The Qur’an contains several instances of “historical compression”, i.e. stories in which two or more separate historical events are combined to create a new story, or a character from one story is transferred or imported into another story. For example, in the Qur’an we find Saul and David in the story of Gideon, or a Samaritan together with Moses in the Exodus narrative. A list of many more such historical compressions is provided on this page.
Whether these stories and characters were confused by the author of the Qur’an out of ignorance or deliberately merged for a certain purpose, these new stories are presented to the readers as reports of historical events and therefore constitute historical errors in the Qur’an.
One of the best known examples of such apparent historical confusions in the Qur’an is the character of Haman in the story of Moses and Pharaoh. Pharaoh and Haman were two of the most dangerous figures in the history of the Jews. Both of these men attempted genocide against the Israelites. Pharaoh gave the command to kill all male newborn babies (Exodus 1) and Haman plotted to have all Jews killed who were living in exile in Persia (Esther 3).1 However, these two events were separated in two ways: (a) the geographical distance of several thousand kilometers between Egypt and Persia, and (b) about a thousand years distance on the historical timeline.
Since the character of Haman is so obviously out of place in the story of Moses and Pharaoh, this matter has a high embarrassment factor, and Muslims apparently felt the pressing need to find a reasonable solution to this charge of a historical error in the Qur’an.
If only Muslims could find the name “Haman” or something similar in Egyptian records … as this would allow them to claim that Haman is indeed an Egyptian name, and thus enable them to disconnect the Haman in the Qur’an from the Haman found in the biblical book of Esther.
In fact, apologists for Islam have managed to devise a hoax that has impressed and misled many people over the last 15 years. This hoax went through three main stages of development (associated with Maurice Bucaille, Islamic Awareness, and Harun Yahya) and all three stages are available on the internet, plus plenty of variants.2 In this article, I will discuss these three stages of the argument in turn and point out various peculiarities.
The below discussion is rather lengthy and involved because (1) many details have to be examined, and because (2) this article actually consists of three rebuttals to three related but nevertheless quite different Muslim versions of this claim.
As a foretaste of the things to come, let me mention in this introduction only two details out of the many false Muslim statements on this topic. Maurice Bucaille claims to have consulted a prominent Egyptologist about the name Haman and a possible transliteration of that name in hieroglyphs. He then writes:
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: “Chief of the workers in stone-quarries,” exactly what could be deduced from the Qur’an, though the words of Pharaoh suggest a master of construction.
Quite obviously, Bucaille lied. Ranke’s transliteration does not say “Haman”, nor does Ranke say anything about him being the “Chief of the workers in stone-quarries”. [The meaning and implications of this entry will be discussed in great detail in the next two sections of this paper.]
Harun Yahya wrote about ten years ago:3
The name “Haman” was in fact mentioned in old Egyptian tablets. It was mentioned on a monument which now stands in the Hof Museum in Vienna, …
This is another lie. There is not even one Egyptian tablet, let alone many, on which the name Haman was found, nor is the artefact with the inscription that allegedly contains the name Haman “a monument”; it is a door post and it does not say “Haman”. Most ironically, there has not even been a “Hof Museum” in Vienna for more than eighty years!
The whole story is a hoax from start to finish.
After these “appentizers”, let’s now turn our attention to the full Muslim argument and examine it step by step. The discussion is structured in the following way:
* The Hoax
Stage One: Maurice Bucaille
Stage Two: Islamic Awareness
Stage Three: Harun Yahya
Stage Four: Caner Taslaman (later addition)
* Excursus: The impact of the Muslim Haman argument
* Various Appendices providing further background information 1.Who was Haman according to the Qur’an? 2.The similarities between Haman in the Bible and Haman in the Qur’an 3.The full inscription of “Haman’s” door post 4.The two versions of the argument by Islamic Awareness 5.Hammon & Hemiunu: The psychology of Islamic Awareness 6.What Islamic Awareness really knew 7.Statements by German Egyptologists
The first three parts should be read in the given sequence since they are building upon each other and details that have already been discussed and shown to be wrong in an earlier stage, will not be discussed again in the later parts.
We start our examination of the Muslim claims with Stage One: Maurice Bucaille
[First published: 9 November 2009]
[Last updated: 13 September 2011]
1 We will probably never know for sure what reasons led to the inclusion of Haman in the Exodus narrative of the Qur’an. Nevertheless, their common trait (of both having tried to exterminate the Israelites) could have created the occasion of Muhammad hearing Jews referring to both of these two evil men “in the same breath”. Further possible factors that may have contributed to the inclusion of Haman into the story of Pharaoh and Moses are presented in Appendix 1.
2 A search on Google for some of the relevant terms reveals that there are currently close to a thousand Muslim web pages propagating this particular argument. This may serve as a measure of importance that is attached to this topic by the Muslim community.
3 Most probably near the end of the year 1998 or early 1999.
Articles by Jochen Katz
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