Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XII.: ENTITLED SURAT AL YUSUF (JOSEPH). Revealed at Makkah. - The Quran, vol. 2
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CHAPTER XII.: ENTITLED SURAT AL YUSUF (JOSEPH). Revealed at Makkah. - Mohammed, The Quran, vol. 2 
A Comprehensive Commentary on the Quran: Comprising Sale’s Translation and preliminary Discourse, with Additional Notes and Emendations (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, and Co., 1896). 4 vols.
Part of: The Quran, 4 vols.
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ENTITLED SURAT AL YUSUF (JOSEPH).
This chapter purports to give an inspired account of the life of the patriarch Joseph. It differs from every other chapter of the Qurán, in that it deals with only one subject. Baidháwi, says Sale, tells us that it was occasioned in the following manner:—
“The Quraish, thinking to puzzle Muhammad, at the instigation and by the direction of certain Jewish Rabbins, demanded of him how Jacob’s family happened to go down into Egypt, and that he would relate to them the history of Joseph, with all its circumstances;” whereupon he pretended to have received this chapter from heaven.
Jaláluddín-us-Syutí, in his Itqán, says this chapter was given by Muhammad to those Madinese converted at Makkah before the Hijra. Weil conjectures that it was especially prepared with reference to the Hijra. This conjecture has, however, but little in its favour. Certain it is that the chapter belongs to Makkah. Much intercourse with the Jews at Madína would have improved the general historical character of the record.
The story related here bears every mark of having been received at second hand from persons themselves ignorant of the history of Joseph, except as recounted from hearsay among ignorant people. Muhammad’s informants had probably learned the story from popular Jewish tradition, which seems to have been garbled and improved upon by the Prophet himself. Certainly no part of the Qurán more clearly reveals the hand of the forger. The whole chapter is a miserable travesty of the Mosaic account of Joseph. In almost every instance the facts of the original story are misrepresented, misplaced, and garbled, while the additions are often wanting the poor authority of the Rabbins. Nevertheless, this story is not only related as coming from God, but also as attesting the Divine character of the Qurán. It is significant that this chapter was rejected by the Ajáredites and Maimúnians as apocryphal and spurious.
Probable Date of the Revelations.
There are those (as Jaláluddín-us-Sayutí) who would assign vers. 1-3 to Madína, but the generally received opinion, as stated above, is that the whole chapter belongs to Makkah. The spirit shown in vers. 105, 110, towards the unbelieving Quraish, along with the general character of the chapter, based as it is upon information drawn from Jewish sources, point to the years immediately preceding the Hijra as the period to which it belongs. Muir, in his Chronological List of Suras, places it just before chap. xi. See Life of Mahomet, vol. ii. Appendix.
IN THE NAME OF THE MOST MERCIFUL GOD.
∥ (1) A. L. R. (2) These are the signs of the perspicuous book, which we have sent down in the Arabic tongue, that, peradventure, ye might understand. (3) We relate unto thee a most excellent history, by revealing unto thee this Qurán, whereas thou wast before one of the negligent. (4) When Joseph said unto his father, O my father, verily I saw in my dream eleven stars, and the sun and the moon; I saw them make obeisance unto me: (5)Jacob said, O my child, tell not thy vision to thy brethren, lest they devise some plot against thee; for the devil is a professed enemy unto man; (6) and thus, according to thy dream, shall thy Lord choose thee, and teach thee the interpretation of dark sayings, and he shall accomplish his favour upon thee and upon the family of Jacob, as he hath formerly accomplished it upon thy fathers Abraham and Isaac; for thy Lordis knowing and wise. (7) Surely in the history of Joseph and his brethren there are signs of God’s providence to the inquisitive; (8) when they said toone another, Joseph and his brother are dearer to our father than we, who are the greater number: our father certainly maketh a wrong judgment. (9)Wherefore slay Joseph, or drive him into some distant or desert part of the earth, and the face of your father shall be cleared towards you; and ye shall afterwards be people of integrity. (10) One of them spoke and said: Slay not Joseph, but throw him to the bottom of the well; and some travellers will take him up, if ye do this. (11) They said unto Jacob, O father, why dost thou not intrust Joseph with us, since we are sincere well-wishers unto him? (12) Send him with us to-morrow into the field, that he may divert himself and sport, and we will be his guardians.
∥ (13)Jacob answered, It grieveth me that ye take him away; and I fear lest the wolf devour him while ye are negligent of him. (14) They said, Surely if the wolf devour him, when there are so many of us, we shall be weak indeed. (15) And when they had carried him with them, and agreed to set him at the bottom of the well, they executed their design: and we sent a revelation unto him, saying, Thou shalt hereafter declare this their action unto them; and they shall not perceive thee to be Joseph. (16) And they came to their father at even, weeping, (17)and said, Father, we went and ran races with one another, and we left Joseph with our baggage, and the wolf hath devoured him; but thou wilt not believe us although we speak the truth. (18) And they produced his inner garment stained with false blood. Jacob answered, Nay, but ye yourselves have contrived the thing for your own sakes: however patience is most becoming, and God’s assistance is to be implored to enable me to support the misfortune which ye relate. (19) And certain travellers came, and sent one to draw water for them; and he let down his bucket, and said, Good news! this is a youth. And they concealed him, that they might sell him as a piece of merchandise; but God knew that which they did. (20) And they sold him for a mean price, for a few pence, and valued him lightly.
