The Tasabih Prayer
Did the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) sanction the Tasabih Prayer? What is its reward for someone who observes it on the eve of 27th of Ramadan?
The hadith on the Tasabih Prayer has been narrated through multiple chains of transmission, through a group of Companions, and recorded by the imams of Islam and hadith scholars. The best chain is from 'Ikrima who narrated it through Ibn 'Abbas (may God be pleased with them both) who said, "The Prophet told 'Abbas Ibn 'Abdul Mutallib, 'O 'Abbas, my uncle! Shall I not give you and inform you of that if which you were to do, God will forgive your sins—their past and present, intentional and unintentional, minor and major, secret and public?! There are ten things you need to do: Pray a four rak'a [cycle of prayer] prayer and in each rak'a recite the chapter of Al-Fatiha and another chapter. While still standing after you finish reciting (in the first rak'a), say: "Subhan Allah, al-Hamdullah, la Ilah illa Alllah, wa Allahu Akbar [Glory be to God, praise be to God, there is no deity save God, God is the greatest] 15 times. Repeat the same [invocations] 10 times while making ruku' [bowing] and then raise your head and repeat them 10 times; go down and say them 10 more times while making sujud [prostrating]; raise your head from sujud and say them 10 times; make sujud [again] and repeat them 10 more times; raise your head and say them 10 times, totaling 75 in each rak'a. Repeat this in each of the four rak'as. Pray the tasabih prayer once daily if you can; if not, once a week; if not, once a month; if not, once a year; if not, once in your lifetime."
Recorders of the hadith
-Bukhari in the chapter "What to recite behind the Imam";
-Ibn Khuzaymah in his Sahih.
It was authenticated by:
-Al-Darqutni who mentioned it with all its chains of transmission in one chapter;
-Al-Hakem in his Mustadrak;
-Abu Bakr al-Ajri;
-Ibn Mandah who authored a book on its authentication;
-Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi who compiled its paths of transmission in a chapter;
-Abu Sa'd al-Sam'ani;
-Abu Musa al-Madini who compiled its paths of transmission in a chapter which he entitled "Tas-hih Salat at-Tasabih";
-Abu Mohammed 'Abdul Rahim al-Masri;
-Abu al-Hasan al-Maqdisi;
-The hadith scholar Al-Mundhiri;
-Imam Al-Zarakashi; and
-Ibn Salah who declared it fair as did An-Nawawi in his Al-Tahdhib.
• Imam Muslim: "There is no better path of transmission for this hadith than this."
• Abu Dawud: "There is no other authentic hadith on the Tasabih Prayer."
• Al-Tirmidhi: "Ibn Mubarak and several other scholars mentioned the Tasabih Prayer and its merits."
• Al-Hakim mentioned in his Mustadrak: "The narrators of this hadith through Ibn Mubarak are all trustworthy. ’Abdullah must not be accused of teaching [a sunnah] the ascription of which he did not deem authentic."
• Al-Baihaqi: "'Abdullah Ibn Mubarak used to observe this prayer and it was a common practice among the righteous who learnt it from each other; this strengthens the raised chain hadith."
• Al-Dailami mentioned in Musnad al-Fardaws: "The Tasabih Prayer is the most well-known prayer and has the most authentic ascription."
• 'Abdul 'Aziz Ibn Abu Ruwad: "Whoever desires to attain the prosperity of paradise is to observe this prayer."
Between recommendation and impermissibility
Shafi'i and Hanafi scholars have maintained that the Tasabih Prayer is permissible and recommended and this is likewise one of the opinions of the Hanbalis. Some scholars maintained that it is not recommended, basing their argument on the weakness of the hadith and the characteristics of the prayer which differ from those of the rest of the prayers. This opinion was transmitted from Imam Ahmed. The scholar of hadith Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani, is likewise inclined towards this opinion which he mentioned in Al-Talkhis. He conveyed the argument on the weakness of the hadith from Ibn Taimiyyah and al-Maziy.
Proponents of the first opinion contended that this prayer was conveyed through numerous paths of transmission all of which strengthen one other. Moreover, the fact that the early generation of Muslims observed it regularly solidifies the claim to its permissibility. They maintained that its mere non-conformity to the manner of performance of the rest of prayers does not vitiate its validity as is the case with other prayers such as the prayers of 'Eid al-Fitr and 'Eid al-Adha, the Funeral Prayer, the Eclipse Prayer and the Prayer of Fear.
It was reported that Imam Ahmed retracted his refutation of the hadith on Tasabih Prayer. Ibn al-Hajar conveyed in his defence of the hadith mentioned in Al-Masabih from 'Ali ibn Sa'id al-Nisa`i, "I asked Ahmed about the Tasabih Prayer. He said, 'I do not know of a hadith on it with an authentic chain of transmission.' So I told him, '[What of] the hadith of Al-Mustammer Ibn al-Rayan through Abu al-Jawza` through 'Abdullah Ibn 'Amr?' He replied: 'Who told you of this?" I said, "Muslim Ibn Ibrahim." He replied, "The hadith of Al-Mustammer is reliable.' And it seemed as if this convinced him."
The hadith scholar, Ibn Hajar, said, "Ahmed's words mean that he revoked his [former] opinion and that he preponderated the recommendation of the Tasabih Prayer and that the other narrations noting his disapproval are discredited due to this report which shows his change of position. There is a scholarly agreement that forged hadiths cannot be put into practice and that weak hadiths can be acted upon if they are related to virtuous deeds and to exhortation and dissuasion." He went on to say, "The truth is, the hadith is hasan [fair] due to the multiplicity of its paths of transmission which strengthen the original path."
It is established in Islamic law that objection is for what is agreed upon and not for issues where there is a difference of opinion. Therefore, whoever offers the Tasabih Prayer and observes it regularly, especially during blessed times such as the last ten days of Ramadan, has done well and followed the Sunnah. Likewise, there is no harm in following the opinion of those who refute the hadith on it, provided one does not criticize those who perform it. This is because objection is not for matters over which there is a difference of opinion.
And God Almighty knows best.