How to use Islamic Prayer Beads


Prayer beads have been and are used in many religions. Some use them to keep count of repetitive prayers. Some use them simply to keep the hands occupied when praying or meditating. Some people even use them while conducting business.

Islamic prayer beads are called Subha beads. The word Subha means to glorify Allah. The material the beads are made of is not important. They can be made of plastic, wood, glass or gemstones.

Although the style and design may vary, the number of beads needs to be consistent. The Subha has either one string of 33 beads or a string of 99 beads, with appropriate separations of some kind to mark off each set of 33 beads.

So how are beads used and what is the significance of sets of 33 beads?

Most often the beads are used to count the three phrases that glorify Allah, each of them done 33 times. In order to keep count during the prayer, the person praying would move one bead every time the phrase was uttered until he reached the end of the string of 33 beads or the marker to let him know it was now time to change the phrase.

The phrases that are most often repeated when using Islamic prayer beads are:

Subhannallah (Glory to Allah)
Alhamdilillah  (Praise be to Allah)
Allahu Akbar (Allah is Great)

The reasoning behind these particular phrases goes back to an account of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) when he was teaching his daughter. He explained to  Fatima that it was very important to use all these words to honor Allah. He taught her those true believers who recite these words after every prayer “will have all their sins pardoned, even if they are as large as the foam on the surface of the sea.”

Separation about the use of prayer beads

Like most religions, there is some separation about the use of prayer beads. The point has been made that, at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), people did not use a tool like prayer beads to keep a count. So, as opposed to using prayer beads, some use their fingers alone to keep count. Beginning with the right hand the person reciting uses the thumb to touch each joint of each finger. There are 3 joints on a finger and over 10 fingers the count is 33.

Probably more important than whether you choose to use beads, your fingers or nothing at all is that your prayers and recitations are sincere and meaningful.

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