Joseph in Islam
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Yūsuf ibn Yaʿqūb ibn Isḥāq ibn Ibrāhīm (c. 1610 BCE – 1500 BCE?; Arabic: يوسف) is an Islamic prophet mentioned in the Qur'an, the holy scripture of Islam. The figure corresponds to the character from the Jewish religious scripture, the Tanakh and the Christian Bible known as Joseph and is the Arabic variant of that name. It is one of the common names in the Middle East and among Muslim nations.
Yusuf is believed to have been the eleventh son of Jacob (Yaʿqūb), and his favorite. Of all of Jacob's children, Joseph was the one given the gift of prophecy. Although the narratives of other prophets are mentioned in various suras, the complete narrative of Joseph is given only in one sura, Yusuf. However, it is said to be the most detailed narrative in the Qur'an and bears more details than the Biblical counterpart. The story of Yusuf and Zulaikha (Potiphar's wife of the Old Testament) became a popular subject in Persian literature, where it became considerably elaborated over the centuries.
Historical narrative in Islam 
The story of Joseph in the Qur'an moves in a stream from beginning to end; its substance and form are equally coherent. It documents the execution of God's rulings despite the challenge of human intervention ("And Allah hath full power and control over His affairs; but most among mankind know it not.")
This is what the story of Yusuf confirms categorically, for it ends with comfort and marvels, which is described in Qur'an.
The dream 
The story begins with a dream and ends with its interpretation. As the sun appeared over the horizon, bathing the earth in its morning glory, Joseph, son of Jacob awoke from his sleep, delighted by a pleasant dream he had. Filled with excitement he ran to his father and related it:
Behold! Yusuf said to his father: "O my father! I did see eleven stars and the sun and the moon: I saw them prostrate themselves to me!"
His father's face lit up. He foresaw that Yusuf would be one through whom the prophecy of his grandfather, Ibrahim, would be fulfilled, in that his offspring would keep the light of Abraham's house alive and spread God's message to mankind.
Narrated Abu Huraira:
Some people asked the Prophet: "Who is the most honorable amongst the people?" He replied, "The most honorable among them is the one who is the most Allah-fearing." They said, "O Allah's Prophet! We do not ask about this." He said, "Then the most honorable person is Joseph, Allah's Prophet, the son of Allah's Prophet, the son of Allah's Prophet, the son of Allah's Khalil."
However, the father was well aware of the jealousy of Joseph's brothers, so he warned him against telling his dream to his brothers.
Said (the father): "My (dear) little son! relate not thy vision to thy brothers, lest they concoct a plot against thee: for Satan is to man an avowed enemy!
"Thus will thy Lord choose thee and teach thee the interpretation of stories (and events) and perfect His favour to thee and to the posterity of Jacob - even as He perfected it to thy fathers Abraham and Isaac aforetime! for Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom."—Qur'an, sura 12 (Yusuf) ayat 5-6
Joseph heeded his father's warning. He did not tell his brothers what he had seen. It is well known that they hated him so much that it was difficult for him to feel secure telling them what was in his heart and in his dreams.
The plot against Joseph 
All of Joseph's brothers were jealous of him for his talents and because they thought their father favored him over the others (but obviously didn't). They plotted to kill him:
They said: "Truly Joseph and his brother are loved more by our father than we: But we are a goodly body! really our father is obviously wandering (in his mind)!
"Slay ye Joseph or cast him out to some (unknown) land, that so the favour of your father may be given to you alone: (there will be time enough) for you to be righteous after that!"—Qur'an, sura 12 (Yusuf) ayat 8-9
But one of the brothers, in the Bible this is said to be Ruben, felt sorry for him, and suggested they throw him into a well, said to be Jubb Yussef (Joseph's Well), so that a caravan might pick him up and take him into slavery. One from among them said:
Said one of them: "Slay not Joseph, but if ye must do something, throw him down to the bottom of the well: he will be picked up by some caravan of travellers."—Qur'an, sura 12 (Yusuf) ayah 10
They asked their father's permission to take him out to play, who granted them their request, on the condition that his beloved brothers would keep watch over him. The brothers proceeded with their plan, dropped him into a well and left him there. They returned with a blood stained shirt and lied he had been attacked by a wolf but their father did not believe them, as he was a sincere man who loved his son.
As the verses say,
They said: "O our father! why dost thou not trust us with Joseph,- seeing we are indeed his sincere well-wishers?
Send him with us tomorrow to enjoy himself and play, and we shall take every care of him."
(Jacob) said: "Really it saddens me that ye should take him away: I fear lest the wolf should devour him while ye attend not to him."
They said: "If the wolf were to devour him while we are (so large) a party, then should we indeed (first) have perished ourselves!"
So they did take him away, and they all agreed to throw him down to the bottom of the well: and We put into his heart (this Message): 'Of a surety thou shalt (one day) tell them the truth of this their affair while they know (thee) not'
Then they came to their father in the early part of the night, weeping.
