by MA Farooqi · 2003 · Cited by 10 — The abjad order organizes the 28 characters of the Arabic alphabet into eight groups in a East/lcromanization.pdf> and

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ISSN 0364-6505 print; ISSN 1477-2841 online/02/020147-12 © 2003 Taylor & Francis Ltd DOI: 10.1080/036465003200014320Edebiyö at, 2003, Vol. 13, No. 2, pp. 147Ð158 The Secret of Letters: Chronograms in UrduLiterary Culture1Mehr Afshan FarooqiUniversity of Virginia Letters of the alphabet are more than symbols on a page. They provide an opening into newcreative possibilities, new levels of understanding, and new worlds of experience. In mature literary traditions, the Òliteral meaningÓ of literal meaning can encompass a variety of arcane uses of letters, both in their mode as a graphemic entity and as a phonemic activity. Letters carry hidden meanings in literary languages at once assigned and intrinsic: thenumeric and prophetic, the cryptic and esoteric, and the historic and commemoratory. In most literary traditions there appears to be at least a threefold value system assignedto letters: letters can be seen as phonetic signs, they have a semantic value, and they also have a numerical value. Each of the 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet can be used as a numeral. When used numerically, the letters of the alphabet have a special order, which is called the abjador abujad. Abjadis an acronym referring to alif, be, jøõm, døal, the first fourletters in the numerical order which, in the system most widely used, runs from alifto ghain.The abjadorder organizes the 28 characters of the Arabic alphabet into eight groups in alinear series: abjad, havvaz, úhu¬t¬tøõ, kalaman, sa`faús, qarashat, úsakhkhaú z, ¬zaúzúzagh.2In nearly every area where the Arabic script was adopted, the abjadsystem gainedpopularity. Within the vast area in which the Arabic script was used, two abjadsystemsdeveloped. Syed Aúhmad Dehlavøõ (Farhang-e Asafiya85) suggests that the abjadsystem wasformalized during the reign of the Abbasid Caliph, Hø arø un al-Rashøõd (786Ð809 CE), and developed into distinct ÒeasternÓ and ÒwesternÓ varieties. The ÒwesternÓ variety is confined to Africa and the Iberian Peninsula. Urdu and Persian, the languages of my interest, followed the eastern abjadsystem. Charts giving the numerical value of the lettersin the abjad system are easily available.3They are often provided in Arabic, Persian andUrdu grammars. Children memorize the mnemonic words and learn both the alphabet and the numeration at the same time. In Persian and Urdu, abjad úkhvø anmeans Òa personlearning the alphabet.ÓThis abecedarian order of the abjadletters does not correspond to the phonetic orgraphical order of the Arabic alphabet. The first 22 letters of the old Arabic alphabet, beforeit was re-constituted, followed the order of the Aramaic alphabet. Some scholars argue that the Arabs were unaware of other Semitic languages that followed the abecedarian order and assigned numeric values to letters (Ifrah 241Ð245). However, it is certain that they were not

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148M. FAROOQI satisfied with the explanation that the abjadsimply follows the abecedarian order of theSemitic and related alphabets. Even more crucial perhaps was their desire to find an explanation of how the clusters originated and the meaning, if any, of each of the eight clusters (abjad, havvaz, úhu¬t¬tøõ, etc). Diverse explanations of the clustersÕ meanings have been handed down in the Arab tradition (Gibb et al.7). According to one tradition, the first sixgroups are names of demons; according to another, they are names of the days of the week. Some grammarians, not satisfied with the traditional explanations, perceived the words to be of foreign origin and decided that they were probably borrowed from the Phoenicians. The pronunciation of the mnemonic clusters differs in the Arabic, Persian, Indian and other traditions, such as the North African Hausa.4In Urdu and Persian, new sets of interpretive meanings are allocated. Syed AhmedDehlavi, the author of Farhang-e Asafiya, an important dictionary of Urdu publishedbetween 1898 and 1918, in his longish entry on abjadassigns remarkable glosses to themnemonic words. Quoting Risøala-e ¬Zavøabi¬t-e `Aúzøõmfor a set of meanings, he says that:abjaddenotes Òto begin,Ó havvazÒto find,Ó úhu¬t¬tøõÒto know, Ó kalamanÒto talk,Ó sa`faúsÒtolearnÓ qarashatÒto organizeÓ úsakhkhaúzÒ to preserve Ó and ¬zaúzúzaghÒto conclude.