Surah Yusuf Ayat 1-49

Surah Yusuf

Chapter 12

Which was Revealed in Makkah


{1. Alif-Lam-Ra. These are the verses of the Book that is clear. 

2. Verily, We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur’an in order that you may understand. 

3. We relate unto you the best of stories through Our revelations unto you, of this Qur’an. And before this, you were among those who knew nothing about it. }

Qualities of the Qur’an

In the beginning of Surat Al-Baqarah we talked about the separate letters, Allah said, “These are the verses of the Book” in reference to the Clear Qur’an that is plain and apparent, and explains, clarifies and makes known the unclear matters. Allah said next, “Verily, We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur’an in order that you may understand.” The Arabic language is the most eloquent, plain, deep and expressive of the meanings that might arise in one’s mind. Therefore, the most honourable Book, was revealed in the most honourable language, to the most honourable Prophet and Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, delivered by the most honourable angel, in the most honourable land on earth, and its revelation started during the most honourable month of the year, Ramadan. Therefore, the Qur’an is perfect in every respect. So Allah said, “We relate unto you the best of stories through Our revelations unto you, of this Qur’an.” 

Reasons Behind Revealing Ayah 12:3

On the reason behind revealing Ayah (12:3), Ibn Jarir At-Tabari recorded that Abdullah bin Abbas said, “They said, O, Allah’s Messenger! Why not narrate to us stories?’ [About nations that have passed, how they answered their Prophets, what happened to them afterwards, etc.] Later on, this Ayah was revealed, “We relate unto you the best of stories…” (At-Tabari 15:552)

There is a Hadith that is relevant upon mentioning this honourable Ayah, which praises the Qur’an and demonstrates that it is sufficient from needing all books besides it. Imam Ahmad recorded a narration from Jabir bin Abdullah that Umar bin Al-Khattab came to the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, with a book that he took from some of the People of the Book. Umar began reading it to the Prophet who became angry. He said,

“Are you uncertain about it Ibn Al-Khattab? By the One in Whose Hand is my soul! I have come to you with it white and pure. Do not ask them about anything, for they might tell you something true and you reject it, or they might tell you something false and you believe it. By the One in Whose Hand is my soul! If Musa were living, he would have no choice but to follow me.” (Ahmad 3:387)

Imam Ahmad also recorded a narration from Abdullah bin Thabit who said, “Umar came to Allah’s Messenger and said; ‘O Messenger of Allah! I passed by a brother of mine from [the tribe of] Qurayzah, so he wrote some comprehensive statements from the Tawrah for me, should I read them to you?’ The face of Allah’s Messenger changed [with anger]. So I said to him, ‘Don’t you see the face of Allah’s Messenger?” Umar said, ‘We are pleased with Allah as our Lord, Islam as our religion, and Muhammad as our Messenger.’ So the anger of the Prophet subsided, and he said,

“By the One in Whose Hand is Muhammad’s soul, if Musa appeared among you and you were to follow him, abandoning me, then you would have strayed. Indeed you are my share of the nations, and I am your share of the Prophets.” (Ahmad 4:266. See Al-Irwa no. 1589)

{4. (Remember) when Yusuf said to his father: “O my father! Verily, I saw (in a dream) eleven stars and the sun and the moon – I saw them prostrating themselves to me.” }

Yusuf’s Dream

Allah says, ‘Mention to your people, O Muhammad, among the stories that you narrate to them, the story of Yusuf.’ Prophet Yusuf (Joseph) mentioned his dream to his father, Prophet Yaqub (Jacob), son of Prophet Ishaq (Isaac), son of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham), peace be upon them all. Abdullah bin Abbas stated that the dreams of Prophets are revelations from Allah. (At-Tabari 15:554) Scholars of Tafsir explained that in Yusuf’s dream the eleven stars represent his brothers, who were eleven, and the sun and the moon represent his father and mother. This explanation was collected from Ibn Abbas, Ad-Dahhak, Qatadah, Sufyan Ath-Thawri and Abdur-Rahman bin Zayd bin Aslam. Yusuf’s vision became a reality forty years later, or as some say, eighty years, when Yusuf raised his parents to the throne while his brothers were before him, “and they fell down before him prostrate. And he said: “O my father! This is the interpretation of my dream aforetime! My Lord has made it come true!” (At-Tabari 15:557)

{5. He (the father) said: “O my son! Relate not your vision to your brothers, lest they should arrange a plot against you. Verily, Shaytan is to man an open enemy!”}

Yaqui orders Yusuf to hide His Vision to avoid Shaytan’s Plots

Allah narrates the reply Yaqub gave his son Yusuf when he narrated to him the vision that he saw, which indicated that his brothers would be under his authority. They would be subjugated to Yusuf’s authority to such an extent that they would prostrate before him in respect, honor and appreciation. Yaqub feared that if Yusuf narrated his vision to any of his brothers, they would envy him and conspire evil plots against him. This is why Yaqub said to Yusuf, “Relate not your vision to your brothers, lest they should arrange a plot against you.” This Ayah means, “They might arrange a plot against you that causes your demise.” In the Sunnah, there is a confirmed Hadith that states,

“If any of you saw a vision that he likes, let him narrate it. If he saw a dream that he dislikes, let him turn on his other side, blow to his left thrice, seek refuge with Allah from its evil and not tell it to anyone. Verily, it will not harm him in this case.” (Muslim 4:1772)

In another Hadith that Imam Ahmad and collectors of the Sunan collected, Muawiyah bin Haydah Al-Qushayri said that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said,

“The dream is tied to a bird’s leg, as long as it is not interpreted. If it is interpreted, it comes true.” (Ahmad 4:20, Abu Dawud 5:283, Ibn Majah 2:1288)

Therefore, one should hide the prospects or the coming of a bounty until it comes into existence and becomes known. The Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said,

