Exposition of the Holy Quran – 12 Surah Yusuf (G A Parwez)
Surah 12: Yusuf
(1-2) Says Allah, the Aleem and the Raheem:
These are the verses of the book which makes everything clear. We have revealed it as the Qur’an, explicit and comprehensible so that you might encompass it with your reason.
(3) O Rasool! Through the revelation which We have sent down to you in the Qur’an We are narrating to you the story of Yusuf (Joseph), one of the best stories of which you, amongst others, were hitherto unaware.
(4) The story begins when Joseph related his dream to his father (Jacob) saying, “O my father! I have seen eleven stars and also the sun and the moon bowing down before me.”
(5-6) He said, “O my son! Do not mention your dream to your brothers lest they hatch a plot against you. Surely, Satan is an open enemy to man. My interpretation of your dream is that Allah will exalt you and give you the ability to read into the inner meaning of events. He will bestow all His favours upon you and, through you, bless the household of Jacob as He had erstwhile blessed your forefathers, Abraham and Isaac. No doubt, He is knowing and wise.”
(7) The story of Joseph is not a mere story but contains ample material for reflection for those who wish to reflect upon it.
(8-9) Joseph’s brothers said to each other, “It is strange that our father loves Joseph and is clearly in the wrong. Let us kill Joseph or banish him to some distant place so that all our father’s attention is focused on us and our affairs are straightened.”
(10) One of them said, “Do not kill him. If you want to get rid of him throw him into a dark deep well from whence some traveller might pick him up and carry him away.”
(11-12) According to their scheme, they went to their father and said, “Why is it that you do not trust us and allow Joseph to go with us? We are his well-wishers, not his enemies. Send him along with us tomorrow so that he may play with us and enjoy himself. Surely, we will take good care of him.”
(13) Jacob said, “It indeed grieves me to think that you are taking him away (from me) and I also dread lest some wolf may devour him at a moment while you are heedless of him.”
(14) They replied, “How can you think of that? How can a wolf devour him when there are so many of us with him? If such a thing happens it would mean that we are a worthless lot.”
(15) Thus they took Joseph with them and all agreed to throw him into the dark depths of the well (And while they were doing this) We revealed to Joseph, “A time will come when you will recount this event to them whilst they would fail to understand (as to how you survived and reached this high position).”
(16-17) At nightfall, Joseph’s brothers came to their father weeping and said, “O our father, we went to run a race leaving Joseph behind to watch over our belongings. A wolf came in the meantime and devoured him. We know that no matter how truthful we might be you will not believe us.”
(18) In proof of their story they brought Joseph’s shirt stained with false blood upon it. After hearing this, their father said, “It is your own mind which has made (such a terrible thing) seem so light to you. But I can do nothing, except to bear this with patience in the most appropriate manner. Allah will surely give me the strength to bear what you have described to me.”
(19) And it so happened that a caravan came to that place and one person was sent to fetch water from the well. He let down his bucket but instead of water he found a boy in the well and exclaimed, “What good news! There is a boy.” They decided to use Joseph as merchandise and so hid him away from the sight of others lest anyone should claim him. But Allah knew what they were doing.
(20) They sold him in the Egyptian market for a paltry price of a few coins since they were not much interested in him.
(21) The man who bought Joseph said to his wife, “Treat him with respect. He may bring us profit or we may adopt him as a son.” Thus We settled Joseph in the land of Egypt and provided him with opportunities to learn how to read into the meanings of things. Allah has every power to carry out His plans although most people do not know this.
(22) When Joseph attained maturity he was endowed with the capability of judging things justly and with knowledge. This was because he had led a very balanced and righteous life; thus We reward the righteous ones!
(23) And the woman in whose house he lived contrived various plans to entice him. One day she shut the doors and said, “Come along, dear one.” Joseph replied, “Allah forbid! He has raised me to a high rank through purity of character and you want to drag me down. If I submit to your desires, it will be zulm and it is Allah’s law that the zalimeen never prosper.”
(24) And indeed she desired him and he would also have desired her, had he not kept Allah’s directives before him. He refrained from all evil and all deeds of abomination; thus he proved that he was one of Our sincere devotees.
