The Joseph Story in the Qur’an and the Bible, and in Muslim and Jewish Tradition


Azar Ajaj


Submitted to the Course Leader, Dr Lydie Kucova, in  partial  fulfillment  of  the  requirements  for  the  degree of   IBTS M.TH.

On Biblical  Studies International Baptist Theological Seminary-Prague     Date  September  2010  
  Number  of  words:  19,732




Table  of  Contents  
  Introduction ................................................................................................................................................ 1   The  Jewish  influence  on  the  Quran ............................................................................................................ 3   The  Muslim  approach .......................................................................................................................... 6   The  Joseph  story  in  the  Quran  and  the  Bible ............................................................................................. 8   1.   2.   3.   4.   5.   6.   Joseph’s  Dream............................................................................................................................ 9   The  hearted  of  his  brothers ....................................................................................................... 11   The  News  about  Joseph’s  Death................................................................................................ 14   Selling  Joseph............................................................................................................................. 15   At  Potiphar’s  House ................................................................................................................... 15   In  The  Prison .............................................................................................................................. 21  

Summary ........................................................................................................................................... 24   Joseph  in  Jewish  and  Muslim  Traditions .................................................................................................. 25   1.   2.   3.   4.   5.   The  reason  of  this  story ............................................................................................................. 25   Role  of  Joseph  in  both  stories.................................................................................................... 27   Historical  Settings ...................................................................................................................... 32   Measure  for  Measure ................................................................................................................ 37   Theological  Character  of  the  story............................................................................................. 39  

Summary ........................................................................................................................................... 42   Joseph  in  the  Christian  Tradition.............................................................................................................. 44   Conclusion ................................................................................................................................................. 46   Bibliography .............................................................................................................................................. 47  



Research  Question:  
  In   this   study   we   will   examine   the   Joseph   Narrative   in   the   Hebrew   Bible   (   Gen.   37:2-­‐   50:26   )   and   the   Qur’an  (Sura  12).    Particular  attention  will  be  given  to  Joseph’s  years  of  struggle  before  vindication  in  the   two   textual   traditions.     In   the   first   part   of   the   study,   we   will   give   close   attention   to   the   text   from   a   linguistic   and   historical-­‐grammatical   point   of   view,   examining   both   the   Hebrew   and   Arabic   texts.     Our   interest  will  be  in  discerning  overlap  and  commonality  as  well  as  divergence  between  the  two  concepts   of   the   Joseph   story.     In   the   second   part   we   will   step   back   and   attempt   to   situate   Joseph   in   a   larger   context.    We  will  ask,  “What  role  does  the  Joseph  story  play  in  the  Torah  and  Hebrew  Bible  and  what   role   does   this   narrative   play   in   the   Qur’an   and   Islamic   understanding   generally.     In   seeking   to   answer   these   questions,   besides   recourse   to   books,   articles   and   standard   commentaries,   we   will   also   consult   classical  Hebrew  midrash  sources  and  major  Islamic  exegetes  such  as  either  Al-­‐Tabari  or  Ibn  Kathir.    In   the  conclusion,  after  summing  up  our  findings,  we  will  briefly  consider  the  ways  in  which  a  clearer  view   of  the  distinctive  Jewish  and  Muslim  views  of  this  story  may  be  useful  to  those  engaged  in  ministry  in   our  local  Palestinian,  Israeli-­‐Arab  setting.  



 The  Joseph  story  is  one  of  the  longest  sustained  narratives  in  Genesis1  and  is  also  the  largest   extended  story  in  the  Quran.    Beyond  that,  the  figure  of  Joseph  remains  influential  not  only  in   Islamic,  Jewish  and  Christian  religion  but  also  in  popular  discourse  in  poetry,  art  and  song,  in  the   Arabic   and   Hebrew   language,   and   many   other   languages   and   cultures.   In   this   study   we   will   examine  the  Joseph  narrative  in  the  Hebrew  Bible  (Gen.  37:2-­‐  50:26)  and  the  Quran  (Sura  12).     Particular   attention   will   be   given   to   Joseph’s   years   of   struggle   before   vindication   in   the   two   textual  traditions.     A   whole   chapter   is   dedicated   in   the   Quran   to   the   story   of   Joseph,   it   is   ‫   ﺱسﻭوﺭرﺓة ﻱيﻭوﺱسﻑف‬Sura   12   (Surat  YUSUF2),  which  has  111  verses  and  considered  to  be  one  of  the  long  Suras.    According  to   Islamic  tradition,  there  are  25  prophets;  Joseph  being  the  9th  among  these.  The  chronological   order  for  the  prophets  starts  with  Adam  and  ends  with  Muhammad.  Joseph  in  the  Bible  is  not  a   prophet;  he  is  one  of  the  nation’s  fathers.  He  is  a  righteous  person  to  whom  we  may  look  at  and   learn  from  his  ways  (Alon  2004,  155).   According   to   Islamic   tradition,   Jacob   had   twelve   children   and   from   them   the   tribes   of   Israel   are   descended.    The  best,  greatest  and  the  most  honorable  of  them,  is  Joseph.  Some  even  believe   that  he  is  the  only  prophet  among  his  brothers  (Ibn-­‐Kathir  1989,  309)3.     Joseph  is  mentioned  twenty  seven  times  in  the  Quran,  25  times  in  Sura  12,  and  once  in  Surat  Al-­‐ Anaam,  (Sura  6),  among  a  list  of  10  respected  Biblical  prophets.    The  last  mention  of  Joseph  in   the   Quran   is   found   in   Surat   Al   Ghafer   (Sura   40)   where   he   is   cited   as   a   rejected   prophet,   in   connection  with  the  punishment  the  people  received  who  rejected  him    (Alon  2004,  156).    

 The  story  of  Abraham  in  the  Book  of  Genesis,  has  the  same  number  of  chapters  (14  chapters)  as  the  story  of   Joseph,  but  the  later  is  bigger  than  the  former  (Boice  1987,  11)   2  In  the  beginning  of  each  chapter  in  the  Quran  it  is  mentioned  where  it  was  revealed  to  Muhammad.  Although   most  of  the  long  chapters  were  given  in  Medinah,  Surat  Yusuf  is  an  exception,  and  it  is  considered  a  Meccian  one.   (Alon  2004,  156)   3  Ibn-­‐Kathir    1301-­‐1373  



Joseph’s   story   is   unusual   in   that   the   Quran   dedicates   a   whole   chapter   to   it   and   essentially   retells   the   biblical   material.   We   do   not   find   in   it   anything   similar   except   the   story   of   Moses,   which   occupies   a   significant   part   of   ‫“   ﺍاﻝلﺵشﻉعﺭرﺍاءﺱسﻭوﺭرﺓة‬The   Poets”   (Sura   28:1-­‐30).   Other   Biblical   characters   are   mentioned,   like   Mary,   Zechariah   and   his   son   John   the   Baptist   and,   of   course,   Jesus;  but  these  are  in  shortened  versions,  and  the  information  about  them  is  mixed  with   non-­‐ biblical  stories  (Rivlin  n.d.).  It  may  be  noted  that  there  are  another  three  chapters  (Suras)  in  the   Quran  that  carry  the  names  of  Biblical  characters,  which  are  Noah,  Abraham  and  Jonah.    Unlike   the   stories   of   Joseph   and   Moses,   however,   the   connection   of   these   stories   with   the   Biblical   ones  is  minimal.  (Hillmer  1994,  195-­‐196)     Joseph’s  story  in  the  Jewish  tradition  is  divided  into  four  ‫  ויחי  ,ויגש  ,מקץ  ,וישב  :4תושרפ‬ That  covers  the  whole  story  from  the  Gen  37:2  till  the  end  of  the  book,  and  it  is  known  by  the   name  ‫(  מגילת יעקב ובניו‬the  story  of  Jacob  and  his  sons).  The  story  of  Joseph  appears  in  the  Bible   as  an  important  link  between  the  story  of  the  patriarchs  Abraham,  Isaac  and  Jacob  on  the  one   hand,  and  the  story  of  Moses  and  the  exodus  on  the  other.       Due  to  the  similarity  of  the  two  stories,  some  relate  this  to  the  many  additions  to  the  Biblical   story   found   in   the   ancient   Midrashic   interpretive   traditions,   and   other   Jewish   writings5,   that   existed,  either  orally  or  as  written  scripts,  during  the  time  of  Muhammad.  This  allowed  him  to   sometimes   enhance   the   Biblical   stories   he   used   in   the   Quran,   adding   his   own   information   sometimes,   and   omitting   information   at   other   times.   While   the   Jewish   leaders   saw   these   traditions   as   parallel   to   the   Bible,   and   did   not   insert   them   in   the   Biblical   story,   in   contrast,   Muhammad   took   these   stories   and   used   them   within   the   Quranic   story   itself   (Garsiel   1997,   168).    This  can  be  presented  as  the  following:  
The   Quran   gives   ample   evidence   of   acquaintance   with   the   book   of   Genesis.   While   the   Quran   omits   typical   Genesis   material,   such   as   genealogies,   dates,   and   lists   of   nations;   it   contains   key  

                                                                                                                          4  The  Pentateuch  is  divided  for  54  parts;  each  of  these  parts  is  called  Parasha.  According  to  the  Jewish  traditions,  
one  or  two  of  these  parts  are  read  and  explained  at  the  synagogue  every  Saturday.     5  Some  claim  that  Joseph  story  in  the  Bible  was  influenced  from  the  Egyptian  story  “The  Tale  of  the  Two  Brothers”.   This  claim  is  built  on  the  fact  the  in  the  two  stories,  a  woman  is  trying  to  seduce  a  handsome  person  who  works  for   her.  And  when  he  is  not  responding  to  her,  she  seeks  to  take  revenge (Stokes 1997, 38).    


story   elements   from   both   the   primeval   history   and   the   ancestral   cycles,   but   transformed   and   shaped  into  a  new  form.  (Hillmer  1994)  

Before  beginning  discussion  about  the  previous  issues  I  want  to  examine  the  Jewish  influence   on   the   Quran   in   general,   and   then   to   come   back   and   compare   the   Joseph   story   in   the   two   books.  

  The  Jewish  influence  on  the  Quran  
Judaism   and   Jews   were   well   known   in   the   Arab   Peninsula   long   time   before   Islam   came   into   being,   with   many   living   in   the   Hijaz   during   the   7th   century.     The   Jews   lived   in   diverse   communities,  and  in  some  places  their  number  was  significant.  For  example,  most  of  the  people   who   lived   in   Khybar,   were   Jews.   It   is   true   that   we   do   not   find   in   Mecca   a   Jewish   community,   nevertheless   many   Jewish   merchants   passed   through   the   town   and   stayed   there   (Bat-­‐Shevaa   2005,   251).     In   Medina   there   were   three   large   Jewish   tribes,   who   were   very   much   active   in   social   life.     They   knew   the   OT,   Midrashim   traditions   and   Jewish   laws,   and   it   should   not   be   surprising  that  they  might  have  influenced  the  new  religion.  (Lazarus-­‐Yafeh  2005,  17)   The   Jews   and   Christians   were   known   to   their   Arab   neighbors   as   educated   people   and   Mohammad   more   than   once   expressed   his   appreciation   of   them   calling   them   “People   of   the   Book”   ‫(   .ﺍاﻝلﻙكﺕتﺍاﺏب ﺃأﻩهﻝل‬Bat-­‐Shevaa   2005,   251).   Although   Muhammad   presented   the   Quran   as   the   word  of  God6,  it  seems  that  initially  he  had  some  doubts  concerning  the  origin  of  his  message.     In   order   to   overcome   these   doubts   and   to   be   sure   of   the   divine   message   of   this   book   (the   Quran),  the  angel  Gabriel  asks  Mohammad  to  ask    “the  people  of  the  Book”  (Shtaouber  1994,   115):  “If  thou  wert  in  doubt  as  to  what  We  have  revealed  unto  thee  (the  Quran),  then  ask  those   who  have  been  reading  the  Book  from  before  thee:  the  Truth  hath  indeed  come  to  thee  from   thy  Lord:  so  be  in  no  wise  of  those  in  doubt”  (Sura  10:94).7    
 Since  in  Arabic  the  word  used  for  “God”  in  the  whole  Bible  is   ‫(  ﺍاﻝلﻝلﻩه‬Allah),  the  same  as  the  Quran.    I’ll  be  using   simply  the  word  “God”,  unless  I  am  giving  a  direct  quotation  where  the  word  “Allah”  is  used.   7  From  now  on  I’ll  be  using  the  online  translation  of  the  Quran,  by  Yusuf  Ali  found  on  the  website  of  University  of   Southern  California  -­‐  The Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement.  