“Earn help for fulfilling needs by being discrete, for every owner of a blessing is envied.” (At-Tabari 20:94) 

{6.”Thus will your Lord choose you and teach you the interpretation of dreams (and other things) and perfect His favour on you and on the offspring of Yaqub, as He perfected it on your fathers, Ibrahim and Ishaq aforetime! Verily, your Lord is All-Knowing, All-Wise.”}

Interpretation of Yusuf’s Vision

Allah says that Yaqub said to his son Yusuf, ‘Just as Allah chose you to see the eleven stars, the sun and the moon prostrate before you in a vision, “Thus will your Lord choose you” designate and assign you to be a Prophet from Him, “and teach you the interpretation of Ahadith”.’ Mujahid and several other scholars said that this part of the Ayah is in reference to the interpreting of dreams. (At-Tabari 15:560) He said next, “and perfect His favour on you”, ‘by His Message and revelation to you.’ This is why Yaqub said afterwards, “as He perfected it aforetime on your fathers, Ibrahim…”, Allah’s intimate friend, “and Ishaq”, Ibrahim’s son, “Verily, your Lord is All-Knowing, All-Wise.” Allah knows best whom to chose for His Messages.

{7. Verily, in Yusuf and his brethren there were Ayat for those who ask. 

8. When they said: “Truly, Yusuf and his brother are dearer to our father than we, while we are Usbah (a group). Really, our father is in a plain error.” 

9. “Kill Yusuf or cast him out to some (other) land, so that the favor of your father may be given to you alone, and after that you will be righteous folk.” 

10. One from among them said: “Kill not Yusuf, but if you must do something, throw him down to the bottom of a well; he will be picked up by some caravan of travelers.” }

There are Lessons to Draw from the Story of Yusuf

Allah says that there are Ayat, lessons and wisdom to learn from the story of Yusuf and his brothers, for those who ask about their story and seek its knowledge. Surely, their story is unique and is worthy of being narrated. “When they said: “Truly, Yusuf and his brother are dearer to our father than we…” They swore, according to their false thoughts, that Yusuf and his brother Binyamin (Benjamin), Yusuf’s full brother, “dearer to our father than we, while we are Usbah.” meaning, a group. Therefore, they thought, how can he love these two more than the group, “Really, our father is in a plain error.” because he preferred them and loved them more than us. “Kill Yusuf or cast him out to some (other) land, so that the favour of your father may be given to you alone,” They said, ‘Remove Yusuf, who competes with you for your father’s love, from in front of your father’s face so that his favour is yours alone. Either kill Yusuf or banish him to a distant land so that you are rid of his trouble and you alone enjoy the love of your father. ”and after that you will be righteous folk.”, thus intending repentance before committing the sin, “One from among them said…”

Qatadah and Muhammad bin Ishaq said that he was the oldest among them and his name was Rubil (Reuben). (At-Tabari 15:564-565) As-Suddi said that his name was Yahudha (Judah). Mujahid said that it was Shamun (Simeon) who said, “Kill not Yusuf”, do not let your enmity and hatred towards him reach this level, of murder.

However, their plot to kill Yusuf would not have succeeded, because Allah the Exalted willed that Yusuf fulfill a mission that must be fulfilled and complete; he would receive Allah’s revelation and become His Prophet. Allah willed Yusuf to be a powerful man in Egypt and govern it. Consequently, Allah did not allow them to persist in their intent against Yusuf, through Rubil’s words and his advice to them that if they must do something, they should throw him down to the bottom of a well, “he will be picked up by some caravan” of travellers passing by. This way, he said, you will rid yourselves of this bother without having to kill him, “if you must do something” meaning, if you still insist on getting rid of him. Muhammad bin Ishaq bin Yasar said, “They agreed to a particularly vicious crime that involved cutting the relation of the womb, undutiful treatment of parents, and harshness towards the young, helpless and sinless. It was also harsh towards the old and weak who have the rights of being respected, honoured and appreciated, as well as, being honoured with Allah and having parental rights on their offspring. They sought to separate the beloved father, who had reached old age and his bones became weak, yet had a high status with Allah, from his beloved young son, in spite of his weakness, tender age and his need of his father’s compassion and kindness. May Allah forgive them, and indeed, He is the Most Merciful among those who have mercy, for they intended to carry out a “grave error.” Ibn Abi Hatim collected this statement, from the route of Salamah bin Al-Fadl from Muhammad bin Ishaq.

{11. They said: “O our father! Why do you not trust us with Yusuf though we are indeed his well-wishers” 

12. “Send him with us tomorrow to enjoy himself and play, and verily, we will take care of him.”}

Yusuf’s Brothers ask for Their Father’s Permission to take Yusuf with Them

When Yusuf’s brothers agreed to take him and throw him down the well, taking the advice of their elder brother Rubil, they went to their father Yaqub, peace be upon him. They said to him, “Why is it that you do not trust us with Yusuf though we are indeed his well-wishers?” They started executing their plan by this introductory statement, even though they really intended its opposite, out of envy towards Yusuf for being loved by his father. They said, “Send him with us” tomorrow so that we all enjoy ourselves and play.” (At-Tabari 15:570)  Qatadah, Ad-Dahhak and As-Suddi said similarly. (At-Tabari 15:571) Yusuf’s brothers said next, “and verily, we will take care of him.”, we will protect him and ensure his safety for you.

{13. He (Yaqub) said: “Truly, it saddens me that you should take him away. I fear lest a wolf should devour him, while you are careless of him.” 

