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Story of Pharaoh in the Koran: A Miracle?

by Alamgir Hossain

10 Dec, 2008

A self-professed ex-Muslim atheist found a miracle in the Koran in the story of Pharaoh, the Egyptian king. In discussions with his friend, he discovered a stunning revelation in the Koran which says that Pharaoh was saved in body although the Bible (Torah) says, 'Pharaoh was drowned in the Red Sea while chasing Moses and his companions'. The point he intended to put across is that the Biblical account is incorrect while the Koranic one is correct.  Relevant Koranic and Biblical verses he cited are as follows:

He sought to relate the Koranic claim of saving Pharaoh's body in the discovery of mummies of ancient Kings (Pharaohs) in Egypt in the early 20th century. However, he conveniently ignored the other Koranic verses, which give a conflicting picture of the fate of Pharaoh as cited below:

The story of Pharaoh goes in the Islamic discourse goes like this:

When Moses took the was fled with the children of Israel, Pharaoh with his people pursued him. Upon arrival at the read sea, Allah parted the sea. Moses and his people crossed it and when Pharaoh and his people were in the middle of the parted sea, Allah let the water flow. Pharaoh with his people were drowned.

Now let us have look at the confusing and contradictory picture the Quran draws of Pharaoh's fate:

  1. Quran 2:50 says, Pharaoh and his people, who were in pursuance of fleeing Moses, were drowned in Red sea. There is no indication of difference in the fate of any of them.
  2. Quran 8.54 again affirms that Pharaoh and his people, while pursuing Moses, were all destroyed by drowning for their wrong-doings and disbelief.
  3. And finally Quran 10:90-92 says: Pharaoh had submitted to Islam while getting drowned and yet,  was not forgiven by Allah. Instead, he was saved in his body to serve as a sign (of evil?) for the posterity.

This account gives a glimpse of an utterly confused author, the Islamic God Allah, of this alleged Holy Book of Truth. When confronted with these Koranic contradictions, this atheist guy, like a typical Islamic apologist, quickly changed his mind that the Koran is no more a book of  astounding revelation as compared to the Bible and insisted that these divine books describe a similarly correct account of Pharaoh as he said: "Astonishingly, all three books narrates the story of Moses having contents with startling resemblance". Now he is impressed by the miracle of these alleged books of revelation that some Egyptian king named Pharaoh ever existed: "Is there any scientific proof exists that shows Moses or any other component mentioned in the stories present in Torah, Bible, Quran does exists? At least I know one, a very weak component, existence of Pharaohs!."

Here is an example of dishonesty and intellectual bankruptcy, which a typical religious apologist will normally demonstrate. This gentleman initially found an astoundingly different account of Pharaoh in Koran as compared to the Bible (which is indeed true), but the next moment he changed his mind that all these "holy books", in fact,  give a similar account of Pharaoh. The fact that the Koran itself gives a very contradictory picture of Pharaoh's fate will not get into him. No doubt the Koran, as uncovered by Maurice Bucaille, is a book of all the sciences on earth. This Saudi royal family doctor's devout disciples from the Muslim community continue to unravel more.

This gentleman appears to believe that it was so difficult for Moses, Jesus and Muhammad to know that Egyptian king Pharaoh ever existed. Hence, the simple mention of Pharaoh in the Torah and the Koran itself is a piece of scientific miracle of these divine books. This account clearly demonstrates his ignorance about the historical background of the religious scriptures and history of the Middle East and Egypt as I will expound it in the following paragraphs.

Who was Pharaoh?

All Muslims (also probably all believing Jews and Christians) believe that Pharaoh was the name of the Egyptian king during the time of Moses and he died drowned in the Red Sea when he and his men were chasing Moses and his men (Children of Israel) who were fleeing Egypt. But Pharaoh was not the name of an individual king; it was actually the title of the ancient Egyptian rulers like the king, emperor or raja.

Thus, there were many Pharaohs in Egypt from 3200 BCE until Alexander the great conquered it in 332 BCE. Although some of them may have been unkind rulers like other rulers around the world at that time, a few of them were actually kind, generous, intelligent and concerned about the welfare of the people. The most kind and generous Pharaoh was Ahmis I (d. 1610 BCE). He was very concerned for his subjects and ensuring better comfort, happiness and welfare of his people was his motto. He was so popular with his people that the Egyptians worshiped him for almost a thousand years after his death until the Persians conquered Egypt in 525 BCE.

