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Historical Errors Of The Qur'an: Pharaoh & Haman Print E-mail
Written by mquran.org   
Sunday, 19 November 2006
1. Introduction

Controversy has prevailed since the late 17th century CE about the historicity of a certain Haman, who according to the Qur'an, was associated with the court of Pharaoh to whom Moses was sent as a Prophet by Almighty God (Allah):

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]

Haman is mentioned six times in the Qur'an and is referred to as an intimate person belonging to the close circle of Pharaoh.

Many 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 was an enemy of the Jews. It has been suggested that Prophet Muhammad mixed Biblical stories, namely the Jewish myths of the Tower of Babel and the story of Esther and Moses into a single confused account when composing the Qur'an.

We propose 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, leading the author of the Qur'an to move Haman from the Persian court of King Ahasuerus to the Egyptian court of the Pharaoh.

The first writer to enter the list of critics was Ludovico Marraccio, confessor to Pope Innocent XI. Published in 1698 CE, the English rendering of critical Note 1 on page 526 of Marraccio's Latin translation of the Qur'an read:

Mahumet has mixed up sacred stories. He took Haman 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 the Tower 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]

George Sale in his translation of the Qur'an said:

This name is given to Pharaoh's Chief Minister, from which it is generally inferred that Muhammad has here made Haman, 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.[2]

In what has been hailed as a "classic" article by Theodor Nöldeke that was published in Encyclopædia Britannica in 1891 CE and reprinted several times since, the author says:

The most ignorant Jew could never have mistaken Haman (the minister of Ahasuerus) for the minister of the Pharaoh...[3]

While dealing with the "wonderful anachronisms about the old Israelite history" in the Qur'an, Mingana says:

Who then will not be astonished to learn that in the Koran... Haman is given as a minister of Pharaoh, instead of Ahaseurus?[4]

On the mention of Haman in the Qur'an, Henri Lammens states that it is:

"the most glaring anachronism" and is the result of "the confusion between... Haman, minister of King Ahasuerus and the minister of Moses' Pharaoh."[5]

Similar views were also echoed by Josef Horovitz.[6] Charles Torrey believed that Muhammad drew upon the rabbinic legends of the Biblical book of Esther and even adapted the story of the Tower of Babel.[7] After talking about the apparent 'confusion' generated by this cobbling together of multiple sources, Arthur Jeffery says about the origin of the word 'Haman':

The probabilities are that the word came to the Arabs from Jewish sources.[8]

The Encyclopaedia Of Islam, which claims to have been prepared by a number of leading Orientalists, under "Haman" says:

Haman, 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.[9]

This claim has been repeated again by the Encyclopaedia Of Islam under "Fir`awn". It says:

As Pharaoh's counsellor there appears a certain Haman who is responsible in particular for building a tower which will enable Pharaoh to reach the God of Moses... the narrative in Exodus is thus modified in two respects, by misplaced recollection of both the book of Esther and the story of the tower of Babel (Genesis, xi) to which no other reference occurs in the Kur'an.[10]

Although the Encyclopaedia Of The Qur'an uses a mellowed down language when discussing Haman, it instead describes various possible views of who Haman was, it says:

There are conflicting views as to Haman's identity and the meaning of his name. Among them is that he is the minister of King Ahasuerus who has been shifted, anachronistically, from the Persian empire to the palace of Pharaoh... Other suggestion is that Haman is an Arabized echo of the Egyptian Ha-Amen, the title of a high priest second only in rank to Pharaoh.[11]

Consequently, it is not surprising to find some people[12] and atheists like Ibn Warraq[13] exploiting these comments 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'anic narrative in general and the  unproven assumption that Muhammad copied and in some cases altered the Biblical material while he was allegedly composing the Qur'an. It can be said with certainty that this is the most "celebrated" contradiction in the Qur'an among some people on the internet.

Let us first examine the authenticity and reliability of the Biblical book of Esther from which Muhammad supposedly appropriated the character Haman.

3. A Critical Examination Of The Biblical Evidence Used Against The Qur'an

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

  1. 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 account, which is necessarily inaccurate and false.
     
  2. The Bible is in conformity with firmly established secular knowledge, whereas the Qur'an contains certain incompatibilities.
     
  3. 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, this 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 Ahasuerus, as depicted in Esther. Unsurprisingly, their assumptions obviously preclude 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.

THE HISTORICITY OF THE BOOK OF ESTHER AND ITS CHARACTERS

One of the most important questions that come to mind is whether the book of Esther and the characters present in it have any historicity. This is not an issue which has been tackled by those claimants of a historical "error" in the Qur'an, even though this position leads to a circular argument. Let us now discuss the views of the Judaeo-Christian scholars concerning the historicity of the book of Esther and its characters.

That the Jewish and Christian scholars have denied the historicity of the book of Esther is something of an understatement. The people who subscribe to the historicity of the book of Esther are those whose dogmatic approach to historical and theological exegesis precludes the possibility of any historical problems arising from the Biblical narrative; included in this group are some people and apologists as well as other evangelical fundamentalist type Christians. While discussing the historical problems of the book of Esther, Professor Jon Levinson, Albert A. List Professor of Jewish Studies at Harvard Divinity School, says:

Even if we make this questionable adjustment, the historical problems with Esther are so massive as to persuade anyone who is not already obligated by religious dogma to believe in the historicity of the biblical narrative to doubt the veracity of the narrative.[14]

Naturally this statement does not sit comfortably with those evangelical fundamentalist type Christians for whom each and every book contained in the Bible is the infallible, inerrant, eternal "word" of God; even more so with those who have used the book of Esther to substantiate the historical "contradiction" in the Qur'anic account of Haman. The problems with the historicity of the book of Esther have been dealt with by Michael Fox, professor of Hebrew at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who also specializes in Egyptian literature and its relationship with the Biblical literature. He has detailed the arguments for and against the book's historicity.[15] Fox also mentions numerous inaccuracies, implausibilities and outright impossibilities in this Biblical book. After considering the arguments in detail, it is not surprising to see Fox conclude with the following negative assessment:

Various legendary qualities as well as several inaccuracies and implausibilities immediately throw doubt on the book's historicity and give the impression of a writer recalling vaguely remembered past.[16]

Similar assessments were made by Lewis Paton[17] and Carey Moore[18] and they both arrived at the conclusion that the story in the book of Esther is not historical.

The problems with the book of Esther would be evident as we discuss the information in various encyclopedias and commentaries. The Universal Jewish Encyclopaedia, under "Esther", says:

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 be 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.

Some scholars even trace it to a non-Jewish origin entirely; it is, in their opinion, either a reworking of a triumph of the Babylonian gods Marduk (Mordecai) and Ishtar (Esther) over the Elamite gods Humman (Haman) and Mashti (Vashti), or of the suppression of the Magians by Darius I, or even 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.[19]

Published about one hundred years ago, The Jewish Encyclopaedia already asserted 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.[20]

The more recent JPS Bible Commentary is quite frank about the exaggeration and the lack of historicity of the story in the biblical book of Esther. It labels the story in the book of Esther as a "farce":

The language, like the story, is full of exaggeration and contributes to the sense of excess. There are exaggerated numbers (127 provinces, a 180-day party, a 12-month beauty preparation, Haman's offer of 10,000 talents of silver, a stake 50 cubits high, 75,000 enemy dead)... Esther's attempt to sound like a historical work is tongue in cheek and not to be taken at face value. The author was not trying to write history, or to convince his audience of the historicity of his story (although later readers certainly took it this way). He is, rather, offering a burlesque of historiography... The archival style, like the verbal style, make the story sound big and fancy, official and impertinent at the same time - and this is exactly the effect that is required for such a book. All these stylistic features reinforce the sense that the story is a farce.[21]

The Peake's Commentary On The Bible discusses the historicity of the characters and events mentioned in the book of Esther. It aptly describes the book as a novel with no historical basis. Furthermore, it deals with possible identification of Esther, Haman, Vashti and Mordecai with the Babylonian and Elamite gods and goddess.

