Alif-Lãm-Ra. These are the verses of the clear Book.
Indeed, We have sent it down as an Arabic Quran1 so that you may understand.2
We relate to you ˹O Prophet˺ the best of stories through Our revelation of this Quran, though before this you were totally unaware ˹of them˺.
˹Remember˺ when Joseph said to his father, “O my dear father! Indeed I dreamt of eleven stars, and the sun, and the moon—I saw them prostrating to me!”1
He replied, “O my dear son! Do not relate your vision to your brothers, or they will devise a plot against you. Surely Satan is a sworn enemy to humankind.
And so will your Lord choose you ˹O Joseph˺, and teach you the interpretation of dreams, and perfect His favour upon you and the descendants of Jacob—˹just˺ as He once perfected it upon your forefathers, Abraham and Isaac. Surely your Lord is All-Knowing, All-Wise.”
Indeed, in the story of Joseph and his brothers there are lessons for all who ask.
˹Remember˺ when they said ˹to one another˺, “Surely Joseph and his brother ˹Benjamin˺ are more beloved to our father than we, even though we are a group of so many.1 Indeed, our father is clearly mistaken.
Kill Joseph or cast him out to some ˹distant˺ land so that our father’s attention will be only ours, then after that you may ˹repent and˺ become righteous people!”
One of them said, “Do not kill Joseph. But if you must do something, throw him into the bottom of a well so perhaps he may be picked up by some travellers.”
They said, “O our father! Why do you not trust us with Joseph, although we truly wish him well?
Send him out with us tomorrow so that he may enjoy himself and play. And we will really watch over him.”
He responded, “It would truly sadden me if you took him away with you, and I fear that a wolf may devour him while you are negligent of him.”
They said, “If a wolf were to devour him, despite our strong group, then we would certainly be losers!”
And so, when they took him away and decided to throw him into the bottom of the well, We inspired him: “˹One day˺ you will remind them of this deed of theirs while they are unaware ˹of who you are˺.”
Then they returned to their father in the evening, weeping.
They cried, “Our father! We went racing and left Joseph with our belongings, and a wolf devoured him! But you will not believe us, no matter how truthful we are.”
And they brought his shirt, stained with false blood.1 He responded, “No! Your souls must have tempted you to do something ˹evil˺. So ˹I can only endure with˺ beautiful patience!2 It is Allah’s help that I seek to bear your claims.”
And there came some travellers, and they sent their water-boy who let down his bucket into the well. He cried out, “Oh, what a great find! Here is a boy!” And they took him secretly ˹to be sold˺ as merchandise, but Allah is All-Knowing of what they did.
They ˹later˺ sold him for a cheap price, just a few silver coins—only wanting to get rid of him.1
The man from Egypt1 who bought him said to his wife, “Take good care of him, perhaps he may be useful to us or we may adopt him as a son.” This is how We established Joseph in the land, so that We might teach him the interpretation of dreams. Allah’s Will always prevails, but most people do not know.
And when he reached maturity, We gave him wisdom and knowledge. This is how We reward the good-doers.
And the lady, in whose house he lived, tried to seduce him. She locked the doors ˹firmly˺ and said, “Come to me!” He replied, “Allah is my refuge! It is ˹not right to betray˺ my master, who has taken good care of me. Indeed, the wrongdoers never succeed.”
She advanced towards him, and he would have done likewise, had he not seen a sign from his Lord.1 This is how We kept evil and indecency away from him, for he was truly one of Our chosen servants.
They raced for the door and she tore his shirt from the back, only to find her husband at the door. She cried, “What is the penalty for someone who tried to violate your wife, except imprisonment or a painful punishment?”
Joseph responded, “It was she who tried to seduce me.” And a witness from her own family testified: “If his shirt is torn from the front, then she has told the truth and he is a liar.
But if it is torn from the back, then she has lied and he is truthful.”
So when her husband saw that Joseph’s shirt was torn from the back, he said ˹to her˺, “This must be ˹an example˺ of the cunning of you ˹women˺! Indeed, your cunning is so shrewd!
O Joseph! Forget about this. And you ˹O wife˺! Seek forgiveness for your sin.1 It certainly has been your fault.”
