Joseph in the Quran is about a handsome and pious prophet and servant of God whom God raises his status among the whole of creation. Joseph was the son of Prophet Jacob whose sons were jealous of him and eventually threw him into a well to be taken by a caravan as a slave. A whole chapter of the Quran is by his name and tells his story in great detail. God has mentioned his name 27 times in the Quran. In this article on Islam4u we will take a look at:
- Joseph in the Quran: The Best of Stories
- Joseph in the Quran: Joseph’s Dream
- Joseph in the Quran: Signs for Seekers of Answers
- Joseph in the Quran: The Brothers Are Jealous
- Joseph in the Quran: The Plan
- Joseph in the Quran: The Brothers Persuade Jacob to Take Joseph With Them
- Joseph in the Quran: Joseph is Cast into the Well
- Joseph in the Quran: The Brothers Return to Their Father
- Joseph is Sold to a Caravan
- Joseph is Sold to the ‘Azīz of Egypt
- Joseph Becomes a Prophet
- Joseph and Zulaykhā
- Joseph in the Quran: Joseph Is Imprisoned
- Joseph in the Quran: The Two Youths
- Joseph in the Quran: The King’s Dream
- Joseph in the Quran: Joseph is Freed From the Prison
- Joseph in the Quran: The King Promotes Joseph to a High Position
- Joseph in the Quran: The Brothers Come to Egypt for Grain
- Joseph in the Quran: The Brothers Bring Benjamin
- Joseph in the Quran: Jacob’s Condition for Letting Benjamin Go With His Brothers
- Joseph in the Quran: Benjamin is Taken Hostage
- Joseph in the Quran: The Brothers Return to Canaan
- Joseph in the Quran: The Search for Joseph
- Joseph in the Quran: The Brothers Return to Their Father
- Joseph in the Quran: The Family of Jacob Resides in Egypt
Joseph in the Quran: The Best of Stories
In surah Yusuf (یوسُف), God says that he will tell the best of stories. That is, the story of Joseph is so exciting and instructive that God calls it the best of stories:
نَحْنُ نَقُصُّ عَلَيْكَ أَحْسَنَ الْقَصَصِ بِمَا أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ هَـٰذَا الْقُرْآنَ وَإِن كُنتَ مِن قَبْلِهِ لَمِنَ الْغَافِلِينَ ﴿3﴾
We will recount to you the best of narratives in what We have revealed to you of this Quran, and indeed prior to it you were among those who are unaware [of it]. 1
Indeed, this is the first time that God is telling the story of Prophet Joseph to Prophet Muhammad , and he had not heard it before. This is contrary to what some Jews and Christians say, that the Prophet derived the Quran from their Holy Scriptures. This verse makes it clear that Prophet Muhammad had not heard the story before this surah was revealed.
Joseph in the Quran: Joseph’s Dream
While Joseph was young, he had a strange dream. Joseph dreamed eleven stars, or planets as some say, and the sun and the moon prostrating before him. This dream of Joseph had a specific interpretation, but it was yet to be fulfilled:
إِذْ قَالَ يُوسُفُ لِأَبِيهِ يَا أَبَتِ إِنِّي رَأَيْتُ أَحَدَ عَشَرَ كَوْكَبًا وَالشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ رَأَيْتُهُمْ لِي سَاجِدِينَ ﴿4﴾
When Joseph said to his father, ‘Father! I saw eleven planets, and the sun and the moon: I saw them prostrating themselves before me,’ 2
Jacob (یَعقوب), who was a prophet and Joseph’s father, told him not to tell his dream to his brothers because they will plot against him and become jealous of him. Jacob also told Joseph that in the future he will become a prophet and God will teach him the interpretation of dreams. And, He will raise him to a high status.
Joseph in the Quran: Signs for Seekers of Answers
The Quran says that surely in the story of Joseph and his brothers are signs for those who seek answers. In reality, one can learn many lessons from the story of Joseph and his brothers:
لَّقَدْ كَانَ فِي يُوسُفَ وَإِخْوَتِهِ آيَاتٌ لِّلسَّائِلِينَ ﴿7﴾
In Joseph and his brothers there are certainly signs for the seekers. 3
Joseph in the Quran: The Brothers Are Jealous
Joseph had eleven brothers, one of whom was his full brother, whose name was Benjamin (بِنیامين). The brothers of Joseph believed that Joseph and his full brother Benjamin were dearer to Prophet Jacob, their father, while they were strong, brave, healthy, and able to bear difficult living conditions:
إِذْ قَالُوا لَيُوسُفُ وَأَخُوهُ أَحَبُّ إِلَىٰ أَبِينَا مِنَّا وَنَحْنُ عُصْبَةٌ إِنَّ أَبَانَا لَفِي ضَلَالٍ مُّبِينٍ ﴿8﴾
When they said, ‘Surely Joseph and his brother are dearer to our father than [the rest of] us, though we are a hardy band. Our father is indeed in manifest error.’ 4
But did Jacob really love Joseph more than them? Even if he did, he had a good reason to. Joseph had lost his mother and Jacob had to be both a father and mother for Joseph.