  So  at  least  at  that  stage,  Mohammad  has  no  doubts  about  the  strong  relation  between  Islam   and  the  Jewish  religion.  This  was  repeated  over  and  over,  and  see  for  example  what  is  written   in   (Sura   26:192-­‐197)   (Shtaouber   1994,   115):   “Verily   this   is   a   Revelation   from   the   Lord   of   the   Worlds:  With   it   came   down   the   spirit   of   Faith   and   Truth-­‐  To   thy   heart   and   mind,   that   thou   mayest   admonish   in   the   perspicuous   Arabic   tongue.   Without   doubt   it   is   (announced)   in   the   mystic   Books   of   former   peoples.  Is   it   not   a   Sign   to   them   that   the   Learned   of   the   Children   of   Israel  knew  it  (as  true)?”     Muslim   tradition   even   reveals   that   Mohammad   and   the   companions   ‫   ﺍاﻝلﺹصﺡحﺍاﺏبﺓة‬the,   Abu   Bakr   and  Omar  visited  some  of  the  Jewish  schools  in  Medina  several  times  (Albaydawi  1999,  384).     For   these   reasons   it   should   not   be   surprising   that   different   parts   of   the   Jewish   Halakha   and   Hgadah  are  integrated  into  the  new  religion  brought  by  Mohammad  (Shtaouber  1994,  114).   “Different  Biblical  ideas  found  their  way  into  the  Islamic  religion.  The  central  Biblical  believe  in   one  God,  was  accepted  as  a  central  doctrine  also  in  Islam”.  (Bar-­‐Efrat  1999,  127)  Also  many  of   the  OT  stories  and  characters  are  mentioned  in  the  Quran,  and  while  reading  these  stories,  it  is   not   difficult   to   notice   the   influence   and   similarities   of   these   stories   on   it,   especially   in   its   Midrashic   version   (Bat-­‐Shevaa   2005,   252).   These   stories   from   the   Quran   are   very   similar   to   those   we   find   in   the   Jewish   writings8.   Some   argue   that   all   the   Quran   stories   are   taken   from   the   OT  and  Jewish  writings.  For  example  Blair  writes:  “So  much,  indeed,  was  Muhammad  indebted   to  the  Jews  for  a  great  portion  of  his  teaching  on  this  and  other  subjects  that  the  Qur'an  has   been  described  as  a  compendium  of  Talmudic  Judaism”  (Blair  1925,  55).    
Another main influence on the Quran, would come from the Christians and New Testament. Here we can find also two kind of information: one is similar to what we find in the New

Testament,   and   it   is   possible   that   Muhammad   was   exposed   to   it   during   his   time   in Habasha.
                                                                                                                          8  Some  stories  that  we  find  in  the  Quran,  do  not  match  neither  the  Biblical  stories  nor  the  Talmudic records such as
the Midrash, Mishnah, etc. A possible reason for this might be that some Jewish and Christian communities who lived in the area, had a special literature and writings which was little different from the traditional Talmudic and other formal Jewish writings, and Muhammad was influenced by them. (Lazarus-Yafeh 2005, 22)  


The other information, probably, was taken from heretical sects, who lived in that area (Tisdall 1905, 46).  

  When   we   read   those   stories   in   the   Quran,   we   find   out   that   they   are   similar   to   the   Biblical   ones   in   the   wider   sense;   and   only   parts   of   these   stories   are   mentioned   or   used   with   additions   or   mixtures   of   information   from   the   Midrash.   This   can   be   explained   by   the   following   reasons.     First,   his   use   of   selected   parts   of   these   stories   might   be   related   to   the   purpose   Mohammad   wanted  to  achieve  from  using  them  (Shiphman  1995,  40).    Second,  Mohammad’s  exposure  to   these   Biblical   stores   is   apparent.   It   is   clear   that   the   Quran   does   not   distinguish   between   the   information  from  the  OT  and  the  information  from  the  Midrash9.  It  appears  that  Mohammad   heard   the   Biblical   stories   from   the   Jews,   and   did   not   make   the   effort   to   separate   the   information   between   what   was   originally   mentioned   in   the   OT   narrative,   from   what   was   added   to   them   later   by   Jewish   writers.   For   these   reasons   these   stories   were   perceived   by   Mohammad   as  one  story  from  one  source  (Bat-­‐Shevaa  2005,  252).  And  actually  this  should  not  surprise  us,   “this   is   what   one   would   expect   in   the   telling   and   retelling   of   a   story:   the   events   are   more   memorable   than   the   names.   It   is   also   possible,   of   course,   that   some   of   the   omissions   and   additions  derive  from  those  who  told  the  story  to  Muhammad”.  (Hillmer  1994,  197)    MacDonald  puts  it  in  another  way:  
The   way   that   such   things   came   to   him   seems   to   have   been   very   much   like   this:   He   got   a   scrap   of   history;  he  got  an  allusion;  he  got  a  telling  phrase;  he  got  a  hint  of  a  character.  He  carried  that   away,   and   then   with   that   as   a   centre   and   with   his   broad   idea   of   the   story   -­‐   generally   a   very   inaccurate   idea  -­‐   as   material,   he   built   up   for   himself   again   what   he   had   heard.   (MacDonald   1971,   214)  

Having  mentioned  that,  it  is  important  to  note  that  although  the  Quran  has  a  lot  of  Midrashic   stories,  we  should  be  aware  that  some  of  the  Midrashim  were  written  after  the  establishment   of   the   Islam,   and   some   might   argue   that   these   Midrashim   were   influenced   by   the   Quran   and   Islamic  tradition.  (Lazarus-­‐Yafeh  2005,  21)     Of   course,   this   description   of   the   sources   of   the   Quran   is   not   accepted   by   Muslims.     The   fundamental   belief   of   Islam   is   that   the   Quran   was   sent   down   ‫   ﺃأﻥنﺯزﻝل‬on   Muhammad   word   by  

 I’ll  bring  examples  of  this  while  I’m  discussing  the  story  of  Joseph.  



word,  and  it  is  the  word  of  God.    Hence  it  is  all  absolutely  true,  and  not  influenced  by  any  other   resource  except  God10.  Tisdall  summarizes  this  belief  as  follows:  
The   Muslims   hold   that   their   Faith   came   direct   from   heaven.   The   Qur'an   and   all   their   tenets   were   sent   down   by   Gabriel   from   God   himself   to   Muhammad.   Much   of   their   faith   is   also   built   upon   Tradition  handed  down  by  the  Prophet's  followers…  As  for  the  Qur'an,  it  is  held  to  be  of  eternal   origin,  recorded  in  heaven,  and  lying  as  it  does  there  upon  the  "Preserved  Table"  (Sura  Ixxxv.  21).   Thus  God  alone  is  held  to  be  the  "Source"  of  Islam;  and  if  so,  then  all  effort  to  find  a  human  origin   for  any  part  of  it  must  be  in  vain.  (Tisdall  1905,  2)    

  The  Muslim  approach    The   Muslim   scholars   had   to   justify   these   differences   and   contradictions   between   the   Biblical   stories   and   the   Quranic   ones.   And   they   did   that   by   claiming   that   the   Bible   was   twisted,   or   at   least   it   was   changed   during   that   time   (Bar-­‐Efrat   1999,   132).   Al-­‐Bash   puts   this   in   a   very   clear   way:   “the   Torah   as   we   have   today   contains   part   of   what   was   revealed   to   Moses…   some   was   dropped  and  other  was  added.  The  Quran  is  the  measure  whereby  it,  the  added  information  as   well  as  what  was  taken  away,  can  be  revealed”  (Al-­‐Bash  2000,  15).   What  Al-­‐Bash  is  saying,  the   Quran   is   the   absolute   truth,   if   any   part   of   the   Bible   contradicts   it,   this   would   be   a   sign   that   this   part  was  twisted  or  corrupted.  The  name  of  this  concept  in  Islamic  thought  is  tahriif.   Alongside   doctrine   of   the   tahrif,   I   should   add   another   Islamic   doctrine   naskh/mansukh,   a   doctrine   which   based   upon   the   following   verse:   “None   of   Our   revelations   do   We   abrogate   or   cause   to   be   forgotten,   but   We   substitute   something   better   or   similar:   Knowest   thou   not   that   God   hath   power   over   all   things?”   (Sura   2.106”.   And   this   might   be   best   explained   by   the   following:    
In   the   early   days   of   Islam   this   text   was   taken   to   mean   that   parts   of   the   Qur'an   could   become   mansukh  (abrogated)  while  other  fresh  revelations,  the  naskh  texts,  were  sent  down  to  replace   them.  (Gilchrist  1989,  82)  


 See  Sura  6:19  



Because   of   this   doctrine,   along   with   the   doctrine   of   tahriif,   explain   why   Muslims   don’t   really   acknowledge   or   understand   the   relation   of   the   Torah   and   Midrashim   to   the   Quran,   since   the   latest  replaced  the  earlier.   From  the  other  side,  Fayad  is  one  of  the  few  Muslims  recent  scholars  who  speak  openly  about   the   influence   of   the   Jewish   religion   on   Islam.     In   his   article   “What   is   Islam?”   he   wrote   that   “Islam  came  out  from  the  womb  of  Talmudic  Judaism”  (Fayad  1997).  In  other  words,  the  main   recourses   for   these   stories   in   the   Quran   are   from   the   Biblical   stories   and   the   comments   that   were  written  about  them  in  the  Midrashic  traditions.   Before  moving  on,  it  is  important  to  say  that  we  also  notice  that  the  influence  of  the  Bible  was   not   limited   only   to   the   Quran,   but   also   on   Islamic   traditions   called   “Hadith”   (Bar-­‐Efrat   1999,   133).   Since   the   stories   in   the   Quran   which   related   to   Biblical   characters   are   short   and   fragmented,   a   new   kind   of   story   was   developed,   called   “Qissass   Al-­‐Anbia”   (the   stories   of   the   prophets)  (Shtaouber  1994,  120).  The  purpose  of  these  stories  is  to  explain,  to  complete  and  to   expand   what   was   written   in   the   Quran.   Beside   the   Biblical   information   in   these   stories,   there   is   the   influence   of   the   Midrash,   and   other   Jewish   traditions.   (Bar-­‐Efrat   1999,   133-­‐134)   Muslim   scholars   noticed   the   massive   penetration   of   the   Jewish   content   into   the   world   of   Islam   and   called  it  “Al-­‐Issraeilyat”  ‫  .ﺍاﻝلﺇإﺱسﺭرﺍاﺉئﻱيﻝلﻱيﺍاﺕت‬While  Al-­‐Israeliyat  were  more  accepted  in  the  first  two   centuries   AH,   we   can   notice   that   from   the   third   century   onward   a   growing   reservation   and   attempts  to  block  any  Jewish  influence  on  Islam.  (Shtaouber  1994,  120).          



The  Joseph  story  in  the  Quran  and  the  Bible  
  In   this   part   of   the   study,   we   will   give   close   attention   to   the   text   from   a   linguistic   and   historical-­‐ grammatical  point  of  view,  examining  both  the  Hebrew  and  Arabic  texts.    Our  interest  will  be  in   discerning   overlap   and   commonality   as   well   as   divergence   between   the   two   concepts   of   the   Joseph   story.   As   we   will   see,   the   Biblical   story   of   Joseph   is   similar   in   the   wider   sense   and   its   main  incidents  to  that  we  find  in  the  Quran11.  Parallels  part  found  in  the  story  “each  of  these   parallels   contains   points   of   both   similarity   and   dissimilarity.   (Mir   1986,   3)   Nevertheless,   the   differences   are   not   few   and   they   can   be   classified.   Beside   the   difference   between   the   length   of   the   two   stories12,   the   information   and   the   style,   we   can   say   that   the   main   difference   lays   down   in  the  purpose  of  the  story13  in  each  of  these  books.  While  the  Bible  emphasizes  the  national,   historical  and  theological  sides,  we  find  that  the  Quran  is  interested  only  about  the  theological   one14.  (Garsiel  1997,  161)  While  In  this  chapter  I’ll  try  to  highlight  the  textual  differences  and   similarites    between  the  Biblica  story  of  Joseph,    and  the  one  we  find  in  the  Quran,  I  will  seek  to   find  the  sources  and  the  motives  that  might  cause    these  differences,  in  the  later  chapter15.          
 The  Quran  tells  the  story  without  many  details,  and  this  leads  to  many  questions,  if  we  look  at  it  without   referring  to  the  Biblical  text,  since  the  later  fills  all  the  gapes  and  answers  the  questions  of  dates,  places  and  names   of  people.  (Abdel-­‐Rahmaan  2000)   12  The  story  in  the  Quran  has  111  verse,  while  in  the  Bible  we  find  almost  449  verses.  The  number  of  words  for  the     story  in  the  Bible  is  almost  four  times  the  number  of  the  words  in  the  Quran   13  The  Islamic  fundamental    approach  argues  that    the  differences  are  a  result  for  later  addition,  to  the  authentic   Biblical  story,  in  of  the  Torah.  (Al-­‐Bash  2000,  200)   14  Some  might  argue  here,  that  Muhammad  uses  this  story  as  a  warning  to  people  around  to  follow  him  and  obey   him,  otherwise  God  will  punish  them,  has  a  political  motives  more  than  a  theological  one.  Whether  this  is  true  or   not,  it  would  be  difficult  to  discuss  it  in  this  paper,  especially  it  needs  a  wider  use  of  Quranic  chapters  and  history.  

 It  is  argued  by  some,  that  it  is  important  to  view  the  two  accounts  as  divine  revelation,  and  to  seek  to   find  the  sources  of  each  of  them  as    Zein  suggest:  “This  suggests  the  importance  of  understanding  the  
similarities  between  the  two  versions  not  as  an  example  of  mere  borrowing,  but  as  separate  and  different   manifestations  of  one  and  the  same  origin.  This  way  of  making  sense  of  the  differences  and  similarities  imparted   an  understanding  of  monotheistic  traditions  on  a  different  plane”  (Zein  2008,  195).    




