Surat Yūsuf

What is the Qur'an About?

Tafsir Ishraq al-Ma`ani
by
Syed Iqbal Zaheer

تفسير إِشراقُ المَعَاني
سيد إقبال ظهير

PREPARATORY

What is the Qur'an About?
The Qur'an is the Word of Allah and a Book of Guidance. It can be asked, guidance to what? The answer is: “Guidance to Allah Most High, His Attributes, His Will, and the way in which one may conduct oneself to obtain that approval (rida) of Allah after which there is no anger." Imam Shafe`i perhaps had the first part of this statement in mind when he said:

"All that (the scholars of) the Ummah have to say is nothing but the exposition of the Sunnah. All that is in the Sunnah is the exposition of the Qur'an. And the whole of the Qur'an is nothing but the exposition of the Names and Attributes of Allah" (Zarkashi: Al‑Burhan Fi `Ulum al‑Qur'an).

This guidance to Allah, the knowledge of His Attributes and Will, and the guidance to right conduct cannot be obtained by any means other than the Qur'an and its complementary, the Sunnah, (the sayings and practices of Prophet Muhammad, peace be on him).
The Qur'an is also the only source of guidance. Someone who is unaware of its existence, but is a seeker of Truth, (on account of his innate faith in God and disillusionment with the world), will be led to this Book, one way or the other. The Qur'an says (29: 69): "Those who strive in Us, We shall surely guide them unto Our paths."

What is Guidance?
From another angle, it might be said that being on the guidance is to know, acknowledge, and, live by the Truth. In the context of this life, it is
a) the knowledge of what one is required to do, in the right measure, at any particular moment, and
b) the will to live by that knowledge.
In one sense, then, Guidance is knowledge, and in another, the will to act by it. The ‘will to act' is not the same as the ‘power to act.' That is because man has been granted will (or the freedom of choice) in a limited framework, while all power is Allah's. The power, or ability to act ‑ referred to as tawfiq in Islamic terminology ‑ is granted when willingness is demonstrated.
Further, since there is no such thing as half‑guidance, both are essential for salvation: knowledge without the will to act is only an evidence against one's self (hujjah), and deeds (however pretty their appearance), are grains thrown in the sand if they go without the acknowledgement of the Truth.
The Qur'an guides in both the senses. It bestows knowledge (or 'ilm wa 'irfan), giving the seeker the proper concept of the truth, as well as the will‑power and the moral courage to produce a living model of that concept in his own person, overcoming the obstacles he might encounter from within or without.
No other book, writing, philosophy, or person can achieve this. There should be no doubt about it; for any ambiguity in this regard can deprive one of the fruits of study and application.
The above definition illustrates and emphasizes the external, physical, and ephemeral aspect. Guidance has an esoteric, transcendent, and eternal meaning also, which is the fruit and essence of the external aspect. It is that state of mind and soul in which the other world becomes dearer than this one, in which, one eagerly awaits to be transported to the other world in order to heal that pain in the heart, and quench that thirst of the soul which only the company of those on High can heal and quench.
It is when one begins to ‘wait for the next salah after the last one,' when one ‘remembers Allah in his seclusion and the remembrance brings tears to his eyes,' when Allah becomes so dear that one begins to ‘love for Allah and hate for Allah,' and, when ‘the state of sabr and shukr become one and the same,' then it is that a person can said to be, in the words of the Qur'an, "on a guidance from his Lord."

The Path of Knowledge
A hadith of the Prophet (saws) says: "I am leaving behind me two things. So long as you hold fast unto them, you will not be misguided: they are Allah's Book and my practices." Nevertheless, this oft‑quoted hadith is rarely treated seriously. People apply themselves with great fervor to books, writings, speeches and ideologies presented by the scholars of Islam, but not as often do they leave them and their influences aside to turn directly to the Qur'an in complete seriousness. They do not seem to realize that they are not guided by those books and writings but to the extent that they themselves contain the Qur'an and the Sunnah in their pure form and unadulterated meaning.
Further, even when the Qur'an is studied, it is mostly done through the eyes, minds, and explanations of the scholars. The knowledge derived is, therefore, at best second‑hand, vicarious, and not wholly trustworthy. Again, a study of the Qur'an after a lot of other literature has been read has the disadvantage of the earlier readings embossing on the mind impressions that do not allow for the new ones to take place in their pristine form. The result is a jumble of concepts, true, half true, and false.
Alternatively, the Qur'an is read with pre‑conceived ideas. Human ideas are then taken for Divine ideas with citation of Qur’anic verses as evidences.
There are a few other characteristics that distinguish the Qur'an from all other kinds of writings. Firstly, the knowledge that the Qur'an imparts is the true and infallible knowledge. Secondly, the Qur'an succeeds in communicating the ideas it holds. That is, the reader cannot miss the meaning that it intends to communicate. Provided one is sincere, no one can miss its guidance, or, led to a meaning and understanding not intended. That happens with writings other than the Divine; humans say one thing, and the audience understand another thing. Moreover, through its intricate sequencing of the texts, the Qur’an answers to the doubts that arise, so to say, on the spot, and registers its meaning and message without adulteration of doubts menacing the mind, or skeptical notes lying beneath like snakes in the grass.
Therefore, to obtain true knowledge and right guidance from the Qur'an the requirement is to do away with preconceived ideas and study it with the firm intention to live by the meaning as it unfolds itself. With that kind of intention, the student is qualified to receive the true meaning. The meaning obtained is also accompanied by an urge to live by it, which then is the next requirement. That accomplished, that is, the meaning translated into action, the reader demonstrates purity of intention. In consequence, he qualifies to receive a fresh set of true meaning which unfolds themselves with further reading. This goes on until the student reaches that state which has been described in a hadith by Allah (swt) Himself in words, “I become the hands of the slave with which he grips, the feet of the slave with which he walks ... (to the end of the hadith).” But if he fails, that is, he is not true to himself at any given phase, or discontinues the process, then the tawfiq is held back until he amends his ways. The Qur’an has said (7: 146):

{سَأَصْرِفُ عَنْ آيَاتِيَ الَّذِينَ يَتَكَبَّرُونَ فِي الْأَرْضِ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ وَإِنْ يَرَوْا كُلَّ آيَةٍ لَا يُؤْمِنُوا بِهَا وَإِنْ يَرَوْا سَبِيلَ الرُّشْدِ لَا يَتَّخِذُوهُ سَبِيلًا وَإِنْ يَرَوْا سَبِيلَ الْغَيِّ يَتَّخِذُوهُ سَبِيلًا ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمْ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا وَكَانُوا عَنْهَا غَافِلِينَ} [الأعراف: 146]

“I shall turn away from My signs those who wax proud in the land without cause. If they witnessed all the signs, they will not believe in them, and, if they see the path of righteousness, they will not accept it as a path. But if they see the deviated path, they will accept it as a path. That, because they gave a lie to Our signs and were heedless of them.”

How to Obtain the Right Verbal Meaning?
Intention
It is to seek guidance, in the sense delineated above, that one should read the Qur'an. That should be the intention in every session with it.
Dr. Muhammad Iqbal's father well illustrated this point when he asked his son, who was reciting the Qur'an, as to what he was reading. The young son, knowing that the father was aware what he was reading, responded with an indifferent answer. “Who was it revealed to?” was the next question. The embarrassed son replied that it was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (on whom be peace). “This way, my son,” said the father, “you will never profit from the Qur'an. You will only if you read with the belief that the Revelation has just come down, that it has been sent down specifically for you, and that it is you who has been addressed. It is only then that this Book will open itself to you.”
In other words, one should take it as a message unto himself, and allow each verse of the Qur'an free and unhindered access to the mind and heart with the will to be led where it will lead.

Language
In contrast to other revealed Books and religious literatures, in whatever form and language they may exist, the Qur'an should not only be read by oneself, directly, but also in its own language ‑ Arabic. No commentary, however comprehensive, and no exegete, however erudite, can impart what the Qur'an itself can. The following reasons will illustrate the point.

The Miraculous nature of the Qur'an
It is well known that the Qur'an is a miracle. In fact, it is a living miracle; although the true nature of the miracle is not always understood. We cannot elaborate on this point extensively at this juncture. But it might be pointed out that the miracle expresses itself both in its form as well in its content. Both are powerful, unique to the Qur'an, which defy translation. The Prophet said: "Every prophet before me was given a miracle. I have been given the Qur'an. And I hope to have a greater following by its virtue than any prophet of the past."
Consequently, thousands of people from all over the globe are led to Islam every year through their study of the Qur'an. When a non‑Muslim asks a Muslim about Islam, all that he does in most cases is to hand him over a copy of the Qur'an. Invariably, even that mangled thing called ‘the translation of the Qur'an' leads the person to Islam. That is the miracle of the Qur'an. And of course, miracles cannot be translated.
Let us look into a few reasons that make impossible to communicate what the Qur'an itself communicates.

Translations
The Qur'an is in Arabic. It is neither in prose nor in verse but a unique combination of both, unsurpassed in its effect on the mind and soul by any other writing. In the words of John Alden Williams:

"...the Arabic of the Qur'an is by turns striking, soaring, vivid, terrible, tender, and breathtaking ... It is meaningless to apply adjectives such as ‘beautiful' or ‘persuasive' to the Qur'an; its flashing images and inexorable measures go directly to the brain and intoxicate it.
It is not surprising, then, that a skilled reciter of the Qur'an can reduce an Arabic‑speaking audience to helpless tears" (Islam: p.2, Washington Square Press '69).

In the words of Arberry:

"... to produce something which might be accepted as echoing however faintly the sublime rhetoric of the Arabic Koran, I have been at pains to study the intricate and richly varied rhythms which ‑ apart from the message itself ‑ constitute the Koran's undeniable claim to rank amongst the greatest literary masterpieces of mankind" (The Koran Interpreted, Intr. p. x, Oxford Univ. Press '64).

It is this inimitable beauty that challenges mankind to produce its equivalent: in sublimity of language, its instructions, and its sublime effect on the mind and soul. The Qur'anic challenge has remained unanswered by the humans (2: 23, 24):

"O People! If you are in any doubt concerning what We have sent down on Our slave (Muhammad), then produce a piece similar to it (in all its merits). And call (to your aid) your witnesses apart from Allah, if you are true (in your allegation that it is the work of Muhammad). But if you cannot do it ‑ and you can never do it ‑ then beware of the Fire whose fuel is human beings and rocks: prepared for the unbelievers."

The Qur'an then is inimitable and, therefore, untranslatable. Any translation, however accurately done, and however close to the original, cannot reproduce the sense and beauty of the original. Therefore, when one is reading a translation, he is not reading the Qur'an per se. No surprise then that the best effects are lost. No wonder also that the scholars of old would not allow translation of the Qur'an. This is also Ibn Taymiyyah's opinion. In fact there is a consensus of opinion among the scholars that the Qur'an should not be quoted in ‘sense' or ‘meaning' but always in its original textual words. How can then one be allowed to translate the Qur'an and call it the Qur'an?
Accordingly, if permission to translate the Qur'an has been granted due to modern exigencies, it is on condition that sufficient notes are supplied to overcome the deficiencies arising out of the translation. Further, it is required that the new work be called "interpretative translation of the Qur'an" (tarjumah tafsiriyyah), or, "the translation of the meaning of the Qur'an," rather than "the translation of the Qur'an" or, what would be more audacious, "the meaning of the Qur'an," since none of these are within human power (Manahil al `Irfan, Zarqani).

Linguistic Difficulties
There are many linguistic difficulties that make the Qur'an untranslatable. In Arabic one expresses sense rather than meaning. A beautiful Arabic sentence that can enrapture the mind and touch the soul becomes insipid in another language. Not only sentences or words, even single consonant letters are hard to translate. For example, the "fi" of Arabic has a depth that is lacking in the "in" of English. One needs a whole ugly, terse, and unmusical word in English to translate mere letters such as:

و ف إنَّ

Obviously, the complications with the words are far greater than those with the letters. Arabic is a language in which words are based on consonantal roots, from which are derived scores of words in various forms giving out various meanings but remaining, even if loosely and distantly, connected in sense and letter‑content to the root. `Ayn for instance can mean: an eye, a spring, a spy, a group of people, evil‑eye, honor, a flag, a girl, etc. `Afw stands for effacement, obliteration, elimination, forgiveness, amnesty, boon, kindness, favor, surplus, and others. The translated word must on the one hand give out the basic meaning and, on the other, convey several nuances the original carries. Obviously, to achieve that is well‑nigh impossible.
Let us take an example (4: 4):

وَآتُوا النِّسَاءَ صَدُقَاتِهِنَّ نِحْلَةً [النساء : 4]

"Give the women their dowries (as a gift) spontaneous,"
In this example, the word saduqat is derived from the root sadaqa ( صَدَقَ ) which means, with the addition of various suffixes or prefixes: ‘to speak the truth, to be sincere, to prove to be true, to come true, to fulfill one's promise,' and so on. Now, a true translation of the derived term saduqa, (plural: saduqat صَدُقات ), should carry in its overtones the sense of truth and sincerity. That is, ‘a gift that is offered (by the groom to the bride), as an expression of his sincerity toward her and the relationship he is proposing.' To render it as dowry, with the connotation that the language and culture of the readers carry, is to mutilate it.
In addition to the problem of words that yield several meanings, the complex structure of the Qur'anic verses admit of many interpretations (well described by Muhammad Asad as unfolding of "layer upon layer of meaning") from which the translator can choose but one, without necessarily being right in his choice. This means that, granted the translator did not err, the translation conveyed only one meaning out of the several contained in the Qur'an.
As another example, the following is speaking of the unbelievers (11: 20):

يُضَاعَفُ لَهُمُ الْعَذَابُ مَا كَانُوا يَسْتَطِيعُونَ السَّمْعَ وَمَا كَانُوا يُبْصِرُونَ [هود : 20]

"For them the chastisement shall be doubled; (for) they could not hear, neither did they see."
It can be translated in at least six different ways, three of them depending on how the letter "maa" is treated: whether of the same meaning as "lamu kayy," ( لامُ كَي ); as a synonym of "ila," ( إلى ); or as a negative "maa". Obviously such possibilities, which occur quite often, can leave the translator baffled as to his own choice during translation.
Another linguistic difficulty is that many Arabic and Qur'anic terms do not have proper equivalents in other languages, especially the languages of the occident. Allah, al‑Rahman, al‑Rahim, jihad, salah, zakah, sadaqah, `ibadah, al‑ghayb, kufr, nur, fisq, taghut, nabiyy, rasul, ghaniyy, are a few examples from a long list.
If, to the above are added the difficulties of `ijaz (ellipticism), rhetoric, alliteration, resonance and rhythm (all of them present in the Qur'an in their most excellent forms and in the highest degree of expression), then the job of translation becomes a hopeless task.
But the impaired meaning is not the only casualty. The loss in terms of beauty, charm, appeal, elation and the ecstasy that a reader feels on reading the Qur'an in its original is immeasurable.
Therefore, it can be safely said of a person who has always read the Qur'an through translations alone, that he did not read the Qur'an once.

Commentaries
Trying to understand the Qur'an with the help of commentaries is no less hazardous. Some reasons are as follows.
Essentially, commentaries are of two kinds. Those that are based on the Qur'an itself, supported by the hadith and opinions of the Companions, or their next‑generation Followers (tabe`iyyun). These are known as al‑tafsir bi 'l ma'thur ( التفسير بالمأثور ) i.e., interpretation based on report or tradition.
The other category is the one in which the commentator offers an interpretation, based not on a specific accepted source ‑ a Qur'anic verse, a hadith, or a remark of a Companion or one of their Followers ‑ but his personal opinion based on his intellect, knowledge or intuition. This kind of commentary is known as al‑tafsir bi 'l ra'yi ( التفسير بالرأي ). al‑tafsir 'l‑ishari [ التفسير الإشاري ] falls under the same category).
As for the first kind of tafsir, i.e., al‑tafsir bi 'l ma'thur, it can be fully appreciated only when read in Arabic. Many concepts and ideas of the Qur'an are closely tied up with the Arabic language. Further, those concepts and ideas are so subtle that their explanations fall flat and lose their import in another language. The commentaries of Ibn Jarir or Ibn Kathir, for example (which are good examples of the al‑tafsir bi 'l ma'thur) fail to have their impact on the reader in their translated version. Besides, some basic knowledge of hadith classification, fiqh and other disciplines, which in turn require knowledge of Arabic, is necessary to appreciate this kind of commentary.
In short al-tafsir bi ‘l ma’thur does not help much in understanding the core meanings of the Qur’anic texts. The profound part is often missed.
On the other hand, if one tries to understand the Qur'an with the help of the other kind of tafsir, viz. al‑tafsir bi 'l ra'yi, he faces the following hazards.
Firstly, to be able to correctly comment on the Qur'an, one has to have, in addition to the Revealed texts, a thorough knowledge of all the physical and metaphysical sciences and disciplines that have been developed by the humans. The Qur'an deals with history, law, social affairs, morality, worship, economy, psychology, state affairs, spiritual development, eschatology, divinity, and many other disciplines ‑ all in one go. Obviously, since it is beyond one man's capacity to master so many disciplines in a life‑time, it is beyond him also to write a commentary of the Qur'an that conveys the true intent of the Qur’an.
Further, every commentator is a product of his own age, genre, intellectual atmosphere, and cultural background. His problems are the problems of his time ‑ not necessarily of all times. His view of life is from a certain angle ‑ not necessarily the ecumenical and transcendental view of the Qur'an. (So, we often hear from such commentators that “the Qur’an lays down the way of life”: which immediately reduces its message to mundane level. Had they said it lays down the ways to moral and spiritual life, they would have been closer to truth). Such commentators are led, and cannot help but be led, by their personal predispositions and bent of mind, appealing to those of similar dispositions, and not necessarily reaching out to all the inquisitive minds and thirsty souls. Finally, whatever a commentator’s caliber, he remains subjective. True objectivity is not the share of man.
For example, if he is of a sufi bent of mind he detects suggestions that may or may not exist. If he subscribes to a certain philosophy, he may emphasize a certain point, which might be there in the text, but might not be it focal point. Thereby he distorts the overall view. Or, if his interpretation of life is materialistic and earthly, he is quite likely to rush through verses that are, so to say, mawarid al zam'an (watering places for the thirsty), and the hovering grounds of the restless soul, concentrating instead on the wonderful capabilities of Islam to promote material growth and development on earth and bring back to the Muslim Ummah its lost glory!
In short, he is a human dealing with the Word of Allah. To do justice to it is not in his power.
Finally, it is agreed by the scholars of Islam that there are two aspects to the meaning of the Qur'an: the external and the internal. The external or the obvious meaning is that which has come down from the authorities: the hadith, the opinions of the Companions, their next‑generation Followers and the meaning unanimously accepted by the scholars of Islam through and through the ages. The internal, hidden or the secret meaning of the Qur'an comes from deep reflection and a sustained exercise of the mind and soul coupled with righteous living. To take an example, it is reported that the verse (5: 3): "This day I have perfected your religion for you and completed My favor unto you, and have chosen for you as religion al‑Islam," brought tears into the eyes of `Umar ibn al-Khattab The Prophet asked him the reason. He replied: "So far we were witnessing a continuous rise of Islam. Now that it has been completed (i.e. it has reached its zenith), it can only follow a downward direction, as it happens with anything that has achieved its zenith." The Prophet (saws) agreed with him.
Imam Ghazali writes in his eighth book of Ihya' `Ulum 'l‑Din:

"The truth is that to everything pertaining to reflective and intellectual matters, which have become ambiguous to men of reflection, and in which people have differed, there are indications and implications in the Qur'an which can be observed by men of understanding. How can these indications and implications be completely conveyed by translations of its outward meanings and its (outward) exegesis?"

Further down he writes:

"The man who imagines that the Qur'an has no meaning except that which the outward exegesis has translated (and described), is acknowledging his own limitations; he is right in his acknowledgement (because he knows only this measure and is not aware of that which lies beyond this), but is wrong in his judgment which places all other people on the same footing as himself." (The Recitation and Interpretation of the Qur'an: Al-Ghazali's Theory by Muhammad Abdul Quasem, p. 87, 88).

Nevertheless, the scholars are also in agreement that the internal meaning can be attained only after a complete mastery of the external has been achieved. Zarkashi writes:

"The Book of Allah: it is the bottomless sea, whose meaning cannot be unfathomed but by the well-versed in (religious) knowledge; he who fears Allah in open and secret, and gives due esteem to Him in places where he comes across the ambiguous. Its subtleties and truths cannot be grasped but by one who (as the Qur’an said) ‘lends his ear and is attentive...'"

He adds a little further,

"All knowledge can be summed up as that of the ‘Acts' and ‘Attributes' of Allah. The Qur'an contains the knowledge of the Acts, Attributes, and the Essence of the Supreme Being. This fact leads us to another, viz., the field of knowledge is immensely vast. There is room for much more than what is obvious to the mind. The exegesis therefore, that has been passed on to us (by the authorities) do not lay down limits for the attainment of knowledge. Yet, it is not possible to jump over to the hidden without mastery of the obvious. Indeed, the knowledge of the external is absolutely essential to step into the internal and the hidden. Whoever claims to have knowledge of the secret part of the Qur'an while lacking a proper understanding of the external and the obvious, is like he who claims manhood at the threshold of his house (to which he has just crawled) although he has not yet stepped out of the door."

In brief, the Qur'an has two levels of meaning: the external and the internal. It should be obvious, therefore, how difficult it can be for a person to get to the second level, while his first level of understanding is suspect due to his ignorance of the language which leads him to take the words of men for the words of God.
These are some of the reasons why neither a translation nor a commentary can be substituted for the original.
It should not be surprising therefore to note that according to Imam Shafe`i, learning of the Arabic language is obligatory on every Muslim. Imam Abu Yousuf and Zufar, both students of Imam Abu Hanifah, went a step further. They stated that it is makruh (undesirable) for two Muslims who can manage some Arabic, to speak with each other in another language. Ibn Taymiyyah is also of the opinion that learning Arabic is a religious requirement since what is necessary to realize an obligation (wajib) is itself obligatory (wajib).

Pre‑conceived Ideas
In contrast, neglect of the language and study and reliance upon a single commentary of the al-tafsir bi 'l‑ra'yi type, can lead a student of the Qur'an to hold questionable opinions despite long study and painful application. Many of those who could become connoisseurs ended up dilettantes. Imam Ghazali writes about this class of people:

"The sufis have said that knowledge (`ilm) is a veil (between man and God), and by this knowledge they have meant those beliefs (`aqa'id) which most people have been firmly holding either by dogmatically following an authority or by mere reliance on casuistic sentences written by zealots of schools of thought and delivered to them. As for the real knowledge which is the uncovering of the actual condition of the thing known and which is a vision by the light of spiritual insight, how can it be a veil, seeing that it is the ultimate object of desire?
Pure dogmatic following of an authority is sometimes false (in itself) and is, therefore, an obstacle to the understanding of the meaning (of the Qur'an). An example of this is a man who has a (purely dogmatic) belief in Allah's istawa' on the Throne as His being settled on it physically. Then in the case of (the divine name) ‘the Holy One' (al-Quddus), for example, there comes to his mind the meaning that He is pure from all that is ascribable to His creation: but that purely dogmatic belief of his does not make it possible for this meaning to be firmly implanted in his mind. Had it become strengthened in his mind it would have led to a second meaning and a third, which could be inter-connected. But he hastens to drive this meaning away from his mind, because it contradicts his false belief which is held purely dogmatically.
Sometimes purely dogmatic following of an authority is true (in itself), but it too becomes an obstacle to understanding (the meaning of the Qur'an) and to unveiling of them. The truth in which man is obliged to believe has stages and grades, and it has an external beginning and an internal end. Concentration of man's nature on the external aspect prevents him from reading the internal end" (source cited above, p.70, 71).

Finally, every commentator is influenced by the ideas of his time that seem to be so powerful, and therefore of great consequence, which could be so during a particular epoch, but prove not to be so with the passage of time. Moved by those ideas or forces, a commentator might try to give the verses of the Qur'an a new meaning, sometimes at the expense of certain basic and universal truths. This can seriously affect the way in which his readers understand the Qur'an.
The conclusion therefore is that anyone who has not done a course of study in the tafsir of the approved type, but, instead, applies himself to the other type ‑ the tafsir bi 'l‑ra'yi ‑ runs the great risk of ending up with ideas that might not be true, half true or altogether wrong.
Therefore, every serious student of the Qur'an must learn enough Arabic to be able to read the Qur'an himself, directly, and without dependence on a translation to an extraordinary degree. It is only after he has spent sufficient time with the Qur'an (and, in addition, the Sunnah), that he can turn his attention to the translations and commentaries as further aids. It is only those for whom it is beyond their capacity to learn the language that might resort to dependence on translations and commentaries alone, although, to remain in consultation with the scholars is a necessary requirement for not getting misled on concepts.

Interpretations
Al-Tafsir bi 'l Ma'thur
The safest way to derive the right meaning of any part of the Qur'an is to seek its explanation within the Qur'an itself. What is stated in brief at one place is detailed at another, and what is ambiguous at one point is supplemented with elaborations elsewhere. Also, the Qur'an deals with a subject in a variety of ways, at different points, and with emphasis on different aspects in different contexts. The complete meaning can only be obtained by collecting together, either on paper or in the mind, all relevant verses, seeking connections that become apparent with contemplation. The Qur'an then should be understood in the first instance with the Qur'an itself.

The Hadith
Next, one should turn to the hadith. The ahadith are in reality a commentary on the Qur'an. Allah (swt) not only revealed the Word to the Prophet but also its meaning. A verse (4:105) says, "Surely We have sent down a Book to you (O Muhammad) with Truth so that you may judge between the people by what Allah shows you (as its true meaning)."
But it is not only the meaning as expressed in the words of the Prophet (saws) that has to be learnt. It is also the meaning as expressed in his actions that should be applied to one’s own life, to gain an understanding of the Qur'an. The Prophet lived according to the Message he received, not deviating from it in the least. In other words his life was the Qur'an interpreted: "Have you not read the Qur'an?!" was the answer given by `A'isha (ra) when asked about the Prophet's conduct in everyday life.
An example will illustrate how well the Prophet understood and lived by the Qur'an.
The Qur'an uses the term rih (in the sense of ‘winds') in two ways. In some places in the singular form as rih, and in others in the plural form as riyah. In all, it has used these terms on 29 occasions. Now a careful study reveals that when the occasion is the announcement of a punishment or chastisement from Allah, the word is used in its singular form (rih). In contrast, when the context is announcement of a glad tiding, it is the plural form that is chosen (riyah). [The odd deviation from the rule can be explained].
Now, keep the Qur'anic rule in mind and consider the prayer‑words of the Prophet, who, with every stormy weather supplicated in the words:

اللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْهَا رِيَاحًا وَلا تَجْعَلْهَا رِيحًا

"O Lord! Make it winds (riyah) for us and not wind (rih)."
Another example can be cited. The Qur'an said (9: 103): "Accept (O Muhammad) of their wealth a free-will offering, to purify them and to cleanse them." This injunction came after the declaration that the free-will offering of the hypocrites was not acceptable; and the reference is to the zakah on wealth. The free-will offering, of course, is collected by the State and is distributed following another injunction (9: 60) that cites eight categories of people as the deserving recipients.
However, following the clue that zakah (and sadaqat by implication) purify and cleanse the people ("to purify them and cleanse them"), and, reasoning that the purifying agent cannot itself be clean after its purifying operation (another example is ablution water dropping down a man), the Prophet declared his kinsfolk as undeserving of a share in the zakah (and sadaqat) funds. He told them that the zakah funds were a dirt of the hand and hence unsuitable for them.
The above stray examples demonstrate not only how well the Prophet understood the Qur'an and the extent to which he applied it to himself, but also, how important it is for a reader to gain mastery over the two: the Qur'an and the Sunnah texts, to understand either.

The Companions and their Followers
Any clarification required after the first two sources have been exhausted, should be sought in the opinions of the Prophet's Companions; especially those who were close to him, received his special attention, and specialized in the Qur'an during his life‑time: such as the four khulafa', Ibn `Abbas, Ibn Mas`ud, `Abdullah ibn `Umar, Ubayy b. Ka`ab and others, or those of the Followers who became the pupils of these Companions, such as: Mujahid, `Ikrimah, Sa`id ibn Jubayr, Masruq, `Ata' ibn Rabah, Hassan al Busri, Sa`id ibn al Musayyib, Qatadah, Dahhak, Abu al `Aliyyah and others.
The differences in their opinions, however, should not disturb a student. For, as Ibn Taymiyyah has pointed out in his Muqaddimah fi Usul al Tafsir, in most cases they express the same meaning in different words. The word "hafadah" for instance, has been explained as "daughters" by Ibn Mas`ud and Sa`id b. Jubayr; as "grandsons" by Ibn `Abbas; as "in‑laws" by Ibn Mas`ud; while `Ikrimah, Mujahid, and Hasan al‑Basri say it stands for "servants." They are all of course expressing one or the other aspect of the meaning of the word. For "hafadah" is plural of "hafid" and in its singular form it means "he who is made to serve." At the time the verse was revealed, the word was used in all those senses in which it was adopted by different authorities.
Tafsir bi 'l ma'thur derives its basis from ‑ apart from others ‑ a hadith which says that when the Prophet was deputing Mu`adh ibn Jabal to Yemen he asked him how he was going to judge between the people. "With the Book of Allah," replied Mu`adh. "But what if you do not find (a lead) therein?" the Prophet asked. "With the Sunnah of Allah's Messenger," he replied. "But if you do not find (a lead) therein also?" he asked him. "Then," Mu`adh replied, "I will work out my own opinion." The Prophet expressed his approval (Muqaddimah, Ibn Taymiyyah).
A word of caution however, about this kind of tafsir should be in place. What is recommended is the methodology as enumerated above, and not the entire content of the books of tafasir that have followed this methodology. In some of these works massive amount of Jewish material and comments of the early exegetes have been included without verifications of their authenticity. If not read critically, these can have their own pitfalls. Naivety, for instance, can be perceived in those who rely on these alone and have failed to step into the modern age in intellectual terms.

