Responses to Islamic Awareness

Pharaoh, Haman, Contradictions & The Qur'an

This document is to establish the historical nature of some of the statements made in the story of Moses(P) in Egypt in the Qur'an. To begin with:

Pharaoh said: "O Chiefs! no god do I know for you but myself: therefore, O Haman! light me a (kiln to bake bricks) out of clay, and build me a lofty palace, that I may mount up to the god of Moses: but as far as I am concerned, I think (Moses) is a liar!" [Qur'an 28:38]

Pharaoh said: "O Haman! Build me a lofty palace, that I may attain the ways and means- "The ways and means of (reaching) the heavens, and that I may mount up to the god of Moses: But as far as I am concerned, I think (Moses) is a liar!" [Qur'an 40:36-37]

We can clearly see the following historical statements emerging:

1.The Pharaoh as god, 2.Making the bricks out of clay, 3.Manner of addressing of the Pharaoh to the god by climbing up a building/tower/staircase, 4.And lastly, Haman, who is depicted as a Master of Constructions.

All the above, except statement 2 requires the deep understanding of Egyptology and Egyptian Hieroglyphs. The Bible does not provide information regarding the above mentioned statements of historical nature nor does any secular literature that we are aware of in Arabia during the time of the Prophet(P).

To make a long story short, ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics were largely forgotten and not studied until the Rosetta stone (now in the British Museum in London) was deciphered. Somehow, this is supposed to support the Qur'an's claim of being inspired by God.

Keeping the recent decipherment of Egyptian Hieroglyphs, let me deal with the historical facts mentioned above one by one, inshallah.

The Pharaoh As God

The Qur'an elsewhere says:

Then he (Pharaoh) collected (his men) and made a proclamation, Saying, "I am your Lord, Most High". [Qur'an 79:23-24]

Hardly a startling statement. Most ancient rulers considered themselves, or were considered by their subject to be gods.

Making The Bricks Out Of Clay

A critical reader of the Qur'an would naturally ask a question: Were mud bricks made and burnt in ancient Egypt? It is a well known fact, borne out by archeological research, the mud bricks and baked bricks were manufactured in the ancient Egypt.

Of course brick is made from baked clay, do you need a divine revelation to tell you this? We have two sources of mineral based building materials : cut stone and baked clay bricks. The Egyptians used both extensively in ancient times as well as today. However, the Qur'an is wrong about the use of "burnt" bricks. Except for some ruins at Nebesheh and Defenneh, burnt bricks were not used in Egypt before the Roman period (Manual of Egyptian Archaeology, G. Maspero, H. Grevel, page 4) Since Egyptian civilization has always rested on the Nile and its' delta, there has always been an ample supply of clay to make bricks - hardly a startling revelation. Mesopotamia, on the other hand, relied much more on bricks, for building material, than the Egyptians because the Mesopotamia had few sources of cut stone.

Manner Of Addressing Of Pharaoh To The Gods

The desire to ascend to the gods in the sky was an article of ancient Egyptian religion. The idea of the Pharaoh going up the laddar to reach the God of Moses(P), is in consonance with the mythology of ancient Egypt. The Pharaoh, asks the gods (or men) to construct a staircase or a tower to climb and talk to the gods.

No. You are confusing Egyptian and Mesopotamian religions. The center of religious life in ancient Egypt was the "state" temple. Ancient Egyptian religion was highly ritualistic and the Pharaoh was regarded symbolically as the high priest during holy days. The common people were not permitted to enter the temple, or allowed to see the Pharaoh officiate at any ritual at any time. It is impossible to imagine a Pharaoh climbing up a tower, in public view, to meet god and there are no such staircase ANYWHERE in Egypt!

The ancient Mesopotamians, on the other hand, did build staircase-like towers called ziggurats on which a god (usually the local god of the city) could dwell and high priests could ascend to "talk" to the gods..