Joseph in the Quran: The Plan
Therefore, the brothers of Joseph wanted to do something to Joseph. They said at first, “Kill Joseph or cast him away into some [distant] land, so that your father’s attention may be exclusively towards you, and thereafter you may become a righteous lot.” 5
Little did they know of how much Jacob loved Joseph. He loved him so much that if he was away from him just for a day or two, he would feel anxious and restless. However, they decided not to kill him, but instead, “One of them said, ‘Do not kill Joseph, but cast him into the recess of a well so that some caravan may pick him up, if you are to do [anything].” 6
This brother of Joseph was Levi according to narrations who saved Joseph’s life and instead proposed that they cast him into a well. Levi was the ancestor of Moses.
Joseph in the Quran: The Brothers Persuade Jacob to Take Joseph With Them
So the brothers of Joseph went to their father and said, “Father! Why is it that you do not trust us with Joseph? We are indeed his well-wishers.” 7 Prophet Jacob was very protective of his son Joseph who would one day become the prophet of God. He knew his future. The brothers continued, “Let him go with us tomorrow so that he may eat lots of fruits and play, and we will indeed take [good] care of him.” 8
They were lying. They would not take good care of Joseph but rather throw him into the well. Jacob said, “It really upsets me that you should take him away, and I fear the wolf may eat him while you are oblivious of him.” 9 However, the brothers replied saying that we are brave and young and will not allow the wolf to eat him. They said, “Should the wolf eat him while we are a hardy band, then we will indeed be losers!” 10 How impudent were they that they were blatantly lying to their father. They were sons of a prophet yet they were intent on carrying out their secret plan.
Joseph in the Quran: Joseph is Cast into the Well
So they threw Joseph into the well. Thus, God revealed to Joseph that one day you will inform them of this doing of theirs while they cannot recognize you. God used to reveal His messages to Joseph even though he was very young and had not become a prophet yet.
Joseph in the Quran: The Brothers Return to Their Father
Now that they had implemented their plan and thrown Joseph into the well, they had to come up with an excuse to convince their father that they did not do anything to Joseph. They went to their father while weeping. They said, “Father! We had gone racing and left Joseph with our things, whereat the wolf ate him. But you will not believe us even if we spoke truly.” 11
Did they not say that they would protect Joseph from being eaten by the wolf and that they would be losers if the wolf ate him? They probably were not even really crying but faking it. Then they showed Joseph’s shirt to their father. They had drenched it with the blood of a sheep they had slaughtered and the shirt itself was intact. If the wolf had eaten him, his shirt would be ripped apart. Jacob said, “No, your souls have made a matter seem decorous to you. Yet patience is graceful, and Allah is my resort against what you allege.” 12 Jacob was a prophet of God and so he was wise and intelligent. He knew that they were lying and that they had done something to Joseph. That is why he said he would be patient.
Joseph is Sold to a Caravan
A caravan arrived near the well. They let down their bucket to draw water. Suddenly, they saw a young boy in the bucket!
وَجَاءَتْ سَيَّارَةٌ فَأَرْسَلُوا وَارِدَهُمْ فَأَدْلَىٰ دَلْوَهُ ۖ قَالَ يَا بُشْرَىٰ هَـٰذَا غُلَامٌ ۚ وَأَسَرُّوهُ بِضَاعَةً ۚ وَاللَّـهُ عَلِيمٌ بِمَا يَعْمَلُونَ ﴿19﴾
There came a caravan, and they sent their water-drawer, who let down his bucket. ‘Good news!’ he said. ‘This is a young boy!’ So they hid him as [a piece of] merchandise, and Allah knew best what they were doing. 13
The brothers of Joseph went to the well to check and see if Joseph is still alive or not. They noticed that a caravan had taken him. Therefore, they decided sell him to them for a very cheap price:
وَشَرَوْهُ بِثَمَنٍ بَخْسٍ دَرَاهِمَ مَعْدُودَةٍ وَكَانُوا فِيهِ مِنَ الزَّاهِدِينَ ﴿20﴾
And they sold him for a cheap price, a few dirhams, for they set small store by him. 14
Therefore, Joseph was sold to the caravan as a slave. The caravan was on its way to Egypt to sell Joseph as a slave for a hefty price.
