A Meccan sura dealing primarily with the story of Joseph, but framed by a three-verse introduction about the Quran and a ten-verse epilogue about the Meccans’ response, the punishment met by earlier disbelievers, and encouragement for the Prophet.
In the name of God, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy
Dreams and Deception
1 Alif Lam Ra
These are the verses of the Scripture that makes things clear–– 2 We have sent it down as an Arabic Quran so that you [people] may understand.
3 We tell you [Prophet] the best of stories in revealing this Quran to you. [a] Before this [b] you were one of those who knew nothing about them. 4 Joseph said to his father, ‘Father, I dreamed of eleven stars and the sun and the moon: I saw them all bow down before me,’ 5 and he replied, ‘My son, tell your brothers nothing of this dream, or they may plot to harm you––Satan is man’s sworn enemy. 6 This is about how your Lord will choose you, teach you to interpret dreams, and perfect His blessing on you and the House of Jacob, just as He perfected it earlier on your forefathers Abraham and Isaac: your Lord is all knowing and wise.’
7 There are lessons in the story of Joseph and his brothers for all who seek them. 8 The brothers said [to each other], ‘Although we are many, Joseph and his brother are dearer to our father than we are–– our father is clearly in the wrong.’ 9 [One of them said], ‘Kill Joseph or banish him to another land, and your father’s attention will be free to turn to you. After that you can be righteous.’ 10 [Another of them] said, ‘Do not kill Joseph, but, if you must, throw him into the hidden depths of a well where some caravan may pick him up.’
11 They said to their father, ‘Why do you not trust us with Joseph? We wish him well. 12 Send him with us tomorrow and he will enjoy himself and play– we will take good care of him.’ 13 He replied, ‘The thought of you taking him away with you worries me: I am afraid a wolf may eat him when you are not paying attention.’ 14 They said, ‘If a wolf were to eat him when there are so many of us, we would truly be losers!’
15 Then they took him away with them, resolved upon throwing him into the hidden depths of a well– We inspired him, saying, ‘You will tell them of all this [at a time] when they do not realize [who you are]!’– 16 and at nightfall they returned to their father weeping. 17 They said, ‘We went off racing one another, leaving Joseph behind with our things, and a wolf ate him. You will not believe us, though we are telling the truth!’ 18 and they showed him his shirt, deceptively stained with blood. He cried, ‘No! Your souls have prompted you to do wrong! But it is best to be patient: from God alone I seek help to bear what you are saying.’
The Failed Seduction
19 Some travelers came by. They sent someone to draw water and he let down his bucket. ‘Good news!’ he exclaimed. ‘Here is a boy!’ They hid him like a piece of merchandise– God was well aware of what they did– 20 and then sold him for a small price, for a few pieces of silver: so little did they value him.
21 The Egyptian who bought him said to his wife, ‘Look after him well! He may be useful to us, or we may adopt him as a son.’ In this way We settled Joseph in that land and later taught him how to interpret dreams: God always prevails in His purpose, though most people do not realize it.
22 When he reached maturity, We gave him judgement and knowledge: this is how We reward those who do good. 23 The woman in whose house he was living tried to seduce him: she bolted the doors and said, ‘Come to me,’ and he replied, ‘God forbid! My master has been good to me; wrongdoers never prosper.’ 24 She made for him, and he would have succumbed to her if he had not seen evidence of his Lord– We did this in order to keep evil and indecency away from him, for he was truly one of Our chosen servants. 25 They raced for the door– she tore his shirt from behind– and at the door they met her husband. She said, ‘What, other than prison or painful punishment, should be the reward of someone who tried to dishonor your wife?’ 26 but he said, ‘She tried to seduce me.’ A member of her household suggested, ‘If his shirt is torn at the front, then it is she who is telling the truth and he who is lying, 27 but if it is torn at the back, then she is lying and he is telling the truth.’ 28 When the husband saw that the shirt was torn at the back, he said, ‘This is another instance of women’s treachery: your treachery is truly great. 29 Joseph, overlook this; but you [wife], ask forgiveness for your sin– you have done wrong.’
30 Some women of the city said, ‘The governor’s wife is trying to seduce her slave! Love for him consumes her heart! It is clear to us that she has gone astray.’ 31 When she heard their malicious talk, she prepared a banquet and sent for them, giving each of them a knife. She said to Joseph, ‘Come out and show yourself to them!’ and when the women saw him, they were stunned by his beauty, and cut their hands, exclaiming, ‘Great God! He cannot be mortal! He must be a precious angel!’ 32 She said, ‘This is the one you blamed me for. I tried to seduce him and he wanted to remain chaste, but if he does not do what I command now, he will be put in prison and degraded.’ 33 Joseph said, ‘My Lord! I would prefer prison to what these women are calling me to do. If You do not protect me from their treachery, I shall yield to them and do wrong,’ 34 and his Lord answered his prayer and protected him from their treachery– He is the All Hearing, the All Knowing. 35 In the end they [c] thought it best, after seeing all the signs of his innocence, that they should imprison him for a while.
Joseph Languishes in Prison
36 Two young men went into prison alongside him. One of them said, ‘I dreamed that I was pressing grapes’; the other said, ‘I dreamed that I was carrying bread on my head and that the birds were eating it.’ [They said], ‘Tell us what this means– we can see that you are a knowledgeable [d] man.’
37 He said, ‘I can tell you what this means before any meal arrives: this is part of what my Lord has taught me. I reject the faith of those who disbelieve in God and deny the life to come, 38 and I follow the faith of my forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Because of God’s grace to us and to all mankind, we would never worship anything beside God, but most people are ungrateful. 39 Fellow prisoners, would many diverse gods be better than God the One, the All Powerful? [No indeed!] 40 All those you worship instead of Him are mere names you and your forefathers have invented, names for which God has sent down no sanction. Authority belongs to God alone, and He orders you to worship none but Him: this is the true faith, though most people do not realize it. 41 Fellow prisoners, one of you will serve his master with wine; the other will be crucified and the birds will peck at his head. That is the end of the matter on which you asked my opinion.’ 42 Joseph said to the one he knew would be saved, ‘Mention me to your master,’ but Satan made him forget to do this, and so Joseph remained in prison for a number of years.
a. Many translators add ‘though’ (‘. . . to you, though before this . . .’), thinking that in is conditional, when in fact it is for emphasis here, as confirmed by the emphatic lam following it.
b. Cf. 11: 49 and 42: 52.
c. The governor and his household.
d. Razi gives this interpretation of muhsinin.
The Qur'an (Oxford World's Classics)
The Qur'an / a new translation by M. A. S. Abdel Haleem, copyright © 2004 Oxford World's Classics (Oxford University Press). Used by permission. All rights reserved.