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 هَذَا بَشَرًا إِنْ هَذَا إِلاَّ مَلَكٌ كَرِيمٌ (يوسف: 31).
قَالَتْ فَذَلِكُنَّ الَّذِي لُمْتُنَّنِي فِيهِ وَلَقَدْ رَاوَدتُّهُ عَنْ نَفْسِهِ فَاسْتَعْصَمَ وَلَئِنْ لَمْ يَفْعَلْ مَا آمُرُهُ لَيُسْجَنَنَّ وَلَيَكُوناً مِنَ الصَّاغِرِينَ (يوسف: 32).
قَالَ رَبِّ السِّجْنُ أَحَبُّ إِلَيَّ مِمَّا يَدْعُونَنِي إِلَيْهِ وَإِلاَّ تَصْرِفْ عَنِّي كَيْدَهُنَّ أَصْبُ إِلَيْهِنَّ وَأَكُنْ مِنْ الْجَاهِلِينَ (يوسف: 33).
فَاسْتَجَابَ لَهُ رَبُّهُ فَصَرَفَ عَنْهُ كَيْدَهُنَّ إِنَّهُ هُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ (يوسف: 34).
ثُمَّ بَدَا لَهُمْ مِنْ بَعْدِ مَا رَأَوُا الآياتِ لَيَسْجُنُنَّهُ حَتَّى حِينٍ (يوسف: 35).
وَدَخَلَ مَعَهُ السِّجْنَ فَتَيَانِ قَالَ أَحَدُهُمَا إِنِّي أَرَانِي أَعْصِرُ خَمْرًا وَقَالَ الآخَرُ إِنِّي أَرَانِي أَحْمِلُ فَوْقَ رَأْسِي خُبْزًا تَأْكُلُ الطَّيْرُ مِنْهُ نَبِّئْنَا بِتَأْوِيلِهِ إِنَّا نَرَاكَ مِنْ الْمُحْسِنِينَ (يوسف: 36).
قَالَ لاَ يَأْتِيكُمَا طَعَامٌ تُرْزَقَانِهِ إِلاَّ نَبَّأْتُكُمَا بِتَأْوِيلِهِ قَبْلَ أَنْ يَأْتِيَكُمَا ذَلِكُمَا مِمَّا عَلَّمَنِي رَبِّي إِنِّي تَرَكْتُ مِلَّةَ قَوْمٍ لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَهُمْ بالآخِرَةِ هُمْ كَافِرُونَ (يوسف: 37).
وَاتَّبَعْتُ مِلَّةَ آبَائِي إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْحَاقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ مَا كَانَ لَنَا أَنْ نُشْرِكَ بِاللَّهِ مِنْ شَيْءٍ ذَلِكَ مِنْ فَضْلِ اللَّهِ عَلَيْنَا وَعَلَى النَّاسِ وَلَكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لاَ يَشْكُرُونَ (يوسف: 38).
يَا صَاحِبَيِ السِّجْنِ أَأَرْبَابٌ مُتَفَرِّقُونَ خَيْرٌ أَمِ اللَّهُ الْوَاحِدُ الْقَهَّارُ (يوسف: 39).
مَا تَعْبُدُونَ مِنْ دُونِهِ إِلاَّ أَسْمَاءً سَمَّيْتُمُوهَا أَنْتُمْ وَآبَاؤُكُمْ مَا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ بِهَا مِنْ سُلْطَانٍ إِنِ الْحُكْمُ إِلاَّ لِلَّهِ أَمَرَ أَلاَّ تَعْبُدُوا إِلاَّ إِيَّاهُ ذَلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ وَلَكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لاَ يَعْلَمُونَ (يوسف: 40).
يَا صَاحِبَيِ السِّجْنِ أَمَّا أَحَدُكُمَا فَيَسْقِي رَبَّهُ خَمْرًا وَأَمَّا الآخَرُ فَيُصْلَبُ فَتَأْكُلُ الطَّيْرُ مِنْ رَأْسِهِ قُضِيَ الأَمْرُ الَّذِي فِيهِ تَسْتَفْتِيَانِ (يوسف: 41).
وَقَالَ لِلَّذِي ظَنَّ أَنَّهُ نَاجٍ مِنْهُمَا اذْكُرْنِي عِنْدَ رَبِّكَ فَأَنسَاهُ الشَّيْطَانُ ذِكْرَ رَبِّهِ فَلَبِثَ فِي السِّجْنِ بِضْعَ سِنِينَ (يوسف: 42).
وَقَالَ الْمَلِكُ إِنِّي أَرَى سَبْعَ بَقَرَاتٍ سِمَانٍ يَأْكُلُهُنَّ سَبْعٌ عِجَافٌ وَسَبْعَ سُنْبُلاَتٍ خُضْرٍ وَأُخَرَ يَابِسَاتٍ يَاأَيُّهَا الْمَلَأُ أَفْتُونِي فِي رُؤْيَايَ إِنْ كُنتُمْ لِلرُّؤْيَا تَعْبُرُونَ (يوسف: 43).
قَالُوا أَضْغَاثُ أَحْلاَمٍ وَمَا نَحْنُ بِتَأْوِيلِ الأَحْلاَمِ بِعَالِمِينَ (يوسف: 44).
وَقَالَ الَّذِي نَجَا مِنْهُمَا وَاِدَّكَرَ بَعْدَ أُمَّةٍ أَنَا أُنَبِّئُكُمْ بِتَأْوِيلِهِ فَأَرْسِلُونِي (يوسف: 45).
يُوسُفُ أَيُّهَا الصِّدِّيقُ أَفْتِنَا فِي سَبْعِ بَقَرَاتٍ سِمَانٍ يَأْكُلُهُنَّ سَبْعٌ عِجَافٌ وَسَبْعِ سُنْبُلاَتٍ خُضْرٍ وَأُخَرَ يَابِسَاتٍ لَعَلِّي أَرْجِعُ إِلَى النَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَعْلَمُونَ (يوسف: 46).
قَالَ تَزْرَعُونَ سَبْعَ سِنِينَ دَأَبًا فَمَا حَصَدْتُمْ فَذَرُوهُ فِي سُنْبُلِهِ إِلاَّ قَلِيلاً مِمَّا تَأْكُلُونَ (يوسف: 47).
ثُمَّ يَأْتِي مِنْ بَعْدِ ذَلِكَ سَبْعٌ شِدَادٌ يَأْكُلْنَ مَا قَدَّمْتُمْ لَهُنَّ إِلاَّ قَلِيلاً مِمَّا تُحْصِنُونَ (يوسف: 48).
