The Significance of & Secrets behind Number 19
Number Nineteen (19) plays an important role in the structure of the Quran. The numerical value of the Arabic word واحد (Wahid) which means “One” is 19. Thus, number 19 represents the Oneness of God which is a very important doctrine in Islam.
We can prove this also mathematically:
19 = 1+ 9 = 10
10 = 1+ 0 = 1
The Significance of & Secrets behind Number 19
(based on an article by Bassam Jarrar)
1. Unique Characteristics of Number 19 in Astronomy
When the Earth completes one rotation around the sun, the Earth will have rotated around itself 365 times while the moon will have rotated around the Earth 12 times. That is why astronomers say that the year is solar and the month is lunar. Referring to ‘Indexed Dictionary of Qur’anic Terms’ by Muhammad Fuad Abdul-Baqi, we find that the words for ‘day’ and ‘a day’- يومand يوما– occurring in the singular are repeated 365 times, noting that one occurrence of يوم was dropped from the concordance by mistake, a fact that was pointed out in the introduction of the work. We also find that the words for ‘month’ and ‘a month’ – شهرand شهرا – in the singular are repeated only 12 times. Why are the words يومand شهر counted in the singular?
We think that this goes back to two matters: Firstly, in Arabic a year is 365 يوم (singular), not أيام (plural). Likewise, a year is 12 شهرnot شهور. Secondly, a year is one rotation of the earth around the sun and this includes 365 rotations of the Earth around itself and 12 rotations of the moon around the earth and around itself too.
Some people have objected to Abdul Razaq Nawfal not counting the words يومئذ, يومهمand يومكم . This objection is somewhat justified when there are no direct rules for counting. Here, we count يومand يوما when it is not attached in the script to what follows it. If the word form يومئذhad been written asيوم إذ we would have counted it. In the light of this, we count the word forms يوم and يوماbut we do not count يومئذ, يومهمand يومكم because in the Qur’anic word count we deal with script rather than meaning. Nevertheless, we have noticed that the words يومand يوما, يومئذ, يومهمand يومكم, and أيامand يومين occur 475 times in the Qur’an, which is the number of Earth days in 19 days of the sun. The day of any star or planet is its equal to its rotation once around itself. The day of the sun equals 25 days of the Earth so when the sun has rotates once around itself, the Earth will have revolved 25 times around itself. Consequently, when the sun completes 19 rotations around itself, the Earth will have rotated 19 x 25 = 475 times around itself . Thus, 475 is the number of Earth days in 19 days of the sun.
When the Earth rotates once around the sun, it will have rotated 365 times around itself, and the moon will have revolved around itself and the earth 12 times. Each rotation of the Earth around the sun is called one year. A year, then, is the return of the Earth to the point from which it started rotating around the sun. However, when this return of the Earth occurs, the moon will not have returned to its starting point. Thus, “year” means return of the Earth to its starting point, but not the return of the moon. Astronomers say that the moon and the Earth meet at the same starting point once every 19 years. In other words, it occurs when the Earth has rotated around the sun 19 times and the moon has rotated around the Earth 235 times, a rotation which astronomers call an “ecliptic cycle”. This ecliptic cycle which occurs once every 19 years has been scientifically used to match the solar and lunar years. Hence, astronomy books about lunar and solar calendars explain the significance of this ecliptic cycle and the number 19.
Every 19 years then, we have the rotations of the Earth and the moon coincide with each other when they return to the same co-ordinate. The word سنة (year) occurs in the Holy Qur’an 7 times and سنين (years) occurs 12 times. Thus the total frequency of سنةand سنين is 19 times. It is worth pointing out at this point that every 19 lunar years contain 7 leap lunar years, which have 355 days, and 12 normal lunar years, which have 354 days.
Thus, when the Earth and the moon turn one rotation around the sun, the result is 365 rotations of the Earth around itself and 12 rotations of the moon around the Earth and around itself. It is, then, a rotation that contains sub-rotations. Similarly, the ecliptic cycle contains 19 sub-rotations of the Earth around the sun and each sub-rotations is called a year which equals about 19.58 lunar years. Hence the words سنةand سنينoccur 19 times in the Qur’an.
