The Story Of Joseph in The Holy Qur’an

This story of prophet Joseph has been adapted from the Holy Qur’an’s Chapter 12

We do relate unto you the most beautiful of stories, in that We reveal to you this (portion of) The Holy Book: before this, you too were among those who knew it not.

Manuscript of the Quran at the Brooklyn Museum

Behold! 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!”

Said (the father): “My (dear) little son! Relate not your vision to your brothers, lest they concoct a plot against you: for Satan is to man an avowed enemy!

“Thus will your Lord choose you and teach you the interpretation of stories (and events) and perfect His favor to you and to the posterity of Jacob – even as He perfected it to your fathers Abraham and Isaac aforetime! For God is full have know ledge and wisdom.

Verily in Joseph and his brethren are signs (or symbols) for seekers (after Truth).

They said: “Truly Joseph and his brother are loved more by our father than us: But we are a goodly body! Really our father is obviously wandering (in his mind)!

“Slay you Joseph or cast him out to some (unknown) land, that so the favor of your father may be given to you alone: (there will be time enough) for you to be righteous after that!”

Said one of them: “Slay not Joseph, but if you must do something, throw him down to the bottom of the well: he will be picked up by some caravan of travelers.”

They said: “O our father! Why do you 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 you should take him away: I fear lest the wolf should devour him while you 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 you shall (one day) tell them the truth of this their affair while they know (you) 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 you wilt never believe us even tough we tell the truth.”

Joseph’s Brothers Sell Him into Captivity (1855 painting by Konstantin Flavitsky)

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 you assert, it is God (alone) Whose help can be sought”..

Then there came a caravan of travelers: 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 knows w ell all that they do!

The (Brethren) sold him for a miserable price, for a few dirhams (dollars) 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) honorable: may be he will bring us much good, or we shall adopt him as a son.” Thus We did establish Joseph in the land, that We might teach him the interpretation of stories (and events). And God has 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.

But she in whose house he was, sought to seduce him from his (true) self: she fastened the doors, and said: “Now come, you (dear one)!” He said: “God forbid! Truly (your 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 (We did order) that We might turn away from him (all) evil and shameful deeds: for he was one of Our servants, sincere and purified.

In the biblical recounting, Potiphar’s wife was the evil seductress of the innocent Joseph. But is the story really that simple?

So they both raced each other to the door, and she tore his shirt from the back: they both found her lord near the door. She said: “What is the (fitting) punishment for one who formed an evil design against your wife, but prison or a grievous chaveisement?”

He said: “It was she that sought to seduce me – from my (true) self.” And one of her household saw (this) and bore witness, (thus): – “If it be that his shirt is rent from the front, then is her tale true, and he is a liar!

“But if it be that his shirt is torn from the back, then is she the liar, and he is telling the truth!”

So when he saw his shirt, – that it was torn at the back, – (her husband) said: “Behold! It is a snare of you women! Truly, mighty is your snare!

“O Joseph, pass this over! (O wife), ask forgiveness for your sin, for truly you have been at fault!”

Ladies said in the City: “The wife of the (great) ‘Aziz is seeking to seduce her slave from his (true) self: Truly has he inspired her with violent love: we see she is evidently going astray.”

When she heard of their malicious talk, she sent for them and prepared a banquet for them: she gave each of them a knife: and she said (to Joseph), “Come out before them.” When they saw him, they did extol him, and (in their amazement) cut their hands: they said, “God preserve us! No mortal is this! This is none other than a noble angel!”

She said: “There before you is the man about whom you did blame me! I did seek to seduce him from his (true) self but he did firmly save himself guiltless!.. And now, if he does not my bidding, he shall certainly be cast into prison, and (what is more) be of the company of the vilest!”

He said: “O my Lord! The prison is more to my liking than that to which they invite me: Unless You turn away their snare from me, I should (in my Thoughtful folly) feel inclined towards them and join the ranks of the ignorant.”

So his Lord hearkened to him (in his prayer), and turned away from him their snare: Verily He hears and knows (all things).

Then it occurred to the men, after they had seen the signs, (that it was best) to imprison him for a time.

