This is the “Preface” to the book The Mystery of Israel in Ancient Egypt: The Exodus in the Qur’an, the Old Testament, Archaeological Finds, and Historical Sources
We decided to rewrite the original book because we felt that it needed a number of improvements. First, feedback on the first book indicated that it was not easy to read. Some informed readers had to read the book twice to fully understand it. Clearly, it was not reader friendly. One major reason was the way the book was structured.
Second, the original book covered some topics that were not completely needed for a book that focused on the exodus. While those topics remain as interesting as they were, they are not as relevant to the subject of Israel in ancient Egypt, so we removed them from this book. For instance, the first book covered aspects of Jesus’ story that have some subtle links to elements of the story of the exodus. These have now been covered far more comprehensively by one of us in a book that focuses on Jesus: The Mystery of the Historical Jesus: The Messiah in the Qur’an, the Bible, and Historical Sources.
Third, the text itself was also at times not easy to read, so we also focused on improving the language and readability of the text.
These changes have meant that the new book has almost a completely different structure. However, not everything has changed. The main arguments and conclusions of the book remain the same. Some sections of the new book still look similar to the corresponding sections in the older book, but even in these cases the text had to be substantially edited and improved. We believe that the new book is much better written, considerably easier and enjoyable to read, and completely accessible to the general reader.
We have also decided this time not to include the Arabic text of the Qur’anic verses. While the inclusion of the Arabic text was not an issue for the earlier book, most of the target readership of the book do not read Arabic and would find the text redundant. Furthermore, those who can read Arabic can easily check the Arabic origin of the translated Qur’anic verses should they wish to use a paper or electronic copy of the Qur’an.
This is why we have rewritten the book. But why did we write the original book in the first place?
Not many events in history have captured the imagination of the layperson and the scholar as much as the exodus. The scholarly interest in the history of Israel in ancient Egypt, in general, and the exodus, in particular, has triggered an enormous amount of research by historians, Biblicists, and archaeologists. Researchers have desperately clung to a shred of pottery unearthed from an ancient site or argued the reading or translation of a few hardly legible words from an ancient inscription to prove a point or another.
This interest of scholars in extra-Biblical data in the form of archaeological finds and ancient scriptural sources is in total contrast to their persistent neglect of the Qur’an. It is true that the Qur’an is not a traditional historical book like the Bible and that it gives only very brief information on ancient history of the Israelites. But the information it contains is significant in terms of both quality and quantity.
This attitude toward the Qur’an underlines two different assumptions. First, the Bible represents a perfectly or largely true account of history, so any book that contradicts or challenges it, as the Qur’an does, cannot be reliable. This is an assumption of faith, but it is one that influences many. Second, the Qur’an has unfaithfully copied much of its material from the Bible and other Jewish and Christian sources. This makes the Qur’an not an original, let alone credible, source of information. This view of the Qur’an is as old as the Qur’an itself. It was first held by Jews and Christians at the time of its revelation, and it remains faithfully subscribed to 14 centuries later.
It is true that a cursory look at the Qur’an would reveal similarities with the Bible. But the Qur’an implies that since Jewish writings, such as the Bible, are partly based on revealed scriptures and given that the Qur’an is revealed by the same and one God, these similarities are only to be expected. Additionally, these similarities are very limited and the differences between the Qur’an and the Bible are much greater in number and details. This general statement applies to the Qur’anic account and its Biblical counterpart of the history of Israel.
The right approach to assessing history in the Qur’an is to investigate it carefully and thoroughly and give it at least a small fraction of the time and energy that has been generously allocated to the Bible. If those interested in the historicity of the exodus had done so, they would have found a picture that is, unlike the Bible’s, internally consistent and in line with external evidence. The Qur’an does not contradict itself, and it is free of those Biblical claims, or any other claims, that fly in the face of external evidence. Furthermore, the Qur’an reveals a number of facts about the exodus that lead to an unambiguous identification of Pharaoh.
We wanted to write a book that demonstrates that keeping the Qur’an completely out of the research into the exodus was unjustifiable. Muslims in particular would also be interested in this book’s attempt to show that the accuracy of the Qur’an confirms its claim to divine origin and inerrancy. This is why we wrote this book.
When we published the first book, we hoped that it would create interest in the Qur’anic account of the history of Israel in ancient Egypt. We firmly believe that we made a strong case for further contributions to this subject and to the study of other parts and aspects of the Qur’anic text. Unfortunately, but also unsurprisingly, this has not happened yet. We still believe that this dismissive attitude toward the Qur’an will change, and our publication of this book is a confirmation of this belief.
We would like to thank our close friend Tariq Chaudhry whose comments on an earlier draft of the book helped us improve it considerably.
Copyright © 2008 Louay Fatoohi and Shetha Al-Dargazelli
All Rights Reserved