Misbaḥa (Arabic: مسبحة), or subḥa (Arabic: سبحة), or prayer beads is a string of beads made of materials such as wood and stone. Prayer beads was being used as a tool for counting numbers, recites, etc. but over time and by development of societies, usage of prayer beads as a tool became less and it gained a more religious characteristics. In many religions a form of prayer beads is used for counting recites.
Shi'a believes that, Lady Fatima (a) was the first to use misbaha in Islam. Among Shi'a, following Lady Fatima (a), misbaha has a great spiritual value especially when made from soil of Imam al-Husayn's (a) grave. Reciting the tasbih of Lady Fatima (a) after prayers is one of the most common usages of misbaha for Shi'as. Another usage of misbaha is istikhara.
Misbaha is made in many forms and is one of souvenirs of holy places.
Prayer beads is first used in Asia, but it's not clear which nation was the first to make it. Prayer beads was being used in many of old civilizations for counting numbers, days, etc. For example, in China strings with different knots on it, of which numbers and distance have meanings, has been used. In central Africa, women counted months of their pregnancy with knots on a string.
In many of old societies like Greece, Rome, Egypt, and India, prayer beads was being used in celebrations and rituals, or as an amulet, or for augury, or decoration, or as a sign for a special level. Over time, application of prayer beads as a tool became less and it gained a religious characteristic and its usage became limited to religious applications.
Application of prayer beads has been common in all of religions more or less. The oldest document related to the usage of prayer beads, is Hindu literature which points out prevalence of using prayer beads among Hindu priests. In Buddha philosophy, every Buddhist, by having a prayer beads in his hand, as a part of a whole, and as a bead beside other beads, makes a string that connects them to Buddha.
Jews take a prayer beads, with 32 or 99 beads in Saturday (Sabbath).
In most of Christian sects and groups, prayer beads is used for prayers. Only some protestant groups oppose usage of prayer beads.
Some believe that misbaha (prayer beads) entered Islam from Indian Buddhists. Some other, believe that misbaha came to Islam from Christians.
There's various narrations about using misbaha among Sunnis: some Sunni hadith books recommend carrying of a misbaha to Muslims and also mention that the Prophet (s) was using misbaha. There's also other narrations from the Prophet (s) which blames usage of misbaha.
Shi'as believe that Lady Fatima (a) was one of the first to use misbaha and was using a string with 34 knots on it for saying tasbih after prayers (tasbih of Lady Fatima (a)). Later, she made a clay misbaha from soil of grave of Hamza, the uncle of the Prophet (s). Following Lady Fatima (a), Shi'as make "misbaha" from soil of Imam al-Husayn's (a) grave, for blessing.
The most important application of misbaha is countnig dhikr and Muslims put misbaha in their prayer mat so they can say dhikr after or between prayers; so usually pilgrims of holy places bring turba and misbaha blessed by the shrines as souvenirs.
Misbaha, is also used for istikhara.
Number of beads
Misbaha usually have 101 beads, in three parts of 33 beads, with two beads dividing the three parts, in accordance with tasbih of Lady Fatima (a). There's also misbahas with 25, 33, 34 beads.
Misbaha consists of 3 parts:
- Tassel: tassel is made of many short strings, knotted to main string of misbaha.
- "Dasta": a bead, larger than other beads, with conical or cylindrical shape, between the tassel and other beads of misbaha. It's also called yad and mihrab.
- "'Adasak": two beads with a shape of lentil which are smaller than other beads, and sometimes made from a material other than other beads. The two 'adasaks divide misbaha into three parts.
misbaha is made of different materials:
- Clay: usually made of soil of Imam al-Husayn's (a) grave.
- Precious stones like agate, Jasper, ruby, etc. One of precious stones which is used very much in making misbaha is Shah Maqsud (tourmaline) extracted from mines in Afghanistan; Yemeni agate could also be mentioned.
- Wood and seeds of some trees.
- Crystal, glass, and plastic
- The material for this article is mainly taken from تسبیح in Farsi Wikishia.