JOSEPH Arabic, Yusuf يوسف
The son of Jacob, and according to the Qur’an, an inspired prophet. (Suahs vi. 84; xl. 36.)
The account of Joseph occupies a whole chapter in the Qur’an, entitle the Chapter of Yusuf (Surah xii.). Al-Baizawi says that certain Jews instigated the Quraish to inquire of Muhammad the story of Joseph and his family going into Egypt, and that in order to prove the truth of his mission, God sent Muhammad this chapter, the Suratu Yusuf, from heaven. The same writer says it is a most meritorious chapter, for whosoever shall read it and teach it to others shall have an easy death. (See al-Baizawi in loco.)
The story of Yusuf wa Zutaikhah is one of the most popular love songs in the East. It was produced in Persian verse by Nuru ‘d-din ‘Abdu ‘r-Rahman ibn Ahmad Jami, A.H. 898. And the Sahikh Hamdu’llah ibn Shamsi ‘d-din Muhammad (A.H. 909), rendered it into Turki verse.
The author of the Akhlaq-i-Jaladi says: “We have it amongst the sayings of Muhammad that women should be forbidden to read or listen to the history of Joseph (as told in the Qur’an), lest it lead to their swerving from the rule of chastity.” (Thompson’s edition.)
We give the account as told in the Qur’an, with the commentators’ remarks in italics, as rendered by Mr. Lanes in his Selections from the Kuran (new ed. by Mr. S. Lane Poole) the account of Joseph’s temptation, which Mr. Lane omits, being added from Rodwell’s translation in the Qur’an:-
Remember, when Joseph said unto his father, O my father, verily I saw in sleep eleven stars and the sun and the moon: I saw them making obeisance unto me. He replied, O my child, relate not thy vision to thy brethren, lest they contrive a plot against thee, knowing its interpretation to be that they are the stars and that the sun is thy mother and the moon thy father for the devil is unto man a manifest enemy. And thus, as thou sawest, thy Lord will choose thee, and teach thee the interpretation of events, or dreams, and will accomplish his favor upon them by gift of prophecy, and upon the family of Jacob, as He accomplished it upon thy fathers before. Abraham and Isaac; for thy Lord is knowing and wise. – Verily in the history of Joseph and this brethren are signs to the inquirers. – When they (the brethren of Joseph) said one to another, Verily Joseph and his brother Benjamin are dearer unto our father than we and we are a number of men; verily our father is in manifest error; slay ye Joseph or drive him away into a distant land; so the face of your father shall be directed alone unto you, regarding no other, and ye shall be after it a just people: – a speaker among them, namely Judah, said, Slay not Joseph, but three him to the bottom of the well; then some of the travelers may light upon him, if ye do this . And they were satisfied therewith. They said, O our father, wherefore dost thou not intrust us with Joseph, when verily we are faithful unto him? Send him with us tomorrow into the plain, that he may divert himself and sport; and we will surely take care of him.
-He replied, Verily your taking him away will grieve me, and I fear lest the wolf devour him while ye are heedless of him. They said, Surely if the wolf devour him, when we are a number of men, we shall in that case be indeed weak. So he sent him with them. And when they went away with him, and agreed to put him at the bottom of the well, they did so. They pulled off his shirt, after they had beaten him, and had treated him with contempt and had desired to slay him; and they let him down; and when he had arrived half-way down the well they let him fall, that he might die; and he fell into the water. He then betook himself to a mass of rock; and they called to him; so he answered them, imagining that they would have mercy upon him. They however desired to crush him with a piece of rock; but Judah prevented them. And We said unto him by revelation, while he was in the well (and he was seventeen years of age, or less), to quiet his heart, Thou shalt assuredly desire unto them his their action, and they shall not know thee at the time. And they came to their father at nightfall weeping. They said , O our father, we went to run races, and left Joseph with our clothes, and the wolf devoured him; and thou wilt not believe us, though we speak truth. And they brought false blood upon his shirt. Jacob said unto them, Nay, your minds have made a thing seem pleasant unto you, and ye have done it; put patience is seemly, and God’s assistance is implored with respect to that which ye relate.
