A misbaḥah or tespih is a string of beads which is often used by Muslims to keep track of counting in tasbih.
The misbaḥah is also known as tasbīḥ not to be confused with the dhikr of tasbihin non-Arab languages, particularly in Persian. In Turkey, it is known as tespih.
How to Use a Misbaha?
A misbaḥah is a tool which is used as an aid to perform dhikr, including the names of God in Islam, and the glorification of God after regular prayer. It is often made of wooden or plastic beads, but also of olive seeds, ivory, pearls, and semi-precious stones such as carnelian, onyx, and amber.
They usually consist of 99 beads to assist in the glorification of God following prayers: 33 Tasbeeh, 33 Tahmeed, and 33 Takbeer.
Some suggest the 99 beads also refer to the 99 names of Allah. Smaller misbahas consist of 33 beads, in which case one cycles through them three times to complete 99. However, misbahas may also consist of 100 or 200 count beads to assist in the dhikr duties of certain Sufi orders.
Misbahahs are also used culturally to reduce stress or as an indication of status in society.
It is thought that in the early Muslim era, people used loose pebbles or counted on their fingers.
According to the 17th-century ʻAllāmah Muhammad Baqir Majlisi, after the 625CE Battle of Uḥud, Fāṭimah (the daughter of Muhammad) would visit the Martyrs’ graveyard every two or three days, and then made a misbaḥah of Ḥamzah ibn ʻAbd al-Muṭṭalib’s grave-soil. After that, people started making and using misbaḥahs.
Some hadiths state the benefit of using the fingers of the right hand to count tasbīḥ following regular prayers.