(25-27) They both made for the door, one rushing after the other – Joseph with the intention of getting out and the woman with the intention of thwarting his escape. In this struggle she rent his shirt from the back. At the door they encountered the woman’s husband. The woman immediately fabricated a story and said to her husband, “What should be the recompense of one who had evil intentions towards your wife – prison or some more severe punishment?”
Joseph said to her husband, “She is telling a lie. It was she who tried to entice me.” Her husband found it difficult to judge the matter. At that time a member of his wife’s family suggested a test on the following lines. “If his shirt is rent in front she speaks the truth and he is a liar. On the other hand, if his shirt is rent from the back, she lies and he speaks the truth.”
(28) When the woman’s husband saw Joseph’s shirt torn in the back, he said to his wife, “This is not unusual. This is how you women folk behave! Your guile is very deep and dangerous.”
(29) Then he turned towards Joseph and said, “Pass this over.” Then turning to his wife, he said, “You are guilty. Ask Joseph to pardon you for your crime.”
(30) When the news of this event spread in the town, some of the women said, “The wife of Aziz (Governor) tried to seduce her slave. She had fallen madly in love with him. But the method she adopted for the achievement of her purpose was faulty.”
(31) When Aziz’s wife heard their malicious talk, she invited them and got a banquet ready for them and gave each of them a knife. Then she asked Joseph to come in. When they saw him they were dazed by his beauty. (The women tried their best to entice Joseph but were unsuccessful.) Thereupon they wounded their hands (so that they might accuse Joseph of attacking them) although they knew fully well how pure and strong his character was.
(32) (At this, the wife of Aziz) said, “See! This is the man about whom you tauntingly blamed me. Indeed I did try to seduce him, but he remained firm. Now (once again) if he does not do what I bid him, he shall most certainly be imprisoned and degraded.”
(33) Thereafter he called upon his Rabb and said, “O my Rabb! Prison is more desirable to me than (to comply with) what these women invite me for – unless You help me and turn away their guile from me, I may get inclined towards them and (in such a situation) I would be one of those who do not remain conscious of right and wrong.”
(34) Allah heard him and Joseph stood steadfast; the women did not succeed in their scheme. Allah hears and knows everything.
(35) The matter came before the court. The judges witnessed the proof of Joseph’s innocence but nevertheless considered it expedient to imprison him for a while.
(36) It so happened that two youths came into the prison with Joseph. One day one of them said to Joseph, “I saw a dream in which I thought I was pressing grapes to make wine.” The other youth said, “I dreamt that I was carrying bread on my head and the birds were pecking at it.” They said to Joseph, “Tell us what this means for we see that you are one of the mohsineen (men of excellent balanced character).”
(37-40) Joseph said to them, “I shall tell you the interpretation of your dreams before your food is brought to you, for this is part of the knowledge which my Rabb has imparted to me.” (Joseph could see that the youths were in a mood to listen to him attentively; he therefore, availed himself of the opportunity to convey to them the message of Allah.) He said, “Let me tell you first that I have abandoned the religion of those who do not believe in Allah and deny the life of the hereafter. I am following the course of my forbearers – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; we do not associate anything with Allah. This is Allah’s bounty to the progeny of Abraham and to humanity at large but most of the people do not accept this course. Let me explain the import of this by means of an example. There is a man who serves only one master and another who serves many. Tell me – which of the two has a better life? Reflect on this and let me know whether it is better to obey Allah’s laws alone or to serve various deities. What you worship besides Allah are mere names which you and your fathers have coined for which Allah has sent no sanction. Mind it! The right to exercise authority belongs only to Allah. He has enjoined that we should obey none but Him. This is the right deen but most people do not know this.”
(41) “Now listen to the interpretation of your dreams: in my opinion the one who was pressing grapes to make wine will be released and will serve his master with wine as before; as for the other, he will, I think, be crucified and birds shall peck at his head. I am convinced that the matters are so decreed.”
(42) Joseph said to the one whom he thought would be released, “Remember me to your master.” But Satan caused him to forget Joseph’s request to make mention of it to his master. So Joseph had to remain in the prison for some more years.
(43-44) One night the king dreamt that there were seven fat kine which were being devoured by seven lean ones and that there were seven green ears of corn and a like number of withered ones. He asked his nobles to tell him what his dream meant since they claimed to be able to interpret dreams. They said that it was a hotchpotch of nightmares which they could not interpret.