“And travelers came on their way from Midian to Egypt, and alighted near the well; and they sent their drawer of water, and he let down his bucket into the will; so Joseph caught hold upon it, and the man drew him forth; and when he saw him, he said, O good news! This is a young man! – And his brethren thereupon knew his case: wherefore they came unto him, and they concealed his case, making him as a piece of merchandise; for they said, He is our slave who hath absconded. And Joseph was silent, fearing lest they should slay him. And God knew that which they did. And they sold him for a mean price [for] some dirhams counted down, twenty, or two-and-twenty; and they were indifferent to him. The travelers then brought him to Egypt, and he who had bought him sold him for twenty deenars and a pair of shoes and two garments. And the Egyptian who bought him, namely Kitfeer (Qitfir or Itfir), said unto his wife Zeleekha (Zalikha), Treat him hospitably; peradventure he may be advantageous to us or we may adopt his as a son. For he was childless. And thus We prepared an establishment for Joseph in the land of Egypt, to teach him the interpretation of events, or dreams; for God is well able to effect His purpose; but the greater number of men, namely, the unbelievers, know not this. And when he had attained his age of strength (thirty years, or three-and-thirty), We bestowed on him wisdom and knowledge in matters of religion, before he was sent as a prophet; for thus do We recompense the well-doers.” (Surah xii. 4-22.)
“And she in whose house he was, conceived a passion for him, and she shut the doors and said, ‘Come hither.’ He said, ‘God keep me! Verily, my lord hath given me a good home; and the injurious shall not prosper.’
“But she longed for him; and he had longed for her had he not seen a token from his lord. Thus we averted evil and defilement from him, for he was one of our sincere servants.
“And they both made for the door, and she rent his shirt behind; and at the door they met her lord. ‘What,’ said she, ‘shall be the recompense of him who would do evil to the family, but a prison or a sure punishment?’
“He said, ‘She solicited me to evil’ And a witness out of her own family witnessed.
If his shirt be rent in from she speaketh truth, and he is a liar.
“‘But if his shirt be rent behind, she lieth and he is true.’
“And when his lord saw his shirt torn behind, he said, ‘This is one of your devices! Verily your devices are great!
“Joseph! Leave this affair. And thou O wife, ask pardon for thy crime, for thou hast sinned.’
“And in the city, the women said, ‘The wife of the Prince hath solicited her servant: he hath fired her with his love: but we clearly see her manifest error.’
“And when she heard of their cabal, she sent to them and got ready a banquet for them, and gave each one of them a knife, and said, ‘Joseph shew thyself to them.’ And when they saw him they were amazed at him and cut their hands and said, ‘God keep us! This is no man! This is no other than a noble angel!’
“She said, ‘This is he about whom ye blamed me. I wished him to yield to my desires, but he stood firm. But if he obey not my command, he shall surly be cast into prison, and become one of despised.’
“He said, ‘O my Lord! I prefer the prison to compliance with their bidding; but unless thou turn away their snares from me, I shall play the youth with them, and become one of the unwise.’
“And his Lord heard him and turned aside their snares from him: for He is the Hearer, the Knower.” (Rodwell, Sura xii. 23-24.)
