Followers of Khalifa claim that the Basmallah has 19 letters. Many scholars consider it to have 21 letters. I think both viewpoints have their merits. To make clear what the two different views are, excerpts of two newsgroup postings.
In article <email@example.com>, firstname.lastname@example.org (kwirasub) writes: I am not a Khalifite and not a scholar in Arabic, but it seems to me there are 19 letters in basmallah, they are: 1. ba 2. sin 3. mim 4. alif 5. lam 6. lam 7. ha (27th letter in the arabic alphabet) 8. alif 9. lam 10. ra 11. ha (6th letter in the arabic alphabet) 12. mim 13. nun 14. alif 15. lam 16. ra 17. ha (6th letter in the arabic alphabet) 18. ya 19. mim Correct me if I am wrong.
In article <email@example.com>, AzharK1557@aol.com writes: 1. ba B 2 2. sin S 60 3. mim M 40 4. alif A 1 5. lam L 30 6. lam L 30 7. ha H 5 8. alif A 1 9. lam L 30 10. ra R 200 11. hae HH 8 12. mim M 40 13. nun N 50 14. alif A 1 15. lam L 30 16. ra R 200 17. hae HH 8 18. ya Y 10 19. mim M 40 Total GV 786
In article <firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com (Moustafa Elqabbany) writes: Wa alaikum assalaam wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh. > I am not a Khalifite and not a scholar in Arabic, but it seems to me > there are 19 letters in basmallah, they are ... There are actually 21 characters. One of the two you are missing is the alif (maqsoura) after the <.hA'> of <al-rra.hm_aN> . All scholars of Arabic count this as a letter, since it is essential to the pronunciation of the word. If you ask any scholar of Arabic how many letter there are in the word <h_a_dA> ("this"), he/she will respond four. The fact that this alif is shortened (maqsoura) does not mean it is not a letter. In fact, there are many words that are written with alif maqsoura in the Qur'an that are written with a full alif in standard Arabic. Some examples are: Meaning In Qur'an In Standard Arabic ****************************************************************** master,owner m_alik mAlik skies sam_aw_at samAwAt Oh (used for calling) y_a yA (There are others, but these are what come to mind immediately.) This indicates the complete equivalence of the alif maqsoura and the full alif in sound and count. There is no one who knows Arabic who will tell you that that the Arabic word for "master" has only three letters, because it has four. Similarly, there is no one that will tell you that the Arabic word for "Oh" has only one letter, since it has two. Also, 786 is used a lot of the time in place of the basmallah. While I don't condone this practice, 7+8+6 = 21, not 19! Salaam, Moustafa
as well as 786 = 2 x 3 x 131 i.e. not a multiple of 19!
The question now is: Who is right/wrong? The Qur'an with its "deficient" orthography that doesn't display all the letters that are spoken? Or regular orthography which goes against the "revealed" spelling of words?
Overview on numerical features in different scriptures
Answering Islam Home Page