The story is set in the city of Susa in the reign of Akhashwerosh, king of Persia and Media. This name is now prove to refer to Xerxes, who reigned over Media as well as Persia. The book correctly states that his empire extended from India to Ethiopia, a fact which may well have been remembered long afterwards, especially by someone living in the East, but in other matters the author is inaccurate, for instance in regard to the number of provinces. Xerxes' wife was named Amestris, and not either Vashti or Esther. The statement in Est. 1:19 and 8:5 that the laws of Persia were unalterable is also found in Dan. 6:9, 13. It is not attested by any other early evidence, and seems most unlikely. The most probable suggestion is that it was invented by the author of Daniel to form an essential part of his dramatic story, and afterwards copied by the author of Esther.

It is therefore agreed by all modern scholars that Esther was written long after the time of Xerxes as a novel, with no historical basis, but set for the author's purposes in a time long past. It is pretty clear that the author's purpose was to provide an historical origin for the feast of Purim, which the Jews living somewhere in the East had adopted as a secular carnival. This feast and its mythology are now recognised as being of Babylonian origin. Mordecai represents Marduk, the chief Babylonian God. His cousin Esther represents Ishtar, the chief Babylonian Goddess, who was the cousin of Marduk. Other names are not so obvious, but there was an Elamite God Humman or Humban, and Elamite Goddess Mashti. These names may lie behind Haman and Vashti. One may well imagine that the Babylonian festival enacted a struggle between the Babylonian gods on the one hand and the Elamite gods on the other.[22]

The authors of The New Interpreter's Bible, like the other writers that we have mentioned earlier, state that the biblical book of Esther is work of fiction that happens to contain some historical elements. It then lists the factual errors in this book only to conclude that the book of Esther is not a historical record.

Although much ink has been spilled in attempting to show that Esther, or some parts of it is historical, it is clear that the book is a work of fiction that happens to contain some historical elements. The historical elements may be summarized as follows: Xerxes, identified as Ahaseurus, was a "great king" whose empire extended from the borders of India to the borders of Ethiopia. One of the four Persians capitals was located as Susa (the other three being Babylon, Ecbatana, and Persepolis). Non-Persians could attain to high office in the Persian court (witness Nehemiah), and the Persian empire consisted of a wide variety of peoples and ethnic groups. The author also displays a vague familiarity with the geography of Susa, knowing, for example, that the court was separate from the city itself. Here, however, the author's historical veracity ends. Among the factual errors found in the book we may list these: Xerxes' queen was Amestris, to whom he was married throughout his reign; there is no record of a Haman or a Mordecai (or, indeed, of any non-Persian) as second to Xerxes at any time; there is no record of a great massacre in which thousands of the people were killed at any point in Xerxes' reign. The book of Esther is not a historical record, even though its author may have wished to present it as history...[23]

Even the Roman Catholic scholars have not spared criticism of the book of Esther. The Jerome Biblical Commentary brands the book of Esther as a "fictitious story" and a book that was freely embellished and modified in the course of its transmissional history.

Literary Form. On this point, scholarly opinion ranges from pure myth to strict history. Most critics, however, favor a middle course of historical elements with more or less generous historical embellishments... The Greek additions in particular appear to be essentially literary creations. That neither author intended to write strict history seems obvious from the historical inaccuracies, unusual coincidences, and other traits characteristic of folklore... On the other hand, there is no compelling reason for denying the possibility of an undetermined historical nucleus, and the author's generally accurate picture of Persian life tends to support this possibility. Several details of Est [i.e., Esther] suggest a fictitious story. The very fact of variations between the Hebrew and the deuterocanonical additions show that the book was freely embellished in the course of its history. Then there are many difficulties concerning Mordecai's age, and the wife of Xerxes (Amestris). Moreover, the artificial symmetry suggests fiction: Gentile against Jews; Vashti as opposed to Esther; the hanging of Haman and the appointment of Mordecai as the vizier; the anti-Semitic pogrom and the slaying of the gentiles. A law of contrasts is obviously at work... As is stands, it has been developed very freely as the "festal legend" of a Feast of Purim, which is itself otherwise unknown to us.[24]

Interestingly enough, A New Catholic Commentary On Holy Scripture correctly points out that the book is given credence only by those who believe that since the book of Esther is a biblical book, it must be true. It then goes on to wonder if there is a significance in the similarity between the names mentioned in the book of Esther and the Babylonian and Elamite gods and goddess.

To what extent the story of Esther is factual is debated. On the face of it, not many people would give much credence to Est [i.e., Esther] as history but for the fact that it is a biblical book and 'the Bible is true'. The evidence we have suggests that we have a tale set against an historical background, embodying at least one historical character (Xerxes) and some accurate references to actual usages of Persia, but a tale making no serious attempt to chronicle facts, aiming rather at producing certain moral attitude in the reader... Yet it appears that Xerxes' queen was neither Vashti nor Esther but Amestris; we have no further information inside or outside the Bible (e.g. Sir 44ff) of a Jewish queen who saved her people or of a pious Mordecai who rose to such heights in the Persian court... One may wonder whether there is a significance in the similarity between the name Esther and the name of the Babylonian goddess Ishtar, between the name Mordecai and the name of the god Marduk, so that one would have to look for the source of the tale among the myths of Elamite gods. But one can only wonder.[25]

To conclude the historicity of the book of Esther, it is a:

... 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.[26]

From the foregoing material, it is clear that Judeo-Christian scholars consider this story to be a fable, and of little or no historical value. Furthermore, no scholar claimed 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 the book itself claims that its events are "written in the Book of the Chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia" (Esther 10:2).

Concerning the character Haman, the 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 Persian hamayun, 'illustrious', and to the Persian name Owanes.[27]

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 of Babylon and Elam, with Haman identified as the Elamite god Humman.[28]

As for Ahasuerus in the book of Esther, he is usually identified with King Xerxes I, King of Persia (486-465 BCE).  The Webster's Biographical Dictionary informs us that:

Ahasuerus: 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.[29]

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.

As if the woes of the lack of historicity of the story in Esther are not enough, there also exist some serious problems about the canonicity of the book of Esther.

THE CANONICITY OF THE BOOK OF ESTHER

The book of Esther, which is now regarded by Jews and Christians as canonical, had a history of dispute even until the times of the Protestant Reformation. Its canonicity was hotly contested by members of both the religions and their sub-sects. The book of Esther was evidently not used by the Jewish community in Qumran.[30] More importantly, according to the Talmud, as late as 3rd or 4th century CE, some Jews still did not regard Esther as canonical.[31] If the Jews could not reach unanimity about the canonical status of Esther, neither could the Christians. Figure 1 depicts the canonical status of Esther in the early Christian churches.

Figure 1: Map showing the canonical status of Esther in the early Christian Church.[32] Notice that the book of Esther was considered non-canonical in Constantinople, Sardis, Iconium, Nazianzus, Mopsuestia and Alexandria. On the other hand, Esther was considered canonical in Rome, Hippo, Carthage, Damascus, Caesarea, Jerusalem, Constanti and Constantinople. There appears to be two views of the books canonicity at Constantinople.

