Yusuf (Arabic: يوسف ٱبن يعقوب ٱبن إسحاق ٱبن إبراهيم, romanizedYūsuf ibn Yaʿqūb ibn ʾIsḥāq ibn ʾIbrāhīm, lit.'Joseph, son of Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham') is a prophet and messenger of God mentioned in the Quran[1] and corresponds to Joseph, a person from the Hebrew and Christian Bible who was said to have lived in Egypt before the New Kingdom.[2] Of Jacob's children, Joseph reportedly had the gift of prophecy through dreams. Although the narratives of other prophets are presented in a number of surahs, Joseph's complete narrative appears in only one: Yusuf. Said to be the most detailed narrative in the Quran, it contains more details than its biblical counterpart.[3]


Yūsuf
يُوسُف
Joseph
PredecessorYaqub
SuccessorAyyub
Parent
Colorful miniature painting
Yusuf and Zulaikha (Joseph chased by Potiphar's wife), 1488 Persian miniature by Behzād

Yusuf is believed to have been the eleventh son of Ya'qub (Arabic: يعقوب) and, according to a number of scholars, his favorite. Ibn Kathir wrote, "Jacob had twelve sons who were the eponymous ancestors of the tribes of the Israelites. The noblest, the most exalted, the greatest of them was Joseph."[4] The narrative begins with Joseph revealing a dream to his father, which Jacob recognizes.[5] In addition to the role of God in his life, the story of Yusuf and Zulaikha (Potiphar's wife in the Old Testament) became a popular subject of Persian literature and was elaborated over centuries.[6]

In the Quran edit

 
Joseph at Zuleikha's party. Decorated tiles in the Takyeh Moaven-ol-Molk in Kermanshah, Iran

The story of Joseph in the Qurʾān is a continuous narrative. There are over one hundred verses, encompassing many years; they "present an amazing variety of sciences and characters in a tightly-knit plot, and offer a dramatic illustration of some of the fundamental themes of the Qurʾān."[7] The Quran notes the story's importance in the third verse: "and We narrate unto you aḥsanal-qaṣaṣ (Arabic: أحسن ٱلقصص, lit.'best (or most beautiful) of stories')." Most scholars believe that this refers to Joseph's story; others, including al-Tabari, believe that it refers to the Quran as a whole.[8] It documents the execution of God's rulings despite the challenge of human intervention ("And God hath full power and control over His affairs; but most among mankind know it not").[9]

Before the dream edit

Muhammad at-Ṭabari provides detailed commentary on the narrative in his chapter on Joseph, relaying the opinions of other well-known scholars. In al–Ṭabari's chapter, the physical beauty of Joseph and his mother Rahyl is introduced; they were said to have had "more beauty than any other human being."[10] His father, Jacob, had given him to his oldest sister to be raised. Al–Ṭabari writes that there was no greater love than what Joseph's aunt felt for him, since she raised him as her own; reluctant to return him to Jacob, she kept him until her death. According to al–Ṭabari, she could do this because of a belt given to her by her father, Isaac: "If someone else acquired it by guile from the person who was supposed to have it, then he would become absolutely subject to the will of the rightful owner."[11] Joseph's aunt puts the belt on Joseph when Jacob is absent; she accuses Joseph of stealing it, and he remains with her until her death. Jacob is reluctant to give Joseph up, and favors him when they are together.

The dream edit

The narrative begins with a dream, and ends with its interpretation. As the sun appeared over the horizon, bathing the earth in morning glory, Joseph (son of Jacob) awakens delighted by a pleasant dream. Filled with excitement, he runs to his father and reports what he saw.

Joseph 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!

According to Ibn Kathir, Jacob knows that Joseph will become important in this world and the next. He recognizes that the stars represent his brothers; the sun and moon represent himself and Joseph's mother, Rachel. Jacob tells Joseph to keep the dream secret to protect him from the jealousy of his brothers, who are unhappy with Jacob's love for Joseph.[13] He foresees that Joseph will be the one through whom the prophecy of his grandfather, Ibrahim, would be fulfilled: his offspring would keep the light of Abraham's house alive and spread God's message to mankind. Abu Ya'ala interpreted Jacob's reaction as an understanding that the planets, sun, and moon bowing to Joseph represented "something dispersed which God united."[13] Jacob tells Joseph, "My son, relate not thy vision to thy brothers, lest they concoct a plot against thee: for Satan is a clear enemy to humanity. Thus your Lord has selected you and given you the knowledge to interpret dreams, and has perfected His blessing upon you and upon the family of Jacob just as He perfected it on your forefathers before: Ibrahim and Is-haq (Isaac). Your Lord is Knowing, Wise" (Qur'an, Surah 12 (Yusuf) Ayat 5–6).[14]

