Introductory passage is provided by this website and may not represent the views of the archived document's author.

Search the Republic of Rumi

Quran, Chapter 12: Joseph

The following is a translation of 'Joseph', the twelfth chapter of the Quran. To many commentators it exemplifies the Quranic norms of story-telling and if a poetics of the Quran were to be devised then a structural study of this chapter is likely to be a cornerstone in that edifice.

The story itself has inspired, in various manners, nearly all Muslim writers. The most famous instances are, of course, Maulana Jami among the classical poets and Dr. Sir Muhammad Iqbal among moderns (in The Republic of Rumi: A Novel of Reality by Khurram Ali Shafique, Joseph is presented as a key to the mystery of Iqbal's work).


In the name of Allah, the Rahman, the Rahim.

Verses 1 – 17

  • A.L.R. These are the verses of the perspicuous Book.
  • We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur'an, in order that you may learn wisdom.
  • We do relate to you the most beautiful of stories, in that We reveal to you this Qur'an: before this, you too were among those who knew it not.
  • Behold! Joseph said to his father,"O my father! I did see eleven stars and the sun and the moon. I saw them prostrate themselves to me!"
  • Said, “My little son! Relate not your vision to your brothers, lest they concoct a plot against you: for Satan is to man an avowed enemy!
  • “Thus will your Lord choose you and teach you the interpretation of stories and perfect His favor to you and to the posterity of Jacob – even as He perfected it to your fathers Abraham and Isaac aforetime! For Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom.”
  • Verily in Joseph and his brothers are signs for seekers.
  • They said, "Truly Joseph and his brother are loved more by our father than we but we are a goodly body. Really our father is obviously wandering!
  • “Slay Joseph or cast him out to some other land, that so the favor of your father may be given to you alone, for you to be righteous after that.”
  • Said one of them, "Slay not Joseph, but if you must do something, throw him down to the bottom of the well: he will be picked up by some caravan of travelers."
  • They said, “O our father! Why do you not trust us with Joseph, seeing we are indeed his sincere well-wishers?
  • “Send him with us tomorrow to enjoy himself and play, and we shall take every care of him.”
  • Said, “Really it saddens me that you should take him away. I fear lest the wolf should devour him while you attend not to him.”
  • They said, “If the wolf were to devour him while we are quite a party, then should we indeed first have perished ourselves!”
  • So they did take him away, and they all agreed to throw him down to the bottom of the well and We put into his heart, “Of a surety you shall tell them the truth of this their affair while they know not.”
  • Then they came to their father in the early part of the night, weeping.
  • They said, “O our father! We went racing with one another, and left Joseph with our things, and the wolf devoured him. But you will never believe us even though we tell the truth.”

Verses 18 – 30

  • They stained his shirt with false blood. He said, “Nay, but your minds have made up a tale with you. Patience is most fitting; against that which you assert, it is Allah Whose help can be sought.”
  • Then there came a caravan of travelers. They sent their water-carrier and he let down his bucket. He said, “Ah there! Good news! Here is a young man!” So they concealed him as a treasure but Allah knows well all that they do.
  • Sold him for a miserable price, for a few dirhams counted out: in such low estimation did they hold him!
  • The man in Egypt who bought him, said to his wife, “Make his stay honorable. May be he will bring us much good, or we shall adopt him as a son.” Thus did We establish Joseph in the land, that We might teach him the interpretation of stories. And Allah has full power and control over His affairs but most among humankind know it not.
  • When Joseph attained His full manhood, We gave him power and knowledge. Thus do We reward those who do right.
  • But she in whose house he was, sought to seduce him from his self. She fastened the doors and said, “Now come, you.” He said, “Allah forbid! truly your husband is my lord! He made my sojourn agreeable. Truly to no good come those who do wrong.”
  • And she did desire him and he would have desired her but that he saw the evidence of his Lord – thus that We might turn away from him evil and shameful deeds, for he was one of Our servants, sincere and purified.
  • So they both raced each other to the door and she tore his shirt from the back. They both found her lord near the door. She said, “What is the punishment for one who formed an evil design against your wife, but prison or a grievous chastisement!”
  • He said, “It was she that sought to seduce me – from my self.” And one of her household saw and bore witness: “If it be that his shirt is rent from the front, then is her tale true, and he is a liar!
  • “But if it be that his shirt is torn from the back then is she the liar and he is telling the truth.”
  • So when he saw his shirt that it was torn at the back, he said, “Behold! It is a snare of you women! Truly, mighty is your snare!”
  • “O Joseph, pass this over!” “Ask forgiveness for your sin, for truly you have been at fault!”
  • Ladies said in the City: “The wife of the Noble is seeking to seduce her slave from his self. Truly has he inspired her with violent love:. We see she is evidently going astray.”