∥ (21) And the Egyptian who bought him said to his wife, Use him honourably; peradventure he may be serviceable to us, or we may adopt him for our son. Thus did we prepare an establishment for Joseph in the earth, and we taught him the interpretation of dark sayings; for God is well able to effect his purpose, but the greater part of men do not understand. (22) And when he had attained his age of strength, we bestowed on him wisdom and knowledge; for thus do we recompense the righteous. (23) And she in whose house he was desired him to lie with her; and she shut the doors and said, Come hither. He answered, God forbid! verily my lord hath made my dwelling with him easy; and the ungrateful shall not prosper. (24) But she resolved within herself to enjoy him, and he would have resolved to enjoy her, had he not seen the evident demonstration of his Lord. So we turned away evil and filthiness from him, because he was one of our sincere servants. (25) And they ran to get one before the other to the door, and she rent his inner garment behind. And they met her lord at the door. She said, What shall be the reward of him who seeketh to commit evil in thy family but imprisonment and a painful punishment? (26) And Joseph said, She asked me to lie with her. And a witness of her family bore witness, saying, If his garment be rent before, she speaketh truth, and he is a liar;
∥ (27) But if his garment be rent behind, she lieth, and he is a speaker of truth. (28) And when her husband saw that his garment was torn behind, he said, This is a cunning contrivance of your sex; for surely your cunning is great. (29) O Joseph, take no further notice of this affair: and thou, O woman, ask pardon for thy crime, for thou art a guilty person. (30) And certain women said publicly in the city, The nobleman’s wife asked her servant to lie with her; he hath inflamed her breast with his love; and we perceive her to be in manifest error. (31) And when she heard of their subtle behaviour, she sent unto them and prepared a banquet for them, and she gave to each of them a knife; and she said unto Joseph, Come forth unto them. And when they saw him they praised him greatly, and they cut their own hands, and said, O God! this is not a mortal: he is no other than an angel, deserving the highest respect. (32) And his mistress said, This is he for whose sake ye blamed me; I asked him to lie with me, but he constantly refused. But if he do not perform that which I command him, he shall surely be cast into prison, and he shall be made one of the contemptible. (33)Joseph said, O Lord, a prison is more eligible unto me than the crime to which they invite me; but unless thou turn aside their snares from me, I shall youthfully incline unto them, and I shall become one of the foolish. (34) Wherefore his Lord heard him, and turned aside their snare from him, for he both heareth and knoweth. (35) And it seemed good unto them, even after they had seen the signs of innocency, to imprison him for a time.
∥ (36) And there entered into the prison with him two of the king’s servants. One of them said, It seemed to me in my dream that I pressed wine out of grapes. And the other said, It seemed unto me in my dream that I carried bread on my head, whereof the birds did eat. Declare unto us the interpretation of our dreams, for we perceive that thou art a beneficent person. (37)Joseph answered, No food wherewith ye may be nourished shall come unto you, but I will declare unto you the interpretation thereof before it come unto you. This knowledge is a part of that which my Lord hath taught me; for I have left the religion of people who believe not in God, and who deny the life to come, (38) and I follow the religion of my fathers, Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. It is not lawful for us to associate anything with God. This knowledge of the divine unity hath been given us of the bounty of God towards us and towards mankind; but the greater part of men are not thankful. (39) O my fellow-prisoners, are sundry lords better or the only true and mighty God? (40) Ye worship not, besides him other than the names which ye have named, ye and your fathers, concerning which God hath sent down no authoritative proof: yet judgment belongeth unto God alone, who hath commanded that ye worship none besides him. This is the right religion; but the greater part of men know it not. (41) O my fellow-prisoners, verily the one of you shall serve wine unto his lord as formerly; but the other shall be crucified, and the birds shall eat from off his head. The matter is decreed concerning which ye seek to be informed. (42) And Joseph said unto him whom he judged to be the person who should escape of the two, Remember me in the presence of thy lord. But the devil caused him to forget to make mention of Joseph unto his lord, wherefore he remained in the prison some years.
∥ (43) And the king of Egypt said, Verily, I saw in my dream seven fat kine, which seven lean kine devoured, and seven green ears of corn, and other seven withered ears. O nobles, expound my vision unto me, if ye be able to interpret a vision. (44) They answered, They are confused dreams, neither are we skilled in the interpretation of such kind of dreams. (45) And Joseph’s fellow-prisoner who had been delivered, said (for he remembered Joseph after a certain space of time), I will declare unto you the interpretation thereof; wherefore let me go unto the person who will interpret it unto me. (46) And he went to the prison, and said, O Joseph, thou man of veracity, teach us the interpretation of seven fat kine, which seven lean kine devoured; and of seven green ears of corn, and other seven withered ears, which the king saw in his dream; that I may return unto the men who have sent me, that peradventure they may understand the same.(47)Joseph answered, Ye shall sow seven years as usual; and the corn which ye shall reap do ye leave in its ear, except a little whereof ye may eat. (48) Then shall there come after this seven grievous years of famine, which shall consume what ye shall have laid up as a provision for the same, except a little which ye shall have kept. (49) Then shall there come after this a year wherein men shall have plenty of rain, and wherein they shall press wine and oil.