Ó He quotes an old Persian dictionary called Madøar al-Aføa¬zil5for another set of meanings: (1) Myancestor, Adam committed a sin; (2) He obeyed his base instinct; (3) He repented for having sinned; (4) His repentance was accepted; (5) He faced hardships; (6) He was blessed; (7)God gave him power; (8) The devil lost. It is most interesting, particularly from acosmologic and hermeneutic point of view that a connection is made between the abjadandthe biography of Adam (Dehlavi 84Ð86). In the Islamic tradition, it is believed that the firstnine letters of the Arabic alphabet in the Semitic sequence were revealed to Adam. This tradition reinforces the cosmologic connections with the abjad(Schimmel 30).It is certain that the Arabs did not invent the system of assigning numerical values toletters of the alphabet. The ancient Greeks, not having a fully developed system of writing numerals, used the letters of their alphabet for numerals, as did the Romans. Like many other ancient alphabets, Hebrew characters are also used for numerals. They are arranged in a decimal system based on the order of the letters of the alphabet. As I struggled with the problem of the literal versus the numerical alphabetical order in Arabic, I studied the order of the Hebrew alphabet. I was surprised6to discover that the abjadorder was simply theHebrew order or the Aramaic order (if one prefers that term) with the extra six characters of the Arabic alphabet, i.e. úsakhkhaúzand ¬zaúzúzaghtagged at the end.7During the seventhcentury Arabic writing assumed its final shape. The number of characters was fixed at 28 and the order of the characters was changed. Letters that had become similar graphemically were grouped together in sequence and were differentiated by dots. The diacritic vowels were also introduced. It was around the time that niqqudor ÒdotsÓ were added to the Hebrew alphabet. The Western world gave up using letters of the alphabet as numerals, except for occasions culturally marked as peripheral. The Arabs continued to do so for many purposes, such as astrology, numerology, divination, charm writing, as well as astronomy, in which Arabic letters denoted specific constellations. The use of letters for their numerical value as a literary device, i.e. the chronogram, tocommemorate dates and events is a later development. G. S. Colin says, Ò[chronograms]consist of grouping into one meaningful and characteristic word or short phrase letters whose numerical values when totaled give the year of a past or future eventÓ (Ifrah 250). It is called ramzin Arabic and Turkish, and tøarøõkhin Persian and Urdu. The term tøarøõkhcanbe used to refer to the actual chronogrammatic phrase or ÒsubstanceÓ, or to the entire verseof poem in which the date is embedded. The method of calculating the value is called úhisøab

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THE SECRET OF LETTERS: CHRONOGRAMS IN URDU149 al-jumal. Texts embodying the date were composed with care and artifice. The chronogram was used in inscriptions, especially in mosques and important buildings. The dates were embedded in verse, marking important occasions like births, deaths and weddings of patrons, family and friends. They were an important part of the literary cultures of the Turkic, Persian and Urdu languages during the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries. However, the tradition of composing chronograms seems to remain popular to the present day only in Urdu. This is a cultural phenomenon that would bear further investigation. I will have occasion to say more about this later. The basic mechanics of composing chronograms takes characteristic forms in Urdu withtheir own particular difficulties. The Arabic alphabet has 28 letters, hamzanot beingcounted as a separate letter. Persian has 32, and Urdu 37, with the hamzabeing counted asa separate letter. Our first concern is to explain how Urdu assigns values to the extra eight letters, and what is the value of hamza.Eight characters specific to Urdu and/or Persian are assigned values equivalent to theclosest similar or homographic Arabic character. Thus peequals be, teequals se, ceequalsjøõm, døalequals údøal, úrheequals re, úzeequals ze, gøafequals køaf.8According to the Urdu system, the hamzais an Arabic letter, but it is not included in the abjadformula. In Arabic, the identity of the hamza is peculiar: the letter alif is the ÒbearerÓof the hamza and it represents a glottal stop. The hamza, therefore, cannot be assigned avalue of a similar homograph in Urdu or Persian. If it has to be assigned a value it wouldbe a homophonicone. In Urdu, unlike Arabic, the hamzais usually used in place of alif, i.e.when two vowels come together. Thus it is used over vøaÕo(Arabic wøaw) or ye, as in øaÕo, orin øaÕøõ. Some say it should be given the value of vøaÕowhen used over vøaÕo, which is six, orthe value of yewhen used over ye, which is 10. Some scholars argue more plausibly that itshould not be given any value in Urdu at all, for