14. They said: “If a wolf devours him, while we are Usbah (a group), then surely, we are the losers.”}

Yaqub’s Answer to Their Request

Allah narrates to us that His Prophet Yaqub said to his children, in response to their request that he send Yusuf with them to the desert to tend their cattle, “Truly, it saddens me that you should take him away.” He said that it was hard on him that he be separated from Yusuf for the duration of their trip, until they came back. This demonstrates the deep love that Yaqub had for his son, because he saw in Yusuf great goodness and exalted qualities with regards to conduct and physical attractiveness associated with the rank of prophethood. May Allah’s peace and blessings be on him. Prophet Yaqub’s statement next, “I fear lest a wolf should devour him, while you are careless of him.” He said to them, ‘I fear that you might be careless with him while you are tending the cattle and shooting, then a wolf might come and eat him while you are unaware.’ They heard these words from his mouth and used them in their response for what they did afterwards. They also gave a spontaneous reply for their father’s statement, saying,  “If a wolf devours him, while we are an Usbah, then surely, we are the losers.” They said, ‘If a wolf should attack and devour him while we are all around him in a strong group, then indeed we are the losers and weak.’

{15. So, when they took him away, they all agreed to throw him down to the bottom of the well, and We revealed to him: “Indeed, you shall (one day) inform them of this their affair, when they know (you) not.”}

Yusuf is thrown into a Well

Allah says that when Yusuf’s brothers took him from his father, after they requested him to permit that, “they all agreed to throw him down to the bottom of the well” This part of the Ayah magnifies their crime, in that it mentions that they all agreed to throw him to the bottom of the well. This was their intent, yet when they took him from his father, they pretended otherwise, so that his father sends him with a good heart and feeling at ease and comfortable with his decision. It was reported that Yaqub, peace be upon him, embraced Yusuf, kissed him and supplicated to Allah for him when he sent him with his brothers. As-Suddi said that the time spent between pretending to be well-wishers and harming Yusuf was no longer than their straying far from their father’s eyes. They then started abusing Yusuf verbally, by cursing, and harming him by beating. When they reached the well that they agreed to throw him in, they tied him with rope and lowered him down. When Yusuf would beg one of them, he would smack and curse him. When he tried to hold to the sides of the well, they struck his hand and then cut the rope when he was only half the distance from the bottom of the well. He fell into the water and was submerged. However, he was able to ascend a stone that was in the well and stood on it. (At-Tabari 15:574)  Allah said next, “and We revealed to him: “Indeed, you shall (one day) inform them of this their affair, when they know (you) not.”

In this Ayah, Allah mentions His mercy and compassion and His compensation and relief that He sends in times of distress. Allah revealed to Yusuf, during that distressful time, in order to comfort his heart and strengthen his resolve, ‘Do not be saddened by what you have suffered. Surely, you will have a way out of this distress and a good end, for Allah will aid you against them, elevate your rank and raise your grade. Later on, you will remind them of what they did to you,’ “when they know not.” “Ibn Abbas commented on this Ayah, “You will remind them of this evil action against you, while they are unaware of your identity and unable to recognise you.” (At-Tabari 15:577)

{16. And they came to their father in the early part of the night weeping. 

17. They said: “O our father! We went racing with one another, and left Yusuf by our belongings and a wolf devoured him; but you will never believe us even when we speak the truth.” 

18. And they brought his shirt stained with false blood. He said: “Nay, but your own selves have made up a tale. So (for me) patience is most fitting. And it is Allah (Alone) Whose help can be sought against that (lie) which you describe.”}

Yusuf’s Brothers try to deceive Their Father

Allah narrates to us the deceit that Yusuf’s brothers resorted to, after they threw him to the bottom of the well. They went back to their father, during the darkness of the night, crying and showing sorrow and grief for losing Yusuf. They started giving excuses to their father for what happened to Yusuf, falsely claiming that, “We went racing with one another”, or had a shooting competition, “and left Yusuf by our belongings”, guarding our clothes and luggage, “and a wolf devoured him”, which is exactly what their father told them he feared for Yusuf and warned against. They said next, “but you will never believe us even when we speak the truth.”

They tried to lessen the impact of the grave news they were delivering. They said, ‘We know that you will not believe this news, even if you consider us truthful. So what about when you suspect that we are not truthful, especially since you feared that the wolf might devour Yusuf and that is what happened’ Therefore, they said, ‘You have reason not to believe us because of the strange coincidence and the amazing occurrence that happened to us. ”And they brought his shirt stained with false blood.” on it, to help prove plot that they all agreed on. They slaughtered a sheep, according to Mujahid, As-Suddi and several other scholars, and stained Yusuf’s shirt with its blood. They claimed that this was the shirt Yusuf was wearing when the wolf devoured him, being stained with his blood. (At-Tabari 15:580) But, they forgot to tear the shirt, and this is why Allah’s Prophet Yaqub did not believe them. Rather, he told them what he felt about what they said to him, thus refusing their false claim, “Nay, but your ownselves have made up a tale. So (for me) patience is most fitting.” Yaqub said, ‘I will firmly observe patience for this plot on which you agreed, until Allah relieves the distress with His aid and compassion, “And it is Allah (alone) Whose help can be sought against that which you describe.”, against the lies and unbelievable incident that you said had occurred.’

{19. And there came a caravan of travelers and they sent their water-drawer, and he let down his bucket (into the well). He said: “What good news! Here is a boy.” So they hid him as merchandise (a slave). And Allah was the All-Knower of what they did. 

20. And they sold him for a Bakhs price, – for a few Dirhams. And they were of those who regarded him insignificant.}

Yusuf is Rescued from the Well and sold as a Slave

Allah narrates what happened to Yusuf, peace be upon him, after his brothers threw him down the well and left him in it, alone, where he remained for three days, according to Abu Bakr bin Ayyash. Muhammad bin Ishaq said, “After Yusuf’s brothers threw him down the well, they remained around the well for the rest of the day to see what he might do and what would happen to him. Allah sent a caravan of travelers that camped near that well, and they sent to it the man responsible for drawing water for them. When he approached the well, he lowered his bucket down into it, Yusuf held on to it and the man rescued him and felt happy, “What good news! Here is a boy.”

