Tasbih

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Glory to God "Subhan Allah" in Arabic, Desouk
Muslim prayer beads

Tasbīḥ (Arabic: تَـسْـبِـيْـح‎) is a form of dhikr that involves the repetitive utterances of short sentences in the praise and glorification of Allah in Islam, by saying Subḥānallāh (سُـبْـحَـانَ ٱلله, meaning "God is perfect (free of any errors/defects)"). To keep track of counting either the phalanges of the right hand or a misbaha is used.[1]

Etymology[edit]

The term tasbeeh is based on 3 root letters i.e. 'س [seen], ب [ba] , ح [ha]' of the Arabic language. The meaning of the root word when written means to glorify. 'Tasbeeh' 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 tasbeeh. The word literally means, as a verb, "to travel swiftly" and, as a noun, "duties" or "occupation". However, in the devotional context, tasbih refers to Subhana Allah, which is often used in the Qur'an with the preposition 'an (عن), meaning "'God is [de]void' [of what they (polytheists) attribute to Him]" (Al-Tawba: 31, Al-Zumar: 67 et al.). Without this preposition, it means something like "Glory be to God."

Interpretation[edit]

The phrase can be roughly translated as "Praised be God" or "Glory (be) to God". The root of the word سبحان (subḥān) is derived from the word سبح (sabaḥa = to swim/float on the surface), giving the phrase a meaning that God is above any imperfection or false descriptions.

The phrase often has the connotation of praising God for his total perfection, implying a rejection of any anthropomorphic elements or associations with God, or any attribution of mistakes or faults to him. Thus, it serves as testimony to God's transcendence (تنزيه, tanzīh).[2]

For example, the Quran says subḥāna llāhi ʿammā yaṣifūn[3] (37:159; "Glory be to God [who is free from] that which they describe") and subḥāna llāhi ʿammā yušrikūn[4] (52:43; "Glory be to God [who is free from] that which they associate with him").

The phrase is mentioned in the hadith Sahih Bukhari, VBN 5, 57, 50.[5]

There is no exact counterpart for this phrase in the English language, so all the above meanings combined hold the meaning of that word.[6]

Usage[edit]

It is also often cited during the Islamic prayer (salat), supplication (dua), during a sermon (khutba) in the mosque and during day-to-day interactions between Muslims.

Muslims are also encouraged to say the phrase 33 times after prayer and throughout the day. Muhammad taught Muslims that it is one of the four praises that God likes Muslims to say continuously.[citation needed]

Fatimah bint Muhammad[edit]

Qur'an and Tasbeeh of Fatimah

In the early years of the marriage of Ali and Fatimah, Ali earned very little money and was unable to afford a servant for Fatimah. Fatimah’s hands were blistered from constant grinding; her neck had become sore from carrying water; her clothes had become dirty from sweeping the floor. One day Ali was aware that Muhammad had some servants, and advised Fatimah to ask him for one of his servants. Fatimah went, but she was unable to ask. Finally, Ali went with Fatimah to Muhammad's house. He did not accept their request, saying “there are many orphans (starved), I must sell these servants to feed them”. Then Muhammad said “I will give you one thing better than helping of servant”. He taught them a special manner of dhikr which is known as the "tasbih of Fatimah’’.[7][8]

  1. Allāhu ʾakbar (الله أكبر) or Takbir (God is greatest) – repeated 34 times.
  2. Al-ḥamdu li-llāh (الحمد لله) or Tahmid (Praise be to God) – repeated 33 times.
  3. Subḥāna llah (سبحان الله) or Tasbih (Glory be to God) – repeated 33 times.

Hadith[edit]

A hadith of the Prophet Muhammad relates:

Dhikr is of great importance to Muslims who believe it should be done as taught.[1]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • 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. New York: Abrams Publishing. pp. 79–92.
  • Henry, G., & Marriott, S. (2008). Beads of Faith: Pathways to Meditation and Spirituality Using Rosaries, Prayer Beads and Sacred Words. Fons Vitae Publishing.
  • Untracht, O. (2008). "Rosaries of India". In H. Whelchel (ed.), Traditional Jewelry of India. New York: Thames & Hudson. pp. 69–73.
  • Wiley, E., & Shannon, M. O. (2002). A String and a Prayer: How to Make and Use Prayer Beads. Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.

External links[edit]