it has no value in the original abjadsystem.There are other concerns that have been given careful thought by chronogram theoristsand practitioners in Urdu. I cannot go into all of them here, and will focus on only the more important ones. For example: in doubling consonants, the diacritic tashdøõdis used. Theletter is written once but pronounced twice. Should the doubled consonant be counted as one or two letters? Should the alifwith madd, that is the lengthened alif, be counted as oneor more? Should the te marbøu¬tah, which is actually heof havvazin Arabic be counted asa heor te? The crux of these concerns lies in the question whether the orthography or thepronunciation should be the crucial factor in assigning numerical value. This has led to many different solutions. As an illustration, the value of the doubled letter is either doubled or not, depending on the userÕs interpretation of the spelling convention which relies upontashdøõdor doubling via a diacritic. The word Alløahemploys a tashdøõdabove the løam. Thecalligraphic rendition of the word has complicated its numerical value. Orthographically the word is written with two løamsbut the calligraphic tradition of employing the tashdøõdwith the dagger alifin the center, thus replicating the word graphically in a miniature form, produces the possibility of reading it with one only one løam. Depending on ourinterpretation, two values are possible: either Ò36Ó or Ò66.Ó There are instances in Persian where the value of Alløahis taken to be 36. Arabic seems to favor assigning the value of 66for Alløah. In calculating the numerical value of Muúhammad, which is 92, the value of theletter møõmis counted as double. And the numerical value of røaúzøõ Alløahis also calculated byassigning the value 66 to the word Alløah(Syed Aúhmad 36). In the Indo-Muslim tradition,it is always counted as Ò66,Ó as this value is required to produce the total of Ò786,Ó the abjadvalue of the well-known and extremely popular QurÕanic phrase, bismilløah ar-ra úhmøan

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150M. FAROOQI ar-ra úhøõm. Certainly, 786 is the most popular of all abjadvalues used in the Islamic milieu.Even those who are not aware of the abjadconsider 786 to be an auspicious number. Relationships between numbers and things are integral to the Indo-Muslim sensibility andcultural consciousness. There is an amusing article in the Urdu Digest, April 1997, on theabjadvalue of bismilløah. ÒThe practice of writing Ô786Õ instead of bismilløah[] must be discouraged,Ó says the author of the article, Yaas Mansuri. One of the reasons he puts forward is that the numerical value of 786 is the same as that of the mantra, Hare Krishna!Another example of such dynamics is the frequent use of the poppy/tulip flower in Islamicdecorative art. The poppy/tulip or løala9has the same numerical value as Alløahand hiløalor thecrescent, namely, 66. In certain prayers, each name of God is repeated according to the numerical value of its letters: Alløah, 66 times, quddøus199 times and so on (Schimmel 261).Given below are examples of some well-known chronograms:1.On the Mughal Emperor Humayun Õs death: Humayøun pøadishøah az bøam uftøad=962 hijr øõ[Humayøun = 112; p øadishøah = 313; az = 08; b øam = 43; uft øad = 486, total, 962]. (King Humayøun fell from the terrace.)2.On the Afghan ruler Sher Sh øahÕs death: Ze øatash murd= 952 hijr øõ [ze = 07; øatash =701; murd =244, total, 952]. (He died by fire.)3.On the Mughal Emperor Jah øangøõrÕs death: Jahøangøõr az jahøan raft= 1036 hijr øõ [Jah øangøõr =289; az = 8; jah øan = 59; raft = 680, total = 1036] (Jahøangøõr [i.e. World-taker] left the world.) 4.On Prime Minister Ind øõrøa GøandhøõÕs birth: fakhr-e d øo jahøanøõ= 959 times two = 1918 C E [fakhr = 880; do = 10; jah øanøõ = 69, total = 959] (The pride of the two worlds.)Numbers 1 and 2 are notable because the chronogram phrase yields not just the date butalso tells us how the death took place. The Mughal Emperor Humayun fell from the terrace of his library and died from the injuries he sustained in the fall. His contemporary and rival the Afghan ruler Sher Shah died from burns sustained during the siege of the fort at Kalinjar in modern Uttar Pradesh. The third chronogram plays upon the meaning of the word jahøangøõr,ÒTaker or conqueror of the world, Ó which was the title of the Mughal Emperor, whose real name was Saløõm. In the fourth chronogram, the use of the word døoor ÒtwoÓ provides the hint to multiply by two the value of the phrase (959) to arrive at the desired date. The significance of the phrase Òpride of the two worldsÓ enhances the beauty of the chronogram. There is no doubt that a chronogramist, in order to be good, needs to have a knack foror special affinity