Al-Tafsir bi al Ra'yi (Personal Opinions)
As stated above, sometimes a commentator uses his intelligence, knowledge, intuition or inspiration to bring out a point in language, history, law, etc. Some of such comments are acceptable, while others are not. Take for example verse (2: 102): "Sulayman blasphemed not, but the Satans blasphemed." A question arises. We know that a prophet does not blaspheme. Why then did the Qur'an have to say that Sulayman (asws) did not blaspheme? For an explanation we have to look into the Bible which alleges that Solomon became an idolater during the last days of his life (Majid). Though not based on an athar, it is a valid explanation and also corroborates with what details classical commentators (such as Ibn Kathir) have recorded as coming from Suddi and Sa`id b. Jubayr.
To take another example, the Qur'an says (2: 273): "(Alms are) for the poor who are restrained in the way of Allah, who can not journey in the land (for trade). The ignorant supposes them rich because of their restraint. You will know them by their mark. They do not beg of people with importunity. And whatsoever of good things that you spend, surely, Allah will know it."
Commenting on the verse, Thanwi says that the words, ‘(Alms are) for the poor who are restrained in the way of Allah,' are telling us that those who are working in the way of Allah deserve to receive first priority in aid. Further, the clause ‘who cannot journey in the land' signifies that it is desirable for those engaged in the path of Allah that they may suspend their efforts at livelihood, if need be, although there is no contradiction between the two (i.e. engagement in the path of Allah, and search for livelihood). Finally, the words ‘the ignorant supposes them rich,' implies that it is undesirable to put on appearances that will distinguish a man from the common people.
This is the kind of Tafsir bi 'l ra'yi that is acceptable since such statements can be corroborated in other ways also. What can be proved as valid either directly through deductions from the Qur'an, Sunnah, opinions of the Companions, their immediate Followers, or that which, in the least, does not contradict any of the above, in word or spirit, is valid and acceptable.
The permission for this kind of interpretation is based on the supplication (du`a) which the Prophet made for Ibn `Abbas. He said:

اللَّهُمَّ فَقِّهْهُ فِي الدِّينِ وَعَلِّمْهُ التَّأْوِيلَ

"O Allah, grant him knowledge of the Qur'an and teach him the interpretation."
Contrary to this is the unprincipled interpretation that has its basis neither in the sources cited above, nor does it agree with the spirit of Islam as understood by the scholars at large.
To explain, any opinion with reference to a Qur’anic text that contradicts with that of the Salaf, in matters involving the Shari`ah, values, morals or spiritual affairs, is Tafsir bi al-Ra’yi, and stands rejected outright. It is about such an interpretation that the Prophet remarked: "Whoever speaks about the Qur'an without knowledge, may seek his abode in the Fire."
The Companions and their Followers were quite careful about offering an interpretation that did not have a Qur'anic verse or hadith in its support. Abu Bakr (ra) used to say: "Which heaven will shelter me, and which earth will support me if I said about Allah's Book, that which I have no knowledge of." Abu Yezid said: "We used to ask Sa`id ibn al‑Musayyib about the ‘lawful' and the ‘unlawful' and would find him the most knowledgeable of men. But when we asked him about a verse of the Qur'an as to how it was to be understood, he would be quiet, turning a deaf ear to us."

Al-Tafsir 'l‑Ishari (Allegorical Interpretation)
By nature, man is awed by the mysterious. It is the inexplicable, the symbolical, and the mysterious that engage his attention. The obvious and the clear‑cut escape him. To seek a solution to a riddle or the meaning of an allegory is a task he undertakes with enthusiasm. The allegorical verses of the Qur'an have provided grist to the minds of its scholars and there have been several interpretations proffered to explain them. Some of these are not readily acceptable and raise controversies. The best course of action about them when they are authentically quoted, by authoritative people, but which seemingly contradicts ideas of the Salaf, is to make no judgment about their acceptance or rejection.
In this work the use of Tafsir 'l Ishari has been restricted. It is inadvisable to read them without the guidance of a specialist. Thanwi’s Masa'il al‑Suluk as footnotes to his Urdu Bayan al‑Qur'an, is of this class. So are Alusi’s notes under this heading.
Nevertheless, it should also be borne in mind that every passage whose meaning is not obvious is not necessarily of the allegorical type, nor is the Qur'an entirely without them. There are some portions of the Qur'an whose true meaning the human mind might never be able to unravel. Ibn `Abbas has said: "There are four kinds of meanings: a) that which is apparent to the Arabs because it is in their language, b) that whose meaning no one can deny on the pretext of ignorance, c) the meaning that is the share of the scholars alone, and, d) the meaning that no one knows save Allah and His Messenger."
Further, one may note that there are Qur’anic texts whose meanings would be understood at the time of death, or subsequent to it.

Application
Following the Qur'anic method, we might end with what we started with. Application is part of the study. One will not travel much on the road if he failed to live by the instructions and inspirations that he received with the study. The Qur'an is the Word of Allah. It has been sent to guide the people. But it guides only those who are willing to be guided. As Rumi has said, the Qur’an is a closed book except for the true ardent seeker; to which we might add, ‘those who would care to apply.’
A further condition is to avoid sins of all kinds. The following is reported to have been said by Imam Shafe`i:

شكوت إلى وكيع سوء حفظى * فأرشدنى إلى ترك المعاصى
وأخـبرنى بـأن العـلم نور * ونور الله لايهدى لعاصى

I complained to Waki` of my forgetfulness
He guided me to give up sins
And taught me that knowledge is Light
And Allah’s Light is not shown to the sinner

The student of the Qur'an will have to develop his mind in such a way as to be skeptical of everything that the senses report, doubt every opinion that is formed by the intellect, and question every information that comes from non‑revealed sources. In the next step, he will have to test all of them against the Qur'an and reject any that contradicts it in word or spirit. Ibn Mas`ud (ra) said: "During the life-time of the Prophet, we used to take ten verses of the Qur'an for study and would not move on to the next ten until we had lived by those ten." It is reported of `Umar ibn al‑Khattab (ra) that he finished surah al‑Baqarah in seven years. According to a report he was so happy at its completion that he slaughtered a camel and invited his friends to a feast.
We can conclude with Zarkashi's remarks. He writes in Al‑Burhan fi `Ulum al‑Qur'an:

"In the final analysis, the derivation of the meaning of the Qur'an is largely dependent on a man's own thoughts and reflections. Let it be known, therefore, that the true meaning of the revelation and the secrets of the veiled knowledge will never be the share of a man whose heart is filled with innovations, or who insists on a sin, or in whose heart resides pride or base desires or love of the world, or that he be of an uncertain faith, or poor of discernment, or dependent on the opinions of a mufassir who has knowledge only of the externals (`ilm al-zahir), or gives precedence to his own thoughts and ideas (during the process of thinking). All these are veils and obstacles, some of which are of greater impedance than others.
"(In contrast), if the man pays full attention to the words of His Lord, is receptive to the meaning that the Attributes of the One addressing him unfold themselves, is always aware of His powers, abandons his own self-established conclusions based on reason and intellect, renounces his own powers and abilities, is ever mindful of the greatness of the Speaker, beseeching Him the grant of the meaning: and all this from a personal state of integrity, a good-natured heart, with the power of knowledge, of a calm disposition to gather the meaning, and to wait for the missed meaning seeking (Divine) help through Prayers and Supplications, (the supplications themselves) presented with the weakness (of the human against Powers of the Divine), and observing patience while waiting for the mind to be opened by Him who is the Opener, the Knowing; and he who strengthens these qualities with a recitation during which his mind is fully attentive to the verbal meaning and bears witness to the Attributes of the One addressing him by anxiously waiting for the promises (of the opening of the heart coming true), and fearing the calamities (that may befall him for his failings), and who warns forcefully .. such is the one who has a good voice for the Qur'an and it is about him that Allah Most High has said (2:121): ‘Those to whom we have given the Book, read it in the manner it should be read. It is these who believe in it'" (p. 180-81, vol.2).

The Methodology in this Work
It has been this writer's endeavor to present in this work, principally, the meaning of the Qur'an as understood by the classical scholars. That is, in the light of the Qur'an itself, traditions of the Prophet and statements of the Companions and their followers. To achieve this, the author first consulted Ibn Jarir Tabari. Since Ibn Jarir was a Muhaddith himself, he did not cite sources to the hadith, or to statements of the Companions that he quoted. Citing the sources was done by Ibn Kathir. Therefore, Ibn Kathir was next consulted. However, Ibn Kathir did not cite sources to the statements of the Salaf. This was done, to some degree, by Shawkani. So, he was consulted next. Although Ibn Kathir cited hadith sources, he did not state the authenticity-status of ahadith. In such cases, this author tried to search the opinion of Hadith Doctors, to add a note about their reliability. Further, if there were differences in opinions over the meaning of a certain verse, Ibn Kathir preferred to adopt the opinion of Ibn Jarir, which, this author indicated. Thus, a meaning emerged as of the Salaf. The translation of the verses reflects this meaning. The author suppressed his own opinion, for whose credibility he lacks the qualification, unless it was a scientific issue, historical, geographical or the like.
Thereunto, the author added the opinions of various other commentators, taking care of course, that such opinions did not clash with the opinions of the Salaf, for in matters of Law, morals (Akhlaq), and spiritual matters, the Salaf were the true authority. The way the first three generations understood the Qur’an, was never understood by any after them. It is they who changed the world, the way no generation could. If a headstrong person thinks that someone’s understanding of the Qur’an and Sunnah, was, or is, as good as that of the Salaf, and as accurate, he might need a course on how `ilm is defined in Islam. Ibn Sirin, a prominent Tabe`i said, “Knowledge is gone. What’s left of it is bits and pieces, scattered among the scholars.” Hasan al-Basri, his contemporary, was told by someone that the “Fuqaha’ say so and so.” He corrected him, “Have you ever seen a Faqih?”

An additional note about the commentaries made by the Companions and their followers might be in order. The Prophet has said: "The best of epochs is my epoch, then that of the Followers, and then that of the Followers." He was referring to the epoch followed by his own, and that of the Companions and the Tabe`iyyun. There were many Companions of the Prophet who received his special attention and specialized in the Qur'an during his life‑time itself. In turn they tutored many among the Tabe`iyyun. The term Salaf applies mainly to these: i.e., the Companions and the two succeeding generations, plus the third (because of some reports). Their opinion is the approved opinion. If they agree over the meaning of a particular word, or a verse, and the issue is purely of a religious nature as indicated above, then any other opinion that contradicts it and cannot be reconciled with it, stands rejected. Of course, there is no such restriction when the subject concerned is of historical, geographical or scientific nature, for, these disciplines were developed after them. Some contemporary commentaries tend to give new meanings to some Qur’anic terms. If they clash with those of the Salaf, they must be ignored; for, the Salaf knew the ‘Arabic of the Qur’an,’ and not the Arabic of those who refer to dictionaries and literary works developed after them to argue their case. `Umar used to say, “If you are in doubt, refer to the Jahiliyy poetry. The Qur’an was revealed in that language.”

The opinions of the Salaf might sometimes surprise the reader. He might consider them as entirely out of context. But, it is the failure to understand the context that creates the confusion. "Jump the line" is a sentence in English that conveys different meanings to different people in different situations. To a sportsman it has one meaning. When spoken by a motorist complaining of the erratic behavior of another motorist it has another meaning. In contrast, to an electrician working on the power grid, the sentence carries a different sense altogether. What we have to realize about the Companions is that they did not merely understand the context; they were themselves the context, and often spoke from the transcendental level; not from the stand point of the misleading cliché of modern times: ‘reason and logic.’

If the reader wishes to make the most of this work, he or she should allocate an area in his mind wherein he stores information obtained from the Salaf, in this work. This is the principal, the most reliable meaning, and the basis on which he can build on further. He might highlight such passages for ease of later reference.

Nonetheless, in order to keep alive interest and help increase knowledge, I have also included material that has so far been the prerogative of the Arabic‑speaking readers: material without which the Qur'anic spectrum of legitimate meaning loses some of its color.
To the above I have added some useful material from commentaries in Urdu and English. But of course, while selecting material from contemporary works, a critical eye has been kept open for errors of the conceptual type and, to the extent possible, those that contradict with a meaning accepted by the Jumhur al‑Ummah (the great majority). Jumhur al‑Ummah is of course not the same thing as the Ijma` al‑Ummah (the consensus of opinion ‑ the research of which is a difficult task, well beyond the scope of this work). The opinions of the Jumhur give us some idea of how the Qur'an has been understood through the ages. When Ibn Jarir, Zamakhshari, Razi, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Thanwi or others consider a point from the previous exegetes as worth quoting, then surely that adds up to the weight of the comment.
I have not reproduced from, or cited reference to, the contemporary commentators if they have discussed those matters that the ancients have already done. In most cases the contemporary scholars have changed the form, picking out from the ancients what would suit them most. I have quoted them only if they have a new idea or a fresh point, with the condition, once again, that such ideas do not, in my limited knowledge, contradict a proven opinion held by the Salaf or Jumhu al-Ummah. Anecdotes, poetry, fiqh points, and comparative study material have been added to break the monotony.

A word about quotations from the Sufiya' would be in order. We all know that an unclean person in dirty clothes would hardly improve himself by applying perfume. He first needs to cleanse himself. How can it be any different in matters pertaining to the soul? A heart filled with pride or preferential love of this world will hardly improve through wisdom-words or supererogatory exercises. Something needs to be done first to remove the impurities. Sufism is all about this removal of impurities. This centrist position however, lies between two extremes. It should not be imagined that by quoting the Sufiya' we are approving the extreme positions, practices, or the so‑called "ways of the Gnostic" that have no basis in the Shari`ah.

Hadith Authenticity
The most difficult task has been to present only those ahadith or reports from the Companions or others that are authentic, since no noteworthy work has been done by the hadith experts on Qur'anic commentaries. Mahmud Shakir's attempt at Tabari has remained incomplete. Hussain b. Ibrahim and Sayyid Ibrahim have done some useful, although not exhaustive work on Ibn Kathir and Shawkani. Occasionally, I have either traced the ahadith to their sources, and when not in the Sahih works, have depended on works on the topic by Hadith experts. I have tried not to quote anything less than Hasan in status. If I have quoted some weak reports, it is only those that are not very weak or are strengthened by other, although weak, ahadith, or the personal opinions of the Companion or others.

Ideological Interpretations
Some readers might be surprised to note the lack of a single string of thought in this work, as it is also lacking in classical commentaries: one strand, so to say, that weaves into itself the "philosophy of the whole of the Qur'an." This is a naive idea. To speak of the Qur'an in such terms is to presume a certain meaning, a certain philosophy, a certain ideology, and reduce the Word of Allah to human definitions.
It is common knowledge that this terrestrial existence is too complex to be interpreted in terms of a single philosophy. Life cannot be reduced to equations. Even the inorganic does not render itself to such simplification. At this very moment, scientists at a billion dollar apiece Accelerators (commonly known as atom smashers) are at their wit’s end trying to determine if the building blocks of an atom (which were once thought to be electrons, protons, neutrons and a few other elementary particles) are quarks, those 300 subatomic particles visible for a fraction of a second when the nucleus is smashed with highly accelerated protons, or there is more to it. No one can say for sure if there will be an end to it!! The wave and particle function of the sub-atomic particles is another intriguing issue. If solid matter is proving so complex, what should one think of the uncreated ‘Word’ of Allah?
Moreover, such a demand betrays the failure to understand the very basics of life in terms of human fears, hopes, aspirations, creativity and interactions. At every moment of his existence a man has several options before him, only one of which is the optimum best for him. What can guide him to the right choice but a criterion backed by a vast set of concepts, data and ideas that have their own quality to fuse themselves, in a flash of a second, into one homogenized whole and present a single, synchronized, workable idea or a suggestion ‑ that the man may accept or reject!?
Again, the Qur'an is, from one angle, a long essay in the education of concepts: the divisions are for human convenience. No detail can be missed in any area but at the loss of a concept; sometimes it might be the most valuable concept acting as the central link to a maze of ideas, and, a powerful magnet to iron flakes flying by in every direction. Hence the presentation in the style I have adopted. The reader will have to pick up bits and pieces, and put them together into a homogenous meaningful whole that is pertinent to his situation, and would be useful perhaps to him alone.

Acknowledgment
Rarely has a work of such dimensions and a task so demanding been attempted by a man as poorly qualified as this author. Yet, no efforts were spared to locate material necessary to produce the "aid for understanding the Qur'an" that he has aimed at producing. Although, it must be admitted, that efforts are no substitute for abilities.
The author’s dependence, therefore, on those who are pioneers in similar efforts should be quite evident. In the rendering of the Qur'anic text into English for instance, A.J. Arberry's influence can be easily detected. Yusuf `Ali, Asad and Pickthall have been in constant reference. N.J. Dawood and several others have also been consulted. To make it easier for the beginners and non‑Muslims (and following the recommendation of the fuqaha'), words and phrases have been added in parenthesis while rendering the text into English. Such interpolations are, nonetheless, based on an accepted interpretation.
Without trying to be humble, it can be said with a fair amount of accuracy that for all that is good and useful in this work, the credit is due to someone else, while the shortcomings are the contributions of this author who seeks Allah's forgiveness, and the reader's help in overcoming them.

Syed Iqbal Zaheer
March 2015

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References, abbreviations, and technical terms

Clue to References
Ahmad: Musnad by Imam Ahmed ibn Hanbal (d. 241 A.H.).
Albani: Silsilah al-Ahadith al-Sahiha, Muhammad Nasiruddin Albani, (d. 1420 A.H.).
Albani: Silsilah al-Ahadith al-Da`eefah wa al-Mawdu`ah, Muhammad Nasirudding Albani, , Al-Maktab al-Islami.
Alusi/Ruh: Ruh al Ma`ani Fi Tafsir Qur’an al `Azim Wa al Sab` al Mathani by Shihab al Din Sayyid Mahmood Alusi (d.1291 A.H.)
`Aqidah: `Aqidah Tahawiyyah, commentary Ibn Abi al-`Izz, (tr. By Syed Iqbal Zaheer, as Funamentals of Islamic Creed), World Assembly of Muslim Youth, Dammam, Saudi Arabia
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Hussain: Tafsir ibn Kathir, Hussain b. Ibrahim Zahran, ed.
Ibn Is-haq: Sirah Rasulullah, by Muhammad ibn Ishaq (d. 151 A.H.).
Ibn Jarir/Tabari: Jami` al Bayan Fi Tafsir al Qur’an by Ibn Jarir al-Tabari (d.310 A.H.)
Ibn Kathir: Tafsir al Qur’an al `Azim by `Imad al Din Abul Fida Isma`il ibn `Amr ibn Kathir (d.774 A.H.)
Ibn Majah, Sunan, Muhammad b. Yazid al-Qazwini, Maktabah al-`Ilmiyyah, Beirut.
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Jami` Saghir: Fayd al-Qadir Sharh Jami` Saghir (of Jalaluddin Suyuti) by Muhammad `Abdul Ra’uf al-Munawi.
Kabir al: Al-Tafsir Al-Kabir, tafsir notes of Imam Ibn Taymiyyah (d.728 A.H) collected by Dr. `Abdul Rahman `Umayrah.
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Ma`arif /Shafi`: Ma`arif al Qur’an by Mufti Muhammad Shafi` Deobandi (d. 1396 A.H.).
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Mughni al, Ibn Qudamah, al-Maqdisi, Ri’asat al-Idaratu al-Buuth al-`Ilmiyyah, Saudi Arabia.
Mulhim: Fath al-Mulhim, Shabbir Ahmad `Uthmani, and, Takmilatu Fath al-Mulhim, Taqiuddin `Uthmani, Dar al-Ulum, Karachi.
Muwatta’: Muwatta’ by Imam Malik ibn Anas (d. 179 A.H.).
Nasa’i, Ahmad b. Shu`ayb, Sunan al-Nasa’i, Dar al-Rayyan li al-Turath, Cairo.
Nawawi: Sharh Sahih Muslim by Imam Sharfuddin al-Nawawi (d. 261 A.H.)
Penrice: A Dictionary and Glossary of the Qur’an, John Penrice, Gaurav Publishing House, 187
Qurtubi: Al-Jam`i Li ‘l Ahkam al Qur’an by Abu `Abdullah Muhammad ibn Ahmad al Ansari al Qurtubi (d.671 A.H.)
Raghib: Mu`jam Mufradat al-Qur’an by al-Raghib al-Asfahani (d. 503 A.H.)
Rawa‘e`: Rawa‘e` al-Bayan Tafsir Ayat al-Ahkam by Muhammad `Ali Sabuni.
Razi: Tafsir al Fakhr al Razi by Muhammad al-Razi Fakhr al Din ibn Dia al Din `Umar (d.604 A.H.)
Sabuni: Safwatu al Tafasir by Muhammad `Ali Sabuni.
Sahih ibn Hibban bi-Tarteeb Ibn Balban, `Ala’uddin `Ali b. Balban, , Mu’assasah al-Risalah, Beirut.
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Se`di: Taysir al-Karim al-Rahman, fir Tafsir al-Mannan, `Abdul Rahman b. Nasir Se`id.
Shawkani: Al-Fut-h al-Qadir by Muhammad ibn `Ali Shawkani (d.1255 A.H.)
S. Ibrahim: Ed. Al-Fath al-Qadir, by Shawkani
Sihah: Taj al-Lugha wa Sihah al-`Arabiyyah, Isma`il b. Nasr Hammad al-Jawhari, 393 A.H.
Sirah: Al-Sirah al-Nabawiyyah fi Daw Masadir al-Athliyyah, Dr. Mahdi Rizqallah, Saudi Arabia 1992.
Sayyid Qutb/Qutb/Zilal: Fi Zilal al Qur’an by Sayyid Qutb (d.1386 A.H.).
Thanwi/Bayan: Bayan al Qur’an by Ashraf `Ali Thanwi (d.1361 A.H.)
Tuhfah: Tuhfah al-Ahwazi bi Sharh Jami` al-Tirmidhi by Muhammad ibn `Abdul Rahman Mubarakpuri.
Yusuf Ali: The Glorious Qur’an, Meaning and Translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali (d. 1953 A.H.).
Zafar Ahmad `Uthmani, I`la al-Sunan, Idaratu al-Islam wa `Ulum al-Islamiyyah, Karachi, Pakistan.
Zamakhshari/Kashshaf: Haqa’iq al- Tanzil Wa `Uyun al-Aqawil Fi Wujuh at-Ta‘wil by Abu al-Qasim Jarallah Mahmood b.`Umar al-Zamakhshari (d.538 A.H.).
Zarkashi: Al-Burhan Fi `Ulum al-Qur’an by Badruddin Muhammad bin `Abdullah al-Zarkashi (d. 794 A.H.), Dar al-Ma`rifa, Beirut.
Note: The list above is not a complete bibliography, but rather books sort of more often referred.

________________________

Abbreviations as in
Abdul Majid Daryabadi’s English Commentary

(1) BOOKS OF THE BIBLE
Ac. = Acts of the Apostles.
Am. = Amos.
1. Ch. = The First Book of the Chronicles.
2. Ch. = The Second Book of the Chronicles.
1. Cor. = Paul’s First Epistle of the Apostles.
1. Ch. = The First Book of the Chronicles.
2. Ch. = The Second Book of the Chronicles.
1. Cor. = Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians.
2. Cor. = Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians.
Dn. = The Book of Daniel.
Dt. = Deuteronomy: The Fifth Book of Moses.
Ex. = Exodus: The Second Book of Moses.
Ez. = Ezra.
Ezek. = The Book of the Prophet Ezekiel.
Ga. = Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians.
Ge. = Genesis: The First Book of Moses.
He. = Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews.
Ho. = Hosea.
Is. = Isiah.
Ja. = The General Epistle of James.
Jn. = Gospel according to St. John.
Jo. = Joel.
Job. = The Book of Job.
Jon. = The Book of Jonah.
Josh. = The Book of Joshua.
Judg. = The Book of Judges.
Je. = The Book of Jeremiah.
1. Ki. = The First Book of the Kings.
2. Ki. = The Second Book of the Kings.
La. The Lamentations of Jeremiah.
Lk. = The Gospel according to St. Luke.
Le. = Leviticus: The Third Book of Moses.
Mi. = Micah.
Mk. = Gospel according to St. Mark.
Mt. = Gospel according to St. Matthew.
Na. = Nahum.
Ne. = The Book of Nehemiah.
Nu. = Numbers: The Fourth Book of Moses.
1. Pe. = The First Epistle General of Peter.
2. Pe. = The Second Epistle General of Peter.
Ph. = Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians.
Pr. = The Proverbs.
Ps. = The Book of Psalms.
Re. = The Revelation of St. John.
Ro. = Paul’s Epistle to the Romans
1. Sa. = The First Book of Samuel.
2. Sa. = The Second Book of Samuel.
So. = The Song of Solomon.
1. Thes. = Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians.
2. Thes. = Paul’s Second Epistle to the Thessalonians.
1. Ti. = Paul’s First Epistle to Timothy.
2. Ti. = Paul’s Second Epistle to Timothy.
Tt. = Paul’s Epistle to Titus.
Ze. = Zechariah.

(2) GENERAL
“Ant.” = Josephus’ ‘Antiquities of the Jews.’ (Routledge London).
Aq. = Shah Abdul Qadir Dehlavi (D. 1241 A.H./1826 C.E.). Urdu translator and commentator of the Holy Qur’an.
ASB. = Asad’s English Translation of Sahih al-Bukhari.
AV. = Authorized Version of the Bible.
AYA. = `Abdullah Yusuf `Ali. English translator and commentator of the Holy Qur’an.
Bdh. = Nasir-ud-Din `Abdullah Baidhavi (D. 685 A.H./1282 C.E.). Commentator of the Holy Qur’an.
BK. = ‘Book of Knowledge,’ 4 Vols. (Educational Book Co., London)
CD. = Pallen and Wynne’s ‘New Catholic Dictionary.’ (New York).
CE. = McDannell’s ‘Concise Encyclopedia,’ 8 Vols. (New York).
C.E. = Christian Era.
DB. = Hastings’ ‘Dictionary of the Bible,’ 5 Vols. (Clarke, London).
DCA. = Smith and Cheetham’s ‘Dictionary of Christian Antiquities,’ 2 Vols. (Murray, London).
DV. = Douay Version of the Bible.
EBi. = Cheyne and Black’s ‘Encyclopedia Biblica,’ 4 Vols. (Black, London).
EBr. = ‘Encyclopedia Britannica,’ 29 Vols. 11th Edition. (London).
Encyclopedia Britannica,’ 24 Vols. 14th Edition. (London and New York). Where no edition is specified, the reference is to 14th edition.
EI. = Houtsma and Wensink’s ‘Encyclopedia of Islam,’ 5 Vols. (Luzac, London).
EMK. = Hammerton’s ‘Encyclopedia of Modern Knowledge,’ 5 Vols. (Waverly, New York).
ERE. = Hastings’ ‘Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics,’ 13 Vols. (Clarke, London).
ESS. = Seligman’s ‘Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences,’ 15 Vols. (Macmillan, London).
FWN = Frazer’s ‘Worship of Nature,’ 2 Vols. (Macmillan, London).
GB. = Ragg’s ‘The Gospel of Barnabas.’ (Oxford).
GRE. = Gibbon’s ‘Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,’ 7 Vols. (Methuen, London).
HHW. = ‘Historians’ History of the World,’ 25 Vols. (The Times, London).
HJ. = The Hibbert Journal. (Constable, London).
IA. = Hadhrat `Abdullah Ibn-i-`Abbas. (D. 68 A.H./688 C.E.) (A companion and cousin of the Holy Prophet).
IQ. = Ibn-i-Qutaiba. (D. 276 A.H./890 C.E.) Author of ‘Arabic Glossary of the Holy Qur’an.
JE. = ‘The Jewish Encyclopedia,’ 12 Vols. (Funk and Wagnalls, New York).
LL. = Lane’s ‘Arabic-English Lexicon,’ 8 Vols. (Williams and Norgate, London).
LSK. = Lane and Lane-Poole’s ‘Selections from the Kuran.” (Trubner, London).
M.A. = Maulana Mohammad `Ali: (D. 1349 A.H./1931 C.E.) Indian Muslim leader. (Not to be confused with his namesake of Lahore and a translator of the Qur’an). The references are to his unpublished work, ‘Islam: The Kingdom of God’ (since published as ‘My Life – A Fragment’ by Sh. M. Ashraf, Lahore).
NSD. = ‘New Standard Dictionary of the English Language,’ 4 Vols. (Funk and Wagnalls, New York).
NT. = The New Testament.
OT. = The Old Testament.
PC. = Tyler’s ‘Primitive Culture,’ 2 Vols. (Murray, London).
RV. = Revised Version of the Bible.
RZ. = Imam Fakhruddin Razi. (D. 659 A.H./1209 C.E.). Well-know commentator of the Holy Qur’an.
SOED. = ‘Shorter Oxford English Dictionary,’ 2 Vols. (Oxfor).
SPD. = Sale’s ‘Preliminary Discourse to the Translation of the Kuran,’ prefixed as Introduction to Wherry’s ‘Commentary on the Kuran,’ 4 Vols. (Trubner, London)
Th. = Maulana Ashraf `Ali Thanvi. (B. 1280 A.H./1864 C.E.). Translator and commentator of the Holy Qur’an
UHW. = Hammerton’s ‘Universal History of the World,’ 8 Vols. (New York).
VJE. = Vallentine’s ‘One Volume Jewish Encyclopedia.’ (London).
WGAL. = Wright’s ‘Grammar of the Arabic Language,’ 2 Vols. (Cambridge).
Zm. = Jar-ul-lah Zamakhsari (D. 538 A.H./1144 C.E.). Commentator of the Holy Qur’an.

_______________________

Abbreviations - General
asws: `Alayhi al‑Salat wa al‑Salam (on him be peace and blessing).
ra: Radi Allahu `anhu/`anha (may Allah be pleased with him/her).
Au.: Author.
Sahihayn: Bukhari and Muslim.
saws: Sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam (May Allah send peace and blessing upon him).
swt: Subhanahu wa Ta`ala (glorified be He, the Exalted).

_______________________

Technical Terms
Da`if: A weak report but not a fabricated one nor entirely untrustworthy. It has some weakness in its text or in its isnad. A kind of hadith, therefore, before which one can place a question mark.
Gharib: That report in which the isnad has a single narrator after the Companion.
Hasan: A da`if report but above in strength over the one classified as da`if. Several da`if versions (unless too weak) render a hadith hasan.
Isnad: Chain of narrators.
Mawquf: A report whose chain of narration stops at a Companion.
Munkar: A kind of da`if hadith that has no other report through any other chain of narrators for a double check.
Mursal: A hadith which has been transmitted directly from the Prophet (saws) by a tabe`i, without a Companion in between Mutawatir: A report by such a large number of narrators whose agreement upon a lie is inconceivable.
Sahih: A trustworthy report.

