Chapter Scripts

Surah Yusuf: 12:1-10

In The Name of God, The Most Gracious, The Dispenser of Grace.

12:1 Alif Lam Ra. These are messages of a revelation clear in itself and clearly showing the truth. 


See Appendix II.

12:2 Behold, We have bestowed it from on high as a discourse in the Arabic tongue so that you might encompass it with your reason.


he participial adjective mubin may denote an attribute of the noun which it qualifies (“clear”, “manifest”, “obvious”, etc.) as well as its function (“making clear” or “manifesting”, i.e., the truth), either of which meanings is dictated by its context. In the consensus of authoritative opinion, both these meanings are comprised in the above instance; consequently, a compound phrase is necessary in order to render the term appropriately.

12:3 In the measure that We reveal4 this Qur’an unto thee, [O Prophet,] We explain it to thee in the best possible way, seeing that ere this thou wert indeed among those who are unaware [of what revelation is].


This, according to Zamakhshari, is the meaning of la’allakum ta’qilun in the above context. Although they were in the first instance addressed to the Arabian contemporaries of the Prophet, these two verses apply to all people, whatever their origin, who understand the Arabic language. They are meant to impress upon everyone who listens to or reads the Qur’an that its appeal is directed, primarily, to man’s reason, and that “feeling” alone can never provide a sufficient basis of faith. (See also 13:37 and 14:4, as well as the corresponding notes.)

12:4 Lo! Thus spoke Joseph unto his father: “O my father! Behold, I saw [in a dream] eleven stars, as well as the sun and the moon: I saw them prostrate themselves before me!”


Or: “By Our having revealed”.

12:5 [Jacob] replied: “O my dear son! Do not relate thy dream to thy brothers lest [out of envy] they devise an evil scheme against thee; verily, Satan is man’s open foe. 


Lit., “with the best explanation (ahsan al-iqtisas)”. This rendering is very close to the interpretation given by Zamakhshari: “We set forth this Qur’an unto thee in the best way in which it could be set forth.” According to Razi, it may safely be assumed that the adjective “best” refers not to the contents of “that which is set forth – i.e., the particular story narrated in this surah – but rather to the manner in which the Qur’an (or this particular surah) is set forth: and herein he agrees with Zamakhshari. It should be borne in mind that the verb qassa (the infinitive nouns of which are qasas and igtisas) signifies, primarily, “he followed step by step” or “by degrees”, and, subsequently, “he related [a piece of news or a story] as though he followed its traces”: hence, “he expounded [it] gradually” or “he explained [it]” (cf. Lane VII, 2526, quoting the Qamus and the Taj al-‘Arus with specific reference to the above verse). If, on the other hand, the infinitive noun qasas is regarded as synonymous, in this context, with qissah (“story” or “narrative”), the above sentence might be rendered as “We narrate unto thee the best of narratives”, i.e., the subsequent story of Joseph. In my opinion, however, the rendering “We explain it [i.e., the Qur’an] in the best possible way” is preferable inasmuch as it fully coincides with the two opening verses of this surah, which state, in effect, that the Qur’an is self-explanatory

12:6 For, [as thou hast been shown in thy dream,] even thus will thy Sustainer elect thee, and will impart unto thee some understanding of the inner meaning of happenings, and will bestow the full measure of His blessings upon thee and upon the House of Jacob – even as, aforetime, He bestowed it in full measure upon thy forefathers Abraham and Isaac. Verily, thy Sustainer is all-knowing, wise!”


At this point in his commentary, Razi draws the reader’s attention to 42:52 – “thou didst not know what revelation is, nor what faith [implies]”: a passage similar in purport to the closing words of the above verse; hence my addition, between brackets, of the phrase “of what revelation is”.

12:7 Indeed, in [the story of] Joseph and his brothers there are messages for all who search [after truth].


The particle idh is usually a time-reference, and can in most cases be translated as “when”. Occasionally, however, it is used as a corroborative particle meant to draw the reader’s (or hearer’s) attention to the sudden occurrence of a thing (Mughni, Qamus, Taj al-‘Arus), or – as is often the case in the Qur’an – to a turn in the discourse: and in such instances, it is suitably rendered as “lo” or “now”.

12:8 Now [Joseph’s brothers] spoke [thus to one another:] “Truly, Joseph and his brother [Benjamin] are dearer to our father than we, even though we are so many.  Behold, our father is surely suffering from an aberration!” 


See surah 11, note 65.

12:9 [Said one of them] “Slay Joseph, or else drive him away to some [faraway] land, so that your father’s regard may be for you alone: and after this is done, you will be [free to repent and to live once again as] righteous people!”


As in the Biblical account of Joseph’s story, the Qur’an shows that Jacob did not fail to understand the meaning of his son’s dream-vision of future greatness, with the eleven stars symbolizing his brothers, and the sun and the moon his parents. But whereas the Bible quotes the father as “rebuking” his son (Genesis xxxvii, 10) in the obvious assumption that the dream was an outcome of wishful thinking, the Qur’an makes it clear that Jacob – who was himself a prophet – at once realized its prophetic quality and its deeper implications.

12:10 Another of them said: “Do not slay Joseph, but – rather – if you must do something – cast him into the dark depths of this well, [whence] some caravan may pick him up.”


Lit., “sayings”. or “tidings” (ahddith). Most of the commentators assume that this refers specifically to Joseph’s future ability to interpret dreams; but Razi points out that in this context the term hadith (of which ahadith is the plural) may be synonymous with hadith (“something that newly comes into existence”, i.e., “an event” or “a happening”). This is, to my mind, much more convincing than a mere reference to dream-interpretation, the more so as the term ta’wil is often used in the Qur’an (e.g., in 3:7, 10:39 or 18:78) in the sense of “final meaning”, “inner meaning” or “real meaning” of a happening or statement or thing, as distinct from its outward, prima-facie appearance. The use of the particle min (“of”) before the term ta’wil indicates that absolute knowledge of what a thing or event implies rests with God alone (cf. 3:7 – “none save God knows its final meaning”), and that even God’s elect, the prophets – albeit their vision is much wider than that of ordinary men – are granted only a partial insight into the mysteries of God’s creation.


The divine scriptures are God’s beacons to the world. Surely God offered His trust to the heavens and the earth, and the hills, but they shrank from bearing it and were afraid of it. And man undertook it.
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