both with words and with numerical computation. Doubtless, practice was also a part of the process toward perfection, but in the case of a good chronogramist like úHøamid úHasan Qøadirøõ10, almost any group of words was sufficient to yield the desireddate.For poets with the innate ability (or who were highly skilled) to compute the values ofwords and phrases it was natural to refine the abjad. These poets were, in fact, always readyto attempt more complicated codes and indulge in rhetorical flourishes in composing tøarøõkhs. In reaching for these variations, two broad approaches were used. In the firstapproach, the value of a tøarøõkhtext was arrived at by adding up the value of letters used inspelling the words. In the second approach, the desired date was arrived at through using the simple abjadsystem, but adding to or subtracting from, even multiplying the values toachieve the desired result. Complex chronograms were, and in fact are even now, regarded

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THE SECRET OF LETTERS: CHRONOGRAMS IN URDU151 as eloquent testimony to the authorÕs mathematical agility and an attestation of hiscreativity and natural, almost intuitive ability in a difficult genre.The most well-known variation of the abjadis bayyanøat. In this system, each letter is firstwritten as pronounced and then the values of the letters used for writing it are calculated, excludingthe first letter. The letters are vocalized as in Persian, not Urdu. Thus alifwrittenwith an alif, løamand a fe, has a value of løamplus fe, that is 30 + 80 = 110; instead of 1, which is its value in the standard abjadsystem. Similarly, be, pronounced as bøaÕequals 1,and the same is the case with te, which in Arabic is pronounced tøaÕ. Once the values underthe system of bayyanøatare tabulated, it is simply a matter of practice to write chronogramsusing bayyanøatinstead of abjad. However, in bayyanøat, the values are considerably lowerbecause the first letter is discounted. Interesting and difficult chronograms can be constructed by alternating abjadand bayyanøat.A quatrain or rubøaÕøõby FøaÕizøõ, in praise of Akbar, the Mughal emperor, plays on the denomination of the word ÒakbarÓ which is Ò223Ó in abjad, with the denomination ofÒøaftøabÓ in bayyanøatwhich also adds up to Ò223Ó. He uses the two systems of enumerationto equate the emperor Akbar with the sun (Aúhmed 166).Akbar ke ze øaftøab nisbat døaradøõn nuk¬ta ze bayyanøat-e-asmøa paydøast.11(Akbar is surely connected to the sun; this point is illustrated through the bayyanøatof thenames.)In the system Jumal-e Kabøõror Zabaror Zubøur, each letter is written as pronounced andconstrued as if its name were spelled out. Thus, the value of alifin this system is 111 (alif= 1, + løam= 30, + fe=80) and that of b øaÕ is 3 ( be= 2, + alif= 1) and so on. Other refinements on the abjadsystem, such as the rhetorical device of taÕmiyaandtakhrøõja, are used to compose chronograms that are more rhetorical than cryptic. In usingta`miyafor constructing a chronogram the straightforward abjadenumeration is used forcalculation. If the chronogram phrase or line does not yield the required date, the author asks the reader within the space of the hemistich, to add or subtract from the value of the phrase or line a certain number represented by a letter or word so as to arrive at the actual date. When the number is achieved by adding, it is called ta`miyaand when it is achievedby subtracting, it is called takhrøõja. For example, here is a famous takhrøõjachronogramcomposed by the Urdu poet Momin (Hakim Momin Khan 1800Ð1852) to commemoratethe birth of his daughter:Nøal katnøe ke søathhøatif nøekahi t øarøõkh dukhtar-e M øomin12(As soon as the umbilical cord was cut, the announcing angelÕs voice composed thechronogram Òdukhtar-e M øominÓ i.e. M øominÕs daughter). Here the value of nøal(= 81) is subtracted from dukhtar-e M øomin(= 1340) to arrive at the date: 1340 Ð81=1259 hijrøõ.Møomin was a man of considerable erudition. He was trained to be a physician or úhakøõm,and loved using the specialized vocabulary he had acquired from his study of medicine, mathematics, music, astronomy, astrology, and even chess, and thus added new and piquant flavors to his already colorful poetry. He was a master practitioner of chronograms, enigmas, conundrums, many of which turn on quite abstruse wordplay. He suffered a serious fall from the top floor of his house when the roof was being repaired. He died of injuries sustained in the fall some days later, but not before he had demonstrated his virtuosity and skills in both astrology and chronogram-composition by predicting the date