1. Joseph’s  Dream  
The   Quran   starts   the   story   of   Joseph   in   the   4th   verse   of   Sura   12   with   the   second   dream   of   Joseph   that   we   find   in   the   Biblical   one,   where   Joseph   shares   the   dream   only   with   his   father:   "O   my   father!   I   did   see   eleven   stars   and   the   sun  and   the   moon:   I   saw   them   prostrate   themselves   to   me!"  (Sura  12:4).  The  first  dream  of  Joseph  is  not  mentioned  in  the  Quran,  where  he  tells  his   brothers   about   their   binding   sheaves,   bowing   down   to   him   Gen   37:5,   this   probably   since   the   Bedouins   in   that   area   did   not   work   with   grains.   (Garsiel   2010)   There   is   no   mention   of   the   colored   shirt   to   be   found   in   the   Quran,   as   we   find   in   the   story   in   Gen.   37:3.   The   shirt   in   the   Quran  was  merely  an  evidence  for  Joseph’s  death,  while  the  shirt16  is  an  important  element  in   the  Biblical  story.  First,  it  is  the  witness  for  Jacob’s  favoritism  of  Joseph  over  his  brothers,  this   favoritism   that   caused   the   hatred   and   the   consequences   of   this   hatred   that   drive   the   whole   story.  Second,  it  is  also  the  witness  of  his  “death”.    And  thirdly,  in  the  end  of  the  story  it  is  the   symbol  of  his  rule  and  position.  (Shiphman  1995,  41)   The   reaction   of   the   father   in   the   Quran   to   Joseph’s   dream   was   as   follows:   “My   (dear)   little  son!  Relate  not  thy  vision  to  thy  brothers,  lest  they  concoct  a  plot  against  thee:  for  Satan  is   to   man   an   avowed   enemy!  Thus   will   thy   Lord   choose   thee   and   teach   thee   the   interpretation   of   stories   (and   events)   and   perfect   His   favor   to   thee   and   to   the   posterity   of   Jacob…”   (Sura   12:5-­‐6)   The  words  that  Jacob  uses  to  ask  Joseph  not  to  share  his  dream  with  his  brothers17,    ‫(  ﺏبﻥنﻱي  ﺍاﻱي‬my   dear   son),   carries   a   meaning   of   care   and   concern   for   Joseph’s   safety.   This   kind   approach,   specifically  to  this  incident,  does  not  exist  in  the  Bible,  where  we  find  Jacob  rebuking  Joseph.   Add   to   that,   there   is   no   mention   for   any   expected   conflict   between   Joseph   and   his   brothers.   (Shiphman   1995,   47)   This   creates   a   bit   of   confusion,   although   Joseph   obeyed   his   father   by   keeping   silent   about   his   dreams,   as   to   not   provoke   his   brothers,   we   find   this   happening   any   way.  (Mir  1986,  5)    

 The  “shirt”  plays  an  important  role  in  the  life  of  Joseph  and  his  son’s,  and  I’ll  be  discussing  it  in  the  next  chapter.    This  approach,  of  not  sharing  the  blessings  someone  received,  in  order  not  to  be  envied,  became  a  kind  of  a   tradition,  (Ibn-­‐Kathir  1989,  310)  and  still  practiced  by  Muslims  even  today.  
17 16



This  different  attitude,  the  caring,  kinder  and  encouraging  approach  we  find  in  the  Quran  from   Jacob,   all   this   is   related   to   Jacob’s   belief   about   Joseph,   and   the   future   fulfillment   of   his   dreams.   (Alon   2004,   157).   This   approach   of   Jacob   is   similar   to   a   Midrashic   one   interpreting   Genesis   37:11,   and   it   is   possible   that   Muhammad   is   depending   in   the   Midrash   that   says:   “Jacobs   believed   that   it   is   a   true   dream,   and   was   looking   forward   for   it   to   come   true”   (Seporeno   1980).   This   interpretation   is   found   also   in   the   Islamic   traditions,   where   we   read18:   “when   Joseph   waked  up,  he  told  his  father  about  the  dream,  and  his  father  knew  that  Joseph  will  get  a  high   position  in  earth  and  haven,  and  he  will  rule  over  his  father  and  brothers  through  this  position”   (Ibn-­‐Kathir   1989,   310)   This   is   probably   the   reasonable   reason   for   Jacobs   compassionate   approach.     Josephus19   (37-­‐101)   in   his   book   “Antiquities   of   the   Jews”   also   wrote   a   similar   thing   “Now   Jacob   was   pleased   with   the   dream,   for   considering   the   prediction   in   his   mind,   and   shrewdly   and   wisely   guessing   at   its   meaning,   he   rejoiced   at   the   great   things   thereby   signified,   because   it   declared  the  future  happiness  of  his  son;  and  that,  by  the  blessing  of  God,  the  time  would  come   when   he   should   be   honored,   and   thought   worthy   of   worship   by   his   parents   and   brethren.”   (Josephus,  Antiquities  of  the  Jews  n.d.,  2.2.3)  Another  point  should  be  mentioned  here,  and  it  is   related  to  the  perception  of  the  role  of  the  prophet  by  Muhammad,  and  the  people  in  Arabia.   Most   probably   Muhammad   believed   that   it   is   not   appropriate   for   the   prophet   Jacob   not   to   know   that   the   dream   is   true.   (Garsiel   1997,   162)   The   Muslim   writer   Ben-­‐Nabai   supports   this   approach,  for  him  Jacob  is  more  a  prophet  than  a  father,  for  this  reason  he  would  know  that   this   dreams   will   come   to   their   fullfilment.   (Ben-­‐Nabai   2000,   252).   Acctualy,   as   Mir   claim   that   through  reading  thr  story  in  the  Quran:  
 The  reader  immediately  senses  that  the  dream  is  going  to  be  significant,  but  is  left  guessing  as  to   what   it   might   mean   When   Joseph   relates   the   dream   to   his   father,   Jacob   could   be   expected   to   interpret  it,  but  his  immediate  response  is  to  warn  Joseph  to  keep  it  from  his  brothers.  (Mir  1986,   4)  

18 19

 My  translation  from  the  Arabic    Flavius  Josephus,  also  known  as  Yosef  Ben  Matityahu  



 In   the   Biblical   story   Joseph   shares   his   dreams   also   with   his   brothers   Gen.   37:5,   9.   The   brothers   have   an   important   historical   role   in   the   history   of   the   Hebrew   nation,   as   the   fathers   of   the   twelve   tribes   of   Israel.   In   the   Quran   the   national   dimension   is   not   important   and   even   their   names   are   not   mentioned.   (Garsiel   1997,   161-­‐162)   The   Islamic   scholar   simply   claims   that   this   is   wrong  information  “for  the  People  of  the  Book,  Joseph  tells  the  story  to  his  father  and  brothers.   And   they   (the   people   of   the   Book)   are   wrong”   (Ibn-­‐Kathir   1989,   310)   this   approach   we   find   usually  with  Ibn-­‐Kathir,  what  contradicts  the  information  found  in  the  Quran  has  to  be  wrong.  

The  hearted  of  his  brothers  

The  Bible  mentions  more  details  about  the  reason  of  the  hatred  his  brothers  had  towards  him.   We   read   in   v.5   after   Joseph   shared   his   dream   with   them:   “they   hated   him   all   the   more”.   That’s   mean  that  they  already  hated  him,  and  what  he  shared  simply  added  fuel  to  the  fire.  We  can   attribute   this   hatred   to   three   reasons.   First,   since   Jacob   loved   Joseph   more   than   his   other   sons,   “because  he  had  been  born  to  him  in  his  old  age”  (Gen  37:3)  although  this  title  matches  more   for   Benjamin20.   Second,   we   were   told   that   “Joseph   brought   their   father   a   bad   report   about   them”  v.2.  Third,  the  colored  shirt  is  the  visual  sign  for  this  favoritism.  (Dovshani  1976,  558)     Although  the  Quran  does  not  mention  Jacob’s  favoritism  towards  Joseph  over  his  brothers,  and   does   not   mention   the   colored   shirt   “‫   ,”כותנת פסים‬nor   that   Joseph   told   the   dream   to   his   brothers,  nevertheless,  we  find  that  his  brothers  hate  him  and  plan  to  kill  him,  or  at  least  to  get   rid  of  him.  “Truly  Joseph  and  his  brother  are  loved  more  by  our  father  than  we…Slay  ye  Joseph   or  cast  him  out  to  some  (unknown)  land,  that  so  the  favor  of  your  father  may  be  given  to  you   alone:   (there   will   be   time   enough)   for   you   to   be   righteous   after   that.   Said   one   of   them:   Slay   not   Joseph,   but   if   ye   must   do   something,   throw   him   down   to   the   bottom   of   the   well:   he   will   be   picked   up   by   some   caravan   of   travelers."   (Sura   12:   8-­‐10)   Joseph   is   a   prophet,   he   is   righteous,   and   for   this   the   Quran   avoids   presenting   him   as   an   arrogant   person,   nor   as   a   child   that   was   favored   by   his   father,   and   deserve   to   be   hated.   (Garsiel   1997,   162)   Except   the   information   that  

 It  could  be  that  Jacob  see  in  Benjamin  the  reason  for  the  death  of  his  beloved  wife  Rachel.  



Jacob  favored  Joseph,  there  is  no  explanation  in  the  Quran.  But  also  this  favoritism  is  not  seen   as  negative,  and  even  some  tries  to  justify  it  as  we  read:  
The   strating   point   of   the   dramatic   conflict   in   the   story   is   Jacob's   love   for   Joseph,   or,   more   accurately,  the  brothers'  perception  of  this  love.  But  while  the  brothers  think  that  Jacob's  love  for   Joseph  is  senseless  because  it  is  they,  not  Joseph,  who  are  an  cu$ba  ("strong  group"),  the  Quinan   seems   to   indicate   that   Jacob's   partiality   for   Joseph   is   based   on   the   former's   recognition   of   Joseph's   exceptional   talents:   Jacob   already   feels   that,   among   all   of   his   sons,   Joseph   alone   is   qualified  to  carry  on  the  Abrahamic  tradition  after  him,  and  he  is  confirmed  in  his  view  after  he   learns  about  Joseph's  dream.  (Mir  1986,  11)  

  In  Sura  12:11-­‐12,  it  deals  with  the  brother  urging  their  father  to  send  Joseph  with  them.  “They   said:  ‘O  our  father!  why  dost  thou  not  trust  us  with  Joseph,  seeing  we  are  indeed  his  sincere   well-­‐wishers?  Send   him   with   us   tomorrow   to   enjoy   himself   and   play,   and   we   shall   take   every   care   of   him.’”     The   Challenge   his   brothers   had   according   to   the   Quran,   that   their   father   did   not   trust   them,   since   he   knew   their   intentions   towards   Joseph   (11,   12).     Jacob   understood   his   children   very   well,   and   knew   their   feelings   towards   Joseph-­‐-­‐their   enmity   and   envy   they   had   towards  him,  since  he  loved  him  more.  (Ibn-­‐Kathir  1989,  315)  And  the  question  we  would  have,   if  this  is  so,  why  did  Jacob  send  Joseph  with  them?  Al-­‐Dagani  in  her  attempt  to  reconcile  this   issue,  said  that  although  Jacob  felt  that  something  wrong  might  happen,  he  went  on  and  sent   Joseph,  and  this  act  was  not  under  his  control,  it  was  a  divine  wisdom.  (Al-­‐Dagani  1994,  29-­‐30)       This   pressure   and   pleading   from   Joseph’s   brothers   on   Jacob   to   convince   him   to   take   Joseph   with  them  is  not  found  In  the  Biblical  story,  Jacob  sends  Joseph  by  his  choice.  The  worries  of  the   father   are   seen   later   with   sending   Benjamin   to   Egypt,   and   a   similar   dialogue   to   what   we   find   in   the  story  of  Joseph  in  the  Quran,  is  found  in  the  Bible  when  they  ask  to  take  Benjamin  to  Egypt.   (Alon  2004,  158)  Was  the  Quran  mixing  between  the  two  incidents?     In  response  to  what  is  mentioned  in  the  Biblical  text,  that  Jacob  sent  Joesep  to  check  the  safety   of  his  brothers,  Ibn-­‐Kathir  argues  that  this  is  not  possible,  since  Jacob  was  too  worried  to  send   Joseph   with   his   brother,   shoud   not   he   be   more   worried   to   send   him   by   himself?   (Ibn-­‐Kathir   1989,   313)   Thus   again,   Ibn-­‐Kathir   sees   the   story   only   from   the   prospective   of   the   Quran.   Al-­‐ Daggani  even  says  that  Jacob’s  act  in  the  Bible  is  not  reasonable,  since  the  Biblical  story  puts  


the  responsibility  on  Jacob  himself  for  his  son’s  death,  while  the  Quran  release  him  from  this   responsibility  and  shows  us  that  all  what  happened  to  Joseph  is  out  of  his  brothers’  envy  and   previous   evil   planing   as   Al-­‐Dagani   says?   (Al-­‐Dagani   1994,   163)   If   what   Al-­‐Daggani   says   is   true,   is   it  not  true  that  Jacob  has  more  responsibility  to  what  happened  to  Joseph,  especially    because   he  sensed  his  sons  evil  feelings  and  already  had  some  concerns?    

Al-­‐Tabari  (839-­‐923)  in  interpreting  v.  12  mentions  a  few  things  that  might  shed  some  light  on   the   way   the   Islamic   tradition   tried   to   explain   the   information.   First,   he   mentions   that   some   asked,   how   can   it   be   possible   that   Joseph   went   to   play,   is   not   he   a   prophet?   And   it   is   not   appropriate   for   a   prophet   to   play.   The   answer   that   was   given,   he   was   not   a   prophet   at   that   time.  Second,  he  mentions  that  Joseph’s  brother  wanted  to  take  him  to  the  desert  (Dothan  and   Scheme   are   not   desert)   .   (Al-­‐Tabari   1954,   236)   In   both   points   we   can   see   how   the   Islamic   scholar  is  trying  to  contextualize  the  details  of  the  story,  and  make  it  closer  to  the  tribal  culture   at  that  time.  