Joseph does not tell his brothers about his dream (unlike the Hebrew Bible version), but they remain very jealous. Al–Ṭabari writes that they said to each other, "Verily Joseph and his brother (Benjamin) are dearer to our father than we are, though we may be a troop ('usbah). By usbah they meant a group, for they were ten in number. They said, "Our father is plainly in a state of aberration."[15] Joseph has a gentle temperament and is respectful, kind, and considerate, like his brother Benjamin; both are Rachel's sons. From a hadith (Arabic: حديث, lit.'narration'):

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 God-fearing." They said, "O Prophet of God! We do not ask about this." He said, "Then the most honorable person is Joseph, Nabiyyullah (Arabic: نبي الله, lit.'Prophet of God'), the son of a Nabiyyillah, the son of Khalilillah (Arabic: خليل الله, lit.'Friend of God')."

— Sahih al-Bukhari, collected by Muhammad al-Bukhari[16]

Plot against him edit

 
Selling Joseph as a slave. Painted tiles in the Takyeh Moaven–ol–molk, Kermanshah, Iran

The Quran continues with Joseph's brothers plotting to kill him: "In Joseph and his brothers are signs for those who seek answers. When Joseph's brothers said about him: "He is more loved by our father than we are, and we are a group. Our father is in clear error. Let us kill Joseph or cast him to the ground, so that your father's face will be toward you, and after him you will be a community of the truthful."[17] One brother argued against killing him and suggested throwing him into a well, said to be Jubb Yusif (Arabic: جب يوسف, lit.'Well of Joseph'); a caravan might rescue and enslave him: "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 travelers."[18] Mujahid ibn Jabr identifies the brother as Simeon. Suddi identifies him as Judah; Qatadah writes that it was the eldest, Reuben:[19] Scholars suggest that Joseph may have been as young as twelve when he was thrown into the well.[20] He would live to be 110[21] or 120.[20]

The brothers ask their father to let them take Joseph into the desert to play, and promised to watch him. Jacob hesitates, aware of their resentment of their brother. Al–Ṭabari writes that Jacob's excuse is that a wolf (Arabic: ذئب, romanizeddhi'b) might hurt him.[22] The brothers insist, and then throw Joseph into a well. They return with a blood-stained shirt, saying that he had been attacked by a wolf, but Jacob does not believe them.[22]

According to the Quran,

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 if 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 God (alone) Whose help can be sought"...

— Qur'an, Surah 12 (Yusuf) Ayat 11–18[23]

Al–Ṭabari writes that Judah stops the brothers from further harming Joseph, and brings him food.[22] Ibn Kathir writes that Reuben suggested that they put him in the well so he could return later to bring him home. When he returns, Joseph is gone: "So he screamed and tore his clothes. He put blood on the coat of Joseph. When Jacob learned of this, he tore his clothes, wore a black cloak, and was sad for many days."[24] Ibn Abbas writes that the "reason for this trial of Jacob was that he had slaughtered a sheep while he was fasting. He asked a neighbor of his to eat it but he did not. So God tested him with the matter of Joseph."[25] He interprets Joseph's revelation[clarification needed] in the well: "When they were unaware" (12:15) means "you will tell them about what they did in a situation in which they will not recognize you."[26] A possible reason for Joseph's enslavement was that after Abraham left Egypt with slaves, "Abraham did not dismount for them (following barefoot). Therefore God revealed to him: 'Since you did not alight for the slaves and those walking barefoot with you, I will punish you by selling one of your descendants into his country.'"[27]

God's Intervention edit

A passing caravan takes Joseph after it stops by the well to draw water and sees the boy inside. The brothers, nearby, sell Joseph for a very low price, only wanting to get rid of him. The caravan rescue him and sell him into slavery in Misr (Arabic: مصر, Egypt), to a rich man, the Pharaoh's vizier, known as Al-'Aziz (Arabic: ٱلعزيز)[28] in the Quran and Potiphar in the Bible.[29] 'Aziz is also known as Qatafir or Qittin.[30] Joseph is taken into 'Aziz's home, and the man tells his wife to treat him well.

