The Miracle of 19
Recently a new sect of Islam is burgeoning among
some pseudo intellectual Muslims who on one hand cannot accept the
stupidities preserved in the Hadith as they cast a dark shadow on
Muhammad and Islam presenting it as a barbaric, irrational and inhumane
religion and on the other hand they are unable to sever their umbilical
cords with Islam altogether. They are called the Submitters. They deny
the Hadith and maintain that only Quran should be relied as the guidance
for the Muslims. But they go farther and claim that Quran contains a
numeric miracle that is based on the number 19. http://www.submission.org
In their response, Hikmat, an ex-Muslim young lady
friend of mine from India wrote the following article.
The basic question is-- “does style decide the
validity of content?”
Style is “how” a thing is presented.
Content is “what” is presented. (meaning)
My answer is No. Style cannot decide the validity
Proof – same thing can be presented in different styles and different
things can be presented in the same style. So there is no correlation
between style and content.
If we take the meaning of style in a broader sense it includes the
language it is presented, oral or written, hand written or printed or
engraved, medium of print, if it is written font type, size, color etc.
If we take style pertain to structure, it comprise of objective (number
of letters, number of words, number of paragraphs or lines etc.) and
subjective (is it beautiful, rhythmic, eloquent, aesthetically presented
Almost from every religion some claim that their
scriptures contain mathematical miracles. Submitters claim that Quran is
“mathematically” structured and so it is a miracle and consequently
divine. They claim that Quran contains many “features” which are
multiples of 19. It was first explained in a monograph by Rashad Khalifa,
Ph.D entitled "Computer manifested Miracles in the Holy Qur'an".
Assuming even if its structure is “mathematical” , it does not make
its contents automatically valid. We have to examine the content to
decide its validity.
I would like to show whether it is a “miracle” or not from technical
point of view without going into the content of Quran.
Does mathematics prove this as a miracle? On the
contrary mathematics show that it is not a miracle. No mathematician
takes submitters claim as serious. Because, it contains fundamental
It is a lie-free deception.
But it is not so easy to convince people of this conclusion; because
when you read Khalifa’s work you can't help but be struck by how
amazing it sounds. It really is very impressive. It is also true!
Khalifa was not lying about his arithmetic; accidental errors aside, all
his "features" are really there.
The trick is simple. From any book, you can select “options” or “features”
or “Items” or what ever you call them. Like in the present case,
number of words, number of letters, number of chapters, number of times
a word occurs etc. the options are infinite. You can have combination of
options like number of letters in the chapter names, number of letters
in the odd chapters, number of letters in the even chapters,…so on.
Chances are that some of the options are multiples of 19 or for that
matter any number.
List out the options that are matching with your criteria (i.e.
multiples of 19). How many options you think you will get? Thousands and
thousands! With slight change in the definition of the options you can
get still more options. So what submitters are showing is, the options
that matched with their criteria. What about the options that they left?
The real mathematical person will ask:
What is the number of options available?
What percentage of options meeting your criteria? If the percentage is
much higher than the statistically allowed probability, then we can call
it some kind of “structured” or in the submitters language a “miracle”.
As I have told, there are infinite number of options and you can get
thousands of options that are multiples of any particular number from
To give a crude analogy, it is something like this.
From any beach with coarse sand, It is possible that you can find some
sand grains exactly weighing say one gram. How many you will get? It
depends on how long you spend to collect the “required” grains. Then
you bring all the sand grains each exactly weighing one gram and claim
that the beach is miracle and one gram is miracle number. If you do not
know how many sand grains I discarded which are not fitting in my
scheme, you may think it is a miracle.
Rashada Khalifa did exactly same with the Quran.
What can be possible features from Quran?
Number of letters in each verse, number of letters in each Surah, total
number of letters in the whole book, number of letters in 1 St chapter,
2nd chapter….n th chapter. Now substitute word for letter.
Number of time the word God (or any other word for that matter) occurs,
number of nouns, places, animals. etc. creativity is the limit.
If number of letters in each chapter is coming as a multiple of 19 then
take that category, if it is not fitting, check whether total number of
letters in all the chapters is fitting into the scheme. With
permutations and combinations (like adding chapter numbers and verse
numbers) he could derive many features, which he calls as mathematical
miracle of the Quran.