∥ (50) And when the chief butler had reported this, the king said, Bring him unto me. And when the messenger came unto Joseph, he said, Return unto thy lord, and ask of him what was the intent of the women who cut their hands; for my Lord well knoweth the snare which they laid for me.(51)And when the women were assembled before the king, he said unto them, What was your design when ye solicited Joseph to unlawful love? They answered, God be praised! we know not any ill of him. The nobleman’s wife said, Now is the truth become manifest: I solicited him to lie with me; and he is one of those who speak truth. (52)And when Joseph was acquainted therewith he said, This discovery hath been made that my lord might know that I was not unfaithful unto him in his absence, and that God directeth not the plot of the deceivers.
∥ (53) Neither do I absolutely justify myself: since every soul is prone unto evil, except those on whom my Lord shall show mercy; for my Lordis gracious and merciful. (54) And the king said, Bring him unto me: I will take him into my own peculiar service. And when Joseph was brought unto the king, and he had discoursed with him, he said, Thou art this day firmly established with us, and shalt be intrusted with our affairs.(55)Joseph answered, Set me over the storehouses of the land; for I will be a skilful keeper thereof. (56) Thus did we establish Joseph in the land, that he might provide himself a dwelling therein where he pleased. We bestow our mercy on whom we please, and we suffer not the reward of the righteous to perish; (57) and certainly the reward of the next life is better for those who believe and fear God.
∥ (58) Moreover, Joseph’s brethren came, and went in unto him; and he knew them, but they knew not him. (59) And when he had furnished them with their provisions, he said, Bring unto me your brother, the son of your father; do ye not see that I give full measure, and that I am the most hospitable receiver of guests? (60) But if ye bring him not unto me, there shall be no corn measured unto you from me, neither shall ye approach my presence. (61) They answered, We will endeavour to obtain him of his father, and we will certainly perform what thou requirest. And (62)Joseph said to his servants, Put their money which they have paid for their corn into their sacks, that they may perceive it when they shall be returned to their family, peradventure they will come back unto us. (63) And when they were returned unto their father they said, O father, it is forbidden to measure out corn unto us any more unless we carry our brother Benjamin with us: wherefore send our brother with us and we shall have corn measured unto us; and we will certainly guard him from any mischance. (64) Jacob answered, Shall I trust him with you with any better success than I trusted your brother Joseph with you heretofore? But God is the best guardian, and he is the most merciful of those that show mercy. (65) And when they opened their provision, they found their money had been returned unto them; and they said, O father, what do we desire further? this our money hath been returned unto us; we will therefore return, and provide corn for our family; we will take care of our brother; and we shall receive a camel’s burden more than we did the last time. This is a small quantity. (66)Jacob said, I will by no means send him with you, until ye give me a solemn promise, and swear by God that ye will certainly bring him back unto me, unless ye be encompassed by some inevitable impediment. And when they had given him their solemn promise, he said, God is witness of what we say. (67) And he said, My sons, enter not into the city by one and the same gate, but enter by different gates. But this precaution will be of no advantage unto you against the decree ofGod; for judgment belongeth unto God alone: in him do I put my trust, and in him let those confide who seek in whom to put their trust. (68) And when they entered the city, as their father had commanded them, it was of no advantage unto them against the decree ofGod,and the same served only to satisfy the desire of Jacob’s soul, which he had charged them to perform: for he was endued with knowledge of that which we had taught him; but the greater part of men do not understand.
∥ (69) And when they entered into the presence of Joseph, he received his brother Benjamin as his guest, and said, Verily I am thy brother, be not therefore afflicted for that which they have committed against us.(70) And when he had furnished them with their provisions, he put his cup in his brother Benjamin’s sack. Then a crier cried after them, saying, O company of travellers, ye are surely thieves. (71) They said (and turned back unto them), What is it that ye miss? (72) They answered, We miss the prince’s cup; and unto him who shall produce it shall be given a camel’s load of corn, and I will be surety for the same. (73)Joseph’s brethren replied, By God, ye do well know that we come not to act corruptly in the land, neither are we thieves. (74) The Egyptians said, What shall be the reward of him who shall appear to have stolen the cup, if ye be found liars? (75)Joseph’s brethren answered, As to the reward of him in whose sack it shall be found, let him become a bondman in satisfaction of the same: thus do we reward the unjust who are guilty of theft.(76) Then he began by their sacks, before he searched the sack of his brother; and he drew out the cup from his brother’s sack. Thus did we furnish Joseph with a stratagem. It was not lawful for him to take his brother for a bondman by the law of the king of Egypt, had not God pleased to allow it, according to the offer of his brethren. We exalt to degrees of knowledge and honour whom we please; and there is one who is knowing above all those who are endued with knowledge. (77)His brethren said, If Benjamin be guilty of theft, his brother Joseph hath been also guilty of theft heretofore. But Joseph concealed these things in his mind, and did not discover them unto them: and he said within himself, Ye are in a worse condition than us two; and God best knoweth what ye discourse about. (78) They said unto Joseph, Noble lord, verily this lad hath an aged father; wherefore take one of us in his stead; for we perceive that thou art a beneficent person. (79) Joseph answered, God forbid that we should take any other than him with whom we found our goods; for then should we certainly be unjust.
