Qur'anic Exegesis

بِسۡمِ اللّٰہِ الرَّحۡمٰنِ الرَّحِیۡمِ

الٓرٰ ۟تِلۡکَ اٰیٰتُ الۡکِتٰبِ الۡمُبِیۡنِ۟﴿۱﴾ اِنَّاۤ اَنۡزَلۡنٰہُ قُرۡءٰنًا عَرَبِیًّا لَّعَلَّکُمۡ تَعۡقِلُوۡنَ﴿۲﴾

In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful.

This is Surah Alif Lam Ra.[1] These are the verses of the Book which states its intent with full clarity. We have revealed it as an Arabic Qur'an [O Quraysh of Makkah] so that you can fully understand it.[2] (1-2)

نَحۡنُ نَقُصُّ عَلَیۡکَ اَحۡسَنَ الۡقَصَصِ بِمَاۤ اَوۡحَیۡنَاۤ اِلَیۡکَ ہٰذَا الۡقُرۡاٰنَ٭ۖوَاِنۡ کُنۡتَ مِنۡ قَبۡلِہٖ لَمِنَ الۡغٰفِلِیۡنَ﴿۳﴾ اِذۡ قَالَ یُوۡسُفُ لِاَبِیۡہِیٰۤاَبَتِ اِنِّیۡ رَاَیۡتُ اَحَدَعَشَرَ کَوۡکَبًا وَّ الشَّمۡسَ وَ الۡقَمَرَ رَاَیۡتُہُمۡ لِیۡ سٰجِدِیۡنَ﴿۴﴾قَالَ یٰبُنَیَّ لَا تَقۡصُصۡ رُءۡیَاکَ عَلٰۤی اِخۡوَتِکَ فَیَکِیۡدُوۡا لَکَ کَیۡدًاؕ اِنَّ الشَّیۡطٰنَ لِلۡاِنۡسَانِ عَدُوٌّ مُّبِیۡنٌ﴿۵﴾وَ کَذٰلِکَ یَجۡتَبِیۡکَ رَبُّکَ وَ یُعَلِّمُکَ مِنۡ تَاۡوِیۡلِ الۡاَحَادِیۡثِ وَ یُتِمُّ نِعۡمَتَہٗ عَلَیۡکَ وَ عَلٰۤی اٰلِ یَعۡقُوۡبَ کَمَاۤ اَتَمَّہَا عَلٰۤی اَبَوَیۡکَ مِنۡقَبۡلُ اِبۡرٰہِیۡمَ وَ اِسۡحٰقَؕ اِنَّ رَبَّکَ عَلِیۡمٌ حَکِیۡمٌ﴿۶﴾

[O Prophet!] Through this Qur'an which We have revealed to you, We narrate to you an excellent account.[3] In reality, before this you were totally unaware of [such things].[4] This happened when Joseph said to his father:[5] "Father! I have dreamt that there are eleven stars and the sun and the moon. I see them prostrating before me."[6] His father replied: "Son! Do not narrate this dream to your brothers lest they engage in a conspiracy against you.[7] Undoubtedly, Satan is an open enemy of man. [It is evident from your dream that] your Lord will bless you in this way[8] and will teach you how to reach the crux of words[9] and complete His favour on you and on the clan of Jacob,[10] the way He completed it on your fathers Abraham and Isaac before this. Surely, your Lord is all knowing, all-wise." (3-6)

لَقَدۡ کَانَ فِیۡیُوۡسُفَ وَ اِخۡوَتِہٖۤ اٰیٰتٌ لِّلسَّآئِلِیۡنَ﴿۷﴾اِذۡ قَالُوۡا لَیُوۡسُفُ وَاَخُوۡہُ اَحَبُّ اِلٰۤی اَبِیۡنَا مِنَّا وَ نَحۡنُ عُصۡبَۃٌ ؕاِنَّ اَبَانَا لَفِیۡ ضَلٰلٍ مُّبِیۡنِۣ ۚ﴿ۖ۸﴾اقۡتُلُوۡا یُوۡسُفَ اَوِ اطۡرَحُوۡہُ اَرۡضًا یَّخۡلُ لَکُمۡ وَجۡہُ اَبِیۡکُمۡ وَ تَکُوۡنُوۡا مِنۡۢ بَعۡدِہٖ قَوۡمًا صٰلِحِیۡنَ ﴿۹﴾قَالَ قَآئِلٌ مِّنۡہُمۡ لَا تَقۡتُلُوۡا یُوۡسُفَ وَ اَلۡقُوۡہُ فِیۡ غَیٰبَتِ الۡجُبِّ یَلۡتَقِطۡہُ بَعۡضُ السَّیَّارَۃِ اِنۡ کُنۡتُمۡ فٰعِلِیۡنَ ﴿۱۰﴾

In reality, there are many signs [in this account] of Joseph and his brothers for those who ask.[11] When his brothers said to one another: "Joseph and his brother[12] are dearer to our father than us even though we are a group.[13] Surely, our father is afflicted with a blatant error. [The only remedy to this is to] kill Joseph or to throw him at some place; because of this your father's attention will be totally focused towards you and after this you will become full well."[14] At this, one of the speakers said: "Do not kill Joseph. If you must, throw him in the darkness of a desolate well; some passing by caravan will pull him out and take him away."[15] (7-10)

قَالُوۡا یٰۤاَبَانَا مَا لَکَ لَا تَاۡمَنَّا عَلٰی یُوۡسُفَ وَ اِنَّا لَہٗ لَنٰصِحُوۡنَ ﴿۱۱﴾اَرۡسِلۡہُ مَعَنَا غَدًا یَّرۡتَعۡ وَ یَلۡعَبۡ وَ اِنَّا لَہٗ لَحٰفِظُوۡنَ ﴿۱۲﴾قَالَ اِنِّیۡ لَیَحۡزُنُنِیۡۤ اَنۡ تَذۡہَبُوۡا بِہٖ وَ اَخَافُ اَنۡ یَّاۡکُلَہُ الذِّئۡبُ وَ اَنۡتُمۡ عَنۡہُ غٰفِلُوۡنَ ﴿۱۳﴾قَالُوۡا لَئِنۡ اَکَلَہُ الذِّئۡبُ وَنَحۡنُ عُصۡبَۃٌ اِنَّاۤ اِذًا لَّخٰسِرُوۡنَ ﴿۱۴﴾

