Some of the brothers who call themselves ‘salafis’ say that the ‘tasbeeh’ is haraam because it is an innovation. Is this true?
All praises are for Allah and Peace and Blessings be upon His final Messenger (s.a.s).
The use of the beads which Muslims use while reciting tasbeeh etc. is not a bid’ah (innovation). It is often referred to as ‘a tasbeeh’, ‘the subhah’ or ‘the misbahah’, all meaning the same thing, that is ‘the zikr beads’.
On this issue, it should be noted that one is encouraged to count on the fingers while reciting tasbeeh etc. This is from the instructions of the Prophet (S.A) and he himself used to count on his fingers.
In this regard, it is reported from Abdullah bin Amr (R.A) that he said, ‘I saw the Prophet (S.A) counting the tasbeeh with his hand’. (Ibn Abi Shaiba, Abu Dawood, Trimizi, Nasaai, and Hakim who graded it as Saheeh (sound))
It is also reported from Busairah (a Muhajir woman, (Sahabiya)) that the Prophet (S.A) said ‘it is upon you to glorify Allah (make Tasbeeh) to say La ilaaha ilalaah, to affirm the purity of Allah and do not be unmindful less you forget about the oneness of Allah. And count them on the finger nails (i.e. fingers), for they shall be questioned and they shall be made to speak’. (Ibn Abi Shaiba, Abu Dawood, Tirmizi, Hakim).
Based on these instructions, it is clear that the Messenger of Allah (S.A) encouraged his followers to count the recitation of Zikr etc. on the fingers since it will be of great benefit to the individual as mentioned in the above tradition.
While this is the case, it should be noted that if one recites the Zikr on beads (for easy counting etc.) it will be permissible in Islam and would not be deemed to be a reprehensible act or a bid’ah.
The use of the beads is basically to allow ease in counting the amount of times an individual wishes to recite a Zikr (i.e. a certain phrase in the remembrance of Allah). It is not looked at a religious symbol of Islam nor does it bring about the violation of any rule, order or teaching of Islam. Instead it is one which has been accepted in Islam and has not been considered as an innovation by many of the great scholars of the ‘Salafus Saaliheen’, (pious predecessors). In fact, there is sufficient evidence that serves as a basis to prove that the use of beads as a media of counting Zikr etc. was actually endorsed by the Prophet (S.A) and the Sahabahs (R.A).
In this regard, a Saheeh (sound) narration has been recorded by Imam Tirmizi, Hakim and Tabrani from Safiya bint Huyay (the wife of the Messenger of Allah (S.A) that she said, ‘ The Messenger of Allah came to me and in front of me were four thousand date stones with which I was doing the Tasbeeha ( reciting the phrase Subhaanallaah). He said, ‘what is this O bint Huyay! (i.e. O daughter of Huyay). I said ‘I am doing tasbeeh with these’. He said, ‘I have made tasbeeh (glorify Allah by saying subhaanallaah) from the time I left you more than that’. I said, ‘Teach me O Prophet of Allah’. He (the Prophet said, ‘Say, ‘Subhaanallaah Adada Ma Khalaqa min Shai’in’ (i.e. glory be to Allah to the extent (amount) of what He Has created of everything).
This narration shows that Safiya bint Huyay, the wife of the blessed Messenger of Allah(s.a.s) had taken the date stones to make it easy in counting while reciting Tasbeeh etc. The Prophet (S.A) saw her and did not disapprove of her act. He was however, amazed to see that she had so many date stones in front of her, hence, he ask what she was doing with them and she replied that she was doing tasbeeh with them. In response, the Messenger of Allah (s.a.s) did not rebuke her nor did he condemn her, nor did he ask her to stop this act of counting on the date seeds (or stones). Instead, he taught her a tasbeeh which will bring about more blessings in a shorter time.
It should be noted that the date seeds (stones) which were used by Safiya (R.A) was not one which had any religious significance in Islam (which made her gather so many of them). Instead, it was simply used as a media of easy counting of the tasbeeh which she wanted to do.
In another tradition narrated from Sa’ad bin Abi Waqas(R.A), it is stated that he went with the Prophet (S.A) to a woman who had in front of her date stones or pebbles which she was using to do tasbeeh (saying Subhaanallaah). The Prophet of Allah (S.A) said, ‘I shall inform you of that which is easier than this and more virtuous. Say:
‘Subhaanallaah Adada Ma Khalaqa Fis Samaa.