ثُمَّ يَأْتِي مِنْ بَعْدِ ذَلِكَ عَامٌ فِيهِ يُغَاثُ النَّاسُ وَفِيهِ يَعْصِرُونَ (يوسف: 49).
وَقَالَ الْمَلِكُ ائْتُونِي بِهِ فَلَمَّا جَاءَهُ الرَّسُولُ قَالَ ارْجِعْ إِلَى رَبِّكَ فَاسْأَلْهُ مَا بَالُ النِّسْوَةِ اللاَّتِي قَطَّعْنَ أَيْدِيَهُنَّ إِنَّ رَبِّي بِكَيْدِهِنَّ عَلِيمٌ (يوسف: 50).
قَالَ مَا خَطْبُكُنَّ إِذْ رَاوَدتُّنَّ يُوسُفَ عَنْ نَفْسِهِ قُلْنَ حَاشَ لِلَّهِ مَا عَلِمْنَا عَلَيْهِ مِنْ سُوءٍ قَالَتِ امْرَأَتُ الْعَزِيزِ الآنَ حَصْحَصَ الْحَقُّ أَنَا رَاوَدتُّهُ عَنْ نَفْسِهِ وَإِنَّهُ لَمِنْ الصَّادِقِينَ (يوسف: 51).
ذَلِكَ لِيَعْلَمَ أَنِّي لَمْ أَخُنْهُ بِالْغَيْبِ وَأَنَّ اللَّهَ لاَ يَهْدِي كَيْدَ الْخَائِنِينَ (يوسف: 52).
وَمَا أُبَرِّئُ نَفْسِي إِنَّ النَّفْسَ لَأَمَّارَةٌ بِالسُّوءِ إِلاَّ مَا رَحِمَ رَبِّي إِنَّ رَبِّي غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ (يوسف: 53).
وَقَالَ الْمَلِكُ ائْتُونِي بِهِ أَسْتَخْلِصْهُ لِنَفْسِي فَلَمَّا كَلَّمَهُ قَالَ إِنَّكَ الْيَوْمَ لَدَيْنَا مَكِينٌ أَمِينٌ (يوسف: 54).
قَالَ اجْعَلْنِي عَلَى خَزَائِنِ الأَرْضِ إِنِّي حَفِيظٌ عَلِيمٌ (يوسف: 55).
وَكَذَلِكَ مَكَّنَّا لِيُوسُفَ فِي الأَرْضِ يَتَبَوَّأُ مِنْهَا حَيْثُ يَشَاءُ نُصِيبُ بِرَحْمَتِنَا مَنْ نَشَاءُ وَلاَ نُضِيعُ أَجْرَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ (يوسف: 56).
وَلَأَجْرُ الآخِرَةِ خَيْرٌ لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَكَانُوا يَتَّقُونَ (يوسف: 57).
وَجَاءَ إِخْوَةُ يُوسُفَ فَدَخَلُوا عَلَيْهِ فَعَرَفَهُمْ وَهُمْ لَهُ مُنكِرُونَ (يوسف: 58).
وَلَمَّا جَهَّزَهُمْ بِجَهَازِهِمْ قَالَ ائْتُونِي بِأَخٍ لَكُمْ مِنْ أَبِيكُمْ أَلاَ تَرَوْنَ أَنِّي أُوفِي الْكَيْلَ وَأَنَا خَيْرُ الْمُنزِلِينَ (يوسف: 59).
فَإِنْ لَمْ تَأْتُونِي بِهِ فَلاَ كَيْلَ لَكُمْ عِندِي وَلاَ تَقْرَبُونِي (يوسف: 60).
قَالُوا سَنُرَاوِدُ عَنْهُ أَبَاهُ وَإِنَّا لَفَاعِلُونَ (يوسف: 61).
وَقَالَ لِفِتْيَانِهِ اجْعَلُوا بِضَاعَتَهُمْ فِي رِحَالِهِمْ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَعْرِفُونَهَا إِذَا انقَلَبُوا إِلَى أَهْلِهِمْ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ (يوسف: 62).
فَلَمَّا رَجَعُوا إِلَى أَبِيهِمْ قَالُوا يَا أَبَانَا مُنِعَ مِنَّا الْكَيْلُ فَأَرْسِلْ مَعَنَا أَخَانَا نَكْتَلْ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ (يوسف: 63).
قَالَ هَلْ آمَنُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ إِلاَّ كَمَا أَمِنتُكُمْ عَلَى أَخِيهِ مِنْ قَبْلُ فَاللَّهُ خَيْرٌ حَافِظًا وَهُوَ أَرْحَمُ الرَّاحِمِينَ (يوسف: 64).
وَلَمَّا فَتَحُوا مَتَاعَهُمْ وَجَدُوا بِضَاعَتَهُمْ رُدَّتْ إِلَيْهِمْ قَالُوا يَا أَبَانَا مَا نَبْغِي هَذِهِ بِضَاعَتُنَا رُدَّتْ إِلَيْنَا وَنَمِيرُ أَهْلَنَا وَنَحْفَظُ أَخَانَا وَنَزْدَادُ كَيْلَ بَعِيرٍ ذَلِكَ كَيْلٌ يَسِيرٌ (يوسف: 65).
قَالَ لَنْ أُرْسِلَهُ مَعَكُمْ حَتَّى تُؤْتُونِي مَوْثِقًا مِنْ اللَّهِ لَتَأْتُونَنِي بِهِ إِلاَّ أَنْ يُحَاطَ بِكُمْ فَلَمَّا آتَوْهُ مَوْثِقَهُمْ قَالَ اللَّهُ عَلَى مَا نَقُولُ وَكِيلٌ (يوسف: 66).
وَقَالَ يَا بَنِيَّ لاَ تَدْخُلُوا مِنْ بَابٍ وَاحِدٍ وَادْخُلُوا مِنْ أَبْوَابٍ مُتَفَرِّقَةٍ وَمَا أُغْنِي عَنكُمْ مِنْ اللَّهِ مِنْ شَيْءٍ إِنْ الْحُكْمُ إِلاَّ لِلَّهِ عَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ وَعَلَيْهِ فَلْيَتَوَكَّلْ الْمُتَوَكِّلُونَ (يوسف: 67).