[After this, they went and] told their father: "Why is it father that you do not trust us in the matter of Joseph, even though we are his sincere well-wishers. Let him go along with us tomorrow that he may enjoy and play a little;[16] we will be responsible for his safety." The father said: "It grieves me that you take him away and I fear that a wolf may eat him while you are unaware."[17] They replied: "If a wolf eats him when we are a group, then we surely will be in great loss." (11-14)

فَلَمَّا ذَہَبُوۡا بِہٖ وَ اَجۡمَعُوۡۤا اَنۡ یَّجۡعَلُوۡہُ فِیۡ غَیٰبَتِ الۡجُبِّ ۚ وَ اَوۡحَیۡنَاۤ اِلَیۡہِ لَتُنَبِّئَنَّہُمۡ بِاَمۡرِہِمۡ ہٰذَا وَ ہُمۡ لَا یَشۡعُرُوۡنَ ﴿۱۵﴾وَ جَآءُوۡۤ اَبَاہُمۡ عِشَآءً یَّبۡکُوۡنَ ؕ﴿۱۶﴾قَالُوۡا یٰۤاَبَانَاۤ اِنَّا ذَہَبۡنَا نَسۡتَبِقُ وَ تَرَکۡنَا یُوۡسُفَ عِنۡدَ مَتَاعِنَا فَاَکَلَہُ الذِّئۡبُ ۚ وَ مَاۤ اَنۡتَ بِمُؤۡمِنٍ لَّنَا وَ لَوۡ کُنَّا صٰدِقِیۡنَ ﴿۱۷﴾وَ جَآءُوۡ عَلٰی قَمِیۡصِہٖ بِدَمٍ کَذِبٍ ؕ قَالَ بَلۡ سَوَّلَتۡ لَکُمۡ اَنۡفُسُکُمۡ اَمۡرًا ؕ فَصَبۡرٌ جَمِیۡلٌ ؕ وَ اللّٰہُ الۡمُسۡتَعَانُ عَلٰی مَا تَصِفُوۡنَ ﴿۱۸﴾

When they took away Joseph [by insisting] in this manner and ultimately decided to throw him in the bottom[18] of a well and on the other hand We sent a revelation to him: "[One day,] you will inform them of this misdeed when they will not even know,"[19] and [after throwing him in the well] they came weeping to their father at nightfall.[20] They [came over and] said: "Father! We became busy in a racing competition against one another and had left Joseph with our belongings when a wolf [came and] devoured him.[21] But you will not believe us even though we may be truthful."[22] [In order to prove their claim,] they brought Joseph's shirt stained with fake blood. The father said: "[No,] in fact, it is your heart that has forged a lie for you. So, a graceful patience be my way[23] and on whatever you are saying, God alone is the support."[24] (15-18)

وَ جَآءَتۡ سَیَّارَۃٌ فَاَرۡسَلُوۡا وَارِدَہُمۡ فَاَدۡلٰی دَلۡوَہٗ ؕ قَالَ یٰبُشۡرٰی ہٰذَا غُلٰمٌ ؕ وَ اَسَرُّوۡہُ بِضَاعَۃً ؕ وَ اللّٰہُ عَلِیۡمٌۢ بِمَا یَعۡمَلُوۡنَ ﴿۱۹﴾وَ شَرَوۡہُ بِثَمَنٍۭ بَخۡسٍ دَرَاہِمَ مَعۡدُوۡدَۃٍ ۚ وَ کَانُوۡا فِیۡہِ مِنَ الزَّاہِدِیۡنَ ﴿۲۰﴾

On the other hand, a caravan arrived and sent its water-bearer.[25] And, he slid his bucket [in the well; then seeing Joseph cried:] "Glad tidings be delivered; this is a boy." Thus, they [took him out and] hid him thinking him to be a prized possession.[26] And God was fully aware of whatever they were doing. [Then they came with him to Egypt] and sold him for a paltry price of a few dirhams and they had no interest in his matter.[27] (19-20)

وَ قَالَ الَّذِی اشۡتَرٰىہُ مِنۡ مِّصۡرَ لِامۡرَاَتِہٖۤ اَکۡرِمِیۡ مَثۡوٰىہُ عَسٰۤی اَنۡ یَّنۡفَعَنَاۤ اَوۡ نَتَّخِذَہٗ وَلَدًا ؕ وَ کَذٰلِکَ مَکَّنَّا لِیُوۡسُفَ فِی الۡاَرۡضِ ۫ وَ لِنُعَلِّمَہٗ مِنۡ تَاۡوِیۡلِ الۡاَحَادِیۡثِ ؕ وَ اللّٰہُ غَالِبٌ عَلٰۤی اَمۡرِہٖ وَ لٰکِنَّ اَکۡثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا یَعۡلَمُوۡنَ ﴿۲۱﴾وَ لَمَّا بَلَغَ اَشُدَّہٗۤ اٰتَیۡنٰہُ حُکۡمًا وَّ عِلۡمًا ؕ وَ کَذٰلِکَ نَجۡزِی الۡمُحۡسِنِیۡنَ ﴿۲۲﴾

From among the people of Egypt the one[28] who bought him said to this wife:[29] "Treat him well; hopefully he will give benefit to us or we can even make him our son."[30] In this way, We gave Joseph a place in that country in order to choose him[31] and in order to teach him to reach the crux of words.[32] In reality, God is One who implements His will but most people know not. [Thus this is what happened] and when he reached mature age, We gave Him authority and knowledge.[33] In this way do We reward those who are thorough in deeds. (21-22)