“Then it seemed good unto them, after they had seen the signs of his innocence, to imprison him. They will assuredly imprison his for a time, until the talk of the people respecting him cease. So they imprisoned him. And there entered with him into the prison two young men, servants of the king, one of whom was his cup-bearer and the other was his victualer. And they found that he interpreted dreams; wherefore one of them, namely the cup-bearer, said, I dreamed that I was pressing grapes: and the other said, I dreamed that I was carrying upon my head some bread, whereof the birds did eat: acquaint us with the interpretation thereof; for we see thee to be one of the beneficent. – He replied, There shall not come unto you any food wherewith ye shall be fed in a dream, but I will acquaint you with the interpretation thereof when ye are awake, before the interpretation of it come unto you. This is a part of that which my Lord hath taught me. Verily I have abandoned the religion of a people who believe not in God and who disbelieve in the world to come; and I follow the religion of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. It is not fit for us to associate anything with God. This knowledge of the unity hath been given us of the bounty of God towards us and towards mankind; but the greater number of men are not thankful. O ye two companions (or inmates) of the prison, are sundry lords better, or is God, the One, the Almighty? Ye worship not, beside Him, aught save names which ye and your fathers have given to idols, concerning which God hath not sent down any convincing proof. Judgment belongeth not [unto any] save unto God alone. He hath commanded that ye worship not any but Him. This is the right religion; but the greater number of men know not. O ye two companions of the prison, as t one of you namely, the cup-bearer, he will serve wine unto his lord as formerly; and as to the other, he will be crucified, and the birds will eat from off his head. – Upon this they said, We creamed not aught. He replied, The thing is decreed concerning which ye [did] ask a determination, whethe ye have spoken truth or have lied. And he said unto him whom he judged to be the person who should escape of them two, namely the cup-bearer, Mention me unto thy lord, and say unto him, In the prison is a young man imprisoned unjustly. – And he went forth. But the devil caused him to forget to mention Joseph unto his lord: so he remained in the prison some years: it is said, seven; and it is said twelve.
“And the king of Egypt, Er Reiyan the son of El-Weleed (Raiyan ibn al-Walid al-‘Imliqi) said, Verily I saw in a dream seven fat kine which seven lean kine devoured, and seven green ears of corn and seven other ears dried up. O ye noble, explain unto me my dream, if ye interpret a dream. – They replied, These are confused dreams, and we know not the interpretation of dreams. And he who had escaped, of the two young men namely the cup-bearer, said (for he remembered after a time the condition of Joseph), I will acquaint you with the interpretation thereof; wherefore send me. So they sent him: and he came unto Joseph, and said, O Joseph, O thou of great veracity, give us an explanation respecting seven fate kine which seven lean kine devoured, and seven green ears of corn and other seven dried up, that I may return unto the men (the king and his companions) that they might know the interpretation thereof. He replied, Ye shall sow seven years as usual: (this is the interpretation of the seven fat kine;) and what ye reap do ye leave in its ear, lest it spoil; except a little, whereof ye shall eat. Then there shall come, after that, seven grievous [years]; (this is the interpretation of the seven lean kine:) they shall consume what ye shall have provided for them, of the grain sown in the seven years of plenty, except a little which ye shall have kept. Then there shall come, after that, a year wherein men shall be aided with rain, and wherein they shall press grapes with other fruits. – And the king said, when the messenger came unto him and acquainted him with the interpretation of the dream, Bring unto me him who hath interpreted it.” (Surah xii. 35-50.)
“And when the messenger came to Joseph, he said, “Go back to thy lord, and ask him what meant the women who cut their hands, verily my lord knoweth the snare they laid.’ Then, said the Prince to the women, ‘What was your purpose when ye solicited Joseph?’ They said, ‘God keep us! We know not any ill of him.’ The wife of the Prince said, ‘Now doth the truth appear. It was I who would have led him into unlawful love, and he is assuredly one of the truthful.’ ‘This,’ said Joseph, ‘that my lord may learn that I did not in his absence play him false, and that God guideth not the machinations of deceivers. Yet do I not absolve myself: verily the heart is prone to evil, save those on which my Lord has mercy. Lo! My Lord is Gracious, Forgiving, Merciful.’ And the King said, ‘Bring him to me: I will take him for my special service.'” (Rodwell, Surah xii. 50-54.)
“And when he had spoken unto him, he said unto him, Thou art this day firmly established with us, and intrusted with our affairs. What then seest thou fit for us to do? – He answered, Collect provision, and sow abundant seed in these plentiful years, and store up the grain in its ear: then the people will come unto thee that they may obtain provision from thee. The king said, And who will act for me in this affair? Joseph said, Set me over the granaries of the land; for I am careful and knowing. – Thus did We prepare an establishment for Joseph in the land, that he might take for himself a dwelling therein wherever he pleased. – And it is related that the king crowned him, and put a ring on his finger, and instated him in the place of Kitfeer, whom he dismissed from his office; after which, Kitfeer died, and thereupon the king married him to his wife Zeleekha, and she bore him two sons. We bestow our mercy on whom We please, and We cause not the reward of the well-doers to perish: and certainly the reward of the world to come is better for those who have believed and have feared.”