According  to  the  Bible  the  decision  to  kill  Joseph  or  to  get  rid  of  him,  was  not  planed  ahead  of   time,  it  popped  up  when  his  brothers  saw  him  arriving  in  Dothan  (Gen.  37:17).  From  the  other   side   the   Quran   describe   it   as   a   premeditated   crime,   and   even   they   worked   out   how   to   take   Joseph   with   them.   A   similar   story   is   mentioned   in   the   “Antiquities   of   the   Jews”.   (Josephus,   Antiquities  of  the  Jews  n.d.,  2.2.4).  This  also  fit  the  tribal  culture  at  that  time,  where  brothers   were  involved  in  blood  fights  and  struggles  connected  to  legacies  and  positions.  (Garsiel  1997,   162)   But   the   Bible   still   gives   support   of   this   inner  struggle   in   the   family,   as   we   read   in   the   Bible   that   when   his   brothers   saw   him   coming   they   were   mocking   and   saying:   "Here comes that
dreamer!... Come now, let's kill him and throw him,,, Then we'll see what comes of his dreams." v. 19-20 Surprisingly, selling him was the reason that his dreams became true. (Dovshani 1976, 559)              

14     3.

The  News  about  Joseph’s  Death  

The  Genesis  account  tells  us  that  Jacob’s  reaction  to  the  news  of  Joseph’s  death  was  very  hard:   “and   mourned   for   his   son   many   days…   he   refused   to   be   comforted.”   Gen   34-­‐35,   Contrary   to   the   mourning  and  grief  of  Jacob  in  the  Bible,  in  the  Quran  Jacob  appears  to  have  a  strong  faith  in   God,   hence   he   had   a   different   reaction   “Nay,   but   your   minds   have   made   up   a   tale   (that   may   pass)  with  you  patience  is  most  fitting:  Against  that  which  ye  assert,  it  is  Allah  (alone)  Whose   help   can   be   sought".   (Sura   12:18)   The   Quran   changes   here   Jacobs’s   response,   since   he   believed   that   Joseph’s   dream   is   true.   (Garsiel,   Mahzor   1997,   163)     The   Idea   that   Jacob   did   not   really   believe   that   Joseph   is   dead   is   found   in   more   than   one   Midrash.   BeRashit   Raba   tells   us:   “he   (Jacob)  took  a  pen  and  wrote  down  in  which  day,  hour  and  place”  (Midrash-­‐Raba  1988,  Berashit   94:12)     In   Midrash   Yalkut     we   read   “he   refused   to   be   comforted     since   he   knew   by   the   Holy   Spirit   that   he   is   alive,   and   you   do   not   accept   condolences   for   people   who   are   alive”   (Yalkout   1998,  37:134)     It   is   not   normal   to   responded   to   a   death   of   a   son   in   this   calm   way,   Garsiel   says:   “In   the   Quranic   story  there  is  neither  tension  nor  doubts  we  find  in  Jacob.  The  human,  emotional,  drama  and   tension   are   absent”   (Garsiel   1997,   163)   The   Muslim   scholar   Al-­‐bydawi   (1203-­‐1286)   writes   attempting  to  reconcile  this  challenge:  
 When   Joseph   told   his   father   his   dreams,   the   father   advised   him   not   to   tell   them   to   his   brothers,   out  of  fear  that  they  will  envy  him  and  try  to  kill  him.  So  when  Jacob  heard  the  news  from  his   sons  about  Joseph's  death,  he  suspected  they  killed  him  out  of  jealousy,  and  asked  for  his  shirt,   placed  it  on  his  face  and  said  he  had  never  seen  a  wolf  so  smart  that  could  kill  Joseph  without   tearing  his  shirt.  He  added  that  his  sons’  later  sin  is  a  great  sin,  since  they  are  cheating  him  and   telling   him   that   Joseph   is   dead.   Jacob   accused   them   that   their   hearts   were   lured   them   to   do   something  bad  and  he  would  wait  for  God  to  restore  him.  (Albaydawi  1999,  324)  

    Al-­‐Tabari  tells  us  that  Jacob  wept  and  cried  with  a  loud  voice  asking  for  Joseph’s  Shirt,  and  put   it  on  his  face.  (Al-­‐Tabari  1954)  This  probably  is  not  the  prominent  opinion  among  the  Muslim   scholars.   And   he   continues   to   quote   the   more   accepted   ones   which   I   can   summaries   as   follows:   “Jacob   said:   this   wolf   is   a   merciful   one,   how   could   eat   Joseph   without   making   any   holes   in   the   shirt?   It   saved   the   shirt,   but   not   my   son!   And   he   knew   that   they   were   ling   to   him”   (Al-­‐Tabari  1954,  237)  


4. Selling  Joseph  
The  details  about  selling  Joseph  are  very  short  in  the  Quran,  probably  since  it  does  not  include   any   complements   to   him.   As   we   read   in   the   Biblical   one   “the   cistern   was   empty”   Gen   37:24,   while   we   read   in   the   Quran   “they   sent   their   water-­‐carrier   (for   water),   and   he   let   down   his   bucket”  v.19.  Muhammad  comes  from  a  desert  culture  where  the  well  is  a  sign  for  water  also   here   Muhammad   tells   the   story   in   a   way   that   fits   their   living   situation.   Another   part   of   this   episode  which  I  want  to  bring  the  attention  for  is  the  price  of  Joseph.  While  the  Bible  mentions   that  he  was  sold  for  “Twenty  Shekels  of  silver”  (Gen37:28).  The  Quran  only  mention  “sold  him   for  a  miserable  price,  for  a  few  dirhams”.  Interestingly,  the  Islamic  tradition  when  discussing  the   price  Joseph  was  sold  with;  they  mention  (among  other  numbers)  the  sum  of  twenty  Dirhams,   this   price   which   was   divided   between   the   brothers,   two   for   each.   The   same   number   is   mentioned  also  as  what  Al-­‐Aziz  paid  for  him,  twenty  Dinars.  (Ibn-­‐Kathir  1989,  317-­‐318)  Was  not   this  tradition  influenced  from  what  the  Bible  mentioned?    

5. At  Potiphar’s  House  
Joseph  story  at  Potiphar’s  house  is  a  dramatic  one,  from  his  arrival  until  he  stands  in  front  of   Pharaoh;   his   name   is   mentioned   only   twice.   The   story   of   Joseph   turns   to   be   a   symbolic   one   rather   than   personal.   He   is   described   as   a   person   who   is   struggling   with   his   desires   and   with   God’s   commandments   and   he   is   able   to   resist   his   desires.   (Alon   2004,   159)   While   the   details   about   the   episode   of   selling   Joseph   are   short,   we   find   a   lot   of   details   in   the   episode   of   Potiphar’s  (Al-­‐Aziz)  house.  About  the  seducing  part  we  read:  “But  she  in  whose  house  he  was,   sought  to  seduce  him  from  his  (true)  self:  she  fastened  the  doors,  and  said:  "Now  come,  thou   (dear   one)!"   He   said:   "Allah   forbid!   Truly   (thy   husband)   is   my   lord!   …   And   (with   passion)   did   she   desire  him,  and  he  would  have  desired  her,  but  that  he  saw  the  evidence  of  his  Lord:  thus  (did   We  order)  that  We  might  turn  away  from  him  (all)  evil  and  shameful  deeds:  for  he  was  one  of   Our  servants,  sincere  and  purified.”  (Sura  12:23-­‐24).  



According  to  the  Bible  it  is  very  clear  that  Joseph  refused21  (Gen  39:8)  and  it  is  not  mentioned  at   all  about  desiring  her.  The  word  translated  to  “desired”  is  the  wordّ‫(    ﻩهﻡم‬hamma),  which  carries   the  meaning  of  an  action  that  built  on  certain  desires,  is  the  same  word  used  for  the  woman   and  for  Joseph,  but  when  it  comes  to  interpreting  this  word,  most  later  Islamic  scholars  claim   that   Joseph   had   only   desired   her   in   his   heart   and   did   not   do   anything,   while   she   allowed   her   desires   to   lead   her   for   actions.   (Al-­‐Dagani   1994,   44-­‐45)   “He   is   a   prophet   from   a   prophet’s   dynasty,   and   God   prevented   him   from   committing   adultery”   (Ibn-­‐Kathir   1989,   320)   Al-­‐Tabari   disagrees  with  this  and  on  interpreting  this  word  he  said:  
She  desired  him  and  he  desired  her,  and  went  inside  and  closed  the  doors,  and  as  he  was  taking   his   cloth   of,   he   saw   the   image   of   his   father   Jacob   standing   in   the   house.   He  beheld   his   figure   and   said:   Joseph  does   not   lay   down   with   her,   if   you   do   not   do   that,   you’ll   be   like   a   bird   in   the   sky,   no   one  can  get  it,  but  if  you  did  lay  with  her,  you’ll  be  like  the  dead  bird  that  cannot  protect  himself.   Joseph  then  put  on  his  cloth  and  went  away,  but  she  followed  him  and  tore  his  robe  (Al-­‐Tabari   1954,  238)  


What  we  read  in  the  Quran  and  some  of  the  commentaries  concerning  such  desires,  can  also  be   found  in  an  Midrashic  interpretation  that  commenting  on  “to  attend  to  his  duties”  Gen  39:11   “to   attend   to   his   duties   –   Rav   Shmuel   said:   is   simply   to   do   his   work.   Other   said:   to   do   his   needs   with   her,   but   he   saw   his   father’s   image   from   the   window   saying   to   him:   the   names   of   your   brothers  will  be  written  on  the  stones  of  the  vests,  and  your  name  will  be  erased  from  there   and  you  will  be  called  shepherd  of  prostitutes”  (Massecht-­‐Suta  n.d.,  36:2).  So  we  can  see  that   the  Quran  presents  Joseph’s  position  concerning  the  relation  with  the  wife  of  his  master,  not  as   a  very  firm  position,  in  comparison  to  what    we  read  in  the  Bible,  add  to  that  the  similarity  we   find  in  the  Quran  with  this  part  from  the  Talmudic  story.  
                                                                                                                            21  Before  Joseph’s  story  continues  in  the  Bible,  the  narrator  bring  the  story  of  Jude  who  slept  with  the  widow  of  his  
son,  without  criticizing  what  Jude  did,  and  teaching  the  appropriate  religious  lessons  out  of  it.  In  this  case  the   request  of  Potiphar’s  wife  to  have  sex  with  Joseph  should  not  be  seen  so  badly,  in  relation  to  what  happened  with   his  brother.  In  this  case  the  story  of  Jude  had  missed  a  basic  religious  principle,  and  that  is  forbidding  adultery.  But   since  all  the  heavenly  books  forbid  this,  this  chapter  Gen  38  is  evidence  that  the  Bible  was  twisted  and  strange   teaching  has  been  insert  to  it  by  men.  (Al-­‐Dagani  1994,  165).  Although  this  takes  us  away  from  the  story,  but  this   would  be  classical  example  of  a  Muslim  approach  toward  “holy  books”,  where  is  the  tendency  is  not  to  mention,   sins  done  by  prophets,  or  people  related  to  them,  while  we  find  the  Bible  mentions  those  sins,  even  for  great   Biblical  characters  such  like  Abraham,  David  …    



The  story  continues  in  the  Quran  as  follows:    
So   they   both   raced   each   other   to   the   door,   and   she   tore   his   shirt   from   the   back:   they   both   found   her   lord   near  the  door.  She  said:  ‘What  is  the  (fitting)  punishment  for  one  who  formed  an  evil  design  against  thy   wife,   but   prison   or   a   grievous   chastisement?’   He   said:   ‘It   was   she   that   sought   to   seduce   me   -­‐   from   my   (true)   self.’   And   one   of   her   household   saw   (this)   and   bore   witness,   (thus):-­‐   ‘If   it   be   that   his   shirt   is   rent   from  the  front,  then  is  her  tale  true,  and  he  is  a  liar!  But  if  it  be  that  his  shirt  is  torn  from  the  back,  and   then  she  is  the  liar,  and  he  is  telling  the  truth!’  So  when  he  saw  his  shirt,  -­‐  that  it  was  torn  at  the  back,  -­‐   (her  husband)  said:  ‘Behold!  It  is  a  snare  of  you  women!  Truly,  mighty  is  your  snare!  O  Joseph,  pass  this   over!  (O  wife),  ask  forgiveness  for  thy  sin,  for  truly  thou  hast  been  at  fault!’  (Sura  12:25-­‐29)  

  This   description   is   different   from   what   we   find   in   the   Bible,   there   we   do   not   read   about   tearing   his   robe   but   only   that   she   hold   him   from   his   robe,   and   he   left   the   robe   and   run   away.     (Gen   39:12).  The  Bible  tells  that  Potiphar’s  wife  told  the  story  for  the  people  in  the  house  first,  later   when  her  husband  came  she  told  him  the  story,  and  Joseph  was  thrown  into  prison  out  of  that.   The  proof  of  his  crime  was  his  robe.  Interestingly, Every time the robe is taking off him, he finds himself in trouble. And in a way or another, the robe is used as an evidence, first for his death, and here for his crime. While in the parallel episodes in the Quran, the one matches the Biblical one, the second episode, different in the details and the consequences.   A  remarkable  issue  mentioned  in  the  Islamic  tradition  concerning  the  request  of  the  husband.   First,  Joseph  was  asked  to  keep  quiet  about  what  happened,  this  is  an  appropriate  thing  to  do,   and  this  what  those  who  are  listening.  From  the  Arabs,  would  be  expecting  to  happen,  so  the   man  will  not  be  in  shame.  Second,  he  asks  his  wife  to  ask  forgiveness  from  God.  Although  the   Egyptians   worshiped   the   idols,   but   they   knew   that   the   one   who   forgive   sins   is   God   and   not   anyone  else.  (Ibn-­‐Kathir  1989,  322)  While  the  request  to  Joseph  is  a  logical  one,  regardless  we   relate   it   to   the   Arabic   tradition   or   not,   the   other   interpretation   by   Ibn-­‐Kathir   might   be   surprising,  and  look  like  an  attempt  to  bring  God  to  the  scene  for  certain  purpose.  



