An Interesting Number

Nineteen is definitely an interesting number. Many people, religious as well as scientists, have been intrigued by this number. In science, it has some queer qualities. In the Islamic world, Dr. Rashad Khalifah was the first to show a few astonishing aspects. He studied the relationship of the number with Qur’anic letters, words and sentences and it revealed to him some extraordinary results. E.g., there are 114 chapters of the Qur’an, which is a multiple of 19 [i.e., divisible by 19], yielding 6, although numbers that can be divided by 19 are not easy to find. Nevertheless, some of the computations and their results as produced by Rashad’s study were questionable. In fact, a few suspected manipulations. Others have said that the selection of data was deliberate and result oriented. However, the study did reveal some strange phenomenon. If one pays due respect to mathematical studies conducted from other angles, by several other scholars, then, the Qur’an comes very near to being declared a mathematical wonder. E.g., men and women have been mentioned 24 times each in the Qur’an; Dunya (this world) 115 times, and Akhirah (the next world) 115 times; angels and Shayatin both 88 times each; life 145 times and death 145 times; and, amazingly, the words salah, months and days have been mentioned 5 times, 12 times and 365 times. (Source: Tariq al-Swaidan-Kuwait).

Some Muslims have felt compelled to look for mysteries involved in the number; not only because the Qur’an mentioned the number 19, but because the verse that mentions it is itself intriguing. The Qur’an said (74: 2830), “And what will make you realize what Hell is? It leaves (nothing), spares (none). It burns the skin of men. Over it are nineteen.

That is, over the Hell there are nineteen (guardian-angels). This is the only usage in the Qur’an.

Some of the Muslim studies have involved usage of what are known as Gematrical values of the Arabic letters. (We do not believe the term gematria fits the Islamic context, but until another word is coined, we might have to use it). In this system, the pre-Islamic Arabs gave a numerical value to each alphabet of the Arabic language. (Hebrews and Aramaics also employed this system to their languages). In Arabic, “Alif” had a numerical value (1), “baa” had another (2), “taa” had another (400), and so on. When the ancients allotted numerical values to alphabets, they did not place them in their regular order, but in another, special order. The order was expressed in the following words:

To expand the above:

These words carry no meaning. However, their numerical values are as follows (read from right to left):

One might notice in the above, the cleverness in alloting  the numerical values. The values start with 1 and end with 1000. They are single, double, triple or quadruple and whole digits. No middle or odd numbers were used. Following the above values, the invocatory prayer – the basmalah, adds up to 786. (baa=2; seen=60; meem=40; alif=1; laam=30; laam=30; haa=5; alif=1; laam=30; raa=200; haa=8; meem=40; noon=50; alif=1; laam=30; raa=200; haa=8;  yaa=10; and, meem=40. These add up to 786). And the coincidence is that the total number of letters in “bismillah al-rahman al-raheem” is 19.

To take another example, the above numerical values when applied to Surah al-Fatihah yield the following results. In this the Bismillah at the beginning is treated as the first verse. The results are as follows:

To take another example, the above numerical values when applied to Surah al-Fatihah yield the following results. In this the Bismillah at the beginning is treated as the first verse. The results are as follows:       

Surah no.    Verse no.    No. of Letters   Gematrical value

1                    1                      19                           786
1                    2                      17                           581
1                    3                      12                           618
1                    4                      11                           241
1                    5                      19                           861
1                    6                      18                          1072
1                    7                      43                          6009


7                   28                    139                       10143

Now, if you total up the figures (7 + 28 + 139 + 10143), you get 10317. The strange thing about it is that it is a multiple of 19 (10317 divided by 19 = 543).

But, there is a glitch or two. One, there is no consensus that Bismillah at the beginning is a part of the Surah. Next, why should you add up Surah no. 1 to every verse? (For other uses of the numerical values see our editorial, An Art in Neglect, YMD, Dec. 1981)

We said above that number 19 has been equally intriguing to scientists. Consider the following:

– It is a prime number meaning, it can only be divided by itself, to yield a whole number.
– It is composed of the first digit (1) and the last digit (9).
– The sum of 91 and 101 is 19. (91 + 101 = 19).
– If you subtract the second power of 9 from the second power of 10, you get 19. (102 = 100; 92 = 81. And, 100 – 81 = 19).
– It is the smallest prime that is equal to the product of its digits plus the sum of its digits. [Russo]. That is, the product of its digit is 9; its two digits are 1 and 9 (1×9=9); and the sum of its digits is 10 (1 + 9 = 10). And the total of the product (9) and sum (10) is equal to 19.
– Its compliment, 81, has special attributes: 1/ 81=.0123456789012345678901234567890123 etc. Note the repetition of 0123456789. On the other hand, 1/ .012345679012 = 81. No other number yields this result.
– Multiples of 19 display a strange pattern when the digits are added. Consider this: 19, 38, 57, 76, 95…: 1+9 = 10 and 1+0=1; 3+8=11 and 1+1=2; 5+7=12 and 1+2=3; 7+6=13 and 1+3=4; 9+5=14 and 1+4=5; and so on. The following infinite pattern emerges: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 etc.
– Take any set of two or three, two-digit numbers totaling 100 (where no digit is 0) and add the digits; the total will always be 19; e.g. (a) 33+33+34 (=100); (b) 42+58 (=100); (c) 55+45 (=100); (d) 72+12+16 (=100), etc. To explain, (a) 3+3+3+3+3+4 = 19; (b) 4+2+5+8 = 19; (c) 5+5+4+5 = 19; (d) 7+2+1+2+1+6 = 19.
– 19 divides its following consecutive concatenated composite numbers 202122. (i.e., 19 is followed by 20, which is followed by 21 and which by 22. Place them together and you get 202122. Now divide by 19, you will get a whole figure). 202122/ 19 = 10638.

A few surprises come from the fields of chemistry and biology. Our bodies are made up of cells. Cells are a mass of proteins and enzymes. And these two are made up of amino acids: twenty of them. Of the twenty amino acids, 19 are left handed, while one is neither left-handed nor right-handed. Artificially, there can be so many kinds of amino acids. But in nature they appear in 19 different forms alone….

Chemists join in to offer their own findings. It has been pointed out for instance, that out of over hundred chemical elements, eighty-one are stable elements. And 81 is the compliment of 19. Not only that, if we look up to a periodic table, arranged according to their atomic number, you will notice that if the atomic numbers of all the stable elements are added together (minus the values of phantom elements Technetium and Promethium) you get the figure 3382 which is a multiple of 19 (1+2+3+……+83) – 43+61) = 3382 were 43 and 61 are atomic numbers of the phantom elements. And 3382 divided by 19 is around figure 178. It has also been pointed out by some researchers that in the atomic table, the two phantom elements Technetium and Promethium occupy positions 43 and 61. And, the total number of elements between these two (including these two), is 19. A coincidence! Here is one more. Chemists have discovered that out of 81 stable elements, a few are “pure isotopes.” What is a pure isotope?  Well, we know that atoms have a nucleus and a shell. The shell consists of endlessly circling electrons and the nucleus consists of varying number of protons, and varying number of neutrons. When a nucleus has an equal number of protons and neutrons, then the atom is called a pure isotope. So, of the 81 stable elements, how many are pure isotopes? The answer: 19. Then, there are, what are known as “double isotopes.” Of the 81 elements, how many are double isotopes?  The answer: 19.

Interests in number 19 is not a new fad. It did not start with the discovery that the number occurs in the Qur’an. As early as the 17th century, some mathematicians had noticed its queer characteristics. Today data is placed in abundance on the Internet, both general as well as related to religion. It is not only Islamic but other religious denominations also take interest. A German chemist wondered quite nervously, but put it cleverly, “why God decided exactly in favor of 19+1 amino acids? How would He be able to know also, that all great traditions transmitted the number 19 as number of the Life?”

Some of the studies and their conclusions require knowledge of higher mathematics, or expertise in chemistry and physics. And they are complicated, as complicated is science itself, despite its façade of simplicity. An example is the Periodic Table, worked out according to characteristics of atom. Who can deny the usefulness of the order as given by the scientists? And when that Table is related to number 19, then who can say that it is too involved? Similarly, if somebody takes up the last surah of the Qur’an and shows that if you worked out the sum of the surah number, its verses, its letters and their gematrical values, you get a figure perfectly divisible by 19, then it becomes hard to ignore the efforts as a use less way to spend time.

Nonetheless, we need to be cautious. If we look for more mathematical revelations, either in science or in Revelations, we will find them. But, will that lead to stronger faith? On the part of a few yes, but to the great majority  it might mean nothing. It might even lead to fascination with numbers rather than Revelation. Hasn’t Allah said (74: 31), “And We have not fixed the number (19) but as a trial for the unbelievers?” It had an unsalutary influence on Rashad Khalifah. His discoveries led him not to faith, but to denial. He claimed Messengership for himself, set up a Church of his own in the USA, and was ultimately assassinated by unknown assailants.

The Qur’an is a wonder without mathematical computations applied to it. Its true and challenging wonder is in its language and message. Yet, one might add, total indifference to mathematical findings will be a precautionary measure that might not speak of intellectual health. Can we ignore some compelling scientific results? E.g., when the 81 stable elements are grouped together following certain chemical characteristics into four groups of 19+1, an odd one is left out that does not fit into any group. Which one is that on the Periodic table? It is number 19.

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