Joseph is Sold to the ‘Azīz of Egypt
The ‘Azīz or chieftain of Egypt was a state official of the Egyptian kingdom who had a palace and had a very high status. He bought Joseph and said to his wife, Zulaykhā (زُلَيخا) who was also of a very high status among the Egyptians, “Give him an honorable place [in the household]. Maybe he will be useful to us, or we may adopt him as a son.” 15
This was a new beginning for Joseph. God had saved him from the well and now he was to be adopted as a son in the court of the chieftain of Egypt. Therefore, Joseph grows up in the palace of the chieftain and is raised to an exalted position.
Joseph Becomes a Prophet
When Joseph grew up, God made him a prophet by giving him judgment and knowledge:
وَلَمَّا بَلَغَ أَشُدَّهُ آتَيْنَاهُ حُكْمًا وَعِلْمًا ۚ وَكَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِي الْمُحْسِنِينَ ﴿22﴾
When he came of age, We gave him judgement and [sacred] knowledge, and thus do We reward the virtuous. 16
Joseph and Zulaykhā
Joseph was very handsome. As a result, Zulaykhā, the wife of the chieftain of Egypt fell in love with him and desired him. One day, she made a plan to capture Joseph and commit indecent acts with him:
وَرَاوَدَتْهُ الَّتِي هُوَ فِي بَيْتِهَا عَن نَّفْسِهِ وَغَلَّقَتِ الْأَبْوَابَ وَقَالَتْ هَيْتَ لَكَ ۚ قَالَ مَعَاذَ اللَّـهِ ۖ إِنَّهُ رَبِّي أَحْسَنَ مَثْوَايَ ۖ إِنَّهُ لَا يُفْلِحُ الظَّالِمُونَ ﴿23﴾
The woman in whose house he was, solicited him. She closed the doors and said, ‘Come!!’ He said, ‘God forbid! Indeed He is my Lord; He has given me a good abode. Indeed the wrongdoers are not felicitous.’ 17
Joseph did not want to do anything with her. However, she had closed all the doors and there seemed no way out.
وَلَقَدْ هَمَّتْ بِهِ ۖ وَهَمَّ بِهَا لَوْلَا أَن رَّأَىٰ بُرْهَانَ رَبِّهِ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ لِنَصْرِفَ عَنْهُ السُّوءَ وَالْفَحْشَاءَ ۚ إِنَّهُ مِنْ عِبَادِنَا الْمُخْلَصِينَ ﴿24﴾
She certainly made for him; and he would have made for her [too] had he not beheld the proof of his Lord. So it was, that We might turn away from him all evil and indecency. He was indeed one of Our dedicated servants. 18
Of course, according to Quranic exegetes, what the Quran means by Joseph too would have made for her is that Joseph would have tried to kill her, had God not shown His proof to him. This verse also reveals and proves the infallibility of prophets such as Joseph.
Joseph in the Quran: They Race to the Door
The Quran continues the story:
وَاسْتَبَقَا الْبَابَ وَقَدَّتْ قَمِيصَهُ مِن دُبُرٍ وَأَلْفَيَا سَيِّدَهَا لَدَى الْبَابِ ۚ قَالَتْ مَا جَزَاءُ مَنْ أَرَادَ بِأَهْلِكَ سُوءًا إِلَّا أَن يُسْجَنَ أَوْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ ﴿25﴾
They raced to the door, and she tore his shirt from behind, and they ran into her husband at the door. She said, ‘What is to be the requital of him who has evil intentions for your wife except imprisonment or a painful punishment?’ 19
Quranic commentators, based on narrations, have said that there were several doors that led to the room where Zulaykha was. She had locked all the doors. However, when Prophet Joseph ran towards the first door, it miraculously opened, and all the other doors, too, opened, until she grabbed his shirt and tore it. Then the chieftain of Egypt was behind the last door. She blamed Joseph for wanting to do something with her, but Joseph defended himself and said:
قَالَ هِيَ رَاوَدَتْنِي عَن نَّفْسِي ۚ وَشَهِدَ شَاهِدٌ مِّنْ أَهْلِهَا إِن كَانَ قَمِيصُهُ قُدَّ مِن قُبُلٍ فَصَدَقَتْ وَهُوَ مِنَ الْكَاذِبِينَ ﴿26﴾
He said, ‘It was she who solicited me.’ A witness of her own household testified [thus]: ‘If his shirt is torn from the front, she tells the truth and he lies. 20
No one would dare to bear witness against the wife of the chieftain and bear testimony in favor of Joseph. It is written in narrations that the one who bore witness was an infant who could not even speak yet. However, by God’s leave the child spoke and said if the shirt is torn from the front she tells the truth and he lies, and:
وَإِن كَانَ قَمِيصُهُ قُدَّ مِن دُبُرٍ فَكَذَبَتْ وَهُوَ مِنَ الصَّادِقِينَ ﴿27﴾
But if his shirt is torn from behind, then she lies and he tells the truth.’
