Now, let us return to the words: “And that those in whose hearts is a disease and the unbelievers may say ‘What doth Allaah intend by this mathal?’…” The number 19 is mentioned in connection with the threat of Sa’qar (Hell-Fire), and that it is guarded by nineteen must seem ambiguous.
If the fire were described as a burner we could understand that, though different in quality, the fire of the after-life is somewhat similar to fire in this one. If the fire were described as “painful”, we would similarly have some point of comparison because we have experienced pain and we know it. But what of the threat of “nineteen”? It is a threat we cannot relate to because the threat from twenty is greater than nineteen. And what is the difference between the threat of 17 and 19?
On this subject Azzamakhshary says in his book, Kash-shaaf "Pathfinder": “The believers see it as wisdom and abide by it due to their belief that acts of Allaah are all good and wise, thus increasing their faith, and the Unbelievers deny it and doubt it, thus increasing their unbelief and aberration.” Ka‘bi says: “Fitnah means a trial or test so that believers attribute the secret of specifying a number to the Creator’s omniscience.”
While we accept and agree with Azzamakhshary and Ka‘bi, our opinion is that those who believe in the notion of religion, the unseen and heavenly revelation are called on to search for the secret behind this number and for the reason behind there being nineteen guardians. It appears that the matter relates to a natural law. We are expected to exercise our minds, whilst being aware of the limitations of the human intellect. The ’Qura~n has expanded the horizon of the Believer and has rectified his reasoning methodology and stimulated him to meditate and contemplate. There is no reason to believe that the issue in question is one that the human mind cannot ponder.
Mu’hammad A’t-’taahir Ibn ‘Ashoor says in "Atta’hreen wa Attanweer" (Liberation and Enlightenment): “Allaah has made the number of Hell-Fire guardians for other reasons which necessitated that specification which Allaah alone knows.” Certainly the answer rests with Allaah, but with Allaah alone? Ibn ’Ashoor also says: “That number (is) intended for other benefits, for people other than Unbelievers, those who commit knowledge to Allaah’s omniscience and to fruitful contemplation.” Note the phrase “to fruitful contemplation.”
Thus, a Believer’s faith that the Holy ’Qura~n is the Word of Allaah, the All-Knowing and the Just, makes him take a positive attitude and exercise his mind. He or she will contemplate ’Qura~nic verses and the marvels of the created universe, because the Believer knows that Allaah has revealed and that Allaah has created. It is thus unwise to immediately consign knowledge to Allaah alone and give up hope of intellectually penetrating the mystery of the ’Qura~n’s treasures.
Our efforts to do this in no way contradict the admission of the inadequacy of the human mind to grasp the whole truth. If anything, the increase in human knowledge is visible evidence of the human mind’s fundamental limitations when compared to the knowledge of Allaah. After all, isn’t meditation one of the obligations of being a Muslim?
Those who have a religious approach are led by this to reach for and thence grasp wisdom. However, those who have an atheist approach move in a vicious circle, never reaching true understanding, because their premises do not lead them to results but merely make them question the idea behind the number 19, saying, Why not 20, or even 1000, and so on, without result.
“Thus doth Allaah leave to stray whom He pleaseth, and guide whom He pleaseth.” (The Holy ’Qura~n [T.M.Q.], chapter of ‘Almuddathir’, verse 31) This comment suggests that fitnah is intended to sort people. Consider His saying: “Do men think that they will be left alone on saying ‘We believe’ and that they will not be tested? We did test those before them, and Allaah will certainly know those who are true from those who are false.” (The Holy ’Qura~n [T.M.Q.], chapter of Al‘ankaboot, verses 2-3) The question remains: How will the number 19 be a trial out of which will emerge certitude?
“And none can know the forces of thy Lord except He.” Azzamakhshary says. “It is not hard for Him to increase the mentioned number of guardians, but in this particular number lies a wisdom that we don’t know, but He – exalted be He – knows it.”
