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#577041">Historical Errors of The Qur'an:
 Pharaoh and Haman

Elias Karîm, Qasim Iqbal and M S M Saifullah

1. Introduction

Controversy has prevailed since 1698 CE about the historicity (i.e., historical reality or authenticity) of a certain Haman, who according to the Qur'an was associated with the Court of Pharaoh to whom Moses (P) was sent as a Prophet by Almighty God (Allah):
Pharaoh said: "O


! 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]
Haman is mentioned six times in the Qur'an and is referred to as an intimate person belonging to the close circle of Pharaoh.
Western scholars have concluded that Haman is unknown to Egyptian history. The name Haman is first mentioned in the Biblical book of Esther, some 1,100 years after Pharaoh. The name is said to be Babylonian, not Egyptian. According to the book of Esther, Haman was a counsellor of Ahasuerus (the Biblical name of Xerxes) who as an enemy of the Jews. It has been suggested that Muhammad (P) mixed Biblical stories and Jewish myths of theTower of Babel, the story of Esther and Moses into a single confused account when composing the Qur'an.
We propose here to examine the various aspects of the controversy in light of recent historical and archaeological discoveries.

2. Criticisms by Western Scholars

Prominent Orientalists have not been able to correctly identify the Haman of the Qur'an, and have thus questioned his historicity. They have suggested that the appearance of Haman in the Qur'anic story of Moses and Pharaoh has resulted from a misreading of the Bible which moved Haman from the Persian court of King Ahasuerus to the Egyptian court of the Pharaoh.
The first author to enter the list of critics was Marraccio, confessor to Pope Innocent XI, in 1698 CE. The English rendering of critical Note 1 on page 526 of Marraccio's Latin translation of the Qur'an reads:
Mahumet has mixed up Sacred stories. He took


as the adviser of Pharaoh whereas in reality he was an adviser of Ahaseures, King of Persia. He also thought that the Pharaoh ordered construction for him of a lofty tower from the story of theTower of Babel. It is certain that in the Sacred Scriptures there is no such story of the Pharaoh. Be that as it may, he (Mahumet) has related a most incredible story. [1]
The Encyclopaedia Of Islam, which claims to have been prepared by a number of leading Orientalists, says:


, name of the person whom the Kur'an associates with Pharaoh, because of a still unexplained confusion with the minister of Ahasuerus in the Biblical book of Esther.[2]
After talking about this apparent 'confusion', Jeffery says about the origin of the word


The probabilities are that the word came to the Arabs from Jewish sources.[3]
George Sale in his translation of the Qur'an (footnote 'h' on the page) states:


This name is given to Pharaoh's Chief Minister, from which it is generally inferred that Muhammad has here made


, the favourite of Ahasueres, King of Persia, and who indisputably lived many ages after Moses, to be that Prophet's contemporary. But how-probable-so-ever this mistake may seem to us, it will be hard, if not impossible to convince a Muhammadan of it. [4]
Professor Torrey believed that the Prophet Muhammad(P) drew upon the Rabbinic legends of the Biblical book of Esther and even adapted the story of the Tower of Babel.[5]
On the mention of Haman, Professor Lammens states that it is:
"the most glaring anachronism" and is the result of "the confusion between


, minister of King Ahasuerus and the minister of Moses' Pharaoh."[6]
Consequently, it is not surprising to find Christian missionaries exploiting these commentaries in order to prove that the Qur'an contains serious contradictions. Yet all of the above statements are based on the misrepresentation of the historical value of the Biblical book of Esther, a misunderstanding of the Qur'an in general, and theunproven assumption that Muhammad (P) copied and in some cases altered the Biblical material when composing the Qur'an.
Before we show that the name Haman, as it is written in Arabic in the Qur'an, is the transliteration of the name of a person whose hieroglyphic orthograph is known today, let us first examine the authenticity and reliability the Biblical book of Esther from which the Prophet Muhammad (P) allegedly stole the character Haman.

#828768">3. A Critical Examination of The Biblical Evidence
 Used Against The Qur'an

The criticisms of the non-Muslim scholars are based solely on the assumptions that:

Because the Bible has been in existence longer than the Qur'an, the Biblical account is the correct one, as opposed to the Qur'anic, which is inaccurate and false.

The Bible is in conformity with firmly established secular knowledge, whereas the Qur'an contains certain incompatibilities.

Muhammad copied and in some cases altered the Biblical material when composing the Qur'an.

The whole basis for the Haman controversy is the appearance of a Haman in the Qur'an in a historical period different from that of the Bible. The claim that the Qur'anic account of Haman reflects confused knowledge of the Biblical story of Esther implies that any reference to a Haman must have come from the Bible. Furthermore, the assumption itself implies that either Haman is an unhistorical figure that never existed outside the Bible or that if he was historical, then he would have to be the prime minister of the Persian King Ahasueus, as depicted in Esther. Their assumptions obviously exclude the possibility that the Bible has its information wrong concerning Haman. Thus, only if the Book of Esther can be shown to be both historically reliable and accurate, are the non-Muslims justified in making the claim the Qur'an contradicts the earlier, more "reliable" historic Biblical account.