Haman & The Non-Muslim Scholars

In this section, Saifullah parades out his usual "Orientalists" who believe that Muhammad mixed up Jewish stories to produce this error in the Qur'an. I agree.

Haman & The Bible

Saifullah discusses several people who do not believe that the Book of Esther should be in the Bible:

Neither the Jews nor the Christians have been happy with the Book of Esther in the Canon of Holy Scripture. Its status was hotly debated by the rabbis all through the first two centuries AD, and they obviously accepted it only because of the masses. Among Christians also there was question about its status. Martin Luther declared that he wished it did not exist.

Again, nothing startling. The fact that one person opposes a book or verse does not make it false. After all, one of Muhammad's closest companions, Abdullah bin Mas'ud, said that Suras 113 and 114 do not belong in the Qur'an and he eliminated these Suras from his copy of the Mushaf. In fact, Abdullah bin Mas'ud not only eliminated these Suras from the Mushaf, he often said: "Do not mix up with the Qur'an that which is not of the Qur'an. These two Suras are not included in the Qur'an. This was only a command enjoined on the Holy Prophet for seeking God's refuge." In some traditions there is also the addition that he did not recite these Suras in the Prayer.

Bible Scholars, The Book Of Esther, Haman & Historicity

Some scholars trace it to be non-Jewish origin entirely; it is, in their opinion, either a reworking of a triumph of the Babylonian god Marduk (Mordecai) and Isthar (Esther) over the Elamite god Hamman (Haman) and Mashti (Vashti) or the suppression of the Magians by Darius or even of the resistance of the Babylonians to the decree of Artaxerxes II. According to this view, Purim is a Babylonian feast which was taken over by the Jews, and the story of which was given a Jewish colouring.

Notice the wording here: "some scholars". Some scholars can be found to support or refute nearly any idea. It is highly unlikely that the Book of Esther is a reworked Pagan story since there is no reference, or allusion, to any Babylonian gods. In any event, the story takes place in Persia.

A few conclusions can be immediately drawn:

i.Surprisingly, the 'inspired book' of Esther from God does not mention God at all! No wonder the characteristics of this book is secular.

The God of the Bible speaks in many ways. Sometimes He uses words, and sometimes He speak through history.

ii.As to the historical evidence for this story and hence Haman, it is non-existent.

How so?

iii.The story is considered to be legendary and secular.

By whom? Not by the majority of Jews or Christians who read this story in the scriptures.

iv.The Jewish story of Esther is borrowed from Persian novella and its contents reflect the customs associated with the Persians which got Judiased.

Proof please! A moment earlier, you claimed that it was borrowed from Babylonian lore!

Above all, this book has got some additions to it which do not appear in the Hebrew Bible, but are treated as canonical in Roman Catholic Bibles, and are placed in the Apocrypha in the Protestant Bible.

Please give use some examples.

Now it is obvious that the Book of Esther can not be trusted as a book revealed by God since it has no mention of the God, the Most High. The nature of its contents are dubious. Using this dubious book, Christian missionaries are calling Haman as a contradiction in the Qur'an!

First of all, it is a contradiction. Secondly, as I said earlier, the God of the Bible speaks in many different ways. The God of the Bible does not constantly barrage us with "We Did this" and "We did that"! Read the Book of Esther. Throughout the entire story, from beginning to end, God maintains total control of the flow of events and remains completely hidden in the background of the action. This book also forces us to realize God's ability to manage history in the background and manipulate evil. This will be part of the Messianic experience and it will usher in the completion of creation.

So, the book of Esther cannot be used as a useful document of history, either Babylonian or Egyptian.

Since Haman, and the Jews at this time, lived in Persia, I would not use the Book of Esther as an historical source for Egypt or Babylon!

Who Is This Haman?

Dr. Maurice Bucaille narrates an interesting discussion he had with one of the most prominent French Egyptologists:

What was the name of this "most prominent French Egyptologist"?

I showed him the word Haman that I had copied exactly like it is written in the Qur'an, and told him that it had been extracted from a sentence of a document dating back to the 7th century, the sentence related to somebody connected with Egyptian history.

