Surat Yusuf/Joseph – 12- Meccan – Ayats – 111 Section Six – Verses 53-67

“Nor do I absolve and free my own self from the blame; Verily, but the (human) soul is certainly prone/ inclined to evil, unless my Lord does bestow His Mercy [upon whom He Wills]. Verily, my Lord is Oft-Forgiving, Most-Merciful”. (53) وَمَا أُبَرِّئُ نَفْسِي إِنَّ النَّفْسَ لَأَمَّارَةٌ بِالسُّوءِ إِلَّا مَا رَحِمَ رَبِّي إِنَّ رَبِّي غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ (53)
So the king said: “bring him to me; that I will attach him to myself and take him specially to serve about my own person”. Therefore, when he spoken to him [the king to Joseph/Yusuf]; he said: “be assured this day, you are high in rank and fully trusted- and before our own presence, with rank firmly established, and fidelity fully proved!”(54) وَقَالَ الْمَلِكُ ائْتُونِي بِهِ أَسْتَخْلِصْهُ لِنَفْسِي فَلَمَّا كَلَّمَهُ قَالَ إِنَّكَ الْيَوْمَ لَدَيْنَا مَكِينٌ أَمِينٌ (54)
(Joseph/Yusuf) said: “Set me over the store-houses of the land, I will indeed guard them [with full knowledge as one that knows of their importance]. (55) قَالَ اجْعَلْنِي عَلَى خَزَائِنِ الْأَرْضِ إِنِّي حَفِيظٌ عَلِيمٌ (55)
Thus did We give an established full authority/power to Joseph/ Yusuf in the land, to take possession therein when and where he likes/pleases! We bestow Our Mercy on whom We Will. And We deprive not the reward of the good doers [Al-Muhsinin]. (56) وَكَذَلِكَ مَكَّنَّا لِيُوسُفَ فِي الْأَرْضِ يَتَبَوَّأُ مِنْهَا حَيْثُ يَشَاءُ نُصِيبُ بِرَحْمَتِنَا مَنْ نَشَاءُ وَلَا نُضِيعُ أَجْرَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ (56)
And verily, the reward of the Hereafter is the best, for those who believe, and are pious and constant in righteousness. (57) وَلَأَجْرُ الْآَخِرَةِ خَيْرٌ لِلَّذِينَ آَمَنُوا وَكَانُوا يَتَّقُونَ (57)
Then came Joseph/Yusuf’s brethren, they entered to his presence, and he recognized/knew them, but they didn’t recognize/knew him. (58) وَجَاءَ إِخْوَةُ يُوسُفَ فَدَخَلُوا عَلَيْهِ فَعَرَفَهُمْ وَهُمْ لَهُ مُنْكِرُونَ (58)
And when he had furnished them forth with provision, which is suitable for them/according to their needs, he said: “Bring to me a brother you have of the same father as yourselves [but from a different mother] (he meant Benjamin), don’t you see that I give full measurement, and that I am the best of hosts/do provide the best hospitality?”.  (59) وَلَمَّا جَهَّزَهُمْ بِجَهَازِهِمْ قَالَ ائْتُونِي بِأَخٍ لَكُمْ مِنْ أَبِيكُمْ أَلَا تَرَوْنَ أَنِّي أُوفِي الْكَيْلَ وَأَنَا خَيْرُ الْمُنْزِلِينَ (59)
“But if you don’t bring him to me; you shall have no measure [of corn] from me, nor even you shall come nearer to me”. (60) فَإِنْ لَمْ تَأْتُونِي بِهِ فَلَا كَيْلَ لَكُمْ عِنْدِي وَلَا تَقْرَبُونِ (60)
They said: “We shall certainly seek to get permission –for him- from our father, and verily we shall do it!” (61) قَالُوا سَنُرَاوِدُ عَنْهُ أَبَاهُ وَإِنَّا لَفَاعِلُونَ (61) َ
And (Joseph/Yusuf) said to his servants: “to put their stock-in-trade –with which they had bartered- into their saddle-bags, so they should know it only when they returned to their people in order that they might come back!” (62) وَقَالَ لِفِتْيَانِهِ اجْعَلُوا بِضَاعَتَهُمْ فِي رِحَالِهِمْ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَعْرِفُونَهَا إِذَا انْقَلَبُوا إِلَى أَهْلِهِمْ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ (62)
So when they returned to their father, they said: “O’ our father! We are prevented, no more measure of grain shall we get –unless we take our brother. So send our brother with us, that we may get our measure; and indeed we will guard/take every care of him!” (63) فَلَمَّا رَجَعُوا إِلَى أَبِيهِمْ قَالُوا يَا أَبَانَا مُنِعَ مِنَّا الْكَيْلُ فَأَرْسِلْ مَعَنَا أَخَانَا نَكْتَلْ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ (63)