وَ رَاوَدَتۡہُ الَّتِیۡ ہُوَ فِیۡ بَیۡتِہَا عَنۡ نَّفۡسِہٖ وَ غَلَّقَتِ الۡاَبۡوَابَ وَ قَالَتۡ ہَیۡتَ لَکَ ؕ قَالَ مَعَاذَ اللّٰہِ اِنَّہٗ رَبِّیۡۤ اَحۡسَنَ مَثۡوَایَ ؕ اِنَّہٗ لَا یُفۡلِحُ الظّٰلِمُوۡنَ ﴿۲۳﴾وَ لَقَدۡ ہَمَّتۡ بِہٖ ۚ وَ ہَمَّ بِہَا لَوۡ لَاۤ اَنۡ رَّاٰ بُرۡہَانَ رَبِّہٖ ؕ کَذٰلِکَ لِنَصۡرِفَ عَنۡہُ السُّوۡٓءَ وَ الۡفَحۡشَآءَ ؕ اِنَّہٗ مِنۡ عِبَادِنَا الۡمُخۡلَصِیۡنَ ﴿۲۴﴾

And the woman in whose house Joseph resided began tempting him. [One day,] she bolted the doors and said: "Come." Joseph said: "God forbid! He is my master.[34] He has treated me well. I cannot do this treachery because such unjust people never prosper." Indeed, that woman had decided for Joseph and had he too not seen the sign of His Lord,[35] he would have succumbed to her.[36] It happened thus so that We keep away vice and wantonness from him. Surely, he was from among our chosen people. (23-24)

وَ اسۡتَبَقَا الۡبَابَ وَ قَدَّتۡ قَمِیۡصَہٗ مِنۡ دُبُرٍ وَّ اَلۡفَیَا سَیِّدَہَا لَدَا الۡبَابِ ؕ قَالَتۡ مَا جَزَآءُ مَنۡ اَرَادَ بِاَہۡلِکَ سُوۡٓءًا اِلَّاۤ اَنۡ یُّسۡجَنَ اَوۡ عَذَابٌ اَلِیۡمٌ ﴿۲۵﴾قَالَ ہِیَ رَاوَدَتۡنِیۡ عَنۡ نَّفۡسِیۡ وَ شَہِدَ شَاہِدٌ مِّنۡ اَہۡلِہَا ۚ اِنۡ کَانَ قَمِیۡصُہٗ قُدَّ مِنۡ قُبُلٍ فَصَدَقَتۡ وَ ہُوَ مِنَ الۡکٰذِبِیۡنَ ﴿۲۶﴾وَ اِنۡ کَانَ قَمِیۡصُہٗ قُدَّ مِنۡ دُبُرٍ فَکَذَبَتۡ وَ ہُوَ مِنَ الصّٰدِقِیۡنَ ﴿۲۷﴾فَلَمَّا رَاٰ قَمِیۡصَہٗ قُدَّ مِنۡ دُبُرٍ قَالَ اِنَّہٗ مِنۡ کَیۡدِکُنَّ ؕ اِنَّ کَیۡدَکُنَّ عَظِیۡمٌ ﴿۲۸﴾یُوۡسُفُ اَعۡرِضۡ عَنۡ ہٰذَا ٜ وَ اسۡتَغۡفِرِیۡ لِذَنۡۢبِکِ ۚۖ اِنَّکِ کُنۡتِ مِنَ الۡخٰطِئِیۡنَ ﴿۲۹﴾

Both of them rushed to the door one behind the other[37] and [in an effort to stop Joseph] that woman [pulled out and] tore his shirt from the back.[38] At the door, both of them found her husband. [As soon as she saw him,] the woman said: "What else can be the punishment of that person who intends evil with your wife than to imprison him or he be given some other painful punishment?" Joseph said: "It is she who had tried to entice me." [When the matter proceeded further,] a person from the family of the woman presented [circumstantial] evidence that if Joseph's shirt is torn from the front, then the woman is telling the truth and he is lying and if his shirt is torn from the back, then that woman lying and he is telling the truth. Then when the husband saw that Joseph's shirt was torn from the back, he [angrily] cried out: "These are deceptions of you women; no doubt, your deceptions are great.[39] Joseph, leave aside this matter and O you woman! Seek repentance for your sin because you are the actual wrongdoer." (25-29)

وَ قَالَ نِسۡوَۃٌ فِی الۡمَدِیۡنَۃِ امۡرَاَتُ الۡعَزِیۡزِ تُرَاوِدُ فَتٰىہَا عَنۡ نَّفۡسِہٖ ۚ قَدۡ شَغَفَہَا حُبًّا ؕ اِنَّا لَنَرٰىہَا فِیۡ ضَلٰلٍ مُّبِیۡنٍ ﴿۳۰﴾فَلَمَّا سَمِعَتۡ بِمَکۡرِہِنَّ اَرۡسَلَتۡ اِلَیۡہِنَّ وَ اَعۡتَدَتۡ لَہُنَّ مُتَّکَاً وَّ اٰتَتۡ کُلَّ وَاحِدَۃٍ مِّنۡہُنَّ سِکِّیۡنًا وَّ قَالَتِ اخۡرُجۡ عَلَیۡہِنَّ ۚ فَلَمَّا رَاَیۡنَہٗۤ اَکۡبَرۡنَہٗ وَ قَطَّعۡنَ اَیۡدِیَہُنَّ وَ قُلۡنَ حَاشَ لِلّٰہِ مَا ہٰذَا بَشَرًا ؕ اِنۡ ہٰذَاۤ اِلَّا مَلَکٌ کَرِیۡمٌ ﴿۳۱﴾قَالَتۡ فَذٰلِکُنَّ الَّذِیۡ لُمۡتُنَّنِیۡ فِیۡہِ ؕ وَلَقَدۡ رَاوَدۡتُّہٗ عَنۡ نَّفۡسِہٖ فَاسۡتَعۡصَمَ ؕ وَ لَئِنۡ لَّمۡ یَفۡعَلۡ مَاۤ اٰمُرُہٗ لَیُسۡجَنَنَّ وَ لَیَکُوۡنًا مِّنَ الصّٰغِرِیۡنَ ﴿۳۲﴾قَالَ رَبِّ السِّجۡنُ اَحَبُّ اِلَیَّ مِمَّا یَدۡعُوۡنَنِیۡۤ اِلَیۡہِ ۚ وَ اِلَّا تَصۡرِفۡ عَنِّیۡ کَیۡدَہُنَّ اَصۡبُ اِلَیۡہِنَّ وَ اَکُنۡ مِّنَ الۡجٰہِلِیۡنَ ﴿۳۳﴾فَاسۡتَجَابَ لَہٗ رَبُّہٗ فَصَرَفَ عَنۡہُ کَیۡدَہُنَّ ؕ اِنَّہٗ ہُوَ السَّمِیۡعُ الۡعَلِیۡمُ ﴿۳۴﴾

