What is the wisdom behind the tasbihat words "subhanallah", "alhamdulillah" and "Allahu akbar" being said 33 times? Is it important to pay attention to this number?

Details of the Question

When a person acts as a muezzin and says tasbihat words (subhanallah...) aloud, does he have to say them 32 or 33 times?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

When believers say tasbihat after prayers with holy words like "subhanallah", "alhamdulillah" and "Allahu akbar", they glorify, praise and honor Allah, and they send greetings to the Prophet (pbuh) with the salawat said between them. Thus, they ask the help of Allah Almighty and the intercession of the Prophet (pbuh). After that, they say a prayer and, expressing their weaknesses, poverty and needs as slaves and asks them from the owner of the universe.

Besides, the tasbihat said after prayers gains man a lot of rewards because it is a means of repeating many important and lofty dhikr words. Tasbihat is a kind of the end of a prayer and its finish in the best way. The Prophet (pbuh) himself said these tasbihat and advised us to say them by telling us about their virtue.

Once, the poor among the muhajirs, primarily Abu Dharr, went to the Prophet (pbuh) and said,

"The rich attained high ranks and endless boons. They perform prayers and fasting like us. They have a lot of wealth. They give sadaqah but we can't. They free slaves but we can't"

The Prophet (pbuh) listened to the Companions and gave them the following glad tiding:

"Shall I teach you something that will make you catch up with the ones that surpassed you, that will make you surpass the ones after you and that nobody except those who do what you do can surpass you? If you say 'subhanallah', 'alhamdulillah' and 'Allahu akbar' 33 times after every prayer, it will be 99 times. If you say, 'La ilaha illallahu wahdahu la sharika lah, lahul mulku wa lahul hamdu wa huwa ala kulli shayin qadir (There is no god but Allah, having no partner with Him, to Him belongs sovereignty and to Him is praise due, and He is Potent over everything)' to complete a hundred, your sins will be forgiven even if they are as abundant as the foam of the sea" (Muslim, Masajid: 146; Abu Dawud, Witr: 2)

As for the issue of these words gaining man a lot of thawabs and having a lot of sins forgiven, hadiths scholars make the following explanation regarding the issue:

The purpose of the poor muhajirs was definitely not to gain more thawabs and degrees than the rich but to attain the same degrees and eternal boons. On the other hand, the poor muhajirs had such a sincere intention that they would have definitely given sadaqah like the other Muslims if they had been rich. The following hadith indicates this truth: “The intention of the believer is better than his deed.” Allah Almighty gives them high degrees and forgives their sins in return for their sincere intentions.

In another hadith, the Prophet (pbuh) expressed the virtue of the tasbihat after prayers and stated the following to make us be careful regarding the issue:

“When you are in a prayer, Satan comes and says, ‘Remember such and such work; remember such and such work’ until you finish the prayer. He may prevent you from saying tasbihat by doing so.”(Tirmidhi, Daawat: 25)

The Prophet (pbuh) informed us about the tasbihat and prayers (duas) to be said after performing prayers in many hadiths and advised us to say them. The prayers to be said after performing prayers are so many that they can form a book if they are compiled.  

Stating that the words “subhanallah, alhamdulillah, Allahu akbar” have an important place in the prayer and in the tasbihat after the prayers, Badiuzzaman Said Nursi states the following:

“The meaning of the prayers is the offering of glorification, praise, and thanks to Almighty Allah. That is to say, uttering “Glory be to Allah” by word and action before Allah’s glory and sublimity, it is to hallow and worship Him. And declaring “Allah is Most Great” through word and act before His sheer perfection, it is to exalt and magnify Him. And saying “All praise be to Allah” with the heart, tongue, and body, it is to offer thanks before His utter beauty. That is to say, glorification, exaltation, and praise are like the seeds of the prayers. That is why these three things are present in every part of the prayers, in all the actions and words. It is also why these blessed words are each repeated thirty-three times after the prayers, in order to strengthen and reiterate the prayers’ meaning. The meaning of the prayers is confirmed through these concise summaries” (Sözler (Words), Dokuzuncu Söz (Ninth Word))

