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Islamic Muslim Prayer Beads: Tasbih

Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said, "People will not sit in an assembly in which they remember Allah without the angels surrounding them, mercy covering them, and Allah Mentioning them among those who are with Him." (graded sahih by Imam Muslim). Muslim prayer beads are the best way to help a Muslim make constant remembrance of Allah in the form of Dhikr. They are referred to as Tasbeeh, Islamic prayer beads, misbaha and other names; but the function is to help a Muslim keep count of his dhikr until he or she reaches 99 recitations of whichever phrase is being used to focus on the presence of Allah (may He be glorified). At Muslim American, we have brought a wide variety of zikr beads to suit any taste and style. Some people prefer lightweight, thick beads and others prefer heavier glass beads. Still others prefer the old fashioned wooden tasbih to any modern materials. Whatever your preference is, we hope that you will find something to fit your needs and help you to fulfil the obligation of dhikr properly.

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When Were Islamic Prayer Beads First Used?

There are many traditions which explain how dhikr beads first came into use among the Muslims. One states that Fatima (may Allah be pleased with her) used pebbles from the grave of Hamza to make her misbaha and thus, others followed her and Muhammad (peace be upon him) did not object. Another states that Aishah (may Allah be pleased with her) used a collection of small stones to count dhikr and, once again, the Prophet did not object. It is altogether possible that both traditions are correct, the main point that we can take from this is that use of tasbih among Muslims was known to be practiced among the family of the Prophet and the rest of the sahaba and that Muhammad (peace be upon him) did not forbid its use. Nevertheless, do not mistake this as a part of worship as it was not prescribed for us nor was it forbidden; it is merely a tool to make it easier to keep up with Dhikr counts.

How to use Muslim Prayer Beads?

The purpose of using tasbih is to make dhikr, or remembrance of Allah. While there are many forms of dhikr, including the elaborate and beautiful recitation of Sufi zikr done in groups, probably the best known is the dhikr of Fatima (may Allah be pleased with her). Imam Muhammad Al-Baqir, great-great grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) related a story that was passed to him by his father wherein Ali (May Allah be pleased with him) approached the Prophet to get a servant to help Fatima with her housework. Muhammad declared that he did not have any servants anymore and that he could not provide one, however he said “I give you one thing better than helping of servant”. He then taught them a special manner of dhikr which is known as ‘tasbih of Fatima’. The method was to recite Subhan'Allah (Glory be to Allah) 33 times, then Alhamdulillah (Praise be to Allah) 33 times and then Allahuakbar (Allah is the Greatest) 34 times.

In another Hadith recorded by Imam Bukhari Narrated Abu Huraira (may Allah be pleased with him): Some poor people came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and said, "The wealthy people will get higher grades and will have permanent enjoyment and they pray like us and fast as we do. They have more money by which they perform the Hajj, and 'Umra; fight and struggle in Allah's Cause and give in charity." The Prophet said, "Shall I not tell you a thing upon which if you acted you would catch up with those who have surpassed you? Nobody would overtake you and you would be better than the people amongst whom you live except those who would do the same. Say "Sub-han-al-lah", "Alhamdu-lillah" and "Allahu Akbar" thirty three times each after every (compulsory) prayer." We differed and some of us said that we should say, "Subhan-al-lah" thirty three times and "Alhamdu lillah" thirty three times and "Allahu Akbar" thirty four times. I went to the Prophet who said, "Say, "Subhan-al-lah" and "Alhamdu lillah" and "Allahu Akbar" all together for thirty three times."

In order to use the misbaha, or prayer beads, properly, you merely roll one bead with your thumb to move it and complete a count. When you start right next to the tassel portion, then count through the tasbeeh string, you will complete counts without having to look at the string. On 33 bead strings you will complete the whole string. On 99 bead strings there are two additional beads inserted which have a different shape and let you know when to stop one recitation and begin a new one. Some tasbih have an extra tassel with beads on it that you would slide over to indicate a completed count. These are used mostly in Sufi dhikr circles which go on for many hours celebrating the attributes of Allah and praising His divine names.

What are the Benefits of Dhikr or Using Tasbih?

In an authentic hadith recorded by Imam Muslim, The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, “If anyone recited ‘Subhan-Allah’ after every prayer thirty-three times, and ‘Alhamdulillah’ thirty-three times, and ‘Allahuakbar’ thirty-three times, ninety-nine times in all, and say to complete a hundred: ‘La ilaha illa Allah wahdahu la sharika lahu, lahu-l-mulk wa lahu-l-hamd wa huwa ‘ala kulli shai’in qadir.’ (There is no god but Allah, having no partner with Him, to Him belongs sovereignty, and to Him is all praise due, and He is Potent over everything), his sins will be forgiven even if these are as abundant as the foam of the sea.” Making dhikr as a remembrance of Allah also increases our level of taqwa (consciousness of God) which will vastly improve our imaan and the strength of every aspect of our lives. It becomes a shield against shaytaan and guards us against sin. For many Muslims, keeping a string of prayer beads in one’s pocket is a constant reminder to make dhikr and remember Allah in His many divine attributes. Allah’s 99 names can be used as remembrance with the tasbih and there is reward in memorizing His divine attributes as well. Making tasbeeh is a form of worship and any added worship will help us to remove sin and shield against the temptation of Shaytaan.
Ultimately, the reward of remembrance of Allah is that Allah will remember us. Dhikr, the remembrance of Allah, is most beautifully referred to in a Hadith Qudsi that was recorded by Imam Muslim, Imam Bukhari and others wherein the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon him) said, "Allah Almighty says, 'I am in My slave's opinion of Me and I am with Him when He remembers Me. When he remembers Me in himself, I mention him in Myself. If he mentions Me in an assembly, I mention him in a better assembly than them.' If he comes near Me by a handspan, I come near him a cubit. If he comes near Me by a cubit, I come near a fathom. When he comes to walking, I come to him running."

