THIS CHAPTER has 111 Meccan verses, except for vv. 1, 2, 3 and 7 which date from Madina. It comprises twelve sections, and was revealed after the previous one which is entitled Hud [the Messenger] 11 and before Stoneland 15. It might almost be considered a short story, for it forms one of the enduring tales in world literature, and a great theme that has been known for millenia throughout the Middle East. It has even inspired modern writers like Thomas Mann.
Joseph at the beginning is clearly a boy, a younger brother who will relax and play while the rest of the family are out working (II). Thus he provokes sibling jealousy. He matures through trial and misfortune until he ends as an advanced civil servant or statesman.
If this chapter carries any message, it is the need for trusting God entirely through any period of trial. Moses' mystic journey (18:IX-X) serves as another example of this advice. Watch for the unkind cut when Joseph was falsely accused of stealing (IX), and especially for the noble figure of the here nameless elder brother who also appears at II and X; the family was not all bad. It is interesting too that the ruler of Egypt is here called a king rather than Pharaoh (VI-VII).
In the name of God, the Mercy-giving, the Merciful!
(I) * A.L.R.
These are verses from the Clear Book. * We have sent it down as an Arabic reading so that you may reason.
* We relate the best stories to you, since We have revealed this Reading to you. You were someone quite unaware previously.
* So Joseph told his father: "My father, I saw eleven stars, and the sun and moon; I saw them bowing down before me!" ** He said: "My dear son, do not relate your vision to your brothers lest they may lay some trap for you; Satan is an open enemy to man. * Thus your Lord is choosing you and teaching you how to interpret events, and completing His favor towards you and Jacob's house, just as He has already completed it towards both your forefathers Abraham and Isaac. Your Lord is Aware, Wise!"
(II) * There were signs for inquirers in Joseph and his brothers * when they said; "Joseph and his brother are dearer to our father than we are, even though we are a closed group. Our father is clearly mistaken. * [Let's] kill Joseph or throw him into exile in some land so your father's attention will be absorbed in (all of) you, and later on you will be honorable folk," ** One among them spoke up and said: "Don't kill Joseph; toss him into the bottom of the cistern so some travellers may pick him up, if you must do something."
* They said: "Our father, what's wrong with you that you do not trust us with Joseph? We are quite sincere about him. * Send him along with us tomorrow to relax and play. We'll look after him." * He said: "It would worry me for you to go off with him. I fear a wolf will eat him up while you are careless about him." * They said: "How could a wolf eat him when we are a closed group? Then we would be losers!"
** As they went away with him, they agreed on how to place him in the bottom of a cistern. We inspired him as follows: "You will inform them about this business of theirs while they will not catch on about it."
* They came back weeping to their father in the evening. * They said: "Our father, we went off racing and left Joseph with our belongings, and the wolf ate him up! You will not believe us even though we are telling the truth." * They even came with false blood on his shirt. He said: "Rather you yourselves have been fooled in the matter. Patience is beautiful! God is the One to seek help from against what you describe."
* Some travellers came along who sent their waterboy and he let do his own bucket. He said: "What a godsend! This is a boy!" So they hid him as a piece of merchandise; yet God was Aware of what they were doing.
** They sold him for a trifling price, just a few coins which were counted out. They were quite indifferent about him.
(III) * The person from Egypt who [eventually] bought him told his wife: 'Let his stay here be dignified; perhaps he will benefit us or we'll adopt him as a son." Thus We established Joseph in the land and taught him how to interpret events. God was Dominant in his affair, even though most men do not realize it.
* When he became of age, We gave him discretion and knowledge; thus We reward those who act kindly. * However the woman in whose house he lived, wanted to seduce him. She bolted the doors and said: Come here, you!" He said: "God protect me! He is my Lord, the best shelter to hold on by. He does not let wrongdoers prosper.'