3.1 The Authenticity & Reliability of The Book Of Esther

The mention of Haman in the Bible is to be found in the story of Esther. Under Esther, Book Of, the Encyclopaedia Britannica states:

Old Testament book that belongs to the third section of the Judaic biblical canon, known as the Ketubim, or "Writings." In the Jewish Bible, Esther follows Ecclesiastes and Lamentations and is read on the festival of Purim (q.v.), which commemorates the rescue of the Jews from Haman's plottings. The Book of Esther is one of the Megillot, five scrolls read on stated Jewish religious holidays. Esther appears between Nehemiah and Job in the Protestant canon. In the Roman Catholic canon, Esther appears between Judith and Job and includes six chapters that are considered apocryphal in the Jewish and Protestant traditions.

The book purports to explain how the feast of Purim came to be celebrated by the Jews. Esther, the beautiful Jewish wife of the Persian king Ahasuerus (Xerxes I), and her cousin Mordecai persuade the king to retract an order for the general annihilation of Jews throughout the empire. The massacre had been plotted by the king's chief minister, Haman, and the date decided by casting lots (Purim). Instead, Haman was hanged on the gallows he built for Mordecai; and on the day planned for their annihilation, the Jews destroyed their enemies. According to the Book of Esther, the feast of Purim was established to celebrate that day, but this explanation is surely legendary. There is nothing close to a consensus, however, as to what historical event provided the basis for the story. The book may have been composed as late as the first half of the 2nd century BC, though the origin of the Purim festival could date to the Babylonian exile (6th century BC).
The secular character of the Book of Esther (the divine name is never mentioned) and its strong nationalistic overtones made its admission into the biblical canon highly questionable for both Jews and Christians. Apparently in response to the conspicuous absence of any reference to God in the book, the redactors (editors) of its Greek translation in the Septuagint interspersed many additional verses throughout the text that demonstrate Esther's and Mordecai's religious devotion. These so-called Additions to the Book of Esther do not appear in the Hebrew Bible, are treated as canonical in Roman Catholic Bibles, and are placed in the Apocrypha in Protestant Bibles. [7]

It is not surprising to find that some fifty years ago, C. C. Torrey, writing about the Book of Esther, asked on the pages of Harvard Theological Review:
Why is there no Greek translation of the Hebrew text? Every other book of the Hebrew Bible, whatever its nature, has its faithful rendering (at least one, often several) in Greek. For the canonical Esther, on the contrary, no such version is extant, nor is there evidence that one ever existed. [8]

It is common knowledge that the extant Greek versions of Esther are textually distant from the Hebrew Masoretic version. [9] The Greek version of the Book of Esther contains 107 additional verses that are not found in the Hebrew original. They were composed in Greek, probably in the 1st century BC , with the intention of making the story more religious in character and more relevant to the situation of the Jewish people. In Protestant Bibles, these passages are included as a separate book in the Old Testament Apocrypha. In most editions of the Bible used by Roman Catholics they are included with the original version of the book. Concerning the Greek Additions to Esther (Biblical Literature and Its Critical Interpretation), the Encyclopaedia Britannica states:
The Hebrew Book of Esther had a religious and social value to the Jews during the time of Greek and Roman anti-Semitism, though the Hebrew short story did not directly mention God's intervention in history --and even God himself is not named. To bring the canonical book up-to-date in connection with contemporary anti-Semitism and to stress the religious meaning of the story, additions were made in its Greek translation.

These Greek additions are:

1.      the dream of Mordecai (Esther's uncle), a symbolic vision written in the spirit of apocalyptic literature;

2.      the edict of King Artaxerxes (considered by some to be Artaxerxes II, but more probably Xerxes) against the Jews, containing arguments taken from classical anti-Semitism;

3.      the prayers of Mordecai and of Esther, containing apologies for what is said in the Book of Esther--Mordecai saying that he refused to bow before Haman (the grand vizier) because he is flesh and blood and Esther saying that she strongly detests her forced marriage with the heathen king;

4.      a description of Esther's audience with the King, during which the King's mood was favourably changed when he saw that Esther had fallen down in a faint;

5.      the decree of Artaxerxes on behalf of the Jews, in which Haman is called a Macedonian who plotted against the King to transfer thekingdom of Persia to the Macedonians; and

6.      the interpretation of Mordecai's dream and a colophon (inscription at the end of a manuscript with publication facts), where the date, namely, "the fourth year of the reign of Ptolemy and Cleopatra" (i.e., 114 BCE), is given. This indicates that the additions in the Greek Esther were written inEgypt under the rule of the Ptolemies.[10]

Again under Myth and Legend in the Persian Period (Judaism), the Encyclopaedia Britannica mentions:

The principal monument of Jewish story in the Persian period is the biblical Book of Esther, and this is basically the Judaized version of a Persian novella about the shrewdness of harem queens. The story was adapted to account for a popular festival named Purim, but this is probably a transmogrification of the Persian New Year. Such leading elements of the tale as the parade of Mordecai through the streets dressed in royal robes, the fight between the Jews and their adversaries, and the hanging of Haman and his sons seem, indeed, to reflect customs associated with that occasion, viz., the ceremonial ride of a common citizen through the capital, the mock combat between two teams representing Old Year and New Year, and the execution of the Old Year in effigy. [11]