He (their father) said: “shall I entrust you with him /entrust him to you except as I have entrusted his brother (Joseph/Yusuf) to you aforetime? But God is the best to guard/take care [of him], and He is the most Merciful of those who show mercy!” (64) قَالَ هَلْ آَمَنُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ إِلَّا كَمَا أَمِنْتُكُمْ عَلَى أَخِيهِ مِنْ قَبْلُ فَاللَّهُ خَيْرٌ حَافِظًا وَهُوَ أَرْحَمُ الرَّاحِمِينَ (64)
And when they opened their baggage, they found their stock-in-trade had been returned to them. They said: “O’ our father! What [more] can we desire? This is our stock-in-trade has been returned to us; so we shall get [more] food for our family; we shall take care of our brother, and add –at the same time- a full camel’s load (of grain to our provisions). This is but small quantity (for the king to give)!” (65) وَلَمَّا فَتَحُوا مَتَاعَهُمْ وَجَدُوا بِضَاعَتَهُمْ رُدَّتْ إِلَيْهِمْ قَالُوا يَا أَبَانَا مَا نَبْغِي هَذِهِ بِضَاعَتُنَا رُدَّتْ إِلَيْنَا وَنَمِيرُ أَهْلَنَا وَنَحْفَظُ أَخَانَا وَنَزْدَادُ كَيْلَ بَعِيرٍ ذَلِكَ كَيْلٌ يَسِيرٌ (65)
He (Jacob/Ya’qub) said: “I will never send him with you until you swear a solemn oath to me –in God’s Name- that you will be sure to bring him back to me, unless you are yourselves being surrounded [by enemies and became powerless]. And when they had sworn their solemn oath, he said: “Over all that we say: be God Witness and Guardian!” (66) قَالَ لَنْ أُرْسِلَهُ مَعَكُمْ حَتَّى تُؤْتُونِ مَوْثِقًا مِنَ اللَّهِ لَتَأْتُنَّنِي بِهِ إِلَّا أَنْ يُحَاطَ بِكُمْ فَلَمَّا آَتَوْهُ مَوْثِقَهُمْ قَالَ اللَّهُ عَلَى مَا نَقُولُ وَكِيلٌ (66)
Further he said: “O’ my sons! D o not enter by one gate, but enter by different gates, I cannot profit you aught against God [with my advice]/cannot avail you against God at all [Cannot make you immune from God’s Verdict].  Verily, the decision rests only with God/non can command except God; on Him I put my trust; and let all that confide/trust put that trust/confidence on Him” (67) وَقَالَ يَا بَنِيَّ لَا تَدْخُلُوا مِنْ بَابٍ وَاحِدٍ وَادْخُلُوا مِنْ أَبْوَابٍ مُتَفَرِّقَةٍ وَمَا أُغْنِي عَنْكُمْ مِنَ اللَّهِ مِنْ شَيْءٍ إِنِ الْحُكْمُ إِلَّا لِلَّهِ عَلَيْهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ وَعَلَيْهِ فَلْيَتَوَكَّلِ الْمُتَوَكِّلُونَ (67)

Wahba Mahmoud Diyab


(Verses 43-68:- The king of Egypt saw a vision which none of his grandees could explain. The cup-bearer referred to Joseph, who was sent for by the king. But Joseph insisted that the voice of scandal –which had pointed to him- should be declared in public to be false. After Zulaikha had paid a splendid ungrudging tribute to his truth and righteousness, he came, and was invested with supreme power by the king. In times of plenty he organized great reserves to meet the needs of famine. When wide-spread famine at last prevailed, his brothers came from Canaan in search for corn. He treated them kindly and got them to bring his youngest brother Benjamin: but they knew not that he was Joseph).
(Verse 39)- Note the personal touch again: ‘Are we not also companions in misfortune? And may I not speak to you on terms of perfect equality, – as one prisoner to another? Well then, do you really think a conflict of heterogeneous gods is better than the One True God, Whose power is supreme and irresistible?’
(Verse 40)- ‘If you name other gods, they are nothing but your inventions, – name which you and your fathers put forward without any reality behind them. Who gave you authority to do any such thing? The only reality is God. Authority can come from Him alone. It is only for Him to command. And He has distinctly commanded you to worship none other than Him. That is the only religion that is right, – that has stood and will stand and endure forever. He has revealed it at all times by His Messengers and by His Signs. If men fail to understand, it is their own fault’.
