The Mysterious 19 in the Quran
A Critical Evaluation

In the last few years Muslims have been made acutely aware of a new proof for the divine content of the Quran:

Dr. Rashad Khalifa, a Muslim scholar living in the United States wrote a book entitled "The Perpetual Miracle of Muhammad." According to his testimony he was taken up by a verse in the Quran (Sura 74:30) which reads:

This verse does not make any sense in its context. This is no isolated case, for many of the Suras have been composed of several revelations over a period of time and are not in chronological sequence. Many of these revelations can be understood only in the light of certain happenings involving the person of Mohammed which are at least partially recorded in the Hadis. Nevertheless, there are passages that provide problems for the interpreter and one such verse is Sura 74:30. Now Dr. Khalifa has tried to solve this riddle by means of an "electronic wizard" or "magic beast", as Mr. Deedat in his booklet "Al-Quran The Ultimate Miracle", chooses to call a computer. He discovered a number of combinations of letters and words to which the number 19 is the key. To him this is such breathtaking evidence of God's authorship of the Quran that he shares it with the readers of his literature:

Perhaps it is necessary to point out that a computer is neither magic nor, on the other hand, is it a beast that can answer any given question on its own. The computer is rather an instrument that is able to store data on any specified subject and makes the given information and combinations thereof available in almost an instant when an answer is requested. It presupposes that the basic information is fed into the computer and a programmer draws up a programme that will enable this computer to provide the necessary combinations on demand. There exist, for instance, computers that are programmed to play chess. It is almost impossible for even a chess master to beat such a computer because it is able to review all the possibilities of all the following moves of that game and so devise the best possible move in an instant. The computer draws on the wealth of information that was "fed" into it by a mathematician - chess master, who worked out all the possible combinations beforehand.

It is here that we have to state that if you ask that computer any opinion about the Quran or space travel or cybernetics or any other subject, it can and will not give an answer until a programme providing for such an answer plus the necessary information has been fed into it. When Dr. Khalifa began to investigate the mystery of the number 19 in the Quran, he needed, first of all, to feed the Quran into the computer. He could then, with the appropriate programme ask for instance: "How many A's, L's, M's, R's etc. are in such and such a Sura" or "the whole Quran" and he would get an instant answer without any effort time-wise. He could also be informed about all combinations of letters that in some way bear a relationship to the number 19. He could, for instance, ask: "Which letters in a given Sura sum up to a number that is divisible by 19?"

Using such methods, he has been able to single out all combinations that enable him in turn to produce figures that appear to constitute such a phenomenal chance, that it cannot be regarded as chance anymore. These combinations, so it is argued, provide logical proof by their intricacy and the obvious innability of Mohammed to have devised them, that the origin of the Quran is divine.

Our basic comments on this approach are as follows:

  1. A message claiming to be divine and apparently proved to be so because it contains a startling combination of numbers should still not be accepted if the historical and moral content of such a message or book fails to confirm its divine origin. Christians have rightly perceived that if the sources of the information in the Quran are found to have been in existence before the time of Mohammed, as indeed they were; and if its content offers personal advantages to its Apostle (pp. 108-123) and if its historical information is faulty (pp. 49-65); then the Quran cannot be accepted as divine. We thus find the "proof" offered by this type of numerology to be simply deceptive.

  2. We find it difficult to accept that God would use a system of proof that excludes all the people who needed it during the 1400 years of the Quran's existence and who groped in the dark when puzzled by unintelligible verses.

  3. Although, as we shall discover later, the presence of the number 19 in the Quran as presented by Dr. Khalifa, is impressive, it nevertheless lacks the persuasiveness that divine intervention would have provided. Mr. Deedat in his booklet (page 69) says:

    We would object to such an answer because the question is formulated in far too general a way: 'a book being written', 'an interlocking system based on the number 19', 'successfully weaving'. No exact figure other than extreme odds could be given by any computer in reply to such a vague question.