∥ (80) And when they despaired of obtaining Benjamin, they retired to confer privately together. And the elder of them said, Do ye not know that your father hath received a solemn promise from you, in the name of God, and how perfidiously ye behaved heretofore towards Joseph? Wherefore I will by no means depart the land of Egypt until my father give me leave to return unto him, or God maketh known his will to me; for he is the best judge. (81) Return ye to your father and say, O father, verily thy son hath committed theft; we bear witness of no more than what we know, and we could not guard against what we did not foresee: (82) and do thou inquire in the city where we have been, and of the company of merchants with whom we are arrived, and thou wilt find that we speak the truth. (83)And when they were returned, and had spoken thus to their father, he said, Nay, but rather ye yourselves have contrived the thing for your own sakes, but patience is most proper for me; peradventure God will restore them all unto me; for he is knowing and wise. (84) And he turned from them and said, Oh how I am grieved for Joseph! And his eyes become white with mourning, he being oppressed with deep sorrow. (85)His sons said, By God, thou wilt not cease to remember Joseph until thou be brought to death’s door, or thou be actually destroyed by excessive affliction.(86) He answered, I only represent my grief, which I am not able to contain, and my sorrow unto God; but I know by revelation from God that which ye know not. (87) O my sons, go and make inquiry after Joseph and his brother; and despair not of the mercy of God; for none despaireth of God’s mercy except the unbelieving people. (88)Wherefore Joseph’s brethren returned into Egypt; and when they came into his presence they said, Noble lord, the famine is felt by us and our family, and we are come with a small sum of money; yet give unto us full measure, and bestow corn upon us as alms, for God rewardeth the almsgivers. (89)Joseph said unto them, Do ye know what ye did unto Joseph and his brother, when ye were ignorant of the consequences thereof?(90) They answered, Art thou really Joseph? He replied, I am Joseph, and this is my brother. Now hath God been gracious unto us. For whoso feareth God and persevereth with patience shall at length find relief, since God will not suffer the reward of the righteous to perish. (91) They said, By God, now hath God chosen thee above us, and we have surely been sinners. (92) Joseph answered, Let there be no reproach cast on you this day. God forgiveth you, for he is the most merciful of those who show mercy. (93) Depart ye with this my inner garment, and throw it on my father’s face, and he shall recover his sight; and then come unto me with all your family.
∥ (94) And when the company of travellers was departed from Egypt on their journey towards Canaan, their father said unto those who were about him, Verily I perceive the smell of Joseph, although ye think that I dote. (95) They answered, By God thou art in thy old mistake. (96) But when the messenger of good tidings was come with Joseph’s inner garment, he threw it over his face, and he recovered his eyesight. (97) And Jacob said, Did I not tell you that I knew from God that which ye knew not? (98) They answered, O father, ask pardon of our sins for us, for we have surely been sinners. (99) He replied, I will surely ask pardon for you of my Lord, for he is gracious and merciful. (100) And when Jacob and his family arrived in Egypt, and were introduced unto Joseph, he received his parents unto him, and said, Enter ye into Egypt, by God’s favour, in full security. (101) And he raised his parents to the seat of state, and they, together with his brethren, fell down and did obeisance unto him. And he said, O my father, this is the interpretation of my vision which I saw heretofore; now hath my Lord rendered it true. And he hath surely been gracious unto me, since he took me forth from the prison, and hath brought you hither from the desert, after that the devil had sown discord between me and my brethren; for my Lord is gracious unto whom he pleaseth, and he is the knowing, the wise God.(102) O Lord, thou hast given me a part of the kingdom, and hast taught me the interpretation of dark sayings. The Creator of heaven and earth! thou art my protector in this world, and in that which is to come; make me to die a Muslim, and join me with the righteous. (103) This is a secret history which we reveal unto thee, O Muhammad, although thou wast not present with the brethren of Joseph when they concerted their design and contrived a plot against him. But the greater part of men, although they carnestly desire it, will not believe. (104) Thou shalt not demand of them any reward for thy publishing the Qurán; it is no other than an admonition unto all creatures.