In   the   Quran,   a   family   member22   is   interfering   and   convincing   the   husband   of   Joseph’s   innocence.   Although   it   was   proved   that   Joseph   was   telling   the   truth,   he   still   was   sent   to   prison.   Do  not  we  have  here  a  lack  of  logic?  If  Joseph  did  not  have  sex  with  Photiphar’s  wife,  why  is  he   punished?  The  continuation  of  the  Quran  story  tries  to  reconcile  this  issue:    
Ladies   said   in   the   City:   "The   wife   of   the   (great)   'Aziz   is   seeking   to   seduce   her   slave   from   his   (true)   self:  Truly  hath  he  inspired  her  with  violent  love:  we  see  she  is  evidently  going  astray."  When  she   heard   of   their   malicious   talk,   she   sent   for   them   and   prepared   a   banquet   for   them:   she   gave   each   of  them  a  knife:  and  she  said  (to  Joseph),  "Come  out  before  them."  When  they  saw  him,  they  did   extol  him,  and  (in  their  amazement)  cut  their  hands:  they  said,  "Allah  preserves  us!  no  mortal  is   this!   this   is   none   other   than   a   noble   angel!"  She   said:   "There   before   you   is   the   man   about   whom   ye   did   blame   me!   I   did   seek   to   seduce   him   from   his   (true)   self   but   he   did   firmly   save   himself   guiltless!  and  now,  if  he  doth  not  my  bidding,  he  shall  certainly  be  cast  into  prison,  and  (what  is   more)  be  of  the  company  of  the  vilest!  Sura  12:30-­‐32  

  Joseph  was  not  sent  to  jail  immediately  after  the  embarrassing  incident,  actually  this  happened   only  after  a  special  gathering  Potiphar’s  wife  had  for  the  respected  women,  as  we  read  in  the   Quran,  this  story  was  not  mentioned  in  the  Bible,  but  certainly  it  was  mentioned  in  the  Midrash   where  we  read:  
Once  the  Egyptian  women  gathered,  and  came  to  see  the  beauty  of  Joseph;  what  did  Potiphar's   wife  do?  She  took  citrons  and  gave  each  one,  and  gave  a  knife  to  each  one  of  them,  and  called   Joseph   to   stand   in   front   of   them.   Because   they   were   watching   the   beauty   of   Joseph,   they   cut   their  hands.  Then  she  said  to  them:  “You’ve  cut  your  hands  while  you  were  looking  at  him  only   for  short  time,  what  about  me  that  I  see  him  all  the  time?”  (Midrash-­‐Tanhouma  1945,  Parashat   Vayesev  2  )        

Ai-­‐Tabari   tells   that   the   woman   concluded   the   banquet   saying   to   those   women   who   cut   their   hands:   this   happened   to   you,   from   one   glance   you   had   at   him   you   lost   your   minds   and   understanding,   to   the   extent   you   cut   your   hands.   This   is   the   one   that   touched   my   heart,   and   caused   you   to   speak   about   me.   (Al-­‐Tabari   1954,   239)   He   is   also   using   here   the   same   idea   we   find  in  the  Midrash.    

 Al-­‐Tabari  brings  the  possibility  that  the  robe  itself  was  the  witness  against  his  wife.  (Al-­‐Tabari  1954)  



The   similarity   between   the   story   in   the   Quran   and   the   Midrash   is   striking,   and   the   story   is   almost  the  same,  with  one  little  omission  from  the  Quran’s  version.  The  Midrash  story  tells  us   that   Potiphar's   wife   gave   Citrons   ‫אתרוג‬for   each   one   of   the   women,   this   fruit   is   known   in   Egypt   and  Canaan  at  that  time.  This  might  indicate  that  the  source  of  this  story  is  Jewish,  since  there   are   no   citrons   in   Arabia.   The   Quran   however,   does   not   mention   why   the   women   were   given   knives,  which  is  for  cutting  and  eating  the  citrons.  This  fruit  is  not  known  to  the  people,  and  it  is   better  probably  not  to  mention  it.  Nevertheless,  Al-­‐Tabari,  mention  that  the  knives  were  given   to  the  women,  in  order  that  they  cut  citrons,   ‫(  גאתרו     ﺍاﻝلﺍاﺙثﺭرﺝج‬Al-­‐Tabari  1954,  239).  This  might   suggest  the  Quran  used  a  Midrashic  story  but  he  shortened  it  by  taking  out  some  information,   in  order  those  who  are  listening  could  understand  it.  (Garsiel  2010)     The  invitation  of  Potiphar’s  wife  to  the  women  was  mainly  to  use  their  reaction  as  an  excuse,   and   to   justify   her   desires.   He   is   in   front   of   you;   let   me   know   what   you   will   do.   (Abdel-­‐Rahmaan   2000)   Some   even   hint   that   these   women   also   desired   Joseph,   but   he   also   overcame   their   temptation:   “Having   failed   to   win   Joseph's   attention,   the   Egyptian   ladies   sheepishly   try   to   explain  their  failure  by  saying  that  it  was  an  angel  they  were  dealing  with.”  (Mir  1986,  3)  This   simply   changed   these   women’s   prospective   and   this   meeting   that   turns   the   accusers   to   excusers.  (Kalaf-­‐Allah  1999,  337)       Verse   30   in   the   Quran   carries   the   meaning   that   the   woman   continued   with   her   attempts   to   seduce   Joseph,   despite   what   happened   in   the   first   time.   (Al-­‐Dagani   1994,   55)   Apparently   this   was   not   a   onetime   mistake   or   a   passing   desire,   she   did   not   repent   as   he   husband   commanded,   rather   she   continued   with   her   attempts   to   seduce   Joseph   and   the   rumors   about   this   went   around  and  the  story  became  known.  Since  the  women  in  town  started  to  speak  about  his  wife,   that  she  is  in  love  with  a  slave,  and  this  even  more  humiliating,  since  the  slave  is  no  one  and  not   at   all   from   her   status,   he   had   to   protect   his   honor   and   name,   as   the   tradition   in   the   Arab   culture,  for  this  reason  he  threw  Joseph  into  prison.  (Garsiel  1997,  164)      



Muhammad   went   after   the   previous   Medrashic   story,   especially   it   fits   the   opinion   about   women  in  Arabia,  where  women  were  often  considered  to  be  manipulative,  trouble  makers  and   involved   in   conspiracies.   For   this   reason   they   should   not   be   trusted,   and   it   is   the   job   of   their   husband  should  protect  them  and  remove  any  stranger  around  them.  (Garsiel  1997,  164)     Verse   35   “Then   it   occurred   to   the   men,   after   they   had   seen   the   signs,   (that   it   was   best)   to   imprison  him  for  a  time.”  This  confirms  that  Potiphar  knew  that  Joseph  was  innocent,  through   the   evidence   of   the   shirt,   and   the   way   the   women   were   impressed   by   Joseph’s   beauty,   and   the   confession  of  his  wife  in  front  of  them  about  her  attempts  and  Joseph  refusal.    But  still  he  had   to  take  an  action.  The  whole  story,  probably,  caused  him  a  great  embarrassment,  especially  he   is  a  known  person  with  a  high  position,  and  for  that  he  should  do  something,  and  the  weak  link   is  Joseph,  so  he  put  him  in  jail.  (Al-­‐Dagani  1994,  62)23     Al  Tabari  tried  to  explain  why  Joseph  was  sent  to  prison  although  he  was  innocent.  The  reason   he  gives,  Joseph  beauty  and  his  impressive  outside  appearance  caused  for  a  culture  disorder,   and   he   was   a   source   of   a   sexual   attraction   and   caused   chaos.   And   to   keep   the   order   in   the   community  he  had  to  go  to  jail  (Al-­‐Tabari  1954).  Actually,  the  direct  explanation  of  the  Quran   about  the  reason  for  Joseph  to  be  in  prison  was  God’s  answer  to  Joseph’s  request  and  prayer  to   go  to  prison.  Al-­‐Dagani  thinks  that  Joseph  desire  indicates  the  great  wisdom  he  has,  since  it  was   the  only  way  to  get  away  from  the  sexual  harassment  of  this  woman.  (Al-­‐Dagani  1994,  60)  Al-­‐ Tabari   also   supports   this   interpretation:   “This   prayer   of   Joseph   shows   that   Potiphar’s   wife   continued  with  her  attempts  to  seduce  him,  and  treating  him  by  sending  him  to  the  prison  if  he   would   submit   to   her   request   and   lay   down   with   her,   for   this   Joseph   chose   the   prison   rather   than  do  what  she  is  asking  for.  If  she  had  not  chased  him,  he  would  not  pray  this  prayer.”  (Al-­‐ Tabari   1954,   239)   So   Joseph   is   not   in   prison   because   of   any   other   reason   except   his   righteousness  and  above  all  God’s  will.    


 See  also  (Ibn-­‐Kathir  1989,  328)  



The  length  of  this  part  of  the  story  in  the  Quran  is  to  say  that  this  was  not  only  a  scandal  at  the   house   of   Potiphar,   it   is   not   only   that   specific   woman   who   desired   Joseph,   and   all   the   respected   Egyptian  women  took  part  in  it.  (Garsiel  1997,  164)  But  also  as  a  prophet,  Joseph  should  appear   innocent,  for  this  reason,  while  the  Quran  is  giving  few  details  about  many  parts  of  the  Biblical   story   of   Joseph;   we   find   the   part   about   Photephar’s   wife   and   her   attempts   to   seduce   him   is   given   a   lot   of   details   with   emphases   on   Joseph   purity,   with   the   help   of   God   (Bar-­‐Efrat   1999,   130).  

6. In  The  Prison  
In   the   prison,   we   read   in   the   Bible   that   Joseph   approached   the   baker   and   the   cupbearer:   "Why   are  your  faces  so  sad  today?"  While  we  read  in  the  Quran  that  they  approached  him:    
Now  with  him  there  came  into  the  prison  two  young  men.  Said  one  of  them:  "I  see  myself  (in  a   dream)  pressing  wine."  said  the  other:  "I  see  myself  (in  a  dream)  carrying  bread  on  my  head,  and   birds  are  eating,  thereof."  "Tell  us"  (they  said)  "The  truth  and  meaning  thereof:  for  we  see  thou   art  one  that  doth  well  (to  all).  He  said:  "Before  any  food  comes  (in  due  course)  to  feed  either  of   you,  I  will  surely  reveal  to  you  the  truth  and  meaning  of  this  ere  it  befall  you:  that  is  part  of  the   (duty)   which   my   Lord   hath   taught   me.   I   have   (I   assure   you)   abandoned   the   ways   of   a   people   that   believe   not   in   Allah   and   that   (even)   deny   the   Hereafter.  And   I   follow   the   ways   of   my   fathers,-­‐   Abraham,   Isaac,   and   Jacob;   and   never   could   we   attribute   any   partners   whatever   to   Allah:   that   (comes)  of  the  grace  of  Allah  to  us  and  to  mankind:  yet  most  men  are  not  grateful.  (Sura  12:36-­‐ 38)  


The  difference  in  the  Quran,  that  they  approached  him  to  solve  their  dreams,  this  change  in  the   information  came  probably  to  impress  the  reader  and  highlight  Joseph  as  a  righteous  person,  to   the  extent  that  everyone  who  was  around  him  noticed  that.  (Garsiel  1997,  164)  Al-­‐Tabari  would   support  this  when  he  writes:    
It   was   mentioned   that   when   Joseph   went   into   prison,   two   of   his   fellow   prisoners   gave   him   complements  and  said  that    they  like  him,  Joseph  said  please  do  not  like  me  because  every  time   someone   liked   me   I   suffered.   But   they   refused   but   to   appreciate   him,   from   the   wisdom   and   understanding,   and   since   they   saw   a   vision   when   they   entered   the   prison,   they   asked   him   to   interpret  because  he  is  a  virtuous  man  (Al-­‐Tabari  1954,  239).  

In   the   bible   Joseph   complained   that   he   was   in   prison   although   he   is   innocent,   while   in   the   Quran   he   complains   that   he   is   with   people   who   do   not   believe   in   God,   and   that   he   came   to   believe   in   the   one   God.   The   Quran   is   inserting   a   theological   element   to   the   story,   this   might   be  


connected  to  Muhammad’s  attempts  to  lead  the  people  of  Mecca  to  this  faith.  (Garsiel  1997,   164)  Joseph  in  the  Quran  speaks  in  a  highly  spiritual  language,  wheather  with  the  prisoners  or   with  the  prison  officer,  he  speaks  as  a  prophet  fullfiling  his  call  to  every  one,  so  that  they  might   repent   and   follow   God.   (Ben-­‐Nabai   2000,   252):   “If   not   Him,   ye   worship   nothing   but   names   which  ye  have  named,-­‐  ye  and  your  fathers,-­‐  for  which  Allah  hath  sent  down  no  authority:  the   command  is  for  none  but  Allah:  He  hath  commanded  that  ye  worship  none  but  Him:  that  is  the   right   religion,   but   most   men   understand   not...  “(12:40).   Things   that   you   are   worshiping   away   from  God,  it  is  only  things  that  you  gave  names,  worshiping  the  one  God  are  the  right  religion,   not  the  idols  that  they  made  to  themselves.  Is  not  this  a  direct  word  to  Muhammad’s  enemies   in  Mecca,  those  who  are  rejecting  his  message  and  still  worshiping  the  idols?  