Another great Pharaoh was Rameses II (or Rameses the Great, 1317€“1251 BCE) and if Moses (allegedly born in 1359 BCE) ever had lived on earth, Rameses II is the evil Pharaoh drowned in the red sea as described in the Bible, later copied in the Koran. The truth of the matter is that Rameses-II was a very intelligent, strongly secular and scientific-minded; he had great interest in arts and architecture. He was in no way a cruel king as described in the story of EXODUS. If the Pharaoh in the story of EXODUS was indeed Rameses II, then this story is one of the greatest character-assassination efforts in human history. Character-killing incidences are not rare in human history, particularly in holy scriptures. We see in Hindu tradition that Ravana, a very kind and respectable monarch, is horribly character-assassinated in the epic of Ramayana, while the uncouth, unjust and treacherous gang of Rama and his brother are revered. In Islam, similar character assassination has been done concerning the Pagans and Jews of Arabia, who were, in any account, a very tolerant, generous and nonviolent people, opposed to Prophet Muhammad's gang of plunders, mass-murderers, enslavers and rapists.

Name Pharaoh in books of revelations a miracle?

This gentle atheist feels that simply the occurrence of the word Pharaoh in the Bible and the Koran is a miracle, a scientific proof (weak?) of the divinity of these books. But does it qualify to be any kind of miracle?

Unlikely so! Egyptian rulers assumed the Pharaoh title from ~3200 to 332 BCE and scores of Pharaohs ruled Egypt during that period. Given that the story of the EXODUS was revealed either by an alleged God or composed by some jealous and mischievous writer as folklores, during about the time of alleged Moses (1300€“1200 BCE) or later, when Pharaoh was still the title of the Egyptian king, the author naturally used the term 'Pharaoh' to describe the Egyptian monarch. Hence, it  is naive at best to discover a miracle in the occurrence of the word 'Pharaoh' in the Bible and the Koran. The failure of divine books to specify which Pharaoh was involved in animosity with Moses exposes their baselessness.

The mummy story

The Egyptians used to mummify their dead bodies if they could afford, which, they thought, would ensure peace to their departed soul in afterlife. And obviously, the dead bodies of Kings (Pharaohs) were mummified. Mummification of dead bodies continued for about 3,000 years until the 4th century CE, when many Egyptians had become Christians and no longer believed that mummification was necessary for after-death salvation of the soul. Eventually, the Egyptians gave up the art and science of making mummies.

Since Prophet Muhammad was born just about two hundreds years after the tradition of mummification ceased to continue and given the proximity of the Arabia with Egypt, Prophet Muhammad undoubtedly heard folklore stories and legends about mummification, especially of Egyptian Pharaohs (Kings). Although Muhammad failed to describe mummification of Pharaoh's bodies properly (simply said Pharaoh was saved in his body), indeed Pharaoh Rameses II was mummified and preserved; he was never drowned in the Red Sea as described in Exodus. When everyone accompanying Pharaoh was perished by Allah in the red sea, who brought the dead body of Pharaoh from there to Egypt and did the mummification? It was more likely that Moses and his followers would have brought Pharaoh's dead body to Israel for preservation as wished by the Allah. But there is no mummy found in Israel. If at all that happened, the mummy of the Pharaoh of Abrahamic scriptures must be buried underneath somewhere in Israel and is not at all acting as the warning or signs of evil, for which Allah wished to save Pharaoh in his body [Quran 10:90€“92]. Allah's wish failed to materialize.

The fact is that Muhammad was confused by the stories of Old Testament and the stories of mummies of Pharaohs preserved in Egyptian pyramids; therefore, he gave conflicting accounts of Pharaoh's fate in the Koran.

In fact, Ramses II is one of the three most famous Egyptians mummies, namely Tutankhamen, Seti I and Rameses II (Ramses the Great). Although great Pharaoh Ramses II may have been severely character-assassinated by the fables of divine scriptures, the civilized people of the world paid due respect to the mummified body of Ramses II; it never served as a "sign of evil" as Allah wished in the Koran. Here goes the story:

Once in Paris, Ramses was diagnosed with, and treated for, a fungal infection. During the examination, scientific analysis revealed battle wounds and old fractures, plus arthritis and poor circulation Pharaoh's body at the time of his death. In addition, experts were able to determine some of the flowers and herbs that were used for the embalming him, which included lots of camomile oil.

Thus, the story of Pharaoh or the discovery of mummies of Egyptian kings or whatsoever, none of them gives any credibility to the fables or legends described in the Bible and the Koran. A proper historical, scientific and rational investigation only unravels the baselessness of those stories.

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