Qur'an Contradiction:

A Tower of Burnt bricks in Egypt?

How did it get there?

And Pharaoh said: O chiefs! I know not that ye have a god other than me, so kindle for me (a fire), O Haman, to bake the mud; and set up for me a lofty tower in order that I may survey the god of Moses; and lo! I deem him of the liars. [Sura 28:38]

This is a very interesting verse for several reasons.

This command of Pharaoh is a problem for the authenticity and accuracy of the Qur'an since at the time of Moses Egyptians didn't construct buildings out of burnt clay, i.e. this is a historical contradiction. See the dictionary entry on Bricks for more details.

The next question would be to ask, where this motive comes from. Interestingly, there is a well-known story which fits these details. In Genesis 11:3-4a we read:

They said to each other, "Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, "Come let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches heaven, ..."

The original story of Moses and Pharaoh as reported in the Torah, the book of Exodus, reports historically accurate of the Israelites being forced to make bricks with straw (which are then sun-dried). This story has no mentioning of a tower for Pharaoh to reach God.

It seems that the author of the Qur'an confused or for other reasons conflated these two stories from the Torah, the Exodus of Israel and the tower of Babel.

But there is a third element. Where does Haman come from? He is a well-known enemy of the Jewish people, a court official of the Persian king Ahasueros [Xerxes], a man who like theh Egyptian Pharaoh tried to eliminate the Israelites [Esther 3:8-9] - only several hundred years later.

And indeed, Haman did build something high, for in Esther 5:14 we read:

His wife and all his friends said to him, "Have a gallows built, seventy-five feet high, and ask the king in the morning to have Mordecai hanged on it. Then go with the king to the dinner and by happy." This suggestion delighted Haman, and he had the gallows built.

Thus we have a conflation of not only two, but even three historical events into the version the Qur'an puts before us.

It might never become clear how or why this confusion arose, but the different elements are easily discerned.

Muslims like to argue, that there is no reason that Pharaoh should not also have had a master builder named Haman on his staff, even if he is not mentioned in the Bible. However, the problem of the burnt bricks makes it difficult to uphold the historicity of the account. The source of the unhistorical details are then identified as conflation with the story of the tower of Babel. This makes it far more likely that the mentioning of Haman here is just one more confusion and conflation than to appeal to the ad hoc explanation that there might just be another Haman. In particular, as such conflations are quite common in the Qur'an.

Contradictions in the Qur'an
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