Monday, October 22, 2012

Muslim Prayer Beads (Part 1)

Muslim Prayer Beads
Photo Credit: Abdur Rahman's Corner
by Angela Magnotti Andrews

It is said that the prophet Mohammed invoked the very presence of God (Allah) by reciting all 99 of His most beautiful names. Muslims believe that the recitation of Allah’s names will grant them entrance into paradise. {Winston}

To aid in the recitation of Allah praises, Muslims use a string of 100 or 34 prayer beads. These rosaries, called subhah or tesbih, are used most often to close out the five daily prayer times. Facing Mecca, a devout Muslim will take hold of his beads in his right hand. With his fingers, he will touch the first bead and recite the first of God’s most beautiful names. Cycling through each round bead, he will make his way through the entire list of 99 names, ending with the essential name, Allah, on the final horn-shaped bead.

Though the number of beads on a subhah are crucial (33 or 99), the materials from which the beads are made are widely variable. In the time of Mohammed, Allah’s prophet (570-632 AD), beads were most often made of stones, pebbles, or date seeds. Much later, during the Ottoman Empire (1299-1922 AD), crystal beads were often accompanied by silver tassels. Though most commonly fashioned out of wood, Muslim prayer beads have been made of amber, pearl, coral, ivory, jade, gold, silver, glass, and plastic.

On a strand of 99 beads, there is always one “leader” bead called imame, bringing the number of beads to 100 (or 34 for a smaller set of 33 beads). On a full strand, there are also two nisane discs between each set of 33 beads and one pul which marks the seventh position. On a strand of 33 beads, the nisane are placed after every 11th bead, and the pul is excluded.

Read Part 2

1. Answering Islam. “Names of Allah, the 99 Beautiful.” Accessed October 26, 2012.
2. Encylopedia Britannica Online. “Rosary.” Accessed October 20, 2012.
3. Islam Tomorrow. “Purpose of Life.” Accessed October 27, 2012.
4. Museum of Anthropology. University of Missouri. “Prayer Beads: A Cultural Experience.” Copyright 2011. Last updated October 22, 2012.
5. Paul, LoriAnn V. “How to Pray With Muslim Prayer Beads: Thikr, Dhikr, Zikr, Tasbih, Tespihi, Subha, Misbaha.” Hearts to Heaven (website). Accessed October 26, 2012.
6. Prayer Beads World (website). “Prayer Beads in Islam.” Copyright 2008. Accessed October 22, 2012.
7. Wiley, Eleanor and Maggie Oman Shannon. A String and a Prayer: How to Make and Use Prayer Beads. Boston & York Beach: 2002.
8. Winston, Kimberly.  Bead One, Pray Too. New York: Moorehouse Publishing, 2008.


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