(45) This event caused the prisoner who had been released to remember Joseph’s request. He said, “Let me go to the prison and I will let you know the interpretation of your dream.”
(46) He went to the prison and said to Joseph, “O Joseph, you are a man of truth. Tell me the interpretation of this dream: Seven fat kine are being devoured by seven lean ones and there are seven green ears of corn and seven withered ones. I shall convey this interpretation to the nobles of the king. They will thus know your worth.”
(47-49) Joseph said, “You should sow seven years diligently and store up the corn which you reap in its ears except a portion which you need for consumption. After these seven years of plenty will come seven years of scarcity when you will consume what you have stored, keeping a portion of it in reserve for sowing purposes. Then after that shall come a year during which there will be plenty of rain and abundance of fruit which people will crush.”
(50) This man disclosed the interpretation of the dream to the king and, on his enquiry, told him whose interpretation it was. At this, the king said, “Get him out of prison and bring him to me.” When the king’s messenger came to Joseph with his message, Joseph said, “Tell your king that I am thankful to him for his graciousness but do not want to get out of the prison as a matter of mercy unless it is proved that I was not guilty. For this purpose a fresh inquiry should be made about the case of those women who had laid a snare for me and wounded their hands. Allah knows what the truth was but after a fresh enquiry has been made, everyone will know it. Then I will come out of prison.”
(51) The king himself conducted the enquiry and asked the women concerned to tell him the truth about what really happened when they tried to entice Joseph. They replied, “God forbid! We have nothing to say against his character.” Thereupon, the wife of Aziz said, “The truth has come to light. It was I who tried to entice Joseph. Surely he is a man of upright character and truthful.”
(52) At this time Joseph said that he had asked for a fresh enquiry so that it should be known to Aziz that he did not betray his trust behind his back. And surely Allah’s (Law of Mukafat) does not let the evils of those who betray, ever succeed.
(53) Continuing her statement, the wife of Aziz said, “I do not absolve myself of blame. I confess my guilt. The baser elements in human beings incline them to evil. Only those people can be protected from this evil who keep in mind Allah’s directives given as His rahma and most certainly my Rabb is the protector and raheem.”
(54) The king said, “Bring Joseph to me. I will attach him to my own person.” Then when the king had talked to Joseph, he became better aware of his merits, and said, “From this day on, you shall be attached to me, occupying a high place of honour and trust.”
(55) Joseph said to the king: “The economy of Egypt is agricultural. I wish to be given charge of the administration of the resources of land. I know how to increase the produce as well as how to preserve it.”
(56-57) Thus We bestowed on Joseph a place of authority in the land so that he might exercise it as he deemed fit. This is Our rahma which We bestow on those who lead the life of mohsineen. This is their recompense in this life. What the life of the hereafter offers to those who believe in, and adhere to, Allah’s laws steadfastly is better than this.
(58) (After some time there was famine in the land and people from far and near came to the capital city to get grain.) Joseph’s brothers also came and appeared before him. He recognized them forthwith while they did not recognize him (because it was beyond their imagination that the boy whom they had thrown into the well could acquire such an exalted position).
(59-61) When Joseph had provided them with what they wanted, he said to them, “When you come next, bring me your (half) brother from your father’s side. You have seen for yourself that I have given you provisions to the extent of your full requirement and that I am a very considerate host. If you do not bring him to me, you will not have any provisions from me nor shall you be allowed to approach me.” They said, “We will solicit our father to allow him to come with us. This we will certainly do.”
(62) Joseph said to his servants, “Put back the money with which they have purchased their provisions into their packs in such a way that they may see it on return to their family. This will further induce them to come again.”
(63) When Joseph’s brothers returned to their father, they narrated the whole story to him and said, “O Our father! Provisions will be withheld from us unless you send our brother with us. Only if he comes with us will we get provisions to the extent of our requirements and we shall surely take care of him.”
(64) Thereupon, their father said, “Shall I entrust him to you expecting to get any result other than what it was when I had entrusted his brother to you before? So let him remain in the care of Allah Who is raheem to the highest degree.”
(65) When they opened their pack, they found to their surprise that the money with which they had purchased their provisions had been returned to them. They exclaimed to their father, “What more could we hope for? Here is our money returned to us as well as the provisions. If you do not allow our brother to accompany us just consider how much loss we will sustain. So allow him to accompany us. We will obtain provisions for our family and will have an additional camel-load of grain as our brother’s share. What we have brought now is a small quantity.”