The women of the city began gossiping [with one another]: "The wife of 'Aziz is trying to tempt her servant. She is infatuated by his love. In our opinion, she is very foolish.[40] [Perhaps she does not know that such people are enticed through deception."] So, when that woman heard of their deception, she sent for them [that they too may test their skills[41]] and arranged a gathering for them[42] and gave a knife to each of them[43] and asked Joseph: "Come before them." So, when the women saw him, they were wonderstruck by his majesty[44] and [to force him to accept their demand] they inflicted a cut on their hands at various places[45] [but did not succeed and ultimately] cried out: "Hashalillah,"[46] this is not a human being; this is a noble angel."[47] She said: "Now you know; it is he about whom you were censuring me? Indeed, I tried to tempt him but he could not be lured. Yet if he does not comply with what I am asking him to do, he will surely be imprisoned and humiliated."[48] At this, Joseph prayed: "The prison is dearer to me than what they are inviting me to. If you now do not drive away their intrigue from me, I will be inclined towards them and will become among those who are overwhelmed with emotions."[49] So, his Lord accepted this prayer of his and warded off their intrigue from him. Indeed, He hears and knows all. (30-34)

ثُمَّ بَدَا لَہُمۡ مِّنۡۢ بَعۡدِ مَا رَاَوُا الۡاٰیٰتِ لَیَسۡجُنُنَّہٗ حَتّٰی حِیۡنٍ ﴿۳۵﴾وَ دَخَلَ مَعَہُ السِّجۡنَ فَتَیٰنِ ؕ قَالَ اَحَدُہُمَاۤ اِنِّیۡۤ اَرٰىنِیۡۤ اَعۡصِرُ خَمۡرًا ۚ وَ قَالَ الۡاٰخَرُ اِنِّیۡۤ اَرٰىنِیۡۤ اَحۡمِلُ فَوۡقَ رَاۡسِیۡ خُبۡزًا تَاۡکُلُ الطَّیۡرُ مِنۡہُ ؕ نَبِّئۡنَا بِتَاۡوِیۡلِہٖ ۚ اِنَّا نَرٰىکَ مِنَ الۡمُحۡسِنِیۡنَ ﴿۳۶﴾قَالَ لَا یَاۡتِیۡکُمَا طَعَامٌ تُرۡزَقٰنِہٖۤ اِلَّا نَبَّاۡتُکُمَا بِتَاۡوِیۡلِہٖ قَبۡلَ اَنۡ یَّاۡتِیَکُمَا ؕ ذٰلِکُمَا مِمَّا عَلَّمَنِیۡ رَبِّیۡ ؕ اِنِّیۡ تَرَکۡتُ مِلَّۃَ قَوۡمٍ لَّا یُؤۡمِنُوۡنَ بِاللّٰہِ وَ ہُمۡ بِالۡاٰخِرَۃِ ہُمۡ کٰفِرُوۡنَ ﴿۳۷﴾وَ اتَّبَعۡتُ مِلَّۃَ اٰبَآءِیۡۤ اِبۡرٰہِیۡمَ وَ اِسۡحٰقَ وَ یَعۡقُوۡبَ ؕ مَا کَانَ لَنَاۤ اَنۡ نُّشۡرِکَ بِاللّٰہِ مِنۡ شَیۡءٍ ؕ ذٰلِکَ مِنۡ فَضۡلِ اللّٰہِ عَلَیۡنَا وَ عَلَی النَّاسِ وَ لٰکِنَّ اَکۡثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا یَشۡکُرُوۡنَ ﴿۳۸﴾یٰصَاحِبَیِ السِّجۡنِ ءَاَرۡبَابٌ مُّتَفَرِّقُوۡنَ خَیۡرٌ اَمِ اللّٰہُ الۡوَاحِدُ الۡقَہَّارُ ﴿ؕ۳۹﴾مَا تَعۡبُدُوۡنَ مِنۡ دُوۡنِہٖۤ اِلَّاۤ اَسۡمَآءً سَمَّیۡتُمُوۡہَاۤ اَنۡتُمۡ وَ اٰبَآؤُکُمۡ مَّاۤ اَنۡزَلَ اللّٰہُ بِہَا مِنۡ سُلۡطٰنٍ ؕ اِنِ الۡحُکۡمُ اِلَّا لِلّٰہِ ؕ اَمَرَ اَلَّا تَعۡبُدُوۡۤا اِلَّاۤ اِیَّاہُ ؕ ذٰلِکَ الدِّیۡنُ الۡقَیِّمُ وَ لٰکِنَّ اَکۡثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا یَعۡلَمُوۡنَ ﴿۴۰﴾

Then even after observing these signs [which showed that he was innocent,] those people regarded it appropriate to necessarily imprison Joseph for a while.[50] With him, two other young men also entered the prison.[51] One of them [one day] said to him: "I dream of squeezing wine."[52] The other said: "I see that I am carrying a loaf on my head from which birds are eating. Interpret this dream for us. We see that you are among those who are thorough."[53] Joseph replied: "Before the food you are served here comes, I will interpret it to you.[54] This is from the knowledge which my Lord has taught me.[55] Indeed, I have left the religion of those who do not believe in God and it is they who reject the Hereafter,[56] and I have adopted the religion of my elders: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.[57] We do not have the right to associate anyone with God. It is a blessing on us and on all mankind [that He has made this fact evident through his messengers] yet most people are not grateful. Fellow Prisoners! Are many different gods separately better or that one God Who is dominant on all. You are only worshipping some names besides Him which you and your forefathers have kept. God has not revealed any sanction in their favour. Sovereignty belongs to God alone. He has directed not to worship anyone except Him. This is the true religion but many people are not aware [of this fact.][58] (35-40)

