Was there a second period of slaying the sons of the Israelites?

A pretty humorous piece has been written by a biased missionary[1] claiming that the Qur’an differs with the Bible regarding the details of Pharaoh’s killing of the sons of Israelites and hence, the Qur’an is contradictory.[2]

If the Qur’an differs from the Bible, which is correct?

There could be three possibilities; 1) the Qur’an is correct, 2) the Bible is correct, or 3) both are incorrect. Since the third possibility is impossible to prove, we only have a choice between the first two. The Bible has a healthy track record of making blunders in history[3][4], science[5], and contradicting itself[6][7][8] among others[9], while on the other hand, the Qur’an is free from any proven error, logic dictates that the latter should be trusted when differences between the two arise[10]. Claiming that the Bible is earlier is not even an argument as it is, firstly, dated centuries later than the incidents it speaks of and more importantly, such a weak argument is an admission itself that the Bible is not the book of God and makes its arguments on the claim that it was written near the incidents it narrates. For something to be from God, earlier or later writing would not make any difference. Moreover, as references, the Bible is not even a reliable history book and one would need to critically assess the passages to derive authentic historical facts from it.

The alleged contradiction in the Qur’an is raised on the following verses:

وَقَالَ الْمَلأ مِن قَوْمِ فِرْعَونَ أَتَذَرُ مُوسَى وَقَوْمَهُ لِيُفْسِدُواْ فِى الاٌّرْضِ وَيَذَرَكَ وَءالِهَتَكَ قَالَ سَنُقَتِّلُ أَبْنَآءَهُمْ وَنَسْتَحْيِـى نِسَآءَهُمْ وَإِنَّا فَوْقَهُمْ قَـهِرُونَ

And the eminent among the people of Pharaoh said,” Will you leave Moses and his people to cause corruption in the land and abandon you and your gods?” [Pharaoh] said, “We will kill their sons and keep their women alive; and indeed, we are subjugators over them.”[11]

وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا مُوسَى بِـَايَـتِنَا وَسُلْطَانٍ مُّبِينٍ – إِلَى فِرْعَوْنَ وَهَـمَـنَ وَقَـشرُونَ فَقَالُواْ سَـحِرٌ كَـذَّابٌ – فَلَمَّا جَآءَهُمْ بِالْحَقِّ مِنْ عِندِنَا قَالُواْ اقْتُلُواْ أَبْنَآءَ الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ مَعَهُ وَاسْتَحْيُواْ نِسَآءَهُمْ وَمَا كَـيْدُ الْكَـفِرِينَ إِلاَّ فِى ضَلَـلٍ

And We did certainly send Moses with Our signs and a clear authority to Pharaoh, Haman and Qarūn; but they said, “[He is] a magician and a liar.” And when he brought them the truth from Us, they said, “Kill the sons of those who have believed with him and keep their women alive.” But the plan of the disbelievers is not except in error. [12]

As stated above, if the Qur’an and the Bible differ, it does not mean that the Qur’an is incorrect; rather vice versa is the case.

Why is the Qur’an not so detailed about the incidents?

It is argued that the Bible gives a clear reason for this cruel decision of the Pharaoh in Exodus 1 while the Qur’an does not. The Qur’an is not a story book unlike other scriptures; it is a book of signs and forces one to ponder over them. Pharaoh was a skilled politician and a cruel ruler. People like him are found in every times and it is our duty to ponder over the message of the Qur’an which enables us to identify such cruel people and the ways by which they work.

If you have the habit of gossiping, watching too much entertainment channels, enjoying page 3 news items and taking keen interest in who married whom and who’s divorcing whom, then you come forth with such questions and more silly questions as follows:

For how long was the command to be in force? Was this a one time genocidal action of killing all males, or a sustained program of killing male infants whenever they are born? For what reason would it be one or the other? Who was supposed to do the killing? The Egyptian police or military? Or every Egyptian was supposed to go and kill his Israelite neighbour’s son?

Did the command of the Pharaoh have the same range (regarding the age of the sons to be killed) in the second instance as in the first, or was it to be understood differently?

What is the age limit up to which the sons should be slain? Only the newborn ones? Up to age six? Or ten? Or fourteen? Or twenty?