________________________

Transliteration
The transliteration method used in this work neither conforms to the international standards, nor it has been applied extensively. It is only where it was thought that some confusion might occur that a few marks have been added. However, the method is as follows:
( ث ) is transliterated as "tha" ; ( ح ) as "ha" ; ( ذ ) as "dhal" ; ( ز ) and ( ظ ) both as "za" ; ( ص ) as "sad" ; ( ض ) as "dad" ; ( ع ) as "`ayn" ; and hamza ( ه ) as “ ' “ e.g. Jibra’il.

______________________

Vowels
Vowels have been expressed in the following manner
( ا ) is expressed as "a", so that ( باب ) is written as "bab" ; (و ) is expressed with "u" , as for example ( نون ) is written as "nun"; ( ي ) is expressed with "i", as in the word (سين ) which is written as "sin".

______________________

  • Surah No. 12

     Merits of the Surah

    بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ الر ۚ تِلْكَ آيَاتُ الْكِتَابِ الْمُبِينِ (1)

    12|1| IN THE NAME OF ALLAH, THE KIND, THE COMPASSIONATE.Alif. Lam. Ra. These are verses1 of a clear Book.2

    1. Yusuf Ali writes: “Ayat: Signs and verses of the Qur’an. The whole of Joseph’s story is a Sign or a Miracle, - a wonder-working exposition of the Plan and Purpose of Allah.”
    2. With reference to the textual “mubin”, Asad comments: “The participial adjective “mubin” may denote an attribute of the noun which it qualifies (“clear”, “manifest”, “obvious”, etc.) as well as its function (“making clear” or “manifesting”, i.e., the truth), either of which meanings is dictated by its context. In the consensus of authoritative opinion, both these meanings are comprised in the above instance; consequently, a compound phrase is necessary in order to render the term appropriately.”
    In simpler words, this is a book clear in its intents, purposes, teachings and instructions, allowing for no ambiguity in matters of right and wrong, truth and falsehood, virtue and evil – clear in itself, and making matters pertaining to the guidance, clear (Au.).
    Majid writes: “Contrast this with Christianity which boasts of its ‘mysteries.’ ‘There are three great and fundamental mysteries in the Catholic religion: (1) the Trinity, (2) the Incarnation, (3) the Eucharist; to which Mgr. Kolbe adds that of the Mystical Body of Christ.’ (CD. p. 639).”
    Other religions are no less so. The Jewish religion is so full of mysteries that it is better not to read the Bible at all, since there is no text of which the obvious meaning is, according to its exponents, not the intended meaning. Similarly, completely unapparent to a mind used to rational thinking, but claimed to be of the highest rational order, Hindu literature is again so full of mysteries that the best of minds trying to understand the texts give up within fifteen minutes (Au.).

    إِنَّا أَنْزَلْنَاهُ قُرْآنًا عَرَبِيًّا لَعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ (2)

    12|2| Verily, We have sent it down an Arabic recitation,3 that haply you will ponder.


    3. The fact that this Qur’an has been revealed in the Arabic language makes it imperative for everyone who cares for his religion to learn it. According to Imam Sh afe`i, learning Arabic is an obligation upon every Muslim. As mentioned by Alusi, Ibn Taymiyyah has reported Imam Abu Yusuf as of the opinion that whoever can manage some Arabic ought not to speak in any other language (Au.).
    Majid writes about the power of the Qur’anic Arabic: “Hardly any language seems capable of exercising over the minds of its users such irresistible influence as Arabic ... the triumph of Islam was to a certain extent the triumph of a language, more particularly of a book.’ (Hitti, A Short History of the Arabs, pp.90-91).
    The origin of the language is a mystery. Earnest Renan (1823-1894), who carried out an extensive research on Semitic languages said, “The Arabic language is the most astonishing event of human history. Unknown during the classical period, it suddenly emerged as a complete language. After this, it did not undergo any noticeable change, so one cannot define for it an early or late stage. It is just the same today as it was when it first appeared.”
    Anyone who knows its grammatical structure, and the strict application of the rules to the most ancient Arabic texts, when the art of writing was non-existent, will admit that the language could not have come into being through the normal process of gradual development over several centuries, as has been the case with every other languages. The classical Jahiliyy poetry that the Arab boast about to this day, was not penned down but centuries after the poets were dead. These facts have led some linguists to believe that it is a revealed language. In fact, Hakim has a report from the Prophet that the language was revealed to Isma`il. But some Hadith experts have declared the report da`if and most of the scholars say that Arabic language precedes Isam`il. Also, Arabic of higher literary quality happens to be difficult because of the possibilities of a vast vocabulary, numerously different shades of meaning and nuances, brought to being by countless rules of grammar. Hence Imam Shafe`i’s opinion (as in Alusi) is that no one can master this language except a Prophet. And hence too, the Companions often wondered at the Prophet’s skill in the language. As regards any individual gaining complete mastery over the language, countless Arab linguists will have no hesitation in accepting it as true (Au.).

    نَحْنُ نَقُصُّ عَلَيْكَ أَحْسَنَ الْقَصَصِ بِمَا أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ هَٰذَا الْقُرْآنَ وَإِنْ كُنْتَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِ لَمِنَ الْغَافِلِينَ (3)

    12|3| We narrate to you the most beautiful of stories4 in that We have revealed to you this Qur’an; though you were before it among the unaware.


    4. Qassa in Arabic is to follow. A story is “qissah” since stories are closely followed (pl. qasas) - Zamakhshari, Razi.
    ‘Awn b. ‘Abdullah and others have reported that the Prophet’s companions once complained to him, “We feel bored. Could you tell us a story?” In response, Allah revealed this story (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    Qurtubi adds: Surah Yusuf is the best of stories because it involves all the features of a good story: episodes involving Messengers, Prophets, ordinary men, scheming women, angels, Jinn, animals, birds, kings and their kingdoms, traders, scholars and the laity. In addition, it offers lessons in Tawhid, wisdom, rules of law, interpretation of dreams, politics, administration, political economy, and many other topics of interest.
    It also has several sub-plots woven into it: of those who were envious and those that were envied, the masters and the slaves, witnesses and the witnessed against, lover and the beloved, imprisonment and freedom, famine and abundance, sin and forgiveness, separation and union, sickness and health, honor and disrepute, etc. (Thanwi from Alusi).
    Yusuf Ali writes in his introduction to the Surah: “The story is called the most beautiful of stories for many reasons: (1) it is the most detailed of any in the Qur’an; (2) it is full of human vicissitudes, and has therefore deservedly appealed to men and women of all classes; (3) it paints in vivid colours, with their spiritual implications, the most varied aspect of life - the patriarch’s old age and the confidence behind and his little best-beloved son, the elder brothers’ jealousy of this little son, their plot and their father’s grief, the sale of the father’s darling into slavery for a miserable little price, carnal love contrasted with purity and chastity, false charges, prison, the interpretation of dreams, low life and high life, innocence raised to honour, the sweet “revenge” of Forgiveness and Benevolence, high matters of state and administration, humility in exaltation, filial love, and the beauty of Piety and Truth.
    “The story is similar to but not identical with the Biblical story; but the atmosphere is wholly different. The Biblical story is like a folk-tale in which morality has no place. Its tendency is to exalt the clever and financially-minded Jew against the Egyptian, and to explain certain ethnic and tribal peculiarities in later Jewish history. Joseph is shown as buying up all the cattle and the land of the poor Egyptians for the State under the stress of famine conditions, and making the Israelites “rulers” over Pharaoh’s cattle. The Qur’anic story, on the other hand, is less a narrative than a highly spiritual sermon or allegory explaining the seeming contradictions in life, the enduring nature of virtue in a world full of flux and change, and the marvelous working of Allah’s eternal purpose in His Plan as unfolded to us on the wide canvas of history. This aspect of the matter has been a favourite with Muslim exegetists.”

    إِذْ قَالَ يُوسُفُ لِأَبِيهِ يَا أَبَتِ إِنِّي رَأَيْتُ أَحَدَ عَشَرَ كَوْكَبًا وَالشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ رَأَيْتُهُمْ لِي سَاجِدِينَ (4)

    12|4| When Yusuf5 said to his father,6 ‘O my father. I have seen eleven planets,7 the sun and the moon, I saw them prostrating themselves to me.’8


    5. Bukhari has a report coming through Abu Hurayrah which says that the Prophet (saws) was asked:


    مَنْ أَكْرَمُ النَّاسِ قَالَ أَتْقَاهُمْ فَقَالُوا لَيْسَ عَنْ هَذَا نَسْأَلُكَ قَالَ فَيُوسُفُ نَبِيُّ اللَّهِ ابْنُ نَبِيِّ اللَّهِ ابْنِ نَبِيِّ اللَّهِ ابْنِ خَلِيلِ اللَّهِ قَالُوا لَيْسَ عَنْ هَذَا نَسْأَلُكَ قَالَ فَعَنْ مَعَادِنِ الْعَرَبِ تَسْأَلُونِ خِيَارُهُمْ فِي الْجَاهِلِيَّةِ خِيَارُهُمْ فِي الْإِسْلَامِ إِذَا فَقُهُوا


    “Who is the most honored of men?” He answered, “The most honored of men is the one most fearful of Allah.” They said, “We do not mean him.” the Prophet said, “Then the most honored of men was Yusuf who was the son of a Prophet, whose grandfather was a Prophet and whose great-grandfather was a Prophet and a khalil of Allah (i.e. Yusuf b. Ya`qub, b. Is-h aq b. Ibrahim).” They said, “It is not about him that we inquire.” The Prophet asked, “Perhaps you ask about the Arab tribes?” They said, “Yes.” He said, “The best of you in the pre-Islamic days are the best of you after Islam, provided they acquire understanding (of Islam)” - Ibn Kathir.
    6. “The place where Jacob and his family and his flocks were located was in Canaan, and is shown by tradition near modern Nabulus (ancient Shechem), some thirty miles north of Jerusalem. The traditional site of the well into which Joseph was thrown by his brothers is still shown in the neighborhood” (Yusuf Ali).
    7. We have chosen to translate the word “kawkab” as planets because in all instances the Qur’an has used the word “najm” for stars. Only on two occasions it used the word “kawkab” in the sense of stars, but in both cases it employed its plural form “kawakib.” In fact, in modern Arabic, kawkab is for planet. Hence, “kawkab al-saghir” is “minor planet,” “kawkab al-`ashir” is “the tenth planet.” There could or could not be a connection between the statement and the fact that a tenth planet has just been discovered, being too small and at an extremely great distance beyond Pluto. In addition, an asteroid belt comprising of millions of asteroids exists between Mars (the fourth planet from the sun) and Jupiter. The entire belt circles the sun in the same manner as the planets. According to most of the astronomers this belt is the remnant of a shattered planet. If that theory is correct, then so far, eleven planets are accounted for, although there is every possibility there is no connection (Au.).
    8. Dreams are of three kinds: Observations of the day, replayed by the mind at night, those that are aroused by Satan, and those inspired by Allah (swt). Dreams of the Prophets and Messengers belong to the third category and, for them, they are a kind of revelation (Shafi).
    Qurtubi has a long discourse on the topic. He writes, “Sahih ahadith count a true dream of a believer as being anything between one-forty-sixth and one-seventieth part of prophethood. Depending probably on the person’s commitment to Islam, they vary in proving true from one extreme to another. However, that is for Muslims alone. Occurring to a non-Muslim, they are not any part of prophethood (even if true: Au.). Further, true dreams are shown both ways: either a direct illustration of what is to happen in the future, or expressed symbolically requiring one to figure out the meaning. The Prophet said in a hadith of Muslim:


    رَأَيْتُ امْرَأَةً سَوْدَاءَ ثَائِرَةَ الرَّأْسِ خَرَجَتْ مِنْ الْمَدِينَةِ حَتَّى نَزَلَتْ بِمَهْيَعَةَ فَتَأَوَّلْتُهَا أَنَّ وَبَاءَ الْمَدِينَةِ نُقِلَ إِلَى مَهْيَعَةَ وَهِيَ الْجُحْفَةُ


    “I saw a black (woman) with ruffled hair leaving Madinah heading towards Mahya`ah and alighting there. And I interpreted it as the Madinan fever being transferred to Mahya`ah;” – which is in Juhfa.
    The above is Bukhari’s version (Au.).
    Or, (he said concerning the battle of Uhud),


    رأيت سيفى قد انقطع صدره وبقرا تنحر فأولتها رجل من أهل بيتى يقتل والبقر نفر من أصحابي يقتلون


    “I saw (in a dream) that the front portion of my sword is broken and a cow is slaughtered. I interpreted it to mean that one of my kinsmen will be killed. By the slaughter of the cow the meaning I drew is that I will lose a few of my Companions.”
    The above hadith could not be traced in Hadith collections in exactly the same words, but differently worded and as part of longer ahadith (Au.).
    He also said (on another occasion),


    إِنِّى رَأَيْتُ أَنِّى فِى دِرْعٍ حَصِينَةٍ فَأَوَّلْتُهَا الْمَدِينَةَ


    “I saw myself in a coat of mail and interpreted it as Madinah.”
    The above is in Ahmad, declared Hasan.
    And,


    بَيْنَمَا أَنَا نَائِمٌ رَأَيْتُ فِي يَدَيَّ سِوَارَيْنِ مِنْ ذَهَبٍ فَأَهَمَّنِي شَأْنُهُمَا فَأُوحِيَ إِلَيَّ فِي الْمَنَامِ أَنْ انْفُخْهُمَا فَنَفَخْتُهُمَا فَطَارَا فَأَوَّلْتُهُمَا كَذَّابَيْنِ يَخْرُجَانِ بَعْدِي


    “While I was asleep I saw two golden bangles in my hands. That worried me a little. Then it was revealed to me in a dream that I am blowing at the two and they blew away. I interpreted it as two liars who will appear after me (claiming prophethood).”
    The above is Bukhari’s version (Au.).
    Sometimes dreams come true quickly, but others take a long time to reveal their true meaning, as in Yusuf’s case. Also, true dreams may forebode both good as well as evil. Imam Malik has said, “Let no one interpret dreams except he who can do it accurately. As for the interpreter thinks there is something good in it, let him interpret it. But if he feels something evil is involved, let him stay silent and say something suitable.” He was asked, “Should he interpret what he thinks as evil, as good in some way?” Malik replied, “No. A true dream is one-forty-sixth part of prophethood. So, let it not be played with.” The Prophet said,

     

    لَمْ يَبْقَ مِنْ مُبَشِّرَاتِ النُّبُوَّةِ إِلاَّ الرُّؤْيَا الصَّالِحَةُ يَرَاهَا الْمُسْلِمُ أَوْ تُرَى لَهُ


    “Nothing remains now of the glad tidings of Prophethood except good dreams that a Muslim sees, or he is shown.”
    The above is from Muslim (Au.).
    They come as a premonition in order that the believer is prepared for them. Imam Shafe`i saw a dream in Egypt about Ahmad ibn Hanbal indicating that he would be put to tests. He wrote to him (in Iraq) so that he could prepare himself for the forthcoming events. The harm from true evil dreams, however, even if foreboding evil, can be avoided by seeking Allah’s protection as soon as one wakes up. (This is because some of Allah’s decrees are hung in balance [qada’ mu`allaq]: they may go either way: good or evil. When one seeks Allah’s protection, the decree may go the other way: Shafi`). Bukhari has reported Abu Salamah that sometimes he experienced dreams that made him sick until he heard Abu Qatadah report the Prophet’s words that the evil of bad dreams could be warded off by spitting three times on the left and seeking Allah’s protection. Abu Qatadah himself paid no heed whatsoever to the bad dreams after he had heard the above from the Prophet. If they bother someone too much, he might get up and start to Pray, as is recommended by a hadith (Qurtubi).

    قَالَ يَا بُنَيَّ لَا تَقْصُصْ رُؤْيَاكَ عَلَىٰ إِخْوَتِكَ فَيَكِيدُوا لَكَ كَيْدًا ۖ إِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ لِلْإِنْسَانِ عَدُوٌّ مُبِينٌ (5)

    12|5| He said, ‘O my son. Reveal not this dream to your brothers,9 lest they devise against you some plot.10 Surely, Shaytan is man’s open enemy.11


    9. Dreams being everyone’s share, the following from the Prophet should be of general interest. He said (in a hadith of Abu Da’ud, Ibn Majah and Ahmad):


    إِذَا رَأَى أَحَدُكُمْ رُؤْيَا يُحِبُّهَا فَإِنَّمَا هِيَ مِنْ اللَّهِ فَلْيَحْمَدْ اللَّهَ عَلَيْهَا وَلْيُحَدِّثْ بِهَا وَإِذَا رَأَى غَيْرَ ذَلِكَ مِمَّا يَكْرَهُ فَإِنَّمَا هِيَ مِنْ الشَّيْطَانِ فَلْيَسْتَعِذْ مِنْ شَرِّهَا وَلَا يَذْكُرْهَا لِأَحَدٍ فَإِنَّهَا لَا تَضُرُّهُ


    “When one of you sees something pleasant in a dream, he might speak about it to others. But if he sees something unpleasant, let him turn to the other side (on his bed) and spit thrice towards his left, seek Allah’s protection and speak to no one about it, for that might cause him harm.”
    The above is from Bukhari (Au.).
    In another hadith of the same sources he said,


    الرُّؤْيَا عَلَى رِجْلِ طَائِرٍ مَا لَمْ تُعَبَّرْ فَإِذَا عُبِّرَتْ وَقَعَتْ


    “A dream is a flying object: so long as it is not interpreted. Once interpreted, it has to happen that way.”
    The above report was declared Sahih by Albani (Au.).
    Hence, adds Qurtubi (as also Ibn Kathir), the rule is that one might conceal an on-coming good thing until it becomes perceptible to all. This is confirmed by a hadith which says,


    اسْتَعِينُوا عَلَى إِنْجَاحِ حَوَائِجِكُمْ بِالْكِتْمَانِ ، فَإِنَّ كُلَّ ذِي نِعْمَةٍ مَحْسُودٌ


    “Seek to bring your affairs to good termination by concealing them. For, every blessed man is envied.”
    The above is in Jami` Saghir but declared as weak by Munawi (Au.).
    What is meant however is undue display, or to brag about it; and not secrecy and concealment since, according to a well known hadith, when Allah bestows a blessing on someone, He wishes to see its effects on him. So, one might tread the middle path between high level secrecy on the one side and show-off on the other (Au.).
    10. Being sons of a Prophet, they would have surely interpreted the dream correctly, viz., by the planets it was they who symbolized – meaning, they faced subservience to Yusuf some time in the future - and so were filled with jealousy that led to machinations (Thanwi).
    11. Yusuf (asws) did learn from his father’s instructions. His brothers treated him badly, but when, after several years he got the upper hand over them and reminded them about what they had done to them, he ended by saying (in verse 100), “He (Allah) was indeed good to me when He brought me out of the prison and brought you out of the desert after Shaytan had stirred (strife) between me and my brothers” (from Manar). That is, instead of blaming them, he laid the blame on Shaytan (Au.).
    12. According to the classical scholars, the allusion is both to the interpretation of dreams as well as to the words of wisdom in ordinary talk (Ibn Jarir).

    لَقَدْ كَانَ فِي يُوسُفَ وَإِخْوَتِهِ آيَاتٌ لِلسَّائِلِينَ (7)

    12|7| Surely, in Yusuf and his brothers there are signs for the inquiring (minds).13


    13. Ibn Is-haq has said that when the Prophet felt hurt at the antagonistic attitude adopted by some of his kinsmen to his mission, Allah revealed this chapter to console him that there is a lesson for him in this story (Ibn Jarir).

    إِذْ قَالُوا لَيُوسُفُ وَأَخُوهُ أَحَبُّ إِلَىٰ أَبِينَا مِنَّا وَنَحْنُ عُصْبَةٌ إِنَّ أَبَانَا لَفِي ضَلَالٍ مُبِينٍ (8)

    12|8| When they said (among themselves), ‘Indeed, Yusuf and his brother14 are dearer to our father than we, while we are a goodly body.15 Surely, our father is in a manifest error.


    14. They meant Yusuf and Bin Yamin who were both from the same mother (Ibn Jarir).
    15. They were ten in number, by another of Ya`qub’s wives (Ibn Jarir).
    Mawdudi explains: “For a better understanding of this statement, one should bear in mind the material conditions of nomadic, tribal societies. Such a society is usually devoid of any organized state, and generally consists of a number of independent tribes that live side by side. In such a society, a man’s strength depends entirely on the number of his supporters, and these consist of his sons, grandsons, brothers and nephews. These members of a family are extremely important since a person depends only upon them in the event of an attack upon his person’s property and honor.”

    اقْتُلُوا يُوسُفَ أَوِ اطْرَحُوهُ أَرْضًا يَخْلُ لَكُمْ وَجْهُ أَبِيكُمْ وَتَكُونُوا مِنْ بَعْدِهِ قَوْمًا صَالِحِينَ (9)

    12|9| Slay Yusuf or cast him into some place so that your father’s favor is freed for you alone. Thereafter, you could become a righteous lot.’16


    16. That is, you can always repent and lead a righteous life there onward (Suddi: Ibn Jarir).
    Mawdudi again: “This statement reflects the psychological make-up of those who, even when vigorously pursue their desires, still make an effort to maintain some relationship with faith and righteousness. Such people seem to have a peculiar way of conciliating between their responses to the demands of righteousness on the one hand, and of self-indulgence on the other.”

    قَالَ قَائِلٌ مِنْهُمْ لَا تَقْتُلُوا يُوسُفَ وَأَلْقُوهُ فِي غَيَابَتِ الْجُبِّ يَلْتَقِطْهُ بَعْضُ السَّيَّارَةِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ فَاعِلِينَ (10)

    12|10| Said one of those who spoke, ‘Do not kill Yusuf. (Instead), cast him into the bottom of a well17 (from where) someone of the travelers might pick him up18 - if you must do (it).’


    17. “Jubb” is that well which has no parapet or wall around it (Shafi`).
    18. Qurtubi discusses “Lost and Found” rules in Islam: If it is a human being, he is free (and cannot be picked up and enslaved). If it is something material, the following hadith helps. A Bedouin asked the Prophet about the things one finds:


    اعْرِفْ عِفَاصَهَا وَوِكَاءَهَا ، ثُمَّ عَرِّفْهَا سَنَةً فَإِنْ جَاءَ صَاحِبُهَا وَإِلا فَشَأْنَكَ بِهَا ، قَالَ : فُضَالَةُ الْغَنَمِ ؟ قَالَ : لَكَ أَوْ لأَخِيكَ أَوْ لِلذِّئْبِ قَالَ : فُضَالَةُ الإِبِلِ ؟ قَالَ : مَعَهَا حِذَاؤُهَا وَسِقَاؤُهَا تَرِدُ الْمَاءَ وَتَأْكُلُ الشَّجَرَ حَتَّى يَلْقَاهَا رَبُّهَا


    “What about things that we find?” He replied, “Announce about them for a year describing them in full. If there is no claimant, they are yours.” He asked, “What about goats, sheep etc.?” He replied, “They are either for you, or for your brother (who lost them) or for the wolves (if you do not pick them up. So, better pick them up).” The man asked, “And camels?” He replied, “Camels? What do you have to do with camels? (If you find one), let it alone, feeding itself until its master finds it.”
    The freely translated hadith is in Muslim (Au.).

    قَالُوا يَا أَبَانَا مَا لَكَ لَا تَأْمَنَّا عَلَىٰ يُوسُفَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَنَاصِحُونَ (11)

    12|11| They spoke to their father, ‘O our father! What is it with you that you do not trust us with Yusuf while we are his sincere well-wishers?


    أَرْسِلْهُ مَعَنَا غَدًا يَرْتَعْ وَيَلْعَبْ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ (12)

    12|12| Send him with us tomorrow to frolic19 and play. We shall surely be watching over him.’


    19. Although one possible interpretation of the original “yarta`” is to shepherd, the great majority have treated it in the sense of “frolic” (Ibn Jarir).

    قَالَ إِنِّي لَيَحْزُنُنِي أَنْ تَذْهَبُوا بِهِ وَأَخَافُ أَنْ يَأْكُلَهُ الذِّئْبُ وَأَنْتُمْ عَنْهُ غَافِلُونَ (13)

    12|13| He replied, ‘It saddens me to think that you should take him with you.20 I fear a wolf might eat him off while you are heedless of him.’


    20. Ya`qub (asws) was so much in love with Yusuf that he could not bear to part company with him even for a couple of hours (based on Ibn Kathir).

    قَالُوا لَئِنْ أَكَلَهُ الذِّئْبُ وَنَحْنُ عُصْبَةٌ إِنَّا إِذًا لَخَاسِرُونَ (14)

    12|14| They protested, ‘If a wolf should eat him off while we are a goodly body, then, surely we are the losers.’


    فَلَمَّا ذَهَبُوا بِهِ وَأَجْمَعُوا أَنْ يَجْعَلُوهُ فِي غَيَابَتِ الْجُبِّ ۚ وَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْهِ لَتُنَبِّئَنَّهُمْ بِأَمْرِهِمْ هَٰذَا وَهُمْ لَا يَشْعُرُونَ (15)

    12|15| So, when they took him with them and agreed to place him in the bottom of a well,21 We revealed unto him that (one day) you will remind them of this their deed, while they would be unaware (of your identity).22


    21. “The well was apparently a dry well, deep enough to prevent his coming out, but with no water in which he could be drowned” (Yousuf Ali).
    22. This was the wahiyy by ilham (inspirational revelation) - Rashid Rida at verse 38 below.

    وَجَاءُوا أَبَاهُمْ عِشَاءً يَبْكُونَ (16)

    12|16| And they went to their father by the night, weeping.23


    23. To resort to tears is a good instrument of escape. Zamakhshari records that once when Qadi Shurayh had ruled against a woman, she began to cry. Sha`bi reproached him saying, “Can you not see that the woman is weeping?” Shurayh told him, “Yusuf’s brothers also went to their father weeping. One should judge in the light of the Qur’an and Sunnah alone.”
    In a recent American case involving rape, the jury was much moved by the supposed victim who cried before them during the cross examination, although she, a white woman, could give no explanation to how she happened to be in a hotel room, deep in the night, with the supposed assaulter, a black famous boxer. The man was jailed for several years (Au.).

    قَالُوا يَا أَبَانَا إِنَّا ذَهَبْنَا نَسْتَبِقُ وَتَرَكْنَا يُوسُفَ عِنْدَ مَتَاعِنَا فَأَكَلَهُ الذِّئْبُ ۖ وَمَا أَنْتَ بِمُؤْمِنٍ لَنَا وَلَوْ كُنَّا صَادِقِينَ (17)

    12|17| They said, ‘O our father! We went out racing with each other24 leaving Yusuf with our belongings, and a wolf ate him up. But you will never believe in us, even if we were truthful.’


    24. Without the involvement of betting, racing is allowed in Islam. The Companions used to race among themselves. The Prophet also ran races with `A’isha, won and lost. He also allowed racing of camels. Once his famous fast camel Qadba’, which no camel could overtake, was beaten in a race by a bedouin’s camel. The Companions were saddened. He remarked, “It is binding on Allah that whatever rises high in this world must be brought down.” ‘Umar has said that in races involving beasts, their owners should be riding them (Qurtubi).

    وَجَاءُوا عَلَىٰ قَمِيصِهِ بِدَمٍ كَذِبٍ ۚ قَالَ بَلْ سَوَّلَتْ لَكُمْ أَنْفُسُكُمْ أَمْرًا ۖ فَصَبْرٌ جَمِيلٌ ۖ وَاللَّهُ الْمُسْتَعَانُ عَلَىٰ مَا تَصِفُونَ (18)

    12|18| And they brought him his shirt with false blood. He said, ‘Rather, your minds have concocted a story.25 So, a graceful patience.26 And, it is Allah whose help is sought over what you describe.’


    25. He said that because, even though the shirt was drenched in blood, it was not torn from any place (Ibn Jarir).
    26. According to reports coming down through Ibn abi Jabalah, “sabrun jamil” is defined as one which is not followed by complaints (before the creation) - Ibn Jarir. But the report is weak (Ibn Kathir).

    وَجَاءَتْ سَيَّارَةٌ فَأَرْسَلُوا وَارِدَهُمْ فَأَدْلَىٰ دَلْوَهُ ۖ قَالَ يَا بُشْرَىٰ هَٰذَا غُلَامٌ ۚ وَأَسَرُّوهُ بِضَاعَةً ۚ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ بِمَا يَعْمَلُونَ (19)

    12|19| And a caravan arrived. They sent a carrier. He let down his bucket. He exclaimed, ‘Good news. Here is a young lad.’ And they concealed him as a merchandise27 while Allah was aware of what they were doing.


    27. One opinion of the Salaf on this passage is that it were Yusuf’s brothers who concealed the fact that he was their brother. Yusuf himself did not speak out because he was afraid that if his rescuers let him go, his brothers will murder him. Another opinion, and that preferred by the great majority, is that his rescuers concealed the fact from the co-travelers that they had found him in a well. They feared that in that event they would have to share with them the price. Instead, they made out a story that they had been given the boy by his owners as a merchandise, to be sold whenever a good price came (Ibn Jarir).

    وَشَرَوْهُ بِثَمَنٍ بَخْسٍ دَرَاهِمَ مَعْدُودَةٍ وَكَانُوا فِيهِ مِنَ الزَّاهِدِينَ (20)

    12|20| And they sold him out for a paltry price - a few coins.28 They were of those concerning him, content with little.


    28. The agreed opinion - including that of Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid and Dahhak, is that after identifying Yusuf as one of their slaves on the run, his brothers (who had been watching the scene from a distance: Shabbir and others) sold him out to the water carrier(s) for a paltry price (They being “of those concerning him content with little”). The buyers themselves however, concealed the fact of purchase spinning the story that they had received him from his owners at the waters as a merchandise to be sold and profits shared (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).