There are keys that fit material locks; some secrets that are like spiritual locks have some appropriate keys that fit them. If you do not use the key that fits the lock, you cannot be successful. For instance, your email account has a password. If you type in a wrong password, you cannot access your mailbox. A certain number of tasbihat or salawat needs to be said for some divine secrets to be revealed. If this number is ignored deliberately, it is impossible to attain that divine secret. However, if someone says tasbihat a wrong number of times by mistake, the mercy of Allah Almighty will accept it. It is something different. 

Giving special importance to tasbihat after prayers, Badiuzzaman Said Nursi arranged these tasbihat, salawat and duas. The booklet called "Namaz Tesbihatı (Prayer Tasbihat)" includes the tasbihat that Nursi regularly said. These tasbihat also include duas of taking refuge to be read after the morning and evening prayers and dua of “Ism al- Azam”, which gains man great rewards when it is read after every daily prayer.   

These dhikrs and duas, which are the castle of our spiritual life and gains man great rewards, are in Tasbihat all together. The spiritual realm of a believer who says these tasbihat after each prayer will be illuminated and enlightened and he will be saved from the dangers of the soul and Satan.

In a letter, Badiuzzaman Said Nursi expresses the importance of these tasbihat as follows:

“These tasbihat to be read after each prayer are the way of Hz. Muhammad (pbuh) and the dhikrs of the Prophet (pbuh). Due to this, they are of great importance.” (Kastamonu Lahikası, p. 68-69)

After that, he states that these tasbihat are special dhikrs of the sainthood of the prophethood and that these tasbihat are more virtuous than the dhikrs of all tariqahs.

A believer who takes pleasure in this tasbihat will even think that he is in a circle of dhikr under the leadership of the Prophet (pbuh) with millions of Muslims and that these holy words are said all together; thus, he will elevate his spiritual world to high realms by hearing them spiritually. 

The muezzin utters the tasbih to inform the congregation which tasbih to utter. This tasbih, which is uttered for announcement, is not included in the number of tasbihat to be said. Besides, everybody needs to say each tasbih 33 times separately.

The wisdom behind saying these tasbihat 33 times:

There are definitely several secrets behind saying tasbihat 33 times. However, we have not been able to find clear information about these secrets in the resources. Knowing that this number is a code for those secrets does not mean knowing those secrets.  

However, it is possible to point out two things here:

a. The common element in these three tasbihat (subhanallah, alhamdulillah, Allahu akbar) is the word “Allah”. The abjad value of this name is 66= 2x33. From this viewpoint, the number 33 is in compliance with the mathematical rank of the name of Allah; therefore, it is possible to attain some prosperities of that rank.

b. The total abjad value of “subhanallah, alhamdulillah, Allahu akbar” is 627=19x33. This conformity is regarded as a code that it is appropriate for prayer tasbihat, which includes “tasbih (glorifying Allah), tahmid (praising Allah), takbir (saying Allah is the greatest)” to be said 33 times each.

c. Prayer tasbihat are like the seeds of the prayers. The number of the rak'ahs of the fards of five daily prayers is 17. This number has a connection with number of the tasbihat to be said after prayers. For, the sum of the numbers from 1 to 33 is 561=33x17. That is the number 33 is important because it includes the number 17, which is the number of the rak'ahs of the fards of five daily prayers.

d. Each tasbih, tahmid and takbir has 33 degrees in the universal sense. Even if we cannot be aware of them, we can attain their prosperity, though concisely, by repeating tasbihat words 33 times. Some of those who say tasbihat like that are candidates for attaining those secrets through deeds, intentions or thoughts.

Note: See “at-Tafakkurul-Imaniyyur-Rafi’” and 29th Flash written in Arabic by Badiuzzaman Said Nursi.

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