Section 11: Jacob Goes to Yusuf
وَلَمَّا فَصَلَتِ الْعِيرُ قَالَ أَبُوهُمْ إِنّي لأَجِدُ رِيحَ يُوسُفَ لَوْلآ أَن تُفَنّدُونِ
94. “And when the caravan set out (from Egypt to Kan‘an), their father said: ‘Verily I perceive Yusuf’s scent, unless you think me doting’.”
Finally, Allah’s grace became manifest. Beside them with joy, Ya‘qub’s sons took the shirt and headed for Kan‘an. When the caravan departed from Egypt, their father said that he perceived Yusuf’s scent while people around him would not believe him.
The verse says:
“And when the caravan set out (from Egypt to Kan‘an), their father said: ‘Verily I perceive Yusuf’s scent, unless you think me doting’.”
The Qur’anic term /fasalat/ means ‘distance’ and /fasalati l‘iru/ here means that the caravan distanced itself from Egypt. The term /tufannidun/ is derived from /fanida/ meaning the lack of ability to think and absence of wisdom.
Ya‘qub was worry about the people around him who might attribute him silly, so he said: Perhaps the ‘scent of Yusuf ’ implies some fresh news from Yusuf. This issue is being discussed in scientific circles today as ‘telepathy’ which means the transfer of thought to others in far distant places.
That is, those who are closely related with each other, or who have extrasensory perception, can receive direct messages from someone else from a very long distance away.
Someone said to Imam Baqir (as):
“Sometimes, I feel terribly sorry for no reason in such a way that those around me perceive it.”
The Imam responded:
“Muslims are all created out of the same core and nature, and when a serious accident occurs to one, someone else feels sorry in another land and place.”
قَالُوا تَاللَّهِ إِنَّكَ لَفِي ضَلاَلِكَ الْقَدِيِمِ
95. “They said: ‘By Allah! you are in your ancient error’.”
Those with Ya‘qub, who normally were the spouses of his children, his grand sons and grand daughters, and other members of his extended family, had long since given up Yusuf for dead and thought this new assertion by Ya‘qub was nothing but his refusal to face reality.
In fact they probably thought he was having delusions when he said that he perceived the scent of Yusuf. That was why, addressing him, they seriously and rudely said he was in his old error.
The verse says:
“They said: ‘By Allah! you are in your ancient error’.”
It becomes evident that ‘persisting in his old error’ does not mean error in belief. On the contrary, it means being in error in refusing to recognize what they perceived as the reality about Yusuf.
However these meanings show that they behaved unto that old great prophet very rudely and boldly. Once they remarked their father had been in a manifest aberration, and here they told him:
“…you are in your ancient error’.”
They were unaware of the intimacy and sincerity of the old man of Kan‘an, and regarded him as not being as enlightened and illuminated as them. They did not think that future events might be as clear to him as a reflection in a mirror.
فَلَمَّآ أَن جَآءَ الْبَشِيرُ أَلْقَاهُ عَلَي وَجْهِهِ فَارْتَدَّ بَصِيراً قَالَ أَلَمْ أَقُل لَّكُمْ اِنّي أَعْلَمُ مِنَ اللَّهِ مَا لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ
96. “Then, when the bearer of the good news came, he cast it (the shirt) on his (Jacob’s) face and (forthwith) he regained his sight. He said: ‘Did I not tell you I know from Allah what you do not know?’”
After a number of difficult nights and days, one day Ya‘qub heard a loud voice proclaiming that the caravan of Kan‘an had just arrived from Egypt. Unlike the previous occasion, the brothers arrived in joyous spirits and went straight to their father’s house.
Before anybody else, Bashir, ‘the bearer of good news’, came up to the old grieving man and placed the shirt over his face. Ya‘qub was unable to see the shirt, but just before it was placed on his face, he sensed the familiar scent of his Yusuf.
A wonderful excitement overwhelmed the old man, the scent intensified when the shirt fell on his face, and suddenly he felt his eyes were opened and he was able to see. The world, with all its beauties, was once again before his eyes; as the Qur’an says:
“Then, when the bearer of the good news came, he cast it (the shirt) on his (Jacob’s) face and (forthwith) he regained his sight...”
