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‘Pure work of art’: How UAE artisans turn stones into rosaries costing up to Dh100,000 – News

Photos: Shihab/Khaleej Times

Published: Saturday December 9, 2023, 6:00 am

Last update: Saturday Dec 9, 2023, 10:53 p.m.

Only a few things are sold without a fixed price: in the United Arab Emirates, misbaha (rosary) is one of them. You can get one for as little as Dh50, but if you’re willing to shell out more, you can buy it for Dh100,000.

Rosaries (prayer bead sets) come in various shapes for different religions. To Muslims, they are known as misbaha, subha, tusbah and tasbeeh and often used in the recitation of prayers, the dhikr, and to glorify Allah. In Islamic tradition, a set of 99 beads symbolizes the names of Allah.

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Misbaha, comprising three sections of 33 beads, is associated with a hadith advise Muslims to recite ‘Subhanallah’ (glorious is God) 33 times, ‘Alhamdulillah’ (all praise be to God) 33 times and ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is great) 34 times after daily prayers.

Khaleej Times We explored shops in Sharjah’s Blue Market, where you can find thousands of these rosaries in different sizes and shapes, made from different types of stones. Each prayer bead has a story behind it.

Towhid Chowdhury, owner of Al Murjaan Al Zahry Novelty and Gifts LLC, has been in this industry for the past 33 years. He is an artisan and seller of rosaries.

“These rosaries are used in abundance by Emiratis. We can see many holding and doing dhikr while walking or working,” Chowdhury said.

Rosaries are made from various materials, such as wood, precious stones, ivory, pearls and other natural materials. “However, the most sought-after rosaries are those made of amber stones,” Chowdhury said.

Made of precious stones

For those looking for a more personal touch, many stores offer custom-made rosaries.

Artisans transform precious stones, corals and wood into perfectly shaped beads, often circular or oval, and some feature intricate carvings such as the 99 names of Allah, Ayat-ul-Kursi and other prayers. “Many clients came to us with their specifications. Some prefer precious stones such as emerald, turquoise, ruby, bolete, eudialite, feldspar, agate and even diamonds.”

“But these rosaries made of stones are made to special order and customization. The price of these can vary depending on the stone, size, shape and carvings, which can go up to Dh100,000,” Chowdhury said.

From stones to beads

A normal rosary takes about two days to complete. However, the detailed ones take about two months. Once the order is placed, manufacturers must source the stones from different parts of the world.

“Once we receive the stones, we carve them to the desired size and give them a shape, either round or oval,” Chowdhury said, adding that some stones that are not rigid break, making them work repetitively.

“After the beads are shaped to their precise sizes, they are drilled and then polished. If a customer wants details about the wish, it takes a few days,” Chowdhury said, adding that some customers also request that 99 names of Allah be engraved on the 99 beads.

“Some also prefer designs with gold lettering, which further increases the price,” Chowdhury said.

made of corals

In addition to stones and wood, rosaries are also made from coral stones. Once lying beneath the seabed in the Arabian Gulf, it is seen in many homes across the country. “Making prayer beads from corals is a very difficult task because corals are not rigid or strong,” said Ismail Saleem, a craftsman at a shop in Blue Market.

“Corals come in colors that sometimes people haven’t seen. And those corals are preferred for rosaries and decorations,” Saleem said.

From handmade to automation

A few years ago, these rosaries were rubbed by hand and the entire process was done by hand. Stones and wood were rubbed with sandpaper and other materials to shape them.

“The beauty of a handmade rosary is something that cannot be compared. “It was a pure work of art, which is no longer done.”

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