Published in  
September 28, 2023

Salat al-Tasbih: Sunnah or Innovation?

The scholars differ if Salat Al-Tasbih is a recommended sunnah act to practice. The Hanafi’ and Shafi’i Jurisprudence view this prayer is a Sunnah, and the Malikis and Hanbali’s don’t consider it a Sunnah. But in the Hanbali school it is permissible to act on virtuous deeds based on weak ahadith.

Narrated Abdullah Ibn Abbas رضي الله عنه: The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said to al-Abbas ibn Abdul Muttalib: Abbas, my uncle, shall I not give you, shall I not present to you, shall I not donate to you, shall I not produce for you ten things? If you act upon them, Allah will forgive you your sins, first and last, old and new, involuntary and voluntary, small and great, secret and public.

These are the ten things: you should pray four rak’ahs, reciting in each one Fatiha al-Kitab and a surah. When you finish the recitation of the first rak’ah you should say fifteen times while standing: “Glory be to Allah”, “Praise be to Allah”, “There is no god but Allah”, “Allah is most great”. Then you should bow and say it ten times while bowing. Then you should raise your head after bowing and say it ten times. Then you should kneel down in prostration and say it ten times while prostrating yourself. Then you should raise your head after prostration and say it ten times. Then you should prostrate yourself and say it ten times. Then you should raise your head after prostrating and say it ten times in every rak’ah. You should do that in four rak’ahs.

If you can observe it once daily, do so; if not, then once a week ; if not, then once a month; if not, then once a year; if not, then at least once in your lifetime. [Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah]

Did the Prophet ﷺ ever offer this prayer? – Imam Al-Albani said: The Prophet ﷺ never prayed Salat Al-Tasbih himself; but urged his uncle to pray it.

The scholars differ if Salat Al-Tasbih is a recommended sunnah act to practice. The Hanafi’ and Shafi’i Jurisprudence view this prayer is a  Sunnah, and the Malikis and Hanbali’s don’t consider it a Sunnah. But in the Hanbali school it is permissible to act on virtuous deeds based on weak ahadith.

Imam Ibn Qudamah رحمه الله said: With regard to Salat al-Tasbeeh, (Imam) Ahmad said: I do not like it. It was said to him: Why? He said: There is nothing sahih (authentic) about it, and he waved his hand as if dismissing it. [al-Mughn]

Yet, we have another point from Ibn Qudamah: In conclusion and Allah knows best the issue of the isnad appears to be authentic as Al-Hafith Al’Alaa’ broke down and if we take there is weakness in the chain due to Musa ibn Abdil Aziz then there are other reports that strengthen its status to at least Hasan; as Imam at-Tirmidhi concluded in his Jami’. Imam Ibn Al-Wazir in Al-Awsim mentions that there are others chains which add to this hadith’s authenticity and Abdul Ghani authored a book collecting all of its chains and graded as being Sahih himself and Allah knows best. [al-Mughni]

Of the other Hanabila who considered it a recommended act was Imam Abul Wafa ibn Aqeel رحمه الله.

Imam al-Nawawi رحمه الله said: Al-Qadi Husayn, and the authors of al-Tahdheeb and al-Tatimmah said: Salat al-Tasbih is mustahabb (desirable), because of the hadith narrated concerning it. But this view of it as mustahabb is subject to further discussion, because the hadith in question is dha‘eef (weak), and it involves changing the regular format of the prayer, so it should not be done without a hadith (to support it). Imam al-Tirmidhi رحمه الله said: More than one hadith was narrated from the Prophet (ﷺ) concerning Salat al-Tasbih, but not many of them are sahih. And al-‘Aqeeli said: There is no proven hadith about Salat al-Tasbih. [al-Majmu‘ Sharh al-Muhadhdhab]

Sheikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah رحمه الله said: The best of the reports narrated about these prayers is the hadith about Salat al-Tasbih, which was narrated by Abu Dawud and al-Tirmidhi, but nevertheless none of the four imams spoke of it; in fact, Ahmad regarded the hadith as dha‘eef, and these prayers are not mustahabb. [Majmu‘ al-Fatawa]