Now with him there came into the prison two young men. Said one of them: “I see myself (in a dream) pressing wine.” said the other: “I see myself (in a dream) carrying bread on my head, and birds are eating, thereof.” “Tell us” (they said) “The truth and meaning thereof: for see you are one that does good (to all).”

He said: “Before any food comes (in due course) to feed either of you, I will surely reveal to you the truth and meaning of this ere it befall you: that is part of the (duty) which my Lord has taught me. I have (I assure you) abandoned the way s of a people that believe not in God and that (even) deny the Hereafter.

“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.

“O my two companions of the prison! (I ask you): are many lords differing among themselves better, or the One God, Supreme and Irresistible?

“If not Him, you worship nothing but names which you have named, – you and your fathers, – for which God has sent down no authority: the command is for none but God: He has commanded that you worship none but Him: that is the right religion, but most men understand not…

“O my two companions of the prison! As to one of you, he will pour out the wine for his lord to drink: as for the other, he will hang from the cross, and the birds will eat from off his head. (So) has been decreed that matter whereof yet wain do inquire”…

And of the two, to that one whom he considers about to be saved, he said: “Mention me to your lord.” But Satan made him forget to mention him to his lord: and (Joseph) lingered in prison a few (more) years.

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 you chiefs! Expound to me my vision if it be that you can interpret visions.”

They said: “A confused medley of dreams: and we are not skilled in the interpretation of dreams.”

But the man who had been released, one of the two (who had been in prison) and who now bethought him after (so long) a space of time, said: “I will tell you the truth of its interpretation: send you me (therefore).”

“O Joseph!” (He said) “O man of truth! Expound to us (the dream) of seven fat kine whom seven lean ones devour and of seven green ears of corn and (seven) others withered: that I may return to the people, and that they may understand.”

(Joseph) said: “For seven years shall you diligently sow as is your wont: and the harvests that you reap, you shall leave them in the ear, – except a little, of which you shall eat.

“Then will come after that (period) seven dreadful (years), which will devour what you shall have laid by in advance for them, – (all) except a little which you shall have (specially) guarded.

“Then will come after that (period) a year in which the people will have abundant water, and in which they will press (wine and oil).”

Joseph Interprets the Dream of Pharaoh (19th Century painting by Jean-Adrien Guignet)

So the king said: “Bring you him unto me.” But when the messenger came to him, (Joseph) said: “Go you back to your lord, and ask him, ‘What is the state of mind of the ladies who cut their hands’? For my Lord is certainly well aware of their snare.”

(The king) said (to the ladies): “What was your affair when you did seek to seduce Joseph from his (true) self?” The ladies said: “God preserve us! No evil know we against him!” Said the ‘Aziz’s wife: “Now is the truth manifest (to all): it was I who sought to seduce him from his (true) self: He is indeed of those who are (ever) true (and virtuous).

“This (say I), in order that He may know that I have never been false to him in his absence, and that God will never guide the snare of the false ones.

“Nor do I absolve my own self (of blame): the (human) soul is certainly prone to evil, unless my Lord do bestow His Mercy: but surely my Lord is Oft- forgiving, Most Merciful.”

So the king said: “Bring him unto me; I will take him specially to serve about my own person.” Therefore when he had spoken to him, he said: “Be assured this day, you art, before our own presence, with rank firmly established, and fidelity fully proved!

(Joseph) said: “Set me over the store-houses of the land: I will indeed guard them, as one that knows (their importance).”

Thus We did give established power to Joseph in the land, to take possession therein as, when, or where he pleased. We bestow of our Mercy on whom We please, and We suffer not, to be lost, the reward of those who do good.

But verily the reward of the Hereafter is the best, for those who believe, and are constant in righteousness.

Then came Joseph’s brethren: they entered his presence, and he knew them, but they knew him not.

And when he had furnished them forth with provisions (suitable) for them, he said: “Bring unto me a brother you have, of the same father as yourselves, (but a different mother): see you not that I pay out full measure, and that I do provide the best hospitality?

“Now if you bring him not to me, you shall have no measure (of corn) from me, nor shall you (even) come near me.”