How to pray Salat ul Tasbeeh

Rasulullah (peace be upon him) once said to his uncle Hadrat 'Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him), “O Abbas! O my uncle! Shall I not give you a gift? Shall I not show you something by means of which Allah will forgive your sins, the first and the last of them, the past and recent, the unintentional and the intentional, the small and huge, the secret and open?” Muhammad (peace be upon him) then taught him the Salah al-Tasbih. Furthermore, he advised him that it be offered daily, if possible. If not, then every Friday, or once a month, or once a year, or at least once in a person's lifetime. - (Abu Dawood) The Tasbih which is to be read in this prayer at different positions is as follows: Subhanallahi wal hamdulillahi walaa ilaaha ilalahu walahu akbar
Translation of the tasbih is: Glory is to Allah! And praise is to Allah! There is no deity save Allah and Allah is the Greatest The tasbih is recited 75 times in each rak’ah to complete 300 times for the entire salah.
Make the intention to complete Salat ul Tasbeeh; say “Allahu Akbar” and place hands normally for salaat.
Recite Surah Fatihah and any other Surah.
Recite Tasbih 15 times.
Go into ruku and recite “Subhana Rabiyal Azeem” 3 times.
Recite tasbih 10 times.
Rise from bowing position and say “Rabana lakal hamd”.
Recite tasbih 10 times.
Do the sujood and in the first sujood recite “Subhana Rabiyal A’ala” 3 times
Recite tasbih 10 times.
Rise from sujood in the sitting position.
Recite tasbih 10 times.
Do the second sujood as usual and recite “Subhana Rabiyal A’ala” 3 times
Recite tasbih 10 times.
Before standing up, go into sitting position
Recite tasbih 10 times.
Stand up; recite Surah Fatihah and any other Surah.
Recite Tasbih 15 times
Perform the rest of the salah while reciting the tasbih in the stated postures.
Note: In the second rak’ah and fourth rak’ah the tasbih will be recited before the tashahhud. For those new to making salaat, please refer to the following:
Niyat, or intention, is to declare what you are planning to do. In this case you would state “I intend to complete Salatul Tesbih which is four rak’at.” This is said silently, in your mind and heart. Not spoken aloud.
Tashahhud is recited to oneself while sitting in the second and fourth rak’ah of any salaat (or third for Maghrib salaat). It is said in two parts, only the first part is recited for the second rak’ah, the first and second parts are said in the last rak’ah.
The first part is:
Attahiyyaatu lillaahi wassalawaatu wattayyibatu. Assalaamu 'alayka ayyuhan-Nabiyyi warahmatullaahi wabarakaatuh. Assalaamu 'alyna wa 'ala 'ibaadillaahis saaliheen. Ash-hadu an laa ilaaha illallaah wa ash-hadu anna Muhammadan 'abduhu wa rasooluh.
Translation: “All compliments [Allah is free of all imperfection, His is the dominion, Magnificence, Endless existence belongs to Him], prayers, and pure words and deeds, are due to Allah. May Allah grant the Prophet safety from all defects and imperfections and keep his message safe from all evil; [may Allah grant him] mercy and honor. May safety and security be granted to us and to all the righteous slaves of Allah. I bear witness that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger.”
While reciting the first part some have said that you should point toward the qibla (direction of prayer) through the full length of the tashahhud while others have said that one should only point while stating the Shahada-tain (I bear witness…). While pointing, one must point with the index finger while making a circle with the tip of the middle finger touching the tip of the thumb.
The second part of tashahhud is:
Allaahumma salli 'ala Muhammad wa 'ala aali Muhammad kama sallaita 'ala Ibraaheem wa 'ala aali Ibraaheem innaka Hameedun Majeed, wabaarik 'ala Muhammad wa 'ala aali Muhamaad kama baarakta 'ala Ibraaheem wa 'ala aali Ibraaheem innaka Hameedun Majeed.
Translation: “O Allaah! Praise Muhammad, and on the family of Muhammad, as You Praised Ibraaheem, and the family of Ibrahim; You are indeed Worthy of Praise, Full of Glory. And send blessings on Muhammad, and on the family of Muhammad, as you sent blessings on Ibrahim, and the family of Ibraaheem; You are indeed Worthy of Praise, Full of Glory.”
For more details on perfecting your Salaat, please visit our article entitled “How to Perfect Your Salaat” with knowledge provided by Sheikh Adly.