Chapter Scripts

Surah Yusuf: 12:41-50

12:41 “[And now] O my companions in imprisonment, [I shall tell you the meaning of your dreams:] as for one of you two, he will [again] give his lord [the King] wine to drink; but as for the other, he will be crucified, and birds will eat off his head. [But whatever be your future,] the matter on which you have asked me to enlighten you has been decided [by God].”


The expression mutafarriqan connotes plurality ds well as separateness – in this context, separateness in respect of qualities, functions and degrees.

12:42 And [thereupon Joseph] said unto the one of the two whom he considered saved: “Mention me unto thy lord [when thou art free]!” But Satan caused him to forget to mention [Joseph] to his lord, and so he remained in prison a few [more] years.


Lit., “names which you have named” – i.e., “figments of your own imagination”.

12:43 And [one day] the King said: “Behold, I saw [in a dream] seven fat cows being devoured by seven emaciated ones, and seven green ears [of wheat] next to [seven] others that were withered. O you nobles! Enlighten me about [the meaning of] my dream, if you are able to interpret dreams!”


Cf. the last sentence of 30:30.

12:44 They answered: “[This is one of] the most involved and confusing of dreams, and we have no deep knowledge of the real meaning of dreams.”


This king seems to have been one of the six Hyksos rulers who dominated Egypt from about 1700 to 1580 B.C., after having invaded the country from the east by way of the Sinai Peninsula. The name of this dynasty, which was undoubted of foreign origin, is derived from the Egyptian hiq shasu or heku shoswet, meaning “rulers of nomad lands”, or – according to the late Egyptian historian Manetho – “shepherd kings”: all of which points to their having been Arabs who, despite the fact that before their invasion of Egypt they were already well-established in Syria, had to a large extent preserved their bedouin mode of life. This would explain the confidence which the king mentioned in this story was later to place in Joseph, the Hebrew, and the subsequent settlement of the latter’s family (and, thus, of what in due course became the Israelite nation) in Egypt: for it must be borne in mind that the Hebrews, too, descended from one of the many bedouin tribes who some centuries earlier had migrated from the Arabian Peninsula to Mesopotamia and later to Syria (cf. surah 7, note 48); and that the language of the Hyksos must have been very akin to Hebrew, which, after all, is but an ancient Arabian dialect.

12:45 At that, the one of the two [erstwhile prisoners] who had been saved, and [who suddenly] remembered [Joseph] after all that time, spoke [thus]: “It is I who can inform you of the real meaning of this [dream]; so let me go [in search of it].”

Lit., “confusing medleys (adghath) of dreams”.

12:46 [And he went to see Joseph in the prison and said to him:] “Joseph, O thou truthful one! Enlighten us about [the meaning of a dream in which] seven fat cows were being devoured by seven emaciated ones, and seven green ears [of wheat appeared] next to [seven] others that were withered – so that I may return [with thy explanation] unto the people [of the court, and] that they may come to know [what manner of man thou art]!”


According to almost all the authorities, the noun ummah denotes here “a time” or “a long period of time”.

12:47 [Joseph] replied: “You shall sow for seven years as usual; but let all [the grain] that you harvest remain [untouched] in its ear, excepting only a little, whereof you may eat. 


The cup-bearer obviously addresses the assembly as a whole, and not the King alone: hence the plural “you”.

12:48 For, after that [period of seven good years] there will come seven hard [years] which will devour all that you shall have laid up for them, excepting only a little of that which you shall have kept in store.


Or: “will be granted rain” – depending on whether one connects the verbal form yughath with either of the infinitive nouns ghayth (“rain”) or ghawth (“deliverance from distress”). Although the crops of Egypt depend entirely on the annual Nile floods, the water level of the river is, in its turn, contingent upon the quantity of rainfall at its upper reaches.

12:49 And after that there will come a year in which the people will be delivered from all distress, and in which they will press [oil and wine as before].”


Evidently, the King wanted to find out whether they had previously been encouraged by Joseph, or whether he was truly innocent. The noun khatb denotes “something that one has in view” or “desires” or “seeks to obtain”; and so the expression and khatbukunna (lit., “what was it that you [really] had in view”) may be suitably rendered as above.

12:50 And [as soon as Joseph’s interpretation was conveyed to him,] the King said: “Bring him before me!” But when the [King’s] messenger came unto him, [Joseph] said: “Go back to thy lord and ask him [first to find out the truth] about those women who cut their hands – for, behold, [until now it is] my Sustainer [alone who] has full knowledge of their guile!”


Lit., “the wife of the great one (al-aziz)”.


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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