    وَقَالَ الَّذِي اشْتَرَاهُ مِنْ مِصْرَ لِامْرَأَتِهِ أَكْرِمِي مَثْوَاهُ عَسَىٰ أَنْ يَنْفَعَنَا أَوْ نَتَّخِذَهُ وَلَدًا ۚ وَكَذَٰلِكَ مَكَّنَّا لِيُوسُفَ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلِنُعَلِّمَهُ مِنْ تَأْوِيلِ الْأَحَادِيثِ ۚ وَاللَّهُ غَالِبٌ عَلَىٰ أَمْرِهِ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ (21)

    12|21| Said he who purchased him in Egypt29 to his wife,30 ‘Make his stay (with us) honorable. He may well be of use to us, or we may adopt him as a son.’31 Thus We established Yusuf in the land so that We might teach him interpretation of the discourses;32 and Allah is the Prevailer in His affairs but most people know not.33


    29. Ibn Is-h aq and others have said that the man who purchased Yusuf was known as Qitfir (Heb. Pothiphar), childless and probably a eunuch, Minister of finance under the king Rayyan of the `Amalique (Amalekites) - Ibn Jarir. Majid quotes, “‘Potiphar literally means eunuch as well as ‘court-official’, the most important offices having been in the Ancient Orient in the hands of royal slaves who were often eunuchs’ (Ebi. c. 3813).”
    It has been pointed out by socme scholars however, that in Hieroglyphics, the ancient Egyptian system of pictorial writing, the word Poti-pher meant, the favored one of God, which sounds closer to the Qur’anic Al-`Aziz (Au.).
    30. Although anyone has as good a chance as another for being correct, the several names of the ‘Aziz’s wife as reported are Zulaykha, Zalikha and Rahil (Rachael) - [Au.]
    Sayyid adds, “The fact that the `Aziz wished to adopt him as a son leads us to believe that his marriage had past its peak and he had lost all hopes of getting a son through his wife. There is another indication in the Qur’an that his woman was at least above thirty of age, and in turn indicating that their fruitless marriage was pretty old. It is in the words of the Egyptian ladies who said, “‘Aziz’s wife seeks to seduce her page” (verse 30),” where the word “fata” (translated by us as page: Au.), could be in the sense of “boy”, meaning, an older woman seeks to seduce a lad.
    31. Majid comments and quotes, “The officer and his wife were childless. Assuming that the husband was an eunuch, the need for adoption was obvious. `Cases are on record, in both ancient and modern times, of eunuchs being married’ (DB. IV, p. 23).”
    32. Discourses include dreams (Ibn Jarir).
    33. That is, although for all practical purposes Yusuf was in slavery, but the situation he was in was very conducive to the role he was being readied to play as a Prophet and an administrator. Belonging to a shepherd family, having never witnessed an organized state, and, consequently, completely unaware of the rules and principles of administration of a ministry, he needed to be positioned in a highly placed minister’s palace managing all his affairs, including finance, perhaps in close co-ordination with the state’s treasury, affording him an exceptional environment to develop his potent abilities. However, he could not have, from that position, become a vizier: being a foreigner. That required his moral and spiritual superiority to be proven whose passage lay through the prison, entry into which was facilitated by the intrigues of the `Aziz’s household. What human could have designed such a complicated course and assured success? Note Allah’s words in the verse under discussion, “Allah is the Prevailer in His affairs but most people know not” (Au.).

    وَلَمَّا بَلَغَ أَشُدَّهُ آتَيْنَاهُ حُكْمًا وَعِلْمًا ۚ وَكَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِي الْمُحْسِنِينَ (22)

    12|22| Accordingly, when he had reached manhood, We bestowed him judgment and knowledge. That is how We reward those who excel.


    وَرَاوَدَتْهُ الَّتِي هُوَ فِي بَيْتِهَا عَنْ نَفْسِهِ وَغَلَّقَتِ الْأَبْوَابَ وَقَالَتْ هَيْتَ لَكَ ۚ قَالَ مَعَاذَ اللَّهِ ۖ إِنَّهُ رَبِّي أَحْسَنَ مَثْوَايَ ۖ إِنَّهُ لَا يُفْلِحُ الظَّالِمُونَ (23)

    12|23| Now, she, in whose house he was, sought to seduce him.34 She bolted the doors and said, “Come on - unto you (I say)!”35 He said, “Allah’s refuge. Surely, he, my lord36 has provided me with a goodly lodging. And, surely, the evil-doers will not prosper.


    34. The form of the verb employed in “raawadat” implies repeated entreaties (Au.).
    35. According to a report in Bukhari, Ibn `Abbas said that the original “hayta luck” has come into Arabic usage from the Hawrani language (Ibn Kathir).
    36. Suddi, Mujahid and Ibn Nujayh have said that by saying “my lord,” Yusuf alluded to the `Aziz (Ibn Jarir). Most commentators of the past have treated the word in this sense. Such titles were allowed in olden times, but stand disallowed now, in the religion of Islamic strict monotheism. The Prophet has said, “Let no slave address his master as ‘my lord’” (Shafi`).
    Although the possibility exists that Yusuf meant Allah when he said “rabbi,” but the usage as expressed in the translation and backed by the opinion of the Salaf, is not unusual in the Qur’an. In this very chapter it has used the word “rabbika” (your lord) in verse 42 alluding to the king, as also in verse 50.

    وَلَقَدْ هَمَّتْ بِهِ ۖ وَهَمَّ بِهَا لَوْلَا أَنْ رَأَىٰ بُرْهَانَ رَبِّهِ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ لِنَصْرِفَ عَنْهُ السُّوءَ وَالْفَحْشَاءَ ۚ إِنَّهُ مِنْ عِبَادِنَا الْمُخْلَصِينَ (24)

    12|24| She had decidedly desired after him, and he too (would have) desired after her37 had he not seen the signs of his Lord.38 That is how (We helped him) so as to turn away from him evil and indecency. Verily, he was one of Our chosen slaves.


    37. The rendering follows Qurtubi’s explanation who demonstrates that the two “hamma” of the original have been used in different senses. The introduction of the article “qad” preceding the “hamma” of Aziz’s wife and its absence before that of Yusuf, makes for the difference which we have tried to reflect in the translation. Razi, Alusi and Shabbir have also pointed out the difference between the two “hamma(s)”.
    Imam Ahmad has said that of “hamm” there are two kinds: (i) hamm of khatarat (passing thoughts) and (ii) hamm of israr (firm idea). Yusuf’s hamm was of the khatarat type, which he withdrew, and so was rewarded for a good act, and not questionable thereof, whereas that of the woman was of the israr type (Al-Mustadrak `ala fatawa Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Qasim, p. 127).
    38. The translation herewith follows the common understanding. Ibn Jarir traces dozens of narrations coming down from Ibn `Abbas that Yusuf, after having removed his clothes, was actually on the verge of committing the act - (so far allowed by Allah in order to demonstrate to him his place as a human being) - when, at the final moments Allah showed him some sign, or a kind of warning, he desisted. (However, there is no hadith to this effect).
    And, although Ibn Jarir rules out any other interpretation, Ibn Kathir treats it as unworthy of consideration. He appears to believe that it was only a passing thought on the part of Yusuf and no more (similar to a fasting man’s thought of food and drink without any intention to break the fast: Alusi).
    Shawkani departs from his usual habit of relying on narrations from the Salaf, and explains the text as meaning that Yusuf had almost made up his mind when he was shown a sign from his Lord after which he refused to budge from his mental position of refusal.
    Zamakhshari comes down heavily on the classical interpretation, pointing that the traditional interpretation does not match with Allah’s words who said about Yusuf, “He was one of our chosen slaves.” He explains further, (in the words of Asad) that “the moral significance of ‘virtue’ consists in one’s inner victory over a wrongful desire, and not in the absence of such a desire.” Imam Razi is with Zamakhshari.
    The scene of the episode, as constructed here also does not allow for room to believe that Yusuf would have committed what is alleged in the reports. The fact that he had his clothes on when the master encountered the two at the door discredits the report, which needs to be subjected to a thorough authenticity-check before any further discussion (Au.).
    As regards the sign that Yusuf saw, some say he saw his father’s image - Ya`qub - biting his fingers, while others say he heard his voice chiding him.
    There are several other opinions but none backed by a hadith (Au.).
    Commenting upon the “kashf” of Yusuf, consisting in he seeing his father Ya`qub, Sufi Ashraf Ali Thanwi warns of the untrustworthiness of kashf, and also, that it is not the miracle of the person appearing in a kashf on occasions of report. In this case, if the story is true, Ya`qub (asws) had no knowledge of himself appearing before Yusuf at the moment the thought passed through his mind, and seeing him, he dismissed the thought. It may be noted that Ya`qub had no idea until then that Yusuf was in Egypt. So, it was Allah’s doing, that, without any information to Ya`qub, Yusuf was shown his image. In this connection, Thanwi points out (in Ashraf al-Tafasir) that he could recall that Mawlana Muhammad Ya`qub (an Indian Sufi and scholar) reported that once when he was in a certain problematic situation, he heard Haji (Imdadullah Muhajir Makki) Sahib’s voice telling him that he should attempt the affair in a particular way. He later remarked, “But I was sure that it was not the voice of Haji Imdadullah, because he definitely had no knowledge of his situation.” Similarly, someone mentioned to Sayyid Ahmad Barelawi that when he had lost his way in the forest, it was he (Ahmad Barelawi) who showed him the way. But Sayyid Ahmad strongly refused that it was he. He said, “I never knew that you were in a forest on that day. It seems Allah sent someone in my figure, to show you the way.” These events demonstrate, says Thanwi after quoting them, that Allah uses the images of his servants whenever He wishes, without those servants knowing anything about it.”

    وَاسْتَبَقَا الْبَابَ وَقَدَّتْ قَمِيصَهُ مِنْ دُبُرٍ وَأَلْفَيَا سَيِّدَهَا لَدَى الْبَابِ ۚ قَالَتْ مَا جَزَاءُ مَنْ أَرَادَ بِأَهْلِكَ سُوءًا إِلَّا أَنْ يُسْجَنَ أَوْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ (25)

    12|25| They raced to the door and she tore his shirt from the rear. They encountered her master at the door. She said, ‘What can be the punishment for him who cast evil design on your wife, but that he should be imprisoned or (receive) a painful chastisement?’39


    39. Visualizing the scene should not tax the mind. Nonetheless, Yusuf Ali offers help: “With his master’s wife in her mad passion, the situation became intolerable, and Joseph made for the door. She ran after him to detain him. She tugged at his garment to detain him. As he was retreating, she could only catch hold of the back of his shirt, and in the struggle she tore it. He was determined to open the door and leave the place, as it was useless to argue with her in her mad passion. When the door was opened, it so happened, that the `Aziz was not far off. We need not assume that he was spying, or had any suspicion either of his wife or Joseph. In his narrow limited way he was a just man. We can imagine his wife’s consternation. One guilt leads to another. She had to resort to a lie, not only to justify herself but also to have her revenge on the man who had scorned her love. Slighted love (of the physical kind) made her ferocious, and she lost all sense of right and wrong.”

    قَالَ هِيَ رَاوَدَتْنِي عَنْ نَفْسِي ۚ وَشَهِدَ شَاهِدٌ مِنْ أَهْلِهَا إِنْ كَانَ قَمِيصُهُ قُدَّ مِنْ قُبُلٍ فَصَدَقَتْ وَهُوَ مِنَ الْكَاذِبِينَ (26)

    12|26| He protested, ‘It was she who desired after me.’ A witness of her household testified,40 ‘If his shirt is torn from the front then she spoke the truth and he is of the liars.


    40. Although several scholars of the past were of the opinion that it was an infant who testified, with a hadith also coming down to that effect, (but which Albani declared weak), another opinion that has come from Ibn `Abbas, `Ikrimah, Muj ahid, Sa`id b. Jubayr, Suddi and others, as in Ibn Jarir, is that it was a grown up man, a member of the household who had made the suggestion (Au.).
    Sufi Thanwi is reported in Ashraf al-Tafasir that, going by this ayah (no. 27), Ibn Taymiyyah believed that a person could be punished on the basis of circumstantial evidences. But Thanwi disagreed with two other verses of the Qur’an: (i) “Do not indulge in what you have no knowledge of “ (17: 36) and, (ii) “So, when they did not bring the witnesses, then it is they indeed who are liars in the sight of Allah” (24: 13).

    وَإِنْ كَانَ قَمِيصُهُ قُدَّ مِنْ دُبُرٍ فَكَذَبَتْ وَهُوَ مِنَ الصَّادِقِينَ (27)

    12|27| But if the shirt is torn from the rear, then she lied and he is of the truthful (ones).’


    فَلَمَّا رَأَىٰ قَمِيصَهُ قُدَّ مِنْ دُبُرٍ قَالَ إِنَّهُ مِنْ كَيْدِكُنَّ ۖ إِنَّ كَيْدَكُنَّ عَظِيمٌ (28)

    12|28| When he (the husband) saw that the shirt was torn from the back he said, ‘Surely this is one of your guiles (O womankind). Verily, awesome is your guile.41


    41. The Western world does not seem to have been very kind on women. The following from Majid can be offered in evidence. He writes: “Notice that this is not the dictum of Islam, but an observation of Potiphar - a view that has found favour with many non-Muslim savants and writers. ‘Nature has not destined them, as the weaker sex, to be dependent on strength, but on cunning; that is why they are instinctively crafty, and have an ineradicable tendency to lie.’ (Schopenhauer, Essays, p. 66). See also P.III, n. 178. Compare the following Buddhistic aphorism: ‘Inscrutable as the way of a fish in water is, the nature of women, those thieves of many devices, with whom truth is hard to find.’ (ERE. V. p. 271) Compare also the observations of modern Western writers: ‘Everyone is acquainted with instances from life or from history of women whose quick and cunning ruses have saved lover or husband or child... It is inevitable, and results from the constitution of women, acting in the conditions under which they are generally placed.’ (Havelock Ellis, Man and Woman, p. 196). ‘... from folklore and myth, from national proverbs and traditions, and from the text-books of the oldest religions, therefore, we learn that woman is two-faced, or false, or treacherous, or disloyal... (Ludovici, The Woman, p. 304) ‘Women’s tendency to ruse and deception is a constant, positive and life-promoting instinct.’ (P. 307, n.) ‘Finally, among the great thinkers of Europe who have held the view that women are indifferent to truth, and incapable of rectitude, I would further mention Rousseau, Diderot, La Bruyere, and that great genius Kant.’ (P. 320 n.) Another notable observer, Mr. Ingleby Oddit, London Coroner for twenty-seven years, only so recently as December 1939 summed up his age-long experience in regard to the veracity of women in the following words: “I have come to the conclusion that most women are simply born liars and ca help themselves. I have seen women stand up in front of men and give the most detailed and precise information, every word of which has been a lie.’ (The Sunday Express, 17th Dec. 1939).”
    A little above, Majid also quotes: “‘Lombroso and Ferrero actually regard deception as being “physiological” in women. They ascribe it to her weakness ... to her periodical functional disturbance .. they advance the testimony of such acute psychologists as Flaubert, Balzac, Zola, Schopenhauer, Weininger, Moliere, to support their contention that in woman lying is instinctive. We might add Shakespeare, Luther, Byron, Nietzsche, La Bruyere, and many others to the list.’ (Ludovici, Woman A Vindication, p. 281).”
    We might once again emphasize as we have done earlier in this work, (ref., Al-Baqarah, note 607), that the above are entirely the opinions of Western scholars and writers, who seem to hold a unanimous opinion about women’s tendency to lie. There is nothing in the Qur’an or Sunnah, however, to support these views. In fact, the Qur’an explicitly (24: 23), and the Sunnah by implication, confirm the natural simplicity of Muslim women. As regards the hadith about they getting the better of males with the help of their guile, that could be true with reference to their sexual prowess and clever ways of achieving their objectives, about which there can be no two opinions (Au.).

    يُوسُفُ أَعْرِضْ عَنْ هَٰذَا ۚ وَاسْتَغْفِرِي لِذَنْبِكِ ۖ إِنَّكِ كُنْتِ مِنَ الْخَاطِئِينَ (29)

    12|29| Yusuf, let this pass. (As for you, O woman), Seek forgiveness for your misdemeanor.42 Surely, you were of those who commit error.’43


    42. That is, seek forgiveness from Yusuf for the moral failure (Ibn Zayd - Ibn Jarir), “the implication being,” adds Asad, “that the husband was prepared to forgive and forget.”
    43. Perhaps the `Aziz had few alternatives to hushing down the whole issue (Au.).

    وَقَالَ نِسْوَةٌ فِي الْمَدِينَةِ امْرَأَتُ الْعَزِيزِ تُرَاوِدُ فَتَاهَا عَنْ نَفْسِهِ ۖ قَدْ شَغَفَهَا حُبًّا ۖ إِنَّا لَنَرَاهَا فِي ضَلَالٍ مُبِينٍ (30)

    12|30| And, said the women of the town, ‘The wife of `Aziz’s desires after her page.44 He has smitten her with love.45 We see her in clear error.’


    44. To fall in love with a mere slave must have been thought a matter of idignity by the aristocratic class (Au.).
    Note the use of the present and future tense rather than past tense in the words, “seeks to,” meaning, that the woman had not given up the idea altogether (Ibn al-Qayyim). Also see Sayyid’s remark above under note 30.
    45. Majid comments, “i.e., she has been completely infatuated by him, she has fallen so low as to attach herself to her own servant.”
    46. One of the probable explanations for the use of the word “makr” is that the Egyptian ladies carried the same sentiments for Yusuf but outwardly criticized Zulaykha. Another is that having heard the stories of his incredible beauty, they wished to see the man who was probably ordinarily kept out of sight (Shawkani, Shabbir). Indeed, aware of his own irresistible beauty, Yusuf could have been in the habit of keeping himself out of public sight (Au.).
    Another possibility is that Zulaykha confided to them her infatuation for Yusuf, but they spread the story (Baghawi).

    فَلَمَّا سَمِعَتْ بِمَكْرِهِنَّ أَرْسَلَتْ إِلَيْهِنَّ وَأَعْتَدَتْ لَهُنَّ مُتَّكَأً وَآتَتْ كُلَّ وَاحِدَةٍ مِنْهُنَّ سِكِّينًا وَقَالَتِ اخْرُجْ عَلَيْهِنَّ ۖ فَلَمَّا رَأَيْنَهُ أَكْبَرْنَهُ وَقَطَّعْنَ أَيْدِيَهُنَّ وَقُلْنَ حَاشَ لِلَّهِ مَا هَٰذَا بَشَرًا إِنْ هَٰذَا إِلَّا مَلَكٌ كَرِيمٌ (31)

    12|31| When she came to know of their guile,46 she sent for them and prepared for them a banquet47 giving each one of them a knife. Then she ordered, ‘Enter upon them (O Yusuf).’ When they saw him they extolled him and cut their hands.48 They said, ‘Allah’s refuge.49 This is no mortal. This surely is a noble angel.’50


    47. The translation follows one opinion. Another opinion is that “muttaki’” alludes to cushions. Both the meanings have come from the Salaf. Some of them have read it as “mutkan” meaning, “utrunj” (citrus fruit: Middle-eastern orange) - Au.
    48. In a Sahih report the Prophet said, recalling his seeing Yusuf in the heavens during his Night Journey and Ascension, “I encountered Yusuf in the third heaven,”


    إِذَا هُوَ قَدْ أُعْطِىَ شَطْرَ الْحُسْنِ


    “He was given one half of (all) beauty.”
    According to another report coming through Anas, Allah distributed one half of (all) beauty among Yusuf and his mother, and the other half among the rest of the mankind. It is also reported that Yusuf used to veil his face from fear of causing pandemonium, especially among women. Suhayli has explained that what the hadith means to say is that Yusuf was given one half of the beauty given to Adam whom Allah had created with His hands and who was the most beautiful of the creatures ever (Ibn Kathir).
    Alusi uses the occasion to defend the “words of disbelief” that are reported of some of the ascetics. He reports Ibn `Ataa’ as commenting on the women cutting their hands in total amazement in words, “if such was the effect of the vision of a created being, why blame those who, when granted the vision of the Creator, uttered what they uttered?”
    49. The translation is based on the opinion of the Salaf as in Ibn Jarir. However, Shawkani states that the phrase means, roughly, “Glory to God!”
    50. Majid writes: “The expression .. suggests moral dignity and sublimity of character rather than physical beauty or carnal charms. The highly-placed ladies of Egypt are paying a tribute to Joseph’s character as a human being rather than referring to the eroticising effect of his personality.”

    قَالَتْ فَذَٰلِكُنَّ الَّذِي لُمْتُنَّنِي فِيهِ ۖ وَلَقَدْ رَاوَدْتُهُ عَنْ نَفْسِهِ فَاسْتَعْصَمَ ۖ وَلَئِنْ لَمْ يَفْعَلْ مَا آمُرُهُ لَيُسْجَنَنَّ وَلَيَكُونًا مِنَ الصَّاغِرِينَ (32)

    12|32| She said, ‘This is the one about whom you were blaming me.51 Yes, I did desire after him but he has resisted. Yet if he does not do as I demand, surely, he will be imprisoned and will be humbled.’52


    51. Yusuf Ali explains: “When her reputation began to be pulled to pieces, the wife of `Aziz invited all ladies in society to a grand banquet. We can imagine them reclining at ease after the manner of fashionable banquets. When the dessert arrived and the talk flowed freely about the gossip and scandal which made their hostess interesting, they were just about to cut the fruit with their knives, when, behold! Joseph was brought into their midst. Imagine the consternation which his beauty caused, and the havoc it played with their hearts! ‘Ah!’ thought the wife of `Aziz, ‘now is your hypocrisy self-exposed! What about your reproaches to me? You have yourselves so lost your self-control that you have cut your fingers.’”
    We might point out here that although most of the commentators have explained that the women cut their fingers, the Qur’an itself used the word “hands.” Anyone who observed women (not influenced by machinist Western culture) cutting a fruit into halves and quarters with a knife would testify to the accuracy of the Qur’an. They hold the fruit and press the knife in such a manner that if pressed harder the knife would cut their palms (Au.).
    52. Although it is not necessary that ‘Aziz’s wife said these words before those ladies, the context strongly suggests this. And, it should give us some idea of the moral state of the women of high positions of the time. Modern Western sexual anarchy has its precedence in the culture of the past (Au.).

    قَالَ رَبِّ السِّجْنُ أَحَبُّ إِلَيَّ مِمَّا يَدْعُونَنِي إِلَيْهِ ۖ وَإِلَّا تَصْرِفْ عَنِّي كَيْدَهُنَّ أَصْبُ إِلَيْهِنَّ وَأَكُنْ مِنَ الْجَاهِلِينَ (33)

    12|33| He said, ‘O my Lord. Verily, prison is better for me than what they invite me to.53 If You do not turn their guile away from me, I might incline towards them and become one of the ignorant.’54


    53. To spurn the invitation of a rich, beautiful and highly placed woman was no small an act for a man in the prime of his youth. A hadith says:


    سَبْعَةٌ يُظِلُّهُمْ اللَّهُ فِي ظِلِّهِ يَوْمَ لَا ظِلَّ إِلَّا ظِلُّهُ الْإِمَامُ الْعَادِلُ وَشَابٌّ نَشَأَ فِي عِبَادَةِ رَبِّهِ وَرَجُلٌ قَلْبُهُ مُعَلَّقٌ فِي الْمَسَاجِدِ وَرَجُلَانِ تَحَابَّا فِي اللَّهِ اجْتَمَعَا عَلَيْهِ وَتَفَرَّقَا عَلَيْهِ وَرَجُلٌ طَلَبَتْهُ امْرَأَةٌ ذَاتُ مَنْصِبٍ وَجَمَالٍ فَقَالَ إِنِّي أَخَافُ اللَّهَ وَرَجُلٌ تَصَدَّقَ أَخْفَى حَتَّى لَا تَعْلَمَ شِمَالُهُ مَا تُنْفِقُ يَمِينُهُ وَرَجُلٌ ذَكَرَ اللَّهَ خَالِيًا فَفَاضَتْ عَيْنَاهُ


    “There are seven who will be provided shade by Allah at a time when there will be no shade except His: A just ruler, a youth who matured in devotion to Allah, a man whose heart is stuck in the mosque when he leaves it until he re-enters, two men who loved each other for the sake of Allah coming together over it and parting over it, a man who spent with his right hand in a manner that his left hand did not know what the other hand had spent, a man whom a beautiful, well-placed woman invited but he said, ‘I fear Allah,’ and, a man who remembered Allah in his private and his eyes were filled with tears” (Ibn Kathir).
    The hadith is in the Sahihayn (H. Ibrahim).
    54. Use of the plural form suggests that other women had their own designs on Yusuf. It is also possible that the highly-placed ladies threw innuendoes at him suggesting a more positive approach to the proposed fun: “After all you are a man. Hopefully!” In amorous matters women have ways that can lend greater meaning to words unsaid than those they stop at with a giggle (Au.).

    فَاسْتَجَابَ لَهُ رَبُّهُ فَصَرَفَ عَنْهُ كَيْدَهُنَّ ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ (34)

    12|34| His Lord responded to him and turned their plots away from him.55 Surely, He is the Hearer, the Knower.


    55. Allah responded to Yusuf’s prayer and provided him protection from the mischief of the women. As for his imprisonment, that was part of a larger scheme (Shabbir from Shah `Abdul Qadir).

    ثُمَّ بَدَا لَهُمْ مِنْ بَعْدِ مَا رَأَوُا الْآيَاتِ لَيَسْجُنُنَّهُ حَتَّىٰ حِينٍ (35)

    12|35| Then it appeared (better) to them after the signs they saw, that they might as well imprison him for a while.56


    56. Asad offers his note taking a comment from Zamakhshari, “Thus, according to the Qur’an, Joseph was imprisoned not because his master believed him to be guilty, but because, in his weakness, he wanted to appease his wife, ‘being entirely submissive to her, and behaving like a riding-camel whose reins she held in her hand.’”
    Yusuf Ali explains further, “To the `Aziz it appears as if it might be in his wife’s best interests that he should disappear from her view in prison. The decisive factor was the view of the men generally, who were alarmed at the consternation he had caused among the women. They knew that Joseph was righteous: they had seen the Signs of Allah in his wonderful personality and his calm and confident fortitude. But, it was argued, it was better that one man (even if righteous) should suffer in prison rather than that many should suffer from the extraordinary disturbance he was unwittingly causing in their social life. Not for the first nor for the last time did the righteous suffer plausibly for the guilt of the guilty. And so Joseph went to the prison - for a time.”

    وَدَخَلَ مَعَهُ السِّجْنَ فَتَيَانِ ۖ قَالَ أَحَدُهُمَا إِنِّي أَرَانِي أَعْصِرُ خَمْرًا ۖ وَقَالَ الْآخَرُ إِنِّي أَرَانِي أَحْمِلُ فَوْقَ رَأْسِي خُبْزًا تَأْكُلُ الطَّيْرُ مِنْهُ ۖ نَبِّئْنَا بِتَأْوِيلِهِ ۖ إِنَّا نَرَاكَ مِنَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ (36)

    12|36| And there entered the prison with him two young men.57 One of them said, ‘I saw myself (in a dream) pressing wine.’58 The other said, ‘I saw myself carrying bread on my head, and the birds eating thereof. Tell us the interpretation thereof. We perceive you as of those who do good.’


    57. It is said that the two were personal servants of the Egyptian king. One of them a wine server, while the other a baker. The king learnt that they had been poisoned, so he imprisoned them (Ibn Jarir).
    58. Following the `Omani dialect, Ibn `Abbas and Dahhak have understood the textual word “khamran” as “‘inaban” meaning grapes. In fact, it is said that `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud’s copy of the Qur’an read “`inaban” instead of “khamran” (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).

    قَالَ لَا يَأْتِيكُمَا طَعَامٌ تُرْزَقَانِهِ إِلَّا نَبَّأْتُكُمَا بِتَأْوِيلِهِ قَبْلَ أَنْ يَأْتِيَكُمَا ۚ ذَٰلِكُمَا مِمَّا عَلَّمَنِي رَبِّي ۚ إِنِّي تَرَكْتُ مِلَّةَ قَوْمٍ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَهُمْ بِالْآخِرَةِ هُمْ كَافِرُونَ (37)

    12|37| He said, ‘The food you two are fed with will not be brought to you, but I will have told you about the interpretation thereof, before it comes to you.59 This is of those things that my Lord has taught me.60 I have forsaken the religion of those who do not believe in Allah and who are disbelievers in the Hereafter.61


    59. Suddi and Ibn Is-haq have understood the verse as follows: “The food you two are fed with (in your dreams) will not be brought to you, but I will tell you about the interpretation thereof, before it (actually) comes to you.” Ibn Jurayj however did not accept this interpretation (Ibn Jarir). And most of the commentators have accepted the apparent meaning.
    Thanwi adds that Yusuf tried to build his credibility by prefacing his invitation to tawhid with this piece of information: the food does not come to you but I am able to tell you what it is, before it arrives: so, you should believe in me when I say your Lord is one.
    60. In truth, knowledge is a great blessing from Allah. Yusuf was given beauty. But it brought him nothing but troubles, including imprisonment. But knowledge brought him great rewards including his escape from the prison (Se`di in `Ibar).
    61. Asad comments: “Joseph wants to avail this opportunity to guide his two fellow-prisoners to the true faith; and so, while promising that he would explain their dreams presently, he asks them to listen first to a short discourse on the oneness of God.”

    وَاتَّبَعْتُ مِلَّةَ آبَائِي إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْحَاقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ ۚ مَا كَانَ لَنَا أَنْ نُشْرِكَ بِاللَّهِ مِنْ شَيْءٍ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ مِنْ فَضْلِ اللَّهِ عَلَيْنَا وَعَلَى النَّاسِ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَشْكُرُونَ (38)

    12|38| I follow the religion of my forefathers, Ibrahim, Is-haq and Ya`qub.62 It is not for us to associate aught with Allah.63 This is by virtue of Allah’s favor on us - and on the people64 - but most people do not give thanks.


    62. It is notable that when it comes to the right religion, Yusuf speaks first of Ibrahim (asws) then Is-h aq (asws) and then his own father and not his father and upwards. In matters of guidance, lineage-bonds are spiritual. It might also be noted that he does not mention his own prophethood at this point (Au.).
    63. This is how Allah treats him who forsakes the false religions of his forefathers and followed the true guidance received from Allah through his Messengers: Allah guides his heart, teaches him what he knew not, and makes out of him a leader for the people to follow (Ibn Kathir).
    64. Allah showed His favor to mankind by raising some men from among them as Messengers in order to deliver His warnings (Ibn `Abbas - Ibn Jarir).
    Asad adds: “Since God is almighty and Self-sufficient, it is not for His sake that man is warned not to ascribe divine qualities to aught beside Him: the absolute condemnation of this sin is solely designed to benefit man by freeing him from all superstition, and thus enhancing his dignity as a conscious, rational being.”

    يَا صَاحِبَيِ السِّجْنِ أَأَرْبَابٌ مُتَفَرِّقُونَ خَيْرٌ أَمِ اللَّهُ الْوَاحِدُ الْقَهَّارُ (39)

    12|39| O my two fellow-prisoners!65 Are several lords better, or Allah the One, the Irresistible?