Sheikh Ibn al-Uthaymeen said رحمه الله: What seems more likely to be correct in my opinion is that Salat al-Tasbih is not sunnah (from the prophetic teachings), and that the hadith about it is dhaeef. This is for several reasons:
1. The basic principle concerning acts of worship is that they are disallowed unless there is proven evidence that they are prescribed.
2. The hadith is mudtarib (weak); there is a difference of opinion concerning it for several reasons.
3. None of the imams regarded it as mustahab.
4. If this prayer was prescribed, the ummah would have narrated a report concerning which there was no doubt and it would have been well known among them because of its great benefit. Moreover, it is not like any other act of worship, because there is no act of worship in which so much choice is given that it may be done once every day, or once in a week, or once in a month, or once in a year, or once in a lifetime. Because the weak hadith states that it is of great benefit and because it is not like any other act of worship, yet it is not well known and was not transmitted, we know that there is no basis for it, because if an act of worship is different from other acts of worship, and if it were of great benefit, people would pay attention to it and transmit it, and it would be popular and well known. Because that is not the case with regard to this prayer, we know that it is not prescribed. Hence none of the imams regarded it as mustahab, as Sheikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah said. Among the nafl (voluntary) acts which are proven to be prescribed in Islam there is a great deal of goodness and barakah (blessing) for the one who wants more, so he should be content with that which is proven, and he has no need of that which is the subject of differences of opinion and doubts.

Those that claimed that it was weak; did so on the basis of a few chains of narration that they had examined. However, if all the various chains be gathered, there will remain no doubt as to its authenticity.

Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani رحمه الله states that sometimes a Muhaddith classifies a certain Hadith as weak, very weak or even as a fabrication based on one or two chains that are available to him, although there are other chains through which that Hadith may be classified as hasan (sound) or even sahih (authentic). Hafiz Ibn Hajar then mentions the Hadith of Salat al-Tasbih as an example for this and he accepts it to be either sahih (authentic) or hasan (sound) and not da’if (weak).[Al-Nukhbat]

Sheikh al-Albani رحمه الله said: The scholars differ over the status of the hadith some say it’s fabricated, others say its Dha’eef, Hasan or Sahih.
There are three categories of Hadith; Sahih, Hasan, and Dha’eef. Sahih and Hasan both are authentic and there is a category which other narrations strengthen the status of these two: Sahih Li Ghayrahi and Hasan Li Ghayrahi.

This hadith is authentic by way of two angles;
1: The hadith has been narrated and collected by Abu Dawud in his Sunnan and others. The people of knowledge say that when a hadith doesn’t have a narrator in its isnad known for lying or even accused as a liar, then this kind of hadith can be supported for its strength by way of other chains. There are several other narrations for the Tasbih  prayer.

2: Abdullah Ibn al-Mubarak رحمه الله used to act by this hadith. He was from among the senior scholars of the Salaf, and if this hadith wasn’t authentic; then there is  no way he would have acted by it. [Al-Huda wa Nur]

Imam Al-Albani established 2 principles for the Muslim who looks at evidence. The first thing he mentioned and proved was just because a hadith is weak in one isnad doesn’t mean it’s unauthentic, as there can be other narrations to support it. Then the second point the Sheikh highlighted was the actions of the Salaf can be followed, in particularly those Imams who were known to be erudite in their command over Fiqh.

Imams Ibn al-Jawzi رحمه الله and Ibn Taymiyyah رحمه الله considered this hadith to be a forged report since the wording of the hadith was strange.

Imam Al-Albani further said: Ibn al-Jawzi and Ibn Taymiyyah held the opinion that text of the hadith was strange about the virtue of a prayer only offered once in a lifetime. Moreover, they said the Tasbih prayer doesn’t resemble the other well-known prayers from authentic sources. These two things lead them to say the hadith was fabricated. Anyone who looks at this hadith and the various narrations recorded will not say the hadith is fabricated and I don’t believe that Ibn al-Jawzi and Ibn Taymiyyah did that.

Although Imams Ibn al-Jawzi and Ibn Taymiyyah are great Imams Sheikh Imam Al-Albani explained how their statement for Salat Al-Tasbih as a forged report isn’t possible, since there were other chains which support each other, and their opinion was built on the matn of the hadith illustrating a seemingly strange description for the prayer.

Imam Al-Albani said: The irregular way this prayer is performed or mentioned isn’t a means to consider the hadith to be unacceptable. We are aware that there are other prayers done during the life time of the Prophet ﷺ such as the eclipse prayer which isn’t offered in the fashion the other prayers are.

