Imam Ahmad narrated in al-Musnad (5384) from Hudhayfah (may Allaah be pleased with him), describing the recitation of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) in the night prayer. He said: “When he came to a verse which spoke of Allaah being above any fault or defect, he said Subhaan Allaah.” [Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Jaami’ (4782) and by the editors of al-Musnad]
Imam al-Tabaraani narrated in his book al-Du’aa’ a number of reports explaining this meaning of this word, which he compiled in a chapter entitled Tafseer al-Tasbeeh (explanation of the phrase Subhaan Allaah) (p. 498-500). Among the reports that he quoted in this chapter are the following:
It was narrated from Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him):
Subhaan Allaah means declaring Allaah to be above every bad thing.
It was narrated that Yazeed ibn al-Asamm said:
A man came to Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him) and said:
“Laa ilaaha ill-Allaah” we know: there is no god other than Him. “Al-hamdu Lillaah” we know: all blessings come from Him and He is the One Who to be praised for them. “Allaahu akbar” we know: there is nothing greater than Him. But what does “Subhaan Allaah” mean?
He said: This is a word that Allaah has approved for Himself, and has enjoined His angels to say, and inspired the elite of His creation to utter.
It was narrated that ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Buraydah narrated that a man asked ‘Ali (may Allaah be pleased with him) about the phrase “Subhaan Allaah” and he said: It is veneration of the majesty of Allaah.
It was narrated that Mujaahid said:
Tasbeeh means to declare that Allaah is free of anything bad.
It was narrated that Maymoon ibn Mahraam said:
Subhaan Allaah is veneration of Allaah and is a phrase by which Allaah is venerated.
It was narrated that al-Hasan said:
Subhaan Allaah is a restricted phrase that cannot be used with reference to any of creation.
It was narrated that Abu ‘Ubaydah Mu’ammar ibn al-Mathanna said:
Subhaan Allaah is declaring Allaah to be above (all defects).
Al-Tabaraani said: al-Fadl ibn al-Habbaab told us: I heard Ibn ‘Aa’ishah say:
When the Arabs find something objectionable and regard it as very serius, they say “Subhaan”. It is as if it is declaring Allaah to be above every bad thing that it is inappropriate to attribute to Him.
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:
The command to glorify Him (by saying Subhaan Allaah) also implies declaring Him to be above every fault and shortcoming, and affirming the attributes of perfection for Him. Tasbeeh implies declaring Him to be above any fault and venerating Him, and veneration implies affirming praiseworthy attributes for which He is praised, and that implies declaring Him to be above any faults, praising Him, magnifying Him and affirming His Oneness. End quote.
Majmoo’ al-Fataawa 16/125