یٰصَاحِبَیِ السِّجۡنِ اَمَّاۤ اَحَدُ کُمَا فَیَسۡقِیۡ رَبَّہٗ خَمۡرًا ۚ وَ اَمَّا الۡاٰخَرُ فَیُصۡلَبُ فَتَاۡکُلُ الطَّیۡرُ مِنۡ رَّاۡسِہٖ ؕ قُضِیَ الۡاَمۡرُ الَّذِیۡ فِیۡہِ تَسۡتَفۡتِیٰنِ ﴿ؕ۴۱﴾

Fellow Prisoners! [The interpretation of your dream is that] one of you [will be reinstated to his position and] will serve wine to his master. As for the other, he will be hanged to death; then birds will tear away his head and eat it. The matter you had asked of has thus been decided. (41)

وَ قَالَ لِلَّذِیۡ ظَنَّ اَنَّہٗ نَاجٍ مِّنۡہُمَا اذۡکُرۡنِیۡ عِنۡدَ رَبِّکَ ۫ فَاَنۡسٰہُ الشَّیۡطٰنُ ذِکۡرَ رَبِّہٖ فَلَبِثَ فِی السِّجۡنِ بِضۡعَ سِنِیۡنَ ﴿ؕ۴۲﴾

Joseph asked the person he thought would be freed from among them: "Mention me before your master."[59] But Satan made him forget mentioning this to his master[60] and Joseph remained in the prison [in this way] for many years. (42)

وَقَالَ الۡمَلِکُ اِنِّیۡۤ اَرٰی سَبۡعَ بَقَرٰتٍ سِمَانٍ یَّاۡکُلُہُنَّ سَبۡعٌ عِجَافٌ وَّ سَبۡعَ سُنۡۢبُلٰتٍ خُضۡرٍ وَّ اُخَرَ یٰبِسٰتٍ ؕ یٰۤاَیُّہَا الۡمَلَاُ اَفۡتُوۡنِیۡ فِیۡ رُءۡیَایَ اِنۡ کُنۡتُمۡ لِلرُّءۡیَا تَعۡبُرُوۡنَ ﴿۴۳﴾قَالُوۡۤا اَضۡغَاثُ اَحۡلَامٍ ۚ وَ مَا نَحۡنُ بِتَاۡوِیۡلِ الۡاَحۡلَامِ بِعٰلِمِیۡنَ ﴿۴۴﴾وَ قَالَ الَّذِیۡ نَجَا مِنۡہُمَا وَ ادَّکَرَ بَعۡدَ اُمَّۃٍ اَنَا اُنَبِّئُکُمۡ بِتَاۡوِیۡلِہٖ فَاَرۡسِلُوۡنِ ﴿۴۵﴾

[Then one day,] the king said [to his courtiers]: "I dream of seven fat cows being devoured by seven lean ones and seven green ears of corn and seven other dry ones [and they too are eating the green ones].[61] Courtiers! Interpret this dream for me if you have this skill of interpretation."[62] People said: "These are wavered dreams and we are not aware of the interpretation of such dreams."[63] Of the two prisoners who had been freed and he remembered after a long time,[64] said: "I will interpret this dream for you. [If you want to know it] just send me [to meet Joseph in the prison]."[65] (43-45)

[1]. Like Surah Yunus and Surah Hud, this surah's name is also Alif Lam Ra. The purpose of this is to point to the fact that the subject-matter of this surah is similar to those of the previous ones. What is the meaning of this name? I have explained in detail my view about it while discussing verse 2 of Surah al-Baqarah.

[2]. The surah is addressed to the Quraysh. The opening words express God's favour on them. Concealed in them is also a warning that if they do not listen to this Qur'an, they should bear in mind that they will have no excuse left to present before God.

[3]. From what aspects is it an excellent account? The aspects of this account to which Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi has directed our attention are summarized below:

i. It is a tale that has the flavour of love in it. Yet Joseph (sws) who is the central character of this story comes out as a person in whom purity of character and conduct is personified. Such is the profound nature of this portrayal that the reader finds in it spiritual nourishment for his faith and joy and ecstasy for his soul.

ii. The attributes and features of Joseph's nature that become evident in this tale are so majestic that every reader is induced to follow him and a point to note is that this following is not beyond his reach; on the contrary, it seems achievable.

iii. This tale tells us that that the outward beauty of a person can be seen by upper class ladies of Egypt but his inner beauty becomes evident when he passes through various trials in life. In a similar way, the inner beauty of Joseph (sws) becomes prominent in this story and he comes out as an abiding example of intelligence, truthfulness, purity, chastity and a person who is an embodiment of forgiveness even though he has the power to take revenge.

iv. The events and incidents that took place in the account are quite amazing but at no place does it seem that anything in them is out of order and sequence or is not in harmony with the natural pace of events.

v. Its foremost addressees are the Quraysh. It is like a mirror for them in the reflection of which they can see their own fate and also that of Islam and the Muslims. Viewed thus, it was a clear prophecy which was proven word by word by the events of the next ten years. Thus only a year and a half had passed after its revelation when the Quraysh, like the brothers of Joseph (sws), conspired to kill the Prophet (sws) but the Almighty protected him from their evil scheme. He came out of Makkah and hid in the Thawr Cave. From there he reached Madinah. There, totally contrary to the expectations of the Quraysh, he was blessed with a majesty and political authority that cannot be rivalled in history. The people of Makkah were driven to show obedience to him whether they wanted it or not until at the time of the conquest of Makkah precisely the same situation arose as had arisen in the times of Joseph's (sws) political asendancy in Egypt when his brothers came to him in the end. The Prophet (sws) asked his nation: "Tell me! How will I be dealing with you?" They replied: "أخ كريم و ابن أخ كريم (You are a benevolent brother and the son of a benevolent brother)." At this, he said: "I will say the same thing to you what Joseph (sws) said to his brothers: "لا تثريب عليكم اليوم إذهبوا فأنتم الطلقاء. (Go you are free. Today you shall not be seized.)"

[4]. This is stated so that the addressees of the Qur'an reflect on this account viz a viz the angle that if the Prophet (sws) was not a recipient of divine revelations, how was it possible for him to narrate the story in such a comprehensive way and with such precision? After all he had spent forty years among his people before the revelation of the Qur'an. Had he even known a little of the tale, it would have come up in discussion in some form during that time. His addressees knew that no traces of this tale ever came up in his conversation prior to this. It was only now that he narrated it with certainty and clarity.