The brothers and their entourage burst into tears of joy and he, with a decisive tone, told them:
“…‘Did I not tell you I know from Allah what you do not know?’”
If the purpose of the Qur’an that says ‘his eyes turned white’ is a decrease and diminishing of the eyesight, then the term /basiran/ means illumination, and it indicates that sadness and joy both leave an impact on one’s sense of vision.
However, if the intent of the verse is a complete blindness, which can be inferred from the literal view of the verse, then the Qur’anic phrase which says ‘and (forthwith) he regained his sight’ would imply that the return of his eyesight was a miracle that the Qur’an proves it.
1. The knowledge of the prophets has its origin in the Divine knowledge.
2. The prophets trust the promises of the Almighty as the Divine Will rules over all natural laws.
3. The clothing and the belongings of men of Allah can have an impact over some other beings.
قَالُوا يَآ أَبَانَا اسْتَغْفِرْ لَنَا ذُنُوبَنَآ إِنَّا كُنَّا خَاطِئِينَ
97. “They said: ‘O’ our father! Ask forgiveness of our sins for us, verily we were guilty’.”
This amazing miracle made the brothers think deeply about their dark past. In so doing they regretted their past misdeeds and asked their father to seek forgiveness for their sins.
The verse says:
“They said: ‘O’ our father! Ask forgiveness of our sins for us, verily we were guilty’.”
This is a good lesson for us; that we must always think of reforming ourselves and compensate for our past mistakes. We are all sinners and offenders.
We should also take note that it is permissible to appeal to the men of Allah to ask forgiveness of one’s sins.
قَالَ سَوْفَ أَسْتَغْفِرُ لَكُمْ رَبّي إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ
98. “He said: ‘Soon I will ask forgiveness for you from my Lord; He is the Forgiving, the Merciful’.”
The great old man, who possessed a magnanimous spirit and with immense generosity, refrained from blaming them; instead he promised them that he would soon ask forgiveness for them from Allah. The verse says:
“He said: ‘Soon I will ask forgiveness for you from my Lord;...”
It has been mentioned in some Islamic traditions that Ya‘qub’s (as) aim was to postpone acting upon their request until dawn the next Friday when would have been a more appropriate time for the acceptance of prayers and repentance. Ya‘qub hoped that Allah would accept their repentance and overlook their sins, for Allah is Compassionate and Kind as the verse states:
“…He is the Forgiving, the Merciful’.”
This verse and the verse before it show that asking a third party to ask forgiveness from Allah for oneself not only is not incompatible with monotheism, but also provides a way to merit Allah’s approbation. Otherwise, how would it be possible that prophet Ya‘qub (as) could accept his sons’ request to seek forgiveness for them from Allah? There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
These verses teach us that no matter how hard and painful one’s difficulties might be, and how limited and insufficient the apparent means and the possibilities might seem, one must not feel removed from hope in Allah’s grace and favor.
In this story, Allah made a blind man regain his eyesight with a shirt and made the smell of that shirt travel a long distance, He enabled someone lost to return home after long years of separation, and healed the wounds of broken hearts can also remove the grave pains and difficulties.
Yes, in this story and historical event, there lies the great lesson of Unity and theology proving that nothing is difficult and complicated for the Will of Allah.
فَلَمَّا دَخَلُوا عَلَي يُوسُفَ ءَاوَي إِلَيْهِ أَبَوَيْـهِ وَقَالَ ادْخُلُوا مِصْرَ إِن شَآءَ اللَّهُ ءَامِنِينَ
99. “Then when they entered unto Yusuf, he lodged his parents with him and said: ‘Enter Egypt, Allah willing, (all) in security’.”
The family, in response to Yusuf’s invitation, and after much preparation, traveled to Egypt. Ya‘qub was riding to the destination while his lips were busy calling Allah and thanking Him.
This journey, unlike the previous ones, was free from all kinds of troubles, and those troubles could not even be compared to the remarkable gains which awaited them at the end of the journey.
The very thought of joining Yusuf made the trip easy for them so much so that a painful thorny path would seem as if it had been paved with velvet. Soon when the oases of Egypt came into view, they were finally there.