وَلَمَّا دَخَلُوا مِنْ حَيْثُ أَمَرَهُمْ أَبُوهُمْ مَا كَانَ يُغْنِي عَنْهُمْ مِنْ اللَّهِ مِنْ شَيْءٍ إِلَّا حَاجَةً فِي نَفْسِ يَعْقُوبَ قَضَاهَا وَإِنَّهُ لَذُو عِلْمٍ لِمَا عَلَّمْنَاهُ وَلَكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لا يَعْلَمُونَ (يوسف: 68).
وَلَمَّا دَخَلُوا عَلَى يُوسُفَ آوَى إِلَيْهِ أَخَاهُ قَالَ إِنِّي أَنَا أَخُوكَ فَلاَ تَبْتَئِسْ بِمَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ (يوسف: 69).
فَلَمَّا جَهَّزَهُمْ بِجَهَازِهِمْ جَعَلَ السِّقَايَةَ فِي رَحْلِ أَخِيهِ ثُمَّ أَذَّنَ مُؤَذِّنٌ أَيَّتُهَا الْعِيرُ إِنَّكُمْ لَسَارِقُونَ (يوسف: 70).
قَالُوا وَأَقْبَلُوا عَلَيْهِمْ مَاذَا تَفْقِدُونَ (يوسف: 71).
قَالُوا نَفْقِدُ صُوَاعَ الْمَلِكِ وَلِمَنْ جَاءَ بِهِ حِمْلُ بَعِيرٍ وَأَنَا بِهِ زَعِيمٌ (يوسف: 72).
قَالُوا تَاللَّهِ لَقَدْ عَلِمْتُمْ مَا جِئْنَا لِنُفْسِدَ فِي الأَرْضِ وَمَا كُنَّا سَارِقِينَ (يوسف: 73).
قَالُوا فَمَا جَزَاؤُهُ إِنْ كُنتُمْ كَاذِبِينَ (يوسف: 74).
قَالُوا جَزَاؤُهُ مَنْ وُجِدَ فِي رَحْلِهِ فَهُوَ جَزَاؤُهُ كَذَلِكَ نَجْزِي الظَّالِمِينَ (يوسف: 75).
فَبَدَأَ بِأَوْعِيَتِهِمْ قَبْلَ وِعَاءِ أَخِيهِ ثُمَّ اسْتَخْرَجَهَا مِنْ وِعَاءِ أَخِيهِ كَذَلِكَ كِدْنَا لِيُوسُفَ مَا كَانَ لِيَأْخُذَ أَخَاهُ فِي دِينِ الْمَلِكِ إِلاَّ أَنْ يَشَاءَ اللَّهُ نَرْفَعُ دَرَجَاتٍ مَنْ نَشَاءُ وَفَوْقَ كُلِّ ذِي عِلْمٍ عَلِيمٌ (يوسف: 76).
قَالُوا إِنْ يَسْرِقْ فَقَدْ سَرَقَ أَخٌ لَهُ مِنْ قَبْلُ فَأَسَرَّهَا يُوسُفُ فِي نَفْسِهِ وَلَمْ يُبْدِهَا لَهُمْ قَالَ أَنْتُمْ شَرٌّ مَكَانًا وَاللَّهُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا تَصِفُونَ (يوسف: 77).
قَالُوا يَا أَيُّهَا الْعَزِيزُ إِنَّ لَهُ أَبًا شَيْخًا كَبِيرًا فَخُذْ أَحَدَنَا مَكَانَهُ إِنَّا نَرَاكَ مِنْ الْمُحْسِنِينَ (يوسف: 78).
قَالَ مَعَاذَ اللَّهِ أَنْ نَأْخُذَ إِلاَّ مَنْ وَجَدْنَا مَتَاعَنَا عِنْدَهُ إِنَّا إِذًا لَظَالِمُونَ (يوسف: 79).
فَلَمَّا اسْتَيْئَسُوا مِنْهُ خَلَصُوا نَجِيًّا قَالَ كَبِيرُهُمْ أَلَمْ تَعْلَمُوا أَنَّ أَبَاكُمْ قَدْ أَخَذَ عَلَيْكُمْ مَوْثِقًا مِنْ اللَّهِ وَمِنْ قَبْلُ مَا فَرَّطتُمْ فِي يُوسُفَ فَلَنْ أَبْرَحَ الأَرْضَ حَتَّى يَأْذَنَ لِي أَبِي أَوْ يَحْكُمَ اللَّهُ لِي وَهُوَ خَيْرُ الْحَاكِمِينَ (يوسف: 80).
SURAH YOUSAF AYAH 31 TO 60
(12:31) Hearing of their sly talk the chief’s wife sent for those ladies, and arranged for them a banquet, and got ready couches, and gave each guest a knife. Then, while they were cutting and eating the fruit, she signaled Joseph: “Come out to them.” When the ladies saw him they were so struck with admiration that they cut their hands, exclaiming: “Allah preserve us. This is no mortal human. This is nothing but a noble angel. 26
26. The ancient Egyptians used to place pillows and cushions in such feasts for the guests to recline. And this is confirmed by the archaeological remains in Egypt.
There is no mention at all of this banquet in the Bible but it has been described in the Talmud in a way quite different from that of the Quran. Needless to say that while this narrative in the Quran is natural, life like and teaches moral lessons, the one in the Talmud lacks all these things.
(12:32) She said: “So now you see! This is the one regarding whom you reproached me. Indeed I tried to tempt him to myself but he held back, although if he were not to follow my order, he would certainly be imprisoned and humiliated.”
27. This open demonstration of her love and declaration of her immoral designs show that the moral condition of the higher class of the Egyptian society had declined to the lowest ebb. It is quite obvious that the women whom she had invited must have been ladies belonging to the upper most stratum of the society. The very fact that she presented her beloved before them without any hesitation, in order to convince them of his beauty and youth that had urged her to fall in love with him, shows that there was nothing uncommon in this demonstration. Then these ladies did not reproach her but themselves practically demonstrated that, in those circumstances, they themselves would have done the same that she did. Above all, the hostess did not feel that it was immodest to declare openly: No doubt, I sought to seduce him and he succeeded in escaping from me. Yet I am not going to give him up. If he will not do as I bid him, he shall be cast into prison and humbled and disgraced.