Verses 31 – 45

  • When she heard of their malicious talk, she sent for them and prepared a banquet for them: she gave each of them a knife and called, “Come out before them.” When they saw him, they did extol him and cut their hands. They said, “Allah preserve us! No mortal is this! This is none other than a noble angel.”
  • She said, “There before you is the man about whom you did blame me. I did seek to seduce him from his self but he did firmly save himself guiltless. And now, if he does not my bidding he shall certainly be cast into prison and be of the company of the vilest.”
  • He said, “O my Lord! The prison is more to my liking than that to which they invite me. Unless You turn away their snare from me, I should feel inclined towards them and join the ranks of the ignorant.”
  • So his Lord hearkened to him and turned away from him their snare. Verily He hears and knows.
  • Then it occurred to the men, after they had seen the signs, to imprison him for a time.
  • Now with him there came into the prison two young men. Said one of them, “I see myself pressing wine.” Said the other, “I see myself carrying bread on my head, and birds are eating, thereof.” “Tell us the truth and meaning thereof, for we see that you are one that does good.”
  • He said, “Before any food comes to feed either of you, I will surely reveal to you the truth and meaning of this before it befalls you: that is part of that which my Lord has taught me. I have abandoned the ways of a people that believe not in Allah and that deny the Hereafter.
  • “And I follow the ways of my fathers – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – and never could we attribute any partners whatever to Allah. That comes of the grace of Allah to us and to humankind, yet most people are not grateful.
  • “O my two companions of the prison! Are many lords differing among themselves better or One Allah, Supreme and Irresistible?
  • “If not Him, you worship nothing but names which you have named, you and your fathers, for which Allah has sent down no authority. The command is for none but Allah. He has commanded that you worship none but Him. That is the right religion but most people understand not.
  • “O my two companions of the prison! As to one of you, he will pour out the wine for his lord to drink. As for the other, he will hang from the cross and the birds will eat from off his head. So has been decreed that matter whereof you two do enquire.”
  • And of the two, to that one whom he considered about to be saved, he said, “Mention me to your lord.” But Satan made him forget to mention him to his lord; thus lingered in prison a few years.
  • The king said, “I do see seven fat kine whom seven lean ones devour, and seven green ears of corn and seven withered. O you chiefs! Expound to me my vision if it be that you can interpret visions.”
  • They said, “A confused medley of dreams! And we are not skilled in the interpretation of dreams.”
  • But the man who had been released – one of the two – and who now bethought him after a space of time, said, “I will tell you the truth of its interpretation. Send me.”

Verses 46 – 60

  • “O Joseph! O man of truth! Expound to us of seven fat kine whom seven lean ones devour, and of seven green ears of corn and others withered, that I may return to the people, and that they may understand.”
  • Said, “For seven years shall you diligently sow as is your wont and the harvests that you reap, you shall leave them in the ear, except a little, of which you shall eat.
  • “Then will come after that seven dreadful years, which will devour what you shall have laid by in advance for them except a little which you shall have guarded.”
  • “Then will come after that a year in which the people will have abundant water and in which they will press.”
  • So the king said, “Bring him to me.” But when the messenger came to him, he said, “Go you back to your lord and ask him, ‘What is the state of mind of the ladies who cut their hands?’ For my Lord is certainly well aware of their snare.”
  • Said, “What was your affair when you did seek to seduce Joseph from his self?” The ladies said, “Allah preserve us! No evil know we against him!” Said the Noble’s wife, “Now is the truth manifest. It was I who sought to seduce him from his self. He is indeed of those who are true.
  • “This, in order that He may know that I have never been false to him in his absence and that Allah will never guide the snare of the false ones.
  • “Nor do I absolve my own self: the soul is certainly prone to evil unless my Lord bestows His Mercy, but surely my Lord is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”
  • So the king said, “Bring him to me. I will take him specially to serve about my own person.” Therefore when he had spoken to him, he said, “Be assured this day, you are, before our own presence, with rank firmly established, and fidelity fully proved.”
  • Said, “Set me over the store-houses of the land. I will indeed guard them as one who knows.”
  • Thus did We give established power to Joseph in the land, to take possession therein as, when or where he pleased. We bestow of our Mercy on whom We please and We suffer not to be lost the reward of those who do good.
  • But verily the reward of the Hereafter is the best, for those who believe, and are constant in righteousness.
  • Then came Joseph's brothers. They entered his presence, and he knew them, but they knew him not.
  • And when he had furnished them forth with provisions for them, he said, “Bring to me a brother you have, of the same father as yourselves. See you not that I pay out full measure and that I do provide the best hospitality?”
  • “Now if you bring him not to me, you shall have no measure from me nor shall you come near me.”