  4. We have to realize that coincidences do occur. It is reported from Britain that two trains were passing each other. The brake-lining of one engine came loose, was hurled through the air and hit the driver of the other train on the head killing him. Brake-linings of trains do not normally come loose, and if they do come loose, what would be the chance of hitting the driver of an oncoming train so as to kill him? It can be worked out, and the chance would be equally slim, yet this freak accident did actually occur. In a photograph that once appeared in a newspaper three cars were shown parked behind one another, - the same make, model and colour. All three had identical registration numbers but all came from different cities. They belonged to different owners, who were totally unaware of this. Coincidence! These things do happen don't they? What are the odds against their happening? Are all such happenings necessarily the result of divine intervention? Definitely not!

  5. Finding a system of numerics like the one mentioned in Dr. Khalifa's and Mr. Deedat's books is, in the opinion of this writer, possible for any piece of literature, or music if you wish. Any piece of literature will have combinations of letters perhaps in relation to the title, that will allow a computer, properly fed and programmed to find a system of combinations that will prove equally surprising. If so, would the piece be of divine origin?

    Not being a computer scientist I cannot substantiate the above reasoning, but am convinced that it could be done. Certainly Mr. Deedat's claim - that it is unlikely that a writer in his lifetime would be able to find a sentence consisting of 19 letters with which to start a book - is nonsense.

    To prove my point, here are just ten quickly composed sentences of 19 letters each:

    1. "Beware, false prophets!"
    2. "There is deceit in lies."
    3. "Seek first His Kingdom."
    4. "Prepare like a wise man."
    5. "Do not lay up treasures."
    6. "Jesus forever the same."
    7. "I am a loving Christian."
    8. "Love is patient, is kind."
    9. "Truth and love will win."

    We would have no problem combining any number of sentences each containing 19 letters and if we did not wish to waste time we could, by using a computer, be even more successful still. We find, therefore, the over-dramatic presentation of this matter to be highly suspicious and inappropriate.

  6. The statement by Dr. Khalifa that there is no other book extant with any similar numerical system, is untrue. The Bible is one such book. Let us select only one number and one verse to illustrate what we mean.

    We shall investigate the presence of the number seven - a number used very often with the symbolic meaning of divine completeness - in the first verse of the Bible.

    The verse consists of 7 Hebrew words and 28 letters (7 x 4). There are three nouns: ‘God, heavens, earth.’ Their total numeric value (Hebrew has no numbers but these are represented by letters: the sum of the number letters being the numeric value) is 777 (7 x 111). The verb 'created' has the value 203 (7 x 29). The object is contained in the first three words - with 14 letters (7 x 2) The other four words contain the subject - also with 14 letters (7 x 2). The Hebrew words for the two objects - "the heavens and the earth" - each have seven letters.

    The fourth and fifth words have 7 letters. The value of the first, middle and last letters in the verb 'created' is 133 (7 x 19) the numeric value of the first and last letters of all the words is 1393 (7 x 199) and the value of the first and last letters of the verse is 497 (7 x 71). The Hebrew particle 'eth' with the article 'the', used twice, has the value 407 (7 x 58) and the last letters of the first and last words equal 490 (7 x 70).

    In all, there are over 30 different numeric features related to 7 in this verse. The odds against the above features occurring by chance are 33 Trillions:1.

    But the number seven is also interwoven throughout the Bible. Creation took 7 days; Naaman had to wash 7 times in the Jordan to be cleansed from leprosy; the Israelites had to march around Jericho 7 days and 7 times on the 7th day; they had to set aside one day in 7 for rest and worship. There was a 7-armed lampstand in the temple, etc. In the last book, Revelation, we find mentioned 7 spirits, 7 lampstands, 7 churches, 7 stars, 7 seals, 7 trumpets, 7 vials, 7 thunders, 7 plagues, 7 mountains and 7 kings. The tribulation period is to be 7 years being the last "week of years" of Daniel's 70 weeks (Dan 9:24 ff).

    Beyond this we know that the incubation period of the human embryo is 280 days (7 x 40). In Genesis we are told that man was formed from the dust of the ground. The "dust of the ground" contains 14 (7 x 2) elements, and so does the human body. Every cell in the human body is renewed every 7 years and every 7th day the pulse beats slower. In certain diseases the critical days are the 7th, 14th, 21st, etc. and the female cycle is 28 (7 x 4) days. Light is made up of 7 colours, the moon completes its orbit around the earth in 28 days (7 x 4) and the earth is 49 (7 x 7) times larger than the moon. (This information is taken from "The Seal of God" by F.C. Payne. The actual numerics were compiled by Ivan Panin).