[5]. Ie., to Jacob (sws). Joseph (sws) was his son. He was the grandson of Isaac (sws) and the great grandson of Abraham (sws). It is evident from the Bible that Jacob's (sws) twelve sons were born from his four wives. Among them, Joseph (sws) and his brother Benjamin were from one wife and the rest of the ten were from the other three wives. They lived in Hebron which is in Palestine. It is now called al-Khayl. According to Biblical scholars, the incident which is mentioned here took place some time around 1890 BC. At that time, Joseph (sws) was seventeen.

[6]. The humility found in Joseph (sws) becomes fully evident the way he has narrated his dream. Initially, he just said that he saw eleven stars, the sun and the moon. Then since in the subsequent statement his eminence would be reflected he hesitantly said that he has seen those heavenly bodies prostrating before him. The repetition of the word رَأَيْتُ in the verse has made this hesitancy very evident.

[7]. It is evident from this that the jealousy his brothers had for Joseph (sws) was not hidden at all. Because of his noble traits, Jacob (sws) started to love him a lot and this made the brothers jealous of him.

[8]. Ie., will grant him prophethood. This means that as soon as Jacob (sws) heard the dream, he understood that this was an indication of Joseph (sws) becoming a prophet.

[9]. Ie., not only the real meaning of this dream will become evident to him but also he will be given the knowledge of understanding other similar things. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:

... Since dreams and visions are one of the sources of prophetic knowledge and since in dreams what is to be conveyed appears in symbolic form which only certain adept minds can decipher, the Almighty grants His prophets the special aptitude and special knowledge to interpret them. (Amin Ahsan Islahi,Tadabbur-i Qur'an, vol. 4, 192)

[10]. This is a special expression that has also been adopted at other instances in the Qur'an to refer to the favour of religion and shari'ah. This religion is innately found in its concise form in every human being. Since prophets of God completely specify and elaborate it by providing all its details and corollaries, the Qur'an calls it a completion of favour.

[11]. Ie., there are signs for those in whose minds such questions are arising regarding the Prophet (sws) and his preaching endeavour, what will happen in future and how things will materialize; how will such profound results of this preaching which are now being indicated appear when today its advocates are being inflicted with great calamities and problems by the tyrants of the land; in spite of their criticism, it is the beliefs and views of these tyrants that are dominant all around.

[12]. This refers to Joseph (sws) and his real brother Benjamin. He was many years younger than him.

[13]. In rural life, a person had to rely a lot on his young sons for strength. It was they who helped him against enemies. It was because of this that the sons of Jacob (sws) said that their father, God forbid, had become so short-sighted that he was ignoring the sons who as a group would be of benefit to him in difficult times and was showering all his love on the younger sons who could be of no help to him and in fact themselves needed protection.

[14]. The actual words are: وَتَكُونُوا مِن بَعْدِهِ قَوْمًا صَالِحِينَ. This sentence is co-ordinated to the previous one which in fact is the answer to the prior imperative statement; hence its directive cannot be different. Therefore the word here does not mean "pious"; it actually occurs in its literal meaning. What is implied is: "After this, we will be people whose state of affairs is okay; all our difficulties will go away and this thorn that it is pinching us will be removed." The translation has tried to do justice to this meaning.

[15]. This sentence shows that one of Joseph's brothers had a soft corner for him. He definitely wanted this thorn to be removed but for this was not willing to go as far as to kill him.

[16]. In ancient rural societies, a very popular means of entertainment was to go to a jungle or a desert or an oasis, spend time there eating and playing. It was like our picnic of today.

[17]. It is evident from this that a lot of wolves were found in the adjoining areas and they used to attack visitors at various occasions.

[18]. Ie., after taking him away there still arose a difference of opinion but it was finally decided that it was better to cast him in the well. According to the narratives found in the Torah and the Talmud this well was situated south of Shechem near the existing territory of Dothan.

[19]. Ie., inform them when they will not even be able to imagine that the brother they had thrown in the well will come to occupy such a high rank and is talking to them.

[20]. The reason that they came back late in the night must have been to rule out any chance of going in search of him if the father wanted.

[21]. It is evident from this that they fashioned an excuse from what Jacob (sws) had earlier said: they thought that since the fear of a wolf was already in his mind, he would readily believe their excuse.

[22]. This was the lie found in their hearts that came to their mouths.

[23]. This refers to a patience that does not have any element of complaint, grumbling and wailing in it. The expression صَبْرٌ جَمِيْلٌ is actually a mubtada' (inchoative) whose khabar (enunciative) has been suppressed. It has been revealed in the translation.

[24]. The implication is that it is only through God's help that this enigma can be solved as to what they actually did and the excuse they fashioned.

[25]. The actual word is: وَارِد. Its actual meaning is someone who steps into a fountain or a spring. However, here it is used for the person who was deputed by the people of the caravan to arrange for water. Both the Bible and the Talmud record that this caravan was going from Gilead (Transjordan) to Egypt of which the capital at that time was Memphis. Its ruins are found 21 kilometers to the south of Cairo.

[26]. He was hid so that no one from around could lay claim on him.

[27]. This disinterest was because whatever they had obtained was obtained without any cost. Hence, they sold him to the first buyer that came to them at whatever price he named.

[28]. In the Bible, he is mentioned by the name Potiphar. He was a high ranking officer among the royal retinue. Further ahead, the Qur'an has mentioned him by the title 'Aziz. It is evident from this that in the Egypt of those times it referred to a rank given to the nobles of the empire.

[29]. In the Talmud, she is named as Zelicha.

[30]. It is evident from this that as soon as he saw Joseph (sws), he understood that he was not a slave but the offspring of a noble family who for some reason had fallen into the hands of the sellers. It further seems that till that time he was issueless and thus thought that if the boy fulfilled his expectations he would adopt him as a son.

[31]. This is a coordinated clause of the causative sentence. It is suppressed because ofbeing extremely obvious.

[32]. Ie., took him away from a rural society and placed him in the developed and civilized culture of Egypt so that the extraordinary ability he has to reach the crux of matters is polished further and is instrumental in making him the king of Egypt and also prepares him to become a prophet in a civilized land.