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152M. FAROOQI of his demise in a most appropriate chronogram: Dast-o-bøazøu bishikast, that is, ÒThe armand forearm were fracturedÓ. (úHayøat-e Møomin13Ð16).Usually a ta`miyaor takhrøõjaof a single unit, that is, from 1 to 9, is the only permissiblededuction. In MominÕs verse about his daughterÕs birth, Ò81Ó has been deducted, yet the meaningfulness and aptness of the verse justifies the bending of the rule. In fact, many chronogram composers did not observe the rule of 1 to 9 with any degree of rigidity. This brings us to the more interesting question of the literary merit of the chronogram: the meaningfulness of the verse with the embedded chronogram as against the technical perfection in composing the chronogram.One of the traditions of composing chronograms drew upon a famous verse or phrase toÒforgeÓ a chronogram through extrapolation. There are several examples to illustrate how some of the most interesting chronograms were actually ÒborrowingÓ from a famous poet Õslines and were used by the poet to create his chronogram. When two modern Urdu poets, Jigar Møorøadøabøadøõ (1890 Ð1960/61) and Dil Lakhnavøõ, died in the same year some chronogramistmodified and used a famous she`rfrom Asadulløah Khøan Ghøalib (1797Ð1869) to compose achronogram yielding the date of the two deaths:úHairøa÷n høu÷n dil køo røoÕøu÷n køe pøõtøu÷n jigar køo mai÷nMaqdøur høo tøo søath rakhøu÷n nauúhagar køo mai÷n(I do not know what I should do, lament for my heart or weep for my liver; I wish I couldafford a professional mourner.) This was modified to read: Ay y øar dil køo røoÕøu÷n ke pøõtøun jigar køo mai÷nThe line now yields 1380 hijrøõ. The poet went on to add:Ghøalib køe lab søe `øõsvøõ tøarøõkh bhøõ hu øõMaqdur høo tøo søathrakhøu÷n nauhagar køo mai÷n(GhøalibÕs own words give us the tøarøõkhin the Christian era:I wish I could afford a professional mourner.) Here the second line, which is the entire second line of the Ghalib verse noted above, is shownto give the desired date in CE (1929 + 32 = 1961) by adding the value of ÒlabÓ (32) in the first line to the value of the original line. The piquancy of the chronogram lies in the fact that diland jigar, used by Ghøalib in the literal sense, are also the pen-names of the two poets andthe chronogram uses them as such. Then Ghøalib is written with ghain, alif, løamand be. Thelast two standing alone can be read as lab= lips. Thus, the Òlips of GhøalibÓ is delightful because labmeans lips and its value is added to the main text, which is GhøalibÕs, and thus thechronogram can literally be claimed to have issued from ÒGhøalibÕs own lipsÓ.There is a fine chronogram composed by Al¬taf úHusain Høaløõ (1837 Ð1914) on GhøalibÕsdeath. It uses takhrøõja, and employs another famous line from Ghøalib for constructing thechronogram:Tøarøõkh ham nikøal cukøe paúrhbaghair-e fikr úHaq maghfirat karøe Ôajab øazøad mard thøa13This gives 2796Ð1511 = 1285 hijrøõin the following way:(I have composed the tøarøõkh, read without anxiety [fikr], Òmay God pardon his sins, what awonderful, free thinking man he was.Ó)

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154M. FAROOQI date of úHusainÕs death in the Hijrøõcalendar. Now when you write ÒsøõnÓ as a word, you write, Òsøõn, ye, nøunÓ: yeand nøunare both dotted; their numerical value is 10 and 50respectively which totals again to 60, giving the date of úHusainÕs death.A similar and even more interesting example of a chronogram using just one letter toexpress a whole date is from Imøam Bakhsh Nøasikh, who composed the following verse onthe fall from favor of úHakøõm Mahdøõ then prime minister of Awadh: Az úhøaÕ-e úhakøõm hasht bar gøõrSe martaba nisf nisf kam kun14(From the úhøeof úhakøõm, take eight and reduce it by half three times.)The letter høehas the value of eight, as we know. In order to arrive at the desired date the chronogram requires us to reduce eight by half, again reduce the remainder by half, and yet again reduce the remainder by half. Thus eightÐfourÐtwoÐone which is the desired date,namely 1248 hijrøõ.This discussion of especially artful and meaningful chronograms brings me to aconsideration of a ghazalby Ghuløam úHasnayn Qadr Bilgrøamøõ (1833 Ð1884), a pupil ofGhøalibÕs who wrote an extraordinary ghazalcommemorating GhøalibÕs death (1869). EachsheÕrof the ghazalyields the date twice, the first line giving it in the Common Era, and thesecond giving the date again in the Hijrøõ. Moreover, the ghazalis not just a clever exercisein numbers; it is also an eloquent obituary on the master poet (Bilgrøamøõ 338 Ð339).15Murøad-e úhashr kyøa dehløõ køa kha¬t thøa = 1869Falak útøuútøa yøe mujhpar øah nøagøah= 1285Møerøe ustøad-e `øaløõjøah ghøalib= 1869Duvam ziqÕdah køo ab mar gayøe øah= 1285(The letter from Delhi was like an announcement of Doomsday. Unexpectedly did the