We can also illustrate the question in a different way: the words يوم and يوما ( both mean “day”) occur 365 times in the Holy Qur’an which indicates one rotation of the Earth around the sun. Likewise, the wordsشهر and شهرا (both mean “month”) occur 12 times and it is known that a month represents one rotation of the Earth around the sun. This revolution is called سنة (a year). However, when the wordsسنة and سنين occur 19 times, this seems to be a reference from Allah to the once-in-19-year ecliptic cycle which is not related only to the Earth alone but to the Earth and the moon together. While the concept of اليوم (the day) is well defined with respect to the Earth and with its relationship with the sun, the concept of السنة (a year) is multi-fold, as there are star years, tropic years, perigee years, ecliptic years… the lengths of which vary. Hence, we find that the Quran mentions سنين(years of varying lengths) and not just سنة (year). It is also noticeable that, as mentioned earlier, سنين (years) occurs 12 times in the Holy Qur’an and that this number is the same as the number of lunar years with even-numbered total days (those years consisting of 354 days each) every 19 lunar years. As for سنة (year), it occurs 7 times, this being the number of lunar years with odd-numbered total days (those years consisting of 355 days each) which are also called leap lunar years.
2. Unique Characteristics of Number 19 in Arithmetic
The number 19, in the way it is written, consists of the smallest one-digit number which is 1 and the largest one-digit number which is 9. So the number 19 is the smallest number that represents all numbers. Number 19 is one of the Prime Numbers which means it can only be divided, without creating fractions, by number 1 and by itself. The number 19 is the smallest number, aside from 1, that has the following characteristic:
19 x 1 = 19 The sum of the digits in this number: 1 + 9 = 10 ; The sum of the digits of 10 is: 1 + 0 = 1
19 x 2 = 38 The sum of the digits in this number: 3 + 8 = 11 ; The sum of the digits of 11 is: 1 + 1 = 2
19 x 3 = 57 The sum of the digits in this number: 5 + 7 = 12 ; The sum of the digits of 12 is: 1 + 2 = 3
19 x 4 = 76 The sum of the digits in this number: 7 + 6 = 13 ; The sum of the digits of 13 is: 1 + 3 = 4
19 x 5 = 95 The sum of the digits in this number: 9 + 5 = 14 ; The sum of the digits of 14 is: 1 + 4 = 5
19 x 6 = 114 The sum of the digits in this number: 1 + 1 + 4 = 6
19 x 7 = 133 The sum of the digits in this number: 1 + 3 + 3 = 7
19 x 8 = 152 The sum of the digits in this number: 1+ 5 + 2 = 8
19 x 9 = 171 The sum of the digits in this number: 1+ 7 + 1 = 9
19 x 10 = 190 The sum of the digits in this number: 1+ 9 + 0 = 10 ; The sum of the digits of 10 is: 1 + 0 = 1
19 x 11 = 209 The sum of the digits in this number: 2+ 0 + 9 = 11 ; The sum of the digits of 11 is: 1 + 1 = 2
So, we start with 1 and end up in 9, and with higher multipliers, we return to 1 and end up in 9 and so on, in an endless cycle. This characteristic of number 19 can summarized as follows: When you multiply 19 with any number (we refer to this number as Multiplier), the sum of the digits of the result of such multiplication will be equal to the Multiplier.
3. Examples of the usage of Number 19 in the coding of the Quran (Koran)
The following are just few examples of how the number 19 is used in the Quran:
1. The first revealed verses in the Quran are the first five verses of Chapter 96 (Sura Al-Alaq).
اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ خَلَقَ الْإِنسَانَ مِنْ عَلَق اقْرَأْ وَرَبُّكَ الْأَكْرَمُ الَّذِي عَلَّمَ بِالْقَلَم عَلَّمَ الْإِنسَانَ مَا لَمْ يَعْلَمْ
“Read (or recite) in the Name of Allah Who has created (everything). He created the human from a something clinging (to the mother’s womb). Read and your Lord is the Most Generous, Who taught by the pen, Who (besides that) taught the human (all) what he did not know.” (Quran, Al-Alaq, 96: 1-5)
The total number of words in these verses is 19. Furthermore, since the Quran consists of 114 Chapters, Chapter 96 is the 19th Chapter from the end of the Quran.
2. The number of letters in بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ (In the name of Allah the most Compassionate, most Merciful) which appears in the beginning of most chapters of the Quran is 19.
a. اسْمِ (Isim) is repeated 19 times in Quran
b. اللَّهِ (Allah) is repeated 2698 ( = 19 x 142) times in the Quran.
c. رَّحْمَنِ (Rahman) is repeated 57 ( = 19 x 3) times in the Quran.
d. رَّحِيم (Rahim) is repeated 114 ( = 19 x 6) times in the Quran.
So, the root words that make up بِسْم اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ are repeated: 19 + 2698 + 57 + 114 = 2888 times in the Quran. It is worth noting that 2888 is equal to 19 x 152.