فَلَمَّا رَأَىٰ قَمِيصَهُ قُدَّ مِن دُبُرٍ قَالَ إِنَّهُ مِن كَيْدِكُنَّ ۖ إِنَّ كَيْدَكُنَّ عَظِيمٌ ﴿28﴾
So when he saw that his shirt was torn from behind, he said, ‘This is [a case] of you women’s guile! Your guile is indeed great!
يُوسُفُ أَعْرِضْ عَنْ هَـٰذَا ۚ وَاسْتَغْفِرِي لِذَنبِكِ ۖ إِنَّكِ كُنتِ مِنَ الْخَاطِئِينَ ﴿29﴾
Joseph, let this matter alone, and you, woman, plead for forgiveness for your sin, for you have indeed been erring.’ 21
Therefore, the chieftain censured his wife and told Joseph to let alone the matter, but it was no use. Soon this news would spread throughout Egypt.
Joseph in the Quran: The Women of Egypt Gossip About Zulaykha
Verse 30 of surah Yusuf continues the story:
وَقَالَ نِسْوَةٌ فِي الْمَدِينَةِ امْرَأَتُ الْعَزِيزِ تُرَاوِدُ فَتَاهَا عَن نَّفْسِهِ ۖ قَدْ شَغَفَهَا حُبًّا ۖ إِنَّا لَنَرَاهَا فِي ضَلَالٍ مُّبِينٍ ﴿30﴾
Some of the townswomen said, ‘The chieftain’s wife has solicited her slave boy! He has captivated her love. Indeed we see her to be in manifest error.’ 22
Zulaykha did not like this. She wanted to show the women of Egypt the handsomeness of Joseph so that they would cut her some slack.
فَلَمَّا سَمِعَتْ بِمَكْرِهِنَّ أَرْسَلَتْ إِلَيْهِنَّ وَأَعْتَدَتْ لَهُنَّ مُتَّكَأً وَآتَتْ كُلَّ وَاحِدَةٍ مِّنْهُنَّ سِكِّينًا وَقَالَتِ اخْرُجْ عَلَيْهِنَّ ۖ فَلَمَّا رَأَيْنَهُ أَكْبَرْنَهُ وَقَطَّعْنَ أَيْدِيَهُنَّ وَقُلْنَ حَاشَ لِلَّـهِ مَا هَـٰذَا بَشَرًا إِنْ هَـٰذَا إِلَّا مَلَكٌ كَرِيمٌ ﴿31﴾
When she heard of their machinations, she sent for them and arranged a repast, and gave each of them a knife, and said [to Joseph], ‘Come out before them.’ So when they saw him, they marvelled at him and cut their hands [absent-mindedly], and they said, ‘Good heavens! This is not a human being! This is but a noble angel!’ 23
She had invited the women of Egypt to a banquet. She gave each one of them a piece of fruit and a knife. Then she told Joseph to come out before them. They were so captivated and enchanted by Joseph’s handsomeness that they cut their fingers instead of their fruit. Then Zulaykha said:
قَالَتْ فَذَٰلِكُنَّ الَّذِي لُمْتُنَّنِي فِيهِ ۖ وَلَقَدْ رَاوَدتُّهُ عَن نَّفْسِهِ فَاسْتَعْصَمَ ۖ وَلَئِن لَّمْ يَفْعَلْ مَا آمُرُهُ لَيُسْجَنَنَّ وَلَيَكُونًا مِّنَ الصَّاغِرِينَ ﴿32﴾
She said, ‘He is the one on whose account you blamed me. Certainly, I did solicit him, but he was continent, and if he does not do what I bid him, surely he shall be imprisoned and humbled.’ 24
Therefore, Zulaykha announced her intention to all the women there, and none of them objected. As a matter of fact, those women also send love letters to Joseph. This greatly troubled Joseph and caused him to seek refuge in God.
