Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Number “786” – It’s Origin, Meaning and Significance

Recently some questioned me about the significance of  786... here is the detailed explanation for some who wish to understand

786 is probably the most popular number in the Indian subcontinent. Irrespective of which religion an individual belongs to, most of the people here consider this number as “holy” or “lucky”. While most of the people of other faiths would not really know the reason behind it, Muslims would understand the significance as this number is believed to be a shorter or numeric form of Arabic phrase “Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim” which literally translates into “In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful”. The question however that even most of the Muslims would not be able to answer is that how does 786 means Bismillah? How does “Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim” shortens up to 786?
The explanation behind this lies in the numeric or chronological order of the Arabic alphabet. For example, English Alphabet has 26 letters from A to Z. If you are to arrange these letters in a numeric order, then A would be number 1, B would be number 2, C number 3 and so on with Z finally getting assigned the number 26. The same way, there are two known ways of arranging the Arabic alphabet. One is Alphabetical method which also applies to all other alphabets of other languages. In this method, we put the letters in a certain order. Like the English alphabet is arranged as A,B,C,D …. Z. Here A always comes first and Z always the last. Same way, Arabic alphabet is arranged as Alif, ba, ta, tha etc where Alif always comes as the first letter.
There is however another and a lesser known method of arranging Arabic letters. This method is known as Abjad or ordinal method in which each letter of the alphabet has an arithmetic value assigned to it. This value necessarily is from one to one thousand. In this method, the letters are arranged in the following order, Abjad, Hawwaz, Hutti, Kalaman, Sa’fas, Qarshat, Sakhaz, Zazagh.
So if we are to look at the complete Arabic alphabet, the arithmetic values assigned as per the Abjad method are as follows:
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
Hamza is not included in the table above because it has the same numeric value as Alif because it is the letter which marks the glottal stop in Arabic.
Based on the numeric values above, if we break “”Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim” in arithmetic values, we would get the following numbers. We are taking all the letters used in the phrase and the arithmetic values assigned to it.
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
If we add all these numeric values, the sum total would be 786 and that is how this number is used as a shorter or numeric form of the phrase “”Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim”
Interesting thing to know here is that this practice is not from the time of the Prophet nor mentioned in Quran. This arrangement of Abjad method was done much later, most probably in 3rd century of Hijrah during the ‘Abbasid period, following other Semitic languages such as Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew, Syriac, Chaldean etc. This was merely the practice of some of our pious predecessors in India who decided to use the Abjad method and came up with the number 786. For rest of the world, this number holds no greater value or significance. It is something that Indians came up with and only people from Indian sub-continent or from the countries of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh believe in.