(12:33) Joseph said: “My Lord! I prefer imprisonment to what they ask me to do. And if You do not avert from me the guile of these women, I will succumb to their attraction and lapse into ignorance.”28
28. In order to grasp the full significance of this prayer of Prophet Joseph, we should try to form a mental picture of the circumstances in which he was placed at that time. In the light of this passage the picture will be something like this. There is the handsome young man of twenty in the prime of his life, who has brought health and vigor of youth from the desert into Egypt, after passing through the ordeal of forced slavery and exile. Fortune has placed him in the house of one of the highest dignitaries in the capital of the most civilized country
of the world at the time. There this handsome young man meets in the prime of life with a strange experience. The lady of the house in which he has to live day and night falls passionately in love with him and begins to tempt and seduce him. Then the fame of his beauty spreads all over the capital and the other ladies of the town also become enamored of him. Now this is the critical position. He is surrounded on all sides by hundreds of beautiful snares that have been spread to entrap and catch him unaware. All sorts of devices are employed to excite his passions and entice him: wherever he goes he encounters sin lying in ambush with all its charms and allurements and waiting for an opportune moment to make a surprise attack upon him. Such are the circumstances that are tempting him with sin, but the pious young man successfully passes through the ordeal, set for him by Satan, with the self control that is praiseworthy indeed. But it is all the more praiseworthy that he does not feel any pride for showing such extraordinary piety in such trying and tempting circumstances. On the other hand, he very humbly invokes his Lord to protect him from
those traps of sin, for he is afraid of the common human weaknesses and cries out: My Lord, I am weak. I fear lest these temptations should overpower me, I would rather prefer imprisonment to doing such an evil thing into which they are tempting to ensnare me.
In fact, that was the most important and critical period of Prophet Joseph’s training, and this hard ordeal helped to bring forth all his latent virtues of which he himself was unaware up to that time. Then he himself realized that Allah had endowed him with the high and
extraordinary qualities of honesty, fidelity, piety, charity, righteousness, self control, balance of mind, and he made full use of these when he gained power in Egypt.
(12:34) Thereupon his Lord granted his prayer, and averted their guile from him.29 Surely He alone is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.
29. Allah warded off their guile from Prophet Joseph by strengthening his character in such a way as to make ineffective all their devices to ensnare him, This also implies that Allah opened the door of prison for him in order to keep him safe from their tricks and temptations.
(12:35) Then it occurred to them to cast Joseph into prison for a while even though they had seen clear signs (of Joseph’s innocence and of the evil ways of their ladies).30
30. It occurred to them to imprison Prophet Joseph in order to save face after they had seen clear proofs of his innocence and of the guilt of their own women, for no other alternative was left, in their opinion, to undo the scandal that was spreading fast in the land. But it did not occur to them that in fact his imprisonment was his moral victory and the moral defeat of the rulers and the dignitaries of Egypt. By that time, Prophet Joseph had not remained an unknown person, for all and sundry had heard stories of his beauty and piety, and of the
love the ladies had shown towards him. Therefore when those wise courtiers put into practice their plausible device to imprison him in order to reverse the doings of their ladies, the common people must have drawn their own conclusions for they knew Prophet Joseph
to be a man of pure, strong and high character. So it was obvious to them that he had committed no crime to merit imprisonment, and that he had been imprisoned because it was an easier way of escape for the chiefs of Egypt than to keep their own ladies under control.
Incidentally, this shows that imprisonment of innocent people without trial and due procedure of law is as old as civilization itself. The dishonest rulers of today are not much different from the wicked rulers who governed Egypt some four thousand years ago. The only difference between the two is that they did not imprison people in the name and for the cause of democracy but they committed unlawful acts without any pretext of law. On the contrary, their modern descendants make use of the specious pretenses of honesty when
they are acting unjustly. They first enact the necessary unlawful laws to justify their unlawful practices and then lawfully imprison their victims. That is to say, the Egyptian rulers were honest in their dishonesty and did not hide the fact that they were imprisoning people to safeguard their own interests, and not those of the community. But these modern
disciples of Satan cast innocent people into prison to ward off the danger they feel from them, but proclaim to the world that their victims are a menace to the country and the community. In short, they were mere tyrants but these are shameless liars as well.
(12:36) And with Joseph two other slaves entered the prison.31 One of them said: “I saw myself pressing wine in a dream”; and the other said: “I saw myself carrying bread on my head of which the birds were eating. Both said: 32″Tell us what is its inter prepetition; for we consider you to be one of those who do good.
31. At the time when Prophet Joseph was sent to prison, he probably was about twenty years old. This has been inferred from two statements in the Quran and the Talmud. The Quran (Ayat 42) says that….he remained in the prison for a decade or so and the Talmud
says that Joseph was thirty years old when he was elevated to his honorable and trustworthy position.
32. One of the two prisoners, according to the Bible, was the chief of the butlers of the king of Egypt, and the other the chief of the bakers. And according to the Talmud, they were condemned to the prison because during a feast stone grits were found in the bread and a
fly in the wine.
33. The fact that two prisoners attested his righteousness shows that Prophet Joseph was held in high esteem in the prison. Otherwise there was no reason why the two should have requested him alone to interpret the dreams and paid their homage like this: We have seen
that you are a righteous man. It clearly means that the events narrated in the preceding verses had reached all and sundry and the people, inside the prison and outside it, knew that he had not been guilty of any crime or sin. On the other hand, he had proved himself to be a noble soul who had come out successful in the hardest test of his piety. So much so that there was not the like of him in piety, not even among their own religious leaders in the whole country. That is why not only the prisoners but also the officers and officials of the prison looked upon him as an honorable man and had full confidence in him. The Bible confirms this: And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it. The keeper of the prison looked not to anything that was under his hand. (Gen. 39: 22-23).
(12:37) Joseph said: “I will inform you about the interpretation of the dreams before the arrival of the food that is sent to you. This knowledge is part of what I have been taught by my Lord. I have renounced the way of those who do not believe in Allah, and who deny the Hereafter,
(12:38) and I have adopted the way of my forefathers – Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. It is not for us to associate any with Allah in His Divinity. It is out of Allah’s grace upon us and upon mankind (that He did not require of us to serve any other than Allah), and yet most people do not give thanks.
(12:39) Fellow-prisoners! Is it better that there be diverse lords, or just Allah, the One, the Irresistible?
(12:40) Those whom you serve beside Him are merely idle names that you and your fathers have fabricated, without Allah sending down any sanction for them. All authority to govern rests only with Allah. He has commanded that you serve none but Him. This is the Right Way of life, though most people are altogether unaware.