“And this is no other than a warning to mankind.” Aboo Bakr Aljazaa-ry in his work Nahr Alkhayr ‘ala Aysar Attafaseer (The River of Goodness to the Easiest Interpretations) says: “It is possible that the pronoun this in the above verse refers to the number of angels (nineteen) and it is possible that it refers to ’Qura~nic verses or to Sa’qar (hell-fire) or to the forces of Your Lord. This is part of the ’Qura~nic miracle – one single word means more than tens of words.”
Nasafy also says, “These verses are no other than a warning to mankind” while Arraazy remarks: “These verses containing these ambiguities … are a warning to all Believers and those who practice, though the beneficiaries are only the people of faith.”
Tantaawy Jawhaary says in his book Aljawaahir (Gems): “This chapter containing sa’qar and the number of guardians of hell-fire is nothing but an admonishment to them.” Ibn ’Ashoor says the pronoun this in the aforementioned verse refers to the number of the angels or guardians of hell-fire. However, Al’qaasamy says: “This (i.e. their stated number) is no other than a warning to mankind, or a lesson…It is also said that the pronoun refers to ’sa’qar and it is said that it refers to verses. To me the first opinion is more plausible...”
In my opinion, if the pronoun refers to sa’qar, the understood meaning is that hell-fire is a warning to mankind. If the pronoun refers to verses it is also understood. However, if the pronoun refers to the number 19, which accords with the surface structure of the sentence and which has been emphasised by Al’qaasimy, then we have to ask: How can number 19 be a warning to mankind?
After this quick survey of the meaning of these holy verses we reach the following conclusions:
1. The Holy ’Qura~n has not made any number a theme discussed in detail except the number 19.
2. God Almighty has made number 19 a trial for the unbelievers, and this trial has four results:
(i) – The achievement of certitude for the People of the Book that Mu’hammad (P.B.U.H.) is an apostle from Allaah.
(ii) – An increase in faith for the Believers.
(iii) – There will not be the least doubt for the People of the Book or for believers, which means that the evidence that will achieve certainty is incontrovertible.
(iv) – The meaning of the number 19 will remain a mystery for the unbelievers and hypocrites. They will thus not achieve their aim because of a flaw in the whole approach of their investigation and deduction, and the corruption of their hearts. Consequently they will not achieve the knowledge that would lead to learning from their errors.
3. Those who read the verses will sense that they are in the presence of a serious issue – “This is but one of the mighty portents.” (The Holy ’Qura~n [T.M.Q.], verses 35)
Suspicion of numbers & the significance of number 19
In the 19th Century there appeared in Iran a sect called the Babists. The first to follow the leader, Albaab (the door), were a group of eighteen, making the total number 19. After the killing of Albaab, Babism became what was called Bahaism. One of its tenets was the sanctification of the number 19 and in fact they divided the year into 19 months, made a month 19 days and devoted the remaining days of the year to acts of charity, as they perceive them.
As Bahaism was considered a sect that was outside Islaam, we find that many Muslim scholars have taken a hesitant and suspicious attitude towards the issue of number 19. In my view there are no reasonable grounds for this attitude. We will find that there is a logic to the matter that is related to the configuration of letters and words, and our stand should not be a reaction to the illusions of certain people, especially when the Holy Qura~n has set this number as a trial for the Unbelievers.
However, in the late 1970’s when Rashaad Khaleefah, an Egyptian living in the United States, published research on the number 19 in the ’Qura~n. Initially people received the research favourably, not knowing that it was contrived, and that the researcher was a Bahai with a hidden agenda. Following this, it did not take long before Khaleefah proceeded to claim Prophethood based on the number 19, his claim coinciding with our discovery that he had faked his research. The reader will find details about the issue in our book, "The Miracle of the Number 19 in the Holy Qur’an – Premises Awaiting Outcomes."