One  difference  concerning  the  request  of  Joseph  from  the  cupbearer  to  mention  him  in  front  of   Pharaoh,   according   to   the   Bible,   “The   chief   cupbearer,   however,   did   not   remember   Joseph”   Gen   40:23.   The   Quran   tells   us:   “And   of   the   two,   to   that   one   whom   he   considers   about   to   be   saved,  he  said:  ‘Mention  me  to  thy  lord.’  But  Satan  made  him  forget  to  mention  him  to  his  lord:   and  (Joseph)  lingered  in  prison  a  few  (more)  years.”  (Sura  12:42)  

The   translation   of   verse   42   is   following   the   interpretation24   more   than   passing   the   exact   meaning.  What  is  written  in  the  Quran:  “Satan  made  him  forget  his  lord”,  it  is  coming  directly   after   Joseph’s   request   to   get   help   from   a   man,   and   not   from   God.   This   is   the   only   time   the   Quran   is   speaking   in   a   negative   way   about   Joseph,   but   this   criticism   is   not   directed   to   him   directly  but  towards  Satan,  the  one  who  caused  him  to  forget  his  God.  This  also  is  mentioned  in   Midrash   Shemot   Raba.   We   read   there   that   “Joseph   had   to   stay   in   prison   only   for   ten   years,   but   since  he  spoke  badly  about  his  brothers,  and  for  depending  on  the  cupbearer  to  remember  him   another   two   years   were   added.”   (Midrash-­‐Raba   1988,   Shemot   8:1)   The   Quran   used   only   the   second  part  of  the  Midrash  that  Joseph  sinned  by  depending  on  man  and  not  on  God.  Dropping   the  first  part,  probably  because  the  Quran  is  not  interested  in  Joseph’s  brothers,  and  another  


 That  made  the  cupbearer  forget  to  mention  Joseph  in  front  of  Pharaoh  See  (Ibn-­‐Kathir  1989,  328)  



possible   reason   would   be,   that   he   does   not   want   to   speak   about   Joseph   mistakes   or   sins.   Something  is  not  approproiate  for  the  image  of  a  prophet  (Garsiel  1997,  165)     Al-­‐Tabari  mentions  something  similar  to  the  Midrash  story,  when  he  comments  on  this  verse  he   says:   “God   is   announcing   that   while   Joseph   was   unaware   he   was   exposed   to   Satan,   and   this   caused   him   to   forget   to   mention   his   Lord.   If   he   did   not   have   this   mistake,   God   would   allow   him   to   get   earlier   from   prison,   but   since   he   did   it   God   extended   his   time   there…   may   God   have   mercy   on   Joseph,   if   he   would   not   say   this,   his   time   in   prison   would   be   less”.   (Al-­‐Tabari   1954,   240)  

Also   mentioned   in   the   Quran   is   that   when   the   king   orders   to   bring   Joseph   to   him,   Joseph   refused   to   come,   and   asks   first   that   the   wife   of   Potiphar   admit   that   he   did   not   try   to   seduce   him:    
So  the  king  said:  "Bring  ye  him  unto  me."  But  when  the  messenger  came  to  him,  (Joseph)  said:  "Go  thou   back  to  thy  lord,  and  ask  him,  ‘What  is  the  state  of  mind  of  the  ladies  who  cut  their  hands?’  For  my  Lord  is   certainly  well  aware  of  their  snare."  (The  king)  said  (to  the  ladies):  "What  was  your  affair  when  ye  did  seek   to  seduce  Joseph  from  his  (true)  self?"  The  ladies  said:  "Allah  preserves  us!  no  evil  know  we  against  him!"   Said   the   'Aziz's   wife:   "Now   is   the   truth   manifest   (to   all):   it   was   I   who   sought   to  seduce   him   from   his   (true)   self:  He  is  indeed  of  those  who  are  (ever)  true  (and  virtuous).  (Sura  12:50-­‐51)  


This   part   makes   the   story   sound   untrue,   and   takes   away   its   inner   logic.   For,   it   is   not   reasonable   that   a   prisoner   refuses   to   come   in   front   of   the   king.   The   purpose   of   the   Quran   again   is   to   highlight   Joseph’s   righteousness.   (Shtaouber   1994,   118)   This   confession   of   the   wife   is   also   based   on   the   teaching   of   the   Gemra   (Avoda-­‐Zara   n.d.,   3:81)   “Then   comes   Potiphar’s   wife   to   testify  that  Joseph  is  not  guilty  with  the  crime  that  was  related  to  him”.    

After  interpreting  the  dream  of  Pharaoh,  Joseph  in  the  Bible  advised  him:  “And  now  let  Pharaoh   look  for  a  discerning  and  wise  man  and  put  him  in  charge  of  the  land  of  Egypt”  Gen  41:33,  while   in   the   Quran   he   advices   him:   (Joseph)   said:   "Set   me   over   the   store-­‐houses   of   the   land:   I   will   indeed  guard  them,  as  one  that  knows  (their  importance)"  Sura  12:55.  As  we  see,  Joseph  in  the   Quran  does  offer  himself  for  the  position,  Joseph’s  way  of  speaking  is  not  perceived  as  boasting  


in   the   Arab   culture,   on   the   contrary,   self-­‐boasting   regarding   smart   or   heroic   acts,   characteristic   of  this  culture,  and  is  not  perceived  as  something  bad.  (Garsiel  1997,  165)  

 The   Quran   tells   very   little   about   Joseph   acts   as   a   minister,   and   does   not   describe   how   did   Joseph   saved   Egypt   from   starvation,   probably   since   this   does   not   have   any   moral   teaching   in   it,   and  he  moves  directly  to  Joseph’s  meeting  with  his  brothers.  In  contrast  the  Bible  gives  many   details  of  what  happened  before  Joseph  meets  his  brothers.  (Garsiel  1997,  165)   Summary   Although  the  Quran  in  the  wider  since  presents  to  us  a  similar  story  to  the  Biblical  one,  starting   from   Joseph’s   dream,   until   all   the   family   goes   down   to   Egypt.   Nevertheless,   the   story   has   missing   links   and   obscure   points.   All   of   these   challenges   were   reconciled   and   completed   by   Muslim   commentators,   using   some   of   their   imagination,   but   also   using   the   Midrash   (Shtaouber   1994,  118).  Not  only  commentators,  but  also  the  story  itself  uses  external  information,  whether   from  the  Midrash  or  other  ancient  writings.  This  testify  that  the  Jews  and  the  Christians,  during   the   time   of   Muhammad,   loved   to   share   the   story   of   the   Bible,   with   all   the   addition   that   was   added   to   it   either   from   Jewish   or   Christians   sources   (Zaoui   1982,   114).   Furthermore,   besides   using  the  resources  of  available  information  concerning  the  Biblical  stories,  I  believe  that  there   is  more  involved  in  the  way  Muhammad  uses  these  sources.  There  are  specific  motives  behind   the  way  the  Biblical  images  are  presented  in  the  Quran  in  general,  and  the  way  in  which  Joseph   is   presented   in   particular.   In   the   next   chapter   we   will   attempt   to   identify   and   analyze   these   objectives,  and  demonstrate  how  the  account  affects  the  Quranic  picture.    


Joseph  in  Jewish  and  Muslim  Traditions  
Having  compared  the  narrative  of  Joseph  in  the  Bible  and  the  Quran,  we  will  now  step  back  and  attempt   to  establish  Joseph  within  a  larger  context.    Our  question  is:  “What  role  does  the  Joseph  story  play  in  the   Torah  and  Hebrew  Bible  and  what  role  does  this  narrative  play  in  the  Quran  and  Islamic  understanding   generally.”  In  order  to  do  this  we  will  examine  this  story,  the  purpose,  its  historical  setting,  the  role  of   Joseph  as  a  prophet  and  finally  the  theology  underpinning  each  of  these.  

  1. The  reason  of  this  story     At   the   beginning   of   every   Quranic   chapter,   we   read   about   the   place   where   that   chapter   was   revealed   to   Mohammad.   The   Joseph   story   was   revealed   to   Muhammad   in   Mecca,   before   his   immigration  to  Medina.  In  this  place  there  was  great  objection  and  resistance  to  his  message.   For  such  reason  this  story  came  to  speak  in  an  indirect  way  about  this  situation,  and  the  way   God  will  overcome  all  those  who  oppose  his  prophets  (Rivlin  n.d.).  The  opening  of  this  story  is   different  to  the  other  stories  of  the  prophet;  we  do  not  find  warning  and  punishment,  rather   we  find  a  lecturing  style  as  they  relate  to  the  incidents  of  the  stories  as  they  happened  (ibid).   Hillmer  also  writes  something  similar:  
The Quran is mostly homiletical, admonishing against idolatry, encouraging the worship of Allah, and inveighing against those who do not accept Muhammad’s preaching. Such paraenetic expansions appear only rarely in the Joseph story. Only at the end of the sura is the Qur’an more expansive, including ten verses of exhortation (Hillmer 1994, 198).

  In   the   earlier   Quranic   chapters   (those   which   were   revealed   earlier),   we   do   not   find   many   Biblical  stories  quoted  in  the  Quran.  But  after  the  continuous  rejection  of  Muhammad  by  the   people   in   Mecca,   the   stories   of   the   earlier   prophets   started   to   appear   in   the   Quran.   These   prophets  faced  rejection  from  their  own  people,  and  by  showing  how  God  vindicated  them  and   punished  those  who  refused  their  message,  Muhammad  was  declaring  a  message  to  his  people.   (Shiphman  1995,  40)    The  prophet  of  Islam  intended  to  speak  to  them  in  a  narrative  style,  where  they  could  draw  a   lesson   from   that   story.   In   the   Joseph   story   God   is   telling   Muhammad   “the   most   beautiful   stories”   (Sura   12:3).   Since   the   people   of   Mecca   resisted   his   call,   Muhammad   in   this   story   is   trying  to  bring  to  the  attention  of  his  listeners  that  he  has  the  character  of  a  prophet:  “Such  is  


one   of   the   stories   of   what   happened   unseen,   which   We   reveal   by   inspiration   unto   thee;   nor   wast  thou  (present)  with  them  then  when  they  concerted  their  plans  together  in  the  process  of   weaving  their  plots”  (Sura  12:103).    Although  he  is  neither  in  the  place  nor  at  the  time  of  the   story,  still  he  knew  what  happened.    This  is  an  indication  that  all  the  information  is  divine  and   consequently  his  message  is  a  heavenly  one  too  (Rivlin  n.d.)    This  revelation  he  received  from   God   is   a   warning   message   to   his   people,   and   to   show   the   ways   God   controls   the   world.   The   story  portrays  how  God  would  get  the  “good”  out  from  the  “bad”  (ibid).   From   the   words   Muhammad   uses,   we   can   sense   the   serious   objection   and   resistance   to   his   message.   Because   of   this   resistance   the   Quranic   text   uses   all   its   weapons   to   defend   the   message   of   the   new   religion   (Abdel-­‐Rahmaan   2000).     On   closer   examination   of   Joseph’s   words,   we  find  out  that  he  became  a  Muslim:  “Take  Thou  my  soul  (at  death)  as  one  submitting  to  Thy   will   (as   a   Muslim),   and   unite   me   with   the   righteous”   (V.   101)   Joseph   is   a   Muslim,   who   worships   only  the  one  God:  “And  Glory  to  Allah!  And  never  will  I  join  gods  with  Allah”  v.108  and  when  he   says:  “Nor  did  We  send  before  thee  (as  messengers)  any  but  men,  whom  we  did  inspire,-­‐  (men)   live  in  human  habitations.”  v.109   Joseph  is  saying  that  he  is  a  Muslim,  a  monotheist;  He  is  not   like   those   who   worship   idols.   What   a   double   aged   sword   is   used   here   by   Muhammad,   these   words   relate,   of   course,   to   Joseph’s   situation,   as   much   as   it   would   be   very   relevant   to   Muhammad  as  a  one  who  worships  one  God  while  his  people  are  worshiping  idols.  Muhammad   is  saying  that  prophets  were  not  angels  or  spirits,  but  men  like  Joseph  (and  in  an  indirect  way,   he   includes   himself).     They   face   injustice   and   persecution   but   they   persevere   with   their   message   until   God   gives   them   the   victory.   By   using   Joseph’s   story,   Muhammad   is   simply   calling   the  idol  worshippers   to   believe,  especially   those   in   Mecca,   to  believe   in   him  and   in   his   message   (ibid).   This   approach   is   repeated   more   in   this   Sura.     In   prison   we   find   Joseph   gathering   everyone   around   him,   in   order   to   bring   them   to   the   right   way   through   his   message.   And   if   so,   there   is   no   better  way  to  start  than  to  call  them  to  worship  God  and  only  God  (Al-­‐Dagani  1994,  76).    We   find  some  similarity  between  these  words  and  the  situation  Mohammad  was  in,  when  he  wrote   this  story.  As  Joseph  was  among  idols  worshipers,  we  find  Muhammad  in  the  same  situation.   We   may   assume   that   the   reason   Muhammad   wrote   this   story   was   that   he   was   in   a   difficult   position.     His   message   and   call   were   rejected   by   his   own   people,   the   people   of   Mecca,   and   through  this  account  he  was  comforting  himself  and  his  followers  and  declaring  God’s  victory   upon  his  enemies:  


 Thus   did   some   later   Quran   commentators,   presumably   those   concerned   to   explain   how   certain  

revelations  expressed  God's  relationship  with  Muhammad,  identify  the  Joseph  story  as  something   God  told  Muhammad  to  cheer  and  entertain  him  during  a  bad  period  in  his  career,  full  as  the  story   is  of  sex  and  intrigue  as  well  as  triumph  for  the  friends  of  God.  (Waldman  1985,  4)  

Finally,  we  find  in  the  last  few  verses  (S.  12:101  ff.):  “We  are  reminded  by  allusion  that  a  salient   feature  in  the  lives  of  all  Messengers  (especially  Muhammad)  was  also  exemplified  in  Joseph.     Messengers   who   are   clearly   telling   the   truth,   even   according   to   some   witnesses,   can   still   suffer   from  being  given  the  lie  by  the  ignorant”  (Waldman  1985,  12-­‐13).   All  the  aforementioned  is  absent  from  the  Biblical  story.  The  narrator  is  not  writing  to  a  specific   group  or  a  problem,  he  is,  rather,  writing  about  God’s  work  through  history  to  save  his  people   and  to  bring  forward  his  plans.     2. Role  of  Joseph  in  both  stories   One   of   the   main   differences   between   the   Biblical   story   of   Joseph   and   the   Quranic   one   is   the   perception  of  Joseph.  In  the  Bible  Joseph  is  portrayed  as  one  of  those  who  played  an  important   role  in  the  history  of  the  Israeli  nation25,  whereas  in  the  Quran  we  find  him  playing  the  role  of  a   prophet.   This   approach   towards   Joseph,   whether   from   the   bible,   or   from   the   Quran,   has   its   fingerprints  on  the  whole  plot.    Therefore,  we  will  look  more  closely  at  the  Image  of  Joseph  in   both  books.   As   already   mentioned,   Joseph   is   considered   as   a   prophet   in   the   Muslim   faith.   Prophets   have   certain  requirements.    Waldman  lists  the  characteristics  of  a  prophet  as  perceived  by  Muslims.     He  proposes  firstly,  that  the  prophet  is  an  individual  who  belongs  to  a  wider  group  of  prophets.   He   has   his   personality,   but   he   is   similar   to   the   rest   with   respect   to   the   message   he   carries   (Waldman   1985,   9).     “In   the   Muslim   salvation-­‐history   we   have   basically   a   repeated   refrain,   purifying  and  reiterating  the  same  imān  (faith)  and  ḍīn  (religion)  from  prophet  to  prophet  until   the   last   one”   (Neely   2010).     Secondly,   a   prophet   is   a   person   who   is   called   by   God.     He   does   not   seek  this  position  and  his  righteousness  and  qualities  would  justify  his  position  (Waldman  1985,  
 Longman  III  indicates  that  Joseph  is  not  mentioned  as  one  of  the  patriarch  of  the  Jewish  nation,  in  later  books  of   the  Bible  it  is  referred  to  the  “God  of  Abraham  Isaac  and  Jacob”,  but  not  of  Joseph  (Longman-­‐III  2005,  149).    