And the years of scarcity began, and afflicted the land of Canaan and Syria, and the brethren of Joseph came, except Benjamin to procure provision, having heard that the governer of Egypt gave food for its price. And they went in unto him, and he knew them; but they knew him not; and they spake unto him in the Hebrew language; whereupon he said, as one who distrusted them, What hath brought you to my country? So they answered, For corn. But he said, Perhaps ye are spies. They replied, God preserve us from being spies! He said, Then whence are ye? They answered, From the land of Canaan, and our father is Jacob, the prophet of God. He said, And hath he sons besides you? They answered, Yea; we were twelve; but the youngest of us went away and perished in the desert, and he was the dearest of us unto him; and his uterine brother remained, and he retained him that he might console himself thereby for the loss of the other. And Joseph gave orders to lodge them, and to treat them generously. And when he had furnished them with their provision, and given them their full measure, he said, Bring me your brother from you father, namely, Benjamin, that I may know your veracity in that ye have said. Do ye not see that I give full measure, and that I am the most hospitable of the receivers of guest? But if ye bring him not, there shall be no measuring of corn for you from me, nor shall ye approach me. – They replied, We will solicit his father for him, and we will surely perform that. And he said unto his young men, Put they money, which they brought as the price of the corn, in their sacks, that they many know it when they have returned to their family: peradventure they will return to us; for they will not deem it lawful to keep it. – And when they returned to their father, they said, O our father, the measuring of corn is denied us if thou send not our brother unto him; therefore send with us our brother, that we may obtain measure; and we will surely take care of him. He said, Shall I trust you with him otherwise than as I intrusted you with his brother Joseph before? But God is the best guardian, and He is the most merciful of those who show mercy. – And when they opened their goods, they found their money had been returned unto them. They said, O our father, what desire we of the generosity of the king greater than this? This our money hath been returned unto us; and we will provide corn for out family, and will take care of our brother, and shall receive a camel-load more, for our brother. This is a quantity easy unto the king, by reason of his munificence. – He said, I will by no means send him with you until ye give me a solemn promise by God that ye will assuredly bring him back unto me unless on inevitable and insuperable impediment encompass you. And they complied with his desire. And when they had given him their solemn promise, he said, God is witness of what we say. And he sent him with them; and he said, O my sons, enter not the city of Misr by one gate; but enter by different gates; lest the evil eye fall upon you. But I shall not avert from you, by my saying this, anything decreed to befall you from God: I only say this from a feeling of compassion. Judgment belongeth not unto any save unto God alone. On Him do I rely, and on Him let those rely who rely.