(12:41) Fellow-prisoners! (This is the interpretation of your dreams): one of you will serve wine to his lord (the king of Egypt ).As for the other, he will be crucified and birds will eat of his head. The question concerning what you asked has thus been decided.”
34. This discourse, which is the soul of this story, and is one of the best on the doctrine of Tauhid in the Quran itself, finds no place at all in the Bible and the Talmud. This is because they regard him merely as a wise and pious man and not as a Prophet. That is why Rev.
Rodwell has, in regard to this passage, accused Muhammad (peace be upon him) of putting his own doctrine and conviction into the mouth of Joseph (peace be upon him). But the Quran not only puts forward and presents these two aspects of his life in a much better and clearer way but also presents him as a Prophet, who had started propagating the message even in the prison.
As this discourse suggests several very important things, it will be worthwhile to consider these one by one:
(1) This is the first occasion on which Prophet Joseph appears to have begun the preaching of the true faith. For before this, the Quran reveals him in the different stages of his life as a man of high morality but does not say anything to show that he conveyed the message also.
From this it is clear that those stages were of a preparatory nature and the mission of Prophethood was entrusted to him at the stage of his imprisonment and this was his first discourse as a Prophet.
(2) Moreover, this was the first occasion when he revealed his identity to others. Before this, we find him bearing patiently everything that happened to him without revealing anything about his relationships with Prophet Abraham and others. He kept silent when the caravan
made him a slave and carried him to Egypt, when Al-Aziz bought him and when he was sent to prison. As Prophet Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (peace be upon them all) were quite well known, he might have used their names to his advantage. The members of the caravan, both the Ishmaelites and the Midianites, were closely related to his family, and the Egyptians were, at least, familiar with the name of Prophet Abraham. Nay, the way in which Prophet Joseph mentioned their names in this discourse, shows that the fame of his father, grandfather and great grandfather had reached Egypt. But in spite of this, Prophet
Joseph did not use their names on any of the critical occasions to save himself from the plight in which he was placed. This shows that probably he himself knew that these things were inevitable for his training for the mission for which Allah had chosen him. Now it was
absolutely necessary for him, for the sake of his mission, to reveal this fact in order to show that he was not presenting any new faith but the same faith that was preached by Prophets Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (peace be upon them all). This was necessary because the message
demanded that it should not be presented with the claim that it was a new and novel thing but that it was the same universal and eternal truth that has always been presented by its bearers.
(3) This teaches us that one can, like Prophet Joseph, carve out a way for the propagation of the message, if one has the intention and the required wisdom. The two men pay their homage to him and request him to interpret their dreams. In answer to this he says: I will tell their interpretations but let me first inform you about the source of my knowledge that enables me to understand dreams. Thus he takes advantage of their request and preaches his own faith to them. We learn from this that if a person is imbued with the true and strong
desire for propagating the truth, he can very gracefully turn the direction of the conversation towards the message he desires to convey. On the contrary, if a person has no strong desire for the propagation of the message, he never finds any opportunity for it, even though hundred and one such opportunities might have come his way which could have been utilized for this purpose. But one must be on his guard to discriminate between the right use of an opportunity by a wise man from the crude propagation of a foolish and uncultured person, who tries to thrust the message into the ears of unwilling hearers and succeeds only in creating aversion for it in their minds because of his crude way of presentation.
(4) This also teaches the right procedure that should be followed in presenting the message. Prophet Joseph does not present, at the very start, the details of the creed and regulations of the faith but the most fundamental thing that distinguishes a believer from a non-believer,
that is, the distinction between Tauhid and shirk. Then he presents it in such a rational manner as cannot fail to convince any man of common sense. And his argument must have impressed deeply on the minds of the two slaves. Which is better, various gods or One Omnipotent Allah? They knew it from their personal experience that it was much better to serve one master than a number of them. Therefore it was far better to serve the Lord of the universe than His servants. Moreover, he does not invite them directly to accept his faith and discard their own faith, but he very wisely draws their attention to this fact; This is
Allah’s bounty upon us and upon all mankind that He has not made us the servants of any other than Himself, yet most of the people are not grateful to Him. Instead of serving Him alone, they invent gods for themselves and worship them. Then it is also noteworthy that his
criterion of the faith of his addressees is based on wisdom and has no tinge of bitterness in it.
He says: The gods whom you call, the god of wealth or the god of health or the god of prosperity or the god of rain etc. are mere names you have given them without any reality behind them. The real Owner of everything is the Supreme Allah Whom you also acknowledge as the Creator and the Lord of the whole universe. He has sent no authority
and given no sanction to anyone for Godhead and worship, but has reserved all the powers, all the rights and all the authorities for Himself, and commanded, “Serve and worship none but Me.”
(5) It may also be inferred from this discourse that Prophet Joseph must have made full use of this opportunity of a decade for the propagation of the message. Some people think that that was the only time when he extended the invitation to the message. This is wrong for
two reasons. First, it is absurd to imagine that a Prophet could have been neglectful of his mission for a long period. Second, it cannot be imagined that the person who availed himself of the opportunity when two men approached him for the interpretation of their dreams, could ever have passed a decade of imprisonment without propagating the
message entrusted to him by his Lord.
(12:42) And Joseph said to the one of the two prisoners who he knew would be set free: “Mention me in your lord’s presence.” But Satan caused him to forget mentioning
35. Some commentators have interpreted it like this: Satan made Prophet Joseph neglectful of his Lord, Allah, so he placed his confidence in a man rather than Allah and desired him to mention him to his lord, the king, for his release. So Allah punished him by letting him languish several years in the dungeon. In fact, such an interpretation is absolutely erroneous for as Allamah Ibn Kathir and some early commentators like Mujahid, Muhammad ibn Ishaq and some others say, the pronoun him refers to that person who he thought would be released. Therefore it will mean: Satan made him (the would be free man) so neglectful that he forgot to mention him (Prophet Joseph) to his lord (the king). They also cite a tradition in
support of their interpretation to this effect. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: If Prophet Joseph had not said that what he said, he would not have remained in imprisonment for several years. But Allamah Ibn Kathir says: This Hadith cannot be accepted because all the ways in which it has been reported are weak. Moreover, two of the
reporters, Sufyan-bin-Wakii and Ibrahim-bin-Yazid, are not trustworthy. Besides being weak on technical grounds, it is also against the dictates of common sense: if a wronged person adopted some measures for his release, he cannot be considered to be neglectful of God and guilty of the lack of trust in Allah.