The story in Esther also contains information that is known to be wrong, such as the suggestion thatPersia was divided into as many as 127 provinces or satrapies when the equivalent numbers given in historical sources do not exceed 30. The Book of Esther points rather to a romantic story than a historical chronicle. According to The Universal Jewish Encyclopaedia:
The majority of scholars, however, regard the book as a romance reflecting the customs of later times and given an ancient settings to avoid giving offence. They point out that the 127 provinces mentioned are in strange contrast to the historical twenty Persian Satrapies; that it is astonishing that while Mordecai is known to be a Jew, his ward and cousin, Esther, can conceal the fact that she is a Jewess - that the known queen of Xerxes, Amestris, can be identified with neither Vashti nor Esther; that it would have been impossible for a non-Persian person to be appointed prime minister or for a queen to selected except from the seven highest noble families; that Mordecai's ready access to the palaces is not in consonance with the strictness with which the Persian harems were guarded; that the laws of Medes and Persians were never irrevocable; and that the state of affairs in the book, amounting practically in civil war, could not have passed unnoticed by historians if this had actually occurred. The very tone of the book itself, its literary craftsmanship and the aptness of its situations, point rather to a romantic story than a historical chronicle. [12]

And some scholars trace its origin to be entirely non-Jewish:
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)


Isthar (Esther)

over the Elamite god

Hamman (Haman)


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.[13]

Most modern scholars now regard the book as a work of pure fiction. The Jewish Encyclopaedia asserts that:
Comparatively few modern scholars of note consider the narrative of Esther to rest on a historical foundation..... The vast majority of modern expositors have reached the conclusion that the book is a piece of pure fiction, although some writers qualify their criticism by an attempt to treat it as a historical romance. [14]

3.2 The Inclusion of The Book Of Esther As Part Of The Biblical Canon

Concerning the addition of the Book of Esther in the Bible Canon, The Universal Jewish Encyclopaedia informs us that:

The Book of Esther did not get into the Bible canon without a struggle.

According to a tradition it was opposed by many sages because it instituted a few festivals and did not mention the name of God. Ben Sira and Philo never cite from it, and Ezra does not refer to the story at all, though it deals with the same period of history. It was not until the 2nd century CE that Esther was finally accepted as a Scriptural book.[15]

The Jewish Encyclopaedia then cites examples of impossibilities of the story.[16] It further states:
In view of all evidence the authority of the Book of Esther as a historical record must be definitely rejected. Its position in the canon among the Hagiographa (the third part of the Jewish scriptures) or 'Ketubim' (writings, including Psalms, wisdom books, and other diverse literature) is the only thing which has induced Orthodox scholars to defend its historical character at all. Even the Jews of the first and second centuries of the common era questioned its right to be included among the canonical books of the Bible.[17]

Various historical and chronological inaccuracies and improbabilities have lead to the conclusion that the book, as a historical record, should be rejected. Another significant factor for its rejection is that no fragment of the Book of Esther has been found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. [18]

William Neil's One Volume Bible Commentary finds it difficult to understand how the Book of Esther ever came to be included in the Old Testament:
It is difficult to understand how the book of Esther ever came to be included in the Old Testament. The puzzle is to find any trace of religious conviction in it. The name of God is never mentioned, the atmosphere is one of political intrigue and the action revolves round the whims of a despot. There is in Esther little charity and no mercy but an abundance of hatred and slaughter. It was admitted into the Jewish canon with considerable misgivings, since the religious sentiments contained in the additions to Esther in the Greek version of the Old Testament had to be relegated to the Apocrypha (see p.319). The Christian Church accepted it with reluctance; the New Testament does not refer to it; Luther wished it had never been written and most commentators since this day have deplored it.[19]

Neither Jews nor Christians are happy with the inclusion of this book as part of the canon, and had it not been for the festival of Purim (unknown in the Old Testament) there would be very little to recommend it:

Neither Jews nor Christians, however, have been happy with the presence of the book in the canon of the holy scripture. Its status was hotly debated by rabbis all through the first two centuries AD, and they obviously accepted it only because of the demand of the masses. Among Christians also there was a question about its status. Martin Luther declared that he wished it did not exist. It must be admitted that without the popularity of the festival of Purim the book would have had little to recommend it for a place in the canon".[20]

3.3 The Historicity of the Biblical Haman and King Ahasuerus

From the foregoing quotations it is clear that Judaeo-Christian scholars consider this story to be a fable, and of little or no historical value. And furthermore, no scholar can claim that the characters of this story, notably Haman, actually ever existed. In fact, all characters in the Book of Esther, with the possible exception of Ahasuerus, are unknown to history even though it claims that its events are "written in the Book of the Chronicles ofthe kings of Media and Persia"

(Esther 10:2).
Concerning Haman, Encyclopaedia Judaica states:
Various explanations have been offered to explain the name and designation of the would-be exterminator of the Jews. The names of both Haman and his father have been associated with haoma, a sacred drink used in Mithraic worship, and with the Elamite god Humman. The name Haman has also been related to the Persianhamayun, 'illustrious', and to the Persian name Owanes. [21]
The Interpreter's Dictionary Of The Bible shares a similar view:
Some scholars view the story of Esther as reflecting a mythological struggle between the gods ofBabylon and Elam, with Haman identified as the Elamite god Humman.[22]

The Ahasuerus (PersianKhshayarsha , Greek Xerxes) of the Book of Esther is generally identified with King Xerxes I  (c. 519-465 BC ), king ofPersia (486-465 BC ).  The Webster's Biographical Dictionary informs us that:


: Name as used in the Bible, of two unidentified kings of Persia: (1) the great king whose capital was Shushan, modern Susa, sometimes identified with Xerxes the Great, but chronological and other data conflict; (2) the father of Darius the Mede.[23]

There exists an unhistorical Haman in the book of Esther. This unhistorical Haman is portrayed as the prime minister of Ahasuerus (Xerxes I?), King of Persia, but the events recorded in the Book of Esther show little correlation with those of the actual reign of Xerxes I.

