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Arabic alphabet
ا    ب    ت    ث    ج    ح
خ    د    ذ    ر    ز    س
ش    ص    ض    ط    ظ    ع
غ    ف    ق    ك    ل
م    ن    ه‍    و    ي
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The Abjad numerals are a decimal numeral system in which the 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet are assigned numerical values. They have been used in the Arabic-speaking world since before the 8th century Arabic numerals. In modern Arabic, the word ʾabjadiyyah means "alphabet" in general.

In the Abjadi system, the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, alif, is used to represent 1; the second letter, bāʼ, is used to represent 2, etc. Individual letters also represent 10's and 100's: yāʼ for 10, kāf for 20, qāf for 100, etc.

The word "abjad" (أبجد ʾabǧad) itself derives from the first four letters in the proto-Canaanite alphabet, Phoenician alphabet, Aramaic alphabet, Hebrew Alphabet, etc. These older alphabets contained only 22 letters, stopping at taw, numerically equivalent to 400. The Arabic Abjadi system continues at this point with letters not found in other alphabets: ṯāʼ = 500, etc.


Abjadi order

The Abjadi order of the Arabic alphabet has two slightly different variants. The Abjadi order is not a simple historical continuation of the earlier north Semitic alphabetic order, since it has a position corresponding to the Aramaic letter samekh/semkat ס, yet no letter of the Arabic alphabet historically derives from that letter. Loss of samekh was compensated for by the split of shin ש into two independent Arabic letters, ش (shīn) and (sīn) which moved up to take the place of samekh.

The most common Abjadi sequence is:

أ ب ج د ﻫ و ز ح ط ي ك ل م ن س ع ف ص ق ر ش ت ث خ ذ ض ظ غ
ʼ b ğ d h w z ḥ ṭ y k l m n s ʻ f ṣ q r š t ṯ ḫ ḏ ḍ ẓ ġ

This is commonly vocalized as follows:

  • ʼabǧad hawwaz ḥuṭṭī kalaman saʻfaṣ qarašat ṯaḫaḏ ḍaẓaġ.

Another vocalization is:

  • ʼabuğadin hawazin ḥuṭiya kalman saʻfaṣ qurišat ṯaḫuḏ ḍaẓuġ

Another Abjadi sequence (probably older, now mainly confined to the Maghreb), is:[1]

أ ب ج د ﻫ و ز ح ط ي ك ل م ن ص ع ف ض ق ر س ت ث خ ذ ظ غ ش
ʼ b ğ d h w z ḥ ṭ y k l m n ṣ ʻ f ḍ q r s t ṯ ḫ ḏ ẓ ġ š

which can be vocalized as:

  • ʼabuğadin hawazin ḥuṭiya kalman ṣaʻfaḍ qurisat ṯaḫuḏ ẓaġuš

Modern dictionaries and other reference books do not use the abjad order to sort alphabetically; instead, the newer hijāʼī (هجائي) order (with letters partially grouped together by similarity of shape) is used:

أ ب ت ث ج ح خ د ذ ر زس ش ص ض ط ظ ع غ ف ق ك ل م ن ه و ي
ʼ b t ṯ ǧ ḥ ḫ d ḏ r z s š ṣ ḍ ṭ ẓ ʻ ġ f q k l m n h w y

Uses of the Abjad system

Before the introduction of the Arabic numerals, the Abjad numbers were used for all mathematical purposes. In modern Arabic, they are primarily used for numbering outlines, items in lists, and points of information. In English, points of information are sometimes referred to as "A", "B", and "C", and in Arabic, they are "أ‎", then "ب‎", then "ج‎", not the first three letters of the modern hijāʼī order.

The Abjad numbers are also used to assign numerical values to Arabic words for purposes of numerology. The common Islamic phrase بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم bism illāh ir-raḥmān ir-raḥīm ("in the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate" – see Basmala) has a numeric value of 786 (from a letter-by-letter cumulative value of 2+60+40+1+30+30+5+1+30+200+8+40+50+1+30+200+8+10+40), and the word "Allah" الله (God) by itself has the value 66 (1+30+30+5).

Letter values

ā/' ا 1 y/ī ي 10 q ق 100
b ب 2 k ك 20 r ر 200
j ج 3 l ل 30 sh ش 300
d د 4 m م 40 t ت 400
h ه 5 n ن 50 th ث 500
w/ū و 6 s س 60 kh خ 600
z ز 7 ` ع 70 dh ذ 700
H ح 8 f ف 80 D ض 800
T ط 9 S ص 90 Z ظ 900
gh غ 1000

A few of the numerical values are different in the alternative abjad order.

Similar systems

The Hebrew numerals are equivalent to the Abjadi numerals up to 400. This system is known as Gematria and is used in Kabbalistic texts and numerology. Like the Abjad order, it is used in modern times for numbering outlines and points of information, including the first six days of the week. The Greek numerals differ from the Abjadi ones from 90 upwards because in the Greek alphabet there is no equivalent for ṣād (ص). The Greek language system of letters-as-numbers is called isopsephy.

See also


External links

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