Joseph in the Quran: Joseph Is Imprisoned
Joseph said, “My Lord! The prison is dearer to me than to what they invite me. If You do not turn away their schemes from me, I will incline towards them and become one of the senseless.” 25
So Joseph said to his Lord that he would rather go to prison than engage in sinful acts. Therefore, God answered his call:
فَاسْتَجَابَ لَهُ رَبُّهُ فَصَرَفَ عَنْهُ كَيْدَهُنَّ ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ ﴿34﴾
So his Lord answered him and turned away their stratagems from him. Indeed, He is the All-hearing, the All-knowing. 26
However, Joseph had to remain in the prison for some time.
Joseph in the Quran: The Two Youths
While in prison, there were two youths who were his fellow inmates. They had a dream. “One of them said, ‘I dreamt that I am pressing grapes.’ The other said, ‘I dreamt that I am carrying bread on my head from which the birds are eating.’ ‘Inform us of its interpretation,’ [they said], ‘for indeed we see you to be a virtuous man.’” 27 The dreams that these two youths had definitely had an interpretation. They felt that Joseph was a wise and virtuous man who could interpret their dream. They had probably seen him how would pray to God in the prison and therefore trusted him. Joseph said:
قَالَ لَا يَأْتِيكُمَا طَعَامٌ تُرْزَقَانِهِ إِلَّا نَبَّأْتُكُمَا بِتَأْوِيلِهِ قَبْلَ أَن يَأْتِيَكُمَا ۚ ذَٰلِكُمَا مِمَّا عَلَّمَنِي رَبِّي ۚ إِنِّي تَرَكْتُ مِلَّةَ قَوْمٍ لَّا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّـهِ وَهُم بِالْآخِرَةِ هُمْ كَافِرُونَ ﴿37﴾
He said, ‘Before the meals you are served come to you I will inform you of its interpretation. That is among things my Lord has taught me. Indeed, I renounce the creed of the people who have no faith in Allah and who [also] disbelieve in the Hereafter. 28
We understand from this verse that Joseph was probably the only monotheist in the palace and prison, and that the Egyptians had a pagan belief. They did not believe in the Hereafter either. At this point, Joseph had reached the age in which God had taught him the interpretation of dreams that God had promised him when he was young. Then Joseph explains what he believes in:
وَاتَّبَعْتُ مِلَّةَ آبَائِي إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْحَاقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ ۚ مَا كَانَ لَنَا أَن نُّشْرِكَ بِاللَّـهِ مِن شَيْءٍ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ مِن فَضْلِ اللَّـهِ عَلَيْنَا وَعَلَى النَّاسِ وَلَـٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَشْكُرُونَ ﴿38﴾
I follow the creed of my fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It is not for us to ascribe any partner to Allah. That is by virtue of Allah’s grace upon us and upon all mankind, but most people do not give thanks. 29
According to Quranic commentators, Joseph said that he would not interpret their dream unless they believe in God Almighty and become monotheists. Joseph said:
يَا صَاحِبَيِ السِّجْنِ أَأَرْبَابٌ مُّتَفَرِّقُونَ خَيْرٌ أَمِ اللَّـهُ الْوَاحِدُ الْقَهَّارُ ﴿39﴾
O my prison mates! Are different masters better, or Allah, the One, the All-paramount? 30
This verse shows that the Egyptians were polytheists and used to worship many gods. That is why Joseph continues by saying:
مَا تَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِهِ إِلَّا أَسْمَاءً سَمَّيْتُمُوهَا أَنتُمْ وَآبَاؤُكُم مَّا أَنزَلَ اللَّـهُ بِهَا مِن سُلْطَانٍ ۚ إِنِ الْحُكْمُ إِلَّا لِلَّـهِ ۚ أَمَرَ أَلَّا تَعْبُدُوا إِلَّا إِيَّاهُ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ وَلَـٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ ﴿40﴾
You do not worship besides Him but [mere] names that you and your fathers have coined, for which Allah has not sent down any authority. Sovereignty belongs only to Allah. He has commanded you to worship none except Him. That is the upright religion, but most people do not know. 31
Then, Joseph begins interpreting their dreams:
يَا صَاحِبَيِ السِّجْنِ أَمَّا أَحَدُكُمَا فَيَسْقِي رَبَّهُ خَمْرًا ۖ وَأَمَّا الْآخَرُ فَيُصْلَبُ فَتَأْكُلُ الطَّيْرُ مِن رَّأْسِهِ ۚ قُضِيَ الْأَمْرُ الَّذِي فِيهِ تَسْتَفْتِيَانِ ﴿41﴾
O my prison mates! As for one of you, he will serve wine to his master, and as for the other, he will be crucified and vultures will eat from his head. The matter about which you inquire has been decided.’ 32
According to Quranic commentators, the man who was to be crucified was frightened and began to deny having such a dream. Joseph said to the one who was going to be saved, “Mention me to your master. But Satan caused him to forget mentioning [it] to his master. So he remained in the prison for several years.” 33
The one who was to be saved was the cup-bearer of the Egyptian king. Joseph told him to make mention of him to the king so he would be freed. However, the cup-bearer forgot and therefore Joseph remained in prison for several more years.