    65. Yusuf Ali illustrates the message hidden in words, ‘O my two fellow-prisoners’: “Note the personal touch again. ‘Are we not also companions in misfortune? And may I not speak to you on terms of perfect equality, - as one prisoner to another? Well then, do you really think a conflict of heterogenous gods is better than Allah, the One (and Only). Whose power is supreme and irresistible?’”

    مَا تَعْبُدُونَ مِنْ دُونِهِ إِلَّا أَسْمَاءً سَمَّيْتُمُوهَا أَنْتُمْ وَآبَاؤُكُمْ مَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ بِهَا مِنْ سُلْطَانٍ ۚ إِنِ الْحُكْمُ إِلَّا لِلَّهِ ۚ أَمَرَ أَلَّا تَعْبُدُوا إِلَّا إِيَّاهُ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ (40)

    12|40| You worship not besides Him but names that you and your forefathers have assigned them.66 Allah has not sent down any authority touching them. Surely, the commandment is no one’s but Allah’s, (and) He has commanded that you worship none but Him. That is the right religion but most people do not know.67


    66. In Majid’s words, “they have no existence whatever anywhere save in your imagination; they are names absolutely without any corresponding reality.”
    Alusi has a subtle point if those could know whom he intended should know: Similar is the situation of those who imagine that they address their acts of worship to Allah. They imagine Him to be a huge body sitting on the `Arsh: an idea that both knowledge and reason reject. The Name that He has ascribed unto Himself is altogether different from the name they imagine for Him. In other words, what they worship is but a name. It has no existence beyond their imagination.
    67. Yusuf introduced this piece of advice before offering them the interpretation perhaps because he feared that they might not pay him attention later. The verse also speaks volumes about faith in Allah before anything else, and that, in its final analysis, the relationship between Him and His slaves is more important than their relationship with other mortals, even if they are Messengers. In this case, although one of them was a few days away from death, Yusuf did not invite them to belief in his own Messengership. He told them to simply have faith in Allah and forsake false gods. When trying to understand ahadith such as, “Whoever said ‘There is no deity besides Allah,’ entered Paradise,” one might keep this verse before him (Au.).

    يَا صَاحِبَيِ السِّجْنِ أَمَّا أَحَدُكُمَا فَيَسْقِي رَبَّهُ خَمْرًا ۖ وَأَمَّا الْآخَرُ فَيُصْلَبُ فَتَأْكُلُ الطَّيْرُ مِنْ رَأْسِهِ ۚ قُضِيَ الْأَمْرُ الَّذِي فِيهِ تَسْتَفْتِيَانِ (41)

    12|41| O my two fellow-prisoners! As for one of you, he will serve wine to his master; and as for the other, he will be crucified and birds will eat of his head. The affair about which you inquire has already been decreed.’68


    68. Reports say that the two did not like the interpretation at all, and so changed their stance, saying that they were merely testing him, having actually seen nothing of that sort. Yusuf then added these words, “Thus is decreed the affair about which you two enquire” (Ibn Jarir). This opinion has been attributed to Ibn Mas`ud also (Ibn Kathir).

    وَقَالَ لِلَّذِي ظَنَّ أَنَّهُ نَاجٍ مِنْهُمَا اذْكُرْنِي عِنْدَ رَبِّكَ فَأَنْسَاهُ الشَّيْطَانُ ذِكْرَ رَبِّهِ فَلَبِثَ فِي السِّجْنِ بِضْعَ سِنِينَ (42)

    12|42| And, of the two, he said to him about whom he thought would escape (death), ‘Mention me in the presence of your master.’69 But Shaytan caused him to forget to mention (him) to his master,70 and so he remained in the prison for a few (more) years.71


    69. It was a request to intimate the king that a person wholly innocent was undergoing imprisonment (Majid, slightly altered).
    To the extra-sensitive who wonder at the usage of the word “rabbik” in this verse, Qurtubi reminds of the hadith predicting the approach of the Doomsday, which has a similar usage:


    إِذَا رَأَيْتَ الْمَرْأَةَ تَلِدُ رَبَّهَا


    “When a slave girl will give birth to her master (rabbaha).”
    70. The translation herewith follows the understanding of the great majority. However, a few have understood the verse as, “Shaytan made him (Yusuf) forget his Lord.” And, therefore, since he had sought the help of ‘other than Allah,’ “Yusuf had to stay in the prison a few years more as punishment.” In fact, a hadith has also been quoted to this effect. One is in Ibn Jarir. But Ibn Kathir says that it has been declared as untrustworthy. Rashid Rida builds on it and says that even if it is accepted that Yusuf momentarily forgot his Lord, it need not have brought punishment on him. After all, the Qur’an instructed the Final Prophet, (6: 68):


    وَإِمَّا يُنْسِيَنَّكَ الشَّيْطَانُ فَلَا تَقْعُدْ بَعْدَ الذِّكْرَى مَعَ الْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ [الأنعام : 68]


    “And if Shaytan makes you forget, then do not sit after the remembrance with a transgressing people.”
    It also said (7: 201):


    إِنَّ الَّذِينَ اتَّقَوْا إِذَا مَسَّهُمْ طَائِفٌ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ تَذَكَّرُوا فَإِذَا هُمْ مُبْصِرُونَ [الأعراف : 201]


    “Surely those who fear (their Lord), remember Allah when a thought from Shaytan touches them, and they begin to see (the truth).”
    So, temporary forgetfulness of Allah is not a sin, nor it is a sin to seek the help of other than Allah. (It is reliance on them that is disapproved: Au.). Those who have relied on weak ahadith such as the above to lay blame on a Prophet, have forgotten the great status of the Prophets in the sight of their Lord.
    Imam Razi clarifies that although it is allowable when one is wronged to seek redress from an unbeliever, his own (Razi’s) life-long experience, now in his fifty-seventh year, is that the more one seeks the help of the created, the more complicated things become.
    Sayyid offers us his own opinion: Allah (swt) did not wish that the man should remember Yusuf. Once out of prison, life returned to its pains and pleasures. And that was good for Yusuf. His release from the prison could not be attributed to a slave. Allah freed Yusuf of the obligation to a mortal (with slight modification).
    71. According to most of the authorities the word “bid`” is used for a number between three and nine (Ibn Jarir).
    Yusuf did not stay in the prison longer than what Allah had willed for him. The attribution to the wine-server forgiving him was only because, apparently, Allah works through means, and, in this case that was the means employed (Au.).

    وَقَالَ الْمَلِكُ إِنِّي أَرَىٰ سَبْعَ بَقَرَاتٍ سِمَانٍ يَأْكُلُهُنَّ سَبْعٌ عِجَافٌ وَسَبْعَ سُنْبُلَاتٍ خُضْرٍ وَأُخَرَ يَابِسَاتٍ ۖ يَا أَيُّهَا الْمَلَأُ أَفْتُونِي فِي رُؤْيَايَ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ لِلرُّؤْيَا تَعْبُرُونَ (43)

    12|43| And the king said,72 ‘I have been seeing seven fat cows being devoured by seven skinny ones; likewise, seven green ears of corn and seven others withered ones. O chiefs, give me (your) opinion about my dream if you know how to interpret dreams.’


    72. Asad supplies us some useful historical data. He writes: “The king seems to have been of the six Hyksos rulers who dominated Egypt from about 1700 to 1580 B.C., after having invaded the country from the east by way of the Sinai Peninsula. The name of this dynasty, which was undoubtedly of foreign origin, is derived from the Egyptian hiq shasu or heku shoswet, meaning “rulers of nomad lands”, or - according to the late Egyptian historian Manetho - “shepherd kings”: all of which point to their having been Arabs who, despite the fact that before their invasion of Egypt they were already well-established in Syria, had to a large extent preserved their bedouin mode of life. This would explain the confidence which the king mentioned in this story was later to place in Joseph, the Hebrew, and the subsequent settlement of the latter’s family (and, thus, of what in due course became the Israelite nation) in Egypt; for it must be borne in mind that the Hebrews, too, descended from one of the many Bedouin tribes who some centuries earlier had migrated from the Arabian Peninsula to Mesopotamia and later to Syria (cf. surah 7, note 48); and the language of the Hyksos must have been very akin to Hebrew, which after all, is but an ancient Arabic dialect.”
    Mawdudi wrote under an earlier verse: “The 15th dynasty of Hyksos kings ruled Egypt at that time. They were of Arabian descent. Having moved from Palestine and Syria in 3000 B.C. to Egypt, they had seized power in Egypt. Both Arab historians and the commentators of the Qur’an refer to them as `Amaliq (Amalekites). This accords with the recent findings of Egyptologists. In Egypt, their position was that of alien invaders who established themselves owing to internal dissensions obtaining in that country...The Hyksos continued to rule over Egypt till the end of the fifteenth century B.C. However, during this period, political power actually rested with the Israelites. The Qur’an refers to God’s favour upon them: ‘When He raised Prophets amongst you and appointed you the rulers’ (al-Ma’idah 5: 20). Later on, a massive national uprising took place and led to the overthrow of Hyksos regime and the banishment of 250,000 Amalekites from Egypt. The Hyksos were replaced by a highly bigoted Coptic dynasty which virtually obliterated every remnant of the Amalekite period. The rulers of this dynasty also embarked upon a brutal oppression of the Israelites the details of which have been mentioned in the Qur’an in connection with the story of Prophet Moses (peace be upon him).
    Sayyid Qutb adds that the struggle between the Israelites and the latter day Fara`inah was on the basis of faith. Yusuf had left marks of tawhid on the body-politic of the land (ref. 40: 34) as well as on the Egyptian society. The Fara`inah were idol-worshipers. The common Egyptian had sided with the Fara`inah and had stood up against the Hyksos family, whom they called Hyksos in their hatred which meant in their language pigs.

    قَالُوا أَضْغَاثُ أَحْلَامٍ ۖ وَمَا نَحْنُ بِتَأْوِيلِ الْأَحْلَامِ بِعَالِمِينَ (44)

    12|44| They answered, ‘(These appear like) Confused dreams;73 and, moreover, we are not skilled in the interpretation of dreams.’74


    73. Qurtubi points out that this verse proves that if a true dream is wrongly interpreted, it has no effect on the predetermined outcome. In this case, the king saw a true dream which was interpreted as “confused dreams” by those who knew nothing of the art of interpretation. But that did not matter. The dream came out true as rightly interpreted by Yusuf.
    This might have been an exceptional case, otherwise the opinion of the scholars is that if wrongly interpreted, a dream might bring that on real life (Au.).
    74. Alternatively, they could have meant to say that, firstly, it seemed to be a medley of confused dreams, which do not call for interpretation, and secondly, even if it was a true meaningful dream, they were, after all, administrators of the kingdom and not interpreters of dreams (Thanwi).
    75. That is, the other of the two in the prison with Yusuf was sent to the gallows. Qur’anic illustrations are like a painting in which an observer follows a painter as he paints. He does not get all the details until the painter has finished his task, touching up here and there, as he works on towards its completion. The onlooker does not lose his interest because of the surprising details that the painter’s brush-strokes reveal. And, since the onlooker would have failed to notice the significance of a detail here or a detail there until the painter has finished, he has to look at the painting several times to learn the significance of every detail. It is another thing that since the painting is large, the onlooker is never able to understand the whole of it at any time. He must keep shifting his sight of emphasis from detail to detail and connect their significance in his mind if he wishes to appreciate the meaning and significance of the whole. This is how the Qur’anic illustration is. Consequently, a reader of the Qur’an is never satiated with it - whether it is Yusuf’s story, that of other Prophets and their missions, or other illustration, the effect is the same. Every time he reads the Qur’an, a new aspect comes to the fore. One question. How can one be sure that the result of his exercises is not the work of imagination? Simple. He might consult someone who has attempted a similar exercise, and, to his joy, he will discover that the other person has also reached similar conclusions. It is truly then that one feels the conviction taking root in his heart that nothing less than revelation explains this characteristic of the Qur’an (Au.).

    وَقَالَ الَّذِي نَجَا مِنْهُمَا وَادَّكَرَ بَعْدَ أُمَّةٍ أَنَا أُنَبِّئُكُمْ بِتَأْوِيلِهِ فَأَرْسِلُونِ (45)

    12|45| Said one of the two who had escaped (death)75 and who remembered (Yusuf) after that length of time, ‘I will get you the interpretation. Send me (to the prison).’76


    76. The choice of words is either to indicate that the butler needed permission to make a trip to the prison, or, as Ibn Jarir has said, the prison was out of town (or both: Au.).

    يُوسُفُ أَيُّهَا الصِّدِّيقُ أَفْتِنَا فِي سَبْعِ بَقَرَاتٍ سِمَانٍ يَأْكُلُهُنَّ سَبْعٌ عِجَافٌ وَسَبْعِ سُنْبُلَاتٍ خُضْرٍ وَأُخَرَ يَابِسَاتٍ لَعَلِّي أَرْجِعُ إِلَى النَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَعْلَمُونَ (46)

    12|46| ‘Yusuf, dear true one. Give us the interpretation of seven fat cows being devoured by seven skinny ones, and seven green ears of corn and another (seven) withered ones, so that I might return to the people that they may know (the meaning).’


    قَالَ تَزْرَعُونَ سَبْعَ سِنِينَ دَأَبًا فَمَا حَصَدْتُمْ فَذَرُوهُ فِي سُنْبُلِهِ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا مِمَّا تَأْكُلُونَ (47)

    12|47| He said,77 ‘You shall sow for seven years as usual. Then what you harvest you shall leave in the corn except a little whereof you eat.78


    77. Yusuf offered the interpretation instantly without placing a condition. Such is the character of the godly ones. When asked for a service, they serve, neither asking a price, nor reminding of the past wrongs (based on Thanwi).
    78. That is, there is no need to starve during this period. You might consume as usual, but economize a little (from Ibn Jarir).
    Imam Razi writes that leaving the grain in the corn assures that it will be less prone to attack by parasites.
    We do not know Imam Razi’s source of knowledge, whether he experimented, or whether the advantages of storing grains with the ears was commonly known in his time. Modern research, however, has led to the same conclusion, namely, storage of grains left in the ears results in less wastage. The experiments were conducted in Pakistan. Excerpts of the report:
    “Fresh harvested wheat with ears was procured. A portion of it was threshed and the grains were used for storage studies.
    20 kg grain capacity mud-bins were fabricated according to the standard methods. Wheat ears and grains were separately stored in mud-bins. The bins were covered with inverted earthen pitchers, sealed with plaster of paris and placed over raised platforms. All the experiments were run in quardruplicate under fully controlled conditions. Studies were also conducted after introducing 100 adult insects (Tribolium castaneum) to each storage bin.
    The samples were drawn after 45 and 72 days of storage and analysed for insect infestation. Numbers of alive, dead, and egg plugs were counted. Hidden infestation was detected by staining method. Weight of infested grains was also recorded.
    “Averages of the replicates were worked out for calculating standard deviation.
    “Results: Preliminary examination of the original wheat samples indicated that there was no insect infestation. Storage of wheat grains for 45 days resulted in increase in the number of insects from zero to 146 alive, 2 dead, and 16 egg plugs, whereas it was roughly 10 alive, 3 dead, and no egg plugs in case of wheat ears. The storage bins containing threshed wheat, to which insects were added, contained 314 insects and 34 egg plugs, whereas in case of wheat ears a number of the added insects also died. It is evident from the results that storage of wheat in the form suggested by the Holy Book resulted in its preservation not only when it was stored as such, but also from the outside attack.
    Further extension in the storage period of wheat to 72 days showed increase in the number of insects (dead or alive) and number of egg plugs. The wheat grains stored after adding insects for 72 days, indicated a 3-fold increase in the number of insects, whereas the pattern was almost similar to that for 45 days storage in case of wheat ears.
    The wheat stored with ears required almost four times more space than the wheat grains, which may appear uneconomical. However, saving of the losses due to insect infestation, cost of fumigants, and long-life of the storage bin will make this mode of storage feasible.”
    (Source: Islamic Thought & Scientific Creativity, Vol. 2, No. 2, 1991. Study conducted by F.H. Shah, W.H. Shah and Tasnim Kausar)

    ثُمَّ يَأْتِي مِنْ بَعْدِ ذَٰلِكَ سَبْعٌ شِدَادٌ يَأْكُلْنَ مَا قَدَّمْتُمْ لَهُنَّ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا مِمَّا تُحْصِنُونَ (48)

    12|48| Then will come after them seven hard (years) that will exhaust what you would have saved for them, all but a little that you keep in store.


    ثُمَّ يَأْتِي مِنْ بَعْدِ ذَٰلِكَ عَامٌ فِيهِ يُغَاثُ النَّاسُ وَفِيهِ يَعْصِرُونَ (49)

    12|49| And then will come after that a year in which the people will be helped (with rain)79 and in which they will press (fruit).’80


    79. This additional piece was not in the dream, but a prophecy from Yusuf (Ibn Jarir).
    Majid commented: “... rains in lower Egypt are frequent. ‘Notwithstanding what some ancient authors write to the contrary, it often rains in Lower Egypt, and even snow has been observed to fall in Alexandria.’ (Sale) See also Ebr. VIII, p. 35. This disposes of the ignorant criticism of Noeldeke, that in Egypt ‘rain is almost never seen.’ (Ebr. XV, p. 900, 11th ed.) Further, there is no mention in the Qur’an of rain falling in Egypt. It is mankind, that is, the people inhabiting other parts of the earth, adjacent to Egypt that shall have rain, and not Egypt alone. And it is precisely in these countries that occasion the inundation in Nile - the proximate cause of fertility in Egypt.”
    80. That is, you will press grapes for wine, olive for oil, and other seeds and fruits for other purposes (Ibn `Abbas and others - Ibn Jarir).
    Majid notes: “‘The custom of squeezing grapes into a cup is illustrated by Elexes from a text published by Neville from the temple at Edfu, where it is said that grapes squeezed into water formed a refreshing beverage, which was drunk by the king (DB, II, p. 272).”

    وَقَالَ الْمَلِكُ ائْتُونِي بِهِ ۖ فَلَمَّا جَاءَهُ الرَّسُولُ قَالَ ارْجِعْ إِلَىٰ رَبِّكَ فَاسْأَلْهُ مَا بَالُ النِّسْوَةِ اللَّاتِي قَطَّعْنَ أَيْدِيَهُنَّ ۚ إِنَّ رَبِّي بِكَيْدِهِنَّ عَلِيمٌ (50)

    12|50| The king said, ‘Bring him to me.’ But when the messenger came to him he said, ‘Return to your master and ask him, “What about the women who cut their hands?”81 Surely, my Lord is well aware of their guile.’


    81. Ibn `Abbas has remarked that had Yusuf left the prison then and there, `Aziz would have always harbored doubts about his integrity (Ibn Jarir).
    And the Prophet has said (in a hadith of the Sahihayn: Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir),


    وَلَوْ لَبِثْتُ فِي السِّجْنِ طُولَ مَا لَبِثَ يُوسُفُ لَأَجَبْتُ الدَّاعِيَ


    “Had I been in prison for as long as Yusuf was, I would have instantly responded” (Ibn Jarir).
    The above has been taken from Bukhari.
    It may also be noticed that Yusuf - out of respect for his old master - avoided using the name of his wife. In Mawdudi’s words, “... while asking that the king might inquire about the incident, Joseph refers only to the ladies present in the banquet to the exclusion of the chief’s wife. This is further proof of his dignified character. For although the chief’s wife had attempted to harm him, her husband had been very kind to Joseph. He acted, therefore, with unusual sensitivity and circumspection lest his name and honour were subjected to any slur.”

    قَالَ مَا خَطْبُكُنَّ إِذْ رَاوَدْتُنَّ يُوسُفَ عَنْ نَفْسِهِ ۚ قُلْنَ حَاشَ لِلَّهِ مَا عَلِمْنَا عَلَيْهِ مِنْ سُوءٍ ۚ قَالَتِ امْرَأَتُ الْعَزِيزِ الْآنَ حَصْحَصَ الْحَقُّ أَنَا رَاوَدْتُهُ عَنْ نَفْسِهِ وَإِنَّهُ لَمِنَ الصَّادِقِينَ (51)

    12|51| He (the king) asked, ‘What was your affair when you desired after Yusuf?’82 They said, ‘Allah’s refuge. We did not find any evil in him.’ The wife of `Aziz spoke out, ‘Now (that) the truth has come to light,83 it was I desired after him, and he is of the truthful.’


    82. “Did you find him inclined to evil?” the king seemed to ask (Alusi).
    83. The beauty of the textual word “hass-hasa” may not be missed. It has its root in “hissa” which is for a part (of a whole). What it implies is, as the wife of ‘Aziz put it, the story has many parts that are ambiguous and, consequently, each part bears its own doubt, that everyone who knows only that part bears in consequence. Now, at this moment, all the parts have become clear and the doubt that every carrier of a part of the whole bore, has been cleared and the truth behind the episode has become evident (Manar, reworded).

    ذَٰلِكَ لِيَعْلَمَ أَنِّي لَمْ أَخُنْهُ بِالْغَيْبِ وَأَنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَهْدِي كَيْدَ الْخَائِنِينَ (52)

    12|52| ‘This (said Yusuf), so that he may know that I did not betray him in his absence,84 and that Allah does not lead the guile of the betrayers (to success).85


    84. In the opinion of Mujahid, Qat adah and Ibn Is-haq, these are words of Yusuf (Ibn Jarir).
    This is also the opinion of Mujahid, Sa`id b. Jubayr, ‘Ikrimah, Ibn Abi Hudhayl, Dahhak, Hasan and Suddi (Ibn Kathir).
    Yusuf said these words when he finally arrived at the king’s place (Qurtubi).
    Mawdudi writes: “It is crystal clear that such a statement (as above) is altogether out of tune with the tenor and character of the chief’s wife. The content of the statement is sufficient to prove that it was made by Joseph rather than by the chief’s wife. Clearly, the virtues of righteousness, magnanimity, modesty and God-consciousness which underlie the statement are not at all in harmony with the character of the woman who had earlier tried to seduce Joseph...”
    Alusi and others have written that this is a typical Qur’anic example of “ijaz.” It dropped the details about when exactly Yusuf said these sentences: either in the prison itself, or later, when released and seated in the court.
    Nevertheless, despite noting the opinion of the Salaf, Ibn Kathir prefers the opinion of his mentor Ibn Taymiyyah who said that these are the words of the wife of ‘Aziz! Shawkani however states that the great majority of commentators have thought that these words fit Yusuf’s tongue.
    Faryabi, Ibn Jarir, Ibn al-Mundhir, Ibn Abi Hatim, Abu al-Sheikh and Bayhaqi (in his Sho`ab al-Iman) have said that when Yusuf said “This, so that he may know that I did not betray him in his absence; and that Allah does not guide the guile of the betrayers (to success),” Jibril asked him in a whisper, “Not even when you desired after her?” So Yusuf added the words, “Yet I do not absolve myself (altogether)” - Shawkani.
    The above report is from Ibn `Abbas, Sa`id b. Jubayr, Abu Hudhayl, Hasan and Abu Saleh. According to another report it was ‘Aziz’s wife who whispered, “not even when you ...?” Another opinion is that the king whispered these words to him. Yet another report is that Yusuf himself thought of that situation and added these words. This last report is attributed to Ibn `Abbas also (Ibn Jarir); but none is supported by a hadith (Au.).
    85. (Yusuf thought it necessary to clear the doubt, so that it would not hang on him for ever). Hence we find that when a two men passed by our Prophet while he was speaking to a woman at night, he called them back saying,


    تَعَالَيَا إِنَّهَا صَفِيَّةُ بِنْتُ حُيَيٍّ قَالَا سُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ قَالَ إِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ يَجْرِي مِنْ الْإِنْسَانِ مَجْرَى الدَّمِ وَإِنِّي خَشِيتُ أَنْ يُلْقِيَ فِي أَنْفُسِكُمَا شَيْئًا


    “Come, this is my wife Safyah bint Huyayy.” They said, “Glory to Allah, O Messenger of Allah.” He said, “Shaytan runs through the body of a man like blood. I feared that he will cast something in your hearts.”
    Zamakhshari too used to observe this precaution. He had lost one foot (which went cold in a cold season and had to be amputated). He had obtained a certificate from the court to that effect. He used to carry the certificate to places he traveled and displayed it so that people would not imagine that it was chopped off by the law-keepers for a crime he had committed (Alusi, under verse 50); despite the fact that it was the right foot that had been amputated while it is the left foot which is amputated for a crime (Au.).

    وَمَا أُبَرِّئُ نَفْسِي ۚ إِنَّ النَّفْسَ لَأَمَّارَةٌ بِالسُّوءِ إِلَّا مَا رَحِمَ رَبِّي ۚ إِنَّ رَبِّي غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ (53)

    12|53| Yet I do not absolve myself (altogether). Verily, the base self is the inciter to evil86 – except that my Lord should show mercy. Surely, my Lord is All-forgiving, All-merciful.’


    86. Referring to the textual term “ammaaratun-bis-su’” (the inciting base self), Imam Razi raises the question about what it is, and then elaborates that although the “nafs” (soul, spirit, base self) is one entity, it has many facets of existence. When it is inclined toward the spiritual world and its realities, then it becomes the “nafs al-mutma'innah”, (the comforted soul, the soul in peace, or the satisfied soul). When it is inclined toward carnal desires and base emotions, then it becomes the “ammaaratun-bis-su’”, (inciting to evil). Further, the form may be noted. It is the intensive or hyperbolic form. That is, when base desires overtake it, then the “nafs” is all-persistent, all-powerful in its incitement.
    Thanwi adds that a third kind of “nafs” is “nafs al-lawwaamah” (the reproachful soul) which is in between the two and is the name given to it when it is in the state of reproach and repentance.

    وَقَالَ الْمَلِكُ ائْتُونِي بِهِ أَسْتَخْلِصْهُ لِنَفْسِي ۖ فَلَمَّا كَلَّمَهُ قَالَ إِنَّكَ الْيَوْمَ لَدَيْنَا مَكِينٌ أَمِينٌ (54)

    12|54| The king said, ‘Bring him to me, I shall free him for myself.’87 When he had spoken to him at length, he said, ‘Today (onward) you are firmly established in our favor and trust.’88


    87. Yusuf Ali comments: “Now that Joseph’s innocence, wisdom, truth, and trustworthiness had been proved, and confirmed by the splendid tribute of the courtier’s wife, and Joseph’s own manly bearing before the king, the king was much impressed and took him specially to serve about his own person as his trusty and confidential Wazir. If, as is probable, the ‘Aziz had by this time died (for he is never mentioned again) Joseph succeeded to his office, and he is addressed as ‘Aziz in verse 78 below.”
    88. Obviously many discussions held in several sessions would have preceded this decision by the king (Au.).
    What in truth was Yusuf’s position? Yusuf Ali writes: “He was given plenary powers and the fullest confidence that a king could give to his most trusted and best-proved Wazir or Prime Minister, with access to his Person, like a Grand Chamberlain.”
    Majid adds: “According to ancient tradition, ‘the king who made Joseph his prime minister and committed unto his hands the entire administration of Egypt was Apepia’ (Rawlinson, Ancient Egypt, p. 145). ‘Two of the Al-Amarna tablets show that a Semite held a position in Egypt quite analogous to that attributed to Joseph ... The Pharaoh by whom Joseph was made the practical ruler of Egypt was one of the Hykas kings’ (JE. VII, p. 252) ... (a little further down) ... ‘He was appointed superintendent of the royal granaries with viceregal powers’ (VJE, p. 326).”