Verses 61 – 75

  • They said, “We shall certainly seek to get our wish about him from his father. Indeed we shall do it.”
  • And told his servants to put their stock-in-trade into their saddle-bags so they should know it only when they returned to their people, in order that they might come back.
  • Now when they returned to their father, they said, “O our father! No more measure of grain shall we get. So send our brother with us that we may get our measure – and we will indeed take every care of him.”
  • He said, “Shall I trust you with him with any result other than when I trusted you with his brother aforetime? But Allah is the best to take care, and He is the Most Merciful of those who show mercy!”
  • Then when they opened their baggage they found their stock-in-trade had been returned to them. They said, “O our father! What can we desire? This our stock-in-trade has been returned to us. So we shall get food for our family. We shall take care of our brother and add a full camel’s load. This is but a small quantity.”
  • Said, “Never will I send him with you until you swear a solemn oath to me in Allah's name that you will be sure to bring him back to me unless you are yourselves hemmed in.” And when they had sworn their solemn oath he said, “Over all that we say, be Allah the witness and guardian!”
  • Further he said, “O my sons! Enter not all by one gate: enter by different gates. Not that I can profit you aught against Allah: none can command except Allah. On Him do I put my trust and let all that trust put their trust on Him.”
  • And when they entered in the manner their father had enjoined it did not profit them in the least against Allah. It was but a necessity of Jacob’s soul which he discharged. For he was by our instruction full of knowledge but most people know not.
  • Now when they came into Joseph's presence he received his brother to stay with him. He said, “Behold! I am your brother. So grieve not at aught of their doings.”
  • At length when he had furnished them forth with provisions for them he put the drinking cup into his brother’s saddle-bag. Then shouted out a crier, “O you the caravan! Behold! You are thieves, without doubt!”
  • They said, turning towards them, “What is it that you miss?”
  • They said, “We miss the great beaker of the king. For him who produces it is a camel load. I will be bound by it.”
  • Said, “By Allah! well you know that we came not to make mischief in the land and we are no thieves!”
  • Said, “What then shall be the penalty of this if you are to have lied?”
  • They said, “The penalty should be that he in whose saddle-bag it is found should be held to atone for it. Thus it is we punish the wrong-doers.”