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 God 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: maybe 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 dreams (and events). And God 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, Surah 12 (Yusuf) Ayat 19–22[31]

Scholars of Islam cite this point as central to Joseph's story. Joseph rises to a high position in Al-'Aziz's household and, when his brothers later come to Egypt, they do not recognize him.[32] He reaches manhood, and 'Aziz's wife tries to seduce him. Al–Tabari and others note that Joseph is also attracted to her, and al–Ṭabari writes that he does not succumb to her because when they were alone, the "figure of Jacob appeared to him, standing in the house and biting his fingers ... God turned him away from his desire for evil by giving him a sign that he should not do it."[33]

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, Surah 12 (Yusuf) Ayat 23–24[34]

Zulaikha, 'Aziz's wife, rips the back of Joseph's shirt as they race one another to the door where her husband is waiting. She tries to blame Joseph, suggesting that he had attacked her, but Joseph's account of Zulaikha's attempted seduction is confirmed by a member of the household; "'Azīz believed Joseph and told his wife to beg forgiveness."[35] The household member tells 'Aziz to check Joseph's shirt. If the front is torn, Joseph is guilty; if the back is torn, Zulaikha is guilty. The shirt is torn in the back, and 'Aziz reprimands his wife for lying.[36]

Zulaikha's friends think that she is infatuated with Joseph, and ridicule her for falling in love with a slave. She invites them to her home, and gives them apples[dubious ] and knives to peel them with. Zuleikha then has Joseph walk through the room; the women are so distracted by his handsomeness that they cut their fingers with the knives, and she says that she sees Joseph every day.[36] Joseph prays, saying that he would prefer prison to succumbing to Zuleikha and her friends. According to al–Ṭabari, 'Aziz later "grew disgusted with himself for having let Joseph go free ... It seemed good to them to imprison him for a time."[37] The popular story of Joseph and Zulaikha differs in the Quran from the Biblical version, in which Potiphar believes his wife and imprisons Joseph.[38] After 'Aziz's death, Joseph reportedly marries Zulaikha.[32]

Dream interpretation edit

This account refers to the interaction between Joseph and the ruler of Egypt. Unlike references to the pharaoh in the account of Moses, the story of Joseph refers to the Egyptian ruler as a king (Arabic: ملك, romanized: malik) rather than a pharaoh (Arabic: فرعون, romanized: fir'aun). After Joseph had been imprisoned for a few years, God gives Joseph the ability to interpret dreams, a power which makes him popular amongst the other prisoners. Before his imprisonment, two royal servants had been thrown into the dungeon for attempting to poison the food of the king and his family. Joseph asks them about their dreams; one said that he saw himself pressing grapes into wine, and the other said he saw himself with a basket of bread on his head and birds eating from it. Joseph says that the first servant will be released and return to the king, but the second will be executed; both came to pass.[39]

He asks the servant who will be released (Nabu, according to al–Ṭabari) to mention his case to the king. Asked about his time in prison, al–Ṭabari writes that Muhammad said: "If Joseph had not said that – meaning what he said (to Nabu) – he would not have stayed in prison as long as he did because he sought deliverance from someone other than God."[40]

The king is frightened by his dream that seven fat cows were eaten by seven thin ones and seven ears of corn were replaced with shriveled ears; none of his advisors could interpret it. When the servant who was released hears about it, he remembers Joseph and persuades the king to send him to Joseph for an interpretation. Joseph tells the servant that Egypt will face seven years of prosperity followed by seven years of famine, and the king should prepare for it.[41]

Scholars debate whether Joseph agreed to interpret the dream immediately or if he said that his name should be cleared in the house of 'Aziz first. Al–Ṭabari writes that when the messenger came to Joseph and invited him to come to the king, Joseph replied: "Go back to your lord and ask him about the case of the women who cut their hands. My lord surely knows their guile."[42] Ibn Kathir agrees with al–Ṭabari, saying that Joseph sought "restitution for this in order that 'Aziz might know that he was not false to him during his absence" and Zulaikha eventually admitted that nothing happened between them.[43] Al–Ṭabari inserts an interaction between Joseph and the angel Gabriel in which Gabriel helps Joseph gain his freedom and admit his desires.[40]

Joseph said, "What you cultivate during the next seven years, when the time of harvest comes, leave the grains in their spikes, except for what you eat. After that, seven years of drought will come, which will consume most of what you stored for them. After that, a year will come that brings relief for the people, and they will, once again, press juice." (Quran, 12:47–49) When he learns about Joseph's innocence, the king says: "Bring him to me that I may attach him to my person." He tells Joseph, "Verily, this day, you are with us high in rank and fully trusted",(Quran 12:54) recognizing his virtues, ability, brilliance, and good conduct and perfect mannerisms. Joseph says,, "Set me over the storehouses of the land; I will indeed guard them with full knowledge" (Quran 12:55).