Al-Awfi reported that Ibn Abbas commented, “Allah’s statement, “So they hid him as merchandise”, is in reference to Yusuf’s brothers, who hid the news that he was their brother. Yusuf hid this news for fear that his brothers might kill him and preferred to be sold instead. Consequently, Yusuf’s brothers told the water drawer about him and that man said to his companions, “What good news! Here is a boy.”, a slave whom we can sell. Therefore, Yusuf’s own brothers sold him.” (At-Tabari 16:6)

Allah’s statement, “And Allah was the All-Knower of what they did.” states that Allah knew what Yusuf’s brothers, and those who bought him, did. He was able to stop them and prevent them from committing their actions, but out of His perfect wisdom He decreed otherwise. He let them do what they did, so that His decision prevails and His appointed destiny rules, “Surely, His is the creation and commandment. Blessed is Allah, the Lord of the all that exists!” (7:54) This reminds Allah’s Messenger Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, that Allah has perfect knowledge in the persecution that his people committed against him and that He is able to stop them. However, He decided to give them respite, then give Muhammad the victory and make him prevail over them, just as He gave Yusuf victory and made him prevail over his brothers.

Allah said next, “And they sold him for a Bakhs price, – for a few Dirhams” in reference to Yusuf’s brothers selling him for a little price, according to Mujahid and Ikrimah. Bakhs’ means decreased, (At-Tabari 16:12)  just as Allah the Exalted said in another Ayah, “shall have no fear, either of a Bakhs (a decrease in the reward of his good deeds) or a Rahaq (an increase in the punishment for his sins).” (72:13) meaning that Yusuf’s brothers exchanged him for a miserably low price. Yet, he was so insignificant to them that had the caravan people wanted him for free, they would have given him for free to them! Ibn Abbas, Mujahid and Ad-Dahhak said that, “And they sold him”, is in reference to Yusuf’s brothers. (At-Tabari 16:14-17) They sold Yusuf for the lowest price, as indicated by Allah’s statement next, “for a few Dirhams”, twenty Dirhams, according to Abdullah bin Masud. (At-Tabari 16:12) Similar was said by Ibn Abbas, Nawf Al-Bikali, As-Suddi, Qatadah and Atiyah Al-Awfi, who added that they divided the Dirhams among themselves, each getting two Dirhams. (At-Tabari 16:14) Ad-Dahhak commented on Allah’s statement, “And they were of those who regarded him insignificant.” “Because they had no knowledge of his prophethood and glorious rank with Allah, the Exalted and Most Honoured.”

{21. And he (the man) from Egypt who bought him, said to his wife: “Make his stay comfortable, maybe he will profit us or we shall adopt him as a son.” Thus did We establish Yusuf in the land, that We might teach him the interpretation of events. And Allah has full power and control over His affairs, but most of men know not. 

22. And when he [Yusuf] attained his full manhood, We gave him wisdom and knowledge (the prophethood), thus We reward the doers of good. }

Yusuf in Egypt

Allah mentions the favors that He granted Yusuf, peace be on him, by which He made the man from Egypt who bought him, take care of him and provide him with a comfortable life. He also ordered his wife to be kind to Yusuf and had good hopes for his future, because of his firm righteous behavior. He said to his wife, “Make his stay comfortable, maybe he will profit us or we shall adopt him as a son.” The man who bought Yusuf was the minister of Egypt at the time, and his title was Aziz’. Abu Ishaq narrated that Abu Ubaydah said that Abdullah bin Masud said, “Three had the most insight: the Aziz of Egypt, who said to his wife, “Make his stay comfortable…”, the woman who said to her father, “O my father! Hire him…”, (28:26) and Abu Bakr As-Siddiq when he appointed Umar bin Al-Khattab to be the Khalifah after him, may Allah be pleased with them both.” (At-Tabari 16:19)

Allah said next that just as He saved Yusuf from his brothers, “Thus did We establish Yusuf in the land”, in reference to Egypt, “that We might teach him the interpretation of events.” the interpretation of dreams, according to Mujahid and As-Suddi. (At-Tabari 16:20) Allah said next, “And Allah has full power and control over His affairs” if He wills something, then there is no averting His decision, nor can it ever be stopped or contradicted. Rather, Allah has full power over everything and everyone else. Said bin Jubayr said while commenting on Allah’s statement, “And Allah has full power and control over His affairs” “He does what ever He wills.” (At-Tabari 16:21) Allah said, “but most of men know not.” meaning, have no knowledge of Allah’s wisdom with regards to His creation, compassion and doing what He wills. Allah said next, “And when he attained”, in reference to Prophet Yusuf, peace be upon him, “his full manhood”, sound in mind and perfect in body, “We gave him wisdom and knowledge”, which is the prophethood that Allah sent him with for the people he lived among, “thus We reward the doers of good.” because Yusuf used to do good in the obedience of Allah the Exalted.

{23. And she, in whose house he was, sought to seduce him (to do an evil act), and she closed the doors and said: “Come on, O you.” He said: “I seek refuge in Allah! Truly, he is my Rabb! He made my living in a great comfort! Verily, the wrongdoers will never be successful.” }

Wife of the Aziz loves Yusuf and plots against Him

Allah states that the wife of the Aziz of Egypt, in whose house Yusuf resided and whose husband recommended that she takes care of him and be generous to him, tried to seduce Yusuf! She called him to do an evil act with her, because she loved him very much. Yusuf was very handsome, filled with manhood and beauty. She beautified herself for him, closed the doors and called him, “and (she) said: “Come on, O you.” But he categorically refused her call, “He said: “I seek refuge in Allah! Truly, he is my Rabb! He made my living in a great comfort!” as they used to call the chief and master a ‘Rabb’, Yusuf said to her, ‘your husband is my master who provided me with comfortable living and was kind to me, so I will never betray him by committing immoral sins with his wife,”Verily, the wrongdoers will never be successful.” This was said by Mujahid, As-Suddi, Muhammad bin Ishaq and several others. The scholars differ in their recitation of, “Hayta Laka”, whereby Ibn Abbas, Mujahid and several other scholars said that it means that she was calling him to herself. (At-Tabari 16:27) Al-Bukhari said; “Ikrimah said that, “Hayta Laka” means, ‘come on, O you’, in the Aramaic language.” Al-Bukhari collected this statement from Ikrimah without a chain of narration. (Fath Al-Bari 8:214) Other scholars read it with the meaning, `I am ready for you’. Ibn Abbas, Abu Abdur-Rahman As-Sulami, Abu Wa’il, `Ikrimah and Qatadah were reported to have read this part of the Ayah this way and explained it in the manner we mentioned, as ‘I am ready for you’.