(66) The father said, “I agree with a heavy heart to send him with you provided you give me assurance in the name of Allah that you will bring him back to me except if you are surrounded by obstacles which you cannot remove.” When they had given him their assurance, he said, “Allah is witness to what we have agreed upon.”
(67) When they were about to go, the father said to them, “O my sons! Do not enter the city together by one gate but enter it severally by different gates. This thought has occurred to me out of concern for your safety. You should take further precautions yourselves according to divine guidance to meet any situation which might arise later. You should remember that trust should be placed only in Allah’s laws.”
(68) So the brothers entered the city as advised by their father. But what happened thereafter showed that this precautionary measure suggested by their father on the basis of his knowledge and experience could not safeguard them fully. This precaution was as a result of Jacob’s heartfelt desire (to protect them). Even this thought was based on the knowledge which Allah had imparted to him – but most of the people do not understand.
(69) When they appeared before Joseph, he drew his brother to his side and said to him in secret, “I am indeed your own brother. Do not be distressed about what they have done.”
(70) When they were supplied with the provisions which they required, some one placed a drinking cup in the pack of Joseph’s brother (12:89). When they departed, one of the officers of the state cried after them, “O you of the caravan, you are surely thieves.”
(71) They turned back and said, “What is it that is missing”?
(72) They said, “The king’s cup has been lost and whoever restores it shall be given a camel’s load of grain.” One of the officers said, “I pledge myself for it.”
(73) Joseph’s brothers said, “By Allah, we have been here before. You, therefore know well that we do not come here to create fasad and that we are not thieves.”
(74) They said, “If you are found to be liars, what shall be the penalty for it?”
(75) They said, “The person in whose pack the cup is found shall be given up to you. This is how we punish such criminals in our country.”
(76) The officers started to search their sacks. When they came to the sack of Joseph’s brother, the cup was found therein. Joseph’s brothers conspired against Benjamin but the conspiracy turned out to be in favour of both Joseph and Benjamin, for Joseph had wanted to detain his brother, but could not do so under the law of the land. In this way, Joseph’s desire was fulfilled without, in any way, compromising his high position. We do raise to high degrees (of wisdom) whoever We please – but above everyone who is endowed with knowledge, there is One Who is all-knowing.
(77) The brothers said, “If Benjamin has committed this crime it is no wonder. Earlier his brother had committed a similar crime.” This hit Joseph hard but he kept his feelings hidden, for the time to disclose the true story had not yet come. He said, “Allah alone knows what the truth is but I can only say this: If what you say is true it suggests that you do not belong to a respectable family.”
(78) They said, “O Aziz, do not detain Benjamin. He has a very aged father who will not be able to bear it. Take one of us in his stead. We have made this request because we see in you a generous person.”
(79) He said, “Allah forbid that we should take into custody someone else than him who is the culprit. If we do this, We would be acting unjustly.”
(80) When they lost hope that Joseph would agree to them, they went aside to counsel amongst themselves. The eldest of them said, “You know that your father had taken an assurance from you with Allah as witness. You also know what you had done in Joseph’s case. At least I will not leave this land, under any circumstances, until my father gives me permission to do so or Allah gives some other decision for me. He is the best of those who give decisions.”
(81) Return to your father and say to him, “O our father, your son has committed theft. We bear witness to no more than what had become known to us. (Certainly we had taken responsibility for his protection and security for things he would do in our presence but) We could not protect him against what he did secretly.”
(82) “Inquire for yourself in the city where we had been and also of the caravan with which we came. You will know that we are telling the truth.”
(83) Jacob said, “No, I feel that your own mind has concocted a story (good enough) for you. Still I will bear it patiently. It may be that Allah brings back to me all of them. He alone is all-knowing and all-wise.”
(84) He turned away from them and said, “O my dear son Joseph.” He was full of suppressed sorrow and his eyes had turned bleak with grief.
(85) His sons said, “By Allah, it seems that you will not stop remembering Joseph till you are consumed or till you die.”
(86-87) The father replied, “I say nothing to you. I am only bewailing unto Allah my great distress and sorrow and I know from Him what you do not know. O my sons! Go and search for Joseph and his brother and do not despair of Allah’s rahma – none but the kafireen do that.”