9).   Thirdly,   their   message   elicits   a   response   from   people.     On   the   one   hand   we   find   people   who   would  believe  in  their  messages  and  obey  and  follow  them  and  their  teaching,  and  on  the  other   hand,   we   find   rejection   and   opposition   to   them   and   their   message.     This   rejection   can   take   physical   shape,   which   might   threaten   the   life   of   the   prophet.   These   people   are   called   by   the   Quran,  Al  Kafirun  (blasphemers),  idol  worshippers  who  do  not  believe  in  the  one  God  (ibid,  9).   Fourthly,  their  role  is  to  teach  the  believers  God’s  ways  and  laws,  and  to  warn  Al  Moshrekun,   the  idols  worshippers  to  turn  away  from  God’s  judgment.  (ibid,  10).  And  finally,  people  should   obey   the   prophets,   the   same   as   they   obey   God,   since   they   are   his   messengers   (ibid,   10).   For   example  we  read  in  v.15:  “We  put  into  his  heart  (this  message):  Of  a  surety  thou  shalt  (one  day)   tell  them  the  truth  of  this  their  affair  while  they  know  (thee)  not.”  God  has  put  in  his  Joseph)   heart,   or   revealed   to   him.   These   words   are   the   same   used   with   the   prophets   in   the   Quran   where  God  direct  His  revelation.  And  by  this  the  Quran  is  bringing  the  attention  of  the  reader  to   the   position   of   Joseph   as   a   prophet   comparable   to   the   other   prophets   (Alon   2004,   157).   The   Biblical   story   does   not   mention   any   other   activity   of   Joseph   in   prison   except   interpreting   the   dreams,  yet  the  story  in  the  Quran  tells  us  that  Joseph  played  not  only  the  role  of  interpretation   dreams,  but  mainly  a  role  of  God’s  messenger,  who  cares  for  the  souls  of  the  people  (Al-­‐Dagani   1994,  169).  He  is  a  prophet,  and  a  prophet  has  to  carry  his  message  wherever  he  is.  Waldman   declares   a   similar   idea   when   he   reflects   on   the   Quranic   version   of   the   Potiphar’s   wife.   He   indicates   that   this   part   of   the   story   is   a   clear   example   of   Muhammad’s   use   of   this   story   to   highlight  Joseph’s  role  as  a  prophet:      
This   episode   (the   sub-­‐plot   of   the   master's   wife)   also   marks   the   widest   divergence   from   the   Biblical  telling  and  demonstrates  how  the  Quran  is  making  different  use  of  available  materials,  no   matter   what   their   sources.   As   a   result   of   what   emerges   from   the   Qur'an's   use   of   this   sub-­‐plot,   Joseph  appears  more  dependent  on  God   Himself,  rather   than   on   His   plan,   and   less   invested  with   the  ability  to  carry  out  God's  will  on  his  own.  In  fact,  this  episode  in  the  Quran  has  Joseph  save   another  person,  the  wife,  before  saving  himself,  and  thereby  has  him  show  himself  even  more  to   be  the  instrument  of  God    (Waldman  1985,  9-­‐10).  

  Furthermore,  if  Joseph  is  a  prophet,  he  cannot  sin.    In  his  book  “Infallibility  of  the  Prophets”  Al-­‐ Raazii   (1124-­‐1186)   presents   the   fundamental   Islamic   belief   about   the   infallibility   of   the   prophets,  and  presents  the  following  arguments.    Firstly,  if  they  did  sin  they  would  deserve  an  


immediate   rebuke   and   further   punishment.   But   this   cannot   be,   since   they   cannot   sin,   for   prophecy  is  the  greatest  gift  from  God.  Secondly,  as  previously  stated,  if  they  did  sin  they  would   deserve  rebuking,  but  it  is  forbidden  to  rebuke  prophets  (Sura  33:57).    This  demonstrates  that   they  cannot  sin.  Thirdly,  as  tradition  reveals,  prophets  are  better  than  the  angels,  and  angels  do   not  commit  sin.    Again  from  this  we  learn  that  prophets  are  also  infallible,  otherwise  they  would   not   be   better   than   the   angels   (Al-­‐Razi   1986,   39-­‐46).   For   this   reason,   the   Quran   presents   Joseph   as   righteous,   a   prophet   that   we   should   learn   from   his   behavior   and   actions.   For   its   own   purpose,  the  Quran  omitted  episodes  from  the  Bible  where  Joseph  appears  in  a  negative  light   (Garsiel  1997,  168).   As   we   can   see,   “the   Quranic   story   of   Joseph   is   structured   to   emphasize   his   (Joseph)   fit   with   these   characteristics   (of   a   prophet),   which   in   turn   are   related   to   other   key   elements   in   the   Quranic   worldview”   (Waldman   1985,   10).     Joseph   in   the   Quran   is   a   prophet   to   whom   God   reveals  his  words.  Throughout  his  entire  life  journey,  whether  he  is  at  the  bottom  of  the  well,  or   at   the   top   of   the   throne,   the   Quran   step   by   step   develops   the   story   of   the   ascent   of   his   prophecy.  He  is  a  prophet  that  brings  salvation,  not  only  to  his  people,  but  to  all  Egypt  (Abdel-­‐ Rahmaan  2000).     Furthermore,   by   using   the   Biblical   stories   of   different   prophets,   Muhammad   was   at   pains   to   demonstrate  that  Islam  is  not  a  new  religion,  but  a  continuation  and  a  culmination  of  previous   ones  and  those  listeners  will  learn  from  these  stories.  (Bar-­‐Efrat  1999,  128).  Here  we  meet  with   the  prophet  Joseph,  who  as  a  monist  pre-­‐  Islamic  prophet  tries  not  only  to  bring  the  people  of   his   generation   to   repentance   but   also   those   who   are   listening   to   Muhammad   (Lazarus-­‐Yafeh   2005,   21).   Muhammad   is   making   excellent   use   of   this   Biblical   story,   changing   and   adapting   it   when   necessary,   adding   to   it   what   he   wants,   in   order   to   make   it   fit   with   his   situation   and   convey  his  message  in  an  indirect  way,  through  the  words,  acts  and  life  of  Joseph.  In  this  case   we  can  say  that:  
The  characters  in  the  Quran  are  often  marshaled  out,  not  for  the  sake  of  telling  their  story,  but  as   an  example  of  divine  wrath  and  thus  a  warning  for  people  to  listen  to  God  and  his  Prophet;  or,  as   an   example   of   steadfastness   and   perseverance   and   faith   in   God,   which   is   an   occasion   for   encouragement  to  Muhammad  or  the  Muslims.  (Miller  2010,  511-­‐512)  



In   the   Quran   Joseph   is   portrayed   as   a   divine   prophet   with   a   universal   mission,   but   the   Bible   genealogy  goes  further  revealing  Joseph  as  an  important  chain  in  its  events,  playing  a  significant   role  in  the  history  of  the  Jewish  nation.  This  issue  is  a  secondary  one  in  the  Quran  (Alon  2004,   155).     It   is   true   that   Joseph   had   dreams   which   became   true,   and   further   to   that   he   had   the   ability   to   interpret   dreams.   Although   his   dream   which   foretold   the   future   has   an   element   of   prophecy  in  it,  nevertheless,  prophecy  is  not  mainly  about  foretelling  the  future;  rather  God  is   revealing   himself   to   the   prophet,   and   through   it   He   is   sending   him   to   rebuke   or   announce   something   to   the   nation,   as   mentioned   earlier.   This   revelation   might   be   a   vision,   a   dream   or   merely  a  verbal  statement  (Dovshani  1976,  563).    Joseph  does  not  appear  as  a  prophet,  nor  did   he  claim  this  position  in  the  Biblical  story26.  This  Jewish  approach  regarding  Joseph  is  seen  by   Muslims  as  lowering  the  status  of  a  prophet.  “In  the  Quranic  account,  both  Jacob  and  Joseph   spoke   and   behaved   like   prophets,   the   Biblical   version   played   down   this   crucial   dimension   of   their   characters”   (Zein   2008,   195).     This   statement   is   very   important   in   respect   of   Islamic   doctrine.  Another  example  we  find  is  that  when  the  Quran  relates  the  successes  of  Joseph  it  is   due  to  his  righteousness  and  fear  of  God  -­‐  a  purely  religious  element,  whereas  we  find  the  Bible   relating   these   successes   to   his   ability   to   interpret   dreams,   and   his   wisdom   to   deal   with   the   economy  (Abdel-­‐Rahmaan  2000).   When   the   Quran   spoke   about   prophets,   it   was   about   people   who   were   chosen   from   their   situation   and   would   be   in   a   similar   situation   to   that   of   Muhammad.     This   was   in   order   to  
                                                                                                                          26  While  we  find  in  the  Quran  that  Joseph  appears  in  a  positive  image  (whenever  his  name  is  mentioned),  unlikely,  
the  Bible  (beside  the  story  in  Genesis),  presents  him  in  a  positive  and  also  a  negative  image:   From  the  one  hand  he  is  a  hero  figure,  a  paragon  of  virtue  lauded  for  his  probity  and  uprightness,  his   saving  of  his  family  and  thus  ultimately  the  nation  (in  the  Genesis  story)…  from  the  other  hand,  A  very   different  image  of  Joseph  emerges  in  the  prophets.  As  early  as  the  eighth  century,  Joseph,  whose  "tribe"     (Ephraim  and  Manasseh,  Josh  17:14)  constituted  the  bulk  of  the  Northern  Kingdom, comes  to  represent   that  kingdom  in  its  condition  of  apostasy.  This  image  first  appears  in  Amos'  call  to  repentance,  lest   Yahweh  "break  out  like  fire  in  the  house  of  Joseph"  (Amos  5:6;  cf.  5:15);  p  6  see  also  Amos  6:6  and  Psalm   82:1-­‐6  (HILGERT  1985,  5-­‐6)   Of  course  this  is  related  more  to  his  decendents,  where  they  were  part  of  the  great  divison  between  the  tribes  of   Israel  that  took  place.  Tribe  of  Ephraiem  played  a  major  role  in  this  division.    



authenticate  himself  and  comfort  his  soul  from  his  pain.    He  also  related  what  they  taught  to   explain  the  nature  of  his  Islamic  call  and  support  his  teachings  (Kalaf-­‐Allah  1999,  309).  Joseph,   according  to  Islam,  did  not  only  belong  to  a  family  of  prophets  (Jacob,  Isaac  and  Abraham)  but   he   was   also   in   the   process   of   becoming   a   prophet   and   as   such,   would   have   certain   qualities   such  as  patience,  wisdom  and  even  the  ability  to  resist  the  temptation  of  a  women  (Al-­‐Dagani   1994,   48).     This   is   a   very   important   facet   that   is   clearly   seen   in   the   whole   Quranic   story;   Joseph   appears  without  any  blame.  His  positive  image,  righteousness  and  faith,  is  clear  in  every  stage   of  the  story.   The  Bible,  however,  portrays  Joseph  in  a  more  natural  way.    There  is  no  hesitation  in  revealing   him  as  a  spoiled,  arrogant  boy,  even  to  the  extent  that  the  reader  might  not  identify  with  him.   Further   to   that,   it   would   not   surprise   us   if   some   readers   had   sympathy   for   his   brothers.   It   looks   like  it  would  be  very  difficult  for  him  to  survive  slavery,  yet,  amazingly,  with  God  grace,  Joseph   is   doing   that   very   well.   From   the   time   he   arrived   in   Egypt,   with   the   exception   of   telling   bad   news  about  his  brothers  and  sharing  his  dreams,  Joseph  is  passive.    His  father  made  the  colored   robe  for  him,  his  father  sent  him,  his  brothers  put  him  down  in  the  well,  the  merchants  got  him   out,  took  him  to  Egypt  and  sold  him,  and  Potiphar  made  him  responsible  on  his  household.  The   turning  point,  we  find  is  when  Potiphar’s  wife  tries  to  seduce  him.    He  refuses  demonstrating   the  ability  to  make  important  life  decisions  and  is  willing  to  pay  the  price  for  what  he  believes.   (Garsiel   1997,   156).   Nevertheless,   this   is   not   to   say   that   Joseph   has   a   negative   image   in   the   Bible,  contrary  as  Stokes  write:  
Joseph is presented in The Old Testament as a chosen soul, gifted with special powers. His bond with the higher source of these gifts is never seriously threatened or questioned by Joseph or by the narrator. (Stokes 1997, 37)

  Joseph   appears   as   any   normal   person   with   trials   in   life,   who   can   change   and   get   through   challenging  circumstances  which  shapes  one’s  life.  In  Joseph’s  life  we  see  maturity  as  a  result  of   the   difficulties   and   suffering   he   was   facing.     Also   his   brothers   went   through   this   process;   it   was   not   difficult   for   them   to   get   rid   of   Joseph,   but   they   would   not   allow   the   same   to   happen   to   Benjamin  (Garsiel  1997,  157).    