{24. And indeed she did desire him, and he would have inclined to her desire, had he not seen the evidence of his Lord. Thus it was, that We might turn away from him evil and immoval sins. Surely, he was one of Our Mukhlasin servants.}

This is about the thoughts that cross the mind, according to Al-Baghawi who mentioned this opinion from some of the analysts. Al-Baghawi next mentioned here a Hadith that he narrated from Abdur Razzaq, from Mamar, from Hammam, from Abu Hurayrah, from the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him,

“Allah the Exalted said, ‘If my slave intends to perform a good deed, then record it for him as one good deed; if he performs it, then record it for him multiplied ten folds. If he intends to commit an evil act but did not commit it, then record it for him as one good deed, if he left it for My sake. But if he commits it, then write it as one evil deed.” (Al-Baghawi 2:420)

This Hadith was also collected in the Two Sahihs (Fath Al-Bari 13:473, Muslim 1:117) using various wording, this is one of them. It was also reported that the Ayah means that Yusuf was about to beat her. As for the evidence that Yusuf saw at that moment, there are conflicting opinions to what it was. Ibn Jarir At-Tabari said, “The correct opinion is that we should say that he saw an Ayah from among Allah’s Ayat that repelled the thought that crossed his mind. This evidence might have been the image of Yaqub, or the image of an angel, or a divine statement that forbade him from doing that evil sin, etc. There are no clear proofs to support any of these statements in specific, so it should be left vague, as Allah left it. Allah’s statement next, “Thus it was, that We might turn away from him evil and immoral sins.” means, ‘Just as We showed him the evidence that turned him away from that sin, We save him from all types of evil and illegal sexual activity in all his affairs,’ because, “Surely, he was one of Our Mukhlasin servants.” meaning, chosen, purified, designated, appointed and righteous. May Allah’s peace and blessings be on him.” (At-Tabari 16:49)

Tafsir Ibn Kathir Vol 5 (Abridged) Pages 134-155

{25. So they raced with one another to the door, and she tore his shirt from the back. They both found her master (i.e. her husband) at the door. She said: “What is the recompense (punishment) for him who intended an evil design against your wife, except that he be put in prison or a painful torment” 

26. He [Yusuf] said: “It was she that sought to seduce me” and a witness of her household bore witness (saying) “If it be that his shirt is torn from the front, then her tale is true and he is a liar!” 

27. “But if it be that his shirt is torn from the back, then she has told a lie and he is speaking the truth!” 

28. So when he (her husband) saw his [Yusuf’s] shirt torn at the back, he (her husband) said: “Surely, it is a plot of you women! Certainly mighty is your plot!” 

29. “O Yusuf ! Turn away from this! (O woman!) Ask forgiveness for your sin, verily, you were of the sinful.”}

Allah says that Yusuf and the wife of the Aziz raced to the door, Yusuf running away from her and her running after him to bring him back to the room. She caught up with him and held on to his shirt from the back, tearing it so terribly that it fell off Yusuf’s back. Yusuf continued running from her, with her in pursuit. However, they found her master, her husband, at the front door. This is when she responded by deceit and evil plots, trying to exonerate herself and implicate him, saying,“What is the recompense (punishment) for him who intended an evil design against your wife…”, in reference to illegal sexual intercourse,“except that he be put in prison” “or a painful torment” tormented severely with painful beating. Yusuf did not stand idle, but he declared the truth and exonerated himself from the betrayal she accused him of,“He [Yusuf] said”, in truth and honesty,“It was she that sought to seduce me”, and mentioned that she pursued him and pulled him towards her until she tore his shirt.“And a witness of her household bore witness (saying): “If it be that his shirt is torn from the front…”, not from the back,“then her tale is true” that he tried to commit an illegal sexual act with her. Had he called her to have sex with him and she refused, she would have pushed him away from her and tore his shirt from the front,“But if it be that his shirt is torn from the back, then she has told a lie and he is speaking the truth!”

Had Yusuf run away from her, and this is what truly happened, and she set in his pursuit, she would have held to his shirt from the back to bring him back to her, thus tearing his shirt from the back.

There is a difference of opinion over the age and gender of the witness mentioned here. Abdur-Razzaq recorded that Ibn Abbas said that,“and a witness of her household bore witness” “was a bearded man,” meaning an adult male. Ath-Thawri reported that Jabir said that Ibn Abi Mulaykah said that Ibn Abbas said, “He was from the king’s entourage.” Mujahid, Ikrimah, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, As-Suddi, Muhammad bin Ishaq and others also said that the witness was an adult male.

Al-Awfi reported that Ibn Abbas said about Allah’s statement,“and a witness of her household bore witness” “He was a babe in the cradle. ” (At-Tabari 16:56) Similar was reported from Abu Hurayrah, Hilal bin Yasaf, Al-Hasan, Said bin Jubayr and Ad-Dahhak bin Muzahim, that the witness was a young boy who lived in the Aziz’s house. (At-Tabari 16:54-55) Ibn Jarir At-Tabari preferred this view.

