Question: Did the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) used to raise his hands in supplication in all circumstances?
Answer: He (sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) used to raise his hands in certain specific instances and during the incidental supplications (i.e. spontaneous events). And there are situations during which he would supplicate, but he would not raise his hands ('alayhis-salaatu was-salaam). Indeed it is confirmed that he raised his hands in seeking rain (Al-Istisqaa'). When he supplicated for rain for the Muslims on the day of Jumu'ah (Friday) during the Khutbah, he raised his hands. Likewise, when he went out to the desert and prayed two Rak'ahs (Salaatul-Istisqaa'), and he gave a sermon to the people, and he supplicated (for rain), and he raised his hands ('alayhis-salaatu was-salaam). And similarly, when he supplicated for anyone he would raise his hands ('alayhis-salaatu was-salaam). And this has been confirmed in many hadeeths about raising the hands, and it is from the Sunnah and from the causes of the acceptance of supplications.
And from that is what has been confirmed in the Saheeh of Muslim on the authority of Aboo Hurayrah (radhiyallaahu 'anhu) from the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) that he said, "Verily Allaah is good and He doesn't accept anything but good. And indeed Allaah commanded the believers with what He commanded the Messengers with. Allaah, the Most High, said, "O you who believe! Eat from the good things that We have provided for you and be thankful to Allaah." And He, glorified is He, said, "O you Messengers! Eat from the good things and work righteous deeds." Then he (the Prophet) mentioned the man who traveled on a long journey with dishevelled hair and covered with dust. He stretched his hands out to the sky (saying), "O my Lord! O my Lord!" Yet his food was unlawful, his drink was unlawful, his clothing was unlawful, and he was sustained by the unlawful. So how is that (his supplication) supposed to be answered?" Thus he ('alayhis-salaatu was-salaam) mentioned that from the causes of the acceptance of supplications is extending the hands (i.e. raising them) to the sky.
However, since the supplicator (in this narration) was involved in the forbidden from many different angles, the Prophet ('alayhis-salaatu was-salaam) considered it quite unlikely that his supplication would be answered due to his commiting the forbidden. Thus, it is known by this that raising the hands is from the causes of the acceptance of supplications. And in another hadeeth the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) said, "Verily your Lord, blessed is He and exalted, is Modest and Generous. He is shy from His servant when he raises his hands to Him, that He would return them empty." So this proves the legislative nature of raising the hands during supplication and that it is from the causes of the acceptance of supplications. However, it is confirmed in other situations that he ('alayhis-salaatu was-salaam) did not raise his hands to supplicate. For example, like the supplication between the two prostrations (in the Salaah), and the supplication at the end of the Salaah, before the saying of Salaam. And likewise the supplication after the five obligatory prayers - Adh-Dhuhr, Al-'Asr, Al-Maghrib, Al-'Ishaa and Al-Fajr. He (sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) didn't raise his hands after any of these prayers. Thus, the Sunnah in the likes of these situations is that you do not raise the hands. Rather, raising the hands in these situations is an innovation (Bid'ah), because it is not confirmed from him ('alayhis-salaatu was-salaam), nor from his companions (radhiyallaahu 'anhum). And it is well known that he (sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) did not leave off any good except that he directed the Ummah to it, and he did not leave off any evil except that he warned them about it ('alayhis-salaatu was-salaam). However, if the person says the Qunoot supplication in the times of sudden calamities, it is legislated for him to raise the hands after the Rukoo' (bowing) during the last Rak'ah of the prayer. For indeed the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) did that when he supplicated against the tribes who transgressed against the Muslims who were reciters (of the Qur'aan). And also because he (sallallaahu 'alayhi wa sallam) supplicated after the Rukoo' of the last Rak'ah against the disbelievers of the Quraysh before the conquest (Fath) of Makkah. Likewise he raised the hands (to supplicate) during the Qunoot of the Witr prayer. And Allaah is the Giver of success.