“And when they entered as their father had commanded them, separately, it did not avert from them anything decreed to befall them from God, but only satisfied a desire in the soul of Jacob, which he accomplished; that is the desire of averting the evil eye, arising from a feeling of compassion; and he was endowed with knowledge, because We had taught him: but the grater number of men, namely the unbelievers, know not God’s inspiration of his saints. And when they went in unto Joseph, he received unto him (or pressed unto him) his brother. He said, Verily, I am thy brother: therefore be not sorrowful for that which they did from ency to us. And he commanded him that he should not inform them, and agree with him that he should employ a stratagem to retain him with him. And when he had furnished them with their provision, he put the cup, which was a measure made of gold set with jewels, in the sack of his brother Benjamin. Then a crier cried, after they had gone forth from the chamber of Joseph, O company of travelers, ye are surely thieves. They said (and turned unto them), What is it that ye miss? They answered, We miss the kng’s measure; and to him who shall bring it shall be given a camel-load of corn, and I am surety for it, namely the load. They replied, By God! Ye well know that we have not come to act corruptly in the land, and we have not been thieves. The crier and his companion said, Then what shall be the recompense of him who that stolen it, if ye be liars in your saying, We have not been thieves, – and it be found among you? They answered, His recompense shall be that he in whose sack it shall be found shall be made a slave; he, the thief, shall be compensation for it; namely, for the thing stolen. Such was the usage of the family of Jacon. Thus do We recompense the offenders who are guilty of theft. – So they turned towards Joseph, that he might search their sacks. And he began with their sacks, and searched them before the sack of his brother Benjamin, lest he should be suspected. Then he took it forth (namely the measure) from the sack of his brother. Thus saith God, did We contrive a stratagem for Joseph. It was not lawful for him to take his brother as a slave for theft by the low of the king of Egypt (for his recompense by his law was beating, and a fine of twice the value of the thing stolen; not the being made a slave), unless God had pleased, by inspiring him to inquire of his brethren and inspiring them to reply according to their usage. We exalt unto degrees of knowledge and honor whom We please, as Joseph; and there is who is knowing about everyone else endowed with knowledge.- They said, If he steal, a brother of his hath stolen before; namely Joseph; for he stole an idol of gold belonging to the father of his mother, and broke it, that he might not worship it. And Joseph concealed it in his mind, and did not discover it to them. He said withing himself, Ye are in a worse condition than Jospeh and his brother, by reason of your having stolen your brother from your father and having treated him unjustly; and God well knoweth what ye state concerning him. – They said, O prince, verily he hath a father, a very old man, who loveth him more than us, and consoleth himself by him for the loss of his son who hath perished, and the separation of him grieveth him; therefore take one of us as a slave in his stead; for we see thee [to be one] of the beneficent. He replied, God preserve us from taking [any] save him in whose possession we found our property; for then (if we took another), we [should be] unjust.
And when they despaired of obtaining him, they retired to confer privately together. The chief of them in age (namely Reuben, or in judgment, namely, Judah), said, Do ye not know that your father that obtained of you a solemn promise in the name of God, with respect of your brother, and how ye formerly failed of your duty with respect to Joseph? Therefore I will by no means depart from the land of Egypt until my father give me permission to return to him, or God decide for me by the delivery of my brother; and He is the best, the most just, of those who decide. Return ye to your father, and say, O our father verily thy son hath committed theft, and we here not testimony against him save according to that which we knew of a certainty, by our seeing the cup in his sack; and we were not acquainted with what was unseen by us when we gave the solemn promise; had we known that he would commit theft, we had not taken him. And send thou, and ask the people of the city in which we have been (namely, Misr) and the company of travelers with whom we have arrived (who were a people of Canoun): and we are surely speakers of truth – So they returned to him, and said unto him those words. He replied, Nay, your minds have made a thing seem pleasant unto you, and ye have done it (he suspected them, on account of their former conduct in the case of Joseph): but patience is seemly: peradventure God will bring them back (namely Joseph and his brother) unto me, together; for He is the Knowing with respect to my case, the Wise in His acts. And he turned from them, and said, O! My sorrow for Joseph! And his eyes became white in consequence of mourning, and he was oppressed with silent grief. They said, By God, thou wilt not cease to think upon Joseph until thou be at the point of death, or be of the number of the dead. He replied, I only complain of my great and unconcealable great and my sorrow unto God; not unto any beside Him; for He it is unto whom complaint is made with advantage; and I know by revelation from God what ye know not; namely, that the dream of Joseph was true, and that he is living. Then he said, O my sons, go and seek news of Joseph and his brother; and despair not of the mercy of God; for none despaireth of the mercy of God except the unbelieving people.