3.4 Conclusions Concerning The Book Of Esther & Its Use As An Evidence Against The Qur'an

The Encyclopaedia Biblica concludes that the Book of Esther is:
a tissue of improbabilities and impossibilities..... Further, notwithstanding the dates which he gives us, the author had in reality no notion of chronology.... That the Book of Esther cannot be regarded as a genuine historical work is avowed even by many adherents of ecclesiastical tradition. Since, however, the most essential parts of the story, namely the deliverance of the Jews from complete extermination and their murderous reprisals by means of the Jewish queen and the Jewish minister, are altogether unhistorical, it is impossible to treat the book as an embellished version of some real event....

and we are forced to conclusion that the whole narrative is fictitious


A few conclusions can now be drawn:

The book is of secular character with strong nationalistic overtones. The 'inspired book' of Esther does not even mention God!

The story of Esther is regarded as fictitious and should be rejected as a historical record.

The story is borrowed from Persian novella, and its contents reflect the customs associated with the Persians. These Persian customs later became "Judiased".

The absence of the name of God led to religiously motivated additions of over 100 verses to the Greek version of the book. These additions do not appear in the original Hebrew text but are accepted as canonical in Roman Catholic Bibles; and in Protestant Bibles form a separate book in the Apocrypha.

Thus Book of Esther cannot be accepted as a reliable historical document nor as a divinely inspired book. And furthermore, it cannot in anyway be

used as evidence against the Qur'an; evidence that is used to show how the Qur'an contradicts both secular knowledge and the earlier, more "reliable" Biblical account.

Yet we find Christian missionaries using the Book of Esther, proclaiming it to be a reliable historical record, in a vain attempt to prove that the Qur'an contains a contradiction! Anexample that is often parroted is reproduced below:
This is another possible example of two historical compressions in the same story and the same confusion in both texts that recount the event. At least the Qur'an is consistent within itself.
According to Surah 28:35-42 and 40:36-37, Haman was a minister or official of the Pharaoh (king ofEgypt) who lived in the same time as Moses.

According to Jewish history Haman served as the minister of Ahasuerus

(king of

Persia, Xerxes I is his name in Greek).

Apart from the error in location, this is placing Pharaoh (Moses) and Haman in the same story even though they lived 1,000 years apart. [See Esther 3:1.]
Furthermore, in the Qur'an Haman is ordered by Pharaoh to build a tower reaching into heaven ("the Tower of Babel") which is a well known story of an event that took place long before Abraham, who lived at least 400 years before Moses. [See Genesis 11:1-9, especially the verses 3-4, "Let us build make bricks and bake them thoroughly. ... and build a ... tower that reaches to the heavens."]

4. Pharaoh and Haman in the Qur'an

Let us now examine the passages in the Qur'an concerning the Pharaoh and Haman in light of recent historical and archaeological discoveries.
The Qur'anic verses concerning Pharaoh and Haman tell us that:

Pharaoh was a god

The making of bricks in Ancient Egypt

The desire of Pharaoh to ascend to the sky

A certain Haman who was close to Pharaoh

4.1 Egyptology and Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs

In order to investigate these statements requires a deep understanding of Egyptology and Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. The Bible does not provide any information regarding the above mentioned statements; nor, as far as we are aware, any secular literature from the time of the Prophet (P) .
Furthermore, it is a fact that the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs had been totally forgotten at the time of the Qur'anic Revelation and that no one could not read them until the 19th century CE. Hieroglyphics is a system of writing which uses pictures to represent words and ideas. The Encyclopaedia Britannica states (Under Hieroglyph):
In the period of the 3rd dynasty (c. 2650-c. 2575 BC), many of the principles of hieroglyphic writing were regularised. From that time on, until the script was supplanted by an early version of Coptic (about the 3rd and 4th centuries AD), the system remained virtually unchanged. Even the number of signs used remained constant at about 700 for more than 2,000 years. With the rise of Christianity in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD came the decline and ultimate demise not only of the ancient Egyptian religion but of its hieroglyphics as well. The use, by the Egyptian Christians, of an adapted form of the Greek alphabet, caused a correspondingly widespread disuse of the native Egyptian script. The last known use of hieroglyphics is on an inscription dated AD 394.[25]

The Egyptian hieroglyphic script was deciphered after the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, a bilingual text dating from 196 BC. Encyclopaedia Britannica states (Under Hieroglyph):
The discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1799 was to provide the key to the final unlocking of the mystery. The stone was inscribed with three different scripts: hieroglyphic, demotic, and Greek. Based on the stone's own declaration, in the Greek portion, that the text was identical in all three cases, several significant advances were made in translation.
A.I. Silvestre de Sacy, a French scholar, and J.D. Akerblad, a Swedish diplomat, succeeded in identifying a number of proper names in the demotic text. Akerblad also correctly assigned phonetic values to a few of the signs. An Englishman, Thomas Young, correctly identified five of the hieroglyphics.
The full deciphering of the stone was accomplished by another Frenchman, Jean-Françoise Champollion. He brought to the stone a natural facility for languages (having, by age 16, become proficient in six ancient Oriental languages as well as Greek and Latin). By comparison of one sign with another, he was able to determine the phonetic values of the hieroglyphics. Later studies simply confirmed and refined Champollion's work. [26]
It is a fact that the hieroglyphs had been totally forgotten at the time of the Qur'anic Revelation and that no one could read them until Champollion finally deciphered the script in the 19th century CE. Keeping the recent decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs in mind, let us now discuss the above mentioned historical facts.