(Verse 41)- A/Having fulfilled his great duty –that touching the things of the spirit- Joseph now passes on, and comes to the things in which they were immediately interested,- the questions which they had asked him about their dreams and what they prognosticated of their immediate future. Notice how Joseph again puts himself into sympathy with them by repeating the phrase of Camaraderie [my two companions of the prison!]: for one he has good news, and for the other, bad news. He does not mince matters or waste words. He just barely tells the truth, hoping that the higher spiritual truths of which he has spoken will appear in their eyes -too- as of more importance than mere earthly triumphs or disasters,- (in Kipling’s words: “both impostors all the same”). B/The cup-bearer had perhaps been proved innocent of the crime which had been charged against him, and was restored to the favor of Pharaoh. He was to carry the sup and be the king’s confidante again. How much more good he could do now, after the spiritual influence he had imbibed from Joseph the man of God! He was more fortunate in having Joseph’s company than in being restored to his intimate position with the king! Yet he was not a perfect man, as we shall see presently. C/for the baker, Alas! He had bad news, and he tells it directly without tantalizing him. Perhaps he had been found guilty; or perhaps he had been really guilty –of some act of embezzlement or of joining in some palace intrigue, and he was to die a malefactor’s death on the cross, followed by exposure to birds of the air, – vultures pecking away at his eyes and cheeks, and all that had been his face and head! Poor man! If he was guilty, Joseph had taught him repentance, and we should like to think that he lost in this life but gained in the next. If he was innocent, the cruel death did not affect him. Joseph had shown him a higher and more lasting hope in the Hereafter.
(Verse 42)- A/Joseph never mentioned himself in interpreting the dream, nor ever thought of himself in his kindness to his fellow-sufferers in prison. It was afterwards, when the cup-bearer’s dream came true, and he was being released on being restored to favor, that we can imagine him taking an affectionate leave of Joseph, and even asking him in his elation if he could do anything for Joseph. Joseph has no need for earthly favors, least of from king’s or their favorites. The divine grace was enough for him. But he had great work to do, which he could not do in prison; work for Egypt and her king, and the world at large. If the cup-bearer could mention him to the king, not by way of recommendation, but because the king’s own justice was being violated in keeping him an innocent man in prison, perhaps that might help to advance the cause of the king and of Egypt. And so he said:”Mention me to Pharaoh”. B/The Eternal Plan does not put God’s men under obligations to men commanding mere worldly favor or earthly power. If they are given a chance, the obligation is on the worldly men, however highly placed. In this case the cup-bearer was but human. When he was in the midst of the Court, he forgot the poor fellow prisoner languishing in prison. In this he yielded to the lower part of his nature, which is guided by Satan, the personification of evil,- a real force in our lives if we but knew it. C/’A few more years’: BIDH’- ???: in Arabic signifies a small indefinite number; say up to 3, 5, 7, or 9 years.
(Verse 43)- The Pharaoh is holding a Council. His confidential adviser –the cup-bearer- is present. The Pharaoh relates his double dream: of seven fat kine being devoured by seven lean ones, and of seven fine full green ears of corn (presumably being devoured) by seven dry withered ears.
(Verse 44)- No one in the Council apparently wanted to take the responsibility either of interpreting the dream, or of carrying out any measures consequent on the interpretation.
(Verse 45)- At length the cup-bearer’s conscience was awakened. He thought of Joseph. He (Joseph) was a truthful man, and the cup-bearer knew by personal experience how skilled he was in the interpretation of dreams. Perhaps he could get him released at this juncture by getting him to interpret the King’s dream. If he had been frank, straight, and direct he would have mentioned Joseph at once, and presented him to Pharaoh. But he had worldly subtlety. He wanted some credit for himself, at the same time that he fulfilled an old obligation. His petty conscience would be satisfied if he has got Joseph’s release, but meanwhile he wanted to see how much attention he could draw to himself in the Court. So he just asked permission to withdraw in order to find the interpretation. He went straight to the person, and addressed himself to Joseph; as in the following verse.
(Verse 46)- The speech must have been longer, to explain the circumstances. We are just given the points. From Joseph he conceals nothing. He knows that Joseph knows more than himself. He tells Joseph that if he got the meaning, he would go and tell the Council. It would be impertinent for the cup-bearer to hold out to Joseph –the man of God- the bribe of the hope of his release. Notice how blandly he avoids referring to his own lapse in having forgotten Joseph so long, and how the magnanimous Joseph has not a word of reproach, but gets straight on with the interpretation.