Verses 76 – 90

  • So he began with their baggage before the baggage of his brother. At length he brought it out of his brother’s baggage. Thus did We plan for Joseph. He could not take his brother by the law of the king except that Allah willed it. We raise to degrees whom We please but over all endued with knowledge is one, the All-Knowing.
  • They said, “If he steals, there was a brother of his who did steal before.” But these things did Joseph keep locked in his heart, revealing not the secrets to them. He said, “You are the worse situated and Allah knows best the truth of what you assert.”
  • They said, “O exalted one, behold! He has a father, aged and venerable. So take one of us in his place, for we see that you do good.”
  • He said, “Allah forbid that we take other than him with whom we found our property. Indeed, we should be acting wrongfully.”
  • Now when they saw no hope from him, they held a conference in private. The leader among them said, “Know you not that your father did take an oath from you in Allah's name and how before this you did fail in your duty with Joseph? Therefore will I not leave this land until my father permits me or Allah commands me, and He is the best to command.
  • “Turn you back to your father and say, ‘O our father, behold! Your son committed theft. We bear witness only to what we know and we could not well guard against the unseen.
  • “‘Ask at the town where we have been and the caravan in which we returned, and we are indeed telling the truth.’”
  • Jacob said, “Nay, but you have yourselves contrived a story for you. So patience is most fitting. Maybe Allah will bring them all to me. For He is indeed full of knowledge and wisdom.”
  • And he turned away from them, and said, “How great is my grief for Joseph!” And his eyes became white with sorrow, and he fell into silent melancholy.
  • They said, “By Allah! Will you cease to remember Joseph until you reach the last extremity of illness or until you die!”
  • He said, “I only complain of my distraction and anguish to Allah, and I know from Allah that which you know not.
  • “O my sons! Go and enquire about Joseph and his brother, and never give up hope of Allah's Soothing Mercy. Truly no one despairs of Allah's Soothing Mercy except those who have no faith.”
  • Then, when they came into presence they said, “O exalted one! Distress has seized us and our family. We have brought but scanty capital. So pay us full measure and treat it as charity to us, for Allah does reward the charitable.”
  • He said, “Know you how you dealt with Joseph and his brother, not knowing?”
  • They said, “Are you indeed Joseph?” He said, “I am Joseph, and this is my brother. Allah has indeed been gracious to us. Behold! He that is righteous and patient, never will Allah suffer the reward to be lost of those who do right.”

Verses 91 – 111

  • They said, “By Allah! Indeed has Allah preferred you above us and we certainly have been guilty of sin!”
  • He said, “This day let no reproach be on you. Allah will forgive you and He is the Most Merciful of those who show mercy!
  • “Go with this my shirt and cast it over the face of my father. He will come to see. Then come to me together with all your family.”
  • When the caravan left, their father said, “I do indeed scent the presence of Joseph. Nay, think me not a dotard.”
  • They said, “By Allah! Truly you are in your old wandering mind.”
  • Then when the bearer of the good news came, he cast over his face and he forthwith regained clear sight. He said, “Did I not say to you, ‘I know from Allah that which you know not?’”
  • They said, “O our father! Ask for us forgiveness for our sins, for we were truly at fault.”
  • He said, “Soon will I ask my Lord for forgiveness for you, for he is indeed Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”
  • Then when they entered the presence of Joseph, he provided a home for his parents with himself and said, “Enter you Egypt in safety if it pleases Allah.”
  • And he raised his parents high on the throne and they fell down in prostration before him. He said, “O my father! This is the fulfillment of my vision of old. Allah has made it come true! He was indeed good to me when He took me out of prison and brought you out of the desert after Satan had sown enmity between me and my brothers. Verily my Lord understands best the mysteries of all that He plans to do, for verily He is full of knowledge and wisdom.
  • “O my Lord! You has indeed bestowed on me some power and taught me something of the interpretation of dreams and events. O You Creator of the heavens and the earth, You are my Protector in this world and in the Hereafter. Take my soul as a Muslim, and unite me with the righteous.”
  • Such is one of the stories of what happened unseen, which We reveal by inspiration to you. Nor were you with them then when they concerted their plans together in the process of weaving their plots.
  • Yet no faith will the greater part of humankind have, however ardently you do desire it.
  • And no reward do you ask of them for this: it is no less than a message for all creatures.
  • And how many Signs in the heavens and the earth do they pass by? Yet they turn away from them.
  • And most of them believe not in Allah without associating (other partners) with Him.
  • Do they then feel secure from the coming against them of the covering veil of the wrath of Allah or of the coming against them of the Hour all of a sudden while they perceive not?
  • Say you, “This is my way: I do invite to Allah, on evidence clear as the seeing with one’s eyes, I and whoever follows me. Glory to Allah! And never will I join gods with Allah.”
  • Nor did We send before you any but human beings, whom we did inspire, living in human habitations. Do they not travel through the earth and see what was the end of those before them? But the home of the hereafter is best, for those who do right. Will you not then understand?
  • Until, when the messengers give up hope and think that they were treated as liars there reaches them Our help, and those whom We will are delivered into safety. But never will be warded off our punishment from those who are in sin.
  • There is, in their stories, instruction for men endued with understanding. It is not a tale invented but a confirmation of what went before it – a detailed exposition of all things, and a guide and a mercy to any such as believe.

Text based on Abdullah Yusuf Ali's translation

Back to Top

Search the Republic of Rumi
Page Hits | Visitors BACK | HOME | CONTACT