Subhaanallaah Adada Ma Khalaqa Fil Ard.
Subhaanallaah Adada Ma Baina Zaalik.
Subhaanallaah Adada Ma Huwa Khaliq.
Allahu Akbar Mithl Zaalik
Wal Hamdu Lillaah Mithl Zaalik
Wa Laa ilaaha illallaah Mithl Zaalik
Wa Laa Quwwata illa billah Mithl Zaalik’.
(Recorded by Abu Dawood, by Tirmizi who graded it as Hasan (good), Nasa’i , Ibn Majah, Ibn Hibban and Hakim who graded it as Saheeh (sound)).
This tradition also shows that the Prophet (S.A) did not disapprove nor did he become displeased with the woman’s act of using the date stones or pebbles to count her tasbeehs.
His statement to her shows that he gave her a beautiful form of tasbeeh which is easier and virtuous. It means that in saying this tasbeeh she would not be required to count them on the stones and although it is short she will receive more blessings for it.
Note that the Messenger of Allah did not condemn her act of counting her tasbeeh on date stones or pebbles and although he instructed his companions to count on their fingers, he did not condemn this act of the woman.
Another tradition is recorded by Imam Baghwi in his Mu’jam As Sahaba and also narrated by Ibn Asakir in his ‘Tareekh’ from Ubai bin Kaab (r.a) from his grandfather Baqiya from Abu Safiya, the freed slave of the Prophet (S.A). It is narrated that a leather mat used to be placed for Abu Safiya and then a basket (made of palm leaves) would be brought for him. In the basket contained pebbles with which he did the tasbeeh until midday. After this, the basket would be lifted (carried away) and when he performed his Salaah it would be brought again. In this manner he made the tasbeeh on these pebbles until the evening.
Imam Ahmad has mentioned in ‘Az-Zuhd’ a narration from Yunus bin Ubaid from his mother who said, ‘ I saw Abu Safiya, a companion of the Prophet (S.A), who was our neighbor, saying tasbeeh with the pebbles’.
Ibn Saad has mentioned in his ‘Tabaqaat’ from Hakeem bin Ad daili that Saad bin Abi Waqas (R.A), a companion of the Prophet (S.A) used to make tasbeeh (reciting Subhaanallaah or other forms of Zikr) with pebbles.
Ibn Abi Shaiba has narrated, in his Musannaf that the freed slave girl of Sa’ad bin Abi Waqas (the companion) said that Sa’ad used to do the Tasbeeh on pebbles or date stones.
Ibn Saad has narrated in ‘At Tabaqaat’ that Fatima the daughter of Husain bin Ali bin Abi Talib (R.A.) used to do tasbeeh on a thread which had knots upon it.
Abdullah the son of Imam Ahmad ibn Hambal has narrated in ‘Zuwaiduz Zuhd’ that Nu’aim bin Muhriz narrates from his grandfather, Abu Hurairah (R.A.), that he, Abu Hurairah had a thread on which there were one thousand knots. Abu Hurairah (R.A.) would not go to sleep until he made tasbeeh on all. The great Tabiee scholar Ikramah says that Abu Hurairah will not go to sleep until he recited twelve thousand tasbeehs on the knotted thread.
Imam Ahmad narrated in ‘Az Zuhd’ that Qasim bin Abdur Rahman said, ‘Abu Darda (R.A.) the companion of the Prophet (S.A.S.), had date stones of the Ajwa dates which he placed in a bag. When he performed the morning salaah (prayer) he would take them out, one by one, reciting tasbeeh on them until he completed all.
Ibn Abi Shaiba has narrated in his Musannaf that Abu Saeed Khudri (R. A.) used to do the tasbeeh/ zikr with pebbles. (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaiba).
These are authentic reports narrating the action of great and illustrious companions of the Prophet (S.A.S.) who were nurtured and trained by the Prophet (S.A.S.) himself. The likes of Abu Hurairah, Abu Darda, Abu Saeed Khudri and Sa’ad bin Abi Waqas (R.A.), all of whom used methods other then the fingers to count their tasbeeh/ zikr. Some used the date stones and others used the knotted thread. Obviously the Prophet (S.A.S.) himself did not use these, however, the companions understood from his blessed teachings that there was nothing wrong in doing what they did for the sake of counting the tasbeeh or zikr on the date stones or on the thread with knots.
Additionally, they knew that the Prophet (S.A.S.) endorsed this method, as he had seen his wife Safiya bint Huyay and also another woman with the date stones/ pebbles which they were using while doing the tasbeeh/ zikr and he did not disapprove of it.
