Refutation Of The Internal Contradictions In The Qur'ân

When Commanded Pharaoh the Killing of the Sons? When Moses was a Prophet and spoke God's truth to Pharaoh [40:23-25] or when he was still an infant [20:38-39]?

Islamic Awareness

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Last Modified: 19th September 1999

Assalamu-alaikum wa rahamatullahi wa barakatuhu:

According to the Christian missionaries:

Sura 40:23-25 says, "And truly We sent Moses with our revelation and a clear warrant unto Pharaoh and Haman and Qarun, but they said, `A lying sorcerer!' And when he brought them the truth from our presence, they said, `Slay the sons of those who believe with him....'"

From this, we learn that Pharaoh ordered the killing of the sons of the Jews when Moses approached him with the truth. But Sura 20:38-39 says, "When We inspired in your mother that which is inspired, saying, `Throw him into the ark, and throw it into the river....'"

This means that Pharaoh commanded his men to kill the sons of the Jews when Moses was a child. Moses had not yet received any revelation from God.


Let us first quote the verses chronologically in order to understand what is going on. The verse

"Behold! We sent to thy mother, by inspiration, the message: "'Throw (the child) into the chest, and throw (the chest) into the river: the river will cast him up on the bank, and he will be taken up by one who is an enemy to Me and an enemy to him': But I cast (the garment of) love over thee from Me: and (this) in order that thou mayest be reared under Mine eye. [Qur'ân 20:38-39]

is talking about Moses(P) as a child when he was thrown into the river in a chest and how Allah is going to take care of him. This story is further elaborated in another place in the Qur'ân.

Truly Pharaoh elated himself in the land and broke up its people into sections, depressing a small group among them: their sons he slew, but he kept alive their females: for he was indeed a maker of mischief. And We wished to be Gracious to those who were being depressed in the land, to make them leaders (in Faith) and make them heirs, To establish a firm place for them in the land, and to show Pharaoh, Haman, and their hosts, at their hands, the very things against which they were taking precautions. So We sent this inspiration to the mother of Moses: "Suckle (thy child), but when thou hast fears about him, cast him into the river, but fear not nor grieve: for We shall restore him to thee, and We shall make him one of Our messengers." Then the people of Pharaoh picked him up (from the river): (It was intended) that (Moses) should be to them an adversary and a cause of sorrow: for Pharaoh and Haman and (all) their hosts were men of sin. The wife of Pharaoh said: "(Here is) joy of the eye, for me and for thee: slay him not. It may be that he will be use to us, or we may adopt him as a son." And they perceived not (what they were doing)! But there came to be a void in the heart of the mother of Moses: She was going almost to disclose his (case), had We not strengthened her heart (with faith), so that she might remain a (firm) believer. [Qur'ân 28:4-10]

So, the Pharaoh issued the first decree of killing all the males when Moses(P) was a baby.

And as far as the second verses are concerned,

Of old We sent Moses, with Our Signs and an authority manifest, To Pharaoh, Haman, and Qarun; but they called (him)" a sorcerer telling lies!"..Now, when he came to them in Truth, from Us, they said, "Slay the sons of those who believe with him, and keep alive their females," but the plots of Unbelievers (end) in nothing but errors (and delusions)!... Said Pharaoh: "Leave me to slay Moses; and let him call on his Lord! What I fear is lest he should change your religion, or lest he should cause mischief to appear in the land!" [Qur'ân 40:23-26]

talks about Moses(P) when he is grown-up and he was sent by Allah to Pharaoh to call him to worship one and only God. And the Pharaoh again issued the decree of killing the males for the second time. So, the Christian missionaries got really confused and mixed up two separate events to claim a contradiction! It gets even clearer when one reads "Slay the sons of those who believe with him, and keep alive their females,". So, there is no contradiction here!

It is worthwhile to point here that this method of exegesis using internal relationships, i.e., al-Qur'ân yufassiru bacduhu bacdan (different parts of the Qur'ân explain each other), is widely employed in the stories of the Prophets and the people of the past. Certain themes have been treated in more than one place in the Qur'ân, including, for instance, God's power and grace, the hereafter, stories of earlier prophets, etc. The conciseness or expansion in one place or another depends on muqtadâ'i 'l-hâl, and an expanded statement in one place clarifies a concise one in another. This essentially means that the Pharaoh issued the decree of slaying the males twice: when Moses(P) was born and when Moses(P) started calling Pharaoh to submit to Allah.

And Allah knows best!

   Islamic Awareness Qur'ân Contradictions Internal Pharaoh's Command To Kill The Sons

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