Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

From the Maurice “Bucaillian” Haman
To the [Latest] “Islamic Awareness” Haman:

A Case of a Crumbling Argument?

Andrew Vargo

After a long hiatus, “Islamic Awareness” has updated their article concerning Haman in the Qur’an, renaming it: “Biblical Haman » Qur’ānic Hāmān: A Case Of Straightforward Literary Transition?”  The updated article includes a new addition to the Bibliography: Adam Silverstein’s article “Haman’s Transition from Jahiliyya to Islam”, [Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam, 2008 (published 2009), Volume 34, pp. 285-308].  Professor Silverstein writes:

The controversy over Haman’s identification rages even on the internet, where Christian missionaries and Muslim apologists seek to land scholastic blows against each other with increasingly misguided theories as to the historicity (or otherwise) of the Qur’anic Haman.16

16 See for instance M.S.M. Saifullah et al. “Historical Errors of the Qur’an: Haman and Pharaoh……. (last accessed 25/05/2007).

Coincidentally, or not, “Islamic Awareness” removed a huge amount of information from their article – the entire section which used many of Maurice Bucaille’s arguments, and some less-than-honest reference citations, in order to attempt to argue that a Haman existed in ancient Egypt.  For those who do not remember, or for those who have never read this piece of sophistry, please see: The Haman Hoax, Stage 2: Islamic Awareness to read “Islamic Awareness’” old arguments as well as responses to the arguments recycled on their updated edition.  One can also observe the intellectual dishonesty on which some of these arguments were constructed. 

So, after failing to find, or insert, a character named Haman in Ancient Egypt, “Islamic Awareness” was forced to fall back on some of the old arguments while pretending to intellectually engage Silverstein’s article which [as “Islamic Awareness” points out] says:

Silverstein concludes Qur’anic Haman and Esther’s Haman “have been shown to be one and the same.”

The "Islamic Awareness" team goes into a very lengthy discussion concerning whether, or not, the Book of Esther is historically accurate and whether, or not, it belongs in the Canon of Scripture as well as questioning when the text was “fixed”.  

“Islamic Awareness’” critique of the Book of Esther relied on various Bible commentaries:

With this in mind, it is therefore not our intention to ‘rehash’ every single detail, but rather highlight some beneficial summaries taken from a variety of biblical commentaries, Jewish and Christian (Protestant and Catholic) that form part of the historical enquiry into Esther and its characters. We can thus come to terms with some of the key data the aforementioned scholars interacted with before delivering their assessment.

However, “Islamic Awareness” – in yet another case where they engage in the fallacy of Special Pleading – objects strenuously to Silverstein’s use of Islamic commentaries:

In many cases it is clear he is mainly concerned with the Haman as supplemented by the Qur’anic commentaries, which as we have already said, he has conclusively shown to be indebted to its biblical counterpart. Nevertheless, when these later writings are interrogated and found to contain material of obvious biblical origin, their context cannot be back projected into the Qur’an.

This discussion fills a lot of space, but it is largely irrelevant. Even if the Book of Esther is historically inaccurate, the problems of having a man with the Avestan name Haman in ancient Egypt does not go away. In other words, whether the Book of Esther is a divinely inspired, and a historically accurate book – or whether it is a Jewish legend that is essentially unhistorical – does not really matter for the Qur’an. Muhammad had heard about Haman from the Jews and considered him to be a real person. The problem arises because Muhammad took Haman out of the context of Persian history and transferred him to the court of the Pharaoh in Egypt. Whether Haman was taken out of true history or out of a pious legend, his placement in Egypt is unhistorical in either case. Trying to attack the historicity of the Book of Esther does nothing to validate the story of Haman in the Qur’an. The accuracy of the Book of Esther – or the denial of the same – also does not explain away the fact that all of the main elements of the Qur’anic narrative are contained in the books of the Old Testament, many from the Book of Esther itself – which contains the earliest reference to a man named Haman.

The Qur’an’s story of a Haman in ancient Egypt is not the only problem with Muhammad’s account of Moses and the Exodus.

The most astounding thing about the Qur’an’s account of Haman is that all of the main elements of the Qur’anic narrative are contained within the Old Testament. In both the Bible and the Qur’an, Haman is an evil character who plans to destroy the children of Israel. Haman built a tall structure – a gallows in the Bible [Esther 5:14], and a tower in the Qur’an [Surah 40:36].

There are a number of other parallels between Qur’an’s tower of Haman and the Bible’s tower of Babel:

Surah 28:38 records Pharaoh saying: "light me a (kiln to bake bricks) out of clay"

Genesis 11:3 says "let’s make bricks and bake them".

Surah 28:38 records Pharaoh saying: "build me a lofty palace, that I may mount up to the god of Moses".

Genesis 11:4 says "Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens’."

The Qur’an also mentions a man named Korah [Qarun] who died in an unusual way:

He was swallowed up by the earth [Numbers 16:28-33] just as Qarun was swallowed by the earth [S. 28:81].

Surah 28:23-29 tells the story of Moses in Midian and his marriage.  Once again, Muhammad confused the Biblical account of Moses’ marriage with that of Jacob’s marriage.

Another problem is that Surah 28:6-7 says that Haman was in power when Moses was born.  According to the Bible (Exodus 7:7), Moses was 80 years old when he went to Pharaoh, therefore, Haman must have been very old!

In spite of “Islamic Awareness’” attempts to ignore the obvious, it appears that Muhammad heard a number of versions of the Biblical narratives from the Jews of Arabia and simply combined various elements of a number of stories into a narrative. Muhammad had a purpose for his recitation of the Qur’anic narratives which mention Haman: – he was attempting to convince the people of Mecca that he [Muhammad] was a Prophet like Moses and that his “revelations” were, like the Torah, from God.  Historical facts were of no importance, he was telling a story to elicit a response based on fear.

The numerous elements that Muhammad borrowed from the Bible, for his Qur’an’s account of Moses, provide tremendous circumstantial evidence to support the theory that Muhammad concocted this little tale by piecing together several different stories from the Bible.  This circumstantial evidence is supported by a significant quantity of corroborating evidence from the Qur’an itself. There are many verses in the Qur’an where Muhammad is accused of reciting "tales of the ancients", including Surahs 6:25; 8:31; 16:24; 23:83; 25:5; 27:68; 46:17; 68:15; and, 83:13.  Neither Muhammad, nor the dawagandists at “Islamic Awareness,” ever provided any evidence to defend his alleged "revelations" against this charge.