Superphysics

# Numerology (hisab an-nim)

##### 15 minutes  • 3029 words

These are thus groups that lay down rules for the discovery of the supernatural:

• those that base their rules on the spiritual perceptions of the soul, as Muslims do
• those that base their rules on speculations on astral influences, as assumed by Ptolemy and the diviners
• those that base their rules on the guesswork and conjecturing of the diviners
• These are nothing but mistakes which they throw out like snares for weakminded people
• This is called hisab an-nim 359 is mentioned at the end of the Politics of Aristotle.

Hisab an-nim aims to predict the victor and the vanquished when kings go to war with each other. The procedure is to add the numerical total of the letters in the name of each king, according to the system of calculation in which the letters of the alphabet in the sequence alif, b, j . . . are given the numerical values of units, tens, hundreds, and thousands from 1 to 1,000.

When that has been done, each total should be divided by nine. The fractional remainder, in both cases, should be kept in mind. The two fractional remainders should be compared. If they are different and both are even or odd numbers, the (king) who has the smaller number will be the victor. If one of them is an even and the other an odd number, the (king) who has the larger number will. be the victor.

If the two numbers are equal and both even, the object of the inquiry will be the victor. If both numbers are odd, the (king) who made the inquiry will be the victor.

I think, in the case of even or odd numbers (for both), the smaller number will gain the upper hand. When the numbers differ (as to being even or odd), the larger number will be the victor. The object of the inquiry will be victorious, if the numbers are both equal and even. And if they are both equal and odd, the one who made the inquiry will be victorious. In order to find out what the fractional remainder will be after dividing by nine, a rule has been laid down by the persons who practice the hisab an-nim, which is well known among them for that purpose.

They take the letters that refer to the number one in the four ranks, alif for the units, y for the tens, q for the hundreds, and sh for the thousands 360 - there is no number higher than one thousand that can be indicated by letters, because sh is the last letter of the alphabet(ical arrangementfor numerical purposes) - and arrange these four letters in sequence so as to form a word of 4 consonants= ‘yash.

Then, they do the same with the letters that designate the number two in the (first) three ranks, omitting the thousands because there are no letters of the alphabet left for them.

These three letters are b for two, k for 20 and r for 200. Arranged in sequence, they form the word bkr. The same is done with the letters that designate the number three, resulting in the word jls, and so on through all the letters of the alphabet. This results in nine words, (nine being) the highest unit.

The words are= ‘yash, bkr, jls, dmt, tenth, wskh, z’dh, hfz, and tdgh, here arranged according to numerical sequence.

Each of them has its own number, one for ‘ygsh, two for bkr, three for jls, and so on to nine, which belongs to tdgh.

If they want to divide a name by nine, they note in which of these nine words each letter of the name appears, substituting the number (of the word) for each letter (of the name), and adding together all the numbers thus obtained.

If the sum is greater than nine, they (deduct nine or a multiple of nine from it and) take the fractional remainder. Otherwise, they take (the sum) as it is. The same thing is then done with the other name, and the two results are compared in the manner indicated above.

The secret of this rule is clear. The fractional remainder in a division by nine is the same in any given multiple of the powers of ten. 361 In a way, (the person making the calculation) just sums up the (unit) number in any given multiple of the powers of ten.

The numbers in multiples of higher powers of ten, thus, are like the (corresponding) units. There is no distinction between 2, 20, 200, or 2,000. 362

Likewise, 3, 30, 300, and 3,000, all are 3.

The numbers are arranged in such a sequence as to indicate nothing but the (unit) number in any given multiple of the powers of ten. The letters that indicate (the same number in) the different powers of ten, the units, tens, hundreds, and thousands, are combined each in one word.

The number of the corresponding word is valid for all the letters it contains, whether they are units, tens, hundreds, or thousands. Thus, the number of the word can be used for all the letters it contains, and all of them are added up, as we have said. This procedure has been common among people for a long time.

Some shaykhs we knew personally were of the opinion that the correct thing is to use nine other words in place of those (mentioned). They too represent consecutive (numbers). The procedure of dividing by nine is the same. These words are= ‘rb, ysqk, jzlt, mdws, hf, tkhdhn, ghsh, h’, tdz, nine words in all, in numerical sequence.

They contain 3, 4, or 2 letters, respectively. As one can see, they follow no coherent principle. But our shaykhs are transmitting them on the authority of the leading Maghribi scholar in astrology as well as letter magic, Abu l-‘Abbas b. al-Banna’.

They state on his authority that the use of these words for the division of the hisab an-nim is more correct than that of the words ‘yqsh, (etc.).

