surah Maa-idah or Surah An’aam. The narrator (Sayyidina Shu’ba Radiyallahu’Anhu) is in doubt regarding the last two surahs, whether is it Maa-idah or An’aam.

This hadith apparently indicates that these four surahs were recited in four rak’ahs. The narration of Abu Daawud is more detailed and it is stated therein that Sayyidina Rasulullah Sallallahu ‘Alayhi Wasallam performed four rak’ahs wherein he recited these four surahs. But in a narration of Sahih Muslim and others it is mentioned that Sayyidina Rasulullah Sallallahu ‘Alayhi Wasallam recited Surah Baqarah, Surah Nisaa and Surah Aali ‘Imraan, all three in one rak’ah. The narration of Abu Daawud and Muslim apparently seem to be on different occasions. Although it may also be possible that this is the same event and an error may have occurred in transmission. It is not necessary to suppose it is an error, as Sayyidina. Rasulullah Sallallahu ‘Alayhi Wasallam daily performed lengthy prayers. There could be no perplexity if four surah’ were recited in four rak’ahs once, and three surahs in one rak’ah at another time.