heavens fall on me. My teacher, the venerated Ust øad Ghøalib passed awayOn the second of the month of ZiqÕdah, alas.)To come back to the question of why the tradition of composing chronograms continues to flourish in Urdu, let us begin by examining some of the important books on the subject that have been published in the past 50 years in Urdu. The July 1963 issue of the quarterly journal Nigar, edited by Akbar ÔAløõ Kh øan (1939Ð1997) from Røampøur was in fact ananthology of Urdu chronograms. In an essay in this number, Akbar ÔAløõ Kh øan discusses amanuscript in the Raza Library at Rampur, India, entitled Tøarøõkh-e La¬tøõf, which is acollection of chronograms composed on the death of important Urdu poets. Khan describesit as an invaluable resource for appreciating the ustøad-shøagird(masterÐpupil) relationshipin the art of poetry, for the relationship must also have meant that the pupils of a poet must have felt it emotionally and culturally valuable to record the death of his master in a chronogram. There are other useful essays in the volume; there is also a lengthy excerpt of the above-mentioned Tøarøõkh-e La¬tøõf.From 1985 to 2002, there appeared several books on the art of composing chronograms.I will briefly allude to three useful publications. Lughøat-e Abjad Shumarøõ 1992 (Words for Counting Abjad 1992), compiled by Syed Ahmad of Toronto, published by the National Council for Promotion of Urdu, Government of India, New Delhi, 1994. In his introduction, Ahmad mentions that the title of the book Lughat-e Abjad Shumøarwas

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THE SECRET OF LETTERS: CHRONOGRAMS IN URDU155 composed to yield 1981, because the book was projected for publication in 1981. However, it was ultimately published in 1992, requiring Ahmad to modify the title somewhat, the new title being Lughøat-e Abjad Shumarøõ 1992 . The book lists 27000 words in alphabetical order, their definitions and their numerical value. While the usefulness of such a compendium for an aspiring chronogramist cannot be over-emphasized, it must also be noted that AhmadÕs idea is not entirely new. In 1934, øAføaq Benøarsøõ published MoinushShu`arøaÕ, a dictionary of the genders of Urdu words. He took care to record the numericalvalue of each of the 10 000-odd words that he entered in this book. Ahmad has also provided the rules of his calculation. He has made it clear in his calculation, hamzahas novalue, and tashdøõd, a doubled consonant, is to be counted as one. In a long introduction,Ahmad goes over the ideas and opinions current in modern-day Urdu chronogram writing and then chooses among many positions the one he considers most suitable. He describes how the work was made easier by using a computer program designed especially for this project. It is clear that Aúhmad believes deeply in the abiding aesthetic power and attractionof the abjadsystem.Another volume worth mentioning here is MuÕøavin-e tavøarøõkh(An aid to composingchronograms), by Muúhammad Zubayr Føarøuqøõ Il øahøabøadøõ, published from Karachi in 1985.This book addresses the mechanics of creating a chronogram in Urdu more directly: one could call it a kind of ÒgrammarÓ of abjad.There is yet another useful volume entitled Janøab Mawløanøa úHamøõd úHasan Qøadirøõ and ÒThe art of the chronogramÓ 1988 AD by Khøalid úHasan Qøadirøõ, published in Karachi,1988. The phrase in quotes adds up to the value 1988. It is full of interesting poems or verses containing chronograms on a vast variety of subjects ranging from minor everyday events to major historical and personal events. The author of the chronograms was the famous Urdu critic and scholar and occasional poet úHamøõd úHasan Qøadirøõ (1887 Ð1964).úHamøõd úHasan QøadirøõÕs son Khøalid úHasan Qøadirøõ, of SOAS in London, is the author/editorof the book and is himself a chronogramist of some distinction.Yet another recently published essay on chronogram writing can be found in Aywan-e Urdu(Delhi, September, 2002), entitled Tøarøõkhgøoøõ køe Karishme(The charisma of writingchronograms) by Mukhtøar Tøonkøõ. The essay contains a collection of recently madechronograms, once again indicating that there is an abiding interest in this subject. One could, in fact, compile a longish list of books and papers that have been published in Urdu on the art of chronogram-making over the last four decades. If demand generates supply, it follows that such a large number of books and papers were not being produced in a vacuum: they are supplying a felt need.In a society where there is a strong oral culture, chronograms provide an easy linkage inthe memory of the people between an event and its date. In the past, when there was no formal system of recording dates of birth and deaths, even in books