They said: “We shall certainly seek to get our wish about him from his father: Indeed we shall do it.”

Joseph Overseer of the Pharaoh’s Granaries, oil on canvas, by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1874

And (Joseph) told his servants to put their stock-in-trade (with which they had bartered) into their saddle-bags, so they should know it only when they returned to their people, in order that they might come back.

Now when they returned to their father, they said: “O our father! No more measure of grain shall we get (unless we take our brother): So send our brother with us, that we may get our measure; and we will indeed take every care of him.”

He said: “Shall I trust you with him with any result other than when I trusted you with his brother aforetime? But God is the best to take care (of him), and He is the Most Merciful of those who show mercy!”

Then when they opened their baggage, they found their stock-in-trade had been returned to them. They said: “O our father! What (more) can we desire? This stock-in-trade has been returned to us: so we shall get (more) food for our family; We shall take care of our brother; and add (at the same time) a full camel’s load (of grain to our provisions). This is but a small quantity.

(Jacob) said: “Never will I send him with you until you swear a solemn oath to me, in God’s name, that you will be sure to bring him back to me unless you are yourselves hemmed in (and made powerless). And when they had sworn their solemn oath, he said: “Over all that we say, be God the witness and guardian!”

Further he said: “O my sons! Enter not all by one gate: enter you by different gates. Not that I can profit you ought against God (with my advice): None can command except God: On Him do I put my trust: and let all that trust put their trust on Him.”

And when they entered in the manner their father had enjoined, it did not profit them in the least against (the plan of) God: It was but a necessity of Jacob’s soul, which he discharged. For he was, by our instruction, full of knowledge (and experience): but most men know not.

Now when they came into Joseph’s presence, he received his (full) brother to stay with him. He said (to him): “Behold! I am your (own) brother; so grieve not at ought of their doings.”

At length when he had furnished them forth with provisions (suitable) for them, he put the drinking cup into his brother’s saddlebag. Then shouted out a crier: “O you (in) the caravan! Behold! You are thieves, without doubt!”

They said, turning towards them: “What is it that you miss?”

They said: “We miss the great beaker of the king; for him who produces it, is (the reward of) a camel load; I will be bound by it.”

(The brothers) said: “By God! Well you know that we came not to make mischief in the land, and we are no thieves!”

(The Egyptians) said: “What then shall be the penalty of this, if you are (proved) to have lied?”

They said: “The penalty should be that he in whose saddle-bag it is found, should be held (as bondsman) to atone for the (crime). Thus it is we punish the wrong- doers!”

So he began (the search) with their baggage, before (he came to) the baggage of his brother: at length he brought it out of his brother’s baggage. Thus We did plan for Joseph. He could not take his brother by the law of the king except that Go d willed it (so). We raise to degrees (of wisdom) whom We please: but over all endued with knowledge is one, the All-Knowing.

They said: “If he steals, there was a brother of his who did steal before (him).” But these things did Joseph keep locked in his heart, revealing not the secrets to them. He (simply) said (to himself): “You are the worse situated; and God knows h best the truth of what you assert!”

They said: “O exalted one! Behold! He has a father, aged and venerable, (who will grieve for him); so take one of us in his place; for we see that you art (gracious) in doing good.”

He said: “God forbid that we take other than him with whom we found our property: indeed (if we did so), we should be acting wrongfully.

Now when they saw no hope of his (yielding), they held a conference in private. The leader among them said: “Know you not that your father did take an oath from you in God’s name, and how, before this, you did fail in your duty with Joseph? Therefore will I not leave this land until my father permits me, or God commands me; and He is the best to command.

“Turn you back to your father, and say, ‘O our father! Behold! your son committed theft! We bear witness only to what we know, and we could not well guard against the unseen!

“‘Ask at the town where we have been and the caravan in which we returned, and (you will find) we are indeed telling the truth.'”

Joseph’s Coat Brought to Jacob by Giovanni Andrea de Ferrari, c. 1640

Jacob said: “Nay, but you have yourselves contrived a story (good enough) for you. So patience is most fitting (for me). Maybe God will bring them (back) all to me (in the end). For He is indeed full of knowledge and wisdom.”