Some women of the city gossiped, “The Chief Minister’s wife is trying to seduce her slave-boy. Love for him has plagued her heart. Indeed, we see that she is clearly mistaken.”1
When she heard about their gossip,1 she invited them and set a banquet for them. She gave each one a knife, then said ˹to Joseph˺, “Come out before them.” When they saw him, they were so stunned ˹by his beauty˺ that they cut their hands,2 and exclaimed, “Good God! This cannot be human; this must be a noble angel!”
She said, “This is the one for whose love you criticized me! I did try to seduce him but he ˹firmly˺ refused. And if he does not do what I order him to, he will certainly be imprisoned and ˹fully˺ disgraced.”1
Joseph prayed, “My Lord! I would rather be in jail than do what they invite me to. And if You do not turn their cunning away from me, I might yield to them and fall into ignorance.”
So his Lord responded to him, turning their cunning away from him. Surely He is the All-Hearing, All-Knowing.
And so it occurred to those in charge, despite seeing all the proofs ˹of his innocence˺, that he should be imprisoned for a while.1
And two other servants went to jail with Joseph. One of them said, “I dreamt I was pressing wine.” The other said, “I dreamt I was carrying ˹some˺ bread on my head, from which birds were eating.” ˹Then both said,˺ “Tell us their interpretation, for we surely see you as one of the good-doers.”
Joseph replied, “I can even tell you what kind of meal you will be served before you receive it. This ˹knowledge˺ is from what my Lord has taught me. I have shunned the faith of a people who disbelieve in Allah and deny the Hereafter.
I follow the faith of my fathers: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is not ˹right˺ for us to associate anything with Allah ˹in worship˺. This is part of Allah’s grace upon us and humanity, but most people are not grateful.
O my fellow-prisoners! Which is far better: many different lords or Allah—the One, the Supreme?
Whatever ˹idols˺ you worship instead of Him are mere names which you and your forefathers have made up1—a practice Allah has never authorized. It is only Allah Who decides. He has commanded that you worship none but Him. That is the upright faith, but most people do not know.
“O my fellow-prisoners! ˹The first˺ one of you will serve wine to his master, and the other will be crucified and the birds will eat from his head. The matter about which you inquired has been decided.”
Then he said to the one he knew would survive, “Mention me in the presence of your master.1” But Satan made him forget to mention Joseph to his master, so he remained in prison for several years.
And ˹one day˺ the King1 said, “I dreamt of seven fat cows eaten up by seven skinny ones; and seven green ears of grain and ˹seven˺ others dry. O chiefs! Tell me the meaning of my dream if you can interpret dreams.”
They replied, “These are confused visions and we do not know the interpretation of such dreams.”
˹Finally,˺ the surviving ex-prisoner remembered ˹Joseph˺ after a long time and said, “I will tell you its interpretation, so send me forth ˹to Joseph˺.”
˹He said,˺ “Joseph, O man of truth! Interpret for us ˹the dream of˺ seven fat cows eaten up by seven skinny ones; and seven green ears of grain and ˹seven˺ others dry, so that I may return to the people and let them know.”
Joseph replied, “You will plant ˹grain˺ for seven consecutive years, leaving in the ear whatever you will harvest, except for the little you will eat.
Then after that will come seven years of great hardship which will consume whatever you have saved, except the little you will store ˹for seed˺.
Then after that will come a year in which people will receive abundant rain and they will press ˹oil and wine˺.”
The King ˹then˺ said, “Bring him to me.” When the messenger came to him, Joseph said, “Go back to your master and ask him about the case of the women who cut their hands. Surely my Lord has ˹full˺ knowledge of their cunning.”
The King asked ˹the women˺, “What did you get when you tried to seduce Joseph?” They replied, “Allah forbid! We know nothing indecent about him.” Then the Chief Minister’s wife admitted, “Now the truth has come to light. It was I who tried to seduce him, and he is surely truthful.
From this, Joseph should know that I did not speak dishonestly about him in his absence, for Allah certainly does not guide the scheming of the dishonest.
And I do not seek to free myself from blame, for indeed the soul is ever inclined to evil, except those shown mercy by my Lord. Surely my Lord is All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”
The King said, “Bring him to me. I will employ him exclusively in my service.” And when Joseph spoke to him, the King said, “Today you are highly esteemed and fully trusted by us.”