From the above figure, it can be seen that in the West Esther was nearly always canonical, while in the East very often it was not. Among the Christians in the East, especially those in the area of Anatolia (in modern day Turkey) and Syria, the book of Esther was often denied canonical status. This is confirmed by studying the list of canonical books by Melito of Sardis (c. 170 CE), Gregory of Nazianzus (d. 390 CE), Junilius (c. 550 CE) and Nicephorus (d. 828 CE). While denying the canonical status of Esther, Athanasius (c. 367 CE) did include it with the Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Sirach, Judith and Tobit for catechetical reading. Amphilochius (d. 394 CE) observed that it was accepted only by some. However, as has been noted, in the West, Esther was almost always regarded as canonical. It was accepted by Hilary (c. 360 CE), Augustine (c. 395 CE), Innocent I (c. 405 CE), Rufinus (d. 410 CE), Decree of Gelasius (c. 500 CE), Cassiodorus (c. 560 CE) and Isidorus (d. 636 CE). Esther was also present in the list of Cheltenham canon (c. 360 CE) and codex Claromontanus (c. 350 CE). This book was also endorsed as canonical in the council of Carthage (c. 397 CE).

During the Reformation, the Canon of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, was called into question. Generally, the Protestants disputed the Catholic claim to interpret scripture, either by Papal decree or by the action of Church councils. Martin Luther (1483 – 1546 CE), one of the Protestant reformers, said concerning the book of Esther:

I am so great an enemy to the second book of Maccabees, and to Esther, that I wish they had not come to us at all, for they have too many heathen unnaturalities.[33]

Luther's position appeared to have been wavering concerning the book of Esther. Andres Bodenstein von Karlstadt (c. 1480 – 1541 CE), an early friend and fellow professor of Luther at the University of Wittenberg, included the book of Esther in his third and lowest class of Biblical books which he termed tertius ordo canonis. Despite what Luther had claimed concerning the book of Esther, he included it in his translation of the Bible.[34] Such a polarization of views was characteristic of the book of Esther almost from its beginnings, which spilled over to the period of the Reformation.

CAN WE USE THE BOOK OF ESTHER AS AN EVIDENCE AGAINST THE QUR'AN?

The answer to this question is clearly no. A few conclusions can now be drawn from our discussion:

  • The story of Esther is regarded as fictitious and should be rejected as a historical record. It contradicts well established known secular history.
     
  • The book of Esther has a history of doubtful canonicity. It is a classic case of one man's "apocrypha" is another man's "inspired" scripture.
     
  • The story appears to have been borrowed from a Persian novella, and its contents reflect the customs associated with the Persians. These Persian customs later became "Judaised". The book has a secular character with strong nationalistic overtones.

It is worthwhile mentioning that the "inspired book" of Esther does not even mention God![35] 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; Protestant Bibles reject them as "apocrypha".

It is clear that the book of Esther can't, 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 some people 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! An example 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 of Egypt) 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."]

What is strange is that there is a complete absence of analysis of either the historicity or the canonicity of the book of Esther in the Christian apologetical literature.[36] Both the historicity and the canonicity of Esther are assumed and then the arguments are made. It is notoriously difficult to offer an apology given such unsettling facts.

4. Pharaoh & 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.

Pharaoh said: "O Chiefs! no god do I know for you but myself." [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]

The Qur'anic verses concerning Pharaoh and Haman provide us the following information:

Let us now investigate these statements in the light 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, does any secular literature from the time of the Prophet Muhammad.

THE PHARAOH AS GOD

For all kings, the Bible uses the term "Pharaoh" to address the rulers of Egypt. The Qur'an however differs from the Bible: the sovereign of Egypt who was a contemporary of Joseph is called the "King" (Arabic, malik); he is never once addressed as Pharaoh. As for the king who ruled during the time of Moses, the Qur'an repeatedly calls him "Pharaoh" (Arabic, Fir'awn). These differences in detail between the Biblical and Qur'anic narrations appear to have great significance and are discussed in the article 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 "Pharaoh" 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 in ancient Egypt

Pharaoh (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: his uraeus (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, called ma'at. He owned a large portion of Egypt'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.[37]

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...[38]

However, it was claimed by F. S. Coplestone that the alleged source of Pharaoh claiming divinity, as mentioned in the Qur'an, was Midrash Exodus Rabbah.[39] This midrash says:

Pharaoh was one of the four men who claimed divinity and thereby brought evil upon themselves.... Whence do we know that Pharaoh claimed to be a god? Because it says: 'My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself' (Ezek. xxix, 3).[40]

There are a number of problems, one of them quite serious, concerning Midrash Exodus Rabbah being the source of the Qur'anic verses. Firstly, Midrash Exodus Rabbah has been dated several centuries after the advent of Islam. Midrash Exodus Rabbah is composed of two different parts. The first part (ExodR I) comprises parashiyot 1-14 and is an exegetical midrash on Exodus 1-10 (11 is not treated in Exodus Rabbah). The Pharaoh claiming divinity comes from ExodR I part of the midrash. The second part (ExodR II) with parashiyot 15-52 is a homiletic midrash on Exodus 12-40, which belongs to the genre of the Tanhuma Yelammedenu midrash. Leopold Zunz, who does not divide the work, dated this whole midrash to the 11th or the 12th century CE.[41] Herr, on the other hand, considers the ExodR II to be older than ExodR I, which in his opinion used the lost beginning of the homiletic midrash on Exodus as a source. For the dating of ExodR I, he conducts a linguistic analysis and judges this part to be no earlier than the 10th century CE.[42] Similarly, Shinan opines that the origin of ExodR I is from the 10th century CE.[43] Contrary to the eisegesis of Coplestone, it is impossible (not to mention absurd) that the Qur'an used a source that had not yet been compiled until hundreds of years later! Secondly, the midrash simply interprets the verse from the book of Ezekiel and claims that the verse implies Pharaoh claiming divinity. The Qur'an, on the other hand, explicitly states that the Pharaoh proclaimed himself to be the god.

THE MAKING OF BURNT BRICKS IN ANCIENT EGYPT

In the Qur'an, the Pharaoh in a boastful and mocking manner, 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 question now arises: Were Burnt Bricks Used In Ancient Egypt In The Time of Moses?

The use of burnt brick in Egypt did not become common until the Roman Period. However, there is enough evidence to show that burnt brick was known in Egypt from a very early date. 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.[44] There are several examples of accidental production of burnt brick. They occur in the 1st Dynasty tombs at Saqqara, due to their having been burnt by plunderers; similar cases must have been fairly common. There is no evidence, as yet, that Egyptians deliberately prepared burnt bricks for use in buildings during the Predynastic Period or the Old Kingdom. However, there are examples of glazed tiles, appearing in a highly developed technique in both the 1st and 3rd Dynasties. This proves that the Egyptians during the advent of Old Kingdom Period were well aware of glazing as a method of decoration and protection.[45] The earliest example of the use of burnt brick comes from the Middle Kingdom fortresses in Nubia, in which they were used as paving-slabs measuring 30 x 30 x 5 cm.[46] The next instance of the burnt brick is recorded in the New Kingdom Period, when they occur in conjunction with funerary cones in the superstructures of the tombs at Thebes.[47] Burnt brick as a constructional material also appears at Nebesheh and Defenneh dated to Ramesside times. From the extensive study of brick architecture in Egypt, Spencer concludes that:

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.[48]

As for the less extensive use of burnt bricks in early Egypt, this is more due to the issue of economics than a lack of knowledge. Barry Kemp says:

The widespread preference for unfired soil architecture was thus through choice rather than ignorance.[49]

A factor inhibiting the use of burnt brick could presumably be the cost of fuel needed for firing.

