Misbahā – the Prayer Beads of Muslims

There truly are signs in the creation of the heavens and earth, and in the alternation of night and day, for those with understanding,

who remember Allah standing, sitting, and lying down, who reflect on the creation of the heavens and earth:

‘Our Lord! You have not created all this without purpose- You are far above that!- so protect us from the torment of the Fire.

/Surah Āli Imrān, Quran 3: 190-1/

Indeed, many faithful Muslims remember and pray to the Lord every day, hundreds and thousands of times, standing, sitting or lying on their sides, and are doing it a certain number of times - and often using the Prayer Beads - called Misbahā in Islam.

Initially, the Prophet Muhammad () - counted the number of prayers with his fingers or used the roadside pebbles for it, as mentioned in many Hadiths,

But, it is said, the first Prayer Beads - Misbahā were strung by his daughter Fatima (SAA):

The legend tells that after the heavy Battle of Uhud, near the hill next to Medina, where many Muslims died,

the Prophet's daughter, Fatima(SAA), visited the graves of martyrs every 2-3 days, and strung the Prayer Beads from the grave-soil of the Prophet's uncle and companion Hamza bin Abd ul-Muttalib, whom the Prophet () called also Chief of the Martyrs.

That was how Misbahā appeared and soon it spread among believers for counting their prayers.

It is often made of wooden beads or from semi-precious gemstones such as carnelian and onyx, olive seeds, ivory, amber, pearls. They usually consist of 99 beads or they may be shorter and consist from 33 beads or 1/3 of the regular number.

The Prayer Beads are usually 99 for 2 particular reasons:

=> the one is to count the 99 Names of Allah, or qualities of Allah mentioned in Quran.

=> the other version relates the number 99 with the popular Tasbīh prayers, also known as Tasbīh of Fatima (SAA):

Alī ibn Abi Tālib (AS) remembered:

Fatima (SAA) complained of what she suffered from the hand mill and from grinding, when she got the news that some slave girls of the booty had been brought to Allah's Messenger ().

She went to him to ask for a maid-servant, but she could not find him, and told Aisha of her need.

When the Prophet () came, Aisha informed him of that. The Prophet () came to our house when we had gone to our beds.

(On seeing the Prophet) we were going to get up, but he said, 'Keep at your places,' I felt the coolness of the Prophet's feet on my chest.

Then he said, "Shall I tell you a thing which is better than what you asked me for?

When you go to your beds, say:

Allāhu Akbar (i.e. Allah is Greater)' for 33 times, and
Al-Hamdu lil-lāh (i.e. all the praises are for Allah)' for 33 times, and
Subhāna llah (i.e. Glorified be Allah) for 33 times.

- This is better for you than what you were asking."

/Reference = Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 3113
In-book reference = Book 57, Hadith 22 /

Another Tradition tells:

Abu Huraira reported:

The poor Emigrants came to the Messenger of Allah () and said:

"The wealthy have gone with the highest ranks and lasting bliss."

He asked: "How is that?"

They replied: "They offer Ṣalāt (prayer) as we offer it; they observe fast as we do;

(and as they are wealthy) they perform Hajj and Umrah, and go for Jihad, and they spend in charity but we cannot, and they free the slaves but we are unable to do so."

The Messenger of Allah () said,

"Shall I not teach you something with which you may overtake those who surpassed you and with which you will surpass those who will come after you? None will excel you unless he who does which you do."

They said: "Yes, please do, O Messenger of Allah"

He () said, "You should recite:

Subhāna llah (Allah is free from imperfection),
Allāhu Akbar (Allah is Greatest),
Al-Hamdu lil-lāh (Praise be to Allah)

- 33 times after each Ṣalāt."

/ Riyadh as-Sālihīn
Sunnah.com reference = Book 16, Hadith 11
Arabic/English book reference = Book 16, Hadith 1418 /

Ka'b bin Ujrah reported:

The Messenger of Allah () said,

"There are some words, the reciters of which will never be disappointed. These are:

Tasbīh [saying Subhāna llah (Allah is free from imperfection)], 33 times,
Tahmīd [saying Al-Hamdu lil-lāh (praise be to Allah)] 33 times and
Takbīr [saying Allāhu Akbar (Allah is Greatest)] 33 times;

- and these should be recited after the conclusion of every prescribed prayer."

/ Riyadh as-Sālihīn
Sunnah.com reference = Book 16, Hadith 13
Arabic/English book reference = Book 16, Hadith 1420

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 Umrah; 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:

Subhāna llah (Allah is free from imperfection),
Al-Hamdu lil-lāh (Praise be to Allah)
Allāhu Akbar (Allah is Greatest),

- 33 times each after every (compulsory) prayer.

"We differed and some of us said that we should say, "Subhāna llah" 33 times and "Al-Hamdu lil-lāh" 33 times and "Allāhu Akbar" 34 times.

I went to the Prophet () who said,

"Say, "Subhāna llah" and "Al-Hamdu lil-lāh" and "Allāhu Akbar" each 33 times."

Reference = Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 843
In-book reference = Book 10, Hadith 235

- These was how Misbahā Prayer Beads got their 99 or 33 beads.