Tasbih, misbaha, komboloi and begleri

This picture, circa 1600CE, is from Mughal India, with a poet reciting his poetry and holding misbaha, or prayer beads. Picture taken from Christies.

This 19th century book shows the misbaha to be as important as personal hygiene. The book is in the New York Public Library. However the tasbih or misbaha have 99, 33 or 11 beads with a “guard” bead (to represent the name of Allah that only camels know). The number of beads represents the names of Allah, as mentioned in the Quran. Thought to have been used since the 9th century as a mnemonic device to remember prayers in the Sufi sect.
Kombolói are worry beads, with a debated history. It is thought to be similar to prayer beads, some numbered 33 to match the years of Christ’s life but Greek Kombolói are traditionally made from an odd number of beads, usually a multiple of four plus one (eg- 3×4+1 or 4×4+1). Begleri are an open kombolói, usually with 5-7 beads. There is quite an art to using kombolói and begleri.

Worry Beads by Daniel Da Cruz. On Saudi Aramco World.
Prayer beads: a cultural experience on Museum of Anthropology.
Encyclopedia of Islam by Juan Eduardo Campo. Via Google Books.
Beading- the Creative Spirit by Wendy Ellsworth. Via Google Books.
The Kombolói Museum.
How to make worry beads– by Lois Wade on WikiHow.

2 comments on “Tasbih, misbaha, komboloi and begleri

  1. Asfridhr says:

    If it helps, these images are from “Codex Vindobonensis 8626” from the 16th century showing more tasbih:


    There are also a few here: http://www.turkishculture.org/dia/ (You might need to ‘log in’, but it seems they just want your personal details instead of a username and password)
    and then go to this page: http://www.turkishculture.org/dia/index.php?lang=&page=list&page_no=204 for more Codex Vindobonensis pictures. Sorry, I haven’t figured out how to search the database efficiently.

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