Since the burnt brick architecture was known in ancient Egypt in all periods, one can firmly conclude that it was also known in the time of Moses.

THE DESIRE OF THE PHARAOH TO ASCEND TO THE SKY TO SPEAK TO THE GODS

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, 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 is in consonance with the mythology of ancient Egypt. 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.[50]

The desire of the Pharaoh to ascend to the sky has no connection with the biblical story of the "Tower of Babel." The use of the "Tower of Babel" by Orientalists and Christian apologists appears to be a convenient device to attack the Qur'an and laziness on their part in undertaking a scholarly historical investigation. In particular, we can observe an almost complete lack of familiarity with the ancient Egyptian historical record and a startling absence of reference to any direct Egyptological evidence, hieroglyphic or otherwise.

We have seen earlier that the Pharaoh, a god of ancient Egypt, would address other gods by climbing up a staircase or a high building. What happened when the ruler of Egypt died? How did he meet with other gods? Did he ascend to them? If yes, what was the instrument of his ascension? To understand this let us turn our attention to some interesting evidence from ancient Egypt dealing with the pyramids and the royal tombs.

There is a copious amount of evidence from ancient Egypt concerning the desire of the dead king to ascend to the gods and it comes in the form of the Pyramid Texts. These texts are a collection of funerary rituals and spells first inscribed on the sacrophagi and the subterranean walls of nine Old Kingdom pyramids.[51]

What was the function of the pyramid? The primary function of the pyramid in ancient Egypt was to house the body of a dead King, his ka or spirit, and his funerary equipment for use in the next world. It was a royal burial site. The pyramid tomb served as a place on earth where food and drink could be brought regularly to supply the need of the ka. The word "pyramid" probably derived from Greek pyramis. The Egyptians themselves used the word "M(e)r" to describe pyramids, and it has tentatively been translated as a "place of ascension". Concerning the word "pyramid", Verner says:

The shape of the pyramid has most often been interpreted as a stylized primeval hill and, at the same time, a gigantic stairway to heaven. In fact, the Egyptian terms for "pyramid" (mr) has been derived from a root i`i ("to ascend"), thus giving "place of ascent."[52]

Similarly, Lehner points out that:

The word for pyramid in ancient Egyptian is mer. There seems to be no cosmic significance in the term itself. I. E. S. Edwards, the great pyramid authority, attempted to find a derivation from m, 'instrument' or 'place', plus ar, 'ascension', as 'place of ascension'. Although he himself doubted this derivation, the pyramid was indeed a place or instrument of ascension for the king after death.[53]

Not surprisingly, the Egyptian word "M(e)r" has the determinative showing a triangle with a base to represent the pyramid (Figs. 2 and 3).

Figure 2: Hieroglyph entry for "mr" which means a pyramid. Notice the determinative which is in the shape of a triangle representing the pyramid (line 4).[54]

Figure 3: Hieroglyph entry for "Pyramid". Again notice the determinative for pyramid shown as a triangle.[55]

After death, the king would pass from the earth to the heaven, to take his place amongst the gods and to join the retinue of the sun-god. However, he needed a way to reach the sky from the earth, a bridge slung between this world and the next, a "Place of Ascension". Thus, the pyramid served as a place of ascension for the dead king.[56] The Pyramid Texts inscribed on the sacrophagi and the subterranean walls served as "instructions" for the dead king's ascension to heavens.

Let us conclude this section with a quote from the famous Egyptologist I. E. S. Edwards:

The Egyptians were not the only ancient people of the Middle East who believed that the heaven and the gods might be reached by ascending a high building; a kindred trend of thought prevailed in Mesopotamia. At the centre of any city in Assyria or Babylonia lay a sacred area occupied by the temple complex and a royal palace.[57]

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. The above ayahs 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, many authors have suggested that "Haman" in the Qur'an is reference to Haman, a counsellor of Ahasuerus who was an enemy of the Jews. Meanwhile others have been searching for consonances with the name of the Egyptian god "Amun."[58]

One of the earliest scholars to deal with the name "Haman" in the Qur'an from the point of view of Egyptology was Dr. Maurice Bucaille. He surmised that since "Haman" was mentioned in the Qur'an during the time of Moses in Egypt, the best course of action was to ask an expert in the old Egyptian language, i.e., hieroglyphs, regarding the name.[59] Bucaille narrates an interesting discussion he had with a prominent French Egyptologist:

In the book Reflections on the Qur'an (Réflexions sur le Coran[60]), 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 the Dictionary of Personal Names of the New Kingdom by Ranke, 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: the latter had mentioned that the name of "Haman" had been engraved on a stela kept at the Hof-Museum of Vienna (Austria). Several years later, when I was able to read the profession written in hieroglyphs on the stela, I observed that the determinative joined to the name had emphasised the importance of the intimate of Pharaoh.[61]

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.[62]

While discussing this name, Hermann Ranke in his Die Ägyptischen Personennamen was unsure what the last letter "h" in the name hmn-h represented. Therefore, he designated the entry as "hmn-h(?)" as if suggesting "h" was not actually part of the name.[65]

In order to understand how the hieroglyphs are written and interpreted, let us take a look at the salient features of this form of writing. The Egyptian hieroglyphs are one of the oldest writing systems in the world. In 391 CE when the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius I closed all pagan temples throughout Egypt, it resulted in the termination of a four thousand year old tradition. The message of the ancient Egyptian language was lost for 1500 years and not until the discovery of the Rosetta stone and the work of Jean-Francois Champollion (1790-1832) that the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs awoke from their long slumber as a dead language. The Egyptian hieroglyphic writing consists of an inventory of signs and is divided into three major categories, namely logograms, signs that write out morphemes; phonograms, signs that represent one or more sounds; and determinatives, signs that denote neither morpheme nor sound but help with the meaning of a group of signs that precede them. It is usually a picture of an object which helps the reader to understand the object and the context. The Egyptian hieroglyphs disregard the vowels. In other words, with this system one arrives at words that are connected by vowels. For example, let us take the word "beautiful". Its transcription in the Egyptian hieroglyphics is nfr. To ease the pronunciation of these three consonants, they are bound together with "e-sounds", which leads to nefer.[66] This pronunciation bears no relation with the original pronunciation of the Egyptian language. It is solely a convention to enable communication among the modern scholars or even commonfolk interested in ancient Egyptians hieroglyphs. It is not surprising that the scholarly pronunciation of Egyptian hieroglyphs (even consonants!) also differs.[67]

The hieroglyph in our case is hmn-h(?) with a doubtful last letter. If we drop the last letter which is doubtful, the name can be rendered as "hemen" or "haman" depending upon the vowel which is inserted to ensure an effective pronunciation of the hieroglyph. It is interesting to note that the profession of this person hmn-h(?) in German reads Vorsteherder Steinbruch arbeiter - "The chief / overseer of the workers in the stone-quarries" (Fig. 4) . This name is listed as masculine (Fig. 5) and it is from the New Kingdom Period (Fig. 4). The generally accepted theory appears to be that Moses lived during the reign of kings Rameses II or his successor Merenptah in the New Kingdom Period. The Qur'an suggests that Haman was a master of construction and this name appears to fit very well in almost all respects.

