The first step to making a premium Tasbih is inspiration and design. We look for inspiration in the diverse Islamic prayer bead traditions all over the world. Whether it is the Moroccan, Turkish, Western African, Egyptian or Malay styles we study them closely to see what elements to include in the set.
We also seek inspiration from meaningful Islamic people, places, and concepts to give symbolic value to the tasbih.
Once we've got a concept we put it to paper and prepare ourselves for the journey ahead.
We believe that a quality set of Islamic prayer beads (Tasbih) is only as premium as the materials it's made of. That's why we go to great lengths to source the finest natural materials.
The material we choose to make the misbaha must fit the following conditions:
1. The material must be ethically sourced.
2. It must be durable (our sets are guaranteed for life). Some natural materials are very attractive but are too porous, absorb too much moisture, and thus are prone to mold.
3. It must be a material that is workable. For example, some woods are gorgeous, but they are known to flake or crack when carved.
4. The material must have a relative uniformity in texture and color. Many organic materials vary so much that it would be impossible for us to share unless we took a product image for each set. As you can imagine, this only makes sense for our custom pieces.
5. They must be particularly beautiful. We choose woods that have intriguing grains and stones that are beautifully colored.
Next, we cut the chosen material into planks. We the cut the plans into a variety of shapes and sizes.
Cubes are carved for spherical beads, almond shaped beads, disk beads, and for the small accessories.
Rectangles are carved for egg shaped beads and for the Minaret bead (the long top bead).
Believe it or not, boring the holes comes pretty early on in the process.
After the wood planks are cut in the required shapes, holes are very carefully made into each piece.
This is a very critical part of the process, for the following reasons:
1. The hole must be centered as perfectly as possible. If this is not done correctly the beads will not align of the string and the appearance of the set will be tremendously affected.
2. The hole must be the precise diameter. This is a big deal! If the hole is too narrow the super durable string won't fit properly, and if its too loose then the set may not even be functional (especially with the Minaret, counter, and accessories).
3. With some materials, the hole must be made very carefully as not to crack or damage it. Olive wood is especially infamous for being very difficult at this stage!
Now the cubes are fashioned into the chosen bead shape using a disk cutter and hand finished using a lathe. Our favorite beads shapes are:
1. Spherical - this is the standard traditional style. Symmetrical spheres near-perfectly aligned on a string are gorgeous to look at.
2. Almond shaped - These are for master craftsmen only! The beads are carved into sphere-like shapes and then edges are carefully carved. The symmetry here is key.
3. Disk - Inspired by the Moroccan tradition this style bead is sleek and beautiful. Needless to say, it takes significant concentration and patience to get these right.
This is where premium beads really distinguish themselves from cheap imitations. Perfect symmetry is nearly impossible for handcrafted Islamic prayer beads, but the greater the master the closer they get to it!
This where the art really manifests.
The Minaret of Misbaha is the long bead at the top of the set. It is the most elaborate piece of the set and is carved by hand on a lathe without any guidance from markings. That's right folks, each minaret is carved 'free-style' fruit of the craftsmen's precise coordination and imaginative faculties.
One of the most important characteristics of a beautiful minaret in its gradual slope towards its center. At the base, the minaret is ideally the same size as the beads of the set. The craftsman then gradually carves deeper as he moves up. Once he reaches the middle he begins to carve less to give it its hour-glass appearance.
This step is extremely difficult and takes many years (and tons of failed attempts) to master.
The next step is to carve the Islamic prayer bead's dividers.
These are the pieces that split the beads into the familiar 33/33/33 or 33/34/33 sections. This must be carved in a similar manner to the minaret. It's also very important that the design of this piece complements the bead shape.
Nothing is worse than a beautiful set with awkward-looking dividers!
Now that all the pieces have been carved they are now treated if necessary. Bone, for example, goes through a multi-phase process to ensure that it is clean and safe.
Most of our sets are left un-dyed to showcase the natural beauty of the material, but if we choose to add a stain to manifest one of our inspirations it's done at this stage.
Next, the beads and accessories are strung on one-by-one on a durable string.
This may sound simple, but putting a .7mm string in a 1mm hole requires significant concentration and patience.
Think that the hard part is over? Think again!
Now comes one of the most important steps of the process. Our Hand-woven Africana sets can take hours to complete. With a needle and thread our artisans meticulously weave together and embroider the Tasbih's gorgeous crown.
Note: Not all Africana Tassels are equal. There are alternative methods that require much less time and effort but result in a less beautiful and durable tassel that wouldn't pass our QA if it tried!
Beware of imitations folks.
Now the set is complete, but we can't share it with the world unless it is carefully inspected.
One missing bead is the difference between an incomplete and a complete Zikr.
We take this seriously.
We then test the string integrity and counter beads.
Many a set doesn't make it past this stage, but that's the nature of the craft.
We can only share our work with the world if it's so nice that we'd personally gift it to our closest loved ones.
Because, Soul. Matters.