Joseph in the Quran: The King’s Dream
Once, the king of Egypt had a dream:
وَقَالَ الْمَلِكُ إِنِّي أَرَىٰ سَبْعَ بَقَرَاتٍ سِمَانٍ يَأْكُلُهُنَّ سَبْعٌ عِجَافٌ وَسَبْعَ سُنبُلَاتٍ خُضْرٍ وَأُخَرَ يَابِسَاتٍ ۖ يَا أَيُّهَا الْمَلَأُ أَفْتُونِي فِي رُؤْيَايَ إِن كُنتُمْ لِلرُّؤْيَا تَعْبُرُونَ ﴿43﴾
[One day] the king said, ‘I saw [in a dream] seven fat cows being devoured by seven lean ones, and seven green ears and [seven] others [that were] dry. O courtiers, give me your opinion about my dream, if you can interpret dreams.’ 34
This was a strange dream from the king. It definitely had an interpretation. However, his courtiers said:
قَالُوا أَضْغَاثُ أَحْلَامٍ ۖ وَمَا نَحْنُ بِتَأْوِيلِ الْأَحْلَامِ بِعَالِمِينَ ﴿44﴾
They said, ‘[These are] confused nightmares, and we do not know the interpretation of nightmares.’ 35
Suddenly, the king’s cup-bearer remembered Joseph and said, “I will inform you of its interpretation; so let me go [to meet Joseph in the prison].” “Joseph,” [he said], “O truthful one, give us your opinion concerning seven fat cows who are eaten by seven lean ones, and seven green ears and [seven] others dry, that I may return to the people so that they may know [the truth of the matter].” 36 Joseph said, “You will sow for seven consecutive years. Then leave in the ear whatever [grain] you harvest, except a little that you eat. Then after that there will come seven hard years which will eat up whatever you have set aside for them—all except a little which you preserve [for seed]. Then after that there will come a year wherein the people will be granted relief and provided with rains therein.” 37
Joseph in the Quran: Joseph is Freed From the Prison
So Joseph interpreted the king’s dream while in prison. Therefore, the king wanted to free Joseph from the prison. The king said, “Bring him to me!” When the messenger came to him, he said, “Go back to your master, and ask him about the affair of women who cut their hands. My Lord is indeed well aware of their stratagems.” The king said, “What was your business, women, when you solicited Joseph?” They said, “Heaven be praised! We know of no evil in him.”