However, an objection can be raised regarding the contents in the hieroglyph and the Qur'an. The Qur'an uses ه (/h/) instead of ح (/h/) for the name "Haman". The hieroglyph from the K.K. Hof Museum in Vienna above uses ح (/h/) instead of ه (/h/) in hmn. This objection can be tackled in two ways. Firstly, when the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs were discovered by Jean-Francois Champollion, it was already a dead language. The phonology of the hieroglyphs were not known and even today, albeit with considerable amount of progress in Egyptian phonology, there remain uncertainties concerning the exact pronunciation of a word in ancient Egyptian. For example, in the case of /h/ and /h/, Carsten Peust says:

It is presently impossible to decide whether the primary distinction of /h/ and /ḥ/ [i.e., /h/] was one of voice or one of place of articulation.[68]

Secondly, in Roman Demotic and contemporary hieroglyphic texts, a graphical confusion arises between /h/ and /h/, suggesting a phonetic merger had taken place. Both sounds conflate into ϩ (i.e., hori) /h/ in all Coptic dialects. It appears that /h/ and /h/ are not distinguished in Arabic loanwords from Coptic.[69] As to how far back this merger in Egyptian history goes back is not very clear. There are early examples of a merger between /h/ and /h/ from the New Kingdom Period mentioned by Jürgen Osing.[70]

The question now arises as to whether the Haman mentioned in the hieroglyph from the K.K. Hof Museum is the Haman mentioned in the Qur'an. Maybe. Although there are a lot of interesting similarities between the Haman's mentioned in the Qur'an and in the hieroglyph, it is currently not possible to determine with a great degree of certainty whether this hieroglyph 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 it dates to the New Kingdom period, the period of history in which Moses is principally associated.

It is also interesting to note that there also existed a similar sounding name called Hemon[71] (or Hemiunu / Hemionu[72] as he is also known as), a vizier to King Khnum-Khufu who is widely considered to be the architect of Khnum-Khufu's the Great Pyramid at Giza. He lived in the 4th Dynasty of the Old Kingdom Period (c. 2700 - 2190 BCE).

He is said to have been buried in a large and splendid tomb at Saqqara in the royal necropolis. There is an extant statue of Hemiunu / Hemon, which resides in the Hildesheim Museum [Fig. 6(a)]. Although the name Hemiunu / Hemon is quite similar to Haman, they are written differently [compare the hieroglyphs in Fig. 6(b) with Fig. (4)] and perhaps also pronounced differently. The writing of Hemiunu employs Gardiner signs U36 O28. This is different from what we have seen for hmn which employs V28 Y5 N35.

5. Conclusions

Marraccio's identification of the Qur'anic Haman as having been appropriated from the Hebrew Bible and Jewish mythology was subsequently adopted by Protestant scholars and missionaries. Adam Clarke's assessment of Marraccio's translation indicates that the Protestants unabashedly adopted this Roman Catholic pronouncement. One must note with a sense of alarm the ability of this 'critical note' to endure for over 300 years without anyone seemingly taking the opportunity to evaluate the veracity of Marraccio's untested assumptions. Concerning the name Haman, such illustrious entries in the Encyclopaedia Of Islam and the Encyclopaedia Of The Qur'an make no attempt to engage with the Egyptological historical record.

Marraccio's assumption of the historicity and authenticity of the biblical narrative has been shown by contemporary Judaeo-Christian scholars to be misplaced. As we have observed, that the book of Esther lacks historicity is not too unexpected. 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 for 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. Athanasius whose famous Epistola Festalis of 367 CE settled the limits of the New Testament canon at the twenty-seven books accepted as canonical by Protestants today, unceremoniously rejected Esther from his exclusive list of 'divinely-inspired' Old Testament books. Even the Jews had difficulty deciding on the canonicity of Esther.

Wreszinski's Aegyptische Inschriften aus dem K.K. Hof Museum in Wien published in 1906 CE noted a hieroglyph engraved on a stela kept at the K.K. Hof Museum in Vienna, Austria, contained the letters hmn-h. About thirty years later while discussing this name, Ranke in his Die Ägyptischen Personennamen was unsure what the last letter "h" in the name hmn-h represented. Therefore, he designated the entry as "hmn-h(?)" suggesting as if "h" was not in actuality part of the name. If we drop the doubtful last letter, the name can be rendered as "hemen" or "haman" depending upon the vowel which is inserted to ensure an effective pronunciation of the hieroglyph. It is interesting to note that the profession of this person hmn-h(?) in German reads Vorsteherder Steinbruch arbeiter - "The chief / overseer of the workers in the stone-quarries" (Fig. 4). This name is listed as masculine (Fig. 5) and it is from the New Kingdom Period (Fig. 4). The generally accepted theory appears to be that Moses lived during the reign of King Rameses II or his successor Merenptah in the New Kingdom Period. The Qur'an suggests that Haman was a master of construction and this name appears to fit very well in almost all respects. However, it is unclear whether Haman mentioned in the hieroglyphs is actually the Hamam mentioned in the Qur'an. More research would throw some light on this issue.

The historicity of the name Haman provides yet another sharp reminder to those that adhere to the precarious theory that parts of the Qur'an were allegedly copied from the Bible. If Egyptian hieroglyphs were long dead and the Book of Esther a work of fiction, then from where did the Prophet Muhammad 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 word ayah, usually translated as 'verse' in the Qur'an, also means a sign and a proof. The reference to Haman and other facts concerning ancient Egypt in the Qur'an suggests a special reflection.

And Allah knows best!


References & Notes

[1] Ludoviico Marraccio, Alcorani Textus Universus Ex Correctioribus Arabum Exemplaribus Summa Fide, Atque Pulcherrimis Characteribus Descriptus, 1698, Ex Typographia Seminarii: Patavii (Italy), p. 526. The original text says:

Onfundit Mahumetus Sacras historias. Ponit enim Haman Consiliarium Pharaonis, cùm Assuero Persarum Regi à consiliis suerit. Fingit prætereà Pharaonem jussisse extrui sibi Turrim sublimem, ex cujus vertice Deum Moysis inferiorem sibi videret: quod commentum haud dubium est, quin ex Babelicæ turris ædificatione dusumpserit. Certè nihil hujusmondi de Pharaone in Sacris literis habetur, & quidquid sit, inanissimam praesefert fabulum.

This translation of the Qur'an by the Luccan monk and his associated commentary was well received in Protestant missionary circles. Prominent Methodist missionary Adam Clarke (1760/1762 – 1832 CE), an executive member of the colonial-missionary organisation the British And Foreign Bible Society, described the translation as:

A work of immense labour: the translation is good and literal, and many of the grammatical and philological notes possess great merit.

See A. Clarke, The Bibliographical Miscellany; Or, Supplement To The Bibliographical Dictionary, 1806, Volume I, W. Baynes, Paternoster-Row: London, p. 286.

This statement should be understood in the context of Clarke's working environment. Armed with the intention of specifically targeting Muslims, he was employed by the British And Foreign Bible Society in the preparation of their Arabic Bible and played a pivotal role in introducing the Arabic Bible to the African continent. See C. J. S. Teignmouth, Memoir Of The Life And Correspondence Of John Lord Teignmouth, 1843, Hatchard and Son: London, Chapters XVI, XVII & XVIII; also see P. Mirrlees, "John Hill And The Early Attempt To Study A West African Language", in S. Batalden, K. Cann & J. Dean (Eds.), Sowing The Word: The Cultural Impact Of The British And Foreign Bible Society 1804-2004, 2004, Sheffield Phoenix Press: Sheffield (UK), pp. 98–120.