∥ (105) And how many signs soever there be of the being, unity, and providence of God in the heavens and the earth, they will pass by them, and will retire afar off from them. (106) And the greater part of them believe not in God, without being also guilty of idolatry. (107) Do they not believe that some overwhelming affliction shall fall on them as a punishment from God, or that the hour of judgment shall overtake them suddenly, when they consider not its approach? (108) Say unto those of Makkah, This is my way; I invite you unto God by an evident demonstration, both I and he who followeth me; and praise be unto God, I am not an idolater. (109) We sent not any apostles before thee, except men, unto whom we revealed our will, and whom we chose out of those who dwelt in cities. Will they not go through the earth, and see what hath been the end of those who have preceded them? But the dwelling of the next life shall surely be better for those who fear God. Will they not therefore understand? (110) Their predecessors were borne with for a time, until, when our apostles despaired of their conversion, and they thought that they were liars, our help came unto them, and we delivered whom we pleased; but our vengeance was not turned away from the wicked people. (111) Verily in the histories of the prophets and their people there is an instructive example unto those who are endued with understanding. The Qurán is not a new invented fiction, but a confirmation of those scriptures which have been revealed before it, and a distinct explication of everything necessary in respect either to faith or practice, and a direction and mercy unto people who believe.
[(1) ]A. L. R. See Prelism. Disc., pp. 100-102.
[(2) ]Arabic tongue. The Tafsír-i-Raufi informs us that the reason why the Qurán was revealed in Arabic was because the Arabs would not have understood its meaning had it been revealed in any other. This is certainly a very natural reason. One would think that for a similar reason a translation of the Qurán might be used by nations not understanding Arabic, and that Muslims would not object to the translations of the former Scriptures.
[(3) ]A most excellent history. “One of the best methods of convincing a Moslem of the inferiority of the Koran to the Bible would be to read the story of Joseph to him out of each book. In the Koran a beautiful and touching tale is mangled and spoiled.”—Brinckman’s “Notes on Islam,” p. 112.
[(4) ]His father, “who was Jacob, the son of Isaac, and the son of Abraham.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(5) ]Tell not thy vision. A contradiction of the Bible. Comp. Gen. xxxvii. 5, 10.
[(6) ]Interpretation of dark sayings. “That is, of dreams; or, as others suppose, of the profound passages of Scripture, and all difficulties respecting either religion or justice.”—Sale, Tafsír-i-Raufi.
[(7) ]The inquisitive. Rodwell translates this “Inquirers,” which corresponds with the Urdú translations. The persons referred to were certain Quraish, who, at the suggestion of the Jews, had asked Muhammad how Jacob’s family happened to go into Egypt, and that he would relate to them the story of Joseph, whereupon this chapter was revealed.
[(8) ]His brother, Benjamin.
[(9) ]Cleared towards you, i.e., “He will settle his love wholly upon you, and ye will have no rival in his favour.”—Sale.
[(10) ]One of them. “This person, as some say, was Judah, the most prudent and noble-minded of them all; or, according to others, Reuben, whom the Muhammadan writers call Rublí. And both these opinions are supported by the account of Moses, who tells us that Reuben advised them not to kill Joseph, but to throw him into a pit, privately intending to release him; and that afterwards Judah, in Reuben’s absence, persuaded them not to let him die in a pit, but to sell him to the Ishmaelites (Gen. xxxvii. 21, 22, 26, 27).”—Sale.
[(12) ]And sport. “Some copies read, in the first person plural, that we may divert ourselves, &c.”—Sale.
[(13) ]I fear lest the wolf devour him. “The reason why Jacob feared this beast in particular, as the commentators say, was either because the land was full of wolves, or else because Jacob had dreamed he saw Joseph devoured by one of these creatures.”—Sale, Baidháwi, Jaláluddín, Zamaḳhsharí.
[(15) ]The well. “This well, say some, was a certain well near Jerusalem, or not far from the river Jordan; but others call it the well of Egypt or Midian. The commentators tell us that, when the sons of Jacob had gotten Joseph with them in the field, they began to abuse and beat him so unmercifully, that they had killed him had not Judah, on his crying out for help, insisted on the promise they had made not to kill him, but to cast him into the well. Whereupon they let him down a little way; but, as he held by the sides of the well, they bound him, and took off his inner garment, designing to stain it with blood, to deceive their father. Joseph begged hard to have his garment returned him, but to no purpose, his brothers telling him, with a sneer, that the eleven stars and the sun and the moon might clothe him and keep him company. When they had let him down half-way, they let him fall thence to the bottom, and there being water in the well (though the Scripture says the contrary), he was obliged to get upon a stone, on which, as he stood weeping, the Angel Gabriel came to him with the revelation mentioned immediately.”—Sale, Baidháwi, Jaláluddín, and Zamaḳhsharí.
[(17) ]Ran races. “These races they used by way of exercise; and the commentators generally understand here that kind of race wherein they also showed their dexterity in throwing darts, which is still used in the East.”—Sale.
[(18) ]Yourselves have contrived, &c. “This Jacob had reason to suspect, because, when the garment was brought to him, he observed that, though it was bloody, yet it was not torn.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(19) ]Certain travellers, viz., “a caravan or company travelling from Midian to Egypt, who rested near the well three days after Joseph had been thrown into it.”—Sale.
[(20) ]A mean price. “Namely, twenty or twenty-two dirhems, and those not of full weight neither: for having weighed one ounce of silver only, the remainder was paid by tale, which is the most unfair way of payment.”—Sale, Baidháwi. Compare with Gen. xxxvii. 28-36.