Use of "king" and "pharaoh" edit

In the Quran, the ruler of Egypt during Joseph's time is said to be the "king"; the ruler during the time of Moses is said to be "pharaoh", without a definite article. The title "pharaoh" began to be used to refer to rulers of Egypt with Thutmose III in 1479 BCE, about 20 years after Joseph's death.[44] In the biblical story of Joseph, "king" (Hebrew: Melekh) and "pharaoh" are used interchangeably in Genesis 39 to 41.[45]

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."

— Qur'an, Surah 12 (Yusuf), Ayah 43,[46]

Then after them We sent Moses with Our Signs to Pharaoh and his chiefs, but they wrongfully rejected them. So see how was the end of al-Mufsidin (Arabic: ألمفسدين, "the Mischief-makers" or "the Corrupters").

— Qur'an, Surah 7 (Al-Araf), Ayah 103 [47]

And the King said: "Bring him to me." But when the messenger came to him, He (Joseph) said: "Return to your lord and ask him, 'What happened to the women who cut their hands? Surely, my Lord (God) is Well-Aware of their plot.

— Qur'an, Surah 12 (Yusuf), Ayah 50,[48]

And Joseph's master took him, and put him into the prison, the place where the king's prisoners were bound; and he was there in the prison.

— Genesis 39:20

Some time later, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their master, the king of Egypt.

— Genesis 40:1

And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt.

— Genesis 41:46

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

Family reunion edit

Joseph became powerful; Ibn Kathir writes that the king of Egypt had faith in him, and the people loved and revered him. He was reportedly 30 years old when he was summoned to the king. "The king addressed him in 70 languages, and each time Joseph answered him in that language."[43] According to Ibn Is-haq, "The king of Egypt converted to Islam at the hands of Joseph."[41]

Joseph's brothers suffer while the people of Egypt prosper under his guidance. Jacob and his family are hungry and the brothers go to Egypt, unaware that Joseph is in a high position there.[49] Joseph gives them what they need, and questions them. They say that there were once twelve of them, and the one most loved by their father (Joseph) died in the desert. Joseph tells them to bring Benjamin, the youngest, to him. They return home and persuade Jacob to let Benjamin accompany them to secure food, swearing that they will return with him.[50] According to Ibn Kathir, Jacob orders the brothers to use many gates when returning to Egypt.[51]

When the brothers return with Benjamin, Joseph reveals himself to him. He gives the brothers the promised supplies, and puts the king's cup into one of the bags. Joseph accuses them of stealing, which the brothers deny. He tells them that whoever stole the cup will be enslaved to the owner; the brothers agree, not realizing the plot against them. Al–Ṭabari writes that the cup is found in Benjamin's sack.[52]

After much angry discussion, the brothers try to get Benjamin released by offering themselves instead; Reuben stays behind with Benjamin. When the other brothers tell Jacob what has happened, he does not believe them and goes blind from weeping for his missing sons. Forty years after Joseph was taken from his father, Jacob still misses him. He sends the brothers back to find out about Benjamin and Joseph. Upon their return, Joseph reveals himself to his brothers and gives them one of his shirts to give to Jacob.[53]

When Jacob receives the shirt, he presses it to his face and his vision is restored. He says "Did I not tell you that I know from God what you do not know?" (12:96). According to al–Ṭabari, this means that "from the truth of the interpretation of Joseph's dream in which he saw eleven planets and the sun and the moon bowing down to him, he knew that which they did not know."[54]

Joseph is reunited with his family, and his childhood dream comes true when he sees his parents and eleven brothers prostrating themselves before him in love, welcome and respect. Ibn Kathir writes that his mother had died, but al–Ṭabari says that she was alive.[55] Joseph eventually dies in Egypt; when Moses leaves Egypt, he reportedly takes Joseph's coffin so he will be buried with his ancestors in Canaan.[55]

