The twelfth juz’ of the Qur’an contains the majority the eleventh chapter Surah Hud (Hud) from ayah 6 until its end at ayah 123, and the beginning of Surah Yusuf (Joseph) until ayah 52.
Surah Hud is a Makkan Surah, likely revealed just before the Hijarh.
Surah Yusuf was also revealed in Makkah, after the famous year called the Year of Difficulty. The Prophet, peace be upon him had lost both his beloved wife Khadijah, may Allah be pleased with her, and his uncle Abu Talib, and had been rejected harshly by the people of Taif. As the persecution of the Muslims increased and the sahabah in Makkah were feeling the strain, they came to the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and said, “Oh Messenger of Allah, why don’t you tell us the stories of those before who also suffered?”
At the same time, it is said that the Quraysh wanted to try to outwit the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and show that he was not truly a Prophet. They sent a delegation to the Jews of Yathrib (before it became Madinah) and asked them, “Tell us a question that only a Prophet would be able to answer. Give us a trick question that we can show once and for all that this man is not a Prophet. Tell us a question that you know the answer to but nobody else knows.” The Jews said, “Ask him about the story of Yusuf and his brothers. Nobody knows this.”
It was at this time that Surah Yusuf was revealed.
“Whoever desires the life of this world and its glitter, to them We shall pay in full (the wages of) their deeds therein, and they will have no diminution [reduction in size] therein. They are those for whom there is nothing in the Hereafter but Fire, and vain are the deeds they did therein. And of no effect is that which they used to do.” (Surah Hud 11:15-16)
“That is some of the news of the (population of) towns which We relate unto you (O Muhammad); of them, some are (still) standing, and some have been (already) reaped. We wronged them not, but they wronged themselves. So their aliha (gods), other than Allah, whom they invoked, profited them naught when there came the Command of you Lord, nor did they add aught to them but destruction. Such is the Seizure of you Lord when He seizes the (population of) towns while they are doing wrong. Verily His Seizure is painful (and severe).” (Surah Hud 11:100-102)
“And I [Yusuf] have followed the religion of my fathers – Ibrahim (Abraham), Ishaq (Isaac) and Ya’qub (Jacob) and never could we attribute partners whatsoever to Allah. This is from the Grace of Allah to us and to mankind, but most of men thank not (i.e. they neither believe in Allah nor worship Him).” (Surah Yusuf 12:38)
Surah Hud deals with the same subject matter as Surah Yunus before it, but where Surah Yunus emphasised Allah’s dealings with man as they lean towards Mercy, Surah Hud emphasises justice and the punishment of sin when Guidance is rejected. Its warnings are such that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said: “Surah Hud and its sisters [Al-Waqiah, Al-Mursalat, An-Naba and At-Takwair] have turned my hair grey.” (Recorded in At-Tirmidhi) We are told the stories of the Prophets Nuh (Noah), Hud, Salih, Ibrahim (Abraham), Lut (Lot) and Shu’aib peace be upon them all, and how their people rejected their calls and were punished. These stories are presented as a lesson for those who fear the torment of the Hereafter (11:103).
Surah Yusuf is the only place in the Qur’an where the story of the Prophet Yusuf, peace be upon him, is mentioned, and it is the only Surah in the Qur’an that has a unified story as its theme from beginning to end. It is called the best of stories (12:3), and opens with a dream that Yusuf had as a child, in which he saw eleven stars and the sun and the moon prostrating to him. Yusuf, peace be upon him, is one of the sons of the Prophet Ya’qub (Jacob) who knows immediately that Yusuf will become a Prophet, and warns him not to tell his brothers to avoid any harm. Yusuf’s brothers are very jealous of their father’s love for him, and initially plot to kill him, but later decide to throw him in a well, bringing a blood stained shirt to their father as evidence of his demise.
A caravan of travellers rescues Yusuf, peace be upon him, from the well, and sell him as a slave to a man, Al-Aziz, in Egypt, who adopts him as a son. When Yusuf reaches maturity, Allah bestows upon him wisdom and knowledge, and Prophethood (12:22). The wife of Al-Aziz tries to seduce Yusuf, but he refuses due to his fear of Allah. As he tries to escape, she tears his shirt from behind. They find her husband Al-Aziz, at the door and she accuses Yusuf, peace be upon him, of intending evil against her. Yusuf is sent to prison.
In the prison, Yusuf, peace be upon him, meets two other men and interprets one of the prisoner’s dreams. The prisoner is then released and Yusuf asks the prisoner to mention his talent to the King, but he forgets, until one day when the King has a dream of seven fat cows being eaten by seven thin ones, and seven green ears of corn and seven dry ones (12:43). Yusuf, peace be upon him, is brought to interpret the dream and he tells of a coming seven-year drought and the need to prepare for it. To reward him, the King releases him from jail and investigates his case. The wife who tried to seduce Yusuf testifies that he was innocent and the truth is revealed. The remaining part of the story of Yusuf, peace be upon him, is completed in the Thirteenth Juz’.