(12:43) And once* the king said: “I have dreamt that there are seven fat cows and seven lean cows are devouring them, and there are seven fresh green ears of corn and seven others dry and withered. My nobles ! Tell me what is the interpretation of this dream, if you are well-versed in interpretation of dreams.”36
36. Leaving the account of the events of the intervening years of imprisonment, the story has been resumed from the time when Prophet Joseph began to rise in worldly rank.
37. According to the Bible and the Talmud, the king was greatly disturbed, troubled and confused because of these dreams. So he proclaimed throughout the entire land of Egypt, and called upon all the wise men, and the soothsayers, and magicians of the land to
interpret his dreams.
(12:44) They said: ”These are confused dreams, and we do not know the interpretation of such dreams.”
(12:45) Then of the two prisoners, the one who had been set free, now remembered, after the lapse of a long period, what Joseph had said. He said: “I will tell you the interpretation of this dream; just send me (to Joseph in prison).”38
38. The Quran has told in brief the essence of the request of the chief butler, but the Bible and the Talmud have given its details. According to these (and it stands to reason that it must have been so), he told the king of the life of Prophet Joseph in prison and how he interpreted their dreams rightly and prayed the king to give him leave to see Prophet Joseph in prison for that purpose.
(12:46) Then he went to Joseph and said to him: “Joseph, O truthfulness incarnate, tell the true meaning of the dream in which seven fat cows are devoured by seven lean ones; and there are seven green ears of corn and seven others dry and withered so that I may return to the people and they may learn.39
39. The Arabic word Siddiq is used for the one who is an embodiment of truth and righteousness. Thus it shows that the butler had been so deeply impressed with the pure character of Prophet Joseph that even years had failed to blot it from his heart. For its meaning please refer to (E.N. 99 of Surah An-Nisa).
40. That is, they might understand your true worth and realize their own error in keeping you in prison without any just cause. And in a way I may get the opportunity of fulfilling the promise I made with you during my imprisonment.
(12:47) Joseph said: “You will cultivate consecutively for seven years. Leave in the ears all that you have harvested except the little out of which you may eat.
(12:48) Then there will follow seven years of great hardship in which you will eat up all you have stored earlier, except the little that you may set aside.
(12:49) Then there will come a year when people will be helped by plenty of rain and they will press (grapes).”41
41. The literal meaning of yasiroon is: “they will press.” Here it has been used to denote that state of verdure which was going to prevail after the famine years because of rainfall and flood in the Nile. For, when the land will be watered, there will be abundance of seed to press oil, and abundance of fruit to press juice and abundance of fodder for cattle to press milk out of them. It should be noted that Prophet Joseph not only interpreted the king’s dream but also told them how to preserve and reserve grain during the first seven years of prosperity for the subsequent seven years of famine. Moreover he foretold the good news of prosperity after the seven years of famine, though there was no hint of this in the dream of the king.
(12:50) The king said: “Bring this man to me.” But when the royal messenger came to Joseph he said: “Go back to your master and ask him about the case of the women who had cut their hands. Surely my Lord has full knowledge of their guile.”48
42. There is no mention in the Bible and the Talmud of this most important part of the story that Prophet Joseph declined to quit the prison till his character was cleared. On the other hand, according to the Bible: Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him
hastily out of the dungeon; and he shaved himself, and changed his raiment, and came in unto Pharaoh. And the Talmud depicts even a more degrading picture of the event. It says: The king ordered that Joseph should be brought before him. But he commanded his officers
to be careful not to frighten the lad, lest through fear he should be unable to interpret correctly. And the servant of the king brought Joseph forth from his dungeon, and shaved him and clothed him in new garments, and carried him before the king. The king was seated
upon his throne, and the glare and glitter of the jewels which ornamented the throne dazzled and astonished the eyes of Joseph. Now the throne of the king was reached by seven steps, and it was the custom of Egypt for a prince or noble who held audience with the king, to ascend to the sixth step; but when an inferior or a private citizen of the land was called into his presence, the king descended to the third step and from there spoke with him. (The Talmud, H. Polano, pp. 87-88).
A comparison of the degrading picture in the Talmud with this self respecting grand, and noble picture depicted in the Quran will convince every unbiased critic that the one in the Quran is worthy of a Prophet of God. Moreover the picture in the Talmud is open to a grave
objection: Had Prophet Joseph behaved like a frightened and cringing lad who was so dazzled by the glitter and glare of the jewels of the throne that he bowed to the ground, how was it that the king and the courtiers were so impressed by him that they declared, “the Hebrew has proved himself wise and skillful and through his wisdom shall our country be saved the pangs of want”? So much so that the king appointed him, without demur as governor over the land, second only to himself. All this shows that by that time he had proved his moral and mental superiority and had enhanced it by his refusal to quit the
prison without proving his innocence. Otherwise, they would have never raised him to the highest rank in such a civilized and advanced country as Egypt.
43. He demanded an inquiry into the matter not because he himself had any doubt of his innocence, but because he was perfectly confident of this: My Lord has full knowledge of my innocence and of their cunning. But your lord should also make a thorough inquiry as to
why I had been sent to prison, for I do not want to go before the public with any blemish or blot on my reputation. Therefore a public inquiry should be held to prove that I was an innocent victim of the injustice of the chiefs and nobles of the country, who had cast me into
prison in order to cover up the guilt of their own ladies.
The words in which the demand was made clearly show that the king was already fully acquainted with the details of the incident that had happened at the banquet of the wife of Al-Aziz. That is why a mere reference to it was enough. Another noteworthy thing in this demand was that Prophet Joseph did not in any way hint at the part the wife of Al- Aziz had played in the event. This is another proof of his noble character that he did not like to involve and entangle the wife of his benefactor in the matter, even though she had done him her worst.
(12:51) Thereupon the king asked the women: “What happened when you sought to tempt Joseph?” They said: “Allah forbid! We found no evil in him.” The chief’s wife said: “Now the truth has come to light. It was I who sought to tempt him. He is indeed truthful.”
44. As regards to the way in which this inquiry was held, it is just possible that the king might have summoned the women to his presence or gotten their evidence through a trusted officer of his court.