4. Suspicion of Numbers, Particularly Number 19
In the 19th Century, a sect appeared in Iran called the Babists (later became known as Bahais). The first to follow the leader, Al-Bab (meaning ‘The Door’), were a group of eighteen, making the total number 19. After Al-Bab was murdered, Babism became known as 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 Islam, we find that many Muslim scholars have taken a hesitant and suspicious attitude towards the issue of number 19. 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 Quran has set this number as a trial for the Unbelievers.
However, in the late 1970’s when Rashad Khalifa, an Egyptian living in the United States, published research on the number 19 in the Quran. Initially, people received the research favorably, not knowing that it was contrived (there are also rumors that he was a Bahai, with a hidden agenda). Following this, it did not take long before Khalifa 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 Quran – Premises Awaiting Outcomes’.
The contrived research of Rashad Khalifa 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 realized 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 Rashad Khalifa. The Quran 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 Quran 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 Quranic miracle, which may have a positive impact on the level of faith and on the level of Quran-related studies and on the level of refuting doubts raised about the Quran, its purity and inimitability. As to Bahaism, its falsehood 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 Islamic message which they stand against, thus becoming their fitna (trial). We are living in a time of the resurgence of certitude that is paradoxically coming from the center of fitna. This resurgence, in-sha-Allah, includes the signs of this miracle that we have researched, signs that testify to the purity of the Holy Quran from distortion and alteration, consolidating certainty and increasing faith. What we can see of this question gives a promise of universal blessing.
5. Number Nineteen as mentioned in Surat Al-Muddathir of the Quran
The first verse of the Holy Quran to be revealed to the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم in his Prophethood stage was: اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ “Recite! In the name of thy Lord the Creator, who created mankind from a clot of blood…” (Al-‘Alaq, 96:1). However, the first revelation in the Prophet Muhammad’s mission or apostolic phase was: يَا أَيُّهَا الْمُدَّثِّرُ “O, thou wrapped up in a mantle…” (Al-Muddathir 74:1). In other words, the revelation of Sura 96 to Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم made him a Prophet. Whereas, when he received Sura 74, he was asked therein to deliver a message to mankind and thus hebecame a Messenger, or Apostle, in addition to being a prophet.
What concerns us in this context is Surat Al-Muddathir, which is the first revelation of Apostlehood, rather than Prophethood.
In Surat Al-Muddathir (Chapter 74) says in verse 1-31:
*يا أيها المدثر * قم فأنذر * وربك فكبر * وثيابك فطهر * والرجز فاهجر * ولا تمنن تستكثر * ولربك فاصبر* فإذا نقر في الناقور * فذلك يومئذ يوم عسير * على الكافرين غير يسير * ذرني ومن خلقت وحيدا * وجعلت له مالا ممدودا * وبنين شهودا * ومهدت له تمهيدا * ثم يطمع أن أزيد * كلا إنه كان لآياتنا عنيدا * سأرهقه صعودا * إنه فكر وقدر* فقتل كيف قدر * ثم قتل كيف قدر * ثم نظر * ثم عبس وبسر * ثم أدبر واستكبر * فقال إن هذا إلا سحر يؤثر * إن هذا إلا قول البشر * سأصليه سقر * وما أدراك ما سقر * لا تبقي ولا تذر * لواحة للبشر * عليها تسعة عشر * وما جعلنا أصحاب النار إلا ملائكة * وما جعلنا عدتهم إلا فتنة للذين كفروا ليستيقن الذين أوتوا الكتاب ويزداد الذين آمنوا إيمانا ولا يرتاب الذين أوتوا الكتاب والمؤمنون وليقول الذين في قلوبهم مرض والكافرون ماذا أراد الله بهذا مثلا كذلك يضل الله من يشاء ويهدي من يشاء
“O thou wrapped up (in the mantle)! Arise and deliver thy warning! And thy Lord do thou magnify! And thy garments keep free from stain! And all abomination shun! Nor expect, in giving, any increase (for thyself)! But, for thy Lord’s (Cause), be patient and constant! Finally, when the Trumpet is sounded, That will be- that Day – a Day of Distress,- Far from easy for those without Faith. Leave Me alone, (to deal) with the (creature) whom I created (bare and) alone! To whom I granted resources in abundance, And sons to be by his side! To whom I made (life) smooth and comfortable! Yet is he greedy-that I should add (yet more); By no means! For to Our Signs he has been refractory! Soon will I visit him with a mount of calamities! For he thought and he plotted; And woe to him! How