Allah’s statement,“So when he saw his [Yusuf’s] shirt torn at the back” indicates that when her husband became certain that Yusuf was telling the truth and that his wife was lying when she heralded the accusation of betrayal at Yusuf,“he said: “Surely, it is a plot of you women!…’ He said, ‘This false accusation and staining the young man’s reputation is but a plot of many that you, women, have,”Certainly mighty is your plot!” The Aziz ordered Yusuf, peace be upon him, to be discrete about what happened,“O Yusuf ! Turn away from this!”, do not mention to anyone what has happened,“And ask forgiveness for your sin,” addressing his wife. The Aziz was an easy man, or gave excuse to his wife because she saw in Yusuf an appeal she could not resist. He said to her, ‘Ask forgiveness for your sin, the evil desire that you wanted to satisfy with this young man, and then inventing false accusations about him,”verily, you were of the sinful.”

{30. And women in the city said: “The wife of the Aziz is seeking to seduce her (slave) young man, indeed she loves him violently; verily, we see her in plain error.” 

31. So when she heard of their accusation, she sent for them and prepared a banquet for them; she gave each one of them a knife, and she said [to Yusuf] “Come out before them.” Then, when they saw him, they exalted him (at his beauty) and (in their astonishment) cut their hands. They said: “How perfect is Allah! No man is this! This is none other than a noble angel!” 

32. She said: “This is he (the young man) about whom you did blame me, and I did seek to seduce him, but he refused. And now if he refuses to obey my order, he shall certainly be cast into prison, and will be one of those who are disgraced.” 

33. He said: “O my Lord! Prison is dearer to me than that to which they invite me. Unless You turn away their plot from me, I will feel inclined towards them and be one of the ignorant.” 

34. So his Lord answered his invocation and turned away from him their plot. Verily, He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower.}

The News reaches Women in the City, Who also plot against Yusuf

Allah states that the news of what happened between the wife of the Aziz and Yusuf spread in the city, that is, Egypt, and people talked about it,“And women in the city said…”, such as women of chiefs and princes said, while admonishing and criticizing the wife of the Aziz,“The wife of the Aziz is seeking to seduce her (slave) young man,”, she is luring her servant to have sex with her,“indeed she loves him violently”, her love for him filled her heart and engulfed it,“verily, we see her in plain error.”, by loving him and trying to seduce him.“So when she heard of their accusation” especially their statement, “indeed she loves him violently.” Muhammad bin Ishaq commented, “They heard of Yusuf’s beauty and wanted to see him, so they said these words in order to get a look at him. ” This is when,“she sent for them”, invited them to her house,“and prepared a banquet for them.” Ibn Abbas, Sa’id bin Jubayr, Mujahid, Al-Hasan, As-Suddi and several others commented that she prepared a sitting room which had couches, pillows [to recline on] and food that requires knives to cut, such as citron. (At-Tabari 16:71-72) This is why Allah said next,“and she gave each one of them a knife”, as a part of her plan of revenge for their plot to see Yusuf,“and she said [to Yusuf] “Come out before them’‘, for she had asked him to stay somewhere else in the house,“Then, when” he went out and, “they saw him, they exalted him” they thought highly of him and were astonished at what they saw. They started cutting their hands in amazement at his beauty, while thinking that they were cutting the citron with their knives. Therefore, they injured their hands with the knives they were holding, according to several reports of Tafsir. (At-Tabari 16:76-78)

Others said that after they ate and felt comfortable, and after having placed citron in front of them, giving each one of them a knife, the wife of the Aziz asked them, “Would you like to see Yusuf?” They said, “Yes.” So she sent for him to come in front of them and when they saw him, they started cutting their hands. She ordered him to keep coming and going, so that they saw him from all sides, and he went back in while they were still cutting their hands. When they felt the pain, they started screaming and she said to them, “You did all this from one look at him, so how can I be blamed?, “They said: “How perfect is Allah! No man is this! This is none other than a noble angel!” They said to her, “We do not blame you anymore after the sight that we saw.” They never saw anyone like Yusuf before, for he, peace be upon him, was given half of all beauty. An authentic Hadith stated that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, passed by Prophet Yusuf, during the Night of Isra’ [The overnight journey from Makkah to Jerusalem, then to heaven, then back to Makkah.] in the third heaven and commented,“He was given a half of all beauty.” (Muslim 1:146) Mujahid and others said [they said]: “We seek refuge from Allah,”No man is this!” (At-Tabari 16:84)

They said next,“This is none other than a noble angel!” She said: “This is he (the young man) about whom you did blame me…” She said these words to them so that they excuse her behaviour, for a man who looks this beautiful and perfect, is worthy of being loved, she thought. She said,“and I did seek to seduce him, but he refused” to obey me. Some scholars said that when the women saw Yusuf’s beauty, she told them about his inner beauty that they did not know of, being chaste and beautiful from the inside and outside. She then threatened him,“And now if he refuses to obey my order, he shall certainly be cast into prison, and will be one of those who are disgraced.” This is when Prophet Yusuf sought refuge with Allah from their evil and wicked plots, “He said: “O my Lord! Prison is dearer to me than that to which they invite me…” illegal sexual acts,“Unless You turn away their plot from me, I will feel inclined towards them” Yusuf invoked Allah: If You abandon me and I am reliant on myself, then I have no power over myself, nor can I bring harm or benefit to myself, except with Your power and will. Verily, You are sought for each and everything, and our total reliance is on You Alone for each and everything. Please, do not abandon me and leave me to rely on myself, for then, “I will feel inclined towards them and be one of the ignorant.” So his Lord answered his invocation” Yusuf, peace be upon him, was immune from error by Allah’s will, and He saved him from accepting the advances of the wife of the Aziz’. He preferred prison, rather than accept her illicit call. This indicates the best and most perfect grade in this case, for Yusuf was youthful, beautiful and full of manhood. His master’s wife was calling him to herself, and she was the wife of the Aziz of Egypt. She was also very beautiful and wealthy, as well as having a great social rank. He refused all this and preferred prison, for he feared Allah and hoped to earn His reward.