The prince’s wife said, “Now the truth has come to light! It was I who solicited him, and he is indeed telling the truth.” [Joseph said], “I initiated this [inquiry], that he may know that I did not betray him in his absence, and that Allah does not further the schemes of the treacherous.” 38 Ultimately, Joseph’s innocence was revealed and the wife of the chieftain of Egypt confessed her crime and Joseph was freed. Joseph once again said:
وَمَا أُبَرِّئُ نَفْسِي ۚ إِنَّ النَّفْسَ لَأَمَّارَةٌ بِالسُّوءِ إِلَّا مَا رَحِمَ رَبِّي ۚ إِنَّ رَبِّي غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ ﴿53﴾
‘Yet I do not absolve my [own carnal] soul, for the [carnal] soul indeed prompts [men] to evil, except inasmuch as my Lord has mercy. Indeed my Lord is all-forgiving, all-merciful.’ 39
Joseph in the Quran: The King Promotes Joseph to a High Position
After Joseph was freed, the king decided make Joseph one of the officials of Egypt. Therefore, he said that on this day, he will be honored and he trusts him. Joseph himself said that he make him in charge of Egypt’s granaries and said that he knows how to manage them. Thereupon, Joseph became a man of high status in Egypt. This is how God rewards the righteous. Joseph was cast into the well, but he grew up in the palace of an Egyptian chieftain. He was imprisoned for several years while being innocent. And now, he became the emir of Egypt. God says in the Quran the following about Joseph:
وَكَذَٰلِكَ مَكَّنَّا لِيُوسُفَ فِي الْأَرْضِ يَتَبَوَّأُ مِنْهَا حَيْثُ يَشَاءُ ۚ نُصِيبُ بِرَحْمَتِنَا مَن نَّشَاءُ ۖ وَلَا نُضِيعُ أَجْرَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ ﴿56﴾
That is how We established Joseph in the land that he may settle in it wherever he wished. We confer Our mercy on whomever We wish, and We do not waste the reward of the virtuous.
وَلَأَجْرُ الْآخِرَةِ خَيْرٌ لِّلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَكَانُوا يَتَّقُونَ ﴿57﴾
And the reward of the Hereafter is surely better for those who have faith and are Godwary. 40
Joseph in the Quran: The Brothers Come to Egypt for Grain
So Joseph’s interpretation of the king’s dream was right. There was going to be seven years of drought in Egypt and the lands around it. After a few years, the brothers of Joseph came to take wheat with themselves from Egypt. They went to Joseph who was in charge of distributing wheat to people. Joseph recognized all of them, however, they did not recognize him. After he filled up their sacks, he said, “I believe you have another brother who is with your father. Bring him the next time you come for wheat. Otherwise I will not give wheat to you.” The brothers agreed and said they will try to convince their father to allow them to take Benjamin with them.
Joseph told his men to put their money back in their sacks so that they come back for more wheat.
Joseph in the Quran: The Brothers Bring Benjamin
The brothers of Joseph went to their father Jacob and told the story. They said how the emir of Egypt said he would not give them wheat if they do not bring their brother to Egypt. Jacob’s answer was clear. He said, “How can I trust you now just as I trusted you when you were dealing with Joseph. However, Allah is the best of protectors and He is the most merciful of merciful ones.” 41 When they opened their sacks, they saw that their money was returned to them. So they said to their father:
قَالُوا يَا أَبَانَا مَا نَبْغِي ۖ هَـٰذِهِ بِضَاعَتُنَا رُدَّتْ إِلَيْنَا ۖ وَنَمِيرُ أَهْلَنَا وَنَحْفَظُ أَخَانَا وَنَزْدَادُ كَيْلَ بَعِيرٍ ۖ ذَٰلِكَ كَيْلٌ يَسِيرٌ ﴿65﴾
They said, ‘Father, what [more] do we want?! This is our money, restored to us! We will get provisions for our family and take care of our brother, and add another camel-load of rations. These are meagre rations.’ 42
Joseph in the Quran: Jacob’s Condition for Letting Benjamin Go With His Brothers
Jacob said: So be it. However, I will not let him go with you unless you swear an oath to God that you will bring him back. The brothers all pledged that they would take good care of Benjamin and bring him back. Then Jacob told his sons not to enter the city from one gate but by separate gates. So when they went to Joseph, Joseph pulled Benjamin near himself and told him, “Indeed I am your brother, so do not sorrow for what they used to do.” 43
Joseph in the Quran: Benjamin is Taken Hostage
After Joseph filled their sacks with grain, he put the goblet of the king in Benjamin’s sack. While they were leaving for Canaan, one of the horsemen shouted, “O [men of the] caravan! You are indeed thieves!” 44 The brothers said, “What are you missing?” They said, “The goblet of the king.” They said that whoever finds it shall have more wheat. Then the brothers said: By God! You know that we are not here to make trouble and we are not thieves.
The Egyptians asked them, “How should the thief be punished if the goblet is found in his sack?” The brothers said, “You can take him as a slave.” Therefore, they searched the brothers’ sack and found the goblet in Benjamin’s sack. This was Joseph’s plan to keep Benjamin in Egypt. If Joseph was to punish the thief according to the king’s law, he would not be able to keep him. However, based on the law of the Canaanites, he was able to keep him. No matter how much the brothers pleaded with Joseph to let Benjamin go with them, it was no use. They even said: Take one of us in his stead! But Joseph did not listen.