[(21) ]The Egyptian. “His name was Kitfír or Itfír (a corruption of Potipher); and he was a man of great consideration, being superintendent of the royal treasury. The commentators say that Joseph came into his service at seventeen, and lived with him thirteen years; and that he was made prime minister in the thirty-third year of his age, and died at one hundred and twenty. They who suppose Joseph was twice sold differ as to the price the Egyptian paid for him, some saying it was twenty dinárs of gold, a pair of shoes, and two white garments; and others, that it was a large quantity of silver or of gold.”—Sale.
[(23) ]My lord, viz., “Kitfír. But others understand it to be spoken of God.”—Sale.
[(24) ]He would have resolved, &c. This contradicts Gen. xxxix. 9; but the story is founded on Jewish tradition, as given in the Babylon Talmud, chap. Nashim, p. 36.
[(25) ]They ran. “He flying from her, and she running after to detain him.”—Sale.
[(26) ]A witness of her family, viz., “a cousin of hers, who was then a child in the cradle.”—Sale, Baidháwi, &c.
[(28, 29) ]This is a cunning contrivance, &c. This decidedly contradicts Gen. xxxix. 19 and 20, where it is said that Potipher believed his wife’s story, and in great wrath put Joseph in prison.
[(30) ]Certain women. “These women, whose tongues were so free with Zulaiḳha’s character on this occasion, were five in number, and the wives of so many of the king’s chief officers, viz., his chamberlain, his butler, his baker, his jailer, and his herdsman.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(31) ]She sent unto them. “The number of all the women invited was forty, and among them were the five ladies above mentioned.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(32-34) ]The spirit of these verses is not only opposed to the history of Joseph as given in the Bible, but is unworthy of a book claiming to be inspired. The conduct attributed to Potipher is contrary to reason and common sense.
[(35) ]It seemed good unto them, &c. “That is to Kitfír and his friends. The occasion of Joseph’s imprisonment is said to be, either that they suspected him to be guilty notwithstanding the proofs which had been given of his innocence; or else that Zulaiḳha desired it, feigning, to deceive her husband, that she wanted to have Joseph removed from her sight till she could conquer her passion by time, though her real design was to force him to compliance.”—Sale, Baidháwi, &c.
[(36) ]Two of the king’s servants, viz., “his chief butler and baker, who were accused of a design to poison him.”—Sale.
[(37) ]No food, &c. “The meaning of this passage seems to be, either that Joseph, to show he used no arts of divination or astrology, promises to interpret their dreams to them immediately, even before they should eat a single meal; or else he here offers to prophesy to them beforehand the quantity of the victuals which should be brought them, as a test of his skill.”—Sale.
[(38) ]I follow the religion. It is noticeable the Qurán here omits the name of Ishmael, showing how closely Muhammad followed the tradition of the Jews.
[(40) ]The names. See note on chap. vii. 72.
[(42) ]The devil caused him to forget. “According to the explication of some, who take the pronoun him to relate to Joseph, this passage may be rendered, ‘But the devil caused him (i.e., Joseph) to forget to make his application unto his Lord;’ and to beg the good offices of his fellow-prisoner for his deliverance, instead of relying on God alone, as it became a prophet especially to have done.”—Sale.
[(43) ]The king of Egypt. “This prince, as the Oriental writers generally agree, was Riyán, the son of al Walíd, the Amalekite (Prelim. Disc., p. 24), who was converted by Joseph to the worship of the true God, and died in the lifetime of that prophet. But some pretend that the Pharaoh of Joseph and of Moses were one and the same person, and that he lived (or rather reigned) four hundred years.”
[(47) ]The account here given of the interpretation of the king’s dreams is also contrary to the story of Moses. Here it is said the butler asks Joseph the interpretation of the dreams, he yet being in prison. The Bible says that Joseph explained the dream to Pharaoh himself (Gen. xli. 15-37).
[(49) ]Plenty of rain. “Notwithstanding what some ancient authors write to the contrary (Plato in Timæo, Pomp. Mela.), it often rains in winter in the Lower Egypt, and even snow has been observed to fall at Alexandria, contrary to the express assertion of Seneca (Nat. Quæst., l. 4). In the Upper Egypt, indeed, towards the cataracts of the Nile, it rains very seldom (Greave’s Descrip. of the Pyramids, p. 74, &c.) Some, however, suppose that the rains here mentioned are intended of those which should fall in Ethiopia and occasion the swelling of the Nile, the great cause of the fertility of Egypt; or else of those which should fall in the neighbouring countries, which were also afflicted with famine during the same time.”—Sale.
[(50) ]Return unto thy lord, &c. This passage seems to say that Potipher, the lord of Joseph, was identical with the king of Egypt. Rodwell’s translation gives this meaning. See Rodwell, v. 51.
[(51) ]What was your design. Note that the five women who came to Zulaiḳha’s feast are here charged with the same crime as she. Sacred writ knows nothing of this.
[(52) ]That my lord might know, &c. This verse also confirms the view expressed above, ver. 50, that Joseph’s lord and the king are the same.
