Last night was very pleasant so I sat out on the porch reading Sura 12-- Yusuf. Now this book about Joseph was what I had in mind when I read Jonah. You'll recall from my post the other day how surprised I was about Jonah's book in the Quran since it shared very little about the man unlike the Bible's version. However this sura was different and I found it highly enjoyable to read the details of Joseph's life from an Islamic point of view. I am very familiar with the story of Joseph as told in Genesis as it is one we are taught often in church and Sunday school. It seems to be a favorite story full of action, life lessons, "you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good" kind of things. Also it's a story of forgiveness. Just a wonderful person to read about and although the Bible doesn't have a book of Joseph, his story is told starting in Genesis 37. Go ahead and give it a read and compare for yourself how and where the Bible's and Quran's versions are similar and different. I think you will find it as enjoyable as I did.
In the Bible it is told that Joseph was the favorite son of Jacob (Israel). While not the oldest of his twelve sons, Joseph was the older of the two boys born to Jacob's favorite wife, Rachel. Perhaps this was the reason for Israel's favoritism of Joseph. For whatever reason (oh, and I just looked. The Bible says Joseph was the son of Israel's old age), Joseph was favored and even given a special coat with many colors. His older brothers, no doubt, seethed with envy. Imagine one day when little brother Joe shows up with a story of dreams he had where symbolically his family members bowed down to him! So cute to hear the little chap saying such things, right? Heh...not on your life! Even Joseph's father found it laughable and rebuked him, "Indeed, Child, shall I bow to you one day?" (paraphrased by me from Gen. 37:10).
I don't want to mix the stories too much although in what I've shared thus far, I think the two books were very similar. The plotting for Joseph's removal from the family was a bit different, but not terribly much. I rather enjoyed the Quranic version of The Older Sons speaking with their father about taking Joseph out to play and Israel's concern that Joseph would be devoured by a wolf. The Older Sons' assurance that this wouldn't happen on their watch and then, sadly, the fact that it "did." Well, we know it didn't since Joseph was actually stuck in a well at this point. In the Bible, Joseph's father actually instructed Joseph to visit his brothers because Israel wanted word that they were doing all right (see Gen. 37:12-14). It was as they saw Joseph approaching from afar that The Older Sons plotted to get rid of him. They carried out their scheme and as is similar in both accounts, they went back to their father with the bad news. In the Quranic version Israel seemed to know of their plot, whereas in the Biblical version he grieved as a father who truly believed his precious son was lost in this life.
See what I mean?
18. They showed him the shirt with false blood on it. (Their father) said: "It is not so; you have made up the story. Yet endurance is best. I seek the help of God alone for what you impute."
34 Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. 35 All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. "No," he said, "in mourning will I go down to the grave to my son." So his father wept for him.
In both books Joseph ends up in an Egyptian's household - we refer to him as Potiphar, an official of Pharoah. You can read the Biblical account in Genesis 39 if you wish. Joseph was a great worker and God blessed him so much that Potiphar put Joseph in charge of his household. The downside is that Joseph was a handsome young man and Mrs. Potiphar lusted after him. (Unbelievably to some perhaps, yes, women can and do lust after men sometimes!)
So this happens (Bible):
11 One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. 12 She caught him by his cloak and said, "Come to bed with me!" But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.
And you know that old saying about "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned"? Well, it's true. And Mrs. Potiphar was angry that this servant had refused her! Indeed he ran away from her advances. (Great lesson here about fleeing from youthful lusts and not trying to stick around to fight them. You will often lose so don't fight -- flee, scram, leave, get outta Dodge, man!)
The two versions differ a bit in that the Quran finds Joseph innocent while the Bible finds Joseph guilty in Potiphar's eyes. In Potiphar's eyes being the key phrase as the reader knows Joseph is innocent of any wrongdoing and is being falsely accused and imprisoned.
The Quran has a bit about a banquet that Potiphar's wife held after women of the community gossiped about her lust for her servant boy. She wanted to prove to them how lovely this man was so she invited them to a dinner, gave them knives and then called out for Joseph to appear before them. I admit I laughed so hard when I read this. I am one who likes visualizing things and this was just too cute of an image in my mind's eye. I read it to my husband and he laughed as well.