Death and burial edit

According to Islamic tradition, the biblical Joseph is buried in Hebron next to the Cave of the Patriarchs, where a medieval structure known as the Castle of Joseph (Arabic: Yussuf-Kalah) is located.[56]

Legacy edit

 
Miniature depicting Joseph with his father Jacob and brothers in Egypt from Zubdat-al Tawarikh in the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum in Istanbul, dedicated to Sultan Murad III in 1583

Joseph is revered in Islamic history. Descended from the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, he also has the gift of prophecy. According to Kisai, one of the foremost biographers of the Quranic prophets, Joseph was given a staff of light with five branches. On the first branch was written "Abraham, friend of God," on the second, "Isaac, pure of God," on the third, "Ishmael, sacrifice of God", on the fourth, "Jacob, Israelite of God," and on the fifth, "Joseph, Righteous of God."[57]

The Quranic story of Joseph may be one of the book's most detailed accounts of the life of a prophet. Joseph symbolizes beauty, and is admired as an preacher of Islam who is strongly committed to God and tries to persuade people to follow the path of righteousness. The Quran recounts Joseph's declaration of faith:

And I follow the ways of my fathers, – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and never could we attribute any partners whatever to God: that (comes) of the grace of God to us and to mankind: yet most men are not grateful.

— Qur'an, Surah 12 (Yusuf) Ayah 38[58]

Joseph is described as having the three characteristics of the ideal statesman: pastoral ability (developed when he was young and in charge of his father's flocks); household management (from his time in Potiphar's house) and self-control, as seen on a number of occasions: "He was pious and God fearing, full of temperance, ready to forgive, and displayed goodness to all people."[59]

Commentaries edit

Joseph is largely absent from the hadith. Discussions, interpretations and retellings of his life may be found in tafsir, histories by al-Ṭabarī, Ibn Kat̲h̲īr and others, and in the poetry and pietistic literature of a number of religions.[60] According to Ja'far al-Sadiq, a great-grandson of Muhammad and prominent source of hadith, Joseph was righteous and moral.[61]

Joseph is a model of virtue and wisdom in spiritual literature, extolled in Ṣūfī works such as Abū Naṣr al-Sarrād̲j̲'s K. al-Lumaʿ as a paragon of forgiveness. "He also epitomizes the chastity that is based on complete trust in God, for it was his absolute piety that prompted God to personally intervene to prevent him from the transgression of succumbing to sexual temptation."[62] Joseph is an archetype of wisdom and faith, although still human (as in his interactions with his brothers in Egypt). His beauty is frequently noted, especially in post-Qurānic literature. According to Firestone in the Encyclopaedia of Islam, "His beauty was so exceptional that the behavior of the wife of al-ʿAzīz is forgiven, or at least mitigated, because of the unavoidably uncontrollable love and passion that his countenance would rouse in her. Such portrayals are found in many genres of Islamic literatures, but are most famous in Nūr al-Dīn ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Dijāmī's [q.v.] Yūsuf wa Zulayk̲h̲ā, which incorporates many of the motifs and attributes associated with his beauty in earlier works."[62] From the seventh century AH (13th century CE) to the 10th century (16th century CE), Joseph was incorporated into Persian poetry and other literature, paintings and other forms of art.[62]

Esoteric commentaries in Arabic edit

The story of Joseph has esoteric Arabic commentaries which fill gaps in the narrative, make connections and identify characters. Additional details are common, and most complement information in canonical texts. According to Encyclopædia Iranica, much is derived from the Esra'Illiyat: traditions drawn from knowledge about Biblical events and people shared by Christians, Jews, and early Muslims. Sources of these traditions are Ibn 'Abbas (d. ca. 687) and Esma'il b. 'Abd-al-Rahman Soddi (d. 745).[63] Al–Ṭabari includes the greatest number and variety of traditions supplying information not found in the Quran.[64] "All the Arabic commentaries on Surat Yusuf include explanations and discussions of lexicography and grammar to clarify the literal meaning of the Qurʾānic story of Joseph. They focus on smaller details, not big-picture meaning."[65]

