786 — THE number that charms people into spending extra bucks just to have it on the registration plates of their vehicles—came for free on Monday in the form of a once-in-a-100-year syndrome.
August 7, 2006 it was, which could be denoted as 786 (day-month-year). And eager beavers had started spreading the buzz around through emails, SMS and all other means of communication to get friends ready to welcome this day.
So what is the significance of the number? According to Arabic numerology, every letter of the language denotes a number and every word adds up to a corresponding sum of the numbers denoted by the letters in the word. Hence, ‘Bismillah-ar-rehman-ar-rahim’ (by the Grace of Allah, the Most Merciful and Beneficient), which is the beginning phrase of all Qur’anic verses, adds up to the figure. So, the number is significant to all Muslims, right? Wrong. “Contrary to popular notion, the figure has no religious significance,” avers Maulana Khalid Rasheed, Naib Imam of Eidgah.
How did the number originate and come to be associated with the community? History of the Indian Independence Movement that started around 1857 is said to hold the key.
“A ‘reshami rumaal’ (silken handkerchief) revolution was initiated by the ulema (clergy) of Uttar Pradesh in general and Deoband in particular, in which secret anti-British messages were passed around using that ancient Arabic code of numerology,” says Islamic scholar Muhammad Khalid adding, “Besides serving the purpose of communication, it came to provide interest and amusement too, with most of the popular phrases and verses being converted into a numeric code.”
‘Bismilllah…’ being the most important of all set of words, it adds up to 786 and it became a convenient way to encapsulate the invocation.
Over the years, the number found patronage amidst the common man, as well as the notorious. Hindi films, that comprise a parallel culture of the country followed suit and from Deewar to Coolie and Allah Rakha, besides a bunch of titles like ‘Billa No. 786’, the number was capitalised as many times.
Mafia don-turned-MLA Mukhtar Ansari is known for his penchant for 786 so much so that every vehicle he owns, his passport, cell number and everything that stands for his identity bear the magic number. It is, however, another matter that the number of the cell he is at present lodged in Ghazipur jail doesn’t have such fancy numerals. He is after all not there by choice.