4.2 The Pharaoh As God

For all kings the Bible uses the term "


" to address the rulers of Egypt. The Qur'an however differs from the Bible: the sovereign of Egypt who was a contemporary of Joseph(P) is named "


" (Arabic,mâlik); he is never once addressed as Pharaoh. As for the king who ruled during the time of Moses(P) the Qur'an repeatedly calls him "


" (Arabic,Fir'awn). These differences in detail between the Biblical and Qur'anic narrations appear to have great significance and is discussed in the paper:Qur'anic Accuracy vs. Biblical Error: The Kings and Pharaohs of Egypt.

Concerning Pharaoh the Qur'an says:
Pharaoh said: "O Chiefs! no god do I know for you but myself." [Qur'an 28:38]
Then he (Pharaoh) collected (his men) and made a proclamation, Saying, "I am your Lord, Most High". [Qur'an 79:23-24]
The Encyclopaedia Britannica informs us that the term "


" originally referred to the royal residence, and was later applied to the king during the New Kingdom period (1539-1292 BC), and that the Pharaoh was indeed considered a god:


(from Egyptian per 'aa, "great house") , originally, the royal palace in ancient Egypt; the word came to be used as a synonym for the Egyptian king under the New Kingdom (starting in the 18th dynasty, 1539-1292 BC), and by the 22nd dynasty (c. 945-c. 730 BC) it had been adopted as an epithet of respect. The term has since evolved into a generic name for all ancient Egyptian kings, although it was never formally the king's title. In official documents, the full title of the Egyptian king consisted of five names, each preceded by one of the following titles: Horus; Two Ladies; Golden Horus; King of Upper and Lower Egypt and Lord of the Double Land; and Son of Re and Lord of the Diadems. The last name was given him at birth, the others at coronation.
The Egyptians believed their Pharaoh to be a god, identifying him with the sky god Horus and with the sun gods Re, Amon, and Aton. Even after death the Pharaoh remained divine, becoming transformed into Osiris, the father of Horus and god of the dead, and passing on his sacred powers and position to the new Pharaoh, his son.
The Pharaoh's divine status was believed to endow him with magical powers: hisuraeus (the snake on his crown) spat flames at his enemies, he was able to trample thousands of the enemy on the battlefield, and he was all-powerful, knowing everything and controlling nature and fertility. As a divine ruler, the Pharaoh was the preserver of the God-given order, calledma'at. He owned a large portion ofEgypt's land and directed its use, was responsible for his people's economic and spiritual welfare, and dispensed justice to his subjects. His will was supreme, and he governed by royal decree. [27]
And concerning Pharaoh, Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary says:
The Egyptians believed that he was a god and the keys to the nation's relationship to the cosmic gods. While the Pharaoh ruled, he was the son of Ra, the sun god and the incarnation of Horus. He came from the gods with divine responsibility to rule the land for them. His word was law, and he owned everything. When the Pharaoh died, he became the god Osiris, the ruler of the underworld... [28]

4.3 The Making Of Bricks In Ancient Egypt

In the Qur'an the Pharaoh, who boastful and mocking, asks his associate Haman to build a lofty tower:
Pharaoh said: "O Haman! light me a (kiln to bake bricks) out of clay, and build me a lofty palace (Arabic:Sarhan, lofty tower or 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]
The command of Pharaoh was but a boast, but a new question now arises:Were mud bricks ever burnt (baked) in Egypt at this time? It is a well known fact, borne out by archaeological research, that mud bricks and baked bricks were manufactured in ancientEgypt. According to A.J. Spencer's Brick Architecture In Ancient Egypt the use of burnt brick did not become common until the Roman period although the Ancient Egyptians were aware that mud-bricks could be hardened by burning:
The use of burnt brick in Egypt did not become common until the Roman Period, but there is sufficient evidence to show that the material was known from a very early date, although used infrequently. Long bars of baked clay were employed in the Predynastic grain-kilns at Abydos and Mahasna, and, while these cannot be called bricks, they show knowledge of the effect of baking on ordinary mud. It is impossible that early Egyptians were unaware of the fact that mud-bricks could be hardened by burning, since they could have observed this process in any building which, by accident or design, was gutted by fire. Several examples of this accidental production of burnt brick occur in the large First Dynasty tombs at Saqqara, due to their having been burnt by plunderers, and similar cases must have been fairly common. However, we have, as yet, no evidence that Egyptians deliberately prepared burnt bricks for use in buildings during the Archaic Period or the Old Kingdom, the earliest examples of their use being in the Middle Kingdom fortresses inNubia, in which they were used as paving-slabs. These slabs, which measure 30 x 30 x 5cm,re employed because of their greater resistance to wear and to damp, compared with mud brick. [29]

The earliest examples of Egyptians deliberately preparing burnt brick date from the Middle Kingdom, and no more instances of burnt brick are recorded until the time of the New Kingdom (the period of history in which Moses(P) is associated) when they occur in conjunction with funerary cones in the superstructures of the tombs at Thebes.[30]