    This information was available for many years, long before the advent of computers. It never persuaded a single Muslim, to our knowledge, to accept the challenge of receiving the Bible as the Word of God - although the evidence is more convincing than the findings of Dr. Khalifa. Why?

Despite the superiority of this presentation over the one figured out by Dr. Khalifa, we can and would not suggest that anyone accept numerics alone as a basis for faith in the Bible. It is at best a crutch.


Dr. Khalifa, unlike Mr. Deedat, exposed himself to criticism by providing a table in order to illustrate the system on which his findings are based. His main theme is to show that exactly half (we are not quite sure what "exactly half" in this instance is supposed to prove) of the letters of the Arabic alphabet, i.e. fourteen letters, are used - some of them repeatedly - as "Mystic initials" at the beginning of 29 Suras. According to many old commentators, these initials (called "al-Mukkataat") are the initials of the scribes of the Suras concerned: ALM, ALMS, ALR, ALMR, KHYAS, TH, TSM, TS, YS, S, HM, HMASQ, Q, N. ALM, for example, stands for Amar Li Muh.

Dr. Khalifa, with the aid of his computer, discovered, however, that in certain Suras the sum of all the letters that are represented in the initials above the Sura are divisible by the mysterious 19. To give an example: Three initials (ALR) stand at the head of Sura 15. In the text of this Sura, the sum of the L's is 323 and this figure represents 17 x 19. In the case of Sura 68 which has the initial N above it, the sum of all the N's in the Sura is 133, i.e. 7 x 19. Then again if one were to add up all the letters of all Suras that have the initial A at the top, we would again have a number divisible by 19. Similarly the totals of all the letters of the initials above each individual Sura when added up are divisible by 19. In Sura 36, for instance, where the initials are Y and S, there are 48 S and 237 Y. Though neither of these sums can be divided by 19, the combined total is 15 x 19. In Dr. Khalifa's table we have, therefore, 14 vertical columns and their totals, representing the sums of each individual letter; and 29 horizontal columns where the totals are given of all letters as represented in the initials of each individual Sura.

Of the 121 figures given in toto in this table, including the 43 totals, 22 are divisible by 19, which is roughly one in six-and-a-half. Of the 78 figures that are given in the table (excluding the totals), six are divisible by 19. This is one out of every 13, which is hardly above average odds. We have to reject this as proof of divine action having been involved. Coming to the vertical totals (i.e. the sums of all letters represented by the initials of each individual Sura) we find a more spectacular result:

How impressive in fact are these findings? We realize firstly that the method is based on manipulation. If we used a critical method of programming, our results would be average because we would reduce the combinations in our system that show evidence of 19. We note that Dr. Khalifa (and Mr. Deedat p. 67-68) has tried his best to improve his results by stating for example that in all Suras with the initials ALM at the top, the respective letters in the three Suras combined add up to a figure that is divisible by 19. In his case the sum of all A's and L's and M's in Suras 2,3,7,13,29-32 add up to 26676, which is equal to 19 x 1404. In order to make this total divisible by 19, he had to leave the initials out in the case of Sura 7. The reason is that this Sura has the initials ALMS, which disqualifies it from being included, because it is not a Sura with the initials ALM. So in order to produce a number divisible by 19, he included Sura 7 but excluded the 98 S's. The same applies to the use of Sura 13 (ALMR) in this context. The same type of manipulation was used in the set of Suras 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15 which begin with the initials ALR (except 13 which has the initials ALMR). Adding up all the ALR's of these six Suras, Dr. Khalifa arrives at the sum of 9709 (= 19 x 511) but my computer shows that the sum is 10813 which is not divisible by 19. Dr. Khalifa arrived at this figure by adding all the letters indicated by the initials ALR of these Suras excepting Sura 13 (which begins with ALMR) and adds from this Sura only the figure 137, i.e. the number of times the initial R occurs, conveniently leaving out the A's and L's for otherwise the sum (10813) would not be divisible by 19, as we have shown. He does not expect his readers to check on his data, and perhaps we are the first to do so. It is so much easier simply to be impressed by the "divine" touch and to be strengthened in faith by a manipulation which is needed as a crutch to support a religion without other evidence. Other manipulations can be seen in Sura 42. Here the sum of all the letters as represented in the initials HMASQ is 570 or 19 x 30, but it is divided into 361 + 209 to fit the first sum into the total of all HM's. In order to increase his successes, Dr Khalifa gives the final figure for Sura 68 as 152, which is already reflected in the vertical column of the letter N and is therefore a duplication.