he plotted! Yea, Woe to him; How he plotted! Then he looked round; Then he frowned and he scowled; Then he turned back and was haughty; Then said he: “This is nothing but magic, derived from of old; “This is nothing but the word of a mortal!” Soon will I cast him into Hell-Fire! And what will explain to thee what Hell-Fire is? Naught doth it permit to endure, and naught doth it leave alone! Darkening and changing the colour of man! Over it are Nineteen. And We have set none but angels as Guardians of the Fire; and We have fixed their number only as a trial for Unbelievers,- in order that the People of the Book may arrive at certainty, and the Believers may increase in Faith,- and that no doubts may be left for the People of the Book and the Believers, and that those in whose hearts is a disease and the Unbelievers may say, “What symbol doth Allah intend by this?” Thus doth Allah leave to stray whom He pleaseth, and guide whom He pleaseth: and none can know the forces (soldiers) of thy Lord, except He and this is no other than a warning to mankind.“ ( 74 : 1-31)
Because the Sura was not revealed in its entirety on one single occasion (but rather gradually), it records the first moments, and the ensuing attempts of unbelievers to refute, oppose, resist and nullify the truth of the Quran. The Sura discusses the failure of the Idolaters in this respect, a failure that reduced them to defiance and antagonism. In this, they were like: (a) all arrogant individuals, (b) all those whose worldly desires and self-interest overtake their minds and hearts, and (c) all those who are so accustomed to the status quo, despite all its negative aspects, that they detest any change, even a change that may bring with it blessing and goodness.
Because of this tendency in people, there has to be a shock; a threat that will break down the barriers and throw aside the veils people hide behind. There has to be a sense of danger in order to mobilize energies to revolt against customs, traditions and norms. Hence, there is the threat of سَقَرَ Saqar (Hell-Fire) in Sura Al-Muddathir which says: لَا تُبْقِي وَلَا تَذَرُ “ It leaves and spares no one and nothing”(74:28).
The next verse says: لَوَّاحَةٌ لِّلْبَشَرِ “Darkening and changing the color of humans” (74:29). Hell-Fire burns and changes all the features of transient beauty that lure those people who are oblivious of the illusory nature of this transient present life. The Quran then proceeds with: عَلَيْهَا تِسْعَةَ عَشَرَ “Above it are nineteen” (74:30). Here, this verse seems to indicate that Hell-Fire is watched over by nineteen angels. It is possible that there are nineteen of these noble creatures or nineteen types or categories. We do not know for sure !
In his book Fi Zhilal Al-Quran (‘ In the Shades of the Quran’), Sayyed Qutub surmises: “Why there are nineteen – whatever this number signifies – is a matter known only to Allah who harmonized all existence and creates in proportion and measure.” Though ultimately, we agree with this, regarding the significance of the mentioning of number 19 in verse 74:30, we ponder: (a) whether the number here is to be considered as one of those verses in the Quran that is beyond our comprehension because it relate to the metaphysical world, or (b) whether it is rather meant to be by God as a spark or hint that triggers the human mind and guides it to decode the many secrets and mysteries in the Quran.
However, we believe in the rule that we should try to understand utterances, not disregard them, and we believe that the key to unlocking many of these mysteries is to be found in the verse: “Above it are nineteen. And We have set none but angels as guardians of the Hell-Fire; and We have made their number only as a trial for Unbelievers…” (74: 30-31)
The Quran thus provides some details about this mysterious number in verse 31: وَمَا جَعَلْنَا عِدَّتَهُمْ إِلَّا فِتْنَةً لِّلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا “We have made their number only as a trial for Unbelievers…” (74:31). We do not want to explore the meanings of the Arabic word جَعَلْنَا Jaal (we have made), but we simply find that the verse states that this number is a trial for the Unbelievers. If we refer to the meaning of the Arabic word فِتْنَةً fitna (trial), we find that its root means to expose gold ore to fire, in order to separate the gold from the impurities by smelting. Thus, the فِتْنَةً fitna (trial) intends to extract the usable from the useless. The target group, then, is the group of Unbelievers. Number 19, as stated in the Holy Quran, can thus be seen as a “sorter”, separating the righteous people from the wicked ones.