(Verse 47)- Joseph not only shows what will happen, but –unasked- suggests the measures to be taken for dealing with the calamity when it comes. There will be seven years of abundant harvest. With diligent cultivation they should get bumper crops. Of them they should take a little for their sustenance and store the rest in the ear, the better to preserve it from the pests that attack corn-heaps when they have passed through the threshing floor.
(Verse 48)- There will follow seven years of dreadful famine, which will devour all the stores which they will have laid by in the good years. They must be careful –even during the famine- not to consume all the grain; they must –by special arrangements- save a little for seed, lest they should be helpless even when the Nile brought down abundant waters from the rains at its sources.
(Verse 49)- This is a symbol of a very abundant year, following the seven years of drought. The Nile must have brought abundant fertilizing waters and silt from its upper reaches, and there was probably some rain also in the Lower Egypt. The vine and the olive trees, which must have suffered in the drought, now revived, and yielded their juice and their oil; among the annuals –also- the oil seeds, such as, sesame, and the castor oil plant, must have been grown, as there was irrigated land and to spare from the abundant grain crops. And the people’s spirits revived, to enjoy the finer products of the earth, when their absolute necessities had been more than met in the grain crops.
(Verse 50)- A/The cup-bearer must have reported Joseph’s interpretation to the king, and the king naturally wanted to see Joseph himself. He sent a messenger to fetch him. B/The king’s messenger must have expected that a prisoner would be only too overjoyed at the summons of the king. But Joseph –sure of himself- wanted some assurance that he would be safe from the sort of nagging and persecution to which he had been subjected by the ladies. We saw in verse 33 above he preferred prison to their solicitations. He must therefore know what was in the mind of the women now. Note how discreetly he omits any particular mention of Zulaikha –who after all had been kind to him- and whose unschooled love had been tested all these years and been nearly purified of its grosser elements by now. But Mrs. Grundy –who understood (and perhaps practiced for herself) only the grosser side of the passion- must be put in her place, if Joseph was to have a chance of doing the great work for which he was marked out. C/If the king (their lord) did not know of al the snares which had been laid for Joseph by the ladies, God “my Lord” knew all their secret motives and plots.
(Verse 51)- A/Joseph’s message was conveyed by the messenger to the king, who sent for the ladies concerned. Among them came Zulaikha: “What was this affair?” said the king: “tell me the whole truth”. B/Zulaikha stood by, while the other ladies answered. Their answer was the answer of Mrs. Grundy –grudgingly acknowledging the truth of Joseph’s innocence and high principles- but holding a discreet silence about Mrs. Grundy’s own part in egging on poor Zulaikha to sin, wrong-doing, and revenge. When they had done, she began. She did not mince matters. She acknowledged her own guilt, freely and frankly. This was no time for her even to refer to other ladies, – their jealousy, their gross mindedness, their encouragement of all that was frail or evil in herself. These things she ignored. But to her awakened spiritual consciousness it was a triumph that Joseph –whom she adored- was true in every sense, in word and deed, and that that truth should be proclaimed in open Court before all, as was indeed already known to all concerned when she had taken the blame on herself before the assembly of ladies, and her own spirit had not yet been emancipated. What had happened to her since? She had learnt much sorrow, pain, and humiliation. She had learnt the vanity of carnal love. But Joseph –true of heart- calm in every turn of fortune, had taught her to question herself whether –In spite of all her sin- she could not yet be worthy of him. Perhaps her husband was dead, and she is a widow. But she must see whether she could understand love in the sense in which Joseph would have her understand it –that pure surrender of self- which has earthly stain to it?
(Verse 52)- I construe verses 52 and 53 to be a continuation of Zulaikha’s speech and have translated accordingly. There is both good reason and authority (e.g. Ibn Katheer) for this. But the majority of Commentators construe verses 52-53 to be spoken by Joseph, in which case they would mean that Joseph was referring to his fidelity to the ‘Aziz, that he had never taken advantage of his absence to play false with his wife, although he (Joseph) was human and liable to err. In my view Zulaikha –while fully reprobating her own guilty conduct- claims that she has at least been constant- and that she hopes for mercy, forgiveness, and the capacity to understand at last what true love is. Whatever false charge she made, she made it in a moment of passion and to his face,(never in cold blood, or behind his back). *(Guide the snare of the false ones, i.e., allow such snare to attain its goals).



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