Joseph in the Quran: The Brothers Return to Canaan
The brothers did not know what to do. The eldest of them who was Levi, according to exegetes, said: Did we not swear an oath to God that we will take good care of Benjamin? I will not leave this country until my father allows me. Then Levi said: Return to your father and tell him that your son has stolen the goblet of the king and whatever we say is the truth. You can ask the people of the town and the caravan that came with us.
So the brothers returned to Canaan and went to Jacob. They told him the story. However, Jacob did not accept their words and said:
قَالَ بَلْ سَوَّلَتْ لَكُمْ أَنفُسُكُمْ أَمْرًا ۖ فَصَبْرٌ جَمِيلٌ ۖ عَسَى اللَّـهُ أَن يَأْتِيَنِي بِهِمْ جَمِيعًا ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْعَلِيمُ الْحَكِيمُ ﴿83﴾
He said, ‘No, your souls have made a matter seem decorous to you. Yet patience is graceful. Maybe Allah will bring them all [back] to me. Indeed He is the All-knowing, the All-wise.’ 45
Then he turned away from them and mourned Joseph. He wept so much that his eyes turned white and went blind. His children and wives said to him: By God! You remember Joseph so much that you will kill yourself. However, Jacob said that he complains only to God and he knows that which they do not.
Joseph in the Quran: The Search for Joseph
Jacob told his sons to go and search for Joseph and his brother and not lose hope, as only the faithless lose hope in God’s mercy. The brothers then entered Joseph’s presence and said:
يَا أَيُّهَا الْعَزِيزُ مَسَّنَا وَأَهْلَنَا الضُّرُّ وَجِئْنَا بِبِضَاعَةٍ مُّزْجَاةٍ فَأَوْفِ لَنَا الْكَيْلَ وَتَصَدَّقْ عَلَيْنَا ۖ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ يَجْزِي الْمُتَصَدِّقِينَ ﴿88﴾
‘O emir! Distress has befallen us and our family, and we have brought [just] a meagre sum. Yet grant us the full measure, and be charitable to us! Indeed Allah rewards the charitable.’ 46
At this instant, Joseph decided to reveal his identity. He asked them, “Do you know what you did to Joseph and his brother Benjamin when you were irrational? They said recognizing him, “Are you Joseph?!” Joseph said, “I am Joseph and this is my full brother Benjamin. Then the brothers admitted their wrong acts and acknowledged that God had chosen Joseph over them. However, Joseph said, “No matter. You will not be reproached. God will forgive you as He is the most merciful of the merciful.” Then Joseph said, “Take my shirt and rub it on my father’s face so that his blindness would be cured.”
Joseph in the Quran: The Brothers Return to Their Father
While the caravan was on its way, Jacob said, “I smell the scent of Joseph, if you do not call me crazy.” However, his family said that he persisted in his error. When the brothers came back and threw the shirt on Jacob’s face, he regained his sight. Jacob said:
أَلَمْ أَقُل لَّكُمْ إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ مِنَ اللَّـهِ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ ﴿96﴾
“Did I not tell you, ‘I know from Allah what you do not know?’” 47
Then the brothers pleaded with their father to ask forgiveness for them from God for their sins, especially with respect to Joseph. However, Jacob said that he will soon plead with God to forgive them, but not immediately. Then they informed their father that Joseph had asked all of them to go to Egypt to live there.
Joseph in the Quran: The Family of Jacob Resides in Egypt
When Joseph’s family entered Egypt, he made his parents sit close to himself and said:
ادْخُلُوا مِصْرَ إِن شَاءَ اللَّـهُ آمِنِينَ ﴿99﴾
‘Welcome to Egypt, in safety, God willing!’ 48
Then Joseph seated his parents on the thrown and they all prostrated to him. Joseph said to Jacob, “Father! This is the fulfillment of my dream of long ago, which my Lord has made come true. He was certainly gracious to me when He brought me out of the prison and brought you over from the desert after that Satan had incited ill feeling between me and my brothers. Indeed my Lord is all-attentive in bringing about what He wishes. Indeed He is the All-knowing, the All-wise.” 49
Finally Joseph said, “My Lord! You have granted me a share in the kingdom, and taught me the interpretation of dreams. Originator of the heavens and earth! You are my guardian in this world and the Hereafter! Let my death be in submission [to You], and unite me with the Righteous.” 50 This was the story of Joseph in the Quran.
- Quran 12:3 (Qara’i).
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