Hence, what we see from these narrations is that the basis for the use of beads, subhah or Misbahah is evident from the approval of the Prophet (S.A.S.) and also through the acts of his illustrious companions.
Besides the actions of the sahabahs (R.A.), it is also evident from the salafus saaliheen (pious predecessors) that there were many who approved the use of the ‘subha’, ‘tasbeeh’ ‘beads’, and they also used it. In this regard, Ibn Abi Shaiba has narrated from the tradition of Abu Nadhra that a man from the tribe of Tafawa said, ‘I came to Ibraheem bin Yazeed and with him was a sack with pebbles or date stones. He made the tasbeeh/ zikr with them until he completed’. (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaiba).
Ibraheem bin Yazeed An Nakhi was one of the great scholars of hadith and fiqh and well known as a very great Tabiee.
Abu Dawood narrates from the hadith of Abu Nadhra Al Ghifari who said, that a Shaikh from Tafawa narrated to him saying, ‘I visited Abu Hurairah at Madina and I did not see anyone more kind to his guests than him. On one occasion, I was with him while he was on his bed. At that time, he had with him a sack in which there were pebbles or date stones and close to him was a slave girl. He would then do tasbeeh/ zikr on the date stones and when he completed all that was in the sack, he would hand them to the slave girl who would place it in the sack and give it back to him where he would continue to do his tasbeeh/ zikr. (Abu Dawood).
In this regard, Imam Al Allama Jalaludeen Suyutee (died 911 A.H) has recorded in his book Al Haawi Lil Fatawa, many names of the great scholars of the early centuries of Islam who used the ‘beads’ (subha) while doing the tasbeeh/ zikr (remembrance of Allah). He mentioned that Umar Al Maliki said, ‘I saw my teacher Hasan Al Basri with the ‘subha’ (tasbeeh beads) in his hand and asked, ‘O my teacher, with your great status and the abundance of worship, until now you are using the beads (subha). He said, ‘This is something which I used in the beginning and I will not leave it in the end. I love to remember Allah with my heart and with my hand and my tongue. (Al Haawi Lil Fatawa).
Having narrated this, Imam Suyutee writes, ‘The beads (subha or Tasbeeh) is a reminder to remember Allah (it is a Muzakir). It is so because very rare it happens that a man sees it and does not remember Allah, and this is from its great benefits. For this reason some of the salafus saalih (pious predecessors) named it Muzakir (a reminder)’.
‘And from its benefits also, is that it helps one to constantly remember Allah. Whenever one sees it, he remembers that it is a media of zikr, so it leads him to the zikr (remembrance of Allah). So, how good it is as a cause to bring about the constant remembrance of Allah, the Mighty the Great. It is for this reason some of the Salafus Saalih named it ‘Hablul Wasl’ ‘A thread which connects’. Some others have referred to it as ‘Rabitatul Quloob, that which connects the heart’. (Al Haawi Lil Fatawa).
Imam Suyutee has also narrated that Qazi Abul Abas Ahmad bin Khalikan has mentioned in his book that a subha (the beads refered to as tasbeeh) was seen in the hand of Abul Qaasim Junaid bin Muhammad (R.A.) and was asked, ‘With such greatness and status, do you used the beads (i.e. the subha)? He said, ‘This is a media through which I reached my lord, I will not leave it’. (Al Haawi Lil Fatawa). It means that through the constant reciting of tasbeeh/ zikr on the beads and the fact that keeping the beads constantly reminded him to do tasbeehs, he was able to achieve closeness to Allah.
With these narrations and explanations, it can be clearly seen that the tasbeeh or the beads is not a bid’ah and its use is approved in the shariah.
About it’s use, it is narrated that Ali (R.A.) said, ‘what a good reminder is the subha’, i.e. the beads. (This narration has been narrated by Ad Daili in Musnad Al Firdaus with a sanad (narration) going directly to Ali (R.A.)).
In conclusion, our opinion is the same as many of the great scholars and Jurists of the past who approved it. They said, ‘counting the tasbeeh/zikr on the fingers is more virtuous than using the subha because of the Hadeeth of Ibn Amr (R.A.). However, it is stated that if the one doing the tasbeeh is not safe from making mistakes (in counting) then the subha the beads (tasbeeh) is better’. (Al Haawi Lil Fatawa-As Suyootee).
And Allah knows best.
Mufti Waseem Khan