45. The inquiry and the evidences must have helped to pave the way for Prophet Joseph’s rise in the land by concentrating the public attention on him, especially under the circumstances when the inquiry had been demanded by him. He had interpreted the dream of the king, when all the wise men, sooth sayers and the magicians had failed. Then he had refused to quit prison even though the king himself had ordered that he should be brought before him, and, instead of this, demanded an inquiry of the matter which had been the cause of his imprisonment. Naturally this thing would have filled the people with wonder and they would have been looking eagerly for the result of the inquiry. Thus it can be imagined how the evidences and the result of the inquiry raised his prestige so high that the king and his courtiers declared that he was the only fit person to save the country from the
coming calamity. It is no wonder, then, that Prophet Joseph proposed that all the resources of the land should be placed in his hands, and the king accepted this proposal as soon as it was made. For, had it been merely the matter of the interpretation of a dream, the most he
would have deserved was some reward and his release from prison. But he could not have said: Place the resources of the land in my hands, and the king would not have readily acceded to his proposal and given him all the powers in the land, as is contained in (Ayats
55-56), and confirmed by the Bible and the Talmud.
(12:52) Joseph said:46 “I did this so that he [i.e. the chief) may know that I did not betray him in his absence, and that Allah does not allow the design of the treacherous to succeed.
46. Prophet Joseph might have said these words in the prison when he came to know the result of the inquiry. But some commentators, including great scholars like Ibn Taimiyyah and Ibn Kathir, regard this sentence to be a continuation of the preceding speech of the wife
of Al-Aziz. They argue that this sentence has been placed contiguous to her preceding speech without any dividing word between them to indicate that her speech had ended at “indeed, he is surely of the truthful”, and that the succeeding words were spoken by Prophet Joseph. They construe that if two speeches made by two different persons are placed in contiguity, they must be separated by means of some definite word, or there must be some definite clue to it. As neither of these two things exists in this case, it may rightly be construed that the words contained in (Ayat 52) are the continuation of her preceding speech in (Ayat 51). I, however, am surprised how a great scholar of Ibn Taimiyyah’s insight has missed this point that the characteristic of a speech is in itself a clear and self sufficient clue. Her confession in (Ayat 51) fits in with her low character, but obviously the succeeding dignified and grand speech in (Ayat 52) is too high for her. That fits in only with the noble character of Prophet Joseph. It is obvious that this must have been uttered by one, who was righteous, generous, humble and God fearing. It is by itself a clear evidence that it could not have come out of the mouth of the one, who said: Come here, and what punishment does the one deserve, who shows evil intentions towards your wife? And if he will not yield to my bidding, he shall be cast into prison. On the other hand, such a pure speech fitted in with the one who said: May Allah protect me. My Lord has shown so much kindness towards me.
Should I, then, misbehave like this? And my Lord, I prefer imprisonment to that to which they invite me. If Thou dost not ward off their cunning devices from me, I might be caught in their snares. Therefore one cannot ascribe such a pure speech to the wife of Al-Aziz
unless there is a clear clue showing that by that time she had repented and believed and mended her ways, but there is no such clue. Thus it is clear that this speech must have been made by Prophet Joseph (peace be upon him).
(12:53) I do not seek to acquit myself; for surely one’s self prompts one to evil except him to whom my Lord may show mercy. Verily my Lord is Ever Forgiving, Most Merciful.”
(12:54) The king said: “Bring him to me. I will select him exclusively for my own service.” So when Joseph spoke to him the king said: “You are now one of established position, fully-trusted by us.”47
47. It implied this: we have such a high opinion of you that we can safely entrust you with the highest office of responsibility in the country.”
(12:55) Joseph said: “Place me in charge of the treasures of the land. 1am a good keeper and know my task well.”47
47. As this verse has given rise to some important questions, let us consider these one by one.
The first question is: Was it an application made by Prophet Joseph to the king for some post? In the light of the preceding explanatory notes, it would have become obvious that it was neither an application nor a request made by an ambitious person who had been on the lookout for an opportune moment for its submission, and no sooner did the king express his approval of him than he presented his request before him. As a matter of fact, this was a sort of proposal, giving his assent to the great desire of the king and the courtiers that he should be appointed as governor over the land. For, according to the Talmud, the Hebrew has proved himself wise and skillful, and “…surely there can be none more discrete than myself to whom God has made known all these things.” The king, his courtiers, his princes, officers, and men of rank, had by that time, come to know and recognize his true worth and had had experience of his moral superiority during the last decade of the vicissitudes of his life. He had proved that there was none equal to him in honesty, righteousness, forbearance, self discipline, generosity, intelligence and understanding. They knew and believed that he was the only one who knew how to guard and utilize the resources of the land and could be safely entrusted with them. Therefore, as soon as he showed his willingness, they heartily put these in his trust. This is also confirmed by the Bible that the king had formed a very high opinion of Prophet Joseph. He said to his servants: Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the spirit of God is? Above all, he said to Prophet Joseph: There is none so discreet and wise as thou art. (Gen. 41: 38-39). Accordingly, therefore, the king, of his own accord, set him over his house and land. (Gen. 41: 41).
Let us now take up the second question: What was the nature of the powers that were entrusted to Prophet Joseph? This is important because those who are not well versed in the Quran have been misled by the words in this verse and by his subsequent work of the distribution of grain. They wrongly conclude from these that this post was like the present day posts of a “Treasury Officer” or a “Famine Commissioner” or a “Finance Minister” etc. In fact, it was none of these, for, according to the Quran and the Bible and the Talmud, Prophet Joseph had been invested with the full powers and privileges of a ruler. That is why he sat on the throne (Ayat 100) and they used the title of Malik, king, for him. (Ayat 72). He himself was grateful to Allah for bestowing the kingdom on him. (Ayat 101). Above all, Allah Himself testifies to this fact: Thus We gave power to Joseph in the land, so he had every right to take possession of any piece of it, if he so desired. (Ayat 56). As regards the Bible, it says: And Pharaoh said unto Joseph: Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt…
and without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt, and called Joseph’s name Zaphnath-paaneah (savior of the world). (Gen. 41: 40-45). And according to the Talmud, when his brothers returned with their father, Prophet Jacob, from Egypt, they
said about Prophet Joseph: The king of Egypt is mighty potentate, over his people he is supreme; upon his word they go out and upon his word they come in; his word governs, and the voice of his master, Pharaoh, is not required.
Another pertinent question is: What was the object for which Prophet Joseph made a proposal for powers in the land? Did he offer his services for the enforcement of the laws of a non-Muslim state? Or did he intend to establish the cultural, moral and political systems of Islam by taking the powers of government in his own hands? As for its answer let us quote the comments on this (verse 55) by Allamah Zamakhshari in his Kashshaf. He says, “When. Prophet Joseph proposed: Please place all the resources of the country under my
trust, he meant to get an opportunity for enforcing the commandments of Allah and for establishing truth and justice, and to gain that power which is essential for fulfilling the mission for which the Messengers are sent. He did not make this demand for the love of
kingdom or for worldly desires and ambitions. He did this because he knew well that there was none else who could perform that work.