Joseph proposed, “Put me in charge of the store-houses of the land, for I am truly reliable and adept.”
This is how We established Joseph in the land to settle wherever he pleased. We shower Our mercy on whoever We will, and We never discount the reward of the good-doers.
And the reward of the Hereafter is far better for those who are faithful and are mindful ˹of Allah˺.
And Joseph’s brothers came and entered his presence. He recognized them but they were unaware of who he really was.
When he had provided them with their supplies, he demanded, “Bring me your brother on your father’s side.1 Do you not see that I give full measure and I am the best of hosts?
But if you do not bring him to me ˹next time˺, I will have no grain for you, nor will you ever come close to me again.”
They promised, “We will try to convince his father to let him come. We will certainly do ˹our best˺.”
Joseph ordered his servants to put his brothers’ money back into their saddlebags so that they would find it when they returned to their family and perhaps they would come back.
When Joseph’s brothers returned to their father, they pleaded, “O our father! We have been denied ˹further˺ supplies. So send our brother with us so that we may receive our measure, and we will definitely watch over him.”
He responded, “Should I trust you with him as I once trusted you with his brother ˹Joseph˺? But ˹only˺ Allah is the best Protector, and He is the Most Merciful of the merciful.”
When they opened their bags, they discovered that their money had been returned to them. They argued, “O our father! What more can we ask for? Here is our money, fully returned to us. Now we can buy more food for our family. We will watch over our brother, and obtain an extra camel-load of grain. That load can be easily secured.”
Jacob insisted, “I will not send him with you until you give me a solemn oath by Allah that you will certainly bring him back to me, unless you are totally overpowered.” Then after they had given him their oaths, he concluded, “Allah is a Witness to what we have said.”
He then instructed ˹them˺, “O my sons! Do not enter ˹the city˺ all through one gate, but through separate gates.1 I cannot help you against ˹what is destined by˺ Allah in the least. It is only Allah Who decides. In Him I put my trust. And in Him let the faithful put their trust.”
Then when they entered as their father had instructed them, this did not help them against ˹the Will of˺ Allah whatsoever. It was just a desire in Jacob’s heart which he satisfied. He was truly blessed with ˹great˺ knowledge because of what We had taught him, but most people have no knowledge.
When they entered Joseph’s presence, he called his brother ˹Benjamin˺ aside, and confided ˹to him˺, “I am indeed your brother ˹Joseph˺! So do not feel distressed about what they have been doing.”
When Joseph had provided them with supplies, he slipped the royal cup into his brother’s bag. Then a herald cried, “O people of the caravan! You must be thieves!”
They asked, turning back, “What have you lost?”
The herald ˹along with the guards˺ replied, “We have lost the King’s measuring cup. And whoever brings it will be awarded a camel-load ˹of grain˺. I guarantee it.”
Joseph’s brothers replied, “By Allah! You know well that we did not come to cause trouble in the land, nor are we thieves.”
Joseph’s men asked, “What should be the price for theft, if you are lying?”
Joseph’s brothers responded, “The price will be ˹the enslavement of˺ the one in whose bag the cup is found. That is how we punish the wrongdoers.”
Joseph began searching their bags before that of his brother ˹Benjamin˺, then brought it out of Benjamin’s bag. This is how We inspired Joseph to plan. He could not have taken his brother under the King’s law, but Allah had so willed. We elevate in rank whoever We will. But above those ranking in knowledge is the One All-Knowing.
˹To distance themselves,˺ Joseph’s brothers argued, “If he has stolen, so did his ˹full˺ brother before.”1 But Joseph suppressed his outrage—revealing nothing to them—and said ˹to himself˺, “You are in such an evil position,2 and Allah knows best ˹the truth of˺ what you claim.”
They appealed, “O Chief Minister! He has a very old father, so take one of us instead. We surely see you as one of the good-doers.”
Joseph responded, “Allah forbid that we should take other than the one with whom we found our property. Otherwise, we would surely be unjust.”
When they lost all hope in him, they spoke privately. The eldest of them said, “Do you not know that your father had taken a solemn oath by Allah from you, nor how you failed him regarding Joseph before? So I am not leaving this land until my father allows me to, or Allah decides for me. For He is the Best of Judges.