* She kept him on her mind, while he would have had her on his, had it not been that he saw a proof from his Lord. Thus We warded off evil and sexual misconduct from him; he was one of Our sincere servants. ** They both raced for the door, and she ripped his shirt from behind; and they met her husband at the door! She said: "What is the penalty for someone who wants [to commit] evil with your wife except for him to be jailed or [suffer] painful torment?" He said: "She tried to seduce me."
A witness from her side of the family testified: "If his shirt has been ripped from in front, then she has told the truth and he is a liar; * while if his shirt has been ripped from behind, then she has lied and he is truthful." * When he saw his shirt was ripped from behind, he said: "It is one of your women's tricks. Your wiles are serious! * Joseph, avoid this. [My wife], ask forgiveness for your sin. You're someone who has slipped up."
(IV) ** Some women in the city said: "The official's wife wants to seduce her houseboy. He's set her madly in love! We see she has gone clear astray."
* When she heard about their remarks, she sent for them and prepared a party for them. To each of them she gave a knife. She told [him]: "Come out to [see] them!"
When they saw him, they praised him and cut their hands. They said: "God forbid! This is no human being; this is simply a noble angel!' * She said: "Well this is the person whom you blamed me for. Yes, I wanted to seduce him, and he held himself back! If he doesn't do what I order him to, he'll be jailed, and taken down a notch or two."
Joseph in Prison
* He said: "My Lord, jail is more precious to me than what they are inviting me to do. Unless You ward off their tricks from me, I'll fall for them and act as if I do not know a thing." * His Lord responded to his plea and warded off their tricks from him. He is the Alert, Aware. * * Then it occurred to them to jail him for a while even after they had seen the signs.
(V) * Two young men entered the prison along with him. One of the said: "I dreamed I was pressing wine." The other said: "I dreamed I was carrying bread on my head from which the birds were eating. Tell us about their interpretation; we see you are someone who acts kindly."
* He said: "Food will not be brought either of you to sustain you, unless I will tell you their interpretation even before it reaches you. That is something my Lord has taught me. I have left the sect of folk who do not believe in God and are disbelievers in the Hereafter: * I follow the sect my forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We may not associate anything in [our worship of] God [Alone]. That is part of God's bounty towards us and towards mankind; even though most men are not grateful.
* "Both my jailmates, are separate lords better than God Alone, the Irresistible? ** Instead of Him you do not serve anything except some names which you and your forefathers have given them. God has not sent down any authority for them. Discretion belongs only to God. He has ordered you to serve Him Alone; such is the established religion, even though most men do not realize it.
* "My two jailmates, one of you will pour wine for his lord, while the other will be crucified so birds will eat from his head. The case has been decided which you have been seeking my opinion about."
* He told the one whom he thought would be released: "Mention me to your lord." However Satan made him forget to mention it to his lord, he languished in jail for several years.
(VI) * The king said; "I [dreamed I] saw seven fat cows which seven lean ones were eating, and seven green ears plus some others all dried up. Councilmen, explain my dream to me if you know how to explain any vision." * They said: "Jumbles of dreams; we do not know how to interpret dreams." ** The one from the pair who had been released said (for he recalled things after a lapse of time): "I'll inform you about it interpretation. Send me [after it]!"
* "Joseph, you truthful man, explain to us about seven fat cows which seven lean ones were eating, and seven green ears and others all dried up, so that I may return to the people so they may know." * He said: "You will farm for seven years as usual, and with anything you harvest, leave it in its ear except for a little which you may eat. * The later on, seven severe ones will come which will eat up anything you have planned ahead for them, except for a little which you will store up. * Then a year will come after that when people will receive showers, and in which they will press [grapes]."
(VII) ** The king said: "Bring him to me." When the messenger came to him, he said: "Return to your lord and ask him what [was on] the mind of the women who cut their hands. My Lord is Aware of their tricks.'
* He said: "What were you after when you tried to seduce Joseph? The women said: "God forbid! We have not known about any evil concerning him." The official's wife said: "Now the Truth has prevailed! I tried to seduce him; he is someone who is telling the truth. * That was so he may know that I have not betrayed him during his absence, and that God does not guide traitors.