They said: "O our father! We went racing with one another, and left Joseph with our things; and the wolf devoured him.... But thou wilt never believe us even though we tell the truth."
They stained his shirt with false blood. He said: "Nay, but your minds have made up a tale (that may pass) with you, (for me) patience is most fitting: Against that which ye assert, it is Allah (alone) Whose help can be sought"..—Qur'an, sura 12 (Yusuf) ayat 11-18
God's plan to save Joseph 
Joseph was rescued by a passing caravan. They had stopped by the well hoping to draw water to quench their thirst and saw the boy inside. So they retrieved him and sold him into slavery in Egypt, to a rich man referred to as 'Aziz in the Qur'an or Potiphar in the Bible. The Qur'an described Joseph as a very attractive man.
Then there came a caravan of travellers: they sent their water-carrier (for water), and he let down his bucket (into the well)...He said: "Ah there! Good news! Here is a (fine) young man!" So they concealed him as a treasure! But Allah knoweth well all that they do!
The (Brethren) sold him for a miserable price, for a few dirhams counted out: in such low estimation did they hold him!
The man in Egypt who bought him, said to his wife: "Make his stay (among us) honourable: may be he will bring us much good, or we shall adopt him as a son." Thus did We establish Joseph in the land, that We might teach him the interpretation of stories (and events). And Allah hath full power and control over His affairs; but most among mankind know it not.
When Joseph attained His full manhood, We gave him power and knowledge: thus do We reward those who do right.—Qur'an, sura 12 (Yusuf) ayat 19-22
While working for 'Aziz, he was constantly approached by 'Aziz's wife (Imra'at al-Aziz) (presumably Zuleika) who intended to seduce him. Joseph continuously rejected her because he feared God. One day she became furious and angry to the point where she trapped him in a room. Zuleika locked the doors and pleaded with him to come to her, but Joseph, as a man of God, refused.
But she in whose house he was, sought to seduce him from his (true) self: she fastened the doors, and said: "Now come, thou (dear one)!" He said: "Allah forbid! truly (thy husband) is my lord! he made my sojourn agreeable! truly to no good come those who do wrong!"
And (with passion) did she desire him, and he would have desired her, but that he saw the evidence of his Lord: thus (did We order) that We might turn away from him (all) evil and shameful deeds: for he was one of Our servants, sincere and purified.—Qur'an, sura 12 (Yusuf) ayat 23-24
She then ripped the back of Joseph's shirt and they raced with one another to the door where her husband was waiting. At that point she attempted to blame Joseph and suggested that he had attacked her. However, Joseph said that it was Zuleika who had attempted to seduce him and his account is confirmed by one of the household. 'Aziz believed Joseph and told his wife to beg forgiveness.
Zuleika's circle of friends thought that she was becoming infatuated with Joseph and mocked her for being in love with a slave. She invited them to her home and gave them all apples, and knives to peel them with. She then had Joseph walk through and distract the women who cut themselves with the knives. Zuleika then pointed out that she had to see Joseph every day.
Joseph prayed to God and said that he would prefer prison to the things that Zuleika and her friend wanted. He stated that if he was not God fearing he would have joined them. The male authorities decided that it would be best if Joseph was imprisoned for a time.
The account of Joseph and the wife of 'Aziz is called Yusuf and Zulaikha and has been told and retold countless times in many languages. The Qur'anic account differs from the Biblical version in which Potiphar believes his wife and throws Joseph into prison.
Joseph interprets dreams 
This account refers to the interaction between the prophet Joseph and the ruler of Egypt. It is important to note, that unlike the references to Pharaoh in the account of Moses, the account of Joseph refers to the Egyptian ruler as a "king", not a pharaoh. After being imprisoned for a few years, God had granted him the ability to interpret dreams, a power in which he became popular amongst the prisoners. On one occasion, two less fortunate royal servants were thrown into the dungeon prior to Joseph's imprisonment for attempting to poison the food of the king, the name is not given either in the Qur'an or the Bible, and his family. They were haunted by two ambiguous dreams and remained unaware of the dreams meaning due to their inability to interpret it. Having heard about Joseph's popularity among the citizens they went to him to seek his opinion and ask him if he could help them with solving of the problems. Joseph asked them about the dreams they had, and one of them described that he saw himself in pressing grapes into wine. The other one said that he had seen himself holding a basket of bread on his head and the birds were eating it. Joseph reminded the prisoners that his ability to interpret dreams was a favor from God based on his adherence to monotheism. Joseph then stated that one of the men would be released from the prison and serve the king (the one who dreamt of squeezing grapes for wine) but warned that the other would be crucified, and so was done in time.
The king had a dream of seven fat cows being eaten by seven skinny ones and seven ears of corn being replaced with shrivelled ones, but none of his advisors could interpret it. When the servant who was released from prison heard about it, he remembered Joseph from prison and persuaded the king to send him to Joseph so that he could return with an interpretation.