Some interpreters hold the view that stating the number 19 in the verse is there merely to tempt the idolaters of Quraish into making the issue an object of inquiry and ridicule. However, this opinion views the word فِتْنَةً fitna only in a negative light, seeing it as a source of no good. However, fitna has other shades of meaning that depend on the true nature of the one who is exposed to it, what Allah knows about them, and what Allah wills. Thus, Allah leads astray whom He pleases and guides whom He pleases, as we find in verse 155 of Surat 7 (‘Al-A’raaf’), where Allah says through the words of Musa (Moses): إِنْ هِيَ إِلاَّ فِتْنَتُكَ تُضِلُّ بِهَا مَن تَشَاءُ وَتَهْدِي مَن تَشَاءُ أَنتَ وَلِيُّنَا فَاغْفِرْ لَنَا وَارْحَمْنَا وَأَنتَ خَيْرُ الْغَافِرِينَ “…This is no more than a trial. By it, We cause to go astray whoever We please (choose) and We guide (to the right path) whoever We please (choose) …” (7:155)
Let us examine verse 31 of Al-Muddathir (Chapter 74):
وَمَا جَعَلْنَا أَصْحَابَ النَّارِ إِلَّا مَلَائِكَةً وَمَا جَعَلْنَا عِدَّتَهُمْ إِلَّا فِتْنَةً لِّلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لِيَسْتَيْقِنَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ وَيَزْدَادَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِيْمَانًا وَلَا يَرْتَابَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ وَلِيَقُولَ الَّذِينَ فِي قُلُوبِهِم مَّرَضٌ وَالْكَافِرُونَ مَاذَا أَرَادَ اللَّهُ بِهَذَا مَثَلًا كَذَلِكَ يُضِلُّ اللَّهُ مَن يَشَاءُ وَيَهْدِي مَن يَشَاءُ وَمَا يَعْلَمُ جُنُودَ رَبِّكَ إِلَّا هُوَ وَمَا هِيَ إِلَّا ذِكْرَى لِلْبَشَر ِ “And We have appointed only angels as guards of Hell-Fire. And We have made their number only as a trial for Unbelievers – in order that the People of the Book may arrive to certainty, and the Believers may increase in faith – and that no doubts may be left for the People of the Book and the Believers, and that those in whose hearts is a disease and the Unbelievers may say What doth Allah intend by this mathal (example)?.Thus doth Allah leave to stray whom He pleaseth, and guide whom He pleaseth: and none can know the forces of thy Lord, except He and this is no other than a warning to mankind” (74:31)
Mustafa Khairi says in his work, Al-Muktataf min Uyoon Al-Tafasir (‘Selections from the Leading Interpretations’):
“This number has become an instrument of temptation for Unbelievers in two ways:
1- They say mockingly: Why aren’t there 20 (instead of just 19)? and,
2- They say: How can only 19 be sufficient for punishing most of the creatures of the world from the beginning of creation to the Day of Resurrection?
The theme of these two questions is the denial of the omnipotence of God.”
It is obvious that such an argument relates to the Unbelievers whose mistaken approaches lead them to false conclusions. But the question still remains: How can such a number divide the Unbelievers’ camp in such a way that out of it can emerge some who end up believing in Allah and join the Believers’ group?
So, how can this number, or this trial, be a cause for certainty among the People of the Book? Most interpreters say: “They will find what Allah has told us about the number of Hell-Fire guardians compatible with what they already believe.” But we do not know how this agreement on one fact can result in certainty for the People of the Book. We know that there are some agreements on various matters and that there are differences. What prevents us from explaining this agreement in the light of the above quotation? And if agreement in this little fact can lead to certainty for the People of the Book and to the increase of faith in those who believe, how can you eradicate doubt in order “that no doubts may be left for the People of the Book and the Believers….” Is it logical or sensible to think that all these issues from the agreement of the fact that states that the Guardians of Hell-Fire are nineteen?
The verse continues: وَلِيَقُولَ الَّذِينَ فِي قُلُوبِهِم مَّرَضٌ وَالْكَافِرُونَ مَاذَا أَرَادَ اللَّهُ بِهَذَا مَثَلًا “And that those in whose hearts is a disease and the Unbelievers may say What doth Allah intend by this mathal?…” (74:31)
Regarding “What doth Allah intend by this مَثَلًا mathal (example)?”, some interpreters suggest that the number 19 is as strange as this “example” mentioned in this verse.
Other interpreters say that this مَثَلًا mathal (example) refers to the description of the Guardians of Hell-Fire rather than their number, i.e. what Allah means by describing the Guardians as 19. So how can this small number of Guardians of Hell-Fire be able to punish the wicked human beings and the Jinn (demons) who will be sent to Hell-Fire?
