Answered by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Question: Is is permissible to use prayer beads? I heard it was an innovation. Please clarify.
Answer: Walaikum assalam
The tasbih is a means to do dhikr. One should do dhikr in the way that is most conducive to actually doing dhikr, and to maintaining one’s presence of heart with Allah. The generally accepted fiqh principle is that, “Means take the ruling of their ends.”
The ruling of using prayer beads is that they are in themselves permitted, and praiseworthy when used for the good, according to the overwhelming majority of Islamic scholarship. [Suyuti, al-Hawi lil Fatawi; Lakhnawi s Risala on prayer beads; Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar] The greatest hadith experts, including giants like Imam al-Nawawi, Imam Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Imam Badr al-Din al-`Ayni, and others all explicitly permitted the use of prayer beads. Same with great Qur’anic exegetes .If these people did not understand the Qur’an and Sunna, then who did?
Imam Abdal-Hayy al-Lakhnawi has an excellent treatise on it, based on a shorter work by Imam al-Suyuti. In his treatise, Imam Suyuti mentions the use of the prayer bead as a practice of many of the early Muslims. Abu Hurayra possessed a thread with two thousand knots and would not sleep until he had used it all for dhikr. Hasan al-Basri said regarding prayer beads, “Something we have used at the beginning of the road we are not desirous to leave at the end. I love to remember Allah with my heart, my hand, and my tongue.”
And Allah Knows Best