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Was Prophet Abraham the Desert Chief Ibsha? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Let us return to what I said in my previous article [Egypt: A Meeting Place for Prophets and Messengers] on Prophet Abraham – the Father of the Prophets – and his arrival in Egypt, which is something mentioned in the Torah. In order to confirm this, we should look at ancient Egyptian stories and legends to see if we can find any evidence of Prophet Abraham’s presence in Egypt.

As I mentioned previously, the Holy Books do not include specific times and dates, therefore it is up to the researchers to discover the facts of a situation surrounding an event, such as by way of the geographical description of a location, the products that the land produces, and even the climate. All of these can be used to put forward hypotheses and theories. However until concrete facts and evidence can be found to verify these hypotheses and theories, these are all mere speculation.

Some researchers have linked a well known image from ancient Egypt to Prophet Abraham’s arrival in the country. This image was found in the tomb of Khamoum Hateb II, the ruler of the al-Minya province. The grave of Khanoum Hateb II is considered to be one of the most important graves found in the Beni Hassan graveyard cemetery in the al-Minya governorate. This grave dates back to King Senusert II of the Middle Kingdom, approximately 3,900 years ago.

There are a number of images in this tomb that portray daily life in the Middle Kingdom, as well as a number of images of soldiers performing a variety of actions. These images are portrayed in a free style which we believed was unique until similar images were found in the tomb of King Sahure, the second King of the Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, who ruled nearly 4,500 years ago.

As for the image linked to Prophet Abraham, this can be seen on the northern wall of the tomb. In this scene we see a group of male and female Bedouin in colorful dress; the men are depicted with short beards, and the women are depicted with long hair. The group is comprised of eight men, four women, and three children, accompanied by two donkeys, a deer, and an ibex. One of the donkeys is carrying mining tools. An Egyptian official is standing at the front of the image while standing next to him is the chief of the tribe. Written in hieroglyphics next to the image of the tribal chief is the title “Ruler of the Desert, Ibsha.”

The image shows Ibsha and the man standing next to him presenting the desert animals to King Khanoum Hateb II. The men accompanying Ibsha are also carrying weapons, while another is carrying an asymmetrical harp. To the right of this image is another image of King Khanoum Hateb II, standing before him is a clerk holding a message announcing the arrival of the Asian delegation.

Some researchers have linked this image to Prophet Abraham’s arrival in Egypt. Some researchers have also attempted to compare the name “Ibsha” with that of “Abram” which is the Aramaic name of our Prophet Abraham. As I mentioned before, any attempts to link the image portrayed upon the walls of King Khanoum Hateb II’s tomb and what was mentioned in the Torah with regards to Prophet Abraham’s arrival in Egypt is merely speculation, and there is no way to confirm this.

I must also emphasize that since the beginning of the Middle Kingdom, regional rulers gained a great deal of independence from central rule and therefore enjoyed considerable influence. This enabled regional rulers to establish direct relations with, and receive foreign delegations from, other countries and regions, most usually due to trade. Rulers of regions in central Egypt were therefore in direct contact with Bedouin and foreign nations by way of the trade routes across the Red Sea and Sinai.

Therefore the question remains unanswered; was Prophet Abraham the tribal chief Ibsha?