In fact, the above question leads to a very important and basic issues. These are: Was Joseph a Prophet of Allah or not? If he was, does the Quran put forward such a conception of a Prophet that he himself should (as they allege Prophet Joseph did) offer his services to a
system of unbelief to carry on its work on un-Godly principles? Nay, it leads to a more delicate and important question: Was he a righteous person or not? And, if he was, could it ever be expected that he would (according to their interpretation,) practically accept the theory that Sovereignty belongs to the king and not to Allah, whereas in the prison he preached, “Sovereignty belongs to none but Allah (Ayat 40)? For if, as they interpret, he submitted an application for service to the king, it meant that he did so against his own principles which he inculcated while in prison: “Which is better: various gods or the One
Omnipotent Allah?” As the king of Egypt was one of the gods they had set up, so to offer services to carry on the work of the un-Islamic system under the existing un-Islamic law would have been tantamount to acknowledging the king as his Lord. Are they prepared to place Prophet Joseph in that position?
It is an irony that such Muslims as interpret this verse in this way, lower the character of Prophet Joseph. They have evinced the same mentality that the Jews had developed during the period of their degeneration. When they became morally and mentally depraved, they deliberately began to represent their Prophets and saints as people of low character like themselves in order to justify their own degraded characters and to make room for excuses for going still lower. Likewise, when the Muslims came under the sway of non-Muslim governments, they wanted to serve under them, but the teachings of Islam and the patterns of their worthy forefathers stood in their way and they felt ashamed of this. So, in order to pacify their consciences, they sought refuge in this verse and by its misinterpretation thought that that great Prophet had made an application for a post to serve under a non-
Muslim under un-Islamic laws. Whereas the Prophet’s own life taught the lesson that even a single Muslim could all by himself bring about the Islamic revolution in a whole country by his pure Islamic character, his faith, intelligence and wisdom and that a true believer is able to conquer, by the proper use of his moral character, a whole country without any army, ammunition or material provisions.
(12:56) Thus did We establish Joseph in the land so that he could settle wherever he pleased.“8 We bestow favor, out of Our Mercy, on whomsoever We please, and We do not cause the reward of those who do good to go to waste.
48. This is to show that the whole land of Egypt was under his complete control, as if it belonged to him and he could claim any piece of it as his, and there was no piece of it that could be withheld from him. The early commentators have also made the same comment on
this verse. For instance, Allamah Ibn Jarir Tabari, on the authority of Ibn Zaid, says that this verse means: We made Joseph the owner of all those things that were in Egypt, and in this part of the world he could do whatever he liked and wherever he liked for he had been given complete authority over this land. So much so that he could bring Pharaoh under his sway and become his master, if he so desired. He has quoted another thing from Mujahid, who is one of the most learned commentators, to the effect that the King of Egypt had
embraced Islam through Prophet Joseph.
(12:57) Surely the reward of the Hereafter is better for those who believe and act in a God-fearing way.49
49. This is a warning against a misunderstanding that one might have had from the preceding verse that kingdom and power were the real ultimate rewards for virtue and righteousness, for the best reward that a believer should desire and strive for will be the one that Allah will bestow upon believers in the Hereafter.
(12:58) And Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt and presented themselves before him. He recognized them, but they did not know him.
50. The events of several years after his coming into power have been left out for the sake of brevity, and the story has been resumed from the time when the brothers of Prophet Joseph came to Egypt, and paved the way for the eventual settlement of the Israelites in Egypt. It
will, however, be worthwhile to have a glimpse of those events. During the first seven years of his reign, there was abundance of food as he had predicted while interpreting the dream of the king. Accordingly he adopted all the measures he had put before the king concerning
the years of plenty. Then the seven years of scarcity began and famine reigned not only over Egypt but all over the adjoining countries. Accordingly, Syria, Palestine, Trans Jordan and the Northern part of Arabia began to suffer from the scarcity of food, but there was plenty of it in Egypt in spite of famine because of the wise steps Prophet Joseph had taken as a safeguard. That was why his brothers, like other neighboring people, were forced by circumstances to go to Egypt and present themselves before him. It appears that Prophet Joseph had so arranged things that no foreigner was allowed to buy food without a special permit from him. Therefore when the brothers reached Egypt, they might have had to present themselves before him for obtaining the special permit for buying the fixed quantity allowed under the famine regulations.
51. It is no wonder that his brothers could not recognize Prophet Joseph, for, when they cast him into the well, he was merely a lad of seventeen and at the time of their meeting, he was a grown up man of thirty eight years or so. Naturally, he must have changed in form during this long period. Besides, they could never have imagined that the brother whom they had cast into the well had become the ruler of Egypt.
(12:59) And when he had prepared for them their provisions, Joseph said: “Bring to me your other brother from your father. Do you not see that I give full measure and am most hospitable?
(12:60) If you do not bring him to me, you shall have no corn from me; and do not even attempt to come close to me.”
52. As the Quran has omitted the details, someone might be at a loss to know as to how he brought Benjamin into the conversation with his brothers, and why he insisted on them to bring him with them, when he intended to keep his own identity secret from them. For, obviously these things might have led to the revelation of that secret. But a little thinking will show that he could have very easily and naturally led the conversation up to Benjamin without arousing their curiosity. As there were strict restrictions on the purchase of food, everyone was permitted to buy only a fixed quantity of it. Most probably the ten brothers had applied for food for their father and the eleventh brother as well. At this Prophet Joseph might have asked the reason why their father and brother had not personally come for it.
Then he might have accepted the excuse for their father that he was old and blind but he would have expressed his doubts about their excuse for their brother that he was their step brother and the father would not send him with them and so forth. Then he might have
declared: Well, this time we give you as much food as you have asked for, but the next time you come here you should bring your step brother with you; otherwise you will not get any food at all because of this false statement of yours. Along with this threat, he tried to win
them over by reminding them of his liberal and generous treatment with them, because he yearned for the sight of his younger brother, and was anxious to know how his family had fared during his absence.
The above is a simple and natural explanation of the matter. Thus this part of the story as given in the Bible (Gen. chapters 42 and 43) appears to be far fetched, exaggerated, unreal and, therefore, unreliable.