Yusuf and Zulaikha

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Yusuf and Zulaikha (Joseph pursued by Potiphar's wife), miniature by Behzād, 1488.
Joseph in Zuleikha's party. Painting in Takieh Moaven ol molk, Kermanshah, Iran

"Yusuf and Zulaikha" (the English transliteration of both names varies greatly) refers to a medieval Islamic version of the story of the prophet Joseph and Potiphar's wife which has been told and retold countless times in many languages spoken in Muslim world, such as Arabic, Persian, Bengali, Turkish and Urdu. Its most famous version was written in Persian language by Jami (1414-1492), in his Haft Awrang ("Seven Thrones"). The story has by then many elaborations, and is capable of a Sufi interpretation, where Zulaikha's longing for Yusuf represents the soul's quest for God.

Other versions of the story[edit]

Other writers to have retold the story include: Mahmud Gami (Kashmiri). It is a standard tale used in Punjabi Qisse.

There exists as well a long poem on the subject, titled as Yusuf and Zalikha, which used to be attributed to Ferdowsi, the great Persian poet of the tenth and eleventh century, however, the scholars have rejected this book based on its low quality and the time line of Ferdowsi's life.[1]

Yousuf and Zulaikha in Asia[edit]

A painting of Yusuf and Zulaikha, from the Metropolitan Museum[2] collection.

As in many other Muslim countries, the narrative of the epic love of Yousuf and Zulaikha was covered in classic literary works of East Bengal (modern day Bangladesh): in the 14th century A.D. (during the reign of Sultan Ghiyasuddin Azam Shah), Shah Muhammad Sagir wrote in Bengali a version of Yusuf-Zulekha which is considered one of the greatest literary works of medieval "golden era" of Bengali literature.

Based on Jami's Persian version, Munshi Sadeq Ali also wrote this story as a poetic-style puthi in the Sylheti Nagari script, which he titled Mahabbatnama.[3]


  1. ^ 'Yusuf and Zalikha: The Biblical Legend of Joseph and Potiphar's Wife in the Persian Version Ascribed to Abul-Mansur Qasim, Called Firdausi, ca. 932-1021 A.D.,' Edited by Hermann Ethé, Philo Press, Amsterdam, 1970
  2. ^ "Yusuf And Zulaikha". www.metmuseum.org. Retrieved 2018-12-19.
  3. ^ Saleem, Mustafa (30 Nov 2018). "মহব্বত নামা : ফার্সি থেকে বাংলা আখ্যান". Bhorer Kagoj.

External links[edit]

Foundational Maḥabbat-nāmas: Jāmī’s Yūsuf u Zulaykhā in Bengal (ca. 16th–19th AD) By: Thibaut d’Hubert Pages: 649–691

Love’s New Pavilions: Śāhā Mohāmmad Chagīr’s Retelling of Yūsuf va Zulaykhā in Early Modern Bengal By: Ayesha A. Irani Pages: 692–751

Śrīvara’s Kathākautuka: Cosmology, Translation, and the Life of a Text in Sultanate Kashmir By: Luther Obrock Pages: 752–776

A Bounty of Gems: Yūsuf u Zulaykhā in Pashto By: C. Ryan Perkins Pages: 777–797

Sweetening the Heavy Georgian Tongue Jāmī in the Georgian-Persianate World By: Rebecca Ruth Gould Pages: 798–828