[(53) ]Neither do I justify myself. “According to a tradition of Ibn Abbás, Joseph had no sooner spoken the foregoing words asserting his innocency, than Gabriel said to him, ‘What! not when thou wast deliberating to lie with her?’ Upon which Joseph confessed his frailty.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(54) ]Bring him unto me, &c. Joseph is here said to have been released from prison after the interpretation of the dreams. Gen. xli. 14 says he was released before.
[(55) ]Joseph’s reputation for modesty suffers sadly at the hands of the Qurán. His character stands out in a very different light in Genesis.
[(58) ]Joseph’s brethren came. “Joseph, being made Wazír, governed with great wisdom; for he not only caused justice to be impartially administered, and encouraged the people to industry and the improvement of agriculture during the seven years of plenty, but began and perfected several works of great benefit; the natives at this day ascribing to the patriarch Joseph almost all the ancient works of public utility throughout the kingdom, as particularly the rendering the province of al Faiyúm from a standing pool or marsh the most fertile and best-cultivated land in all Egypt. When the years of famine came, the effects of which were felt not only in Egypt, but in Syria and the neighbouring countries, the inhabitants were obliged to apply to Joseph for corn, which he sold to them first for their money, jewels, and ornaments, then for their cattle and lands, and at length for their persons; so that all the Egyptians in general became slaves to the king, though Joseph, by his consent, soon released them, and returned them their substance. The dearth being felt in the land of Canaan, Jacob sent all his sons, except only Benjamin, into Egypt for corn. On their arrival, Joseph (who well knew them) asked them who they were, saying he suspected them to be spies; but they told him they came only to buy provisions, and that they were all the sons of an ancient man, named Jacob, who was also a prophet. Joseph then asked how many brothers there were of them; they answered, Twelve; but that one of them had been lost in a desert. Upon which he inquired for the eleventh brother, there being no more than ten of them present. They said he was a lad, and with their father, whose fondness for him would not suffer him to accompany them in their journey. At length Joseph asked them who they had to vouch for their veracity; but they told him they knew no man who could vouch for them in Egypt. Then, replied he, one of you shall stay behind with me as a pledge, and the others may return home with their provisions; and when ye come again, ye shall bring your younger brother with you, that I may know ye have told me the truth. Whereupon, it being in vain to dispute the matter, they cast lots who should stay behind, and the lot fell upon Simeon. When they departed, Joseph gave each of them a camel, and another for their brother.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(62) ]Their money. “The original word signifying not only money, but also goods bartered or given in exchange for other merchandise, some commentators tell us that they paid for their corn, not in money, but in shoes and dressed skins.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(65) ]O father, &c. Gen. xlii. 25-35 represents this matter very differently. 1. The discovery of a portion of the returned money occurred on the journey. 2. A similar discovery as to the rest of the purchase-money occurred on the opening of the sacks at Jacob’s dwelling. 3. Instead of joy, all were filled with fear.
[(66) ]This also contradicts Gen. xlii. 36-xliii. 14.
[(67) ]Enter not by one gate. This, says the Tafsír-i-Raufi, was to prevent their appearing in such number and grandeur as to excite the suspicion of the Egyptians. There seems to be a hint here to Joseph’s charge against them that they were spies in the land. The text is found verbatim in Midr. Rabba on Genesis, par. 91.
[(69) ]I am thy brother. “It is related that Joseph, having invited his brethren to an entertainment, ordered them to be placed two and two together, by which means Benjamin, the eleventh, was obliged to sit alone, and bursting into tears, said, ‘If my brother Joseph were alive, he would have sat with me.’ Whereupon Joseph ordered him to be seated at the same table with himself, and when the entertainment was over, dismissed the rest, ordering that they should be lodged two and two in a house, but kept Benjamin in his own apartment, where he passed the night. The next day Joseph asked him whether he would accept of himself for his brother in the room of him whom he had lost, to which Benjamin replied, ‘Who can find a brother comparable unto thee? yet thou art not the son of Jacob and Rachel.’ And upon this Joseph discovered himself to him.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(70) ]His cup. “Some imagine this to be a measure holding a saá (or about a gallon), wherein they used to measure corn or give water to the beasts. But others take it to be a drinking-cup of silver or gold.”—Sale.
[(73) ]Ye do well know, &c. “Both by our behaviour among you, and our bringing again our money, which was returned to us without our knowledge.”—Sale.
[(75) ]Thus do we reward the unjust. “This was the method of punishing theft used by Jacob and his family; for among the Egyptians it was punished in another manner.”—Sale.
[(76) ]Then he began, &c. “Some suppose this search was made by the person whom Jacob sent after them; others, by Joseph himself when they were brought back to the city.”—Sale.
[(77) ]His brother Joseph hath been also guilty, &c. “The occasion of this suspicion, it is said, was, that Joseph having been brought up by his father’s sister, she became so fond of him, that when he grew up, and Jacob designed to take him from her, she contrived the following stratagem to keep him. Having a girdle which had once belonged to Abraham, she girt it about the child, and then pretending she had lost it, caused strict search to be made for it; and it being at length found on Joseph, he was adjudged, according to the above-mentioned law of the family, to be delivered to her as her property. Some, however, say that Joseph actually stole an idol of gold, which belonged to his mother’s father, and destroyed it; a story probably taken from Rachel’s stealing the images of Laban: and others tell us that he once stole a goat or a hen to give to a poor man.”—Sale, Baidháwi, Jaláluddín.