We say that if you ask a Christian or a Jew about to provide an evidence that proves the existence of the Creator or to address the notion of religion, heavenly revelation, the Unseen, or some metaphysical question, you find them producing evidence, arguments, and answers, more or less similar to what Muslims are likely to provide. While an atheist is likely to take a totally different approach in addressing such matters. Muslims and the People of the Book do not argue about the existence of the Creator, but about His attributes, actions, laws and judgements. Atheists and hypocrites, on the other hand, deny the very idea of religion and make tangible material things the very beginning and the ultimate end.
Now, let us return to the words: “And that those in whose hearts is a disease and the Unbelievers may say ‘What doth Allah intend by this mathal (example)?’…” The mentioning of number 19 in connection with the threat of سَقَر Saqar (Hell-Fire) for those who do bad deeds, and that it is guarded by nineteen may seem ambiguous. If the Hell-Fire in the after-life is described as a burner or painful, we could understand how it feels like because we are familiar with fire in this life. What is the significance of mentioning “nineteen”? Is it a threat we cannot relate to or a challenge ? Why does this Sura mention specifically “nineteen”, not “twenty” or any other number?
On this subject, Zamakhshari says in his book, Kashaaf (‘Pathfinder’): “The Believers see it as wisdom and abide by it due to their belief that acts of Allah are all good and wise, thus increasing their faith. While the Unbelievers deny it and doubt it, thus increasing their unbelief and aberration.” Whereas Ka’bi says: “Fitna 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 Zamakhshari 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. This becomes clearer when we know the cosmic significance of number 19 in astronomy.
Muhammad Al-Taher Ibn Ashur says in A-Tahrir wa Tanweer (‘Liberation and Enlightenment’): “Allah has made the number of Hell-Fire guardians for other reasons which necessitated that specification which Allah alone knows.” Certainly the answer rests with Allah, and with Allah alone? Ibn Ashur also says: “That number (is) intended for other benefits, for people other than Unbelievers, those who consign knowledge to Allah’s omniscience (saying “Allah knows best.”) and to fruitful contemplation.” Note the phrase “to fruitful contemplation.”
Thus, a Believer’s faith that the Holy Quran is the Word of Allah (the All-Knowing and the Just) makes him take a positive approach and exercise his mind when attempting to fully understand the Quran. He or she will ponder the mysteries of the Quranic verses and the marvels of the universe, because the Believer knows that Allah has revealed the Quran and has created the universe. It is thus unwise to immediately consign knowledge to Allah alone and give up hope of intellectually decoding the mystery of Quran’s treasures. Our efforts to do this in no way contradict the admission of the inadequacy of the human intellect to grasp the whole truth. If anything, the increase in human knowledge is a visible evidence of the human mind’s fundamental limitations when compared to the knowledge of Allah. After all, isn’t meditation one of the obligations of being a Muslim? The Quran challenges and urges Muslim to ponder its full meaning.
Those who follow a religious approach are more likely to grasp wisdom behind religious portents and signs. On the other hand, the Unbelievers move in a vicious circle, never reaching true understanding, because their premises and arrogance do not lead them to the truth, but merely make them ask questions such as: Why not 20, or even 1000, and so on ? Such people will not find the truth. Even if these Unbelievers hear the truth from the Believers, they will reject it.
“…Thus doth Allah leave to stray whom He pleaseth, and guide whom He pleaseth…” (‘Al-Muddathir’, 74:31) This statement in verse 31 suggests that فِتْنَةً fitna is intended to sort people and classify them.
Consider His saying: وَلَقَدْ فَتَنَّا الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِهِمْ فَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا وَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ الْكَاذِبِينَO أَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ أَن يُتْرَكُوا أَن يَقُولُوا آمَنَّا وَهُمْ لَا يُفْتَنُونَ
“Do people think that they will be left alone by saying ‘We believe’ and that they will not be tested? We did test those before them, and Allah will certainly know those who are truthful from those who are liars.” (‘Al-Ankaboot’, 29: 2-3)
Regarding “…And none can know the forces (soldiers) of thy Lord except He…” (74:31), Zamakhshari says. “It is not hard for Him (God) to increase the mentioned number of guardians, but in this particular number (nineteen) lies a wisdom that we don’t know, but He (God)– the exalted – knows it.”