    قَالَ اجْعَلْنِي عَلَىٰ خَزَائِنِ الْأَرْضِ ۖ إِنِّي حَفِيظٌ عَلِيمٌ (55)

    12|55| He said, ‘Appoint me over the store-houses of the land, I am a good keeper,89 knowledgeable.’90


    89. Imam Razi points out that the “hafiz” of the original could also be understood as someone who keeps the law, that is, follows it in its true spirit.
    90. Many commentators have pointed out that Yusuf was not boasting of himself, which is prohibited in Islam, rather, making a statement of fact.
    People who manage finance usually volunteer their service when there is a lot of money to handle. The credit for its management goes to the manager, whose short-comings and failures are quickly forgiven and forgotten, because there is plenty. But Yusuf proved his worth by volunteering to manage the finance at a time when, according to his own prediction, there was going to be a severe famine for seven long years, crossing the boundaries of the kingdom and hitting across towns and villages from the Western flank of Egypt to the Eastern flank of Syria (Based on Thanwi and Sayyid Qutb with addition).
    Imam Razi raises the legitimacy question of Yusuf seeking control of the granaries when our own Prophet has disapproved for his followers that they should seek governmental positions. He told ‘Abdul Rahman b. Samurah:


    لا تسأل الإمارة


    “Do not ask for leadership (meaning, a role in the government).”
    Iman Razi then explains that when one sees that he is the right person for a job, which, if not handled properly, could lead to large scale suffering, then one might seek it.
    In Qatadah’s opinion Yusuf’s example shows that it is allowed for a Muslim to be in the employment of a fasiq (someone of corrupt faith and practice) especially when one sees that the best way of preventing a tyrant from committing aggression is to be on his side. It was especially true in Yusuf’s case whose prime duty as a Prophet was to improve the people’s lot. Many of the Salaf also accepted such employments (Zamakhshari).
    Obviously, it is conditional to not doing wrong to anyone, such as, ordering someone’s execution for no fault of his, or confiscating property wrongfully, or breaking the rules of the Shari`ah (Au.).
    Al-Mawardi has said that two opinions prevailed regarding employment with a fasiq. First, it is allowed so long as wrongs are not committed, but second, that such employment is disallowed in all cases. Yusuf did it for special reasons and seemed to have been given power to rule as he wished, at least in his own department. In certain areas, of course, employment should be allowable, such as, collection of Zakah and its distribution (Qurtubi). When a person feels that if he did not take up a job of essential nature, then somebody else, unfit for it, might take it up, then it is advisable to accept it (Shafi`).
    A contemporary commentator wrote: “... it is evident that the present statement made by Joseph (i.e., I am a good keeper, knowledgeable: Au.) was not at all in the nature of an ambitious job-hunter applying to the king for a government post at the first available opportunity. This statement was in fact the last in a series of efforts made by Joseph to push open the door to the desired transformation of the entire system. Thus, this marked the culmination of Joseph’s rise to moral authority which had proceeded apace for a period of ten to twelve years.
    “The time was thus quite ripe and all that Joseph had to do was to push gently, and the door to the desired transformation would be flung open. For Joseph had come a long way.”
    Further down he writes, “Now, what was the nature and extent of the power that Joseph sought and which was entrusted to him? Those who are not fully familiar with Joseph’s true story tend to interpret the expression ‘treasurer of the land’ quite literally. They tend to assume that Joseph was perhaps appointed as the treasury or revenue officer, or minister of finance, or minister of food.
    “However, in the light of the Qur’anic, Biblical and Talmudic accounts of the story, there is no disagreement on the point that Joseph was handed total control (in Roman terminology, dictator) of the Egyptian empire. He enjoyed absolute authority over the affairs of Egypt. According to the Qur’an, when Jacob reached Egypt, Joseph was seated on his throne so that he ‘raised his parents to the throne beside himself’ (verse 100). This clearly indicates the extent of authority. The Qur’an also recounts Joseph’s remark to the effect that: ‘My Lord! You have bestowed dominion on me’ (verse 101). Likewise, the officials describe Joseph’s cup as the king’s cup (see verse 72). Referring to Joseph’s rule over Egypt, the Qur’an describes it, ‘Thus did We establish Joseph in the land and he had the authority to settle wherever he pleased’ (verse 56).”
    Comments from the contemporary Mufassir end here, to which we might add: Many scholars objected to the use of the word “dictator” for a Prophet. Technically too it is perhaps incorrect to assume that - even if he was not one - Yusuf commanded the power of a dictator. The Qur’an tells us that following the law of the land, Yusuf could not have taken his brother into Egypt. So, after all, it was the king’s law that prevailed and not that of Yusuf! The author was under pressure to explain Yusuf’s employment with a non-Islamic government (something he had once declared unlawful), and so was eager to prove that Yusuf established an Islamic system in Egypt, and, therefore, he enjoyed absolute rule. That could be, but, what kind of Islamic system it was, if the people were not Muslims? The Qur’an tells us by implication that the Egyptians had not become Muslims. Several centuries later, a believer, pleading Musa’s case, said to the Pharaoh and his courtiers, (40: 34), “And Yusuf came to you earlier with clear signs, but you ceased not to doubt what he had brought, until, when he died at length, you said, ‘Allah will never raise a Messenger after him.’”
    The author argues that Yusuf was implementing the Shari`ah gradually and so it took him time to alter the laws. But he also states that Yusuf was all-powerful. If he was all-powerful, surely a law that did not allow foreigners to settle in the kingdom could not have come in the way of him retaining his brother Bin Yamin: if not by law, then, as an exceptional case. All he would have needed was to drop a word in passing to the king. In fact, law or no law, he could have retained him, if he had the powers of a dictator.
    There are other difficulties in assuming that Yusuf was all-powerful in Egypt. It is inconceivable that the king should have invested all powers with an inexperienced and untried Yusuf, brushing aside his ever-intriguing long time courtiers and experienced viziers, seeing that the ruling class is not mighty fond of moralistic men occupying a position between them. A partial answer lies in Mujahid’s statement that the king had become a Muslim. That is, having embraced Islam, perhaps secretly, he had appointed Yusuf with special powers, for a special jurisdiction created for him, not disturbing others of his ministers, who perhaps enjoyed their own freedom under their separate jurisdictions. As to the difficulty in explaining the king’s imposition of his own law in place of the Divine law, Thanwi answered that perhaps he had embraced Islam but fearing the general populace, kept it secret, and therefore was unable to declare the centuries old law of the land, null and void. This simple approach saves the need for a lot of contrived explanations (Au.).
    Sayyid Qutb follows a different line of thought. After quoting some of the prophetic reports concerning the undesirability of seeking leadership role, and, vying for it, as Yusuf did when he said, “I am a good keeper, knowledgeable,” Sayyid comments that these rules are not universal to be incorporated into every Revelation of every age. Possibly, they were not in force at the time of Yusuf. Impatient with those who indulge in legalities of minor importance, Sayyid launches a criticism against the “fuqahaa’” for cold-blooded discussion of issues of least importance as if the religion of Islam is nothing but a set of do’s and don’t do’s devoid of the warmth of a revolutionary movement out to change life and civilization. He writes, “We do not wish to attempt explanations to the objections raised, although these objections do not seem to be entirely groundless. But we believe that the primary issues are different and more serious: in their nature and implications, with aspects of grave importance that must be looked into for a proper understanding of the way in which arguments and evidences are presented, and in order to restore meaning to the ‘principles of jurisprudence,’ the rules that issue forth from that quarter, their true spirit, and give it back the warmth that should go with it - a warmth which has cooled with time and has solidified in the minds of the jurists and in the system that governs it, inherited from the days of slumber and inaction.
    “The fact may not be lost sight of that the Islamic jurisprudence did not develop in a vacuum, nor does it exist today in a vacuum. The Islamic jurisprudence that was developed by the Muslim society, faced in its time real situations of life. Also, the Islamic jurisprudence did not develop the Muslim society. It was the Muslim society that developed the Islamic jurisprudence: as it passed during its own development process through real situations of life dealing with real problems, and not imaginary ones. These historic realities should be an accessory to understanding the spirit of Islamic jurisprudence and the dynamics contained in the rules of its law.
    “Those who lift the rulings from the books of law prepared by the past generation of jurists, without understanding the above facts, and without reference to the situations in which those rules were formulated, the realities that they faced at that time, and the conditions in which they lived, those who do that, try to impose the rules now as if they were developed in a vacuum, and, as if, today also they could be applied to a situation of vacuum. Such men are not “fuqahaa’” for, they understand nothing of the nature of this religion.
    “The dynamic jurisprudence of the past differs greatly from the ‘paper-work jurisprudence’ of today. This fact must not be lost sight of by today’s jurists who have to, per force, draw from and depend on the rules and principles labored out in the past.
    “Dynamic jurisprudence considers the realities of the situation in which the principles were once laid down, and believes that those realities were part and parcel of the rules that were then developed, such realities as cannot be separated from them without destroying their very fabric.”
    He writes further down, “Those who ruminate over the ‘Islamic System’ today, and consider its forms, or those who write on these topics, wander into a trackless region. That is because they try to apply the Islamic rules with their juristic details, worked out long ago, to a vacuum. They try to implement them in the present day Jahiliyy society, as it exists. But today’s Jahiliyy society can be considered a vacuum so far as application of Islamic laws are concerned. None of those rules can be applied to it today with any success. Its construction is in complete contradiction with a true Islamic society. The present day society will have to come out from its present day environs and enter into that of Islam wholly, and be ready to face the pressures and persecutions that every Islamic society has to face during its formation, offer sacrifices, undergo tribulations and demonstrate patience and perseverance - from the point of start to the point of culmination - to benefit from these Islamic laws.”

    وَكَذَٰلِكَ مَكَّنَّا لِيُوسُفَ فِي الْأَرْضِ يَتَبَوَّأُ مِنْهَا حَيْثُ يَشَاءُ ۚ نُصِيبُ بِرَحْمَتِنَا مَنْ نَشَاءُ ۖ وَلَا نُضِيعُ أَجْرَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ (56)

    12|56| Thus We established Yusuf securely in the land, to dwell therein as he felt pleased.91 We touch whom We will with Our mercy and do not let go waste the reward of those who do good.92


    91. Some commentators have thought that the ‘Aziz (reported to be a eunuch) being dead by then, Yusuf and Zulaykha got married, but this is not supported by any hadith (Alusi, Shabbir).
    92. Sufyan b. ‘Uyayna has said that a believer is rewarded for his good deeds both in this world as well as in the next, in contrast to the unbeliever who is recompensed for his good deeds in this world alone (Kashshaf).

    وَلَأَجْرُ الْآخِرَةِ خَيْرٌ لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَكَانُوا يَتَّقُونَ (57)

    12|57| (But) the reward of the Hereafter is surely better for the faithful and the godfearing.


    وَجَاءَ إِخْوَةُ يُوسُفَ فَدَخَلُوا عَلَيْهِ فَعَرَفَهُمْ وَهُمْ لَهُ مُنْكِرُونَ (58)

    12|58| Then came Yusuf’s brothers (into town) and entered on him. He recognized them but they recognized him not.93


    93. When they had last seen each other, Yusuf’s brothers were already grown up men while, he was but a lad - and all lads look alike. Twenty long years transformed him into a full blown personality, incredibly beautiful, in no way the shadow of the lad the brothers had dropped into the well. Moreover, the contours of his face might have completely faded from their memory (Au.).
    Yusuf Ali puts it so tellingly: “.. when the ten selfish brothers, driven by famine, came from Canaan to buy corn. Joseph, though so great a man, kept the details of the famine department in his own hands, otherwise there might have been waste. But to the public he (Yusuf) was a mighty Egyptian administrator, probably in Egyptian dress, and with all the paraphernalia of his rank about him. When his brothers came, he knew them, but they did not know he was Joseph. In their thoughts was probably some menial slave in a remote household, perhaps already starved to death in these hard times.”

    وَلَمَّا جَهَّزَهُمْ بِجَهَازِهِمْ قَالَ ائْتُونِي بِأَخٍ لَكُمْ مِنْ أَبِيكُمْ ۚ أَلَا تَرَوْنَ أَنِّي أُوفِي الْكَيْلَ وَأَنَا خَيْرُ الْمُنْزِلِينَ (59)

    12|59| When he had furnished them with their supplies, he said, ‘(Next time) Bring me the brother of yours from the father’s side.94 Do you not see that I give full measure and that I am the best of the hosts?


    94. Perhaps he got them come out with the information about a brother who had not come along (Au.).

    فَإِنْ لَمْ تَأْتُونِي بِهِ فَلَا كَيْلَ لَكُمْ عِنْدِي وَلَا تَقْرَبُونِ (60)

    12|60| But if you bring him not to me, no more measure is there for you with me; (indeed), you need not come near me.’95


    95. Although authoritative sources are missing, the details as given by the commentators fit into the verse. As worded by Thanwi, Yusuf’s brothers requested Yusuf that they deserved an extra load for a brother who could not come because his father would not let him go. He asked them the details of their brother, although he knew, and they told him that he was by another mother and very dear to the father. Yusuf told them that the rules did not allow that anyone be given an extra load for an absentia. If they were truthful about their brother, next time they should bring him along. But, if they failed, it would mean they had lied and therefore, in such an event there will be no provision for them either. In fact, they need not even come near him: “Bring me the brother of yours from the father’s side. Do you not notice that I give full measure and that I am the best of the hosts? But if you bring him not to me with you, there will be no measure for you with me, and do not come near me.”
    As regards why was it that neither Yusuf went to his family, nor asked the brothers to bring their father, Qurtubi and others have answered that it is likely that Yusuf was following Allah’s instructions in this regard.
    But the more likely reason could be that with the crisis in full swing, the chief administrator could not move out for a day (Au.).

    قَالُوا سَنُرَاوِدُ عَنْهُ أَبَاهُ وَإِنَّا لَفَاعِلُونَ (61)

    12|61| They said, ‘We shall persuade his father to yield him. Surely, we shall press for that.’


    وَقَالَ لِفِتْيَانِهِ اجْعَلُوا بِضَاعَتَهُمْ فِي رِحَالِهِمْ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَعْرِفُونَهَا إِذَا انْقَلَبُوا إِلَىٰ أَهْلِهِمْ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ (62)

    12|62| He told his pages, ‘Put their merchandise96 back in their saddle-bags so that they recognize it when they return to their people - hopefully, they will return.’


    96. It could have been an expensive metal-ware such as of silver. Alternatively, some other expensive merchandise, barter being the most common form of trade in the ancient times (Au.).

    فَلَمَّا رَجَعُوا إِلَىٰ أَبِيهِمْ قَالُوا يَا أَبَانَا مُنِعَ مِنَّا الْكَيْلُ فَأَرْسِلْ مَعَنَا أَخَانَا نَكْتَلْ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ (63)

    12|63| So, when they returned to their father they said, ‘O our father. We have been denied the measure;97 therefore, send with us our brother, that we may obtain the measure (for him). And, for certain we shall be his guardians.’


    97. The translation follows Ibn Jarir’s understanding who says that each of the ten brothers were given one load as provision but were denied the eleventh for their brother Bin Yamin who had not come.

    قَالَ هَلْ آمَنُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ إِلَّا كَمَا أَمِنْتُكُمْ عَلَىٰ أَخِيهِ مِنْ قَبْلُ ۖ فَاللَّهُ خَيْرٌ حَافِظًا ۖ وَهُوَ أَرْحَمُ الرَّاحِمِينَ (64)

    12|64| He remarked, ‘Shall I trust you with him except in the manner I trusted you with his brother earlier? At all events, Allah is the best of Guardians. And He is the Most Merciful of those who show mercy.’98


    98. These words are from someone who had lost a most promising beloved son earlier, and was facing the prospects of losing another (Au.).

    وَلَمَّا فَتَحُوا مَتَاعَهُمْ وَجَدُوا بِضَاعَتَهُمْ رُدَّتْ إِلَيْهِمْ ۖ قَالُوا يَا أَبَانَا مَا نَبْغِي ۖ هَٰذِهِ بِضَاعَتُنَا رُدَّتْ إِلَيْنَا ۖ وَنَمِيرُ أَهْلَنَا وَنَحْفَظُ أَخَانَا وَنَزْدَادُ كَيْلَ بَعِيرٍ ۖ ذَٰلِكَ كَيْلٌ يَسِيرٌ (65)

    12|65| And when they opened their baggage they found their merchandise returned to them. They cried out, ‘O our father. What more do we want? Here are our goods returned to us. (Next time) We shall provide (more) to our family, be watchful of our brother, and obtain an additional animal-load.99 This (present one) is a small measure.’100


    99. In Mujahid’s opinion the “ba`eer” of Yusuf’s brothers were donkeys (Ibn Jarir). Zamakhshari adds: It is said that originally “ba`eer” was coined for donkey caravans, but later, with usage it came to be used for camel caravans also. Razi and Qurtubi express the same opinion.
    100. Here too, the translation follows Ibn Jarir’s understanding (Au.).
    Sayyid Qutb derives a meaning that in our knowledge no other commentator has done. He said that when Ya`qub’s sons opened their baggage they discovered that their bags contained none of the grains they had gone for, rather, the bags were stuffed with the goods (of barter) that they had gone with. But we find it hard to conceive this. Firstly, will anyone travel a thousand miles and not check his baggage to ascertain that all was in order before trekking back those one thousand miles? And they were ten! Secondly, if disappointment was waiting for them instead of surprise, then, how do we explain the joyful words “what more do we want?” that they expressed when they opened the bags? (Au.).

    قَالَ لَنْ أُرْسِلَهُ مَعَكُمْ حَتَّىٰ تُؤْتُونِ مَوْثِقًا مِنَ اللَّهِ لَتَأْتُنَّنِي بِهِ إِلَّا أَنْ يُحَاطَ بِكُمْ ۖ فَلَمَّا آتَوْهُ مَوْثِقَهُمْ قَالَ اللَّهُ عَلَىٰ مَا نَقُولُ وَكِيلٌ (66)

    12|66| He said, ‘I shall never send him with you until you give me a firm promise by Allah (that) you will bring him back to me - unless you are overpowered.’101 When they gave him their pledge, he said, ‘Allah is witness over what we say.’


    101. Attacks by highway robbers, on trade or pilgrimage caravans treading their way through deserts, mountains and forests was order of the day as late as early twentieth century (Au.).

    وَقَالَ يَا بَنِيَّ لَا تَدْخُلُوا مِنْ بَابٍ وَاحِدٍ وَادْخُلُوا مِنْ أَبْوَابٍ مُتَفَرِّقَةٍ ۖ وَمَا أُغْنِي عَنْكُمْ مِنَ اللَّهِ مِنْ شَيْءٍ ۖ إِنِ الْحُكْمُ إِلَّا لِلَّهِ ۖ عَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ ۖ وَعَلَيْهِ فَلْيَتَوَكَّلِ الْمُتَوَكِّلُونَ (67)

    12|67| He also said, ‘O my sons. Do not enter (their city) by one gate. Enter by different gates.102 I cannot avail you anything against Allah. The command is but for Allah. In Him I have placed my trust. And in Him should those wishing to trust may place their trust.’103


    102. This he advised to avoid the evil eye, they being handsome men (Ibn Jarir from the earliest scholars), and, as Asad put its, “in order not to attract undue attention in the foreign land and possibly fall prey to intrigues.”
    The verse also tells us by implication that if one fears envy he might conceal Allah’s blessings from the envious (Shafi`).
    103. These verses show the extent to which parents need to go with their spoiled children, observing extreme patience, rather than cutting off relationship with them (Ma`arif).

    وَلَمَّا دَخَلُوا مِنْ حَيْثُ أَمَرَهُمْ أَبُوهُمْ مَا كَانَ يُغْنِي عَنْهُمْ مِنَ اللَّهِ مِنْ شَيْءٍ إِلَّا حَاجَةً فِي نَفْسِ يَعْقُوبَ قَضَاهَا ۚ وَإِنَّهُ لَذُو عِلْمٍ لِمَا عَلَّمْنَاهُ وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ (68)

    12|68| When they entered after the manner their father had advised them, (although) nothing would avail them against Allah, except that it was a desire in Ya`qub’s heart that he needed satisfied; and indeed, he was a man of knowledge for what We had taught him.104 But most people do not know.105


    104. That is, Sufyan said, he lived according to his knowledge, for, he who does not live by his knowledge, has no knowledge (Ibn Jarir).
    105. That is, most people do not know that although we are required to adopt means to achieve our objectives, it is not the means that play the role in bringing the results to light, rather, the decisive factor is Allah’s own plan (based on Thanwi).

    وَلَمَّا دَخَلُوا عَلَىٰ يُوسُفَ آوَىٰ إِلَيْهِ أَخَاهُ ۖ قَالَ إِنِّي أَنَا أَخُوكَ فَلَا تَبْتَئِسْ بِمَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ (69)

    12|69| And when they entered upon Yusuf, he drew his brother unto himself. He said, ‘I am indeed your brother. Therefore, grieve not over what they have been doing.’


    فَلَمَّا جَهَّزَهُمْ بِجَهَازِهِمْ جَعَلَ السِّقَايَةَ فِي رَحْلِ أَخِيهِ ثُمَّ أَذَّنَ مُؤَذِّنٌ أَيَّتُهَا الْعِيرُ إِنَّكُمْ لَسَارِقُونَ (70)

    12|70| And when he had prepared their baggage, he placed the drinking goblet in his brother’s saddlebag. Then a caller called, ‘O caravan! You are thieves.’106


    106.
    It is said that Yusuf allowed them to dislodge and leave. When they were at a distance, he sent an employee behind them to raise the issue of the goblet (Ibn Jarir).
    Asad refers to Imam Razi’s comments but draws a conclusion which Imam Razi perhaps did not. He writes: “Commenting on this verse, Razi says: ‘Nowhere in the Qur’an is it stated that they made this accusation on Joseph’s orders; the circumstantial evidence shows rather (al-aqrab ila zahir al-hal) that they did this on their own accord; for, when they had missed the drinking-cup, [these servants of Joseph remembered that] nobody had been near it [except the sons of Jacob], and so it occurred to them that it was they who had taken it.’”
    Asad then draws the conclusion that Joseph never contrived the incident. He writes, “Joseph had wanted to keep Benjamin with himself, but under the law of Egypt he could not do this without the consent of his half-brothers, who were the legal guardians of their half-brother; and they - bound as they were by the solemn promise given to their father - would certainly not have agreed to Benjamine’s remaining behind. The only other alternative open to Joseph was to disclose his identity to them; but since he was not yet prepared to go so far, he was obliged to allow Benjamin to depart with his brothers. The accidental discovery of his gift, entirely unexpected by Joseph changed everything: for now Benjamin appeared to be guilty of theft, and under the law of the land Joseph was entitled to claim him as his slave, and thus to keep him in his house. The words, ‘in this way did We contrive for Joseph [the attainment of his heart’s desire]’, referring to the incident of the cup, indicate that its final outcome was neither planned nor even foreseen by Joseph.”
    Although apparently the above idea sounds plausible, it has several loopholes: (1) If it is assumed that Joseph gave it to him as a gift, then why Bin Yamin did not protest and say it was gifted to him? (2) If Joseph had given him the cup, why did he not own up when the servants found it missing, saying, it was he who had gifted it to Bin Yamin? (3) Why did the servants act on their own? Why did they not, when they found the cup missing, inquire with the owner of the cup, Yusuf himself? Rather, the explanation as given by other commentators sounds more plausible which says that Yusuf was acting by the commandment of Allah in all that he did. This also explains why he did not try to get his suffering father to Egypt rather than the lad, who would have been, after all, happy anywhere. As Imam Razi has suggested, (as also Shafi`) that perhaps Allah wished to try Ya`qub further (and raise his ranks), and so got the second son (the dearest of his sons to him after Yusuf: Au.), also removed from him. We may recall Ibrahim’s slaughter of his son.
    We might also point out that the only part in which Razi is with Asad is that it was the crier and not Yusuf who accused his brothers of theft.

    قَالُوا وَأَقْبَلُوا عَلَيْهِمْ مَاذَا تَفْقِدُونَ (71)

    12|71| They said, coming forward, ‘What is it that you are missing?’


    قَالُوا نَفْقِدُ صُوَاعَ الْمَلِكِ وَلِمَنْ جَاءَ بِهِ حِمْلُ بَعِيرٍ وَأَنَا بِهِ زَعِيمٌ (72)

    12|72| They said, ‘We are missing the king’s goblet.107 Whoever brings it shall have a beast-load (of provision), and I am a guarantor thereof.’


    107. Most early commentators have said that the “suwa`” of this and the “siqayah” of the earlier verse are different names for the same thing. It used to be a large goblet, or mug, two-eared, that was used for drinking wine. `Abbas b. `Abdul Muttalib had one in use in pre-Islamic times (Ibn Jarir).

    قَالُوا تَاللَّهِ لَقَدْ عَلِمْتُمْ مَا جِئْنَا لِنُفْسِدَ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَمَا كُنَّا سَارِقِينَ (73)

    12|73| They said, ‘By Allah, you know well that we have not come to work corruption in the land, and we have not been thieving!’


    قَالُوا فَمَا جَزَاؤُهُ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ كَاذِبِينَ (74)

    12|74| They said, ‘Alright. What should be the requital of this (deed), if you should be liars?’


    قَالُوا جَزَاؤُهُ مَنْ وُجِدَ فِي رَحْلِهِ فَهُوَ جَزَاؤُهُ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِي الظَّالِمِينَ (75)

    12|75| They said, ‘His requital?! He, in whose baggage it is found, is himself the requital thereof.108 That is how we recompense the wrongdoers.’


    108. The punishment for theft in their land (Canaan) was that the thief was given away in slavery to the owner of the goods stolen (Ibn Jarir). Sayyid adds: The period of slavery depended on the amount stolen.

    فَبَدَأَ بِأَوْعِيَتِهِمْ قَبْلَ وِعَاءِ أَخِيهِ ثُمَّ اسْتَخْرَجَهَا مِنْ وِعَاءِ أَخِيهِ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ كِدْنَا لِيُوسُفَ ۖ مَا كَانَ لِيَأْخُذَ أَخَاهُ فِي دِينِ الْمَلِكِ إِلَّا أَنْ يَشَاءَ اللَّهُ ۚ نَرْفَعُ دَرَجَاتٍ مَنْ نَشَاءُ ۗ وَفَوْقَ كُلِّ ذِي عِلْمٍ عَلِيمٌ (76)

    12|76| So he109 began with their baggage before his (full) brother’s baggage. Then he pulled it out of his brother’s baggage.110 Thus We contrived for Yusuf.111 It was not possible for him to take his brother by the law of the king, unless Allah willed.112 We raise the ranks of whom We will. And, over everyone possessed of knowledge, (there) is someone (more) knowing.113


    109. “He”, i.e., one of Yusuf’s deputies, while perhaps Yusuf stood around, supervising (Au.).
    110. Yusuf Ali notes the switch from “rahl” of verses 70 and 75, to “wi`ayah” of this verse and explains: “The Arabic word here used is ‘wi`aun,’ pl. ‘au`iya,’ which includes bags, lockers, boxes, or any receptacle in which things are stored. Notice the appropriateness of the words used. The cup was concealed in a saddle-bag (‘rahl’), verse 70 above. When it comes to searching, they must search all the baggage of every description if the search was to be convincing and effective.”
    111. Such contriving, called tawriyah, is allowed in the Islamic Shari`ah so long as it does not contradict a law of Islam or wrong anyone. But, if it is to avoid an obligation then it is disallowed, such as, e.g., playing with the accounts to avoid paying Zakah, or taking up a journey to avoid fasting, etc. (Au.).
    112. That is, the law of the land did not allow that a thief be taken slave for theft, rather, a fine was levied on him in accordance with the worth of property stolen. But, in case of Bin Yamin, his brothers committed themselves to avoid the law and thus Allah made it possible for Yusuf to retain his brother with him (Ibn Jarir).
    Mawdudi wrote: “Obviously, Joseph himself suggested putting the drinking-cup in Benjamin’s saddle-bag... A careful study of the relevant verses brings out one fact very clearly - that the servants asked the suspected culprits to state the punishment for theft. In response, they mentioned the punishment laid down by Abrahamic law. This served two purposes. Firstly, it enabled Joseph to act according to Abrahamic law. Secondly, it enabled Joseph to detain Benjamin rather than send him to prison.”
    He further writes: “It was unbecoming of Joseph, as a Prophet, to follow Egyptian law in a matter that related to him personally. The scheme which had been devised to retain his brother presented one problem. Joseph could have detained his brother but in order to do so it would have been necessary to have recourse to Egyptian penal Law. This was unbecoming of a Prophet who had taken authority into his own hands in order to replace man-made laws with those of God.
    “Had God so willed, He could have let Joseph - a Prophet - commit this mistake. However, God did not do so. Thus, thanks to God’s inspiration, a way out of the difficulty was found. An inquiry was addressed to Joseph’s brother. What punishment was laid down for a thief?”
    Further down he writes, “In this way God bestowed His favour upon Joseph and demonstrated His infinitely superior knowledge. What could be a greater means of exalting Joseph’s position that this? When out of human weakness, Joseph was on the verge of committing an error God planned from on high and found a way to prevent this from happening. Such an exalted status is conferred only on those who prove their mettle after successfully going through a series of tests. Now, although Joseph (peace be on him) was quite knowledgeable and acted wisely, there was nevertheless a gap in the plan he had devised.”
    The quote from the commentator ends here.
    By way of comment on the above statement, the following may be said: Apart from the casual manner of treating a Prophet, the arguments above suffer a few inconsistencies. A few things are first supposed and then solutions offered; e.g., Yusuf is put on the verge of committing an error, and then rescued with a contrived solution. One might also ask, was Yusuf (asws) aware of the Egyptian Law or not? Did his plan take into the consideration that Yusuf’s brothers might have replied, “He has broken Egyptian Law and so let him be judged by Egyptian Law? If we let our imagination run wild, to judge Prophets, it runs into wilderness (Au.).
    Sayyid Qutb comments: “The usage of the word ‘din’ here is a very accurate way of expressing what the word stands for in all its implications. The usage here defines it as the law by which a land is governed. The law of the land did not allow Yusuf to take his brother unto himself. That was only possible by the law of Ya`qub (asws) which his brothers agreed to apply. Thus, law, of either side, was termed as the ‘din.’
    “This is the implication of the word that the people of the contemporary pagandom miss to note: be they Muslims or non-Muslims.
    “They restrict its application to doctrinal matters or rituals, or modes of worship. They assume that whoever believes in Allah, His Messenger, angels, revelations, the Last Day and the Divine Decree, good and bad of it, and who performs the rituals of worship, is within the folds of Allah’s religion, whoever else he might be submitted to other than Allah in matters of law refusing Allah’s judgment in all affairs of life.
    “The true implication of “dinuAllah” is either missing or remains obscure in the minds of the masses, and, if it exists, its true implication is consigned to some remote corner of the mind, clouded with vagueness.”
    113. That is, every knowledgeable person has another over him, more knowledgeable, the series ending with Allah (Au.).

    قَالُوا إِنْ يَسْرِقْ فَقَدْ سَرَقَ أَخٌ لَهُ مِنْ قَبْلُ ۚ فَأَسَرَّهَا يُوسُفُ فِي نَفْسِهِ وَلَمْ يُبْدِهَا لَهُمْ ۚ قَالَ أَنْتُمْ شَرٌّ مَكَانًا ۖ وَاللَّهُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا تَصِفُونَ (77)

    12|77| They said, ‘If he has stolen, then (no wonder for) a brother of his stole earlier.'114 Yusuf concealed it in himself and disclosed it not to them; but said (to himself), ‘You are worst-placed and Allah knows very well (the truth) of what you describe.’115


    114. That is, if he has stolen, then no wonder, since his brother, also from the same mother, had earlier stolen, meaning, “we, the rest of us being from a different mother, are unlike him and his brother” (Razi).
    Qurtubi comments: What they meant is, “sharing of pedigree gives rise to similarity in characteristics.”
    In explanation of the statement of Yusuf’s brothers, two stories were in circulation among the commentators: none confirmed by a hadith. One, Yusuf had stolen an idol from an aunt’s house (or from a temple: Kashshaf), and thrown it away. The reference is to that theft. Another story goes that Yusuf was brought up by her aunt, a daughter of Is-haq. When the time came for Yusuf to be taken away, she pleaded for more time. In course of time she hid her belt (that she had inherited from Is-haq - a kind of a dear article, inherited generations after generations) in Yusuf’s garments and then made noise that it had been stolen. Upon search it was discovered on him and, by this guile she was able to keep him with herself longer, until she died (Tabari, Kashshaf, Ibn Kathir).
    “In fact,” Qurtubi writes, “Yusuf could have learnt the trick of concealing the goblet in his brother’s baggage from that childhood incident.” (That is, if it is true – Au.).
    115. What is it that Yusuf concealed from them? The answer is, the words that follow: “Rather, you are worst-placed” (Ibn Jarir).

    قَالُوا يَا أَيُّهَا الْعَزِيزُ إِنَّ لَهُ أَبًا شَيْخًا كَبِيرًا فَخُذْ أَحَدَنَا مَكَانَهُ ۖ إِنَّا نَرَاكَ مِنَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ (78)

    12|78| They pleaded, ‘O `Aziz!116 He has a father, much advanced in years;117 so accept one of us in his place;118 we see you as one of those who do good.’


