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Islamic rosaries (subha)
MVK_158.312, 158.315, 159.501
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

Religious beads, symbolizing piety and fulfilling a practical purpose, could be made from a variety of rare and precious materials. However, the most common materials for rosaries throughout the world are wood, glass, and plastic. Rosaries not only communicate a great deal of historical, spiritual, and sicial information but also articulate the universal human need for personal adornment.

History of the Object

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Type
Costume and Jewelry 
Materials
Plastic and Bohemian glass beads. 
Measurements
Length 18-33 cm  
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
Egypt; Cairo 
Geography
Egypt 
Time period
AD 20th century ~ AD 20th century 
Creation date
20th Century; 1960 - 1980 
Function
Used to repeat the 99 Divine names, the Islamic rosary, 'subha' (literally meaning to 'exalt'). It plays an important ritualistic role in Islam. Its purpose is to assist the worshipper in accurately repeating from memory the correct number of prayers and incantations required by its faith. While the actual quantities of beads used for the rosary practice may differ, multiples of three predominate the iconography of rosaries reflecting the significance of the number in prayers and even fundamental doctrines. The Muslim rosary usually has 99 counting beads divided into three sections by the marker beads, 'imam'. The marker beads, placed after the 33rd and 66th beads, allow the devotee a respite from counting prayers. The ends of the cord pass through an elongasted or vase-shaped terminal bead, 'yad', which indicates that one has 'come into' the circle of prayer. The cords finally go through two smaller beads, ending in a tassel. In addition to their function as a counting device, rosaries have intellectual, social, psychological, and aesthetic significance. Healing powers have been attributed to rosaries, as well as the power to exorcise evil spirits and ward off lightning. Certain materials, such as agate, were most universally talismanic; their use as religious beads provided double protection. The custom of prominently displaying prayer beads led to their elevation as objects of social status as well as piety. 
Acquisition
Acquired by the museum in 1977 and 1978. Collection P.W. Schienerl. 
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
Axel Steinmann. Blickfänge - Schmuck aus Nordafrika. Wien: Museum für Völkerkunde 1995. 
Owner
State Property, Republic of Austria. 
Museum
Weltmuseum Wien 
Credit line
 

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