Joseph told the servant that Egypt would face seven years of prosperity and then suffer seven years of famine and that king should prepare for it so as to avoid great suffering. The king followed the instructions and the land was saved from the great famine.
The king, after hearing the interpretation sent for Joseph. Joseph however declined to leave prison right away, and asked for his name to be cleared first. The king confronted the women and they admitted what they had done.
The family reunion 
Later, he would once again run into his brothers whom he would forgive. He also found that his father Jacob became blind after crying much over the disappearance of his son Joseph. However, his fathers vision was restored miraculously after one of the brothers returned home with one of Joseph's shirts, this time as good news. The son threw the shirt on his fathers face and the father breathed deeply knowing this was Joseph's scent and at that his vision returned. Joseph was reunited with his family, and his dream as a child came true as he saw his parents and eleven of his brothers prostrating before him in love, welcome and respect. Joseph eventually died in Egypt. Tradition holds that when Musa (Moses) left Egypt, he took Joseph's coffin with him so that he would be buried alongside his ancestors in Canaan.
Use of "king" vs. "pharaoh" 
In the Qur'an, the title of the Ruler of Egypt during the time of Joseph is specifically said to be "king" whilst that of the Ruler of Egypt during the time of Moses is specifically said to be "pharaoh". This is interesting because in the narration of Yusuf in the Bible, the title pharaoh is used interchangeably. But according to historical sources, the title pharaoh only began to be used to refer to the rulers of Egypt (starting with the rule of Thutmose III) in 1479 BCE - approximately 21 years after the prophet Joseph died.
The king (of Egypt) said: "I do see (in a vision) seven fat kine, whom seven lean ones devour, and seven green ears of corn, and seven (others) withered. O ye chiefs! expound to me my vision, if it be that ye can interpret visions."
"Then after them We sent Mûsa (Moses) with Our Signs to Fir'aun (pharaoh) and his chiefs, but they wrongfully rejected them. So see how was the end of the Mufsidûn (mischief-makers, corrupters)."
"And the king said: "Bring him to me." But when the messenger came to him, [Yusuf] said: "Return to your lord and ask him, 'What happened to the women who cut their hands? Surely, my Lord (Allah) is Well-Aware of their plot.
And Joseph placed his father and his brethren, and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had commanded.— Genesis 47:11
The legacy of Joseph 
Joseph is one of the most revered men in Islamic history. Having come through an especially noble line of patriarchs - Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - Joseph too was awarded the gift of prophecy like his forefathers. Joseph's Qur'anic narrative is perhaps one of the Book's most detailed accounts of the life and deeds of a prophet. Joseph, as a figure, is symbolic of the virtue of beauty - his life being a thing of beauty in itself. Most importantly, though, Joseph is admired as a great preacher of the Islamic faith, who had an extremely strong commitment to God and one who tried to get people to follow the path of righteousness. The Qur'an recounts Joseph's declaration of faith:
And I follow the ways of my fathers,- Ibrahim, Ishaak, and Ya'qub; and never could we attribute any partners whatever to Allah: that (comes) of the grace of Allah to us and to mankind: yet most men are not grateful.—Qur'an, sura 12 (Yusuf) ayah 38
Historically, Muslims also associated Joseph's Tomb with that of the biblical figure. In recent years however, they claim that an Islamic cleric, Sheikh Yussuf (Joseph) Dawiqat, was buried there two centuries ago. According to Islamic tradition, the biblical Joseph is buried in Hebron, next to the Cave of the Patriarchs where a medieval structure known as Yussuf-Kalah, the "Castle of Joseph", is located.
See also 
- Yousuf e Payambar (film)
- Biblical narratives and the Qur'an
- Legends and the Qur'an
- Prophets of Islam
- Stories of The Prophets
- prophets (a.s.) - when & where
- Quran 12:21
- Quran 12:4
- Khalil or Halil (Arabic: خليل ) means "friend".
- Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:55:593
- Quran 12:5–6
- Quran 12:8–9
- Genesis, 37:21
- Quran 12:10
- Quran 12:11–18
- Quran 12:30
- Genesis, 39:1
- Quran 12:31
- Quran 12:19–22
- Quran 12:23–24
- Quran 12:25–29
- Quran 12:30–32
- Quran 12:33–35
- Genesis, 39:1-23
- Quran 12:36–42
- Quran 12:43–55
- Quran 12:84
- Quran 12:96
- Redmount, Carol A. (1998). "Bitter Lives: Israel in and out of Egypt". The Oxford History of the Biblical World: 89–90.
- Quran 12:43
- Quran 7:103
- Quran 12:51
- Quran 12:38
- Israeli army returns to Arafat compound, BBC, October 1, 2002.
- "Patriarchal Burial Site Explored for First Time in 700 Years". Biblical Archaeology Review (May/June 1985).
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Yusuf|
- Prophet Joseph (Yusuf)
- The meaning of Joseph's story in the Qur'an from the standpoint of his dream
- The Story of Yusuf.