(88) They went to Egypt again and appeared before Joseph and said, “O Aziz, distress has fallen upon our family and meagre is the money which we have been able to bring. Take this amount and out of pity for us give us provisions in full measure and be bountiful to us. Allah, no doubt, rewards the bountiful.”
(89) Now the time had come to disclose the truth. Joseph said to them, “Do you remember what you did to Joseph and his brother out of sheer ignorance (of right and wrong)?”
(90) Thereupon the brothers looked at Joseph and recognising him, said, “Are you indeed Joseph?” He said, “I am Joseph and this is my brother. Allah has indeed been gracious to us. This is how He rewards those who adhere to His laws and endure patiently the trials of life. He does not let the righteous suffer and go unrewarded.”
(91) Hearing this they said, “By Allah, surely He has exalted you above us, We have certainly been in the wrong.”
(92-93) He said, “Let no blame rest on you today. I pardon you and seek your protection from Allah also. He is raheem to the highest degree. Go back to your home and present my shirt to my father. (I know that he possesses so much insight that) he will recognise this shirt. And come back to me with all your family members.”
(94-95) When the caravan of Joseph’s brothers departed (from Egypt), their father who was at home exclaimed to those around him, “If you do not think that I am a dotard, I can tell you that I catch Joseph’s scent.” Those around him said, “By Allah you are suffering from your old delusions.”
(96) When the bearer of good tidings arrived and placed before Jacob the shirt of Joseph, he was convinced forthwith that Joseph was alive and possessed a high position. He said to those around him, “Did I not use to tell you that I have been given such knowledge from Allah that you do not possess?”
(97) Thereupon his sons said, “O our father! We confess that we were wrong-doers. Kindly seek protection for us from Allah.”
(98) He said, “I shall presently ask for protection from Allah – surely He is protector and raheem.”
(99-100) Thereafter, the entire family went to Egypt and met Joseph. He lodged his parents with him and asked the others to dwell in Egypt in security. He raised his parents to the seat of state and according to the etiquette of that country, they bowed before him. Joseph said, “O my father, this is the interpretation of my previous dream. Allah has made it come true and has been gracious to me when He took me out of prison and brought you here out of the desert after Satan had stirred up strife between me and my brothers. The fact is that my Rabb accomplishes His plans in a very subtle way. He is knowing and wise.”
(101) (Feelings of gratitude towards Allah welled up in Joseph’s heart as he recalled previous events and he exclaimed spontaneously) “O my Rabb! You have bestowed upon me dominion and taught me the knowledge of the inner meanings of events (12:6). O initiator of the universe! You are my protector in this world and the hereafter. Let my entire life be spent in obedience to Your laws and let me be counted amongst the saliheen.”
(102-104) O Rasool! This is one of the stories which you did not know before and we made it known to you through revelation. You were not present with the brothers of Joseph when they colluded and devised their plot against Joseph. Most people will not believe in you no matter how ardently you desire that they should do so though you do not ask them for any return. It does not matter if they do not believe – this message is for all humanity.
(105-107) Apart from this revelation there are so many signs in heavens and earth so full of meaning, yet they pass them by and do not take notice of them. Most of them profess belief in Allah yet continue to practice shirk. Do they feel certain that a chastisement from Allah will not encompass them or that the time of judgment will not come upon them suddenly while they do not perceive it?
(108) Tell them that this is my way which is very clear and straight. My call is based on firm conviction and reason – as well as that of my followers. Allah is much above our setting up peers to Him.
(109) They object to your being a rasool professing that a human being cannot be a rasool. Tell them that the rusul before you were also human beings living in cities amongst their people. Those who do not believe that wrong actions bring about chastisement, have they not travelled in the land and seen what was the end of those who went before them? And certainly the abode of the hereafter is better for those who spend their lives according to the divine laws – if only they would reflect!
(110) (These historical testimonies show that the decision between right and wrong does not take place so quickly – all the earlier rusul had to struggle hard for a long time.) Till at last, they lost all hope and people thought that all their threats of chastisement were false; at that time Our succour came: the rusul and their followers were rescued, while the wrong-doers suffered and Our punishment can never be averted from people who are lost in sin.
(111) Surely in their annals there are lessons for people of understanding. This revelation is not a fabrication but validates that which was revealed before and an explanation of all things as well as guidance and rahma for those who believe in it.
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