such as taúzkiras, thechronograms provided and still provide a major source of information. In modern times, they are regarded more as an act of homage and love. Every time a well- known writer orwriter friend passes away, Urdu magazines and newspapers in the subcontinent publish chronograms in verse commemorating the event. While the quality of all the contributions may not be first-rate or the manner so telling as to become immediately fixed in the memory, there are many clever chronograms occasioned by these deaths.The continued interest in chronograms could, I believe, be partially explained by the factthat the Indian mind has had a fascination with numbers since the beginning of literate civilization in India. In fact the identity of number and object, that is, the number and the object it represents has been a common notion in Indo-Muslim culture. When Prince

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156M. FAROOQI Khurram ascended the throne in 1627, he assumed the title Shøah-e-Jahøan(Ruler of theworld). Kishan Chand Ikhløas in his taúzkirawith the title Hamøeshøa Bahøar, narrates anamusing incident that is also illustrative of the importance of numbers regarding the title Shøah-e Jahøan. Ikhløas reports that the Sultan of Turkey wrote to Sh øah-e Jahøan pointing outthat since he was only the ruler of Hind (India) it was inappropriate for him to adopt such a title. The Sultan suggested that ÔAbdulløah (AlløahÕs slave) or Abdur Raúhmøan (RaúhmøanÕsslave) would be a more appropriate title for the Mughal ruler. The poet laureate of Sh øah-eJahøan, Kaløõm Høamøadøanøõ came up with a brilliant rejoinder to the Sultan of Turkey Õsobjection. Kalim explained that the numerical value of Hind and Jahøan (that is 59) is thesame. He framed this reply in a verse that was dispatched to the Sultan who, it appears, was silenced by the logic of the argument.Fascination with numbers in the Urdu culture is also evident in the fact that there arediscussions about the ideal of the optimum number of she`rs(couplets) in a ghazal. Whilein theory the ghazalmay contain anything from three to an infinite number of she`rs, theustøadshave argued in favor of seven, nine or 11 sheÕrsas the optimum number. The ghazalsof some classical writers such as Møõr Asar (1735/36Ð1794) are particularly singled out forpraise because he does not write more than five she`rsto a ghazaland is still able to createa sense of closure. Similarly, there are other questions relating to numbers that have engaged the attention of theorists: for example, what is the desired number of words that should bestrung together in one e¬zøafat? Is it desirable to repeat a particular letter within the space ofone or more than one words and, if so, how many times. Scholars of the art of rhetoric love to count the number of objects mentioned in one line of a poem, and so on. We thus see that the Urdu speakersÕ continuing interest in tøarøõkh-gøoøõis of the same order as that of thegeneral Indian in and for numbers and it is a fortunate conjunction that the tøarøõkhof thechronogram embodies literary quality, historic value and an interest in numbers which may be described as innate among Indians.There is an abiding demand or Ôconsumer publicÕ for chronograms. The continued use and composition of tøarøõkhs in Urdu indicates that the tradition is alive and well in its literaryculture. The chronogram functions as a useful adjunct to the religio-cultural belief system, common among all of the major religious groups in South Asia. It is the notion that ÒnumberÓin relationship with ÒeventÓ plays an important role in the life of every individual. The events comprising an individualÕs life or existence may be trivial and repetitive, such as the purchaseof a pen, or momentous and unique, such as a wedding, the birth of a child, or the death of a relative. In either case, they are thought to play a role in determining lifeÕs trajectory. Chronograms provide a sense of stability within chaos, a sense that ÒhistoryÓ is partly within our reach and control. From the purely aesthetic point of view, the tøarøõkhprovides a link to thepast and reaffirms the creative impulse within Urdu literary culture.Notes1.A preliminary draft of this paper was presented at the New York Conference on Asian Studies in October, 2001, held at Cornell University. I am grateful to Professor Christopher Minkowski for the inspiration to think of the role numbers play in literature.2.According to Urdu pronunciation and transliteration. 3.For example, the Library of Congress transliteration tables for Arabic and Persian are available at: and . I have also provided a comprehensive chart (see Appendix) that includes the numerical value of letters exclusive to the Urdu alphabet.