“So they departed towards Egypt, unto Joseph; and when they went in unto him, they said, O Prince, distress (that is hunger) hath affected us and our family, and we have come with paltry money (it was base money, or some other sort): yet give us full measure, and be charitable to us, by excusing the badness of our money; for God recompenseth those who act charitably. And he had pity upon them, and compassion affected him, and he lifted up the curtain that was between him and them: then he said unto them in reproach, Do ye know what ye did unto Joseph, in beating and selling and other actions, and his brother, by your injurious conduct to him after the separation of his brother, when ye were ignorant of what would be the result of the case of Joseph? They replied, after they had recognized him (desiring confirmation). Art thou indeed Joseph? He answered, I am Joseph, and this is my brother. God hath been gracious unto us by bringing us together; for whosoever feareth God and is patient [will be rewarded]: God will not suffer the reward of the well-doers to perish. They replied, By God, verily God hath preferred thee above us, and we have been indeed sinners. He said, There shall be no reproach cast on you this day: God forgive you; for He is the most merciful of those that show mercy. And he asked them respecting his father; so they answered, His eyes are gone. And he said, Go ye with this my shirt (it was the shirt of Abraham, which he wore when he was cast into the fire; it was on his, that is, Joseph’s neck, appended as an amulet, in the well; and it was from paradise: Gabriel commanded him to send it, and said, In it is its odour, that is, the odour of paradise, and it shall not be cast upon any one afflicted with a disease but he shall be restored to health), and cast it, said Joseph, upon the face of may father: he shall recover his sight; and bring unto me all your family.
– And when the company of travelers had gone forth from El-‘Areesh of Egypt, their father said, unto those who were present of his offspring, Verily I perceive the smell of Joseph (for the zephyr had conveyed it to him, by permission of Him whose name be exalted, from the distance of three days’ journey, or eight, or more): were it not that ye thing I dote, ye would believe me. They replied, By God, thou art surely in thine old error. And when the messenger of good tidings (namely, Judah) came with the shirt (and he had borne the bloody shirt; wherefore he desired to rejoice him, as he had grieved him), he cast it upon his face, and he recovered his sight. Thereupon Jacob said, Did I not say unto you. I know, from God, what ye know not? They said, O our father, ask pardon of our crimes for us; for we have been sinners. He replied, I will ask pardon for you of my Lord: for He is the Very forgiving, the Merciful.- He delayed doing so until the first appearance of the dawn, that the prayer might be more likely to be answered, or, as some say, until the night of [that is, preceeding] Friday.
“They then repaired the Egypt, and Joseph and the great men came forth to meet them; and when they went in unto Joseph, in his pavilion or tent, he received unto him (or pressed unto him) his parent (his father and his mother and his maternal aunt), and said unto them, Enter ye Misr, if God please, in safety. So they entered; and Joseph seated himself upon his couch, and he caused his parents to ascend upon the seat of state, and they (that is, his parents and his brethren) fell down, bowing themselves unto him (bending, but not putting the forehead) upon the ground: Such being their mode of obeisance in that time. And he said, O my father, this is the interpretation of my dream of former times; my Lord hath made it true; and He hath shown faovur unto me, since He took me forth from the prison (he said not, from the well – from a motive of generosity, that his brethren might not be abashed), and hath brought you from the desert, after that the devil had excited discord between me and my brethren; for my Lord is gracious unto whom He pleaseth; for He is the Knowing, the Wise. – And his father resided with him four and twenty years, or seventeen; and the period of his separation was eighteen, or forty, or eighty years. And death came unto him; and thereupon he charged Joseph that he should carry him and bury him by his fathers. So he went himself and buried him. Then he returned to Egypt and remained after him three and twenty years; and when his case was ended, and he knew that he should not last upon earth, and his soul desired the lasting possession, he said, Oh my Lord. Thou hast given me dominion and taught me the interpretation of events (or dreams). Creator of the heavens and the earth. Thou art my guardian in this world and in the world to come. Make me to die a Muslim, and join me with the righteous among my forefathers . And he lived after that a week, or more, and died a hundred and twenty years old. And the Egyptians disputed concerning his burial; so they put him in a chest of marble, and buried him in the upper part of the Nile, that the blessing resulting from him might be general to the tracts on each side of it. Extolled be the perfection of Him to whose dominion there is no end! (Surah xii. 54 to the end.)
For the Talmudic origin of this account, see JUDAISM.
Based on Hughes, Dictionary of Islam