The materials used in ancient brick making wereNile mud, chopped straw and sand:
These were mixed in varying quantities to produce bricks of different characteristics. The commonest type of bricks consist of mud and chopped straw with a small addition of sand, but varieties regularly occur which made up of nothing but sand and gravelly desert soil. [31]
The clay content determines whether the mud will be sufficiently cohesive to form bricks without the addition of binding agents such as chopped straw or animal dung:
Ancient bricks were made in much the same way as mud bricks are still made in Egypt. The most important ingredient was Nile mud which naturally contains clay and sand in varying proportions. The clay content determines whether the mud will be sufficiently cohesive to form bricks without the addition of a binding agent such as chopped straw or animal dung. If the mud is too rich in clay, the bricks will dry out slowly and tend to shrink and crack. The process of making bricks is shown in the tomb of Rekhmire at Thebes. The earth mixed with water, and the vegetable binder if necessary, is worked into a smooth mud. This is then formed into bricks by being pressed into a rectangular wooden mould and tipped out on to the ground to dry in the sun (fig. 11). Rows of these bricks may be seen in brickfields today, though the modern blocks are likely to contain cement powder to add strength and to accelerate the hardening process. Many bricks intended for important buildings were marked with impressions from a wooden stamp usually bearing the name of the King who commissioned the building. The majority of bricks were not kiln-fired or baked, as was the custom in Mesopotamia at the same time, since the climate ofEgypt was much drier and there was no significant problem with rain or wind erosion. Occasionally 'burnt' bricks were used to pave streets or ceremonial ways where sun-dried bricks would be quickly worn away by use or eroded by water. In general building use, damaged bricks or those which had crumbled with age could be 'recycled' by being crushed and mixed with water and fresh mud to start a new batch.[32]

It is believed that the art of brick making was imported intoEgypt from Mesopotamia to produce some magnificent monuments. A.J. Spencer concludes:
From the foregoing, it must be concluded that

burnt brick was known in

Egypt at all periods

, but used only when its durability would give particular advantage over the mud brick.[33]

Finally, the command of Pharaoh to build a lofty tower out of baked bricks has nothing whatsoever to do with the fictitious Biblical story of the "Tower of Babel."
(For a further discussion regarding the use of burnt bricks in Ancient Egypt see:Were Burnt Bricks Used in Ancient Egypt in the Time of Moses (P)?)

4.4 The Desire of The Pharaoh To Ascend To The Skies

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 (Arabic:Sarhan, lofty tower or 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 (Arabic:Sarhan), 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]
The desire to ascend to the gods in the sky was an article of the ancient Egyptian religion. The idea of the Pharaoh climbing a tower or staircase to reach the God of Moses (P) is in consonance with the mythology of ancientEgypt. The Pharaoh, asks the gods (or men) to construct a staircase or a tower in order to climb and converse with the gods:
Standing before the gods, the Pharaoh shows his authority.

He orders them to construct a staircase so that he may climb to the sky.

If they do not obey him, they will have neither food nor offerings. But the king takes one precaution. It is not he himself, as an individual, who speaks, but the divine power: "It is not I who say this to you, the gods, it is the Magic who speaks".
When the Pharaoh completes his climb, magic at his feet "The sky trembles", he asserts, "the earth shivers before me, for I am a magician, I possess magic". It is also he who installs the gods on their thrones, thus proving that the cosmos recognises his omnipotence.[34]

In the Qur'an, the Pharaoh, who boastful and mocking asks his close associate Haman to build a sky-high tower in order to see the God of Moses (P) face-to-face. Furthermore, the desire of Pharaoh to ascend to the sky has nothing whatsoever to do with the fictitious Biblical story of the "Tower of Babel."

4.5 The Mystery Of The Name Haman

Haman is mentioned six times in the Qur'an: surah 28, verses 6, 8 and 38; surah 29, verse 39; and surah 40, verses 24 and 36. He was close to Pharaoh who, boastful and mocking, said:
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 (Arabic:Sarhan, lofty tower or 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]
"O Haman! Build me a lofty palace (Arabic:Sarhan,lofty tower or palace), that I may attain the ways and means- The ways and means of (reaching) theheavens, 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]

The aboveayahs portray Haman as someone close to Pharaoh, who was also in charge of building projects; otherwise the Pharaoh would have directed someone else. So, who is Haman? It appears that no commentator of the Qur'an has dealt with this question on a thorough hieroglyphic basis. As previously mentioned, some authors have suggested that "Haman" is reference to Haman, a counsellor of Ahasuerus who was an enemy of the Jews. While others have been searching for consonances with the name of the Egyptian god "Amun."[35]

Concerning the question of Haman, Dr. Maurice Bucaille believes that the best course of action was to ask an expert in Old Egyptian:
The only valid investigation was to ask an expert in Old Egyptian for his opinion about the presence in the Qur'an of this name.[36]

Dr. Maurice Bucaille then narrates an interesting discussion he had with a prominent French Egyptologists:
In the book Reflections on the Qur'an (Réflexions sur le Coran[37]), I have related the result of such a consultation that dates back to a dozen years ago and led me to question a specialist who, in addition, knew well the classical Arabic language. One of the most prominent French Egyptologists, fulfilling these conditions, was kind enough to answer the question.
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 AD, the sentence being 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 theDictionary of Personal Names of the New Kingdom by Ranke,[38] where I might find the name written in hieroglyphs, as he had written before me, and the transliteration in German.
I discovered all that had been presumed by the expert, and, moreover, I was stupefied to read the profession of Haman:

"The Chief of the workers in the stone-quarries,"

exactly what could be deduced from the Qur'an, though the words of the Pharaoh suggest a master of construction.
When 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 where he could read the name, he was speechless...