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THE SECRET OF LETTERS: CHRONOGRAMS IN URDU157 4.In Hausa, the numerical value assigned to the word order in the last three clusters is different because the configuration is slightly different (úsa`faúz, qarashat, úzaghghash).5.MuÕyyid al-FuzaløaÕ, a Persian dictionary compiled by Mawlavøõ Mu úhammad Løaúd in 1519, published by NavalKishore Press, Kanpur, borrowing from Madøar al-Aføa¬zilgives identical glosses for the abjadclusters. See vol. II,p. 288.6.My intellectual background is the Indo-Islamic tradition, which privileges the Arabic perspective of Semitic cultural history, thus my initial surprise. 7.In other words, øaleph, beyt, gøõmel and døaletmake up the mnemonic word abjad, and høe, vøavand zayinmakehawwaz, heyút, úteytand yøodcorrespond to úhu¬t¬tøõand so on up to qarashat. úSaúkhúkhaúzand úza¬z¬zaghare made upfrom the remaining or extra six letters of the Arabic alphabet i.e. úse, khe, úzeand úzuøad, úzøoÕe, and ghain.8.See appended chart (Appendix). 9.There are multiple meanings associated with the translation of løalaas ÔpoppyÕ in Urdu. The most important being that the poppy has a dark or black center, and that is a metaphorical døaúghÔscarÕ that it bears in its heart.10.See Bibliography for a list of úHamøõd úHasan QøadirøõÕs publications.11.I have cited the latter half of the quatrain because the chronogram is contained in that couplet. 12.Kulliyøat-e Møomin, Naval Kishore Press, Lucknow 1931, p. 189.13.Døõvøan-e úHøaløõ, Urdu Academy Delhi 1992 (facsimile of 1893 edn) p. 221.14.Kulliyøat-e Nøasikh, ed. Yunus Javed, Lahore, 1989, p. 227. 15.Kishan Chand Ikhl øas, Hameshøa Bahøar, (ed.) Wa úhøõd Qurayshøõ, Anjuman Taraqq øõ Urdu, Pakistan, Karachi, 1973, p. 209. I am grateful to my father, Shamsur Ra úhmøan Føarøuøoqøõ, for providing the exact reference.Works Cited Aúhmad, Qiyøamuddøõn (1972). A note on the art of composing chronograms. Islamic Culture, April, 2, 163Ð167.Aúhmad, Shaykh (2002). `Aqøõl, Mughisuddin Farøõdøõ Aur Qit øat-e Tøarøõkh, Maktabat-e Istiøara, New Delhi.Aúhmad, Syed (1994). Lughat-e Abjad Shumarøõ 1992 (Words for Counting Abjad 1992), New Delhi: National Council for Promotion of Urdu.Bilgrøamøõ (1891). Ghul øam úHasnayn Qøadr, Kulliyøat-e Qøadr. Agra: Mufid-e-øAm.Dehlavøõ (reprinted 1977). Syed A úhmed, Farhang-e-Asafiya, Vol. I, Lahore: Mark øazøõ Urdu Board. Døõvøan-e úHøaløõ(1992). Urdu Academy Delhi (facsimile of 1893 edition), p. 221.Gøayøavøõ (1990). `Arsh, úHayøat-e-Møomin, Delhi 1928, Reprint Nigar, vols 9Ð10, Ed. Farmøan Fateúhpøorøõ, KarachiPakistan, pp. 13Ð16.Gibb, H.A.R. et al.(1954). ABDJAD. In Encyclopaedia of Islam, vol. I. Leiden: E. J. Brill.Ifrøaúh, Georges (2000). The Universal History of Numbers From Prehistory to the Invention of the Computer. NewYork: John Wiley & Sons. Ikhløas Kishan Chand (1973). Hameshøa Bahøar, (ed) Wa úhøõd Qurayshøõ, Anjuman Taraqq øõ Urdu, Pakistan, Karachi. Iløahøabøadøõ, Arøuz (1975). Ilm-e Arøuz-o-Qøafiya-va-Tøarøõkhgøoøõ, published by the authorÕs estate, Allahabad.Iløahøabøadøõ, Muúhammad Zubayr Føarøoqøõ (1985). MuÕavin-e-tavøarøõkh, 1384 hijrøõ(An aid to composing chronograms.Karachi: Mash-hur Offset Press).Kulliyøat-e Møomin(1931). Lucknow: Naval Kishore Press, p. 189.Kulliyøat-e Nøasikh(1989). ed. Lahore: Yunus Javed, p. 227. Lakhnavøõ, Søahir (1999). Fann-e Tøarøõkhgøoøõ Køa Tanq øõdøõ Jaiza . Karachi: Asar-o-Afkar Akademi. Nigar, Ed. (1963). Akbar `Al øõ Kh øan, Røampøor, July. Qøadirøõ, Khøalid úHasan (1988). Janøab Mawløanøa úHamøõd úHasan Qøadirøõ and ÒThe Art of the ChronogramÓ 1988 AD .Karachi: Qøadirøõ Akademi. Qøadirøõ, úHamøõd úHasan (1999). øAúsøar ut-Tav øarøõkh. Karachi: Qøadirøõ Akademi. Qøadirøõ, úHamøõd úHasan (2000). Jøami`ut-Tav øarøõkh. London: Books International.Qøadirøõ, úHamøõd úHasan (2000). Saføõnat-e Tav øarøõkh, London: Books International.Schimmel, Annemarie (1993). The Mystery of Numbers. New York: Oxford University Press. Sirøaj, Masøud (1993). Fann-e Tøarøõkhgøoøõ. Hyderabad.Tøonkøõ, Mukhtøar (2002). Tøarøõkhgøoøõ ke Karishme (The charisma of writing chronograms). Aywan-e-Urdu ,September.

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