(VII, cont'd) * 'I do not claim to be innocent myself. one's soul is prone to [commit] evil, except for anything my Lord shows mercy for. My Lord is Forgiving, Merciful." * The king said: "Bring him to me; I'll select him for my special service."When he spoke to him, he said: "Today you stand before us secure, trusted." ** He said: "Place me over the storehouses in the land. I will be a careful overseer."
* Thus We established Joseph in the land, to budget for it in any way he wished. We confer Our mercy on anyone We wish to and never let the earnings of those who act kindly get lost. * Earnings in the Hereafter will be even better for those who believe and have done their duty.
(VIII) * Joseph's brothers came, and they entered his office. He recognized them, while they remained ignorant as to who he was. * When he had equipped them with their supplies, he said: "Bring me a brother of yours [who is] with your father. Dont you see that I give full measure and have been the best of hosts? ** If you do not bring me him, I'll have no [further] measure for you nor need you ever approach me [again]."
* They said: "We'll try to coax his father to let him go, We [promise] to do so." * He told his houseboys: "Place their trading goods back in their saddlebags, so they will recognize it when they return home to their family; thus they may come back." * When they returned to their father, they said: "Our father [further] measure has been denied us, so send our brother [Benjamin] along with us so we may be treated as customers. We'll look after him." * He said: "How dare I trust you with him except as I entrusted you with his brother long ago? God is the best Guardian and the most Merciful of Mercy-granters."
** When they opened their baggage, they found their trading goods had been returned to them. They said: "Our father, what more do we desire than this? This merchandise of ours has been returned to us! We shall supply our family, look after our brother, and add a camel's load [to it] besides: that should be such an easy load!" * He said: 'I will never send him with you until you give me some assurance before God that you will bring him back to me, unless you have been ambushed."
When they had given him their pledge, he said: "God is a Trustee for what we say." * He said: "My sons, do not enter by a single gate; enter rather by separate gates. I cannot help you in any way against God; discretion rests only with God. On Him have I relied, and on Him should reliant persons rely."
* When they had entered [the city] just as their father ordered them to, it did not help them in any way against God except as a need which He fulfilled in Jacob's soul. He possessed knowledge since We had taught him, although most men do not realize it.
(IX) * As they entered Joseph's quarters, he took his brother [Benjamin] aside. He said: "I am your brother, so do not feel distressed about whatever they have been doing."
** When he furnished them with their supplies, he placed a mug in his brother's saddlebag. Then a crier called out: "Caravaners, you are thieves!" * They said as they approached them: "What have you lost?" * They said: "We are missing the king's goblet. Whoever brings it back will have a camel's load; I can vouch for it." * They said: "By God, you [ought to] know we have not come here to cause any trouble in the land. We are not thieves!" * They said: "What will the penalty be for it if you are liars?" ** They said: "Its penalty? Whoever's saddlebag it is found in will [act as] his own penalty. Thus we penalize wrongdoers."
* He began with their baggage before his brother's bag. Then he pulled it out of his brother [Benjamin]'s bag. Thus We contrived [things] for Joseph; he would never have taken his brother according to the king's code unless God had so wished it. We raise anyone We wish to in rank, while Someone Aware [stands] over everyone possessing knowledge.
* They said: "If he has been [caught] stealing, then a brother of his stole something previously." Joseph kept his secret to himself and did not reveal it to them. He said: "You are in a worse plight! God is quite Aware of what you describe."
* They said: "Sir, he has a father who is an elderly gentleman. Take one of us in his place; we see you are someone who acts kindly." * He said: "God prevent us from taking anyone except the one whom we found our property with! We'd then be wrongdoers."