[2] G. Sale, The Koran Commonly Called Alcoran Of Mohammed Translated Into English Immediately From The Original Arabic With Explanatory Notes Taken From The Most Approved Commentators To Which Is Prefixed A Preliminary Discourse , 1825, Volume II, London, p. 239, footnote 'h'.

[3] Th. Noldeke, "The Koran", Encyclopædia Britannica, 1893, Volume 16, Adam And Charles Black: Edinburgh, p. 600. This article was reprinted many times with slight modifications. T. Nöldeke (J. S. Black [Trans.]), Sketches From Eastern History, 1892, Adam and Charles Black: London & Edinburgh, p. 30. This article was reprinted and edited by N. A. Newman, The Qur'an: An Introductory Essay By Theodor Nöldeke, 1992, Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute: Hatfield (PA), p. 9; Also see Th. Nöldeke, "The Koran" in Ibn Warraq, The Origins Of The Koran: Classic Essays On Islam's Holy Book, 1998, Prometheus Books, p. 43; Also see Th. Nöldeke, "The Koran" in C. Turner (Ed.), The Koran: Critical Concepts In Islamic Studies, 2004, Volume I (Provenance and Transmission), RoutledgeCurzon: London & New York, p. 77.

[4] Rev. A. Mingana & A. S. Lewis (eds.), Leaves From Three Ancient Qur'âns Possibly Pre-`Othmânic With A List Of Their Variants, 1914, Cambridge: At The University Press, p. xiv. Also reprint in A. Mingana, "Three Ancient Korans" in Ibn Warraq, The Origins Of The Koran: Classic Essays On Islam's Holy Book, 1998, op. cit., p. 79.

[5] H. Lammens (Translated from French by Sir E. Denison Ross), Islam: Beliefs and Institutions, 1929, Methuen & Co. Ltd.: London, p. 39.

[6] J. Horovitz, Koranische Untersuchungen, 1926, Walter De Gruyter: Berlin & Leipzig, p. 149.

[7] C. C. Torrey, Jewish Foundation of Islam, 1933, Ktav Publishing House, Inc.: New York, See pages 117 and 119.

[8] A. Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur'an, 1938, Oriental Institute: Baroda, pp. 284.

[9] G. Vajda, "Haman" in B. Lewis, V. L. Menage, Ch. Pellat and J. Schacht (Eds.), Encyclopaedia of Islam (New Edition), 1971, Volume III, E. J. Brill (Leiden) & Luzac & Co. (London), p. 110.

[10] A. J. Wensinck [G. Vajda], "Fir`awn" in B. Lewis, Ch. Pellat and J. Schacht (Eds.), Encyclopaedia of Islam (New Edition), 1965, Volume II, E. J. Brill (Leiden) & Luzac & Co. (London), p. 917.

[11] A. H. Jones, "Haman", in J. D. McAuliffe (Ed.), Encyclopaedia Of The Qur'an, 2002, Volume II, Brill: Leiden, p. 399.

[12] See for example Dr. A. A. Shorrosh, Islam Revealed: A Christian Arab's View Of Islam, 1988, Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nashville, p. 209; R. Morey, The Islamic Invasion: Confronting The World's Fastest Growing Religion, 1992, Harvest House Publishers: Eugene (OR), p. 142; `Abdallah `Abd al-Fadi, Is The Qur'an Infallible?, 1995, Light of Life: Villach (Austria), pp. 35-36 and p. 88; N. A. Newman, Muhammad, The Qur'an & Islam, 1996, Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute: Hatfield (PA), p. 380; W. E. Phipps, Muhammad And Jesus: A Comparison Of The Prophets And Their Teachings, 1996, Continuum Publishing Company: New York (NY), p. 90; D. Richardson, Secrets Of The Koran: Revealing Insights Into Islam's Holy Book, 1999, Regal Books From Gospel Light: Ventura (CA), p. 34; S. Masood, The Bible And The Qur'an: A Question Of Integrity, 2001, OM Publication: Carlisle, UK, p. 86; E. M. Caner & E. F. Caner, Unveiling Islam: An Insider's Look At Muslim Life And Beliefs, 2002, Kregal Publications: Grand Rapids (MI), p. 89; Abdullah Al-Araby, Islam Unveiled, 2002 (10th Edition), The Pen Vs. The Sword: Los Angeles (CA), p. 42 and p. 44; M. Elass, Understanding the Koran: A Quick Christian Guide To The Muslim Holy Book, 2004, Zondervan: Grand Rapids (MI), p. 181, note 3.

A gentle, sensitive but inadequate treatment is done by John Kaltner concerning the issue of Haman in the Bible and the Qur'an. See J. Kaltner, Ishmael Instructs Isaac: An Introduction To The Qur'an For Bible Readers, 1999, The Liturgical Press: Collegeville (Minnesota), pp. 134-135; Also see J. Jomier (Trans. Z. Hersov), The Great Themes Of The Qur'an, 1997, SCM Press Limited: London, p. 78.

[13] Ibn Warraq, Why I Am Not A Muslim, 1995, Prometheus Books: Amherst (NY), p. 159.

[14] J. D. Levenson, Esther: A Commentary, 1997, SCM Press Limited, p. 23.

[15] M. V. Fox, Character And Ideology In The Book Of Esther, 1991, University of South Carolina Press: Columbia (SC), pp. 131-139.

[16] ibid., p. 131.

[17] L. B. Paton, A Critical And Exegetical Commentary On The Book Of Esther, 1992 (reprinted), T. & T. Clark: Edinburgh (UK), pp. 64-77. After discussing the arguments for and against the book's historicity, Paton says:

In the presence of these analogies there is no more reason why one should assume a historical basis for the story of Est. than for these other admittedly unhistorical works which it so closely resembles.

[18] C. A. Moore, Esther: Introduction, Translation, And Notes, 1971, The Anchor Bible, Doubleday & Company Inc.: Garden City (NY), pp. xxxiv-xlvi; For a similar assessment see C. A. Moore, "Archaeology And The Book Of Esther", The Biblical Archaeologist, 1975, Volume 38, pp. 62-79.

[19] "Esther", The Universal Jewish Encyclopaedia, 1941, Volume 4, The Universal Jewish Encyclopaedia Inc.: New York, p. 170.

[20] "Esther", The Jewish Encyclopaedia, 1905, Volume V, Funk & Wagnalls Company: London & New York, pp. 235-236.

[21] A. Berlin, The JPS Bible Commentary: Esther, 2001, The Jewish Publication Society: Philadelphia, pp. xxvii-xxviii.

[22] M. Black & H. H. Rowley (Eds.), Peake's Commentary On The Bible, 1962, Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd.: London & New York, p. 381.

[23] L. E. Keck et al. (Eds.), The New Interpreter's Bible: General Articles & Introduction, Commentary, & Reflections For Each Book Of The Bible, Including The Apocryphal / Deuterocanonical Books, 1994, Volume III, Abingdon Press: Nashville (TN), p. 859.

[24] R. E. Brown, J. A. Fitzmyer & R. E. Murphy (Eds.), The Jerome Biblical Commentary, 1968, Volume I (The Old Testament), Geoffrey Chapman: London (UK), pp. 628-629.