Typical of the style of the Qur’an, it skips over the details which we fill in by means of the traditional narrations and by our own imagination, and simply says that they entered into the presence of Yusuf.
The verse says:
“Then when they entered unto Yusuf, he lodged his parents with him...”
When they arrived at his palace, and Yusuf embraced his parents, this was the sweetest moment in Ya‘qub’s life. It was a meeting that had come about after many years of separation.
Every moment of this meeting and embracing Ya‘qub and Yusuf was so exciting that only Allah knows what happened and none else. In these sweet moments of reunion, then, only Allah knows the intensity of the bliss shared between the father and his beloved son.
Yusuf told every one to enter the land of Egypt and assured them that they would be safe and secure there.
The verse continues saying:
“…and said: ‘Enter Egypt, Allah willing, (all) in security’.”
One can conclude from this statement that Yusuf had come out of the gates of the town to welcome his parents. Perhaps the sentence ‘they entered unto Yusuf’ means that he had ordered tents to be erected there to receive and entertain preliminarily his parents before they entered the town.
1. It is difficult, of course, to describe this part of the story. Yusuf had arranged some tents outside the city and waiting for his parents to come and that he would bring them respectfully into Egypt.
It was natural that in Kan‘an, when Yusuf’s parents and brothers were preparing themselves for the journey, people there had a very happy time.
They saw that by receiving the good news of Yusuf’s safety, and in the case that Ya‘qub had regained his eyesight, how joyful were the family setting off to meet Yusuf.
These people were also happy that Yusuf had become a treasurer and governor in Egypt and especially that, by sending wheat for them in the course of famine, he had supported them.
2. One can conclude from the Arabic term /abawayh/ (his parents), that Yusuf’s mother had also been alive at the time.
Some narrations say that Ya‘qub insisted and swore that Yusuf would recount his own story for him. As Yusuf began telling his story of how his brothers had taken him near the edge of the well and took off his shirt while threatening him, Ya‘qub fainted.
When he recovered, he again asked him to continue, but Yusuf swore by Abraham, Ishmael, and Isaac (as) and begged his father to spare him from telling it, and Ya‘qub accepted.1
By the way, it is worthy to note that social posts and ranks should not cause us to be heedless of respecting our parents in any condition.
وَرَفَعَ أَبَوَيْهِ عَلَي الْعَرْشِ وَخَرُّوا لَهُ سُجَّداً وَقَالَ يَآ أَبَتِ هَذَا تَأْوِيلُ رُؤْيايَ مِن قَبْلُ قَدْ جَعَلَهَا رَبّي حَقّاً وَقَدْ أَحْسَنَ بِي إِذْ أَخْرَجَني مِنَ السّجْنِ وَجَآءَ بِكُم مّنَ الْبَدْوِ مِن بَعْدِ أَن نَّزَغَ الشَّيْطَانُ بَينِي وَبَيْنَ إِخْوَتِي إِنَّ رَبّي لَطِيفٌ لِمَا يَشَآءُ إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْعَلِيمُ الْحَكِيمُ
100. “And he raised both his parents upon the throne, and they fell down prostrating before him, and he said: ‘O’ my father! This is the interpretation of my dream of aforetime! My Lord has made it come true; and He was indeed kind to me when He brought me out of the prison, and He brought you out of the desert (of Kan‘an into Egypt) after Satan had made strife between me and my brothers. Verily my Lord is Benignant unto what He wills. Verily He is indeed the All-Knowing, the All-Wise’.”
When he seated his parents on the throne, the magnitude of the Divine Grace and the profundity of such favors and blessings left such an impact upon his parents and brothers that they went into a state of prostration before him.
The verse says:
“And he raised both his parents upon the throne, and they fell down prostrating before him...”
Certainly prostration, implying worship, belongs only to Allah alone. Some Islamic traditions state that this prostration had been done as obedience and worship unto Allah as well as an act of respect towards Yusuf.
At this point he told his father that the meaning of his dream had now become clear, the dream of the sun, the moon and the eleven stars all prostrating before him were now represented by his parents and his eleven brothers prostrating before him.