Regarding وَمَا هِيَ إِلَّا ذِكْرَى لِلْبَشَرِ “…And this is no other than a warning (or reminder) to mankind” (74:31), Ibn Ashur says the pronoun مَا هِي (this) refers to the number of the angels or guardians of Hell-Fire. Abu-Bakr Al-Jazaeri in his work Nahru Al-Khair ala Aysar Al-Tafasir (‘The River of Goodness to the Easiest Interpretations’) says: “It is possible that وَمَا هِيَ (this) (in verse 31) refers to the number of angels (nineteen) and it is possible that it refers to Quranic verses or to Saqar (Hell-Fire) or to the forces of Your Lord. This is part of the Quranic miracle – one single word could be referring us to multiple matters.” Nasafi says, “These verses are no other than a warning to mankind”, while Razi 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.” Tantawi Jawhari says in his book Al-Jawaher (‘Gems’): “This Sura containing سَقَر Saqar (Hell-Fire) and the number of guardians of Hell-Fire is nothing, but an admonishment to them.” However, Al-Qasami says: “This (the stated number 19) is no other than a warning to mankind, or a lesson…It is also said that the pronoun وَمَا هِيَ (this) (in verse 31) refers to سَقَر Saqar (Hell-Fire) and it is said that it refers to verses. To me, the first opinion is more plausible…”
In my (Bassam Jarrar’s) opinion, if the pronoun وَمَا هِيَ “this” refers to Saqar, the understood meaning is that Hell-Fire is a warning to mankind. If it refers to verses, it is also understood. However, if it refers to the number 19, which agrees with the apparent structure of the sentence and which has been emphasized by Al-Qasimi, then we have to ask: How can number 19 be a warning to mankind?
The question remains: How will the number 19 be a trial out of which will emerge certainty? If the number 19 is a warning to humanity as stated in the Holy Quran, 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 numerical miracle is without doubt such a decisive evidence.
After this quick survey of the meaning of these holy verses, we reach the following conclusions:
1 – The Holy Quran 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:
a. The achievement of certitude for the People of the Book that Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم is an apostle from Allah.
b. An increase in faith for the Believers.
c. There will not be the least doubt for the People of the Book or for Believers, which means that the evidence will be indisputable.
d. The meaning of the number 19 will remain a mystery for the Unbelievers and the hypocrites. Thus, they will not achieve their aim because of a flaw in the whole approach of their investigation and deduction, arrogance, and the wickedness in their hearts.
3 – Those who read the verses will sense that they are confronting a serious matter – “This is but one of the mighty portents.” (74:35)
What gives weight to and confirms this, is what we find in the numerical structure of Surat Al-Muddathir (Sura 74) which can be summarized as follows:
1. The verses of Surat Al-Muddathir are very short, except for one verse that is notably long which is verse no. 31, which delineates the wisdom of choosing the number 19. Verse 31 consists of 57 words ( i.e. 19 x 3).
2. Verse 31 ( which consists of 19 x 3= 57 words) is the last verse in the Quran that contains 19 words or a multiple of 19.
- Verse 31 can be divided into two segment. The first segment comprises 38 words ( i.e. 19 x 2). This is the part that discusses the wisdom of specifying number 19. It ends with: “What doth Allah intend by this mathal (example)?” The second segment consists of 19 words, serving as a comment on what was mentioned in the first part: “Thus doth Allah lead astray whom He pleaseth and guide whom He pleaseth. And no one knows Allah’s forces except Him. This is nothing but a warning to people.”
4. In Verse 31, the phrase – و ما يعلم جنود ربك إلا هو – “And none can know the forces (soldiers) of thy Lord except He” – consists of 19 letters.
Is it not possible that this, nineteen, is the numerical miracle of “the forces” stated in the verse? Why not, if the goal when mobilizing the troops is the victory of the idea?
- The word count of the first 19 verses of Surat Al-Muddathir is 57 ( i.e. 19 x 3). Thus, it becomes clear that the word count of verse 31 of Surat Al-Muddathir which is 57 equals the word count of the first 19 verses.
6. Verses 1 – 30 ( i.e. to the end of عليها تسعة عشر “Above it are nineteen”) have 95 words ( i.e. 19 x 5) .
7. Verse 30 consists of 3 words, عليها تسعة عشر. Therefore, it becomes clear that the number of words of verse 31 (which discusses the wisdom behind number 19) which is 57 words, equals 19 times the number of words in verse 30.
- The letter count from the beginning of Surat Al-Muddathir up to the end of the word عليها(on top of it or in addition to it)of verse 30[exactly before تسعة عشر (Nineteen) is mentioned] is 361 letters, (i.e. 19 x 19).
9. The phrase تسعة عشر (nineteen) in verse 30 consists of 7 letters. In light of the previous piece of information, it becomes clear that the middle letter of this clause is the 365th letter from the beginning of the Sura, which is the number of days of the year. Is this related to Astronomy?
