Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Mystery of '786' - revealed

Q. I never quite understood the idea behind the number "786". Is it possible for you to explain its significance at your earliest convenience? (Asim)

A. "786" is the total value of the letters of "Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim". In Arabic there are two methods of arranging letters. One method is the most common method known as the alphabetical method. Here we begin with Alif, ba, ta, tha etc. The other method is known as the Abjad method or ordinal method. In this method each letter has an arithmetic value assigned to it from one to one thousand. The letters are arranged in the following order: Abjad, Hawwaz, Hutti, Kalaman, Sa'fas, Qarshat, Sakhaz, Zazagh. This arrangement was done, most probably in the 3rd century of Hijrah during the 'Abbasid period, following other Semitic languages such as Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew, Syriac, Chaldean etc.

If you take the numeric values of all the letters of the Basmalah, according to the Abjad order, the total will be 786. In the Indian subcontinent the Abjad numerals became quite popular. Some people, mostly in India and Pakistan, use 786 as a substitute for Bismillah. They write this number to avoid writing the name of Allah or the Qur'anic ayah on ordinary papers. This tradition is not from the time of the Prophet -peace be upon him- or his Sahabah. It developed much later, perhaps during the later 'Abbasid period. We do not know of any reputable Imams or Jurists who used this number instead of the Bismillah.

Herewith below is the table:
Each Arabic letter corresponds to a certain numerical value in the following way: -

Alif – 1
Baa – 2
Jeem – 3
Daal – 4
Haa (small) – 5
Waaw – 6
Zaa – 7
Haa (big) – 8
Tau – 9
Yaa – 10
Kaaf – 20
Laam – 30
Meem – 40
Noon – 50
Seen – 60
Ayn – 70
Faa – 80
Saud – 90
Quaf – 100
Raa – 200
Sheen – 300
Taa – 400
THaa – 500
Khaa – 600
Thaal – 700
Dhaud – 800
Thau – 900
Ghayn – 1000

Any letter not included above has the same numerical value as the one written like it in this table. E.g., Hamza is the same as Alif.

Now calculate Bismillahir Rahmaanir Raheem, which consists of the following letters: -
Baa = 2; Seen = 60; Meem = 40; Alif = 1; Laam = 30; Laam = 30; Haa (Small) = 5; Alif=1; Laam = 30; Raa = 200; Haa (big) = 8; Meem = 40; Noon = 50; Alif = 1; Laam = 30; Raa = 200; Haa (big) = 8; Yaa = 10; Meem = 40.
Add all the numerical values and you will find the total to be 786.

This is how the Arabic letters are valued numerically. The practice of substituting Bismillahir Rahmaan Nir Raheem with the number 786 is not substantiated by the Ahadith nor the Qur'aan. This was merely the practice of some of our pious predecessors. It is not a Sunnah practice nor does it hold any virtue.

It is permissible to use the number 786 on letterheads etc if there is a fear of the name Allah being disrespected. According to the numeric values mentioned in the famous lexicon, Fairuzul Lughaat, the number 786 symbolizes Bismillahir Rahmaan Nir Raheem if the numeric value of each letter in Bismillahir Rahmaan Nir Raheem is added up.

Try valuing your own name… and… enjoy!

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