Sheikh Adnan Uroor رحمه الله wrote: "Amongst those who declared it Sahih or Hasan are: Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Abu Dawud, Al-Hakim, Abu Musaa al-Madini, Al-Khateeb Al-Baghdadi, Ibn as-Salah, Al-Baghawi, Al-Mundhiri, An-Nawawi in Tadheeb Al-Asma and Al-Adhkar, Ibn Hajar Asqalani, As-Suyuti and lastly the Muhaddith of our time Shaykh al-Albani." [The Three Abandoned Prayers]

Sheikh Abd al-Rahman Mubarakpuri رحمه الله wrote: "Difference occurred between the people of knowledge about the Hadith of Salah At-Tasbih's whether it is Sahih, Hasan or weak or fabricated. And what is apparent for me is that it does not go below the level of Hasan...the second benefit: One of the Hanafi scholars (Sheikh Abdul Hai Luknawi) said in his book "Athar Al-Marfu'ah": Know that most of our companions among Hanafiyah and many of the Sufis Mashaykh mentioned in the description of Salah At-Tasbih the description mentioned in Tirmidhi, Al-Hakim from Abdullah ibn Al-Mubarak without the mention of the Jalsah Al-Istirahah (sitting after the second Sajdah before standing up), containing the Tasbihat before Qira'at and after Qira'at, and this because of their absence of adopting the Jalsah Al-Istirahah in other regular prayers. We know from what has preceded that the most authentic about its description is this description (with Jalsahah Istarahah), so one should take it and pray as such whether he is Hanafi or Shafi'i" End of his speech." I (A. Mubarakpuri) say: "The matter is as he said, indeed Al-Mundhiri said: "Most of the narrators reported it with the mentioned description in the Hadith of ibn Abbas, and Abi Rafi', so acting by it is better, as there is no marfu narration other than it" [Tuhfatul Ahwazi]

Imam al-Mundhiri رحمه الله mentions many muhaddithin have accepted its authenticity. From among them are: Imam Abu Bakr al-Ajurri, Imam Abu Muhammad al-Misri (Ustadh of al-Mundhiri), Hafiz Abul-Hasan Maqdisi (Ustadh of al-Mundhiri), Imam Abu Dawud and Imam Hakim [Targhib]

Imam al-Suyuti رحمه الله has enumerated up to 20 great muhaddithin who have accepted its authenticity. Besides the ones mentioned above, some of them are: Imams: Abu-Sa’eed al-Sam’ani, Khatib al-Baghdadi, Hafiz ibn-Mandah, al-Bayhaqi, al-Subki, Nawawi, ibn al-Salah, Abu Musa al-Madini, al-Ala’i, Sirajuddin al-Bulqini, Zarkashi and others. [al-Lal al-Masnu’ah]

The following list of muhaddithin is of those who have written detailed articles on this matter: Imams al-Darani, Abu Musa al-Madini, Ibn Mandah, Ibn Nasiruddin al-Dimishqi, al-Suyyuti and Ibn Tulun and others.

The books of Hanafi Fiqh support the view of its acceptance. We can see this explained in the famous Radd al-Muhtar. Several Shafi’i Jurists have also endorsed it, namely Imam al-Mahalli, Imam al-Juwayni, Imam al-Haramayn, Imam Ghazali, Imam Rafi’i and others. [al-Adhkar] Imam Khatib al-Baghdadi states that there is no reason for not being permissible.

The Description of Salat al-Tasbih:

Imam Al-Albani said: Salat Al-Tasbih is done just like the rest of the other prayers except in every rakah there is 75 Tasbih said totaling 300.
In the first rakah before bowing the slave says:

“سبحان الله , و الحمد الله , و لا إله إلا الله و الله أكبر “

15  times

Then he goes into Ruku and says

سبحان الله , و الحمد الله , و لا إله إلا الله و الله أكبر

10 times

The he raises from Ruku’ after saying Tahmeed [سمع الله لمن حمده ربنا و لك الحمد ]

Then he says while standing

سبحان الله , و الحمد الله , و لا إله إلا الله و الله أكبر

10 times

Then he goes down the Sajdah and after completing the Tasbih of Sujud he says

سبحان الله , و الحمد الله , و لا إله إلا الله و الله أكبر

10 times

And the sitting between the 2 Sujud’s he says

سبحان الله , و الحمد الله , و لا إله إلا الله و الله أكبر

10 times

Then he goes  back down in  Sajdah and after completing the Tasbih of Sujud he says

سبحان الله , و الحمد الله , و لا إله إلا الله و الله أكبر

10 times

Then he raises his head for Jalsah Istarah (The brief sitting after completing the 2nd sujud before standing again for the next Raka’h ) he says

سبحان الله , و الحمد الله , و لا إله إلا الله و الله أكبر

10 times.