[33]. Ie., the knowledge that is divinely revealed for the guidance of mankind.

[34]. Joseph (sws) meant that her husband is his master. The actual word used for master is: رَبِّي. Just, as it is used for God, it is also used for master and owner. In the Arabic language, expressions such as رب المال,رب البيت and رب الدار are very common. There are many examples of words in this language that are used both for God and for human beings. However, in both cases, they have different meanings. The question nevertheless can still arise as to why at this instance Joseph (sws) instead of referring to God mentioned Zelicha's husband to her. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi while explaining this writes:

... A deliberation on this sentence of Joseph (sws) shows that there is great psychological eloquence in it. Reminding a woman of God and the Hereafter when she had no conception of them and that too at a time at which she had become blinded by emotions was like casting pearls before swine. If anything could have allayed her frenzy it could only have been this sentence uttered by Joseph (sws). Had she the slightest semblance of decency in her, she would definitely have thought that there was a young man who had been deeply moved by a small act of kindness of his master; he had so much regard for him that inspite of her immense luring he was not willing to be unfaithful to him and regarded it to be devastating for the Herein as well as the Hereafter. On the other hand, there was she who was his wife and had consigned herself to him in marriage and made her the master of her chastity; she was the queen of her house and used his means and resources; yet such was the extent of her unfaithfulness that in a rage of lust she was inviting his slave to marital dishonesty. (Amin Ahsan Islahi,Tadabbur-i Qur'an, vol. 4, 205)

[35]. This refers to the divine spark which is innately found in every human being. However, it appears on such occasions only for those who duly value it and accept its guidance at every step of their life. For them, it becomes so strong that in such situations it protects them from the onslaughts of their evil desires and the temptations of Satan. In this case, it was this very divine spark that saved a young lad from the enticement of Zelicha.

[36]. Because Joseph (sws) too was a human being and though had been chosen by God to be His messenger, had not been divested from human desires and sentiments.

[37]. Ie., when Joseph (sws) ran away from that woman's luring, she also ran after him to stop him.

[38]. Trying to stop a person by taking hold of his shirt can in all probability result in this very situation to arise.

[39]. This was a clear indication that Joseph (sws) had not taken the initiative; it was Zelicha who had. The anger which the husband must have felt has been expressed in the last sentence. In the words of Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi this act of hers not only made her but the whole female species deceivers and loathsome in the eyes of her husband.

[40]. I have tried to explain the elements of rebuke, callousness and challenge found in this sentence within parenthesis that follow. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi has explained them. He writes:

...They meant that in the first place it is strange that the wife of a high-ranking official should stoop so low as to go after the slave of her husband. An even stranger thing is that she is not even successful in luring him to herself. It is from here that within this rebuke another element is added: how foolish is this woman because this matter not only brought her into disrepute but also showed that she was a loser. The implication being that had they been in her place, they would enticed Joseph (sws) in one blow and all his purity would have been dashed to the ground. (Amin Ahsan Islahi,Tadabbur-i Qur'an, vol. 4, 208)

[41]. And they get to know the status of their temptation, deception and encitement for the person against whom she had failed.

[42]. The actual word is: مُتَّكَاً. It is used for a gathering in which big pillows would be provided. In the Egypt of those times, this was how the gatherings of the affluent were set up.

[43]. It is evident from the succeeding part that the knives were given at the request of the women for the scheme they had contrived to lure Joseph (sws).

[44]. It is evident from this sentence how young and handsome Joseph (sws) was and the purity of his character and conduct had made him even more attractive.

[45]. The actual word is: قَطَّعْنَ. It is of the order of تفعيل from قطع and connotes multiplicty. The translation gives due regard to this aspect.

[46]. This expression implies "to divest and to strip off" and is used on occasions when an acquittal is declared from a blame.

[47]. Here, in a few sentences, the Qur'an in its own style has encompassed a whole story. The implication is that when Joseph (sws) came before them, at first they were wonder-struck at seeing an embodiment of beauty and purity. Then they got hold of themselves a little and since they had come with a great challenge and claim they began testing Joseph (sws) with their machinations. When they realized that all their luring and enticement were failing they threatened him that they would take their lives if he did not accept their invitation. Thus, in order to validate their threat some of them inflicted cuts on their hands at various places. But when this measure also did not prove successful, they cried out that this person was not a human being; he was some divine angel. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:

... This confession of the ladies is actually high praise for Joseph (sws) and also an excuse for their failure. Concealed in it is also the sentiment that if they were not able to win the heart of Joseph (sws), it was not because of any shortcoming in their scheme or their own beauty but because they were facing a noble angel; all their weapons of enticement were only effective against human beings. (Amin Ahsan Islahi,Tadabbur-i Qur'an, vol. 4, 210)

Why is this account narrated here with such brevity and conciseness? The reason most probably is that this Qur'an did not deem it apt for a majestic discourse like itself to mention the details of the ignoble way that must have been adopted to win the heart of Joseph (sws).

[48]. This is a further threat. Initially, Zelicha had very sharply reacted to the claim of those women and then clearly said that she was not going to leave him alone. Hence if he continued with his ways, he would ultimately end up in jail. This meant that the lustful love was on the one hand threatening him and on the other hand seeking to avenge the failure. This was a new trial for Joseph (sws) which he was about to encounter. Also evident from this gathering of the ladies of Egypt is the moral situation of the Egypt of those times: they were no less developed than the "developed" culture of present times.

[49]. This is a very humble prayer by Joseph (sws) to beseech the Almighty. It has come to his tongue after he had expended every bit of his energy to save his faith and conduct. It is later stated that his prayer was immediately accepted. The reason for this is that when a person shows such perseverence against Satan and then consigns himself to his Lord, His prayer is necessarily accepted and that too forthwith.

[50]. Since Joseph (sws) was a slave, in accordance with ancient tradition, no legal procedure was needed to send him to jail. The masters of those times had unlimited authority over their slaves. Thus Joseph's (sws) master too sent him to jail thinking that it would get rid of Zelicha's infatuation for him and people would also think that if he had been punished then he must have been at fault. It is evident from the words of the Qur'an that other relatives were also involved in this decision because they too thought this to be the right measure to save their honour.