Return to your father and say, ‘O our father! Your son committed theft. We testify only to what we know. We could not guard against the unforeseen.1
Ask ˹the people of˺ the land where we were and the caravan we travelled with. We are certainly telling the truth.’”
He cried, “No! Your souls must have tempted you to do something ˹evil˺. So ˹I am left with nothing but˺ beautiful patience!1 I trust Allah will return them all to me. Surely He ˹alone˺ is the All-Knowing, All-Wise.”
He turned away from them, lamenting, “Alas, poor Joseph!” And his eyes turned white out of the grief he suppressed.1
They said, “By Allah! You will not cease to remember Joseph until you lose your health or ˹even˺ your life.”
He replied, “I complain of my anguish and sorrow only to Allah, and I know from Allah what you do not know.
O my sons! Go and search ˹diligently˺ for Joseph and his brother. And do not lose hope in the mercy of Allah, for no one loses hope in Allah’s mercy except those with no faith.”
When they entered Joseph’s presence, they pleaded, “O Chief Minister! We and our family have been touched with hardship, and we have brought only a few worthless coins, but ˹please˺ give us our supplies in full and be charitable to us. Indeed, Allah rewards the charitable.”
He asked, “Do you remember what you did to Joseph and his brother in your ignorance?”
They replied ˹in shock˺, “Are you really Joseph?” He said, “I am Joseph, and here is my brother ˹Benjamin˺! Allah has truly been gracious to us. Surely whoever is mindful ˹of Allah˺ and patient, then certainly Allah never discounts the reward of the good-doers.”
They admitted, “By Allah! Allah has truly preferred you over us, and we have surely been sinful.”
Joseph said, “There is no blame on you today. May Allah forgive you! He is the Most Merciful of the merciful!
Go with this shirt of mine and cast it over my father’s face, and he will regain his sight. Then come back to me with your whole family.”
When the caravan departed ˹from Egypt˺, their father said ˹to those around him˺, “You may think I am senile, but I certainly sense the smell of Joseph.”
They replied, “By Allah! You are definitely still in your old delusion.”
But when the bearer of the good news arrived, he cast the shirt over Jacob’s face, so he regained his sight. Jacob then said ˹to his children˺, “Did I not tell you that I truly know from Allah what you do not know?”
They begged, “O our father! Pray for the forgiveness of our sins. We have certainly been sinful.”
He said, “I will pray to my Lord for your forgiveness.1 He ˹alone˺ is indeed the All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”
When they entered Joseph’s presence, he received his parents ˹graciously˺ and said, “Enter Egypt, Allah willing, in security.”
Then he raised his parents to the throne, and they all fell down in prostration to Joseph,1 who then said, “O my dear father! This is the interpretation of my old dream. My Lord has made it come true. He was truly kind to me when He freed me from prison, and brought you all from the desert after Satan had ignited rivalry between me and my siblings.2 Indeed my Lord is subtle in fulfilling what He wills. Surely He ˹alone˺ is the All-Knowing, All-Wise.”
“My Lord! You have surely granted me authority and taught me the interpretation of dreams. ˹O˺ Originator of the heavens and the earth! You are my Guardian in this world and the Hereafter. Allow me to die as one who submits1 and join me with the righteous.”
That is from the stories of the unseen which We reveal to you ˹O Prophet˺. You were not present when they ˹all˺1 made up their minds, and when they plotted ˹against Joseph˺.
And most people will not believe—no matter how keen you are—
even though you are not asking them for a reward for this ˹Quran˺. It is only a reminder to the whole world.
How many signs in the heavens and the earth do they pass by with indifference!
And most of them do not believe in Allah without associating others with Him ˹in worship˺.
Do they feel secure that an overwhelming torment from Allah will not overtake them, or that the Hour will not take them by surprise when they least expect ˹it˺?
Say, ˹O Prophet,˺ “This is my way. I invite to Allah with insight—I and those who follow me. Glory be to Allah, and I am not one of the polytheists.”
We only sent before you ˹O Prophet˺ men inspired by Us from among the people of each society. Have the deniers not travelled through the land to see what was the end of those ˹destroyed˺ before them? And surely the ˹eternal˺ Home of the Hereafter is far better for those mindful ˹of Allah˺. Will you not then understand?