This totals 75. And there are 4 Rak’ah in this prayer.

Concluding here, this prayer was practiced by Imam Abdullah ibn Al-Mubarak [181H] and based on the numerous reports collected the scholars past and present have said this hadith is authentic. Ibn As-Salah said this prayer is a Sunnah and not a Bid’ah and can be offered sometimes in a congregation. Therefore, why not offer this prayer  once day, or  then once weekly and if you can’t do that, then how about  once a month; if not, then do it yearly and if you are unable to carry that out, then do it  once in your lifetime ,after reading this article and remember the reward from Allah for doing so. Allah knows best.

If a person is doing this, then it is wrong to tell them off and say that it is a Bidah for we have major scholars of Hadith like Abdullah Ibn Mubarak who have acted upon this and others like Imam at-Tirmidhi and Imam Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani who have quoted this. Those who do act upon it should not look down upon those who are not doing this, for they are trying to remain on the safe side of things.

When there is such level of scholarly difference of opinion among the scholars, rather Imams of this Ummah, then it does not befit the layman to blame another layman from following the opinion of established scholars. They cannot be blamed of indulging in innovations or going against the Sunnah. Why?

What To Do When There Is A Valid Difference of Opinion?

Not every difference of opinion is a valid difference of opinion. But when there is a valid difference of opinion between the scholars, we have to tread carefully. Let's see what scholars have advised on this topic:

Imam Sufyan al-Thawri رحمه الله said, "As for the issues about which the jurists differed : I do not denounce any of my brothers from acting on them." [Al-Faqih wal-Mutafaqih]

Imam Ibn Taymiyyah رحمه الله wrote, "Whoever adopts a view by being a muqallid to someone, cannot rebuke one who takes another view due to being a muqallid to someone else. But if one of them does have a conclusive shari‘ah proof, it is required to comply with it when it becomes known. It is not lawful for anyone to to say that one view is preferable to another, without  proof; nor be biased to one opinion over another – or one person over another – without a definitive proof. Instead, one who is a muqallid is obliged to follow a qualified scholar: he cannot evaluate, weigh-up, or say something is right or wrong … As for someone who only knows the opinion of one scholar and his proofs, but does not know the other scholar’s opinion or proofs, he is from the generality of the muqallids. He is not of the scholars who are able to evaluate or weigh-up (proofs). [Majmu' al-Fatawa]

Imam Ibn al-Qudamah رحمه الله said, "No one should denounce anyone for following his madhab, for there is no denunciation with regard to issues that are subject to ijtihaad." [Adab al-Shar’iyyah]

Imam al-Nawawi رحمه الله said, "The scholars only denounce [if someone opposes] what the nation is agreed upon, as for the issues upon which they differed - there is no denunciation on those issues." [Sharh Nawawi]

Imam Ibn Muflih al-Hanbali رحمه الله said, "The threat (of punishment) is not applicable on issues that are differed upon." [al-Furu']

Imam al-Zarkashi al-Shafi'i sرحمه الله aid, "Denouncing evil only occurs on things that are agreed upon (that they are evil), as for what is differed upon, there is no denouncing on those issues." [al-Manthur fi al-Qawa'id].

Imam al-Suyuti رحمه الله said, "What is differed upon is not to be denounced. Denounciation only takes place [if someone opposes] the agreed upon." [al-Ashbah]

Imam al-Mawardi رحمه الله said, "As for the issues upon which the jurists differed about its prohibition or permissibility, then these are not to be denounced, except if the difference of opinion on the matter is weak." [Ahkam al-Sultaniyyah]

Our Sheikh Ibrahim Nuhu حفظه الله said, "Enjoining good and forbidding evil can be done only by a person who has knowledge. Having knowledge doesn't necessitate that a person must be a scholar. Every Muslim must do it as long as they have knowledge regarding that matter. The person must be sure that the Ma'aruf being propagated is actually Ma'aruf and the Munkar being spoken against is actually Munkar. A person must be careful of the difference of opinion regarding Munkar. Not every difference is a valid difference. The difference spoken about here is when the proofs being presented are strong on both the sides without following desires. Instead of passing a ruling on one another, the opposing side needs to be explained with the proofs that the case they believe in is a Munkar. [Sharh Riyadhu Saliheen]

- Parts of the article were taken from the work compiled by Abu Aaliyah Abdullah ibn Dwight Battle

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