The contrived research of Rashaad Khaleefah and his claim to prophethood has left a negative impact on the whole issue of numerical miracles, as if those who were impressed by the research realised later that they had been fooled and reacted accordingly. However, we must remember that the question has nothing to do with either Bahaism or with Rashaad Khaleefah. The ’Qura~n clearly states the specificity of this number and that it is a trial for the unbeliever, and a matter of certainty for the People of the Book who look for truth, and a cause for the increase in the faith of believers.
It is remarkable that the case of this number 19 has not been considered at any age before as it is now. It could thus be seen to be one of the prophecies of the Holy ’Qura~n that is now becoming apparent. It now seems that our understanding of this mysterious number will develop in a positive direction that will contribute to the achievement of certainty and the increase in faith, as predicted, in an age when people have raised doubts and demanded more evidence and more proof.
There is no need for a negative attitude towards the issue of numerical miracles, though verification is a necessity. At the moment we can verify any fact – this is what we have done in our research – and it is possible to judge the significance of any proposition. A negative attitude may close off a major aspect of the ’Qura~n miracle, which may have a positive impact on the level of faith and on the level of ’Qura~n-related studies and on the level of refuting doubts raised about the ’Qura~n, its purity and inimitability. As to Bahaism, its nullity is obvious, its perversity is clear and the number 19 will not help them in promoting their ideology.
In fact, the number 19 will be their weakest point, because this number actually testifies to the truth of the Islaamic message which they stand against, thus becoming their fitnah (trial). We are living in a time of the resurgence of certitude that is paradoxically coming from the centre of fitnah. This resurgence, insh’Allaah, includes the signs of this miracle that we have researched in this book, signs that testify to the purity of the Holy ’Qura~n from distortion and alteration, consolidating certainty and increasing faith. What we can see of this question gives promise of universal blessing.
If the number 19 is a warning to humanity as stated in the Holy ’Qura~n, this means that people will reach certitude through this number, a number that is a warning, an admonition and a proof. It makes more sense to say that this will be achieved by a numerical miracle based on number 19, considering that certainty is not arrived at without decisive evidence, and a miracle is without doubt such decisive evidence. What gives weight to, and confirms, this is what we find in the numerical configuration of the chapter of Almuddathir (chapter 74) which can be summarised as follows:
1. The verses of the chapter of Almuddathir are very short except for one verse that is notably long. This is verse no. 31, which delineates the wisdom of singling out the number 19.
2. This verse consists of 57 words, i.e. 19×3.
3. This verse falls into two sections. The first section comprises 38 words, i.e. 19×2. This is the part that discusses the wisdom of specifying number 19. It ends with: “What doth Allaah intend by this mathal?” The second part consists of 19 words, serving as a comment on what was mentioned in the first part: “Thus doth Allaah lead astray whom He pleaseth and guide whom He pleaseth. And no one knows Allaah’s forces except Him. This is nothing but a warning to people.”
4. The word count of the first 19 verses of the chapter of Almuddathir is 57, i.e. 19×3, and thus it becomes clear that the word count of verse 31 of the chapter of Almuddathir equals the word count of the first 19 verses.
5. Verses 1-30 - i.e. to the end of “Above it are nineteen” (aleyha tisaata ashar) - have 95 words, i.e. 19×5.
6. Verse 30 consists of 3 words, عليها تسعة عشر. Therefore it becomes clear that verse 31 (which discusses the wisdom of earmarking number 19) equals 19 times the number of words in verse 30.
7. The letter count from the beginning of the chapter of Almuddathir up to the end of the word عليها ‘alayha (i.e. before تسعة عشر - Nineteen) is 361 letters, i.e. 19×19. Reflect on this!
In the Next issue:
Continuation of Noon Studies’ Chapter 1 on Numerical Miracles in the Holy ‘Qura-an
First Signs of Numerical Miracles In the Holy Qur’an.
Author: Bassam Jarrar.
Reviewed by: Tariq Hamideh and Basim Albassumi.
Publisher: Noon Center for ‘Qura-anic Studies & Researches.
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