What does 786 represent and should it be used? Similarly, does ‘Khudā Ḥāfiẓ’ or ‘Allah Ḥāfiẓ’ fulfil the Sunnah of the Islamic greeting?
بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم
(1) The use of 786
A unique aspect of the Arabic language is that each letter of the alphabet represents a certain numerical value. Thus, the value of the letters of the Tasmiyah ‘Bism Allah al-Raḥmān al-Raḥīm adds up to 786. This is why some people use it to represent the Tasmiyah to avoid disrespect. However, the truth is that it holds no significance whatsoever in the Sharīʿah and should not be used. When we look at the blessed biography of the Prophet ﷺ, we find that all his letters started with Tasmiyah (for example, refer to the letter to Heraclius, Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, 7; for other letters refer to Zād al-Maʿād, 3: 688). Among them was the king of Persia, who tore apart the blessed letter of the Prophet ﷺ. This clearly indicates that Tasmiyah should be used irrespective of the fear of disrespect by the addressee.
Scholars who have refuted the use of 786 include Mufti Maḥmūd Ḥasan Gangohī (d. 1417/1996) in Fatāwā Maḥmudiyyah (7: 247) and Mufti Muḥammad Taqī ʿUthmānī (b. 1362/1943 – ) in Inʿām al-Bārī (1: 257). Mufti Maḥmūd Ḥasan Gangohī suggests that the reward for Tasmiyah will not be attained by writing 786, whilst Mufti Muḥammad Taqī ʿUthmānī suggests that if for some reason one wants to avoid writing the Tasmiyah, then he should recite it verbally and this would suffice. Either way, 786 should be avoided.
(2) The use of ‘Khudā Ḥāfiẓ’ or ‘Allah Ḥāfiẓ’
‘Khudā Ḥāfiẓ’ or ‘Allah Ḥāfiẓ’ means Allah is the protector, and its use is by way of supplication meaning, may Allah protect you from calamity, difficulty and evil. It does not fulfil the purpose and meaning of the Islamic greeting although it could be related to the meaning of another Sunnah of the Prophet ﷺ. The famous companion ʿAbd Allah ibn ʿUmar (d. 73/693) (may Allah be pleased with him) relates that when the Prophet ﷺ would bid farewell to someone he would say,
أسْتَوْدِعُ اللهَ دِينَكَ وَأَمَانَتَكَ وَخَوَاتِيمَ عَمَلِكَ
“I place your religion, your faithfulness, and the ends of your deeds in the trust of Allah” (Sunan al-Tirmidhī, 3442; Sunan Abū Dāwūd, 2600).
It is clear from this ṣaḥīḥ (sound) ḥadīth that this Duʿā should be read when someone is bid farewell. However, one should not suffice upon this Duʿā, rather also include the Islamic greeting. The famous companion Abū Hurayrah (d. 57/676-7) (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Prophet ﷺ said, “When one of you comes to an assembly of people, he should give a greeting, and if he feels inclined to sit down he should do so, then when he gets up, he should give a greeting, for the former greeting is not more of a duty than the latter” (al-Adab al-Mufrad, 986; Sunan al-Tirmidhī, 2706; Sunan Abū Dāwūd, 5208; Ṣaḥīḥ Ibn Ḥibbān, 494). Thus, although it is permissible to say ‘Khudā Ḥāfiẓ’ but to suffice on it or regard the specific words as Sunnah is incorrect. It is therefore preferable to say the Islamic greeting and the aforementioned Masnūn Duʿā instead of Khudā Ḥāfiẓ.
Allah knows best
24 Jumādā al-Thāniyah 1427 / 20 July 2006