Abjad numerals

The abjad numerals is a decimal system which is used in Arabic to number lists

The Abjad numerals was a method of writing numbers before the introduction of the Arabic numerals. Although not used in calculations anymore it continues to be used in numbering lists.

The Abjad numeral uses a decimal system. Each unit (1-9), ten (10, 20, 30 to 90) and hundred (100, 200, 300 to 900) is assigned a separate letter. The thousand is assigned a letter.

The units:

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
ي ط ح ز و ه د ج ب ا

The tens:

90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20
ض ف ع س ن م ل ك

The hundreds:

100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900 1000
ق ر ش ت ث خ ذ ض ظ غ

Here is a mnemonic to easily remember the values:

أِبْجَدْ هَوَّزْ حُطِّي كَلِمَنْ سَعْفَص قَرْشَتْ ثَخَذْ ضَظِغْ

The system works similar to the Roman numerals. For instance, when smaller values follow larger values, the two are added together to attain the total, for example, the number 11 is written as يا.

See the conversion table for the standard numbering order:

9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
ط ح ز و ه د ج ب ا
يط يح يز يو يه يد يج يب يا ي 10
كط كح كز كو كه كد كج كب كا ك 20
لط لح لز لو له لد لج لب لا ل 30
مط مح مز مو مه مد مج مب ما م 40
نط نح نز نو نه ند نج نب نا ن 50
سط سح سز سو سه سد سج سب سا س 60
عط عح عز عو عه عد عج عب عا ع 70
فط فح فز فو فه فد فج فب فا ف 80
صط صح صز صو ص صد صج صب صا ص 90

To write a number in the hundreds, simply put the relevant notation in front of the letters above. For example:

700 701 786
ذ ذا ذفو

An alternative method has also been used whereby all the values of the words are added to produce a number. The field is known as gematria or isopsephy. This follows from the notion of some cultures that the numeric value of a word has some relation with the word or subject.

An example of this is equating 786 to بسم الله الرحمن الحيم.

م ي ح ر ل ا ن م ح ر ل ا ه ل ل ا م س ب
40 10 8 200 30 1 50 40 8 200 30 1 5 30 30 1 40 60 2

2+60+40+1+30+30+5+1+30+200+8+40+50+1+30+200+8+10+40 = 786

Note: the mushaddad letter counts as one.

Some have opted to write 786 instead of بسم الله الرحمن الحيم on the assumption that the reward is the same. There is no basis of this in the shariah rather one is advised to write the full basmalah.

Arabic language is important to all Muslim. However, to us the function of the abjad numerals is not a spiritual one rather it aptly fulfills an organisational need which allows us to categorise and present information which is readily accessible. Whilst there may be patterns from which some may draw aesthetic value, it has no bearing on the application of the shariah.

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Muhammad Saifur Rahman Nawhami
22 Safar 1438
21 November 2016

Credit: This note is adapted from the submissions of S. Zaman and F. Khan