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What Is Islamic Numerology?



Reply Date

Dec 30, 2016


As-Salamu `alaykum. Could you please provide the following: 1. Information about science of numerology that is associated with the Arabic alphabet. 2. How to use it? 3. Is it recommended or forbidden to use it? Thank you.



Asalamu Alaikum Abdou,

Thank you for contacting About Islam with your question.
The science of Islamic numerology (`ilm al-jafr or `ilm al-huroof) is a complicated subject that has occupied the pages of innumerable treatises throughout Islamic intellectual history.

If you have access to a good library, The Encyclopedia of Islam provides a strong overview of the subject, albeit from an Orientalist perspective. 

Many Islamic philosophers and mystics attached great importance to the science of Islamic numerology.

In particular, the “Brethren of Purity” (Ikhwaan al-Safaa), an anonymous group of Muslim philosophers in fourth-century Baghdad, relied heavily on this occult science in their thinking. 

Islamic numerology has traditionally been used to access information from the unseen world, most notably future events.

For example, it is still common today in some Islamic cultures for potential in-laws to analyze the numerical values associated with the letters of a man and woman’s names to see if the couple will make a suitable match. 

For more information about the actual details of Islamic numerology, Professor Franklin D. Lewis of Emory University writes the following: 

The word abjad is an acronym derived from the first four consonantal shapes in the Arabic alphabet (Alif, Baa, Jeem, Daal). As such abjad designates the letters of the Arabic alphabet in the phrase huroof al-abjad.

Nowadays the Arabic alphabet does not follow the sequence a-b-j-d, but rather the order: A-B-T-Th-J-H-Kh-D (the basic shapes of the letters A-B-J-D without their diacritical dots do, however, occur in that order, insofar as T and Th are distinguished from B only by dots, and the H and Kh from the J only by dots).

However, the order A-B-J-D is quite ancient, insofar as the word abjad is not of Arabic origin, but comes from earlier written alphabets, perhaps from Phoenician though the sequence may be as old as Ugaritic.

In any case, it certainly predates the writing down of Arabic, as can be seen by comparison of Hebrew (Aleph, Beth, Gimel, Daleth) and Greek (Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta).

[Though] the letters are no longer generally used as numbers, this does not mean that the numerical associations have died out. Among poets the numbers were used to write chronograms (a word that contains a numerical value; poets frequently tried to find words with a numerical equivalent to the year of someone’s death to write an elegy, for example).

Theologians and mystics invested the letters and their associated numerical values with mystical significance.

While I have no practical knowledge on how to use the science of numerology, I believe that people traditionally took recourse in a “holy man” who was well versed in the subject.

In terms of its permissibility, you must consult our fatwa department. As a principle however, it is not permissible to attempt to access information from the unseen world through such means.

Until you receive a definitive fatwa from a trustworthy scholar, I urge you to avoid practicing numerology and to avoid associating with those who use it or specialize in it. Since I am not a scholar, this should be taken as personal advice so that you may act on the side of caution. 

On a final note, Islamic numerology should not be confused with the meanings of the Quranic letters known as al-huroof al-muqatta`a, for example, the alif, laam, meem at the beginning of Surat Al-Baqarah.

The scholars are in agreement that these letters carry meaning, though they are in disagreement concerning man’s theoretical accessibility to this knowledge. Some say that their meaning is known to Allah alone and inaccessible to man, while others say that their meaning is accessible to those whom Allah gives such knowledge.

Nevertheless, while these letters carry inherent meaning, they are not used by Ahl Al-Sunnah (People of the Sunnah) to access knowledge from the unseen realm, such as future events. Again, I urge you to exercise the strictest caution in dealing with any science that claims to provide knowledge of the unseen. 

Thanks for your question, and please stay in touch.

Walaikum Asalam. 

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