    116. Their addressing Yusuf by the title suggests that either the older ‘Aziz (Qitfir) had been removed or was dead (Qurtubi).
    117. Note that they did not say about their father that apart from being old, he was a Prophet too; a statement they were very likely to make if they knew Yusuf as a Prophet. And, had he been holding the position of authority as a Prophet, surely, he would be ‘known’ as that and not as ‘Aziz, or a king, etc., especially to his brothers (Au.).
    118. Qurtubi comments: They could not have been serious about letting another be enslaved in place of Bin Yamin. Rather, they would have meant to make a point of the seriousness of the situation if Bin Yamin was retained. It was in the same manner as someone would say, “Kill me, rather than do this,” by which of course it does not mean that killing the man is really an option. Yusuf could have also understood that what they really wished was the release of Bin Yamin, which he denied, turning back their own words on them.

    قَالَ مَعَاذَ اللَّهِ أَنْ نَأْخُذَ إِلَّا مَنْ وَجَدْنَا مَتَاعَنَا عِنْدَهُ إِنَّا إِذًا لَظَالِمُونَ (79)

    12|79| He said, ‘Allah forbid that we should take (any other) but him in whose possession we found our property. Surely, in that event, we would be wrong-doers.


    فَلَمَّا اسْتَيْأَسُوا مِنْهُ خَلَصُوا نَجِيًّا ۖ قَالَ كَبِيرُهُمْ أَلَمْ تَعْلَمُوا أَنَّ أَبَاكُمْ قَدْ أَخَذَ عَلَيْكُمْ مَوْثِقًا مِنَ اللَّهِ وَمِنْ قَبْلُ مَا فَرَّطْتُمْ فِي يُوسُفَ ۖ فَلَنْ أَبْرَحَ الْأَرْضَ حَتَّىٰ يَأْذَنَ لِي أَبِي أَوْ يَحْكُمَ اللَّهُ لِي ۖ وَهُوَ خَيْرُ الْحَاكِمِينَ (80)

    12|80| When they were despaired of moving him, they held a conference in private. The senior-most of them said,119 ‘Do you not know that your father took a firm pledge from you by Allah? And (remember) how you failed in (your duty to) Yusuf? So, I shall not leave the land until my father permits me, or Allah judges for me. And surely, He is the best of judges.


    119. It is said that although not the eldest, he was the best of them in character and the most knowledgeable and hence the most esteemed.

    ارْجِعُوا إِلَىٰ أَبِيكُمْ فَقُولُوا يَا أَبَانَا إِنَّ ابْنَكَ سَرَقَ وَمَا شَهِدْنَا إِلَّا بِمَا عَلِمْنَا وَمَا كُنَّا لِلْغَيْبِ حَافِظِينَ (81)

    12|81| Return to your father and say, “O our father! Indeed, your son committed theft. And we bear witness to naught but what we know; and surely, we were not guardians of the Unseen.120


    120. That is, when we gave the pledge to you to bring back Bin Yamin with us, we did not know that he would steal: an event of the Unseen.

    وَاسْأَلِ الْقَرْيَةَ الَّتِي كُنَّا فِيهَا وَالْعِيرَ الَّتِي أَقْبَلْنَا فِيهَا ۖ وَإِنَّا لَصَادِقُونَ (82)

    12|82| And inquire the town we were in,121 and the caravan we came with. Indeed we are truthful.”’


    121. The city alluded to was the capital of Egypt.

    قَالَ بَلْ سَوَّلَتْ لَكُمْ أَنْفُسُكُمْ أَمْرًا ۖ فَصَبْرٌ جَمِيلٌ ۖ عَسَى اللَّهُ أَنْ يَأْتِيَنِي بِهِمْ جَمِيعًا ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْعَلِيمُ الْحَكِيمُ (83)

    12|83| He said, ‘Rather, your own minds have concocted (this) story.122 Therefore, (my recourse is to) graceful patience. It is possible that Allah will bring them all back to me.123 Verily, He is the Knowing, the Wise.’


    122. The allusion could be not merely to the news of Bin Yamin having committed theft, but to the whole story beginning with the sons claiming that they were denied any further supplies, if they would not bring Bin Yamin with them, until the explanation of why he and the other brother had not returned with the rest (Razi).
    123. That is, all the three missing so far - and the best of the lot (Au.).

    وَتَوَلَّىٰ عَنْهُمْ وَقَالَ يَا أَسَفَىٰ عَلَىٰ يُوسُفَ وَابْيَضَّتْ عَيْنَاهُ مِنَ الْحُزْنِ فَهُوَ كَظِيمٌ (84)

    12|84| Then turning away from them he said, ‘O (my) grief for Yusuf!’124 His eyes turned white from grief,125 but he was very suppressing (of sorrow).126


    124. Of the three missing, Ya`qub specifically mentioned Yusuf perhaps because he was the only one about whom he did not know whether he was dead or alive (from Asad).
    125. The blindness was perhaps because of a lot of crying in grief, and hence the words (Au). Zamakhshari writes that once Hasan b. ‘Ali cried over someone who had died. When asked to explain he said, “Ya`qub cried for his son without Allah censuring him.”
    A little further down Imam Razi raises the doubt that it is normally said that a heart filled with the love of other than Allah cannot love Allah, the heart being a container that can contain either this or that, and then answers that love and grief over someone do not rule out love of Allah. In fact, one filled with grief can be very oft-turning to Allah.
    After all, did our Prophet not cry when his son Ibrahim died? - saying,


    تَدْمَعُ الْعَيْنُ وَيَحْزَنُ الْقَلْبُ وَلاَ نَقُولُ إِلاَّ مَا يَرْضَى رَبُّنَا وَاللَّهِ يَا إِبْرَاهِيمُ إِنَّا بِكَ لَمَحْزُونُونَ


    “The eye sheds tears, the heart grieves, but we do not utter what will displease Allah. By Allah, we are, O Ibrahim, in grief (at your departure).”
    What is prohibited is the beating of the faces, tearing of clothes and other such foolish acts (Qurtubi, Alusi and others).
    126. Another possible meaning of “kazim”, as suggested by Ibn Qutaybah, is that he was filled with grief (Razi).

    قَالُوا تَاللَّهِ تَفْتَأُ تَذْكُرُ يُوسُفَ حَتَّىٰ تَكُونَ حَرَضًا أَوْ تَكُونَ مِنَ الْهَالِكِينَ (85)

    12|85| They remarked, ‘By Allah you will never cease remembering Yusuf till you are fatally ill,127 or are of the perished.’


    127. “Harad” of the text is a condition in which neither the mind nor the body function normally: a condition of severe agony when one is more dead than alive (Ibn Jarir).

    قَالَ إِنَّمَا أَشْكُو بَثِّي وَحُزْنِي إِلَى اللَّهِ وَأَعْلَمُ مِنَ اللَّهِ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ (86)

    12|86| He replied, ‘I complain my anguish and grief unto Allah alone, and I know from Allah what you do not know.128


    128. The dream of the childhood not yet realized, Ya`qub knew that Yusuf has to come back (Au.).

    يَا بَنِيَّ اذْهَبُوا فَتَحَسَّسُوا مِنْ يُوسُفَ وَأَخِيهِ وَلَا تَيْأَسُوا مِنْ رَوْحِ اللَّهِ ۖ إِنَّهُ لَا يَيْأَسُ مِنْ رَوْحِ اللَّهِ إِلَّا الْقَوْمُ الْكَافِرُونَ (87)

    12|87| O my sons! Go and search129 for Yusuf and his brother; and do not despair of Allah’s mercy.130 Surely, none despairs of Allah’s mercy but an unbelieving people.’131


    129. The beauty of the textual word should not be missed: “tahassu” stands for a search involving the various senses of the body (Qurtubi and others).
    130. The “rawh” of the text could mean both “mercy” as well as “relief” (Ibn Jarir from Suddi, Qat adah, Dahh ak and others). In the opinion of the linguist Asma`i, “rawh” is for that feeling which is realized when a cool current of air passes by one’s face.
    131. That is because the unbelievers do not know that Allah (swt) has power over all things. Hence, to be in despair - someone who has lost hope - is considered a major sin in Islam. A step further, to be in despair out of belief that Allah is incapable of rescue, is disbelief (Alusi, Thanwi and others).

    فَلَمَّا دَخَلُوا عَلَيْهِ قَالُوا يَا أَيُّهَا الْعَزِيزُ مَسَّنَا وَأَهْلَنَا الضُّرُّ وَجِئْنَا بِبِضَاعَةٍ مُزْجَاةٍ فَأَوْفِ لَنَا الْكَيْلَ وَتَصَدَّقْ عَلَيْنَا ۖ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَجْزِي الْمُتَصَدِّقِينَ (88)

    12|88| So, when they entered upon him they pleaded, ‘O `Aziz! Affliction has visited us and our family. And we have come with scanty goods.132 (Despite that) give us full measure, and be charitable to us. Surely, Allah rewards the charitable.133


    132. The textual “muzjat” is applicable both to what is “scanty” as well as to what is of “poor quality” - in either case bits and pieces of merchandise such as wool, rope, cheese, and things of the sort that are not highly valued (Ibn Jarir from the earliest commentators).
    Zamakhshari writes that “muzjat” is that merchandise which a trader would refuse to accept because of its poor worth.
    Razi adds: Linguistically, “izja’” is to push something little by little. They say, “The winds are moving the clouds.” Allah said (24: 43):


    أَلَمْ تَرَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ يُزْجِي سَحَابًا


    “Do you not see that Allah moves the clouds.”
    Note use of the word “yuzji.”
    The meaning here, as Zajjaj has said, is that, “We have brought something with which we can just manage to push our lives,” or, “goods that we can just manage to push in the market” (Au.).
    133. The once arrogant brothers, their pride broken, now reduced to begging, are mentally better disposed to learn that the one they had cast into the pit without qualms, had been chosen by Allah and showered with great blessings. An earlier declaration of identity on the part of Yusuf could have led them to jealousy and envy rather than re-evaluation of the self (Au.).

    قَالَ هَلْ عَلِمْتُمْ مَا فَعَلْتُمْ بِيُوسُفَ وَأَخِيهِ إِذْ أَنْتُمْ جَاهِلُونَ (89)

    12|89| He asked, ‘Are you aware of what you did with Yusuf and his brother when you were ignorant?’134


    134. The choice of words, Qurtubi points out, (“when you were ignorant”) indicates that the brothers had not only grown up in age but had also undergone reform.

    قَالُوا أَإِنَّكَ لَأَنْتَ يُوسُفُ ۖ قَالَ أَنَا يُوسُفُ وَهَٰذَا أَخِي ۖ قَدْ مَنَّ اللَّهُ عَلَيْنَا ۖ إِنَّهُ مَنْ يَتَّقِ وَيَصْبِرْ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُضِيعُ أَجْرَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ (90)

    12|90| They cried out, ‘Why, are you indeed Yusuf?’ He replied, ‘I am Yusuf and this is my brother.135 Allah has indeed been gracious unto us. Surely, whoever fears (Him) and endures patiently, verily then, Allah does not let go waste the reward of those who do good.’


    135. So, Allah’s words came true (verse: 15):


    وَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْهِ لَتُنَبِّئَنَّهُمْ بِأَمْرِهِمْ هَذَا وَهُمْ لَا يَشْعُرُونَ [يوسف : 15]


    “We revealed unto him that you will (one day) remind them of this their deed, while they would be unaware” - Razi.
    Yusuf added, “and this is my brother” to remove any doubt about his identity: I am not any Yusuf, rather, Bin Yamin’s very brother (Thanwi).

    قَالُوا تَاللَّهِ لَقَدْ آثَرَكَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْنَا وَإِنْ كُنَّا لَخَاطِئِينَ (91)

    12|91| They said, ‘By Allah! Allah has preferred you over us; and certainly, we have been sinners.’136


    136. Linguistically, “khatiyy” would mean erroneous. But, as Razi has pointed out, there is a difference between “mukhtiyy” and “khatiyy.” The former is for someone who commits an error unknowingly, while the latter for one who does it intentionally - an instance of Qur’anic accuracy. Hence our rendition, “sinners” - (Au.).

    قَالَ لَا تَثْرِيبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْيَوْمَ ۖ يَغْفِرُ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ ۖ وَهُوَ أَرْحَمُ الرَّاحِمِينَ (92)

    12|92| He said, ‘No reproach on you this day.137 Allah will forgive you. He is the most merciful of those who show mercy.


    137. These are the words that our Prophet uttered when he had overcome the Makkans. After his victory (over those that had persecuted him and his followers for full 20 years: Au.) he asked his enemies:


    " ماذا تظنون يا معشر قريش " قالوا: خيرا، أخ كريم، وابن أخ كريم وقد قدرت، قال: " وأنا أقول كما قال أخي يوسف " لا تثريب عليكم اليوم "


    “What are you expecting, O Quraysh?” They said, “Good. A generous brother, and the son of a generous brother, and you have overpowered. He replied, “Let me tell you now what my brother Yusuf said, ‘No reproach upon you this day.’” (Kashshaf, Razi, Qurtubi).

    اذْهَبُوا بِقَمِيصِي هَٰذَا فَأَلْقُوهُ عَلَىٰ وَجْهِ أَبِي يَأْتِ بَصِيرًا وَأْتُونِي بِأَهْلِكُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ (93)

    12|93| Go, with this shirt of mine, and cast it on my father’s face; he will become seeing.138 And bring me your entire household.’


    138. Yusuf could only have known the predicted effect of his shirt on his father’s face by Allah’s revelation (Razi, Qurtubi).

    وَلَمَّا فَصَلَتِ الْعِيرُ قَالَ أَبُوهُمْ إِنِّي لَأَجِدُ رِيحَ يُوسُفَ ۖ لَوْلَا أَنْ تُفَنِّدُونِ (94)

    12|94| When the caravan set forth, their father said, ‘Indeed, I can sense Yusuf’s smell139 - if you do not think me doting.’140


    139. Several reports have come down from Ibn `Abbas which say that Ya`qub felt Yusuf’s smell from a distance of eight-day’s travel, that is, as Ibn Abi Hudhayl said, the distance between Kufa and Busra (Ibn Jarir).
    140. The word “tufannidun” carries several shades of meaning. (i) “If you will not call me foolish”, (ii) “if you will not think that old-age has advanced”, (iii) that “my mind has suffered loss”, (iv) “if you will not call me lies,” are several connotations that are hidden in the word - all those things that happen to a man as he advances in age (Ibn Jarir from Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Qatadah and others).

    قَالُوا تَاللَّهِ إِنَّكَ لَفِي ضَلَالِكَ الْقَدِيمِ (95)

    12|95| They said, ‘By Allah. You are still in your old misguided delusion.’


    فَلَمَّا أَنْ جَاءَ الْبَشِيرُ أَلْقَاهُ عَلَىٰ وَجْهِهِ فَارْتَدَّ بَصِيرًا ۖ قَالَ أَلَمْ أَقُلْ لَكُمْ إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ مِنَ اللَّهِ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ (96)

    12|96| Then, as the bearer of good tiding came to him, he laid it on his face and once again he became seeing. He said, ‘Did I not tell you that I know from Allah what you do not know?’


    قَالُوا يَا أَبَانَا اسْتَغْفِرْ لَنَا ذُنُوبَنَا إِنَّا كُنَّا خَاطِئِينَ (97)

    12|97| They said, ‘O our father! Seek Allah’s forgiveness for our sins, certainly, we have been sinners indeed.’


    قَالَ سَوْفَ أَسْتَغْفِرُ لَكُمْ رَبِّي ۖ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ (98)

    12|98| He said, ‘Presently I shall seek forgiveness for you from my Lord.141 Indeed He is the Forgiving, the Merciful.’


    141. For Ya`qub’s sons, no reward could have been better than this one: that a Prophet should pray for their forgiveness. This was the reward bestowed on “the three whose case was deferred after the Tabuk expedition,” after their repentance had been accepted (Qurtubi). See Surah Tawbah, verse 118.
    Ibn Mas`ud’s opinion is that Ya`qub delayed the supplications until the pre-dawn hour. In fact, Ibn Mas`ud himself used to make his supplications at that time. Ibn Daththar says: “I had an uncle who, on his way to the mosque, would hear the voice of a man emerging from a house, ‘O Allah, You beckoned me and I answered. You commanded and I obeyed. Now it is close to the dawn, so forgive me.’ He found out that it was Ibn Mas`ud’s house. He asked him about those words and Ibn Mas`ud said, “That was the time Ya`qub had in mind when he said, ‘I shall soon seek forgiveness of your sins from my Lord’” (Ibn Jarir).

    فَلَمَّا دَخَلُوا عَلَىٰ يُوسُفَ آوَىٰ إِلَيْهِ أَبَوَيْهِ وَقَالَ ادْخُلُوا مِصْرَ إِنْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ آمِنِينَ (99)

    12|99| When they entered upon Yusuf he drew his parents unto himself and said, ‘Enter into Egypt in peace, Allah willing.’


    وَرَفَعَ أَبَوَيْهِ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ وَخَرُّوا لَهُ سُجَّدًا ۖ وَقَالَ يَا أَبَتِ هَٰذَا تَأْوِيلُ رُؤْيَايَ مِنْ قَبْلُ قَدْ جَعَلَهَا رَبِّي حَقًّا ۖ وَقَدْ أَحْسَنَ بِي إِذْ أَخْرَجَنِي مِنَ السِّجْنِ وَجَاءَ بِكُمْ مِنَ الْبَدْوِ مِنْ بَعْدِ أَنْ نَزَغَ الشَّيْطَانُ بَيْنِي وَبَيْنَ إِخْوَتِي ۚ إِنَّ رَبِّي لَطِيفٌ لِمَا يَشَاءُ ۚ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْعَلِيمُ الْحَكِيمُ (100)

    12|100| He raised his parents to the throne142 and they fell in prostration to him.143 He remarked, ‘O my father. This is the fulfillment of my vision of old. My Lord made it come true. He was indeed good to me when He brought me out of the prison144 and brought you out of the desert145 after Shaytan had stirred (strife) between me and my brothers. Surely, my Lord is Subtle (in doing) what He will.146 Indeed, He is the All-Knowing, the All-wise.’


    142. Ibn `Abbas, Suddi, Dahhak, Mujahid and Qatadah have said that the ‘Arsh of the text alludes to a long couch (Ibn Jarir).
    In ancient times thrones were of various kinds. Some were like heavy chairs. Others were divan-like, long and wide, large enough to accommodate several people, although, normally, it was the king or the high official who occupied it. When they wished to honor someone, they gave him a place on it by their side (Au.).
    143. Ibn `Abbas, Qatadah, Sufyan, Ibn Jurayj and others have said that Yusuf’s parents and his eleven brothers prostrated themselves to Yusuf. It was a prostration of respect and greeting and not of worship (Ibn Jarir).
    Ibn Kathir adds: When Mu`adh b. Jabal visited the Syrian region, he found the people there prostrating themselves to priests. When he returned, he said to the Prophet,


    أَرَأَيْتَ أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ يَسْجُدُونَ لأَسَاقِفَتِهِمْ وَبَطَارِقَتِهِمْ ؟ أَفَلا نَسْجُدُ لَكَ ؟ قَالَ : لَوْ كُنْتُ آمِرًا أَحَدًا أَنْ يَسْجُدَ لأَحَدٍ لأَمَرْتُ الْمَرْأَةَ أَنْ تَسْجُدَ لِزَوْجَهَا

     

    “Do you know that the people of the Book prostrate themselves to their priests and monks? Should

    we not prostrate ourselves to you? He said, “Were I to ask anyone to prostrate to another, I would ask a woman to prostrate herself to her husband because of the enormity of his rights on her.”
    The above is Ahmad’s version, the second half of which is also found in Tirmidhi and others.
    According to another report (in Ahmad and Ibn Majah: H. Ibrahim), once Salman (al-Farsi) encountered the Prophet in one of the streets of Madinah and prostrated himself before him.
    The Prophet told him, “Do not prostrate yourself to me O Salman. Rather, prostrate yourself to the Living who will not die.”
    Since prostration before Yusuf sounds unusual, Imam Razi offers two other alternative meanings. One, Ya`qub, his wife and sons did not prostrate themselves before Yusuf, rather prostrated themselves to Allah. That is because it is unthinkable that Yusuf would have allowed his father, a Prophet - superior in age, intellect, knowledge and religion, a most honorable person otherwise - to prostrate himself to him. Two, while the parents sat on the throne, the sons prostrated themselves to Yusuf. (The textual: “He raised his parents to the throne and they fell in prostration to him,” words favor this meaning: Au.).
    Now, a doubt might arise. Yusuf had dreamt that in total thirteen objects had prostrated themselves to him. But, with the parents off, we are left with only eleven. Imam Razi answers that the dream came true in the general sense (of they acknowledging his moral superiority: Au.). It was not at all necessary that the thirteen of them should have physically prostrated themselves to him for the dream to come true. Further, the true interpretation of the dream was that one day they would pay homage to him, which came to pass.
    Alusi is inclined to believe that at best they would have bowed their heads a little which has been described as “sajdah” here.
    Qurtubi adds: Hasan’s opinion was that they all prostrated themselves to Allah, while Sa`id b. Jubayr, Qatadah, and a second opinion of Hasan was that it was no prostration at all. It was customary then to bend their heads forward in greeting, and that is what they did. Others have conjectured that it was merely bowing down that has been referred to as prostration. In any case, none of it is allowed in our religion, not even bending forward of the head before men of power which has now become customary among the Muslims. Anas b. Malik has reported, “We asked the Prophet,


    يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَيَنْحَنِى بَعْضُنَا لِبَعْضٍ إِذَا الْتَقَيْنَا؟ قَالَ: لاَ. قِيلَ: فَيَلْتَزِمُ بَعْضُنَا بَعْضًا؟ قَالَ: لاَ. قِيلَ: فَيُصَافِحُ بَعْضُنَا بَعْضًا؟ قَالَ: نَعَمْ


    ‘Messenger of Allah, should some of us bend forward for one another when we meet?’ He replied, ‘No.’ We asked, ‘Should we embrace each other?’ He replied, ‘No.’ We asked, ‘Should we shake hands?’ He said, ‘Yes.’”
    The above is in Ibn Majah and, according to Albani, of Hasan status (Au.).
    Now, it might be asked, the Prophet (saws) had said, “Stand up for your leader and for the best of you,” (referring to Sa`d b. Mu`adh when he arrived to judge Banu Qurayda’s fate), why then should we also not stand up for one another? The answer is, the Prophet had asked them to stand up and help Sa`d b. Mu`adh come down his donkey (Sa`d was then in an injured state: Au.). At best, one might stand up in deference of someone about whom he is sure that it will not lead him to self-conceit. The Prophet has said,


    مَنْ أَحَبَّ أَنْ يَمْثُلَ لَهُ الرِّجَالُ قِيَامًا فَلْيَتَبَوَّأْ مَقْعَدَهُ مِنَ النَّارِ


    “Whoever wished that people should stand up for him (when he arrives) may seek his abode in the Fire.”
    Apart from other collections, the above is in Abu Da’ud about which Albani said that it is Sahih (Au.).
    Accordingly, the Companions never stood up for the Messenger. As for shaking the hand or raising the fingers, in reply to greetings, that is allowed on condition that the person greeted is at a distance. So also, kissing of the hands is disallowed in Islam. As for hand-shake, it is clearly allowed. It is reported of the Companions that when they met each other, they shook hands, but when they met after a long separation, they embraced each other.
    Qurtubi’s discourse ends here.
    It might also be noted that “sajada” of Arabic originally stood for an act of humbleness, or self-humiliation. That led to the meaning of bowing down for someone. Finally, it acquired the meaning of prostration. Here are a few examples:


    كلّ شيء ذلّ فقد سجد (المصباح المنير)


    Everything that humbles itself is said to have done sajada – Al-Misbah al-Muneer
    سجد: خضع (الصحاح للجوهري و تاج العروس)
    Sajada means to humble oneself – Al-Sihah and Taj al-`Arus.


    شجرة ساجدة : مائلة (أساس البلاغة)


    Shajarah saajidah means ‘an inclined tree’ – Asas al-Balaghah


    والسفينة تسجد للرياح : تطيعها وتميل بميلها (أساس البلاغة) 


    When you say, ‘the ship has sajada for the winds,’ it means the ship follows the wind’s course and is inclined (under its pressure) – Asas al-Balaghah


    سجد البعير وأسجد : طأمن رأسه لراكبه (أساس البلاغة)


    When you say, ‘the camel has prostrated,’ it means it lowered its head for the rider - Asas al-Balaghah


    سَجَدَ ، إِذا انْحَنى وتَطَامَنَ إِلى الأَرضِ (تاج العروس)


    Sajada is used when (someone) bowed and bent forward towards the ground – Taj al-`Arus.
    In the light of the above, it is quite likely that Yusuf’s brothers merely bowed themselves to him, while it is unlikely that his parents would have done the same. No father will bow down for his son (Au.).
    144. It might be noted that Yusuf said, “He was indeed good to me when He brought me out of the prison.” He did not say, “He brought me out of the pit,” because that would have meant reproaching his brothers, while he had already told them, “There is no blame on you” (Qurtubi).
    145. Earliest Muslim scholars have said that Ya`qub had been living at the edge of the Syrian desert, rearing sheep and cattle.
    146. That is, when Allah wills something, He creates its means and elements of existence, foreordains (its measures) and renders easy its coming into existence (Ibn Kathir).

    رَبِّ قَدْ آتَيْتَنِي مِنَ الْمُلْكِ وَعَلَّمْتَنِي مِنْ تَأْوِيلِ الْأَحَادِيثِ ۚ فَاطِرَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ أَنْتَ وَلِيِّي فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةِ ۖ تَوَفَّنِي مُسْلِمًا وَأَلْحِقْنِي بِالصَّالِحِينَ (101)

    12|101| ‘My Lord! You have given me some power, and taught me the interpretation of dreams, O the Originator of the heavens and the earth. You are my Protector in this world and the next. Take my soul as one submitted, and admit me into the company of the righteous.’147


    147. Ibn `Abbas, Ibn Jurayj and Qatadah have said that when all things were settled to satisfaction, and Yusuf had received the best of what the world can yield, he longed to join with his ancestors and, accordingly, supplicated for death. Among the Prophets he was the only one to have wished for death.
    Ibn Kathir, Shabbir and others however point out that supplication for death is prohibited in Islam. The most one can do, if overwhelmed by misfortunes is to say,


    لَا يَتَمَنَّيَنَّ أَحَدُكُمْ الْمَوْتَ مِنْ ضُرٍّ أَصَابَهُ فَإِنْ كَانَ لَا بُدَّ فَاعِلًا فَلْيَقُلْ اللَّهُمَّ أَحْيِنِي مَا كَانَتْ الْحَيَاةُ خَيْرًا لِي وَتَوَفَّنِي إِذَا كَانَتْ الْوَفَاةُ خَيْرًا لِي


    “O Allah let me live if living is good for me and let me die if dying is better for me.” (The hadith is in Ahmad: H. Ibrahim).
    The above is Bukhari’s version (Au.).
    On one occasion, as the report goes in Ahmad, when the Companions got together and spoke of the Hereafter, Sa`d b. Waqqas began to cry bitterly and remarked, “O that I was dead.” the Prophet censured him, “Do you say that before me? (Three times).” Then he added,


    يَا سَعْدُ إِنْ كُنْتَ خُلِقْتَ لِلْجَنَّةِ فَمَا طَالَ عُمْرُكَ أَوْ حَسُنَ مِنْ عَمَلِكَ فَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَكَ


    “Sa`d, if you are created for Paradise, then the longer you live doing virtuous things the better.”
    The above is Ahmad’s version, but which is declared weak by Shu`ayb al-Arna’ut (Au.).
    According to another report preserved by Ahmad the Prophet said,


    اثْنَتَانِ يَكْرَهُهُمَا ابْنُ آدَمَ الْمَوْتُ وَالْمَوْتُ خَيْرٌ لِلْمُؤْمِنِ مِنْ الْفِتْنَةِ وَيَكْرَهُ قِلَّةَ الْمَالِ وَقِلَّةُ الْمَالِ أَقَلُّ لِلْحِسَاب


    “Adam’s son detests two things: death, while death is better than tribulations. And he detests poverty while poverty is better than accounting for wealth.”
    The above is from Ahmad rated good by Arna’ut.
    All said, it is allowed to wish for death when one faces a severe tribulation (in his religion) as it is reported of ‘Ali that when he was fed up with the seditions and political upheavals he cried out, “O Allah, take me back to you. They are tired of me and I am tired of them.” It is also reported that a man will pass by a grave - during the tribulations brought by Dajjal and remark: “Oh that I was in your place.”
    Ibn Kathir also states that with reference to Yusuf, various possibilities exist: that Yusuf supplicated in these words either then and there, or when he met his parents, or later, at the time of death. Our Prophet also supplicated to Allah just before dying, in words, as in the Sahihayn, “O Allah. (to) the companions on high.”
    Some scholars point out that one might wish death out of love of the hereafter, but not out of fear of this world (Au.).
    In any case, Shafi` adds, as against his father Ya`qub , [whose body was taken back for burial in Syria, following his will], Yusuf died and was buried in Egypt itself. He left a will that his body be taken back to Palestine if the Israelites went back there. Accordingly, when the Israelites left Egypt along with Musa (asws), they took his corpse along with them.
    The report referred to above is in Musnad of Abu Ya`la and Hakim, and is judged Sahih by Albani (Al-Ahadith al-Sahihah, no. 313), and by Arna’ut. It runs as follows: the Prophet said,


    أعجزتم أن تكونوا مثل عجوز بني إسرائيل؟ قالوا: يا رسول الله وما عجوز بني إسرائبل؟ قال: إن موسى عليه السلام لما سار ببني إسرائيل من مصر ضلوا الطريق فقال: ما هذا ؟ فقال علماؤهم: إن يوسف عليه السلام لما حضره الموت أخذ علينا موثقا من الله أن لا نخرج من مصر حتى ننقل عظامه معنا قال: فمن يعلم موضع قبره؟ قال: عجوز من بني إسرائيل فبعث إليها فأتته فقال: دليني على قبر يوسف قالت: حتى تعطيني حكمي قال: وما حكمك؟ قالت: أكون معك في الجنة فكره أن يعطيها ذلك فأوحى الله إليه: أن أعطها حكمها فانطلقت بهم إلى بحيرة موضع مستنقع ماء فقالت: أنضبوا هذا الماء فأنضبوه فقالت: احتفروا فاحتفروا فاستخرجوا عظام يوسف فلما أقلوها إلى الأرض وإذا الطريق مثل ضوء النهار


    “Is it impossible for you that you be - in the least - like the old Israelite woman?” They asked him, “What about her O Messenger of Allah”? He said, “When Musa left Egypt along with the Israelites, they lost the way. He said, ‘Now, what’s this?!’ Their scholars explained, ‘When death came upon Yusuf, he took a promise from us by Allah, that we will not leave Egypt but with his body.’ [Musa] asked, ‘Who knows where his grave is?’ [They said, ‘No one knows where his grave is] except an old Israeli woman.’ So he sent for her. When she came he said, ‘Lead us to Yusuf’s grave.’ She said, [By Allah I will not] until you give me my judgment.’ He asked, ‘What is the judgment you are referring to?’ She replied, ‘That I should be with you in Paradise.’ Musa did not like to give her that promise. So Allah revealed to him that he might give her the word. So she led them to a pond, more like a swampy area. She said, ‘Drain out water from this spot.’ They did that. She said, ‘Now, dig and remove Yusuf’s body.’ As soon as they brought out the body, the way became clear to them” (Au.).
    Thanwi adds: This moving of coffins, however, as stated in Tahtawi, is not allowed in Islam by consensus. Also, some historians have noted that after Yusuf’s death, the rule was taken over by the old ruling family, as Yusuf had all along held the position of an ‘Aziz only.

