SubhanAllah, He is Absolutely Flawless. The utter beauty, completeness, total negation, absolute perfection and exaltation that is contained in saying those two words completely boggles my mind and I know I cannot do any justice to it. My intention is to give a tiny drop from the ocean of what tasbeeh really contains, so we do not continue to repeat this phrase (especially in salah) without knowing its true meaning.
The word ‘tasbeeh’ means the act of saying subhanAllah just as tahmeed means the act of saying alhamdulillah.
Tasbeeh is comprised of two words: Subhan and Allah: سبحان الله
Subhan is from seen-ba-ha (س-ب-ح) and it means to glorify, praise, magnify, extol Allah, by tongue or by heart. It includes:
1. To say He has no flaw in His Perfection, that He is Far above any imperfection.
2. He is far above and beyond any similarity to His Creation.
3. He is free from and above all kinds of association (shirk) and any un-divine attributes.
When one does tasbeeh, they negate any flaw and affirm all perfection in Allah azza wa jal.
Translations such as “glory be to Allah” do not contain the full meaning of tasbeeh, rather it is an impartial translation. A more appropriate translation is, SubhanAllah: How Perfect is Allah and Far Above any flaw and association.
Another meaning of the root seen-ba-ha is the act of swimming, floating, and being quick and swift as well as being remote. How does this connect with glorifying Allah? It denotes the ‘quickness’ in betaking oneself to Allah, in agility in serving and obeying Him. When doing tasbeeh, you affirm (i.e., keep afloat) the Perfection of Allah ta’ala and His disassociation to His creation. It is used for prompt obedience that comes out immediately, like an immediate reaction. (Imagine when you see something amazing, right away, you say: “subhanAllah!”)
A name of Allah that coincides with this root is As-Subooh, which means The Exalted One who is praised and glorified extensively. We learn from a hadeeth in Saheeh Muslim from A’ishah radi Allahu anha, that the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam used to say in ruku’ and sajdah: Suboohun, Qudoosun, Rabb al Malaa’ikati war Rooh. Suboohun: the One who is Exalted a lot, Quddoos : the One who is very Pure, Rabb ul Malaa’ikati war Rooh : Rabb of the angels and of Jibreel. Why do we say this in ruku and sajdah? It is out of humility, reminding ourselves how small we are, and we acknowledge Allah’s Purity and that He is the Rabb.
As stated in the previous post on hamd, the dwellers of Jannah’s last call will be: “Alhamdulillah!”, but what do they say when they enter Jannah?
دَعْوَاهُمْ فِيهَا سُبْحَانَكَ اللَّهُمَّ
“Their call therein will be “Subhanaka Allahumma!”, How Exalted are You, O Allah, a Far from imperfection!” (Surah Yunus, verse 10) (It is very interesting to see the speech of the dwellers of Jannah, here’s an assignment for the readers: look throughout the Qur’an and see how the dwellers of Jannah speak when they reach Jannah, what is it that you find? To make this easier to find the verses, search in the Qur’an using this site: www.searchtruth.com)
So when we say “SubhanAllah” the complete meaning is (but not limited too): I declare (or celebrate, extol) the remoteness, or freedom, of Allah from any imperfection or impurity or from anything derogatory from His glory. From the attribution of there being an equal to Him, or any companion, or anything like unto Him, or anything contrary to Him, from everything that should not be attributed to Him.