The verse says:
“…and he said: ‘O’ my father! This is the interpretation of my dream of aforetime! My Lord has made it come true;...”
But even in the midst of triumph and glory, Yusuf never forgot Allah’s mercy upon him; he recounted all of his troubles and how Allah had always helped him overcome them.
The verse says:
“…and He was indeed kind to me when He brought me out of the prison, and He brought you out of the desert (of Kan‘an into Egypt) after Satan had made strife between me and my brothers...”
Interestingly enough, he did not mention his sojourn in the well; perhaps it was because he did not want to embarrass his brothers. All these favors and graces have their origin in Allah, for Allah is the source of Grace and He bestows his favors whenever and upon whosoever He wants.
He administers all the affairs of His subjects and helps them to solve their problems. He knows those who are in need and who merits his favor, for He is knowledgeable and wise.
The verse says:
“…Verily my Lord is Benignant unto what He wills. Verily He is indeed the All-knowing, the All-Wise’.”
1. The Arabic term /‘arš/ lexically means the throne on which a sultan or ruler is seated. The term /xarru/ means throwing oneself upon the earth, while the term /badw/ means ‘oasis, desert’ and /nazaqa/ means ‘initiating a task with intention of corruption’.
2. The Qur’anic term ‘Latif’ is one of Allah’s names which implies that His power permeates into all complicated matters and its relevance to this verse is the fact that there were complications in Yusuf’s life which could only have been solved by Allah’s Power alone.
3. Yusuf became like the Ka‘ba for them, and his parents and his brothers prostrated before him for the sake of Allah. Were this prostration for other than Allah (s.w.t.), it would have been an act of polytheism, however, Ya‘qub (as) and Yusuf (as), who were two of Allah’s prophets, would not support such a forbidden act.
1. No matter in what position you are in, you should regard your parents as superior to yourselves.
2. Men of Allah regard entering and leaving prison as a monotheistic circle and a theological gesture.
3. All bitter and sweet events take place in accordance with Divine Knowledge and Wisdom.
رَبِّ قَدْ آتَيْتَنِي مِنَ الْمُلْكِ وَعَلَّمْتَنِي مِن تَأْوِيلِ الْأَحَادِيثِ ۚ فَاطِرَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ أَنتَ وَلِيِّي فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةِ ۖ تَوَفَّنِي مُسْلِمًا وَأَلْحِقْنِي بِالصَّالِحِينَ
101. “O my Lord! You have given me to rule, and have taught me the interpretation of dreams. (O!) Originator of the heavens and the earth! You are my Protector in the world and the Hereafter. Cause me die a Muslim (in submission (unto you) and join me with the righteous.”
When they witness their own glory and power, the men of Allah are at once reminded of the Almighty. They are aware that everything that exists has its origin in Him.
Turning to the true Proprietor, the everlasting Benefactor, Yusuf gave thanks to Almighty Allah for bestowing upon him great political power, and the science of dream interpretation. This science had created tremendous changes in his life and that of the majority of His subjects and what a profound science it is!
The verse says:
“O my Lord! You have given me to rule, and have taught me the interpretation of dreams...”
It is Allah Who created the heavens and the earth and it is for this reason that everything is humble when facing Him; He is our Guardian and our Protector in this world and in the world Hereafter.
Yusuf continues his plea to Allah saying:
“…(O!) Originator of the heavens and the earth! You are my Protector in the world and the Hereafter. Cause me die a Muslim (in submission (unto you) and join me with the righteous.”
1. It is a Divine prerogative to bestow sovereignty upon someone. Therefore, one should not consider one’s sovereignty as a consequence of one’s own initiative, thinking, power, allies, or one’s own plan; on the contrary, the Divine will is the root and the main factor in one’s rise to power.
2. Abu Hamzah has said that Ya‘qub (as) lived for 147 years and he was 130 years of age when he called upon Yusuf in Egypt and stayed there for 17 years. Ibn Ishaq has said that when Ya‘qub died, his body was placed in a casket made of Ebony wood and taken to the city of Bayt ul Muqaddas (Jerusalem).
After burying his father there, Yusuf returned to Egypt in accordance with the will of that great man. He lived for 23 years more after his father died. He was the first Messenger of the Children of Israel. He stated in his will that he would be buried near the grave of his fathers.
