Saturday, October 02, 2010

An arabic gift

When I got back to Canada a Qatari friend of mine had a gift for me. Here it is:

A set of a prayer beads known as a misbaha (pronounced mis-ba-(h)a, you barely say the h), though in some Arabic speaking countries it might be known as a ‘subha’.

Misbaha are prayer beads used for a ritual called ‘dhikr’ where the various names of God are spoken as part of a prayer. Traditionally you say the names 99 times so the misbaha assists in counting, you can slide your finger across the bead while you say the names. This means that a misbaha will have a number of beads to make counting to 99 easier, my misbaha has 33 beads, with two tiny beads at the end of each 11th bead. Many misbaha are longer and can contain 66 or even 99 beads.

It is common for misbaha to be carried by Arab men in the Gulf, and most will have one in their pocket or hanging from their hand. It is not solely for use in prayer but appears to be somewhat of an accessory, many times you will see an Arab man nonchalantly rubbing his fingers along it while thinking, chatting with friends, or even while talking on the phone.

There is no set rules for what a misbaha has to be made of. The beads can be made of plastic, stone, wood, or any other material. Amber appears to be a preferred material but I do not know if that is historical or a recent fashion. Stores that sell them tend to have a wide variety including turquoise and other minerals. I have seen misbaha of all sorts of colors.

I thought it was really nice of my friend to buy me one of these. I've been keeping it in my pocket and occasionally rubbing the beads. Maybe it will help me stop biting my nails.

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