[51]. According to the Bible, one of them was the person assigned the duty of providing the king with wine and the other one was his baker. It is further clarified in the Talmud that the king of Egypt had sent these young men to jail because the loaves of bread that they served at a banquest were insipid and a fly was found in the cup of wine. Narratives found in the books of Muslims, on the other hand, say that both had allegedly tried to mix poison in the food of the king.

[52]. The actual words are: إِنِّي أَرَانِي أَعْصِرُ خَمْرَاً. Grapes are squeezed to make wine yet here the Qur'an has used a word that expresses the product of a thing.

[53]. It is evident from these words how Joseph (sws) was regarded by his prison mates. The way those young boys addressed him shows that the prisoners did not regard him to be a criminal; they in fact regarded him to be a very pious person and they knew how he had proven his moral conduct through very severe trials. Thus, according to the Bible, not only the prisoners but also the jail officials had become his admirers. It is recorded in Genesis:

So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there.The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph's care, because the Lordwas with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did. (39:22-23)

[54]It was the distribution of food in the life of the prison which broke the monotony of the daily routine. It is probably because of this that Joseph (sws) has alluded to it. It is evident from succeeding verses that he had gained this time from them to present his message. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:

... The effect of this on the two young individuals who had requested Joseph (sws) to interpret their dream was that they thought that their dream had been given importance by him and that he did not want to dismiss it by giving a casual explanation; they must have thought that he wanted to deliberate and then tell them its interpretation once he had turned to God as well for this purpose. On the other hand, Joseph (sws) created for himself a window of opportunity from this delay to preach the truth to them – something which had become the most cherished purpose of his life. When he saw two hearts inclined towards himself, he did not confine himself to their blind veneration. He wanted to call them towards worshipping God which if they accepted would grant them success in this world and the next. (Amin Ahsan Islahi,Tadabbur-i Qur'an, vol. 4, 218)

[55]. This is a brilliant prelude by Joseph (sws) that has lifted the need of the youngsters from himself and connected it to the Lord of the worlds. The implication is that the skill for which they have come to him does not originate from him. It is God-given. Thus if they want to know their dream's interpretation they should first have a comprehension of the being who has given this skill to him.

[56]. This is an expression of the truth: whatever Joseph (sws) has accepted by leaving out some views has been fully weighed by him in the scale of intellect. Deliberation shows that through these words he has also indicated that there is no possibility of polytheistic beliefs to co-exist with belief in God. If this is adhered to then this would mean they would have to necessarily forsake the ways of those who associate partners with God and do not have true belief in the Hereafter.

[57]. The way the names have been referred shows that the names of those elders were not unknown to these young individuals. Thus by naming them, Joseph (sws) introduced his message to them in just one sentence and also explained to them he was not giving them a new message; he was delivering to them the same message which those illustrious elders had brought earlier. Their addressees did not express wonder at this. It is further evident from this that by that time the inmates of the jail were aware of his noble lineage.

[58]. This speech of Joseph is one of the best speeches found in the Qur'an regarding monotheism, and was delivered precisely at the moment its addressees had become fully ready to listen to it. First he has directed their attention to the real fountainhead of knowledge and wisdom. Then he has referred to his own intellectual journey that he underwent to forsake evil and reach the truth. After this, he has explained the historical splendour and significance of the religion of monotheism. He has then highlighted the requisite of worship that no human being has the right to associate partners with God. Then he has directed their attention to God's favour which He did on mankind by sending His messengers. Next he has addressed the two young men and one can see how aptly he has addressed them. This address very eloquently stirs the sentiments of love and sympathy that arise for each other in the wake of facing a common calamity. The purpose is that the addressees should hear these words with full attention and regard each word to originate from sentiments of mutual well-being and sincerity. After this, he has presented his real message. It can be summarized thus: As far as God is concerned, He is a self-evident reality – in fact, the most self-evident of realities and His servants are compelled to accept Him as their Master. However, what kind of wisdom is it to accept that some others also have a share in His sovereignty? Who will like to put the yoke of slavery of some being in his neck without any need? Moreover, why should something be believed the slightest evidence of which is neither found in the world within man nor the one around him? At best, it can be said that God has informed people about His associates; but it is known that even this cannot be substantiated. What is being believed are mere names which people have invented without any evidence. All sovereignty belongs to God and the religion which He has revealed to mankind through His messengers has always contained the directive that there is no deity except God and hence people should worship Him alone; this is the upright religion but alas the majority is unaware of it.

[59]. It has been mentioned earlier that this person was the wine server of the king and hence the word "master" here refers to the king. The reason that Joseph (sws) expressed his desire to him was that the person would present his observations especially the incident of dream interpretation before the king. He thought that if such a need arose there he could get the chance of being freed from the prison where he had been incarcerated without any crime.

[60]. The actual words are: فَاَنْسَاهُ الشَّيْطَانُ ذِكْرَ رَبِّه. The nature of annexure (iḍafat) in ذِكْرَ رَبِّه is of the same nature as in مَكْرُ الَّيْلِ وَ النَّهَارِ etc. It is Satan who makes human beings forget acts of kindness; however, he gets this opportunity at God's behest. Here it is evident that it was a requisite of God's wisdomtoo that Joseph (sws) remain in prison for some more years. Thus when that person got released from jail, he totally forgot what his fellow prisoner had requested him.

[61]. This part is suppressed. Verse 48 ahead has explained it.

[62]. It is evident from the last sentence that though the king was deeply affected by his dream, he knew that decipering it was not easy.

[63]. This sentence was uttered by them to maintain their pride. The implication was that had his dream been meaningful they would definitely have intepreted it; but this was a totally wavered dream and hence he should rest assured that such dreams do not have any interpretation.

[64]. This too happened because of God's permission as the time was then ripe for Joseph (sws) to come out from prison and become the absolute ruler of Egypt.

[65]. In accordance with its style, the Qur'an has suppressed some details here. It is evident from the Bible and the Talmud that that person first narrated to the king and his courtiers the detailed account of his meeting with Joseph (sws) in jail and his skill of intepreting dreams. After that, he asked them to let him go so that he could ask him the intepretation of these dreams too.

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