(X) ** When they despaired of influencing him, they held counsel by themselves. The eldest of them said: "Dont you realize that your father took a pledge from you before God? You have already been remiss concerning Joseph so I shall never leave the land until my father permits me to, or God decides [things] for me. He is the best Judge! * Return to your father and say: 'Our father, your son has stolen something! Yet we testify only about what we know and are not guardians of the Unseen. * Ask the town[sfolk] where we have been and the caravan which we came back in; we are telling the truth!"'
* He said: 'Rather you have fooled yourselves in the matter. Patience is a virtue! Perhaps God will bring them all back to me; He is the Aware, the Wise." * He turned away from them and said: "How upset I feel over Joseph!" Both his eyes clouded over from sadness, so he choked back his grief. ** They said: 'By God, you keep on remembering Joseph until you will be exhausted or will be ready to die!" * He said: "I complain only to God about my sorrow and my sadness. Through God I know something you do not know. * My sons, go and search for Joseph and his brother; do not despair of [finding] God's comfort; only disbelieving folk despair of God's comfort."
* When they entered his office, they said: "Sir, trouble has afflicted us and our family, and we have come with meager merchandise. Fill up the load for us and act charitably towards us. God rewards the charitable."
* He said: "Do you know what you did to Joseph and his brother while you were acting out of ignorance?" ** They said: "Why, are you Joseph?" He said: "I am Joseph, and this is my brother. God has compensated us; with anyone who does his duty and perseveres, God does not lose track of the wages for those who act kindly." * They said: "By God, God has preferred you ahead of us, while we have been mistaken." * He said: "There is no [way for me to] find fault with you today. God will forgive you; He is the most Merciful of the Mercy-granting. * Take this shirt of mine and throw it over my father's face; he will become sighted [again], Bring me all your family."
(XI) * As the caravan set out, their father said: "I smell a breath from Joseph, even though you may think I am doting." ** They said: "By God, you are still in your old error!"
* When an advance rider came, he threw it over his face, and his sight was restored. He said: "Did I not tell you that through God I know something that you do not know?" * They said: "Our father, seek us forgiveness for our offences! We have been mistaken." * He said: "I shall seek forgiveness for you from my Lord; He is the Forgiving, the Merciful."
* When they entered Joseph's office, he took both his parents aside and said: "Enter Egypt safely, if God wishes." *** He helped his parents up on to the platform, and they fell down on their knees before him. He said: "My father, this is the interpretation of my earlier vision. My Lord has made it come true! He was Kind to me when He let me out of jail, and brought you in from wandering on the desert after Satan had stirred up trouble between me and my brothers. My Lord is Gracious in whatever way He wishes; He is the Aware, the Wise.
* "My lord, you have given me control and taught me how to interpret events. Originator of Heaven and Earth You are my Patron in this world and the Hereafter. Gather me in as a Muslim and unite me with honorable men!"
the Universal Message
* Such are some of the news from the Unseen We inspire you with. You were not in their presence when they agreed on their affair and were plotting. * Yet most men will not become believers, no matter how eager you may be. * You need not ask them for any payment for it; it [serves] only as a Reminder to [everybody in] the Universe.
(XII) ** How many a sign do they pass by in Heaven and Earth, and pay no attention to them? * Most of them do not believe in God unless they associate [others with Him]. * Do they feel confident that a sample of God's torment may not come to them, or the [final] Hour will come upon them suddenly, while they do not suspect it? * SAY: "This is my way. I and anyone who follows me, appeal to God through insight. Glory be to God! I am no associator."
* We have not sent anyone before you except men from among the townspeople whom We have inspired. Have they not travelled around t earth and seen what the outcome was for those who preceded them? A home in the Hereafter will be better for those who do their duty. Will they not use their reason - ** so that once messengers despair and think that they have been lied to, Our support will come to them and anyone We wish to will be saved? Our might is never averted from criminal folk.
* There is a lesson in their stories for prudent persons. It is not some report which has been invented but confirmation of what has existed previously and an analysis of everything, as well as guidance and mercy for folk who believe.