Additional themes include the nature of God. Mustansir Mir writes that Joseph's story vindicates God's dominion and the fulfillment of his will. According to Mir's 1986 article in The Muslim World, this surah highlights the way dominion is established; God is al-Latif (Arabic: الـلَّـطـيـف, lit.'the One subtle in accomplishing his will'), and is also al-'Alim (Arabic: الـعَـلـيـم, lit.'the Knower or the All-Knowing One') and al-Hakim (Arabic: الـحَـكـيـم, lit.'the Wise or the All-Wise One').[7] The Story of Joseph in Arabic Verse is a poetic medieval version of the Quranic story.[66][67]

Persian commentaries edit

Farsi tafsir vary in the extent to which they include explanatory discussions and Arabic questions, and some Persian commentaries on Joseph resemble their Arabic counterparts. Other commentaries consist mainly of a translation of the verses and storytelling, unlike al–Tabari's style. Mystical readings of Joseph from the six6th century AH (12th century CE) tafsir of Maybundi are examples of this influence.[68]

Storytelling becomes more prominent in Persian tafsir, which are known for their colorful, dramatic depiction of scenes in the narrative. Often described as "lively," it can be seen in Joseph's interactions with his brothers. Another example of Persian expansion of the story is when the brothers realize that Joseph is going to keep Benjamin in Egypt. One of the brothers, often Reuben, threatens Joseph that he will yell so loudly that every pregnant woman would immediately give birth.[69]

Judaeo-Persian literature also strongly influenced medieval Islamic writings. Scholars note that Judaeo-Persian literature seemed to have been developed during the Īl-K̲h̲ān dynasty in Persia, from the end of the seventh to the 13th centuries.[70]

Sufi commentaries edit

Sufi tradition focuses on the lessons and deeper meanings "that may be elicited from the Qur'anic verses and the story of Joseph provides them with ample scope to draw lessons of mystical, ethical and theological and metaphysical significance."[69] Commentaries in this tradition emphasize the themes of predestination and God's omnipotence. Two teachings stand out: "the first is that God is the controller and provider of all things and that human beings should have complete trust in Him and the second is the prevailing of the divine decree over human contrivance and design."[69]

The theme of love transcends the story of Yusuf and Zulaikha. Jacob becomes an archetypical mystic lover of God; Zulaikha evolves from a temptress to a lover, and from human to divine love.[71] There were two kinds of love in the story: the passion of a lover and the devotion of a father to his lost son. Joseph also represents eternal beauty as it is manifest in the created world.[68] "The Persian versions include full narratives, but also episodic anecdotes and incidental references which occur in prose works, didactic and lyrical poetry and even in drama. The motif was suited to be used by Sufi writers and poets as one of the most important models of the relationship between the manifestation of Divine beauty in the world and the loving soul of the mystic."[68]

There was also a Jewish presence. According to W. J. Fischer (2013), "Persian Jews, far from living in a cultural vacuum in isolation, took also a keen interest in the literary and poetical works of their Muslim neighbors and shared with them the admiration for the classical Persian poetry."[72] Similar styles of meter and form translated easily between the two. The poet D̲j̲āmī is known for his reflections on stories such as Yusuf and Zulaikha, which were made accessible in Hebrew transliteration and are preserved.[73]

Shia commentaries edit

In Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni's Kitab al-Kafi, when the fire was set for Abraham, Gabriel brought him a shirt from paradise and made him wear it. With the shirt on, cold or heat would not harm him. When Abraham was dying, he wrapped it up gave it to Isaac; Isaac gave it to Jacob. When Joseph was born, it was given to him. When he took it out in Egypt, Jacob said, "I smell Joseph's scent. I hope that you will not accuse me of senility (12:94)". It was the same shirt which was sent from paradise.[74]

Medieval Muslim retellings of Sūrat Yūsuf edit

The story of Joseph has been widely retold and influential in the Muslim world.[75] The story has attracted extra elements which have become common in Islamic tradition. For example, the wolf whom Joseph's brothers accuse of killing Joseph miraculously speaks to Jacob, revealing the true story.[76] In the versions known as Yūsuf and Zulkaykha, Joseph eventually marries his one-time seductress, the wife of Potiphar.[77]

The following retellings of Joseph's story are based fairly closely on the Quranic Sūrat Yūsuf, unlike the more divergent Yūsuf and Zulkaykha narratives, and are stand-alone texts, unlike the Qiṣaṣ al-anbiyāʾ, which recount Joseph's life as part of a larger collection of prophets' biographies.

