Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

The Haman Hoax

Jochen Katz

Appendix 3

The full text of the inscription from the alleged grave of “Haman”

A number of apologists for Islam1 have claimed that the name Haman, who is mentioned in the Qur’an as an important official of the Pharaoh (cf. Appendix 1), has been found in an old Egyptian inscription. The main sections of this series contain a detailed discussion regarding the name and professional title of the person mentioned in this inscription. For completeness’ sake, and so that the context becomes clearer, this appendix provides the full text of the inscription and some additional background information that is relevant to this discussion.

The inscription is found on a door post (jamb2) that comes from a grave. The door jamb is located at the “Kunsthistorisches Museum” (Art History Museum) in Vienna. Relatively recent color pictures of this door jamb can be found in the online database of the museum; the jamb is broken in two pieces: top, bottom. The online database of the Global Egyptian Museum provides an old black and white photograph (*) at the bottom of their page about the door jamb (*).

Though Hemen-hetep’s door jamb is somewhat higher, the complete door opening may have looked similar to a niche frame from the grave of Pa-nehesi (*).3

The original location of Hemen-hetep’s grave is not known, nor can the inscription be dated exactly. However, some features of the artefact allow an approximate dating to a certain time period within the New Kingdom (19th to 20th Dynasty), between 1315-1081 BC (*), and lead Egyptologists to the conclusion that the jamb probably came from the area around Luxor in Upper Egypt (*).

The Global Egyptian Museum provides a translation of the complete inscription in several languages. They give the following meaning for it:

(1) An offering, which the king gives to Osiris, Foremost of the Westerners, Lord of Infinity, Ruler of Eternity, so that he may give everything that is offered on his food table; the sweet breath of the northern wind; a goodly funeral for his old age, for the Ka of the overseer of the stonemasons of Amun Hemen-hetep, true of voice.4 (2) An offering, which the King gives to the Western Desert and Amaunet, the Lady of Heaven, so that she may give food and sustenance and all kinds of offerings, all things good and pure, for the Ka of the overseer of the stonemasons of Amun Hemen-hetep, true of voice. (3) His son Pu-hotep. (4) The mistress of the house Nefret-nub. (Source; bold emphasis mine)

The following observations are important for the discussion of the Muslim claims: The name is rendered as Hemen-hetep. The full text of the inscription does not mention the word “Pharaoh”, nor the personal name of any Pharaoh, nor a statement that the deceased was in any way personally connected to the Pharaoh.

Therefore, Bucaille lied when he said, “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.” And Harun Yahya also lied when he claims, “It [the name Haman] was mentioned on a monument which now stands in the Hof Museum in Vienna, and in which the closeness of Haman to the Pharaoh was emphasized.” In the case of Harun Yahya it was probably only a fertile imagination that simply developed Bucaille’s statement. It is nevertheless a lie because Harun Yahya created his own formulation about something he did not verify, even if it was inspired by the statement of Bucaille.

Muslims may ask, “But isn’t the ‘king’ that is mentioned in the inscription the Pharaoh?” As confirmed by Prof. Graefe (cf. Appendix 7), there is nothing in these offering formulas that would indicate a close connection between the deceased and the Pharaoh. How then should we understand these formulations? They are standard offering formulas that exist in many graves of ancient Egypt and these formulaic expressions have changed very little over the centuries.5

In Egyptian religion, when priests make offerings they function as representatives of the king so that it is always the king who gives the offering. This is reflected in the offering formula, but it is not a reference to any specific king, whether the currently ruling one or an earlier king, nor does it imply that the king offered specifically for this deceased person. The offering formula is simply the wish or request that these (general) offerings that are "given by the king" may also benefit the deceased whose name is mentioned in the offering formula. This formula is basically a blessing upon the deceased person, an expression of good wishes for the afterlife of the dead.

If the owner of a grave was of such importance that he stood in personal relationship to the Pharaoh, then this is stated explicitly. For example, among the many titles attributed to Hemiunu in his grave inscriptions, the following was found: “the only friend of the king”.6

Let me illustrate this “standardization” of the offering formulas with an expression in the English language: When somebody sneezes, people usually say to this person, “Bless you!” That is an abbreviation of “God bless you (with health)!” “Bless you!” has become a standard expression in English. It simply is polite to say so, but one cannot conclude from hearing that formula used that either one of the two persons involved actually believes in God. Likewise, in France people often say “Adieu” when they part. It literally means “(Go) with God”, but again, it has become a standard formulation (at the time when most French people were Christians) but it continues to be used today regardless of whether the person believes in God or not.

In summary: This formulaic expression does not refer to any king (or pharaoh) in particular. It is a standard offering formula that exists in many graves and has changed very little in centuries. It does not imply any relationship of the deceased with the pharaoh ruling during his life time.



1 Most prominently: Maurice Bucaille, a team of authors working with the website Islamic Awareness, and Harun Yahya. Their specific claims are examined in detail here.

2 For a definition of a jamb and some pictures to illustrate it, see these pages (1, 2, 3).

3 On the other hand, the door jamb of Hemen-hetep (broken: upper, lower part) is far smaller than one found in the unfinished grave of Ramose (image TB46 on this page).

4 “True of voice” is a literal translation of the phrase that comes after the name of the deceased. It is an idiomatic expression that basically means “blessed” or “justified”.

5 Readers who are interested in detailed discussion of the old Egyptian offering formulas may want to consult this standard reference (in German): Winfried Barta, Aufbau und Bedeutung der altägyptischen Opferformel. Ägyptologische Forschungen (24) [J. J. Augustin, Glückstadt, 1968] (*). Chapter 5:  Das njswt der Königsformel (pp. 283-286) provides a discussion of the term king (njswt) in these offering formulas. Interestingly, a Wikipedia page on transliteration schemes of Old Egyptian language uses a very similar offering formula (with the same first part) as an example to illustrate different transliterations (*). Most likely, this text was chosen because it occurs so often, i.e. it is a very common and highly standardized formulaic expression. Also the offering formula on the door jamb in Ramose's grave begins with the same signs, see the middle of the picture TB46 on this page.

6 Original German translation: ‘einziger Freund des Königs’ (Hermann Junker, Giza I, p. 149, no. 16; PDF, 26.1 MB).

The Haman Hoax
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