I have seen that the number 786 is quite often linked with Islam.
What is its significance? What does it mean?
I have seen that the number 786 is quite often linked with Islam.
What does 786 mean?
It is bism illāh ir-raḥmān ir-raḥīm "بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم" written using Abjad numerals.
Each letter in Arabic is assigned a numeral value. In this case we the following a letter-by-letter cumulative value:
2 + 60 + 40 + 1 + 30 + 30 + 5 + 1 + 30 + 200 + 8 + 40 + 50 + 1 + 30 + 200 + 8 + 10 + 40 = 786
What is the significance of 786 in Islam?
I don't know.
Caution: This post is not to hurt any opinion. This is based on the opinion and advice of Sunni Scholars
Other answers have explained what "786" stands for. My answer is regarding "What is it's significance?" to Islam.
786 stands for absolutely nothing. If someone believes 786 is part of Islam, it is a sin. It is an innovation (Bid'ah) which is particularly common in the South Asian Muslim community.
Anything to be part of Islam, has to have textual evidence from the Qur'an and Sunnah or a Valid Qiyas. There is no evidence in either the Quran or the Sunnah for such a thing as 786.
This usually starts as a casual thing and then goes on to become the accepted thing in Islam when in reality it is not. I am not exaggerating, my brothers. This is the trap of Shaytaan. When he doesn't find any other way to corrupt your Emaan, he beautifies evil things for you, so that you accept them and take them. (Check: https://islam.stackexchange.com/a/784/38)
In August 2006, a SMS was spread around by some Muslims in South Asia (I come from there) saying:
"this year 7th August is a very special day for all muslims around the globe because it`s going to be 7/8/6.It happens only once in a century"
As Muslims, we know that we have only two days that we celebrate i.e. the two Eids. And we do because our Prophet (salallahu alayhi wassalam) commanded us to do so.
‘Aisha(Radiallahu anha) reported Muhammad (Salallahu alayhi wassalam) said:
"Whoever innovates into this affair of ours something that we have not commanded it is to be rejected" (Bukhari and Muslim)
Jaabir (Radiallahu anhu) narrated Muhammad (Salallahu alayhi wassalam) said, "To proceed: The best speech is the Book of Allah and the best guidance and example is that of Muhammad, and the worse of all things are the newly invented things (in the religion), for every innovation is a error and a misguidance." (Muslim)
"…Every innovation is a going astray and every going astray is in the fire." (Tirmidhi)
Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):
"This day I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion" (Al-Maidah 5: 3)
Our religion is already perfect, so doing some deed which is not found in the Qur’an and Sunnah, it might seem they have brought some good deed better than the Messenger or what Allah has revealed. May Allah save us from that.
Allah has warned us by telling us what happened to the people of the Book.
"Say, O people of the Book exceed not the bounds in your religion, trespassing beyond the truth. Nor follow the vain desires of people who went astray in times gone by, who mislead many and strayed from the even way. Curses were pronounced on those among the children of Israel who were disbelievers, by the tongue of David and of Jesus son of Mary, because they disobeyed and persisted in excesses." (Al-Maidah 5:77-78)
Abdullah Ibn Masood narrated,
"The Messenger of Allah (Salallahu alayhi wassalam) drew a line for us and then said, ‘This is Allah’s Straight Path.’ Then he drew lines to its right and left, then he said, ‘These are paths, upon every one of them there is a devil calling towards it.’ (Ahmad)
Then he (Muhammad (Salallahu alayhi wassalam)) recited (from the Qur’an (interpretation of meaning)):
"Verily this is My Straight path, so follow it and follow not (other) paths, they will separate you away from His path. This He has ordained for you that you may become pious." (Al-Anam 6:153)
How ironical is that we do not perform most of the supererogatory deeds established by Qur'an and Sunnah like Qiyam al-Layl which has much reward from Allah, but we insist upon petty things like 786.
I advice you and myself, my brothers, that we should strive to do good deeds based on the Holy Qur'an and Sunnah so that we be righteous and not fall into the trap of Shaytaan.
I do not wish to make it difficult for you.
Ittaqullaha mastata`tum’ (fear Allah as much as you can)
786 means nothing in Islam, what it is is just values given to Arabic words/letters. Furthermore as a point of caution, it has been pointed out that if someone wrote something like "There is no god, and muhammad was a magician" can be written in Arabic and added up to 786, as well as other things. So basically I summarize what Abdullah said in his answer, 786 is not part of Islam and basically is an innovation/Bid'ah.
As others have said, 786 is a hash of "Bismillah-hirRahmaan-irraheem". Instead of beginning a work with "Bismillah-hirRahmaan-irraheem", any work, writeups, etc. would now begin with 786. I wonder how hashing came to Qur'anic verses. where does the proof of using a hash arise? Though mathematically or otherwise, 786 is a hash, it is still a number, and it cannot replace the name of Allah. Read this article for more.
The hash code came to existence because of the disposal issue of papers containing Allah (swt)'s name.
There are different rulings on how such a paper should be disposed of, some say it should be buried, others say it should be burned, and then we have those who say the paper should be placed on flowing water so that the ink is cleared.
Then we have those who suggest you should keep it in a permanent storage.
This is the underlying cause of 786 practice.
For those who claim it is Shaytan's work, maybe so, but it is derived from an Islamic belief to respect and revere Allah (swt)'s name and verses.
When people write 786 in a letter, the reader will say bismillaherahmaneraheem, but at the same time, the reader will not be burdened with stress of sinning if disposed the wrong way.
Since there is no Hadith of such disposals at the times of prophet Mohammad (pbuh), people are left with the practice of the Sahaba:
It is authentically reported in Sahih Al-Bukhari, under the chapter titled "Compiling the Qur’an", that Uthman ibn Affan (may Allah be pleased with him) ordered four of the best reciters among the Sahabah (Companions of the Prophet) to transcribe several copies of the Mus-haf (manuscript of the Qur’an), which was compiled into one manuscript by the command of Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with them). When they finished Uthman sent a copy of the transcribed Mus-haf to every territory. He also ordered that any other written records of the Qur’an be burnt. None among the Sahabah objected, except for what was reported that Ibn Mas'ud did. Yet, Ibn Mas‘ud objected to confining people to the Mus-haf that was sent by `Uthman to the territories, not to the burning process.
The problem is, in my culture burning might be considered innocent, in another culture burning can be considered as an insult. That's why different approaches of disposals have been proposed by scholars.
Does the above justify the existence of this innovation? Allah (swt) knows best.