Moreover, Ranke had noted, as a reference, a book published in 1906 by the Egyptologist Walter Wreszinski:[39]the latter had mentioned that the name of "Haman" had been engraved on a stela kept at the Hof-Museum of Vienna (Austria).[40] Several years later, when I was able to read the profession written in hieroglyphs on the stela, I observed that the determinative[41] joined to the name had emphasised the importance of the intimate of Pharaoh.[42]

And he went on to say:

Had the Bible or any other literary work, composed during a period when the hieroglyphs could still be deciphered, quoted "Haman," the presence in the Qur'an of this word might have not drawn special attention. But, it is a fact that the hieroglyphs had been totally forgotten at the time of the Qur'anic Revelation and that no one could not read them until the 19th century AD. Since matters stood like that in ancient times, the existence of the word "Haman" in the Qur'an suggests a special reflection.[43]

It is obvious, therefore, that there is no evidence whatsoever that the appearance of Haman in the Qur'an in a historical period different from that of the Bible involves any confusion with the Biblical version of history as claimed by a number of Orientalists and Christian Missionaries. There is clearly

no basis

for their allegations, that the Prophet Muhammad (P) mixed Biblical stories and Jewish myths of theTower of Babel, Esther and Moses (P) into a single confused account when composing the Qur'an.

Such false allegations continue to persist and are widely circulated. Unfortunately, one will find this type of methodology being used over-and-over again. We regularly encounter baseless allegations which are used to attack the Qur'an and the noble character of the Prophet Muhammad (P). Other documents to be found on this web-site will bear testimony to the false and intellectually dishonest arguments that are sometimes employed against Islam.

5. Conclusions

In this article we have tried to show the historicity of a few statements made in the Qur'an concerning ancientEgypt: the role of the Pharaoh in Egyptian society as god, the desire of Pharaoh to ascend to the sky, and the use of bricks in Egyptian construction and the person Haman.

When one compares the data of Egyptology to what is contained in numerous verses of the Qur'an, one has to admit that there is a remarkable degree of agreement between the two. The Egyptological data quoted above shows that the name Haman is a personal name of theNew Kingdom. Although neither the Bible nor the Qur'an name the Pharaoh, we do know that one of his counselors was called Haman whose hieroglyphic name has been engraved on a stela kept at the Hof-Museum ofVienna (Austria); the secular data is not precise enough to determine who the Pharaoh was in question. [44]

The historicity of Haman provides yet another death-blow to the theory that parts of the Qur'an wereallegedly copied from the Bible. If hieroglyphs were long dead and the Book of Esther a work of fiction, then from where did the Prophet Muhammad (P) obtain his information? The Qur'an answers:
Your Companion is neither astray nor being misled. Nor does he say (aught) of (his own) Desire. It is no less than inspiration sent down to him. He was taught by one mighty in Power. [Qur'an 53:2 - 5]

It is interesting to note that the meaning of the wordayah, usually translated as verse in the Qur'an, also means a sign and a proof. The reference to Haman and other facts concerning ancientEgypt in the Qur'an suggests a special reflection.
The fact remains that there is an unhistorical Haman in the book of Esther. This unhistorical Haman is portrayed as the prime minister of Ahasuerus, King of Persia. The plot of the unhistorical Haman to annihilate the Jews in the Persian Empire in retaliation to Mordecai's refusal to bow to him seems to be the corrupt version of the original event when Haman had a hand in suggesting and executing the second massacre of the Israelites newborn males to demoralise the Israelites and discourage them from following Moses:

And indeed We sent Moses with Our ayat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelation, etc.), and a manifest authority.
To Pharaoh, Haman and Qarun, but they called (him): "A sorcerer, a liar!"
Then, when he brought them the Truth from Us, they said "Kill the sons of those who believe with him and let their women live"; but the plots of the disbelievers are nothing but in vain! [Qur'an 40:23 - 25]
There is more information that needs to be researched concerning Ancient Egypt in the Qur'an. We will be updating the information on this website as soon as new information becomes available.