All these ways of perceiving the supernatural are based upon no proof, and are not verifiable. Thorough scholars do not attribute the book that contains the hisab an-nim to Aristotle, because it contains opinions that cannot be verified or proven.

This confirms (its spuriousness). The reader should investigate this matter critically, if he is a wellgrounded scholar. (The Za’irajah) 364

Another technical rule for alleged discovery of the supernatural is the za’irajah which is called “Za’irajah of the world.” It is attributed to Abul-‘Abbas as-Sabti,365 a very prominent Maghribi Sufi.

He lived at the end of the sixth [twelfth]century in Marrakech, during the rule of the Almohad ruler Ya’qub al-Mansur.366 The za’irajah is a remarkable technical procedure. Many distinguished people have shown great interest in using it for supernatural information, with the help of the well-known enigmatic operation that goes with it.

For that (purpose), they have been desirous to solve its riddle and uncover its secret.

The form of the za’irajah 367 they use is a large circle that encloses other concentric circles for the spheres, the elements, the created things, the spiritualia, as well as other types of beings and sciences.

Each circle is divided into sections, the areas of which represent the signs of the zodiac, or the elements, or other things. The lines dividing each section run to the center.

They are called chords. Along each chord there are sets of letters that have a conventional (numerical value). Some are zimam ciphers, the same as those used for numerals by government officials and accountants in the contemporary Maghrib. Others are the ordinary ghubar ciphers. 368

Inside the za’irajah, between the circles, are found the names of the sciences and of topics of the created (world). 369

On the back of (the page containing) the circles, there is a table with many squares, fifty-five horizontally and one hundred and thirty-one vertically. 370 Some of the squares are filled in, partly with numbers and partly with letters. Others are empty. The significance of these numbers in their positions is not known, nor are the rules known that govern the distribution of filled and empty squares.

The zd’irajah is surrounded by verses in the meter at-tawil and rhyming on -la. 371 They describe the procedure which must be followed to discover the answer to a particular inquiry from the zd’irajah.

However, since the verses express their meaning in riddles, they lack clarity. On one side of the za’irajah is one verse from a poem ascribed to one of the great Western forecasters of future events, the Sevillian scholar, Malik b. Wuhayb, 372 who lived during the reign of the Lamtunah (Almoravids).

This is the verse:

A weighty question you have got. Keep, then, to yourself Remarkable doubts which have been raised and which can be straightened out with diligence. This is the verse commonly used in attempting to obtain the answer to a question with the help of this or other za’irajahs. To obtain the answer to a question, the question is written down in unconnected letters and the ascendant as of that day is determined, that is, one of the signs of the zodiac and the degree (of the sign on the horizon).

Then, the za’irajah is consulted, and the particular chord of the za’irajah that borders the sign of the zodiac of that (particular) ascendant is chosen.

This is followed from where it starts to the center, and then on to the circumference of the circle opposite the ascendant. One takes note of all the letters written upon that chord from beginning to end, and of all the numbers written in between. The latter are converted into letters according to their numerical values, transposing all units into tens and all tens into hundreds, and vice versa, as required by the rule governing use of (the za’irajah).

The letters thus obtained are put alongside the letters of the question, and one also adds all the letters and numbers that are upon the chord bordering the sign, three signs from that of the ascendant.

In this case, one follows it from where it starts to the center, but not beyond it to the circumference.

The numbers are converted into letters as before, and added to the other letters. Then, the afore-mentioned verse by Malik b. Wuhayb, which is the basis and norm of the procedure, is written down in unconnected letters, and put aside.

Then the number of the degree of. the ascendant is multiplied by the “base” of the sign (of the zodiac). In the language (used here) the “base” is the sign’s distance from the last rank, in contrast to the (meaning of) “base” in the language of astronomers [?], where it is the distance from the first rank. 373 The degree is thenmultiplied by another number, called the “greatest base” and “principal cycle.”

The result of these (multiplications) is entered in the squares of the table, following well-known rules and familiar procedures and (using a certain) number of “cycles.” Some letters are taken out, others dropped, and the rest matched with what is found among the letters of the verse. Some are transferred to the letters of the question and (the letters) that are with them. Then, these letters are divided by certain numbers called “cycles,” and from each “cycle” the letter at which the “cycle” ends, is removed.

The operation is repeated with the (entire) number of “cycles” specified for that purpose. The result, finally, is (a number of) unconnected letters which are put together consecutively to form the words of a verse of the same meter and rhyme as the aforementioned verse by Malik b. Wuhayb, which serves as the basis of the operation. We shall mention all this in the chapter on the sciences, in discussing how a za’irajah of this kind is used.