Some have said that he was buried in Egypt until Moses (as) brought his remains with him and buried them near the tomb of his father.
It is said that the position of prophecy was accorded to Robil after him and Yahuda acceded to the rank after the latter’s term.
In the Book, An-Nubuwwah, Muhammad ibn Muslim, is quoted as saying:
“I asked Imam Baqir (as) who was /hujjah/, Allah’s Authority on the earth at that time? Was it Ya‘qub or Yusuf? He answered that Ya‘qub (as) was, and Yusuf was the sovereign.
When Ya‘qub passed away, Yusuf laid him in a casket, brought him to Damascus, and buried him in Bayt ul Muqaddas, and then Yusuf became the Authority of Allah after Ya‘qub. I asked if Yusuf was a prophet and a messenger of Allah as well.
He answered: “Yes, have you not heard what Allah, the Glorious and the Magnanimous has said: meaning: ‘Yusuf came to you previously along with evidences’?” 2
Imam Sadiq (as) is narrated to have said:
“When Yusuf went to prison, he was twelve years old. He remained in prison for 18 years and he lived for 80 years after his release from prison which amounts to a total of 110 years.
And as Allah the Almighty destined him to pass away in Egypt, he was put into a casket made of marble and was buried in the middle of the Nile River. The reason why he was buried in such a way was because the people of Egypt started to vie with each other to bury him in their own quarter of the city and hence benefit from the blessings of the presence of such a pure body among them.
Thus it was considered more appropriate to bury the body in the middle of the Nile River, making it possible for the river water to flow over it and allow all the inhabitants to benefit from it.
This tomb remained in the Nile River until the time of Moses (as) when he took it out of the Nile and out of Egypt with himself.
A closer look at a few of the previous verses would reveal the following points of note:
As we discussed a foretime, regarding issues relating to the prostration of the angels to Adam; prostration can signify worship which in this case is particular to Allah, and it is not allowed for anyone in any religion to worship any being other than Allah. The monotheism of worship is an important part of general monotheism about which all prophets had a similar message and outlook.
Therefore, from this particular point of view, prostration must only be for Allah the same Allah Who had accorded so many favors and sovereignty to Yusuf, and who removed all of Ya‘qub’s difficulties.
However, although prostration can be for Allah’s sake, in the case of Yusuf it could also have been a sign of glorification and respect for Yusuf as well, because it had been performed in view of the grandeur of the favours which Allah had bestowed upon him.
From this point of view, the Arabic pronoun /lahu/ meaning ‘before him’ in the phrase: “and they fell down prostrating before him” which definitely refers to Yusuf is compatible with this meaning.
Another way of looking at it is that prostration in its broad meaning indicates humility or modesty, and is not always used according to its prevalent meaning as worship, rather it sometimes can refer to a very profound type of respect.
Among all the merits and bounties of Egypt, Yusuf Pointed out the bounty of security. This shows that the bounty of security is the root of all merits.
It is indeed true because when security disappears other material and spiritual subjects of welfare will be in danger. When an environment is not secured, is not possible to worship Allah, nor is life with honesty and free mind, nor struggle and effort and endeavour for progression and social aims.
This phrase may be; however, an illusion to this fact that Yusuf wanted to say that the land of Egypt, where he was governing, was not any more the former country of Pharaoh. Those despotic behaviours, crimes, exploitations, cruelties and tortures had been disappeared. It was a completely secured site.
At the end of the holy verse, Yusuf once again stresses the importance of the science of dream interpretation and compares it with the sovereignty bestowed upon him. He finally concludes that knowledge, even such a science as dream interpretation has a great impact even on such matters as political rule.
However, the last years are the milestones in one’s life, because it marks the conclusion of one’s life, and the final judgment depends on it. Therefore, faithful and conscious people always ask Allah to illuminate the last years of their lives and Yusuf did as such saying:
“…Cause me die a Muslim (in submission unto You), and join me with the righteous!”
One can well conclude from the above verses that Yusuf’s mother was still alive at that time and that she came to Egypt along with her husband and her sons. To compensate for this blessing she prostrated.