[(80) ]The elder, viz., “Reuben. But some think Simeon or Judah to be here meant; and instead of the elder, interpret it the most prudent of them.”—Sale.
[(81) ]Return ye to your father. There is here probably a confused reference to the imprisonment of Simeon (Gen. xlii. 24).
[(83) ]Ye yourselves have contrived the thing. See the same words in ver. 18 above.
[(84) ]His eyes became white. “That is, the pupils lost their deep blackness and became of a pearl colour (as happens in suffusions), by his continual weeping; which very much weakened his sight, or, as some pretend, made him quite blind.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(85) ]This passage is probably based on Gen. xliii. 2-9.
[(86) ]But I know, &c., viz., “that Joseph is yet alive; of which some tell us he was assured by the angel of death in a dream, though others suppose he depended on the completion of Joseph’s dream, which must have been frustrated had he died before his brethren had bowed down before him.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(87) ]Joseph and his brethren. This passage contradicts the whole spirit of the Bible story of Joseph.
[(88) ]With a small sum. “Their money being clipped and adulterated. Some, however, imagine they did not bring money, but goods to barter, such as wool and butter, or other commodities of small value.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(89) ]Do ye know, &c. “The injury they did Benjamin was the separating him from his brother; after which they kept him in so great subjection that he durst not speak to them but with the utmost submission. Some say that these words were occasioned by a letter which Joseph’s brethren delivered to him from their father, requesting the releasement of Benjamin, and by the representing his extreme affliction at the loss of him and his brother. The commentators observe that Joseph, to excuse his brethren’s behaviour towards him, attributes it to their ignorance and the heat of youth.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(90) ]Art thou really Joseph? “They say that this question was not the effect of a bare suspicion that he was Joseph, but that they actually knew him, either by his face and behaviour, or by his foreteeth, which he showed in smiling, or else by putting off his tiara, and discovering a whitish mole on his forehead.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(93) ]My inner garment. “Which the commentators generally suppose to be the same garment with which Gabriel invested him in the well; which having originally come from Paradise, had preserved the odour of that place, and was of so great virtue as to cure any distemper in the person who was touched with it.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(94) ]The smell of Joseph. “This was the odour of the garment above mentioned, brought by the wind to Jacob, who smelt it, as is pretended, at the distance of eighty parasangs, or, as others will have, three or eight days’ journey off.”—Sale, Baidháwi, Jaláluddín.
[(95) ]Thy old mistake. “Being led into this imagination by the excessive love of Joseph.”—Sale.
[(96) ]The messenger, viz., “Judah, who, as he had formerly grieved his father by bringing him Joseph’s coat stained with blood, now rejoiced him as much by being the bearer of this vest and the news of Joseph’s prosperity.”—Sale, Jaláluddín.
[(99) ]My Lord. “Deferring it, as some fancy, till he should see Joseph and have his consent.”—Sale.
[(100) ]His parents, viz., “his father and Leah his mother’s sister, whom he looked on as his mother after Rachel’s death.” (See Gen. xxxvii. 10. “Al Baidháwi tells us that Joseph sent carriages and provisions for his father and family, and that he and the king of Egypt went forth to meet them. He adds that the number of the children of Israel who entered Egypt with him was seventy-two, and that when they were led out thence by Moses they were increased to six hundred thousand five hundred and seventy men and upwards, besides the old people and children.”—Sale, Baidháwi, Jaláluddín.
[(101) ]He raised his parents, &c. The basis of this statement may be Gen. xlvii. 11.
[(102) ]Make me to die a Muslim. “The Muhammadan authors write that Jacob dwelt in Egypt twenty-four years, and at his death ordered his body to be buried in Palestine by his father, which Joseph took care to perform; and then returning into Egypt, died twenty-three years after. They add that such high disputes arose among the Egyptians concerning his burial, that they had like to have come to blows; but at length they agreed to put his body into a marble coffin, and to sink it in the Nile, out of a superstitious imagination that it might help the regular increase of the river, and deliver them from famine for the future; but when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, he took up the coffin, and carried Joseph’s bones with him into Canaan, where he buried them by his ancestors.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(103) ]This is a secret history which we reveal unto thee, &c. I cannot conceive of Muhammad’s making this statement, except as a deliberate assertion of what he knew to be false. See Arnold’s view in note on ver. 3 above.
[(106) ]Idolatry. “For this crime Muhammad charges not only on the idolatrous Makkans, but also on the Jews and Christians, as has been already observed more than once.”—Sale.
[(109) ]Who dwelt in cities. “And not of the inhabitants of the deserts; because the former are more knowing and compassionate, and the latter more ignorant and hard-hearted.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(111) ]The Qurán . . . a confirmation, &c. This passage certainly attests the former Scriptures then extant as credible, and claims to explain more clearly than there revealed the meaning of them. Surely this one chapter proves not only how untrue this statement is, but how false that other that “the Qurán is not a new invented fiction.”