[25] Rev. R. C. Fuller, Rev. L. Johnston, Very Rev. C. Kearns (Eds.), A New Catholic Commentary On Holy Scripture, 1969, Thomas Nelson & Sons, pp. 408-409.

[26] "Esther", The Rev. T. K. Cheyne & J. S. Black (Eds.), Encyclopaedia Biblica: A Critical Dictionary Of The Literary, Political And Religious History, The Archaeology, Geography And Natural History Of The Bible, 1901, Volume II, The Macmillan Company: New York, Columns 1401-1402.

[27] "Haman", Encyclopaedia Judaica, Volume 7, Encyclopaedia Judaica Jerusalem, The Macmillan Company, p. 1222.

[28] "Haman", in G. A. Buttrick (Ed.), The Interpreter's Dictionary Of The Bible, 1962 (1996 Print), Volume 2, Abingdon Press: Nashville, p. 516.

[29] "Ahasuerus", Webster's Biographical Dictionary, 1972, G. & C. Merriam Co.: Springfield, USA, p. 17.

[30] "Dead Sea Scrolls" in B. M. Metzger and M. D. Coogan (Ed.), Oxford Companion To The Bible, 1993, Oxford University Press: Oxford & New York, p. 159.

[31] C. A. Moore, "Archaeology And The Book Of Esther", The Biblical Archaeologist, 1975, op. cit., p. 63.

[32] The map is taken from C. A. Moore, Esther: Introduction, Translation, And Notes, 1971, The Anchor Bible, op. cit., pp. xxvi-xxvii. For a good overview of place of Esther in the Christian canon see B. W. Anderson, "The Place Of The Book Of Esther In The Christian Bible", Journal Of Religion, 1950, Volume 30, pp. 32-43.

[33] M. Luther, Table Talk, 1995, Fount: An Imprint of HarperCollinsPublisher: London (UK), XXIV, p. 14.

[34] Dr. Martin Luther, Biblia, 1538, Wolff K: Strassburg; Also see Luther's introduction to the book of Esther in E. T. Bachmann (Ed.) & H. L. Lehmann (Gen. Ed.), Luther's Works, 1960, Volume 35, Muhlenberg Press: Philadelphia, pp. 353-354.

[35] The absence of mention of the God in the book of Esther has baffled many scholars. Many of them have given various reasons for such an omission. For a general overview on this topic, please see: "Esther", The Rev. T. K. Cheyne & J. S. Black (Eds.), Encyclopaedia Biblica: A Critical Dictionary Of The Literary, Political And Religious History, The Archaeology, Geography And Natural History Of The Bible, 1901, Volume II, op. cit., col. 1403; "Esther", The Jewish Encyclopaedia, 1905, Volume V, op. cit., p. 236; "Esther", The Universal Jewish Encyclopaedia, 1941, Volume 4, op. cit., p. 170; B. W. Anderson, "The Place Of The Book Of Esther In The Christian Bible", Journal Of Religion, 1950, op. cit., p. 32; M. Black & H. H. Rowley (Eds.), Peake's Commentary On The Bible, 1962, op. cit., p. 381; R. E. Brown, J. A. Fitzmyer & R. E. Murphy (Eds.), The Jerome Biblical Commentary, 1968, Volume I (The Old Testament), op. cit., p. 629; C. A. Moore, Esther: Introduction, Translation, And Notes, 1971, The Anchor Bible, op. cit., p. xxxii-xxxiii; C. M. Laymon (Ed.), The Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary On The Bible Including All The Books Of The Old And New Testaments And The Apocrypha, Together With Forty-Three General Articles, 1972, Collins: London & Glasgow, p. 233; W. A. Elwell (Ed.), The Marshall Pickering Commentary On The NIV, 1989, Baker Book House Company, p. 327.

[36] A survey of the four most popular encyclopedias of Bible "difficulties" reveal no trace of a discussion on the historicity or the canonicity of Esther. See N. L. Geisler & R. M. Brooks, When Skeptics Ask, 2001, Baker Books: Grand Rapids (MI); N. L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia Of Christian Apologetics, 2002, Baker Books: Grand Rapids (MI); N. Geisler & T. Howe, When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook On Bible Difficulties, 2004 (7th Printing), Baker Books: Grand Rapids (MI); G. L. Archer Jr., New International Encyclopedia Of Bible Difficulties, 1982, Zondervan: Grand Rapids (MI).

[37] "Pharaoh" in Encyclopaedia Britannica Ultimate Reference Suite 2004 DVD, © 1994 – 2004 Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.

[38] "Pharaoh" in H. Lockyer, Sr. (General Editor), F.F. Bruce et al., (Consulting Editors), Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers, p. 828.

[39] F. S. Coplestone (Updated & Expanded by J. C. Trehern), Jesus Christ Or Mohammed? A Guide To Islam And Christianity That Helps Explain The Differences, 2001, Christian Focus Publications: Ross-shire (Scotland), p. 80; For a similar claim also see J. W. Sweetman, Islam And Christian Theology: A Study Of The Interpretation Of Theological Ideas In The Two Religions, 1945, Volume I, Part 1 (Preparatory History Survey of the Early Period), Lutterworth Press: London & Redhill, p. 11.

[40] Rabbi Dr. S. M. Lehrman (Trans.), Rabbi Dr. H. Freedman & M. Simon (Eds.), Midrash Rabbah: Exodus, 1939, Soncino Press: London (UK), VIII.2, pp. 116-117.

[41] L. Zunz, Die Gottesdienstlichen Vorträge der Juden: Historisch Entwickelt, 1892, Verlag von J. Kauffmann: Frankfurt, pp. 269. Full discussion in pp. 268-270; Also see "Midrash Exodus (Shemoth Rabbah)", The Universal Jewish Encyclopaedia, 1969, Volume 7, Ktav Publishing House, Inc.: New York, p. 539; Similar views are mentioned by Brannon Wheeler in Moses In The Quran And Islamic Exegesis, 2002, RoutledgeCurzon: London, pp. 39-40.

[42] M. D. Herr, "Exodus Rabbah", Encyclopaedia Judaica, Volume 6, Encyclopaedia Judaica Jerusalem, cols. 1067-1068;

[43] A. Shinan, Midrash Shemot Rabbah, Chapters I-XIV: A Critical Edition Based On A Jerusalem Manuscript, With Variants, Commentary And Introduction, 1984, Tel Aviv, p. 19.

[44] A. J. Spencer, Brick Architecture In Ancient Egypt, 1979, Aris & Phillips Ltd.: UK, p. 140; P. T. Nicholson & I. Shaw (eds.), Ancient Egyptian Materials And Technology, 2000, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge (UK), p. 79.

[45] W. M. F. Petrie, Abydos: Part II, 1903, Egyptian Exploration Fund & Trübner & Co: London, p. 25 and p. 48. Petrie comments on the importance of these discoveries by saying (p. 48):

Several objects have placed the history of art and products in an entirely new light, change some of the ideas hitherto accepted.

At the beginning of the 1st Dynasty we meet with the art of glazing fully developed, not only for large monochrome vessels, but for inlay of different colours... It was also used for relief work, and in the round... and on the great scale for the coating of wall surfaces.

[46] G. A. Reisner, N. F. Wheeler & D. Dunham, Uronarti Shalfak Mirgissa, 1967, Second Cataract Forts: Volume II, Museum Of Fine Arts: Boston (USA), pp. 118-119 and Plate XLIX B; Also see A. J. Spencer, Brick Architecture In Ancient Egypt, 1979, op. cit., p. 140.

