Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) proclaimed: “Worship is the pillar of religion.”
Salat, or prayer, is one of the Five Pillars, or essential rites in Islam. Recited five times a day (at dawn, noon, midafternoon, sunset and nightfall), salat intersperses the rhythms of daily life with habitual opportunities to stand before The Almighty in entranced concentration.
Nowadays, many Muslims pray with prayer beads as a device to keep track of the words of dhikr (remembrance of Allah) they repeat while glorifying Allah.
Muslims probably gained the concept of prayer beads from India. When this happened, however, is uncertain. However, scholars admit that the use of prayer beads originated with the Hindus in ancient India, and the Hindu or Buddhist mala is the great mother of rosaries. From India and the Himalayan kingdoms, the prayer beads traveled west to Africa and Europe, where it evolved into the Islamic Subha, the Christian Rosary, the Eastern Orthodox prayer rope, and the secular worry beads used throughout Greece and the Middle East.
In India, a strand of Islamic prayer beads is known as Subha (Arabic: سبحا) derived from the Arabic phrase Subhan’Allāh (Arabic سبحان الله) meaning “Glory to Allah.” It is also known as Masbaha (Arabic: مسبحة) or Tasbih (تسبيح).
A Subha may vary in style or decorative embellishments ranging from cheap mass-produced prayer beads, to those made with expensive materials and high-quality workmanship.
Subha beads are most often made of spherical glass, wood, plastic, amber, or gemstone. The cord is usually cotton or silk.
A Subha may have either 33 beads, or 99 beads separated by flat disks into three groups of 33. There is often a larger, leader bead and a tassel at one end to mark the starting point of recitations.
The believers touch one bead at a time while reciting words of dhikr which are often the 99 names of Allah (Arabic: أسماء الله الحسنى ʾasmāʾ allāh al-ḥusnā), which help the believers in their communion with Allah.
At times the believers repeat phrases which express reverence, complete submission and gratitude to Allah. Following are the most used phrases, each repeated 33 times:
Subhan’Allāh (Arabic سبحان الله) meaning “Glory to Allah”
Alhamdulillah (Arabic: الحمد لله) meaning “Praise be to Allah”
Allāhu Akbar (Arabic: الله أكبر) meaning “Allah is Great”
At the time of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Muslims did not use prayer beads as a tool during personal prayer, but may have used date pits or pebbles. Caliph Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) used a Subha similar to modern ones. The widespread manufacture and use of Subha began about 600 years ago.
- Prayer Beads in Major Religions (tvaraj.com)
- Prayer Beads: The Hindu Japa mala (tvaraj.com)
- Prayer Beads: The Buddhist Japa mala (tvaraj.com)
- Prayer Beads: The Roman Catholic Rosary (tvaraj.com)
- Prayer Beads: The Anglican Rosary and Other Christian Prayer Beads (tvaraj.com)
- Prayer Ropes: The Orthodox and Eastern Catholics’ Chotki / Komboskini / Komvoschonion (tvaraj.com)
- Are The Tallit and Tzitzit of the Jews Equivalent to Prayer Beads Used in Other Religions? (tvaraj.com)
- Names of God in Islam (en.wikipedia.org)