And when the messengers despaired and their people thought the messengers had been denied help, Our help came to them ˹at last˺. We then saved whoever We willed, and Our punishment is never averted from the wicked people.
In their stories there is truly a lesson for people of reason. This message cannot be a fabrication, rather ˹it is˺ a confirmation of previous revelation, a detailed explanation of all things, a guide, and a mercy for people of faith.
Quran literally means recitation.
The address here is to the Arabs and, by extension, all of humanity.
This dream came true at the end of the story (see 12:100).
Unlike Joseph’s other brothers, Benjamin was Joseph’s full brother. They lost their mother at a young age, so their half-brothers thought that their father loved them more.
They stained Joseph’s shirt with blood from a sheep, but forgot to tear his shirt. So Jacob became suspicious when he saw the intact shirt.
i.e., patience without complaining.
Other possible translations: 1. “… so little did they value him.” 2. “… they had no interest in him.” In any case, they wanted to sell him immediately before someone claimed him. According to some Quran commentators, it was Joseph’s brothers who sold him to the travellers after he was picked up from the well. The verse states that Joseph was sold for a few worthless coins. Ironically, in 12:88 Joseph’s brothers came to him after he became Egypt’s Chief Minister, begging for supplies and saying that the only money they could afford was a few worthless coins. This is when Joseph revealed his true identity to them.
Potiphar, the Chief Minister of Egypt (Al-’Azîz).
Joseph (ﷺ) received warning against fornication either through divine inspiration or a vision of his father.
She was urged to seek forgiveness from her husband.
The women’s only objection was because the wife of the Chief Minister was in love with someone raised in her house like a son.
lit., ‘their cunning’ because the women themselves were probably interested in Joseph.
The women were cutting fruit, and when Joseph came out they were so impressed by his beauty that they sliced through the fruit and into their hands without knowing.
The women tried to convince him to obey the Chief Minister’s wife, so Joseph prayed to Allah to keep him away from them.
To stop women from being charmed by Joseph’s beauty, or to put an end to the rumours, or to keep him away from the Minister’s wife.
Meaning, “You call them gods while in fact they are not gods.”
The King of Egypt.
In the Bible (the Book of Genesis), this ruler is referred to as a pharaoh, while in the Quran he is referred to as a king. Typically, Egypt was ruled by pharaohs, but there existed a brief period in Egyptian history in which Egypt was ruled by the Hyksos invaders (1700-1550 B.C.E.). Hyksos rulers were called kings, not pharaohs. Joseph entered Egypt during the reign of the Hyksos, who used to appoint some foreigners to prominent positions in Egypt. According to The Jewish Encyclopedia, “Those who regard the Joseph stories as historical generally hold that the Pharaoh by whom Joseph was made the practical ruler of Egypt was one of the Hyksos kings.” "Joseph," The Jewish Encyclopedia, Volume VII (London: Funk and Wagnalls Company, 1916), p. 252.
i.e., Benjamin. When Joseph hosted his half-brothers, they told him the number of people in their household for future supplies.
He told them that every three or four of them should enter through a different gate. His desire was to protect them from envy and harm.
Joseph was falsely accused of theft when he was young.
He meant: I did not steal anything, nor did my brother ˹Benjamin˺. You are the real thieves; you stole me from my father and threw me into the well.
We did not know when we gave you our solemn oath that our brother was going to steal.
i.e., patience without complaining.
Jacob (ﷺ) cried for so long that he became very weak-sighted. Some scholars suggest that he lost his sight completely. This does not contradict Jacob’s beautiful patience because he did not complain to anyone, but expressed his sorrow only to Allah.
Jacob (ﷺ) delayed the prayer for his children to be forgiven until pre-dawn, which is a blessed time for supplication.
Joseph’s parents and his eleven brothers prostrated before him out of respect, not as an act of worship. This was permissible in their tradition, but in Islam, Muslims prostrate only to Allah.
Joseph (ﷺ) did not mention how Allah saved him from the well because he did not want to embarrass his brothers after forgiving them.
lit., as a Muslim.
This includes Joseph’s brothers, the travellers who picked him up from the well and sold him into slavery, and the Chief Minister’s wife and other women in the city.