It is recorded in the Two Sahihs that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, said,

“Allah will give shade to seven, on the Day when there will be no shade but His: A just ruler, a youth who has been brought up in the worship of Allah, a man whose heart is attached to the Masjid, from the time he goes out of the Masjid until he gets back to it, two persons who love each other only for Allah’s sake and they meet and part in Allah’s cause only, a man who gives charitable gifts so secretly that his left hand does not know what his right hand has given, a man who refuses the call of a charming woman of noble birth for illicit intercourse with her and says: “I am afraid of Allah, and a person who remembers Allah in seclusion and his eyes are then flooded with tears.” (Fath Al-Bari 2:168, Muslim 2:715)

{35. Then it occurred to them, after they had seen the proofs (of his innocence), to imprison him for a time.}

Yusuf is imprisoned without Justification

Allah says, ‘Then it occurred to them that it would be in their interest to imprison Yusuf for a time, even after they were convinced of his innocence and saw the proofs of his truth, honesty and chastity.’ It appears, and Allah knows best, that they imprisoned him after the news of what happened spread. They wanted to pretend that Yusuf was the one who tried to seduce the Aziz’s wife and that they punished him with imprisonment. This is why when the Pharaoh asked Yusuf to leave jail a long time afterwards, he refused to leave until his innocence was acertained and the allegation of his betrayal was refuted. When this was successfully achieved, Yusuf left the prison with his honor intact, peace be upon him.

{36. And there entered with him two young men in the prison. One of them said: “Verily, I saw myself (in a dream) pressing wine.” The other said: “Verily, I saw myself (in a dream) carrying bread on my head and birds were eating thereof.” (They said): “Inform us of the interpretation of this. Verily, we think you are one of the doers of good.”}

Two Jail Mates ask Yusuf to interpret their Dreams

Qatadah said, “One of them was the king’s distiller and the other was his baker.” (At-Tabari 16:95) Each of these two men had a dream and asked Yusuf to interpret it for them.

{37. He said: “No food will come to you as your provision, but I will inform its interpretation before it comes. This is of that which my Lord has taught me. Verily, I have abandoned the religion of a people that believe not in Allah and are disbelievers in the Hereafter.” 

38. “And I have followed the religion of my fathers, – Ibrahim, Ishaq and Ya’qub and never could we attribute any partners whatsoever to Allah. This is from the grace of Allah to us and to mankind, but most men thank not.}

Yusuf calls His Jail Mates to Tawhid even before he interprets Their Dreams

Yusuf, peace be upon him, told the two men that he has knowledge in the interpretation of whatever they saw in their dream, and that he will tell them about the interpretation of the dreams before they become a reality. This is why he said,“No food will come to you as your provision, but I will inform you of its interpretation” Mujahid commented,“No food will come to you as your provision” this day, “but I will inform you of its interpretation before it comes.” As-Suddi said similarly. (At-Tabari 16:100) Yusuf said that, this knowledge is from Allah Who taught it to me, because I shunned the religion of those who disbelieve in Him and the Last Day, who neither hope for Allah’s reward nor fear His punishment on the Day of Return,“And I have followed the religion of my fathers, – Ibrahim, Ishaq and Yaqub”

Yusuf said, ‘I have avoided the way of disbelief and polytheism, and followed the way of these honorable Messengers,’ may Allah’s peace and blessings be on them. This, indeed, is the way of he who seeks the path of guidance and follows the way of the Messengers, all the while shunning the path of deviation. It is he whose heart Allah will guide, teaching him what he did not know beforehand. It is he whom Allah will make an Imam who is imitated in the way of righteousness, and a caller to the path of goodness. Yusuf said next,“and never could we attribute any partners whatsoever to Allah. This is from the grace of Allah to us and to mankind” this Tawhid -Monotheism-, affirming that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah alone without partners,“is from the grace of Allah to us”, He has revealed it to us and ordained it on us,“and to mankind”, to whom He has sent us as callers to Tawhid,“but most men thank not.” they do not admit Allah’s favor and blessing of sending the Messengers to them, but rather,“Have changed the blessings of Allah into disbelief, and caused their people to dwell in the house of destruction.” (14:28)

{39. “O two companions of the prison! Are many different lords (gods) better or Allah, the One, the Irresistible?” 

40. “You do not worship besides Him but only names which you have named (forged) – 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 straight religion, but most men know not.”}

Prophet Yusuf went on calling his two prison companions to worship Allah alone, without partners, and to reject whatever is being worshipped instead of Him like the idols, which were worshipped by the people of the two men, Yusuf said, “Are many different lords (gods) better or Allah, the One, the Irresistible” to Whose grace and infinite kingdom everything and everyone has submitted in humiliation. Prophet Yusuf explained to them next that it is because of their ignorance that they worship false deities and give them names, for these names were forged and are being transferred from one generation to the next generation. They have no proof or authority that supports this practice, hence his statement to them, “for which Allah has sent down no authority” or proof and evidence. He then affirmed that the judgement, decision, will and kingdom are all for Allah alone, and He has commanded all of His servants to worship none but Him. He said, “that is the straight religion” ‘this, Tawhid of Allah and directing all acts of worship at Him alone in sincerity, that I am calling you to is the right, straight religion that Allah has ordained and for which He has revealed what He wills of proofs and evidences,’ “but most men know not.”, and this is why most of them are idolators, “And most of mankind will not believe even if you eagerly desire it.” (12:103) When Yusuf finished calling them, he started interpreting their dreams for them,

{41. “O two companions of the prison! As for one of you, he will pour out wine for his master to drink; and as for the other, he will be crucified and birds will eat from his head. Thus is the case judged concerning which you both did inquire.”}