Distinguished people jump at the opportunity for supernatural discoveries through (the za’irajah) by means of operations of this kind. They think that correspondence (in form) between question and answer shows correspondence in actuality. This is not correct, because, as was mentioned before,374 perception of the supernatural cannot be attained by means of any technique whatever. It is not impossible that there might be a correspondence in meaning, and a stylistic agreement, between question and answer, such that the answer comes out straight and in agreement with the question.

This could be achieved by just such a technique of separating the letters of the question and those of the chord, entering the numbers that come together as the result of the multiplication of fixed numbers in the table, taking out letters from the table and discarding others, operating repeatedly with a given number of “cycles,” and matching the whole thing with the letters of the verse arranged in sequence.

Intelligent persons may have discovered the relationships among these things, and, as a result, have obtained information about the unknown through them. Finding out relationships between things is the secret (means) whereby the soul obtains knowledge of the unknown from the known.

It is a way to obtain such knowledge, especially suited to people of (mystical) training. This (training) gives the intellect added power for analogical reasoning and thinking, as has been explained before several times.375

It is in this sense that za’irajahs are usually ascribed to people of (mystical) training.

This particular za’irajah is thus ascribed to as-Sabti. I have come across another one which is ascribed to Sahl b. ‘Abdallah.376 It is, indeed, a remarkable operation and a wondrous procedure. I think that the secret of why the answer comes out in rhymed form is to be explained as the result of matching (the letters of the za’irajah) with the letters of the verse (by Malik b. Wuhayb).

This is why the versified answer has the same meter and rhyme. This can be deduced from the fact that we have come across other similar operations in which the matching (of letters) with the verse was omitted. In those cases, the answer did not come out in the form of a verse. This will be shown when the matter is discussed in its proper place. 377

Many people lack the understanding necessary for belief in the genuineness of the operation and its effectiveness in discovering the object of inquiry. They deny its soundness and believe that it is hocus-pocus. The practitioner, they believe, inserts the letters of a verse he (himself) composes as he wishes, from the letters of question and chord. He follows the described technique, which has no system or norm, and then he produces his verse, pretending that it was the result of an operation that followed an established procedure.

This reasoning is baseless and wrong.

It is the result of such people’sinability to understand the relations between the existentia and things that (can be) known, and the differences between the various kinds of perception and intellect. Anyone who has some perception naturally denies (the existence of) anything he is not capable of perceiving.

In order to refute this (denial of the genuineness of the operation of the za’irajah), it is sufficient for us (to refer to the fact) that the technique has been observed in operation and that it has been definitely and intelligently established that the operation follows a coherent procedure and sound norms.

No one who has much intelligence and sagacity and has had contact with the operation of the za’irajah would object to this statement.

Many an operation with numbers, which are the clearest things in the world, is difficult to grasp, because the (existing) relations are difficult to establish and intricate.

This is the case to a much greater degree here, where the relations are so intricate and strange. Let us mention a problem that will to some degree illustrate the point just stated.

Take a number of dirhams and place beside each dirham three fals. Then, take all the fals and buy a fowl with them. Then, buy fowls with all the dirhams for the same price that the first bird cost. How many fowls will you have bought?

A dirham has 24 Pals.

3 Pals are 1/8 of a dirham.

1 is 8 times 1/8.

Adding up 1/8 of each dirham buys one fowl. This means eight fowls (for the dirhams), as one is eight times one-eighth . 378 Add another fowl, the one that was bought originally for the additional fats and that determined the price of the fowls bought with the dirhams.

This makes 9.

The unknown answer was implied in the relations that existed between the numerical data indicated in the problem. This and similar (things) are at first suspected as belonging to the realm of the supernatural, which cannot be known.

It is from the relations existing among the data that one finds out the unknown from the known.

This, however, applies only to events occurring in (the world of) existence or in science. Things of the future belong to the supernatural and cannot be known unless the causes for their happening are known and we have trustworthy information about it.

It follows that all the operations of the za’irajah serve merely to discover the words of the answer in the words of the question. As we have seen, it is a question of producing from a given arrangement of letters another arrangement of letters.

The secret here lies in the existence of a relationship between the two (different arrangements of letters). Someone may be aware of it, whereas someone else may not be aware of it. Those who know the existing relationship can easily discover the answer with the help of the stated rules.

From the (conventional) meanings and the combinations of words, the answer may then also indicate a negative or positive (statement) regarding (the object of) the question. This, however, is on another level.

It is not on the same level (as merely discovering the words of the answer). It implies a conformity of the words to the outside (world).

Such knowledge cannot be acquired through those operations. It remains veiled to human beings.