[47] L. Borchardt, O. Königsberger & H. Ricke, "Friesziegel in Grabbauten", Zeitschrift Für Ägyptische Sprache Und Altertumskunde, Volume 70, pp. 25-35; A brief discussion of these bricks at Thebes is also available in A. J. Spencer, Brick Architecture In Ancient Egypt, op. cit., p. 140.

[48] A. J. Spencer, Brick Architecture In Ancient Egypt, op. cit., p. 141.

[49] P. T. Nicholson & I. Shaw (eds.), Ancient Egyptian Materials And Technology, op. cit., p. 79; A similar observation was also made by Baldwin Smith. See E. B. Smith, Egyptian Architecture As Cultural Expression, 1938, D. Appleton-Century Company: New York & London, p. 7.

[50] C. Jacq (Trans. J. M. Davis), Egyptian Magic, 1985, Aris & Phillips Ltd. & Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers: Chicago, p. 11.

[51] J. P. Allen, "Pyramid Texts", in D. B. Redford, The Oxford Encyclopedia Of Ancient Egypt, 2001, Volume III, Oxford University Press, pp. 95-97.

[52] M. Verner, "Pyramid", in D. B. Redford (Ed.), The Oxford Encyclopedia Of Ancient Egypt, 2001, Volume III, op. cit., p. 88.

[53] M. Lehner, The Complete Pyramids, 1997, Thames And Hudson: London, p. 34; I. E. S. Edwards, The Pyramids Of Egypt, 1985, Viking, p. 302; Y. Abou-Hadid, Why Pyramids, 1979, Vantage Press: New York, p. 46; For a slightly different view see J. C. Deaton, "The Old Kingdom Evidence For The Function Of Pyramids", Varia Aegyptiaca, 1988, Volume 4, No. 3, p. 193-200.

[54] A. Erman & H. Grapow, Wörterbuch Der Aegyptischen Sprache, 1928, Volume II, J. C. Hinrichs'sche Buchhandlung: Leipzig, p. 94, 14-16.

[55] R. Hannig, Die Sprache Der Pharaonen Großes Handwörterbuch Ägyptisch - Deutsch (2800-950 v. Chr.), 2000, Verlag Philipp Von Zabern: Mainz, p. 999; Also see the older edition of the same book by R. Hannig, Die Sprache Der Pharaonen Großes Handwörterbuch Ägyptisch - Deutsch (2800-950 v. Chr.), 1995, Verlag Philipp Von Zabern: Mainz, p. 344.

[56] Jacques Jomier asks in The Great Themes Of The Qur'an, 1997, op. cit., p. 78:

Here Pharaoh... asks Haman to build him a high tower so that he can ascend to the God of Moses (cf. v. 36). Could this be a vague recollection of the pyramids?

The answer to this question is not certain. The Egyptian pyramids were indeed tall structures. If the Pharaoh did ask for a pyramid to be built then it was as if he was asking Haman to build his tomb! Alternatively, if it was indeed a pyramid the Pharaoh asked for, then the Pharaoh has proven himself to be a mortal to be buried in a tomb and not the God, as he had claimed to be. Also there exist examples of several mud-brick pyramids from the Middle Kingdom Period. The pyramid tombs of Senwosret II (at Hawara), Senwosret III (at Dahshur), Amenemhet II (at Dahshur) and Amenemhet III (at Hawara) are the best known examples of mud-brick constructions. See M. Lehner, The Complete Pyramids, 1997, op. cit., pp. 175-183.

[57] I. E. S. Edwards, The Pyramids Of Egypt, 1985, op. cit., p. 302; Also see Sir F. Petrie, Religious Life In Ancient Egypt, 1924, Constable & Company Limited: London, pp. 208-209. It is a slightly out-of-date reference. Nevertheless, it provides a brief background to ancient Egyptian beliefs of ascension to gods.

[58] 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 pronunciations of the same name. Syed's identification of Haman as "the high priest of Amun" may be probable. See S. M. Syed, "Historicity Of Haman As Mentioned In The Qur'an", The Islamic Quarterly, 1980, Volume 24, No. 1 and 2, pp. 52-53; Also see a slightly modified article by him published four years later: S. M. Syed, "Haman In The Light Of The Qur'an", Hamdard Islamicus, 1984, Volume 7, No. 4, pp. 86-87.

[59] M. Bucaille, Moses and Pharaoh: The Hebrews In Egypt, 1995, NTT Mediascope Inc.: Tokyo, p. 192.

[60] M. Talbi and M. Bucaille, Réflexions sur le Coran, 1989, Seghers: Paris.

[61] M. Bucaille, Moses and Pharaoh: The Hebrews In Egypt, 1995, op. cit. pp. 192-193.

[62] ibid.

[63] W. Wreszinski, Aegyptische Inschriften aus dem K.K. Hof Museum in Wien, 1906, J. C. Hinrichs' sche Buchhandlung: Leipzig, I 34, p. 130.

[64] ibid., p. 196.

[65] H. Ranke, Die Ägyptischen Personennamen, 1935, Volume I (Verzeichnis der Namen), Verlag Von J. J. Augustin in Glückstadt, p. 240.

[66] C. Peust, Egyptian Phonology: An Introduction To The Phonology Of A Dead Language, 1999, Monographien Zur Ägyptischen Sprache: Band 2, Peust & Gutschmidt Verlag GbR mit Haftungsbeschränkung: Göttingen, pp. 54-55.

[67] ibid., pp. 52-53.

[68] ibid., p. 98.

[69] ibid., p. 99 and Appendix 8 on p. 323.

[70] J. Osing, Die Nominalbildung Des Ägyptischen: Anmerkungen Und Indices, 1976, Deutsches Archäologisches Institut: Abteilung Kairo, Verlag Philipp von Zabern: Mainz / Rhein, Note 47, pp. 367-368.

[71] P. A. Clayton, Chronicle Of The Pharaohs: The Reign-By-Reign Record of The Rulers And Dynasties Of Ancient Egypt, 1994, Thames and Hudson: London, p. 47.

[72] "Hemionu" in M. Rice, Who's Who In Ancient Egypt, 1999, Routledge: London and New York, p. 63.

[73] The restored statue was compared with fragments of relief of Hemiunu. For this interesting study see G. Steindorff, "Ein Reliefbildnis Des Prinzen Hemiun", Zeitschrift Für Ägyptische Sprache Und Altertumskunde, 1937, Volume 70, pp. 120-121.

[74] H. Junker, Giza I. Bericht über die von der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wein auf Gemeinsame Kosten mit Dr. Wilhelm Pelizaeus unternommenen. Grabungen auf dem Friedhof des Alten Reiches bei den Pyramiden von Giza, 1929, Volume I (Die Mastabas der IV. Dynastie auf dem Westfriedhof), Holder-Pichler-Tempsky A.-G.: Wein and Leipzig, pp. 132-162 for the complete description of Hemon's mastaba. The name and title of Hemon are discussed in pp. 148-151. For the hieroglyphs inscribed at the footstool of the statue of Hemon representing the titles see Plate XXIII; For a good discussion of reliefs of Hemon / Hemiunu, see W. S. Smith, "The Origin Of Some Unidentified Old Kingdom Reliefs", American Journal Of Archaeology, 1942, Volume 46, pp. 520-530.

M S M Saifullah, Elias Karim, `Abdullah David & Qasim Iqbal

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