Tasbih (تسبيح) is a form of dhikr that involves the repetitive utterances of short sentences glorifying God, in Islam. To keep track of counting either the phalanges of the right hand or a misbaha is used. The misbaha is similar to the prayer rope of the Eastern Church and the rosary in the Roman Catholic Church.
The term tasbih is an irregular derivation from subhan, which is the first word of the constitutive sentence of the first third of the canonical form (see below) of tasbih. The word literally means, as a verb, "to travel swiftly" and as a noun, "duties" or "occupation." However, in the devotional context tasbih means to say, Subhana Allah, which is often used in the Qur'an with the preposition 'an (عن) with the meaning, "'God is [de]void' [of what they (polytheists) attribute to Him]", for example (Al-Tawba: 31, Al-Zumar 67, et al.). Without this preposition it means something like "Glory be to God."
Canonical form "Tasbih of Fatima"
- Subhan'Allah (سبحان الله) (Glory be to Allah) – repeated 33 times.
- Alhamdulillah (الحمد لله) (Praise be to Allah) – repeated 33 times.
- Allahuakbar (الله أكبر) (Allah is the Greatest) – repeated 34 times.
Narrated Abu Huraira: Some poor people came to the Prophet 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." (Book #12, Hadith #804)
Misbaha are most commonly made of various stones or wooden bead, but also of olive seeds, ivory, amber, pearls or plastic. Stone beads (mineral and animal based) are made of; carnelian, amber, tortoiseshell, glass, meerschaum, ivory, pearl, coral, coconut, pebble, mother of-pearl, jade, rhino horn, etc. whereas wooden beads are made of; ebony, agalloch, rosewood, olive wood, etc. Besides 99 beads, misbaha also consists of: the "nisane", a disc which separates each 33 beads, the "pul", a small bead that marks the seventh position, the "tassel", which is a long piece marking the beginning of the string, and the "tepelik" at the top of the tassel. In 33 bead misbaha, "nisane" separates 11 beads and there is no "pul".
- "تسبيحة الزهراء". Retrieved 18 June 2012.
- Dubin, L.S. (2009). Prayer Beads. In C. Kenney (Ed.), The History of Beads: From 100,000 B.C. to the Present (Revised and Expanded Edition) (pp. 79–92). New York: Abrams Publishing.
- Henry, G., & Marriott, S. (2008). Beads of Faith: Pathways to Meditation and Spirituality Using Rosaries, Prayer Beads and Sacred Words. Fons Vitae Publishing.
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- Wiley, E., & Shannon, M.O. (2002). A String and a Prayer: How to Make and Use Prayer Beads. Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.