author (where known) title date (CE) language modern translation
Qul Ğəliy Kyssa'i Yusuf 1233 (supposedly) Old Tatar English[78]
Şeyyad Ḥamza Destān-ı Yūsuf thirteenth-century Turkish English[79]
Poema de Yuçuf fourteenth-century Aragonese
The Story of Joseph in Arabic Verse Middle Arabic Arabic English[80]
al-Awsī Zahr al-kumām fī qiṣṣat Yūsuf ʿalayhi al-salām before 1350 Arabic
Story of Joseph in Geneva, Bibliothèque de Genève, MS oriental 13 seventeenth-century Arabic French[81]

Gender and sexuality edit

The story of Joseph provides insight into Quranic models of sexuality and gender and an understanding of hegemonic masculinity. A prophet very different from other prophets in the Quran is encountered in the surah, but all prophets are chosen to guide other humans to God.[82] Joseph is similar to other prophets in that his story conveys God's message, and his story "begins and ends with God. For this reason all prophets are equal: their sole purpose is to highlight God's divinity but not their own significance over against other prophets."[83]

Ibn Kathir uses Joseph's resistance to Zulaikha as a basis for saying that men are saved by God because they fear him. Female scholars such as Barbara Freyer Stowasser consider this interpretation demeaning to women, suggesting that women do not have the same connection: "Both appear in the Hadith as symbolized in the concept of fitna (social anarchy, social chaos, temptation) which indicates that to be a female is to be sexually aggressive and, hence, dangerous to social stability. The Qurʾān, however, reminds human beings to remain focused on submission to God."[84] In Islamic tradition, God does not disapprove of Joseph and Zulaikha's mutual attraction and love, associated factors, however, make their love affair impossible.[85]

See also edit

References edit

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  2. ^ Coogan, Michael (2009). The Old Testament: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. pp. 70–72. ISBN 978-0-19-530505-0.
  3. ^ Keeler, Annabel (15 June 2009). "Joseph ii. In Qurʾānic Exegesis". XV: 35. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ Wheeler, Brannon (2002). Prophets in the Qur'an. Continuum. p. 127.
  5. ^ Wheeler, Brannon (2002). Prophets in the Qur'an. Continuum. p. 128.
  6. ^ Bruijn (2013). "Yūsuf and Zulayk̲h̲ā". Encyclopedia of Islam; Second Edition: 1.
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  8. ^ Keller, Annabel (15 June 2009). "Joseph ii. In Qurʾānic Exegesis". Encyclopedia Iranica. XV: 1.
  9. ^ Quran 12:21
  10. ^ al-Tabari, Muhammad ibn Jarir (Translated by William Brinner) (1987). The History of al-Tabari Vol. 2: Prophets and Patriarchs. SUNY. p. 148.
  11. ^ al-Tabari, Muhammad ibn Jarir (Translated by William Brinner) (1987). The History of al-Tabari Vol. 2: Prophets and Patriarchs. SUNY. pp. 148–149.
  12. ^ Quran 12:4
  13. ^ a b Wheeler, Brannon (2002). Prophets in the Quran: An Introduction to the Quran and Muslim Exegesis. Continuum. p. 128.
  14. ^ Quran 12:5–6
  15. ^ al-Tabari, Muhammad ibn Jarir (Translated by William Brinner) (1987). The History of al-Tabari Vol. 2: Prophets and Patriarchs. SUNY. p. 149.
  16. ^ Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:55:593
  17. ^ Quran 12:7–9
  18. ^ Quran 12:10
  19. ^ Wheeler, Brannon (2002). Prophets in the Quran: An Introduction to the Quran and Muslim Exegesis. Continuum. pp. 130–131.
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  28. ^ Quran 12:30
  29. ^ Genesis, 39:1
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  38. ^ Genesis, 39:1–23
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  47. ^ Quran 7:103
  48. ^ Quran 12:50
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  76. ^ Roberto Tottoli, '"I Just Came to Visit Some Relatives": The Wolf in Joseph's Story', in Roberto Tottoli, Studies in Islamic Traditions and Literature, Variorum Collected Studies Series, CS 1112 (London: Routledge, 2023), 215–26 [trans. from '"Sono solo venuto a trovare alcuni parenti": Il lupo nella storia di Giuseppe', Quaderni di Studi Arabi, n. s. 14 (2019), 201–16].
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External links edit