Notes & References

[1] Ludwig Marroccio (Confessor to the Pope Innocent XI), Alcoranus Textus Universus: 1698, Published at Paduae, Italy.
[2] B Lewis, V LMenage,Ch. Pellat and J Schacht (Editors), Encyclopaedia of Islam (New Edition): 1971, Volume III, E J Brill (Leiden) & Luzac & Co. (London), p. 110.
[3] Arthur Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur'an: 1938, Oriental Institute, Baroda, pp. 284.
[4] George Sale, The Koran: 1825, Volume II, London, p. 239.
[5] C. C. Torrey, Jewish Foundation of Islam: 1933, New York, See pages 117 and 119.
[6] H. Lammens (Translated from French by Sir E Denison Ross), Islam: Beliefs and Institutions: 1929, Methuen & Co. Ltd., London, p. 39.
[7] Britannica Online: Encyclopaedia Britannica On TheWorld Wide Web, (Under "Esther, Book of").
[8] C. C. Torrey, "The Older Book of Esther", 1944, Harvard Theological Review, 37, p. 1.
[9] It has recently been suggested that the Slavonic book of Esther may in fact have been translated from the lost Greek text. See Horace G Lunt & Moshe Taube, "The Slavonic Book of Esther: Translation From Hebrew Or Evidence For A Lost Greek Text?", 1994, Harvard Theological Review, 87, p. 347.
[10] Britannica Online,Op.cit., (Under "the Greek Additions To Esther [Biblical Literature and Its Critical Interpretation]").
[11] Britannica Online,Op. cit., (Under "the Myth And Legend in the Persian Period (Judaism)").
[12] The Universal Jewish Encyclopaedia: 1941, Volume 4, The Universal Jewish Encyclopaedia Inc.,New York, p. 170.
[14] The Jewish Encyclopaedia: 1905, Volume V, Funk & Wagnalls Company, pp. 235-236.
[15] The Universal Jewish Encyclopaedia,Op.cit., p. 170.
[16] The Jewish Encyclopaedia,Op.cit., p. 236.
[18] Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan (Ed.), Oxford
Companion To The Bible: 1993, Oxford University Press, Oxford & New York, pp. 159 (Under "Dead Sea Scrolls").
[19] William Neil, William Neil's One Volume Bible Commentary, 1962 (1976 print), "Esther", Hodder and Stoughton Ltd, London, p. 219.
[20] Interpreter's One Volume Commentary On The Bible: 1972, William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd,London, pp. 232-233.
[21] Encyclopaedia Judaica: Volume 7, Encyclopaedia Judaica Jerusalem, The Macmillan Company (Under "Haman"), p. 1222.
[22] The Interpreter's Dictionary Of The Bible: 1962 (1996 Print), George Arthur Buttrick (Ed.), Volume 2, Abingdon Press, Nashville (Under "Haman"), p. 516.
[23] Webster's Biographical Dictionary: 1972, G & C Merriam Co., Springfield, USA, p. 17.
[24] The Rev. T. K. Cheyne & J. Sutherland Black (Ed.), Encyclopaedia Biblica: 1901, Volume II, The Macmillan Company, New York, Columns 1400-1402.
[25] Britannica Online,Op. cit., (Under "Hieroglyph").
[27] Britannica Online,Op. cit., (Under "Pharaoh").
[28] Herbert Lockyer, Sr. (General Editor), F.F. Bruce et al, (Consulting Editors), Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary: 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers, (under "Pharaoh").
[29] A. J. Spencer, Brick Architecture In Ancient Egypt: 1979, Aris & Phillips Ltd., UK, p. 140.
[31]Ibid, p. 3.
[32] Hilary Wilson, People of the Pharaohs: From Peasant to Courtier: 1997, Michael O'Mara Books Limited, London, pp. 36-37.
[33] A. J. Spencer,Op. cit., p. 141.
[34] Christian Jacq (Translated By Janet M Davis), Egyptian Magic: 1985, Aris & Phillips Ltd. (In the UK) & Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers,Chicago (In the USA), p. 11.
[35] Syed suggests that "Haman" is a title of a person not his name, just as Pharaoh was a title and not a proper personal name. Syed proposes that the title "Haman" referred to the "high priest of Amun". Amun is also known as "Hammon" and both are normal pronounciations of the same name. Syed's identification of Haman as "the high priest of Amun" may be probable. See Sher Mohammad Syed, "Historicity Of Haman As Mentioned In The Qur'an", The Islamic Quarterly: 1980, Volume XXIV, No. 1 and 2, First & Second Quarter, Islamic Cultural Centre, London.
[36] Maurice Bucaille, Moses and Pharaoh: The Hebrews in Egypt: 1995, NTT Mediascope Inc., Tokyo, pp. 192-193.
[37] Mohamed Talbi and Maurice Bucaille, Réflexions sur le Coran: 1989, Seghers, Paris.
[38] Hermann Ranke, Die Ägyptischen Personennamen, Verzeichnis der Namen, Verlag Von J J Augustin in Glückstadt, Band I (1935).
[39] Walter Wreszinski, Aegyptische Inschriften aus dem K.K. Hof Museum in Wien: 1906, J C Hinrichs' sche Buchhandlung,Leipzig.
[40] The name is listed as masculine, from the New Kingdom. The profession translated into German readsVorsteher der Steinbruch arbeiter- "The Chief/Overseer of the workers in the stone-quarries"  (Aegyptische Inschriften, I34, p. 130).
[41] In hieroglyphic writing words are sometimes written with meaning-signs, ordeterminatives, placed at the end of the word. Determinatives do not contribute to the sounds of the word and so are not transliterated. They simply help us to get some general idea of the meaning of a word. Most determinatives serve to indicate the general category of the word they describe. Determinative signs can also assist when translating old Egyptian. The ancient Egyptians had a habit of writing sentences without spaces between words, and without an indication of the start of a new sentence. Because determinative signs are placed at the end of words, they provide a means to decipher the sentence.
[42] Bucaille, Moses and Pharaoh: The Hebrews in Egypt,Op. cit. pp. 192-193.
[44] It is not possible to determine whether this inscription refers to the Qur'anic Haman. What we do know however is that the name Haman is attested in Ancient Egypt,  it is a masculine name, and dates to the New Kingdom period, the period of history in which Moses is associated.

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