    ذَٰلِكَ مِنْ أَنْبَاءِ الْغَيْبِ نُوحِيهِ إِلَيْكَ ۖ وَمَا كُنْتَ لَدَيْهِمْ إِذْ أَجْمَعُوا أَمْرَهُمْ وَهُمْ يَمْكُرُونَ (102)

    12|102| This is of the tidings of the Unseen that We reveal unto you.148 You were not by them when they put together their plan and conspired.


    148. Note the difference, Shafi` points out, between the expression, “tidings of the Unseen” which the Qur’an uses here and at several other places, and “knowledge of the Unseen,” an expression never used anywhere in the Qur'an for anyone save Allah.
    Yusuf Ali summarizes: “The story is finished. But, is it a story? It is rather a recital of forces and motives, thoughts and feelings, complications and results, ordinarily not seen by men. However much they concert their plans and unite their forces, whatever dark plots they hack with all their resources, - the plan of Allah works irresistibly, and sweeps away all their machinations. The good wins through in the end, but not always as they planned; the evil forces are foiled, and often their very plots help the good.”

    وَمَا أَكْثَرُ النَّاسِ وَلَوْ حَرَصْتَ بِمُؤْمِنِينَ (103)

    12|103| Yet, most people - even if you wished eagerly – are not going to believe.149


    149. Imam Baghawi has said that some Jews came to the Prophet and said, “If you are a true Messenger, tell us Joseph’s story.” (According to other versions, “tell us, how the Israelites happened to be in Egypt?”: Au.). In response, this chapter was revealed. But when the Prophet recited it to them, they refused to believe. So Allah revealed the verse, “Yet, most people - even if you coveted - will not believe” (Ma`arif).
    Thanwi points out that Baghawi’s report could not been traced.

    وَمَا تَسْأَلُهُمْ عَلَيْهِ مِنْ أَجْرٍ ۚ إِنْ هُوَ إِلَّا ذِكْرٌ لِلْعَالَمِينَ (104)

    12|104| Although you do not ask them wages for it. It is only a reminder unto all beings.


    وَكَأَيِّنْ مِنْ آيَةٍ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ يَمُرُّونَ عَلَيْهَا وَهُمْ عَنْهَا مُعْرِضُونَ (105)

    12|105| Indeed, how many a sign (are not there) in the heavens and the earth that they pass by, (but they) turn away from them?150


    150. Allah mentions people’s failure to ponder over the signs of Allah’s oneness in what He created in the heavens and the earth: fixed shining stars, planets in circular movement, and all that has been made subservient to natural laws. And how many signs are not there in the earth of fertile plots (of different kinds) next to each other, gardens and orchards, mountains pitched into the earth, brimming oceans, waves rising one over another, and vast deserts?! And how many of the living and the lifeless are not there to ponder over: animals and plants, fruits similar but dissimilar in taste, smell, color and qualities?! Glory then to Allah, the One, the Creator of varieties, Himself One, endowed with permanent qualities of Uniqueness in Name and Attributes (Ibn Kathir).

    وَمَا يُؤْمِنُ أَكْثَرُهُمْ بِاللَّهِ إِلَّا وَهُمْ مُشْرِكُونَ (106)

    12|106| And most of them believe not in Allah but associate (with Him).151


    151. Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Qatadah and others have said that the meaning is: when the people are asked about who created the heavens and the earth, their own souls, and who sustains the created world, they reply with no hesitation that it is Allah. But, within the same breath they declare partners to Him in His Divinity and have no qualms in prostrating themselves before other than Him. Ibn Zayd has turned it around and said that there is no pagan, no one who associates with Allah, but is also a believer in Allah. Note the words of the Arab pagans who used to call out during Hajj,


    لَبَّيْكَ اللَّهُمَّ لَبَّيْكَ , لَبَّيْكَ لا شَرِيكَ لَكَ إِلا شَرِيكا هُوَ لَكَ تَمْلِكُهُ وَمَا مَلَكَ


    “Here we are O our Lord, here we are. You have no associates but the associate You wish: possessing him and what he possesses” (Ibn Jarir).
    The report about the pagan Arabs is in the Sahihayn (Ibn Kathir).
    Majid comments: “The description covers not only the open idolatry of the polytheistic peoples but also its veiled forms such as Christolatry, Mariolatry, the worship of heroes, the adoration of saints and the deification of Reason.”
    Ibn Kathir offers the following: According to a report in the Sahihayn, someone asked the Prophet,


    أَىُّ الذَّنْبِ أَكْبَرُ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ أَنْ تَدْعُوَ لِلَّهِ نِدًّا وَهُوَ خَلَقَكَ


    “Which is the greatest of sins?” He answered, “That you suggest an equal to Allah, while He alone created you.”
    Of association (shirk) there are some varieties that a man commits unknowingly. It is reported that Hudhayfah visited a man and found him wearing a string in his hand. He ripped it off and recited this verse, “And most of them believe not in Allah but associate (others with Him).” According to a report in Ahmad, Abu Da’ud and others, the Prophet (saws) said,

     


    إِنَّ الرُّقَى وَالتَّمَائِمَ وَالتِّوَلَةَ شِرْكٌ


    “Charms, amulets, and spells (for causing increase in love between husband and wife) are all acts of association.” According to another report,


    الطِّيَرَةُ شِرْكٌ وَمَا مِنَّا إِلَّا وَلَكِنَّ اللَّهَ يُذْهِبُهُ بِالتَّوَكُّلِ


    “Drawing omen is Association. However, there is none of us but affected by it except that Allah drives it away by the trust in Him.”
    Yet another report preserved by Ahmad tells us that once ‘Abdullah ibn Mas`ud’s wife was getting herself treated by an old woman for fever. As Ibn Mas`ud cleared his throat, she hid the woman who was blowing the charm on her, under the bed. Ibn Mas`ud saw a thread around her neck and inquired what it was. She told him it was for reducing fever. He broke it off and said, “`Abdullah’s family members have nothing to do with shirk.” She protested, “Whenever I suffered sore of eye, I went to a Jew who blew a charm and I felt relieved.” He replied, “That was from Shaytan. He used to prick you in the eye, and when the charm was read, he ceased. It would have been sufficient for you to say, as taught us by the Prophet:


    اللهمّ أَذْهِبِ البَأسَ رَبّ النّاسِ، وَاشْفِ أنْتَ الشّافِي لاَ شِفَاءَ إِلاّ شِفَاؤُكَ شِفَاءً لاَ يُغَادِرُ سَقَماً". .


    “O Allah, remove the affliction, O Lord of the people, relieve me, You are the Curer. There is no cure but Your cure, a cure that does not leave an affliction behind.”
    The version above is from Tirmidhi on the authority of `Ali who said that the Prophet used to say these words whenever unwell. He declared it of Hasan status. However, there are other versions coming through others. One, for instance, on the authority of Anas was declared Sahih by Abu Zur`ah, as in Tirmidhi (Au.).
    According to another report in Ahmad, once ‘Isa b. ‘Abdul Rahman visited ‘Abdullah b. ‘Ukaym in his sickness. He suggested, “If you would only tie (something to yourself!).” He replied, “Should I tie something!? I have heard the Prophet say,


    مَنْ تَعَلَّقَ شَيْئًا وُكِلَ إِلَيْهِ


    'Whoever hung a thing is left to hang by it.’”
    Another report in Ahmad said,


    مَنْ عَلَّقَ تَمِيمَةً فَقَدْ أَشْرَكَ


    “Whoever hung an amulet committed association.”
    Association takes other forms. One of them is to do something to please others. Muslim reports that the Prophet said,


    أَنَا أَغْنَى الشُّرَكَاءِ عَنِ الشِّرْكِ مَنْ عَمِلَ عَمَلاً أَشْرَكَ فِيهِ مَعِى غَيْرِى تَرَكْتُهُ وَشِرْكَهُ


    “Allah says, ‘I am the least in need of a partner. If someone did a thing in which he associated others with Me, I relinquish both the deed as well as the associate.”
    To be sure, there is a kind of shirk known as ‘show off’ (riya’). The Prophet said in a hadith of Ahmad,


    إِنَّ أَخْوَفَ مَا أَخَافُ عَلَيْكُمُ الشِّرْكُ الأَصْغَرُ ، قَالُوا : يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ، وَمَا الشِّرْكُ الأَصْغَرُ ؟ قَالَ : الرِّيَاءُ ، يُقَالُ لِمَنْ يَفْعَلُ ذَلِكَ إِذَا جَاءَ النَّاسُ بِأَعْمَالِهِمْ : اذْهَبُوا إِلَى الَّذِينَ كُنْتُمْ تُرَاءُونَ فَاطْلُبُوا ذَلِكَ عِنْدَهُمْ


    “The most that I fear for you is minor association.” They asked, “What is minor association?” He replied, “It is to (do a good thing intending to) show off.”
    Arna’ut’s opinion is that except for a minor problem, the hadith is trustworthy (Au.).
    Finally, there is that invisible association. It is reported as a hadith of Ahmad, which Haythami said was trusted by Ibn Hibban,


    "أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اتَّقُوا الشِّرْكَ، فَإِنَّهُ أَخْفَى مِنْ دَبِيبِ النَّمْلِ"، فَقَالَ: مَنْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ أَنْ يَقُولَ: وَكَيْفَ نَتَّقِيهِ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ، وَهُوَ أَخْفَى مِنْ دَبِيبِ النَّمْلِ؟ قَالَ:"قُولُوا: اللَّهُمَّ إِنَّا نَعُوذُ بِكَ أَنْ نُشْرِكَ بِكَ شَيْئًا تَعْلَمُهُ وَنَسْتَغْفِرُكَ لِمَا لا نَعْلَمُ" (رواه أحمد والطبراني في الكبير والأوسط ورجال أحمد رجال الصحيح غير أبي علي ووثقه ابن حبان).


    “People, be on guard against association, for it is less visible than an ant's crawling.” Someone asked, “So, how are we to avoid it when it is less visible than the crawl of an ant, O Messenger of Allah?” He replied, “Say, ‘O Allah we seek Your protection that we should associate aught with You that we know of, and seek Your forgiveness for what we have no knowledge of’” (Ibn Kathir).
    We have taken the text from Haythami which is slightly different from what it is in Ibn Kathir (Au.).
    Alusi adds that the verse also covers the grave-worshipers who believe in their power to deliver good and evil and who are, ‘in our times more in number than insects.’ He also mentions (in Bab al-Ishara: Thanwi) that according to the Sufiya, to turn even as much as one’s attention to other than Allah is a kind of Association.
    With regard to charms and amulets, one might see Surah 17 note 137 of this work for discussion over what kind of them are allowable in Islam (Au.).
    Yusuf Ali expands: “Even if people profess a nominal faith in Allah, they corrupt it by believing in other things as if they were Allah’s partners, or had some share in the shaping of the world’s destinies! In some circles, it is idolatry, the worship of stocks and stones. In others, it is Christolatry and Mariolatry, or the deification of heroes and men of renown. In others it is powers of Nature or of Life, or of the human intellect personified in Science or Art or invention, and this is more common form of modern idolatry. Others again worship mystery, or imaginary powers of good or evil: greed and fear are mixed up with these forms of worship. Islam calls us to worship Allah, the One True God, and Him only.”

    أَفَأَمِنُوا أَنْ تَأْتِيَهُمْ غَاشِيَةٌ مِنْ عَذَابِ اللَّهِ أَوْ تَأْتِيَهُمُ السَّاعَةُ بَغْتَةً وَهُمْ لَا يَشْعُرُونَ (107)

    12|107| Do they feel secure that the all-embracing punishment of Allah should come to them? Or, the Hour shall strike suddenly, while they are unaware?


    قُلْ هَٰذِهِ سَبِيلِي أَدْعُو إِلَى اللَّهِ ۚ عَلَىٰ بَصِيرَةٍ أَنَا وَمَنِ اتَّبَعَنِي ۖ وَسُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ وَمَا أَنَا مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ (108)

    12|108| Say, ‘This is my path. I invite unto Allah - with insight152 - I and those who follow me. And, glory to Allah, I am not of those who associate.’


    152. Commenting on the textual expression “‘ala basiratin”, Muhammad Asad writes: “Thus the ‘the call to God’ enunciated by the Prophet is described here as the outcome of a conscious insight accessible to, and verified by man’s reason: a statement which circumscribes to perfection the Qur’anic approach to all questions of faith, ethics and morality, and is echoed many times in expressions like ‘so that you might use your reason’ (la`allakum ta`qilun), or ‘will you not, then, use your reason?’ (afala ta`qilun), or ‘so that they might understand [the truth]’ (la`allahum yafqahun), or ‘so that you might think’ (la`allakum tatafakkarun), and, finally, in the oft repeated declaration that the message of the Qur’an as such is meant specifically ‘for people who think’ (li-qawmin yatafakkarun).”

    وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِنْ قَبْلِكَ إِلَّا رِجَالًا نُوحِي إِلَيْهِمْ مِنْ أَهْلِ الْقُرَىٰ ۗ أَفَلَمْ يَسِيرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ فَيَنْظُرُوا كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ ۗ وَلَدَارُ الْآخِرَةِ خَيْرٌ لِلَّذِينَ اتَّقَوْا ۗ أَفَلَا تَعْقِلُونَ (109)

    12|109| And We sent not (Messengers) before you but men of the towns,153 revealing to them. Have they not moved about in the land and seen what was the end of those who were before them? And, surely, the abode of the world to come is better for the godfearing. Do you not understand?


    153. And not of the deserts. That is, Prophets were not raised among the desert-dwellers (Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir).
    Ibn Kathir adds: This verse has led the great majority of the scholars to the opinion that women have not been raised as prophets. However, a minority opinion is that, even if not prophets, some have been there who received some sort of revelation, such as, Sarah (Ibrahim’s wife), Musa’s mother and Maryam bint ‘Imran. They have cited the following verse in evidence (28: 7):


    وَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَى أُمِّ مُوسَى أَنْ أَرْضِعِيهِ [القصص : 7]


    “We revealed unto Musa’s mother, ‘Feed him.’”
    But Al-Ash`ari has stated the opinion of the Ahl al-Sunnah that there were “Siddiqaat” among them and not “nabiyyat.” In any case, Ibn `Abbas seems to have understood the verse in another light. He said that the thrust of the verse is that the Messengers that were raised were humans and not angels nor some other heavenly beings.
    Following Thanwi’s understanding, the passage covering verses 102 to 109 could be paraphrased in the following manner: “This is of the tidings of the Unseen that We reveal unto you O Muhammad. You could not have written it yourself, because you were not by them when they were putting together their plan and were conspiring against Yusuf. Yet, most people - even if you wished eagerly - are not going to believe. In your case, for example, there is no good reason for their disbelief, seeing that you do not seek wages for it. This Qur’an is no more than a reminder unto all beings. Yet, if they reject, little wonder. After all, how many signs are not there in the heavens and the earth that they pass by, but they give them a blind eye? Further, the tragedy is that if they ever ponder and come to believe, most of them believe not in Allah without associating others with Him. Do they feel secure that the all-embracing punishment of Allah could descend on them? Or, the Hour should strike suddenly, while they are unaware? Faced with their obstinate blindness, say, ‘This is my path. I invite to Allah - with insight: I and those who follow me. And, glory to Allah, I am not of those who associate.’ They raise a new objection by way of rejection, saying, why an angel was not sent down with the message? Tell them, ‘We sent not Messengers before you but they were men, not angels, and were of the same towns as themselves.”

    حَتَّىٰ إِذَا اسْتَيْأَسَ الرُّسُلُ وَظَنُّوا أَنَّهُمْ قَدْ كُذِبُوا جَاءَهُمْ نَصْرُنَا فَنُجِّيَ مَنْ نَشَاءُ ۖ وَلَا يُرَدُّ بَأْسُنَا عَنِ الْقَوْمِ الْمُجْرِمِينَ (110)

    12|110| Till, when the Messengers lost hope154 and began to suspect that they were counted liars,155 Our succor came to them. Then We deliver whom We will.156 And Our scourge cannot be turned away from a criminal folk.


    154. Shabbir offers an elaborate but useful explanation, “There could be two situations in which a Messenger lost hope. One, when one of them lost hope altogether about succor coming to him, or, about the situation changing towards the better. This is not the characteristic of even an ordinary believer, let alone a Messenger. In fact, a man turns an unbeliever if this happens to be his attitude. Another situation could be when one of them looked at various aspects of the situation he was in, and felt that apparently, there was no room for an immediate change. This second situation, in which many people find themselves, is more of the nature of reading a situation and determining the most likely future course, rather than the of loss of faith. This does not call for censure (slightly expanded).
    155. The translation reflects the understanding of ‘ A’isha, Ibn Mas`ud, Ibn `Abbas, Sa`id bin Jybayr, Dahhak, Ibn Zayd and several others of the Followers (tabe`iyyun) as in Tabari. That is, the Messengers lost hope int their people ever turning believers. On the other hand, their people began to suspect that their Messengers had lied to them when they had threatened them with destruction failing to believe. Ibn Jarir quotes some six different narrators, through six different chains of narration, reporting about Ibn `Abbas that this was his opinion.
    However, he also quotes a second opinion of both Ibn Mas`ud as well as of Ibn `Abbas that it was the Messengers who thought that they were not told the truth (about when their disbelieving nations would be taken to task) - uttering that out of human weakness in situations of extreme disappointment. But when ‘A’isha was told about this second interpretation coming from Ibn `Abbas, she reacted it strongly saying, “Glory to Allah. No Messenger ever thought of such a thing. (Even an ordinary believer does not think of such a thing: Razi). Messengers knew very well that what Allah had informed them through revelation would come true before their death. Rather, it was the followers of the Messengers who began to suspect that they were not told the truth by their Messengers.” In fact, she used to recite the word as كُذِّبوا
    (they [the Prophets] were rejected), and not as كُذِبوا (the [people] were told a lie) - Ibn Jarir.
    `Ai’sha’s opinion is in Bukhari (Ibn Kathir).
    156. “So this is,” Sayyid points out, “Allah’s Sunnah with regard to the mission brought by the Prophets: there can be no escape from hardships and inflictions until nothing of the strength and energy is left for expenditure. It is only when every apparent means to which people cling, and depend on, have disappeared, that succor comes, relieving those who deserve to be relieved, while others - the criminal minded, and the arrogant ones - have the destruction delivered on themselves, with no help and succor from any quarter.
    “This, in order that help and succor from Allah does not become cheap and the mission and the Call treated lightly and taken up with ease. If this system of delayed retribution (during which trials and tribulations continue) was not in place, every false caller, who did not deserve to be a caller, would have stood up for the cause. But in Allah’s scheme the call to truth was not to be rendered a plaything. It is a lofty affair, that stands to transform lives of the people. It must be saved from false callers: those who cannot bear the hardships that accompany it. The false ones soon realize what it means to be in the field, and, usually, abandon it sooner than one would expect. Succor comes to those who remain on the tracks, without losing heart, despite their realization that after all, succor might not come from on high during their own lives.
    “This call is not similar to any other trade that promises quick returns, so that, if one failed, he might direct his activities towards some other trade that promises quicker results. Accordingly, those who take up this call in the Jahiliyy environments, in those societies that do not submit to the religion of Allah in every facet of their existence, have to understand from the beginning that this is not an easy path. One must realize that he challenges the people of power, wealth and resources, who have already bent the masses to their ways, to the extent that their subjects see black as white and white as black; who are capable of setting those very masses against the callers by invoking them to fully indulge in their carnal pleasures and then assuring them that the callers are out to rob them of those pleasures. The callers therefore must remain assured that the Call is not going to be a cakewalk, that holding on to it in the face of opposition would mean great troubles and that the masses are not going to be - at least initially, with them. Rather, in every generation, only a few - those with potential for goodness - will break away from the rest and join them in their struggle, those few who give preference to the great spiritual pleasure that accompanies the Call. In every stage, the numbers that take up this Call, sincerely, persistently, will remain small. But, a day will arrive, after a long or short struggle, when Allah will intervene, send His succor, and the masses will enter His Religion en masse.”

    لَقَدْ كَانَ فِي قَصَصِهِمْ عِبْرَةٌ لِأُولِي الْأَلْبَابِ ۗ مَا كَانَ حَدِيثًا يُفْتَرَىٰ وَلَٰكِنْ تَصْدِيقَ الَّذِي بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ وَتَفْصِيلَ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ وَهُدًى وَرَحْمَةً لِقَوْمٍ يُؤْمِنُونَ (111)

    12|111| Surely, in their story there is a lesson for those endowed with reason. It is not a tale concocted, but a confirmation of what was before it and a detailed exposition of all things157 - a guidance and a mercy unto a people who believe.158


    157. Asad remarks, “i.e., everything that man may need for his spiritual welfare.”
    158. Jewish and Christian scholars often allege that Prophet Muhammad took material from the Bible. Interestingly, most of them neither examine the Qur'an nor the Bible carefully. The commonality of a few incidents is enough for them to rush to the pre-conceived conclusion. They cite Joseph’s story as a good example, although it is a bad example. Joseph's story, as it runs in the Bible, runs through a good number of chapters in its first book, the famous Genesis.
    It was hard to reproduce the whole of the Biblical account here for comparison, as it runs into, all in all, 14 pages. We present just the 37th chapter from verse 5 onwards, the whole of the 38th chapter and the first verse of the 39th chapter, with the relevant Qur’anic verses facing them. In other words, we have presented only about 15% of the Biblical version. In the Bible, the account goes on up to the 50th chapter covering Joseph’s life until his death. But the above should be enough for comparison.

    “Gen: Ch. 37 - 5 And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more. 6 And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: 7 For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf. 8 And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words. 9 And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me. 10 And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to the earth? 11 And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying. 12 And his brethren went to feed their father’s flock in She’-chem. 13 And Israel said unto Joseph, Do not thy brethren feed the flock in She’-chem? come, and I will send thee unto them. And he said to him, Here am I. 14 And he said to him, Go, I pray thee, see whether it be well with thy brethren, and well with the flocks; and bring me word again. So he sent him out of the vale of He’-bron, and he came to She’-chem.
    15 And a certain man found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field: and the man asked him, saying, What seekest thou? 16 And he said, I seek my brethren: tell me, I pray thee, where they feed their flocks. 17 And the man said, They are departed hence; for I heard them say, Let us go to Do’-than. And Joseph went after his brethren, and found them in Do’-than. 18 And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him. 19 And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh. 20 Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams. 21 And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him. 22 And Reuben said unto them, Shed no blood, but cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, and lay no hand upon him; that he might rid him out of their hands, to deliver him to his father again. 23 And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him; 24 And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it. 25 And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ish’-me-el-ites came from Gil’-e-ad with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt.
    26 And Judah said unto his brethren, What profit is it if we slay our brother, and conceal his blood? 27 Come, and let us sell him to the Ish’-me-el-ites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother and our flesh. And his brethren were content. 28 Then there passed by Mid’-i-an-ites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ish’-me-el-ites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt. 29 And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes. 30 And he returned unto his brethren, and said, The child is not; and I, whither shall I go? 31 And they took Joseph’s coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood; 32 And they sent the coat of many colours, and they brought it to their father; and said, This have we found: know now whether it be thy son’s coat or no. 33 And he knew it, and said, It is my son’s coat; an evil beast hath devoured him; Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces. 34 And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days. 35 And all his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted; and he said, For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him. 36 And the Mid’-i-an-ites sold him into Egypt unto Pot’-i-phar, an officer of Pharaoh’s, and captain of the guard.
    Ch. 38 AND it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his brethren, and turned in to a certain A-dul’-lam-ite, whose name was Hi’-rah. 2 And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Ca’-naan-ite, whose name was Shu’-ah; and he took her, and went in unto her. 3 And she conceived, and bare a son; and he called his name Er. 4 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and she called his name O’-nan. 5 And she yet again conceived, and bare a son; and called his name She’-lah: and he was at Che’-zib, when she bare him. 6 And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Ta’-mar. 7 And Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him. 8 And Judah said unto O’-nan, Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. 9 And O’-nan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest he should give seed to his brother. 10 And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also. 11 Then said Judah to Ta’-mar his daughter in law, Remain a widow at thy father’s house, till She’-jaj my son be grown: for he said, Lest peradventure he die also, as his brethren did. And Ta’-mar went and dwelt in her father’s house. 12 And in process of time the daughter of Shu’-ah Judah’s wife died; and Judah was comforted, and went up into his sheepshearers to Tim’-nath, he and his friend Hi’-rah the A-dul’-lam-ite. 13 And it was told Ta’-mar, saying, Behold thy father in law goeth up to Tim’-nath to shear his sheep.
    14 And she put her widow’s garments off from her, and covered her with a veil, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Tim’-nath; for she saw that She’-lah was grown, and was not given unto him to wife. 15 When Judah saw her, he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face. 16 And he turned unto her by the way, and said, Go to, I pray thee, let me come in unto thee; (for he knew not that she was his daughter in law.) And she said, What wilt thou give me, that thou mayest come in unto me? 17 And he said, I will send thee a kid from the flock. And she said, Wilt thou give me a pledge, till thou send it? 18 And he said, What pledge shall I give thee? And she said, Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand. And he gave it her, and came in unto her, and she conceived by him. 19 And she arose, and went away, and laid by her veil from her, and put on the garments of her widowhood. 20 And Judah sent the kid by the hand of his friend the A-dul’-lam-ite, to receive his pledge from the woman’s hand: but he found her not. 21 Then he asked the men of that place, saying, Where is the harlot, that was openly by the way side? And they said, There was no harlot in this place. 22 And he returned to Judah, and said, I cannot find her; and also the men of the place said, that there was no harlot in this place. 23 And Judah said, Let her take it to her, lest we be shamed: behold, I sent this kid, and thou hast not found her. 24 And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Ta’-mar thy daughter in law hath played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt. 25 When she was brought forth, she sent to her father in law, saying, By the man, whose these are, am I with child: and she said, Discern, I pray thee, whare these, the signet, and bracelets, and staff. 26 And Judah acknowledged them, and said, She hath been more righteous than I; because that I gave her not to She’-lah my son. And he knew her again no more. 27 And it came to pass in the time of her travail, that, behold, twins were in her womb. 28 And it came to pass, when she travailed, that the one put out his hand: and the midwife took and bound upon his hand a scarlet thread, saying, This came out first. 29 And it came to pass, as he drew back his hand, that, behold, his brother came out: and she said, How hast thou broken forth? this breach be upon thee: therefore his name was called Pha’-rez. 30 And afterward came out his brother, that had the scarlet thread upon his hand: and his name was called Zar’-ah.
    Ch. 39 AND Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Pot’-i-phar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him off the hands of the Ish’-me-el-ites, which had brought him down thither.”

    The following is the Qur’anic text for comparison:
    [4] When Yusuf said to his father, ‘O my father. I have seen (in my dream) eleven planets, the sun and the moon, I saw them prostrating themselves before me.’ [5] He said, ‘O my son. Do not reveal this dream to your brothers, lest they devise against you some plot. Surely, Shaytan is man’s open enemy. [6] And that is how your Lord will choose you, teach you interpretation of the discourses and fulfill His favor upon you and upon the family of Ya`qub as He fulfilled it upon your fathers Ibrahim and Is-haq aforetime. Surely, your Lord is All-knowing, All-wise.’ [7] Surely, in Yusuf and his brothers there are signs for those who seek to know. [8] When they said (among themselves), `Surely, Yusuf and his brother14 are dearer to our father than we while we are a goodly body.15 Surely, our father is in a manifest error.
    [9] Slay Yusuf or cast him into some (unknown) place so that your father’s favor is freed for you alone. Thereafter, you could become a righteous lot.’ [10] Said one of those who spoke, ‘Do not kill Yusuf. (Instead), cast him into the bottom of a well (from where) someone of the travelers might pick him up - if you must do (it).’ [11] They spoke to their father, ‘O our father! What is it with you that you do not trust us with Yusuf while we are his sincere well-wishers? [12] Send him with us tomorrow to frolic19 and play. We shall surely be watching over him.’ [13] He replied, ‘It saddens me to think that you should take him with you. (In addition) I fear a wolf might (snatch and) eat him off in your unawares.’ [14] They protested, ‘If a wolf should eat him off while we are a goodly body, then, surely we are the losers.’ [15] So, when they took him with them and agreed to place him in the bottom of a well, We revealed unto him that (one day) you will remind them of this their deed, while they would be unaware (of your identity).
    [21] Said he who purchased him in Egypt to his wife, `Make his stay (with us) honorable. He may well be of use to us, or we may adopt him as a son.’

    A few errors may be noted in the above Biblical text: Firstly, at the time of the story, the terms Ish’-me-el-ites or Israelites, did not exist. The division and classification into Ish’-ma-el-ites or Israelites took place much later. Secondly, it is unthinkable that Joseph’s brothers should be able to recognize their immediate cousins, but their cousins should not be able to recognize them, or fail to recognize Joseph even when sold to them, nor that Joseph should fail to reveal his identity to them.
    The objective of course of these kinds of tampering, here, as well as in several other parts of the Bible, was to create hatred for the sons of Isma`il, the Arabs.
    Also note that by the time the story advanced, the interpolators forgot their own tampering. So that, it is stated in ch.37, verse 28 that the Mid’-i-an-ites sold Joseph to the Ish’-me-el-ites right near the well: “Then there passed by Mid’-i-an-ites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ish’-me-el-ites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.” But verse 36 of the same chapter says, “And the Mid’-i-an-ites sold him into Egypt unto Pot’-i-phar, an officer of Pharaoh’s, and captain of the guard.” The 38th chapter should especially help in judging as to which of the two is better qualified to be a revelation: the Qur’an or the Bible? - Au.