10. “By the moon and by the night as it retreats and by the dawn as it shineth forth. This is but one of the mighty portents. A warning to mankind.” (74: 32-36) Why swearing by the moon, the night and the dawn, or rather by the moon, the earth and the sun? Is this related to the number 19? In fact, yes, because there is more than one relationship among the sun, the earth and the moon, based on number 19.
11. Verse 31 of Surat Al-Muddathir, which consists of 57 words which is 12.5 times the average of the word count for each verse in Surat Al-Muddathir. This (12.5 times) is, by far, the highest such ratio in the Holy Quran. Verse 20 of Surat Al-Muzzamel (Chapter 73), whose word count is 78, which 7.8 times the average word count of each verse of Surat Al-Muzzamel. Verse 282 of Surat Al-Baqara (Chapter 2), is the longest verse in the Holy Quran, and it consists of 128 words which is 6 times the average word count of each verse of Surat Al-Baqara.
So, what does it mean that the word count for the first 19 verses of Surat Al-Muddathir is 57 (i.e. 19 x 3) and the word count for the first 30 verses is 95 ( i.e. 19 x 5)? What does it mean that the letter count from the beginning of Surat Al-Muddathir until the word عليها (on top of it or in addition to it) is 361 (i.e. 19 x 19), and that this is followed immediately by the number 19? What does it mean that verse 31 – which points out the wisdom of specifying the number 19 and is relatively the longest verse in the whole Quran – consists of 19×3 words and is divided into (19 x 2) + 19 words. What does it mean that the number of words comprising it equal the number of words comprising the first 19 verses, and that this number is 19 times the number of words in عليها تسعة عشر (which means “on top of it (or in addition to it) is nineteen”)? And why is it the last verse in the Quran consists of the number 19 and its multiples? What does it mean that the number 19 is mentioned in the first revelation of Apostlehood? What does it mean that this number is the only number in the Holy Quran that is discussed in detail? And what does it mean that Allah swears by the moon, the Earth and the sun, and the fact that we have discovered several astronomical links between these three based on the number 19? It seems that, indeed, “This is but one of the mighty portents.”
Why 19 ? The Word “One” Referring to God
by Dr. Cesar Majul (Former Dean, Institute of of Islamic studies, University of the Philippines) published in 1984
In the text of the Quran, there are 19 and only 19 verses where the Arabic word واحد “wahid” (meaning One) is used to refer to or characterize Allah (God) as ONE.
It is to be recalled that the most important or basic doctrine (the central theme) of the Quran is that God is ONE. The Quran teaches that God will forgive any sin of a repentant transgressor; but one offence He will not forgive is that of ascribing partners to Him (39:53; 4:48; 4:116 …).
Assigning numerical values (also known as Gematrical values or Jummal in Arabic) to letters was widely practiced by many civilizations in Ancient Times, including the Arabs and Jews.
Applying this gematrical system to the word واحد wahid gives it a numerical value equal to 19:
Thus, gematrical value of the word Wahid (meaning One) is: 6+ 1+ 8+ 4 = 19
The word واحد “wahid” occurs 25 times in the Quran. Of these, one verse refers to one kind of food. Two verses used the word to refer to persons involved in inheritance shares. One verse refers to a gate. One refers to watering, and another one refers to each pair of adulterers. These are six verses. The remaining 19 verses refer to God’s quality or attribute as being ONE.
Table 1 below lists all the verses in which the word واحد wahid (ONE) is mentioned :
Thus, there are 19 and only 19 Quranic verses which use the word واحد “wahid” as exclusively referring to God’s Oneness. That this word also has the numerical value of 19 is significant. This fact cannot be a mere coincidence. Indeed, it is another instance of a general pattern in the Quran.
Note: Incidentally, the word وَاحِدًا “wahidan” is also found in the Quran to refer to “one.” It as such occurs five times. In 25:14, it refers to one’s destruction. In 38:5 it refers to some persons trying to make many gods into one. In 54:24, it refers to one alone among men. In 2:133 and 9:31, it refers to worship of One God. But the numerical value of وَاحِدًا “wahidan” is 20 and not 19. This comes about from the extra alif used for the tanwin at the end of the word. Thus this word was not included in the list of 25 entries in Table 1.
He looked. He frowned and whined. Then he turned away arrogantly. He said, “This is but clever magic! This is human made.” I will commit him to retribution. What retribution! Thorough and comprehensive. Obvious to all people. Over it is nine-teen….
This is one of the great miracles (74:21-30, 35)
1. Concordance of the Quran by Muhammad Fuad Abdul-Baqi
2. Concordance of the Quran by Hanna Kassis.