What about the thousands of other features that are not matching his
criteria (like discarded sand grains)?
With slight shift in the definition of what is being counted, he could
show more “impressive” list.
Some anomalies in Khalifa’s method.
1) Traditionally, in Islam the consensus of the reciters has had
greater authority than any particular written text. Khalifa generally
used the received text of the Quran known as Hafs, written in the
Egyptian style. There are other received texts, which differ in certain
respects from the text he used. Warsh (another common version), differs
with Hafs in spelling. Though both versions are same in meaning when it
comes to counting words and letters both are “different” Qurans. \
altered the Quran to fit into his scheme. (He claims he restored it
to its original)
If we define the "Qur'an" to mean the 'Uthmanic text as
accepted today, he changed some verses based on pronunciation and
(bastatan in 7:69 and Nuwn in Sura 68) but he has not incorporated
all other variations from the text. then the question is why only
two variations were adopted and why not others?)
eliminated the last two verses of Sura 9.
far as combination of Sura and verse numbers coming to multiples of
19, it should be understood that the division of verses in the Quran
is based on five different systems:
the Kufah system,
following the tradition of Ali;
the Basra system,
following Mohammed's companion Asim ibn Hajjaj;
the Shami system of
Syria used by Mohammed's companion Abdu'lla-h ibn Umar
the Makkah system and
the Madinah system.
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 (Information from "Dictionary of
Islam", pages 489-492).
The division of verses or ordering of Suras, which form the “Structure”
of Quran was not originally there but introduced later. So any
miracle nature attributed involving the number of Suras or verses is
not part of Quran.
exactly is being counted? Just words or meaning of the words?
Some times only words were counted irrespective of their meaning.
Wherever it is not adding up, same word is not counted basing that
it was used in a different meaning.
times all grammatical forms of the words were considered. Some times
not. For example in considering singular, dual, and plural forms of
a word the criteria appears to be multiple of 19.
There are other
features of Quran which are multiples of 7, 11 etc. any one with a lot
of time to waste can come up with any number of “features” from any
book which are multiples of any number. I have seen a document in
circulation on the Internet showing the “Mathematical” patterns in
the document “the declaration of independence” of USA and “predicting”
the future events from the pattern. Obviously it was floated for fun
just to show how easy it is to fool people with “mathematical”
A last word about “Patterns” in poetry. I do not know much about
Arabic poetry, but I am aware of meter in some of the Indian languages,
where each line of a verse has certain fixed number of letters.
Each type of poem has fixed letters in it. Few years ago, when I visited
south India, I personally observed a performance by a poet what is
called as “Sathavadhanam”. It is a well-known art form (a kind of
competition between poets) I feel it is relevant to mention it in this
context. The main poet is called an “Avadhani.” He competes with
hundred other poets.
On a stage the hundred poets sitting ready to pose Questions or riddles
to the Avadhani. Each one will ask a question and specifies in which
poetic form he wants the answer. Very often the questioner request that
the answer should contain in a particular type of poem (number of
letters are fixed) and it should contain certain words or not to
containing certain words or letters or combination of letters. They
specify all odd combinations and the most difficult questions. As soon
as the questioner finished his request the Avadhani is ready with the
answer by composing a poem instantly without using any pen and paper and
moves on to the next questioner. After listening hundred different
questions from these hundred people Avadhani starts answering by
reciting poems in the form requested by the questioner. He answers to
all the questions in the order it was asked. He does not note down the
questions. Apart from this the avadhani should keep track of the count
of bells that were rung time to time to distract him.
I was told that this kind of art is performed by many poets and there
are innumerable poets who perform this at a smaller scale with 8
questioners, which is popularly known as “Astavadhanam”.
It is a matter of seconds for this kind Avadhanis to compose any poem
with any specification and style. But no one considers them as miracle.
It is their creativity coupled with years of practice and concentration.
I wonder what the Avadhanis say if asked to “produce a Sura like it…”
Fortunately these Avadhanis do not know Arabic. Other wise God knows how
many “miracle” Suras have been produced!
Also the Christians have come with their own version of
mathematical miracle of the Bible. See the following
An interesting study: The
Law of Truly Large Numbers (coincidences)