However, some commentators insist on the matter that his mother, Rail (Rahil), had already passed away and it was his aunt who came to Egypt and had substituted for his mother. Nevertheless, in the Torah it says that Rail passed away after giving birth to Benjamin.3
This conclusion can also be drawn from other narrations such as those narrated by Wahab ibn Bunyah and Ka‘b ul Akhbar both of which have been apparently taken from the Torah.
Anyway, we cannot explain away or interpret the verses of the Qur’an at face value which say that Yusuf’s mother was alive that day and this fact should not be overlooked without adequate justification.
ذَلِكَ مِنْ أَنْبَآءِ الْغَيْبِ نُوحِيهِ إِلَيْكَ وَمَا كُنتَ لَدَيْهِمْ إِذْ أَجْمَعُوا أَمْرَهُمْ وَهُمْ يَمْكُرُونَ
102. “That is of the news of the Unseen (which) We reveal to you (O’ Prophet); and you were not with them (the brothers of Joseph) when they agreed upon their plan and they were plotting.”
After winding up the story of Yusuf, with all its didactic lessons and precious conclusions and without any extravagant and historical superstition, the Qur’an, addressing the Prophet (S), says that this information was news from the invisible world which Allah had revealed to him, because he was not there to witness the most secret and detailed thoughts and behaviors that they had occurred, such as the secret plotting of the brothers against Yusuf and their attempts to deceive their father.
The verse says:
“That is of the news of the Unseen (which) We reveal to you (O’ Prophet); and you were not with them (the brothers of Joseph) when they agreed upon their plan and they were plotting.”
Therefore, it was only revelation of Allah which informed him of such important news.
This statement makes it clear that though the story of Yusuf has been mentioned in the Torah, and naturally the people of Arabia, more or less, knew something about it, but they never knew the whole event properly and in detail, even what was said in private meetings has not been free from additional matters and superstitions.
وَمَآ أَكْثَرُ النَّاسِ وَلَوْ حَرَصْتَ بِمُؤْمِنِينَ
103. “And most people will not believe, though you desire it.”
The Arabic term (harasa) refers to an intense desire for something and the struggle to attain it.
The prophets were zealous, sympathetic, and eager in their efforts to guide others to the Right Path and the fact that people did not accept the faith does not imply that the prophets had failed or that they had any shortcomings.
This refusal is due to man’s liberty and freedom of choice itself which he employs in his reluctance to accept the faith. Therefore, most people have been repeatedly criticized by the Qur’an from the ideological and religious perspective.
The verse says:
“And most people will not believe, though you desire it.”
However, receiving these clear signs revealed and hearing these divine admonitions all people must believe and return to the right path, but in spite of the desist of the Prophet, most of them do not believe.
وَمَا تَسْأَلُهُمْ عَلَيْهِ مِنْ أَجْرٍ إِنْ هُوَ إِلاَّ ذِكْرٌ لِلْعَالَمِين
104. “And you do not ask them for any reward for it; it (the Qur’an) is no other than a reminder for all mankind.”
In this verse the Qur’an refers to the fact that mankind has excuse and no real reason to reject the call of the Prophet because of the obviousness of the message, he also does not require any reward for delivering it to them, which indicates that he has no personal ulterior motives and there is no heed for him to fabricate the text of his message.
The verse says:
“And you do not ask them for any reward for it;...”
This is a universal call and a reminder to the people of the world, at the same time, it is a table spread for princes and the paupers alike, indeed for all human beings.
The verse says:
“…it (the Qur’an) is no other than a reminder for all mankind.”
Generosity is one of the signs of a sincere believer. He expects no reward or thanks from anyone.
Certainly, the Qur’an is a reminder because:
1. It reminds one of His blessings and attributes.
2. It reminds one of his past and his future.
3. It reminds one of the fall, the collapse, as well as the glory of human societies.
4. It reminds one of the Day of Resurrection and its stages.
5. It reminds one of the magnitudes of existence.
6. It reminds one of the lives of historical personages.
The Qur’anic sciences and its ordinances are facts which must be learned and always kept in mind, because the Qur’anic term /ŏikr/ is called to a knowledge which exists in mind and one does not neglect it.