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NUMEROLOGY. The science of interpreting numbers in a mystical or magical sense was very popular in the traditional Islamic world. By assigning each letter of the Arabic alphabet a number (alif= I, h=5, etc.) Muslims could easily derive dates from the sacred scripture by means of adding the values of the letters of key words or important phrases. This custom, very common in earlier days, is still practiced in some countries. However, the recent attempt of a Muslim numerologist to prove with the help of a computer that the entire Qur’an is based on the number nineteen was rejected by the orthodox-perhaps because nineteen is also the sacred number of the Baha’is; it is the numerical value of the word wahid, “one.”
As letters and numbers are interchangeable, numerologists could invent clever chronograms: when Stalin died, a Turkish theologian composed a chronogram stating “Satan was cast into Hell” that gave the hijri date of his death. To display the date of a building by means of a fitting Qur’anic dyah or a line of poetry was common in the Persian world until recently. The same device could be applied to date books; thus the Urdu story Bagh va bahar (Garden and Spring) shows by its very title that it was completed in AH 121’7/1803 CE.
As in other cultures, certain numbers occur frequently in Islamic belief and practice. Actions and formulas are often repeated three times because the Prophet reportedly practiced threefold repetitions. Four, the number of universal order, is reflected (perhaps coincidentally) in the four righteous caliphs, the four schools of law, and the four legal wives; five appears in the five pillars of Islam, the five daily prayers, and in the group of the Panjtan, the five holy persons Muhammad, Fatimah, `All, Hasan, and Husayn. Their names are often written on amulets as a protective formula, especially appropriate in amulets shaped like a hand with its five fingers. Seven is important in the hajj ceremonies (the sevenfold tawaf, running seven times between Safa and Marwa, stoning Satan three times seven), and in Sufism where heptads of saints appear. The mystical path leads through seven steps or valleys. Seven plays a significant role in the Isma’ili community, where prophets and their representatives, the prophetic cycles, and most aspects of life appear in heptads. The heptagonal fountain in the Isma’ili Center in London well expresses the importance of seven.
The lunar number fourteen (at the same time the numerical value of Tdhd, surah 20 and one of the Prophet’s names) and twenty-eight, the full lunar cycle and the number of the prophets mentioned in the Qur’an, are well known. But the most important round number is forty, which in all religious traditions points to patience, trial, and maturity. Examples are the forty-day seclusion of the dervish, or groups of forty saints commemorated in names like Kirklareli (Land of the Forty). Impurity after childbirth lasts forty days, and the first memorial after a death is likewise on the fortieth day. Feasts are celebrated for forty days, and in folktales one encounters the forty thieves or women who give birth to forty children at once. In proverbs, forty years is the point where life changes and one matures.
The importance of such numbers may not be known to modern artists or writers but seems to be subconsciously alive in the structure of some literary and artistic works. The One Thousand and One Nights may also exert some influence-after all, i,ooi is an odd number, and “God is an odd number (i.e., One) and loves odd numbers.” There are tasbihs (rosaries) with i,ooi beads, but the usual number is 33 or 99; to repeat certain formulas thirty-three times is considered very useful. Dervishes may also count the numerical value of a divine name and repeat this name according to its numerical value: Alldh 66 times, rahman 299 times, or ghafur 1,285 times.
[See also Divination; Geomancy; Magic and Sorcery; Mathematics.]
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Schimmel, Annemarie. The Mystery of Numbers. New York, 1993. Includes an extensive bibliography.
ANNEMARIE SCHIMMEL

Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/numerology/
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  • writerPosted On: June 15, 2017
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