30. In the city the women gossiped: "The minister's wife longs after her page. He has captured her heart. We think she is in clear error." 31. When she heard their slanderings, she sent for them and prepared a banquet, and gave each of them a knife (for paring fruit), and called (to Joseph): "Come out before them." When they saw him, the women were so wonderstruck they cut their hands, and exclaimed: "O Lord preserve us! He is no mortal but an honourable angel."
It just makes me laugh to think of the Egyptian Ladies' Society meeting at Mrs. Potiphar's house, eating a wonderful meal, cutting fruit and then Wonder Boy walks in causing them to cut their hands and exclaim at his beauty. Reminds me of women at country music concerts when Tim McGraw comes on stage. :)
I know this post is different than my previous ones on the Quran. I suppose since the story of Joseph is so familiar to me, I could read this sura more quickly and enjoy seeing how Joseph's account was relayed to Muhammad. A few things to add from the Quran.
3. Through the revelation of this Qur'an We narrate the best of histories of which you were unaware before.
I agree that Joseph's story is one of the best to be retold, however, I am not so sure it was unaware unless this means among the Arabs. It seems the Jews knew of it for years before.
28. When the husband saw the shirt torn at the back, he said: "Surely this is a woman's ruse, and the wiles of women are great. 29. Ignore this affair, O Joseph; and you, O woman, ask forgiveness for your sin, for you were surely errant."
This is part of the Mrs. Potiphar story where I mentioned the Quran's version declaring Joseph's innocence in Potiphar's eyes. I found Potiphar's words curious and wondered if this was part of the reasoning of people who claim women should be covered and women are the problem in leading men astray. Let me not claim women cannot be seductive. I know many are and many try to be. However, should this mean all women are to be treated in a certain way? Honestly, if I were a man and was told I could not be trusted around pretty women or half-naked women because I couldn't control my lust, I would feel offended and reduced to the status of one who cannot think and control himself when tempted. I question those who dare to claim women are deficient in religion or to the intellect of men when these same people excuse men when they are aroused to temptation by looking at women. You cannot be both superior to women in religion and intellect and at the same time be reduced to - often by fellow men's opinions -- a mindless sexual being who cannot cannot cannot control his sexual urges thus women must cover! I am offended for you men out there, really!
99. When they went back to Joseph he gave his father and mother a place of honour, and said: "Enter Egypt in peace by the will of God." 100. He seated his parents by his side on the throne; and they fell down before him in homage. "O my father," said Joseph, "this is the meaning of my earlier dream. My Lord has made it come true. He was gracious in getting me out of the prison, and bringing you out of the desert to me after the discord created by Satan between me and my brothers, for my Lord is gracious to whomsoever He please. He is indeed all-knowing and all-wise.
I'm curious which of Israel's wives was considered Joseph's parent here since I'm pretty sure Joseph's mom, Rachel, died after giving birth to the baby of the Twelve Sons, Benjamin. Oh, yes, I found it in Genesis 35:16-19.
101. O my Lord, you have given me dominion and taught me the interpretation of dreams; O Creator of the heavens and the earth, You alone are my saviour in this world and the world to come; let me die submitting to You, and place me among the upright."
I love this declaration by Joseph that God is his Savior in the present world and the world to come! (I did a post about this from the OT earlier this year, in fact.)
I won't go into much of the rest of the story as many of the details are the same. I greatly enjoyed this sura. Joseph's story is one that shows when injustice is done to us, we should not panic. We should not seek to rectify things only in our own power. I love the Bible's version at the end when Joseph reveals himself to his brothers and they were frightened. They knew this powerful leader in Egypt - the brother they had sold into slavery - could have them killed. However Joseph lovingly forgave them and declared as a lesson to us even now:
19 But Joseph said to them, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don't be afraid. I will provide for you and your children." And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 50).
Although humans may have evil intentions, don't fret. If God is in control as many of us believe, even that which men intended for harm can accomplish something good. With God on our sides, we never truly have to worry.
Thanks again for all the wonderful feedback. I know I'm cranking out these posts rather quickly and they are long, but I deeply appreciate all who have been reading and adding to the discussion. Please keep your thoughts coming as time and inclination allow. :)