He said to me that, in such a case, he would see in this word the transliteration of a hieroglyphic name but, for him, undoubtedly it could not be possible that a written document of the 7th century had contained a hieroglyphic name - unknown until that time - since, in that time, the hieroglyphs had been totally forgotten.

In order to confirm his deduction about the name, he advised me to consult the Dictionary of Personal Names of the New Kingdom by Ranke... I was stupefied to read the profession of Haman: "The Chief of the workers in stone-quarries," exactly what could be deduced from the Qur'an, though the words of the Pharaoh suggest a master of construction.

Here is Ranke's entry:

Please notice that Ranke says nothing about a "Haman" or the title "Chief of the workers in stone-quarries" in his entry. For more of this issue, see The Haman Hoax.

I came again to the expert with a photocopy of the page of the Dictionary concerning Haman and showed him one of the pages of the Qur'an... he was speechless...

Moreover, Ranke had noted, as a reference, a book published in 1906 by the Egyptologist Walter Wreszinski: the latter had mentioned that the name of Haman had been engraved on a stela kept at the Hof-Museum of Vienna (Austria).

For more information on this stela from the "Hof-Museum of Vienna" [sic], please read The Haman Hoax.

So, who was Haman? Unlike the Qur'an, the Bible does not "drop names" in order to attempt to establish legitimacy. The Bible explains everything within the framework of God's Divine plan. To understand who Haman was, we need to go back to the time of Jacob, the forefather of the Jewish people. Jacob had a twin brother named Esau, with whom he had a lifelong sibling rivalry. It became so bad that Esau wanted to kill Jacob. (see Genesis 27:41)

The Midrash tells us that when Esau was getting old, he called his grandson Amalek and said: "I tried to kill Jacob but was unable. Now I am entrusting you and your descendants with the important mission of annihilating Jacob's descendants - the Jewish People. Carry out this deed for me. Be relentless and do not show mercy."

Historically, we see Amalek and his descendants repeatedly trying to destroy the Jewish People. For example, in Exodus 17:8, they attacked the Jews even though Amalek lived in a distant land and was under no imminent threat. It was an act of pure hatred. For example :"Remember what Amalek did to you as you were leaving Egypt. He happened upon you, and struck the weakest people trailing behind, when you were exhausted. And he did not fear God." (Deut. 25:17-18); and, "God said to Moses: Write this remembrance in the book… that I will surely erase the memory of Amalek from under the heavens." (Exodus 17:14)

The Talmud explains: What is the meaning of the phrase "[Amalek] happened ("karcha") upon you..." (Deut. 25:18)? The Hebrew word "karcha" literally means coincidence. Amalek's entire philosophy is that there is no divine design or providence in the world. Everything is haphazard, dictated by chance, luck and fate. That's why the verse continues: "And [Amalek] did not fear God."

On the other hand, Jacob (and subsequently the Jewish People) represents the bastion of conscience and morality. While Jacob believed that God runs the world and there is an absolute standard of morality, Esau believed that life is random and morality, therefore, is subjective.

The Scroll of Esther (3:1) identifies Haman as a descendent of Agag, the King of Amalek. Haman's desire to wipe out the Jewish People was an expression of his long-standing national tradition. Philosophically, this conflict is much deeper than "sibling rivalry." Amalek and the Jewish People stand at two opposite ends of the philosophical spectrum. Please read the Book of Esther in the entire context of God's message to the human race. You will see how God's plan manifests itself in human history as the Lord saves His people from the wrath of Amalek's descendent Haman. The story of Haman fits perfectly into human history and, more importantly, into God's plan of salvation for all of mankind. This wonderful story shows us the power of God and His divine plan over the affairs of man. In respect to God's plan Queen Esther and her brother Mordecai would be the first to tell us that God knows best!

Andrew Vargo

Islamic Awareness has updated their article and revised their argument. Our answer to their new article is available here.

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