And he turned away from them, and said: “How great is my grief for Joseph!” And his eyes became white with sorrow, and he fell into silent melancholy.

They said: “By God! (never) wilt you cease to remember Joseph until you reach the last extremity of illness, or until you die!”

He said: “I only complain of my distraction and anguish to God, and I know from God that which you know not…

“O my sons! Go you and inquire about Joseph and his brother, and never give up hope of God’s Soothing Mercy: truly no one despairs of God’s Soothing Mercy, except those who have no faith.”

Then, when they came (back) into (Joseph’s) presence they said: “O exalted one! Distress has seized us and our family: we have (now) brought but scanty capital: so pay us full measure, (we pray you), and treat it as charity to us: for God does reward the charitable.”

“Joseph Reveals Himself to HIs Brothers” by Joseph Cornelius (Wikimedia).

He said: “Know you how you dealt with Joseph and his brother, not knowing (what you were doing)?”

They said: “Art you indeed Joseph?” He said, “I am Joseph, and this is my brother: God has indeed been gracious to us (all): behold, he that is righteous and patient, – never will God suffer the reward to be lost, of those who do right.”

They said: “By God! Indeed has God preferred you above us, and we certainly have been guilty of sin!”

He said: “This day let no reproach be (cast) on you: God will forgive you, and He is the Most Merciful of those who show mercy!

“Go with this my shirt, and cast it over the face of my father: he will come to see (clearly). Then come you (here) to me together with all your family.”

When the caravan left (Egypt), their father said: “I do indeed scent the presence of Joseph: Nay, think me not a dotard.”

They said: “By God! Truly you art in thine old wandering mind.”

Then when the bearer of the good news came, He cast (the shirt) over his face, and he forthwith regained clear sight. He said: “Did I not say to you, ‘I know from God that which you know not?'”

They said: “O our father! Ask for us forgiveness for our sins, for we were truly at fault.”

He said: “Soon will I ask my Lord for forgiveness for you: for he is indeed Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”

Then when they entered the presence of Joseph, he provided a home for his parents with himself, and said: “Enter you Egypt (all) in safety if it please God.”

And he raised his parents high on the throne (of dignity), and they fell down in prostration, (all) before him. He said: “O my father! This is the fulfillment of my vision of old! God has made it come true! He was indeed good to me when He took me out of prison and brought you (all here) out of the desert, (even) after Satan had sown enmity between my brothers and me. Verily my Lord understands best the mysteries of all that He plans to do, for verily He is full of knowledge and wisdom.

“O my Lord! You have indeed bestowed on me some power, and taught me something of the interpretation of dreams and events, – O You Creator of the heavens and the earth! You art my Protector in this world and in the Hereafter. Take You my soul (at death) as one submitting to Your will (as a Believer), and unite me with the righteous.”

Such is one of the stories of what happened unseen, which We reveal by inspiration unto you; nor were you (present) with them then when they concerted their plans together in the process of weaving their plots.

Yet no faith will the greater part of mankind have, however ardently you do desire it.

And no reward you ask of them for this: it is no less than a message for all creatures.

And how many Signs in the heavens and the earth do they pass by? Yet they turn (their faces) away from them!

And most of them believe not in God without associating (other as partners) with Him!

Do they then feel secure from the coming against them of the covering veil of the wrath of God, – or of the coming against them of the (final) Hour all of a sudden while they perceive not?

Say you: “This is my way: I do invite unto God, – on evidence clear as the seeing with one’s eyes, – whoever and I follows me. Glory to God! And never will I join gods with God!”

Nor did We send before you (as apostles) any but men, whom we did inspire, – (men) living in human habitations. Do they not travel through the earth, and see what was the end of those before them? But the home of the hereafter is best, for those who do right. Will you not then understand?

(Respite will be granted) until, when the apostles give up hope (of their people) and (come to) think that they were treated as liars, there reaches them Our help, and those whom We will are delivered into safety. But never will be warded off our punishment from those who are in sin.

There is, in their stories, instruction for men endued with understanding. It is not a tale invented, but a confirmation of what went before it, – a detailed exposition of all things, and a guide and a mercy to any such as believes.

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