These are findings that strike the eye of a superficial reader who is totally unacquainted with statistics or mathematics. We would still have to check whether the figures given for the A's, L's, M's, etc. in the various chapters do in fact correspond with the number of times they occur in the Quran. It is beyond the scope of this investigation to undertake such checking. However, as the given figures that can be easily checked were found to be unreliable, we may well assume that those that we cannot check without great effort are hardly likely to be any more trustworthy.

A rather striking statement in addition to the table we have just investigated is that the

When we count the Arabic letters that make up this verse we find they total 19. Dr. Khalifa discovered that every word in this verse is mentioned a number of times in the Quran and these numbers are multiples of nineteen.

The first word "name" is allegedly found exactly 19 times in the entire Quran. The second word "Allah" in mentioned in the Quran 2698 times (19 x 142); the third word of the verse, "al-Rahman", is found in the Quran 57 times (3 x 19); and finally, the fourth word in the first Quranic verse, "al-Rahim", is mentioned 114 times (6 x 19) in the entire Quran. (so far Dr. Rashad Khalifa).

We are amazed at this statement, because every child in the Madressa school is aware that of the 114 Suras of the Quran, 113 begin with this verse "In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful." We do not understand how Dr. Khalifa can state that the word name is found in the whole Quran exactly 19 times or "al-Rahman" 52 times or "al-Rahim" 114 times. We suspect that the so-called "Bismillahs", i.e. the opening verses of almost all Suras have been expediently left out by Dr. Khalifa. Had he included them, his totals would no longer have been divisible by 19. We must conclude that Dr. Khalifa has purposely tried to mislead his readers when he states that the whole Quran is meant. He has left out the Bismillahs to suit his own purpose of providing divinity through deception.

We should like to conclude this chapter by repeating in our own words a statement in this connection made by John Gilchrist:

Surely if 19 were a divinely chosen seal on the Quran, Sura 19:19 would give the ultimate message of the Quran. What does it say there? It speaks about the "holy son," Jesus. Surely this is significant when we compare it with verse 19 of Sura 47 where it states that Mohammed should "ask forgiveness for his fault."

In his booklet Mr. Deedat claimed regarding the very first revelations that Muhammad received that the first five verses of Sura 96 were followed by verses 17-30 of Sura 74 which ends "over it are 19." He concludes that 5 verses plus 14 verses add up to 19 verses; hence the verse "over it are 19." We state that it is by no means historically established that the sequence of the revelations was as Mr. Deedat claims. According to J M Rodwell, a Quranic translator and chronologist, Sura 74 was second in sequence after Sura 96 although no verses are indicated. Jalalu'd-din, a Muslim chronologer, names Sura 74 as being the fourth one revealed. Sir W. Muir estimates it to be the 21st.

Apart from that, we are aware that the division of verses in the Quran is based on five different systems:

This makes it obvious that Mohammed did not undertake the division into verses. As far as the ordering of the Suras is concerned this was done by Khalif Uthman and thus the whole of Mr. Deedat's argument falls flat. (Information from "Dictionary of Islam", pages 489-492)

In order to check Dr. Khalifa's data we wrote to ask him to supply us with the mathematical methods of research he used so as to enable us to repeat his experiments.

We also asked for the mathematical formula which he had used to calculate the probability of the pattern occurring by chance; a copy of the magnetic tape of the whole Quran that he used as information for the computer; as well as the computer programme that was used to analyse the text to determine the numerical pattern he had discovered. The reply to this letter was most surprising. Dr. Khalifa wrote:

We wonder what the extensive use of a computer, as mentioned in his book, was all about. Perhaps you, dear reader, have arrived at your own conclusion by now. (See chart pages 140 & 141)

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