Yes, these are really asked by a Christian missionary. My only advice to such people would be let it go for a while, cool down and relax. Try to clear the mind from polluted thoughts and gossiping attitude and for once take a religious scripture for what it is instead of a masala filled story book or else keep reading about Oholah and Oholibah.[13]

The verse being criticized is presented here again as follows:

وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا مُوسَى بِـَايَـتِنَا وَسُلْطَانٍ مُّبِينٍ – إِلَى فِرْعَوْنَ وَهَـمَـنَ وَقَـشرُونَ فَقَالُواْ سَـحِرٌ كَـذَّابٌ – فَلَمَّا جَآءَهُمْ بِالْحَقِّ مِنْ عِندِنَا قَالُواْ اقْتُلُواْ أَبْنَآءَ الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ مَعَهُ وَاسْتَحْيُواْ نِسَآءَهُمْ وَمَا كَـيْدُ الْكَـفِرِينَ إِلاَّ فِى ضَلَـلٍ

And We did certainly send Moses with Our signs and a clear authority to Pharaoh, Haman and Qarūn; but they said, “[He is] a magician and a liar.” And when he brought them the truth from Us, they said, “Kill the sons of those who have believed with him and keep their women alive.” But the plan of the disbelievers is not except in error. [14]

When Musa (عليه السلام) had given them the checkmate in every way and they had no further attempt at logic to resort to and no refutation to the claims of Musa (عليه السلام), Pharaoh and his men threatened/decided to kill the children of Israel. This was their plan and threat and the Qur’anic verse ends by stating that the plan of the disbelievers is not except in error, we learn that they were not able to carry out the killings as they had planned and the children of Israel were saved and Pharaoh and his men drowned.

Regarding the verse, the missionary asks:

What purpose should this order serve? How many newborn baby boys did exist at that time? As cruel as it would be to the parents of these babies, killing 50 or 100 or even 300 babies would be totally irrelevant to the message and challenge that Moses brought to Pharaoh. There an answer was needed that would have quick results and that could counter Moses’ miracles. Moses was certainly not intending to stand there and wait a generation or two until he became impressed.

Expecting logic and rationality from Pharaoh is something only a lunatic would do. The first command had been as a precaution against the emergence of a man like Musa (عليه السلام), or an act intended to humiliate this people or reduce their numbers or both. The second command was for the second reason, to humiliate the people so that they would regard Musa (عليه السلام) as a bad omen.

Conclusion

The missionary spills venom saying that the Prophet (ﷺ) assumed the Pharaoh would treat the Israelites in a similar way as he () acted himself when he ordered the males of the Banu Qurayza to be slain and the females to be taken as slaves. Even though not related to the topic, he could not control and felt the need to strike a quick one below the belt. The Banu Quraiza incident requires a study of the incident instead of making childish remarks. Read the details here.

To conclude and to reiterate, a difference between the Bible and the Qur’an does not render the Qur’an faulty; in fact, logic and neutral facts state that when these books differ, the Qur’an is the accurate of the two.

Indeed, Allah knows the best.

References and Footnotes:

[1] Was there a second period of slaying the sons of the Israelites?

[2] The missionary states:

This story being retold so often, and its details being scattered in so many places, calls for comparing the different versions and discovering similarities and differences between the different versions of the story in the Qur’an as well as the similarities and differences between (the various versions of) the Qur’an and the Bible.

We do not need to judge the intentions; Katz makes his hate, bias, and crooked thinking apparent with this statement whereby he seeks to read the Qur’an purely to look for contradictions and when he is unable to find them, he makes them as done hundreds of times before and here as well.

[3] Which is More Historically Reliable, the Qur’an or Bible?

[4] How the Qur’an Corrects the Bible

[5] Biblical scientific errors

[6] The Great Cover-up: Evidence That Ishmael Was Written Out of The Torah

[7] Does the New Testament Contain Contradictions?

[8] The sacrificial son: Isma’il or Isaac?

[9] Is Paul a Genuine Apostle of God? And much more here.

[10] Pharaoh said: Haman, kindle a fire for me over the clay and build me a lofty tower (Qur’an 28:38). The name “Haman” was not known until the decoding of Egyptian hieroglyphics in the 19th century. When the hieroglyphics were decoded, it was understood that Haman was a close helper of the Pharaoh and was “the head of the stone quarries.”

Surprisingly, the name “Haman” is never mentioned in those sections of the Torah pertaining to the life of the Prophet Musa (عليه السلام). However, the mention of Haman can be found in the last chapters of the Torah as the helper of a Babylonian king who inflicted many cruelties on the Israelites approximately 1,100 years after the Prophet Musa (عليه السلام).The Qur’an, far more in tune with recent archaeological discoveries, does indeed contain the word “Haman” in reference to the life of the Prophet Musa (عليه السلام).

[11] Qur’an 7:127

[12] Qur’an 40:23-25

[13] Ezekiel 23

[14] Qur’an 40:23-25

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