The Interpretation of the Dreams

Yusuf said, “O two companions of the prison! As for one of you, he will pour out wine for his master to drink” to the man who saw in a dream that he was pressing wine. He did not direct this speech at him, however, so that to lessen the grief of the other person. This is why he made his statement indirect, “and as for the other, he will be crucified and birds will eat from his head.” which is the interpretation of the other man’s dream in which he saw himself carrying bread above his head. Yusuf told them that the decision about their matter has already been taken and it shall come to pass. This is because the dream is tied to a bird’s leg, as long as it is not truthfully interpreted. If it is interpreted, then it becomes a reality. Ath-Thawri said that Imarah bin Al-Qaqa narrated that Ibrahim said that Abdullah bin Mas`ud said, “When they said what they said to him, and he explained their dreams to them, they replied, ‘We did not see anything at all.’ This is when he said, “Thus is the case judged concerning which you both did inquire.” (At-Tabari 16:108)

The understanding in this is that he who claims that he saw a dream and was given its interpretation, then he will be tied to its interpretation, and Allah has the best knowledge. There is an honorable Hadith that Imam Ahmad collected from Muawiyah bin Haydah that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said,

“The dream is tied to a bird’s leg, as long as it is not interpreted. If it is interpreted, it becomes a reality.” (Ahmad 4:10)

{42. And he said to the one whom he knew to be saved: “Mention me to your king.” But Shaytan made him forget to mention it to his master. So [Yusuf] stayed in prison a few (more) years.}

Yusuf asks the King’s Distiller to mention Him to a King

Yusuf knew that the distiller would be saved. So discretely, so that the other man’s suspicion that he would be crucified would not intensify, he said, “Mention me to your King.” asking him to mention his story to the king. That man forgot Yusuf’s request and did not mention his story to the king, a plot from the devil, so that Allah’s Prophet would not leave the prison. This is the correct meaning of, “But Shaytan made him forget to mention it to his master.” that it refers to the man who was saved. As was said by Mujahid, Muhammad bin Ishaq and several others. (At-Tabari 16:113) As for, ‘a few years’, or, Bida in Arabic, it means between three and nine, according to Mujahid and Qatadah.  (At-Tabari 16:115) Wahb bin Munabbih said, “Ayyub suffered from the illness for seven years, Yusuf remained in prison for seven years and Bukhtanassar (Nebuchadnezzar – Chaldean king of Babylon) was tormented for seven years.” (At-Tabari 16:114)

{43. And the king (of Egypt) said: “Verily, I saw (in a dream) seven fat cows, whom seven lean ones were devouring, and seven green ears of corn, and (seven others dry. O notables! Explain to me my dream, if it be that you can interpret dreams.” 

44. They said: “Mixed up false dreams and we are not skilled in the interpretation of dreams.” 

45. Then the man who was released, now at length remembered and said: “I will tell you its interpretation, so send me forth.” 

46. (He said): “O Yusuf, the man of truth! Explain to us seven fat cows whom seven lean ones were devouring, and seven green ears of corn, and (seven) others dry, that I may return to the people, and that they may know.” 

47. [Yusuf] said: “For seven consecutive years, you shall sow as usual and that which you reap you shall leave it in the ears, (all) except a little of it which you may eat.” 

48. “Then will come after that, seven hard (years), which will devour what you have laid by in advance for them, (all) except a little of that which you have guarded (stored).” 

49. “Then thereafter will come a year in which people will have abundant rain and in which they will press (wine and oil).”} 

The Dream of the King of Egypt

The King of Egypt had a dream that Allah the Exalted made a reason for Yusuf’s release from prison, with his honor and reputation preserved. When the king had this dream, he was astonished and fearful and sought its interpretation. He gathered the priests, the chiefs of his state and the princes and told them what he had seen in a dream, asking them to interpret it for him. They did not know its interpretation and as an excuse, they said, “Mixed up false dreams”, which you saw, “and we are not skilled in the interpretation of dreams.” They said, had your dream been a vision rather than a mixed up false dream, we would not have known its interpretation. The man who was saved from the two, who were Yusuf’s companions in prison, remembered. Shaytan plotted to make him forget the request of Yusuf, to mention his story to the king. Now, years later, he remembered after forgetfulness and said to the king and his entourage, “I will tell you its interpretation” he interpretation of this dream, “so send me forth.” to the prison, to Yusuf, the man of truth. So they sent him, and he said to Yusuf, “O Yusuf, the man of truth! Explain to us…” and mentioned the king’s dream to him.

Yusuf’s Interpretation of the King’s Dream

This is when Yusuf, peace be upon him, told the interpretation of the dream, without criticizing the man for forgetting his request that he had made to him. Neither did he make a precondition that he be released before explaining the meaning. Rather, he said, “For seven consecutive years, you shall sow as usual” ‘you will receive the usual amount of rain and fertility for seven consecutive years.’ He interpreted the cows to be years, because cows till the land that produce fruits and vegetables, which represent the green ears of corn in the dream. He next recommended what they should do during these fertile years, “and that (the harvest) which you reap you shall leave it in the ears, (all) except a little of it which you may eat.” He said, ‘Whatever you harvest during those seven fertile years, leave it in the ears so as to preserve it better. This will help the harvest stay healthy longer, except the amount that you need to eat, which should not be substantial. Stay away from extravagance, so that you use what remains of the harvest during the seven years of drought that will follow the seven fertile years.’ This was represented by the seven lean cows that eat the seven fat cows.

During the seven years of drought, they will eat from the harvest they collected during the seven fertile years, as represented by the dry ears of corn in the dream. Yusuf told them that during these years, the remaining ears will not produce anything and whatever they try to plant, will not produce any harvest, so he said, “which will devour what you have laid by in advance for them, (all) except a little of that which you have guarded (stored).” He delivered the good news to them that after the consecutive years of drought, there will come a fertile year, during which people will receive rain and the land will produce in abundance. The people will then press wine and oil as usual.

Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged) Vol 5 Pages 155-174

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