3. Historical  Settings   One  of  the  main  differences  between  the  stories  in  the  Pentateuch  and  related  narratives  in  the   Quran,   is   that   while   there   are   similarities,   those   in   the   Pentateuch   exist   in   historical   order,   whereas   the   Quran   does   not   pay   attention   to   the   historical   continuity   (Shiphman   1995,   39).   Even  if  it  takes  that  into  consideration  we  would  not  be  able  to  see  historical  cohesion,  since  its   chapters   are   neither   ordered   according   to   historical   events,   nor   by   the   time   they   were   written.     Rather  they  are  in  order  in  respect  of  the  length  of  each  Sura  (Chapter).   Joseph’s  story  in  the  Bible  does  not  stand  by  itself.    Rather  it  forms  a  link  and  connection  in  a   longer   chain   that   began   earlier   with   Abraham,   and   continues   with   Isaac,   his   sons   Jacob   and   Esau,  then  Jacob  and  his  sons.  For  example,  the  Bible  does  not  hesitate  to  leave  out  the  story  of   Joseph  for  a  whole  chapter,  in  order  to  tell  us  what  happened  to  Judah,  Joseph’s  brother.  While   the   Bible   is   concerned   with   sharing   Joseph’s   story   with   us,   it   is   seen   as   part   of   the   family   chronicle.  This  is  not  found  in  the  Quran;  where  it  only  speaks  about  Joseph  from  the  beginning   till  the  end  (Mansour  2008,  35).     As   mentioned   before,   we   are   not   only   arguing   that   the   Biblical   account   of   Joseph’s   story   has   historical  information  and  details,  but  the  story  itself  is  an  essential  historical  part  in  the  book   of  Genesis,  if  not  in  the  whole  Bible.  We  would  agree  with  Waldman  the  way  he  highlight  this:    
For  the  Bible,  however,  the  story  of  Joseph  is  essential;  it  accounts  for  twenty-­‐eight  percent  of   the  Book  of  Genesis  and  constitutes  a  key  moment  in  the  history  of  the  Hebrew  people…  In  the   Bible,  the  telling  of  the  Joseph  story  is  an  indispensable  step  in  the  unfolding  of  God's  divine  plan   and  manipulation  of  history  to  ensure  the  future  of  the  Hebrews.  (Waldman  1985,  5)  

The   story   of   Joseph   in   the   Bible   starts   as   a   continuation   of   his   father’s   (Jacob)   family   story.   “Jacob   lived   in   the   land   where   his   father   had   stayed…   This   is   the   account   of   Jacob…Joseph,   a   young  man  of  seventeen”  Gen  1-­‐2.  This  clearly  illustrates  our  discussion.    The  account  starts  at   a  certain  place  “the  land  of  the  fathers”  and  at  a  specific  time  “Joseph  was  seventeen”.  It  is  a   new  chapter  in  the  book  of  “the  fathers”,  nevertheless,  it  is  also  an  integral  part  of  this  “book”,   as  it  is  connected  to  what  happened  previously,  but  also  ends  in  its  historical  settings  (Gen  46   ff).    This  provides  us  with  information  which  forms  a  base  for  the  next  chain  of  events  in  the   book  of  Genesis  in  particular,  and  in  the  Bible  and  the  history  of  the  Jewish  nation  in  general  
(Zein  2008,  195;  see  also  Mansour  2008,  36).        


A   few   examples   from   this   narrative   will   elucidate   what   has   been   said,   demonstrating,   on   the   one  hand  the  connection  this  story  has  with  the  past,  and  on  the  other,  its  effect  and  relation   with  the  future.    The  sending  of  Joseph  by  his  father  to  check  on  his  brothers  eventually  caused   the  sending  of  the  tribes  of  Israel  to  Egypt  where  they  later  became  slaves.  A  human  decision  or   action  taken  by  certain  persons  can  be  considered  as  the  first  step  in  the  fulfillment  of  God’s   promise  to  Abraham;  all  this  without  any  idea  on  Jacob’s  part  about  what  was  happening.  The   Biblical  character  acts  from  human  motivation,  without  being  aware  of  any  historical  meaning   that  integrates  with  the  divine  plan  extending  from  the  past  to  the  future  (Shiphman  1995,  42).   All   appears   as   pure   coincidence   but   it   turns   out   that   it   was   planned   from   the   beginning.   Joseph’s   dreams   indicate   (and   we   discover   that   later),   that   there   is   a   plan   where   Joseph   will   be   ruler  and  save  the  whole  area,  and  especially  his  family,  from  starvation.    This  is  stated  clearly  in   Gen   45:8   (Garsiel   1997,   159).     Consequently,   Joseph’s   role   went   beyond   saving   his   family;   he   was  fulfilling  a  wider  plane  of  God,  and  setting  the  scene  for  another  person,  as  we  read  on:      
“When   we   reflect   upon   the   fact   that   Genesis   ends   with   the   death   of   Joseph,   and   that   Exodus   opens   with   the   reminder   that   it   was   the   small   Jacob   clan   “seventy   souls”   in   all,   “that   entered   Egypt”   (Ex.   1:1,5),   we   begin   to   see   Joseph   as   a   bridge   between   the   Patriarchs   and   Moses”.   (Lowenthal  1973,  1)  

    The   narrator   in   Genesis   uses   certain   words   to   make   a   historical   and   geographical   connection   between  the  different  stories  of  the  book.  For  example,  in  Gen  37:1  the  word  used,  ‫  יעקבוישב‬ (Joseph  lived,  stalled),  connects  the  story  with  the  previous  one,  where  we  read:  “Jacob  came   home   to   his   father   Isaac   in   Mamre,   near   Kiriath   Arba   (that   is,   Hebron),   where   Abraham   and   Isaac   had   stayed”   Gen   35:27,   from   this   place   where   his   father   lived,   the   story   starts.   Further   to   that,  this  ‫  וישב‬opens  another  circle  that  ends  with  another  ‫  ,וישב‬where  we  are  told  that  “Now   the  Israelites  settled  ‫  וישבו‬in  Egypt  in  the  region  of  Goshen”  Gen  47:27.  But  since  the  sons  of   Jacob,   had   the   chance   to   go   back   to   Canaan   and   stay   there,   after   burring   their   father   (which   they  did  not  do),  the  word  ‫  וישב‬in  Gen  50:22  is  used  for  the  third  and  the  last  time  in  this  story,   indicating  a  longer  time  of  living  in  Egypt,  from  one  side,  and  preparing  the  ground  for  the  next   story,  the  story  of  Moses  from  the  other  side.    Joseph  story  was  the  platform  God  used  to  fulfill   what  he  had  already  announced  to  Abraham  “"Know  for  certain  that  your  descendants  will  be   strangers   in   a   country   not   their   own,   and   they   will   be   enslaved   and   mistreated   four   hundred  


years”  Gen  15:13.  (Keel  2003,  3-­‐5)  The  whole  issue  of  history  is  a  fascinating  thing  is  this  story,   the  way  it’s  connected  with  what  was  before,  the  bases  it  puts  for  what  comes  next,  make  the   historical  element  a  vital  thread.     Furthermore,  in  Joseph’s  story  we  find  a  struggle  that  occurred  throughout  the  book  of  Genesis.   We  find  a  challenge  between  Reuben  the  firstborn  of  Leah,  and  Joseph  the  first  born  of  Rachel,   where   Reuben   tries   to   behave   as   the   leader   of   his   brothers   (Gen.   37:21).   This   struggle   or   tension  between  the  firstborn  and  the  younger  brother  is  found  in  the  story  of  Cain  and  Abel,   Ishmael  and  Isaac,  Jacob  and  Esau  and  between  Manasseh  and  Ephraim.  Even  in  this  story  Jude   and   Joseph   take   Reuben’s   position   (Shiphman   1995,   44-­‐45).   Judah   does   that   by   taking   action   and  behaving  as  a  leader  and  Joseph  simply  by  fulfilling  God’s  purposes.     Before   turning   to   examine   the   historical   element   in   the   Quranic   story   of   Joseph,   we   shall   consider  more  of  this  important  factor  in  the  Biblical  story.    It  will  be  discussed  later  under  the   title  “measure  for  measure”.     While   Joseph’s   story   is   a   fundamental   portion   in   the   wider   story   of   Genesis,   we   can   say:   “Without  it,  however,  the  Qur'an  would  still  make  sense.  And  without  the  Quran,  the  "Sura  of   Joseph"  could  still  be  read  on  its  own,  decontextualized  as  it  is”  (Waldman  1985,  5).  The  story  in   the   Quran   is   only   an   individual   chapter,   which   connects   to   the   whole   book   (the   Quran)   by   repeating   a   similar   teaching   and   approach.   In   addition   to   that,   while   the   Bible   keeps   the   historical   details   in   Joseph’s   story,   such   as   the   time,   the   place   and   names,   we   find   that   the   Quran  ignores  these  details  of  the  story.  We  might  suggest  that  the  Quran  is  more  interested  in   the   lessons   from   the   story,   rather   than   with   historical   accuracy.     It   empties   the   story   of   historical   content,   being   more   concerned   rather   with   lessons   elicited   from   the   narrative   (Mansour  2008,  35).   This   historical   approach   of   the   Quran   is   acknowledged   by   both   Muslim   and   non-­‐Muslim   scholars,  as  we  read  for  example:  “the  Quranic  beginning  (of  Joseph’s  Sura)  was  much  more  a   cosmic  beginning  rather  than  a  family  affair.  While  the  Biblical  narrative  over-­‐emphasized  the   particular   human   predicament,   its   Quranic   counterpart   underlined   the   cosmic   and   universal  


setting  of  the  story”  (Zein  2008,  195).  While  Zein  is  referring  to  the  lack  of  historical  information   in  respect  of  its  wider  message,  rather  than  a  particular  family  in  the  Quran,  Waldman  further   connects  it  to  the  style  in  which  the  Quran  was  written:  
The  Torah  is,  moreover,  a  continuous,  extended  historical  account.  The  Qur'an  contains  very  little   narrated  history  (in  fact,  very  little  narration  at  all)  and,  in  the  standard  order  of  the  suras,  is  a   disjunctive   and   discontinuous   book   of   lessons,   warnings,   instructions,   and   exhortations.   The   Torah   is   written   in   expository   prose;   the   Qur'än,   in   compact,   often   elliptical,   quasi-­‐poetic   style   (Waldman  1985,  5).  

   Abdel-­‐Rahmaan  mentions  that  because  of  this  fact  (lack  of  historical  information),  the  story  in   the  Quran  might  be  seen  only  as  goals  without  incidents.    All  the  details  used  in  any  story  in  the   Quran  are  used  or  mentioned  only  because  there  is  a  lesson  behind  them  the  people  need  to   hear   (Abdel-­‐Rahmaan   2000).   As   he   is   relating   to   (Sura   12:102)   “Such   is   one   of   the   stories   of   what   happened   unseen”.   He   continues   by   asking:     “Are   these   stories   only   imagination   (unseen)   and   not   from   the   history?”   The   answer,   he   gives,   is   no.   It   is   a   true   historical   event,   but   the   reason  the  historical  information  was  not  mentioned,  is  related  to  the  purpose  and  the  goal  of   the   Quranic   story,   which   determines   the   material   used.     And   the   last   verse   in   Surat   Yusuf:   “There  is,  in  their  stories,  instruction  for  men  endued  with  understanding  …”  Verse  111  clarifies   this   clearly     (Abdel-­‐Rahmaan   2000).   Looking   at   the   opening   and   the   end   of   this   Sura,   we   can   learn   that   Muhammad   was   not   interested   in   bringing   either   the   past   or   the   future   of   Joseph   and  his  family.  This  issue  was  not  important  to  Muhammad  or  his  listeners.       Although  the  Quran  in  general  shortens  the  details  found  in  the  Bible,  we  sometimes  find  that   the   Quranic   account   extends   certain   episodes   that   present   Joseph   as   a   righteous   person.   For   example,   the   story   of   Potiphar’s   wife   and   the   resulting   invitation   she   gives   to   the   respected   women,   is   too   long   and   does   not   add   to   the   plot   (Garsiel   1997,   168).   It   supports   the   main   Quranic  approach  in  presenting  Joseph  as  a  prophet.     It  is  obvious  that  all  the  events  in  the  Quran  dwell  around  Joseph.  Even  the  names  of  the  people   in   the   story   are   not   mentioned.   However,   the   Quran   sometimes   refers   to   the   people   in   an  


indirect   way27:   “his   oldest   brother”,   or   “younger   brother”,   “his   father”   …   Another   example   is   when  he  speaks  about  the  man  who  bought  him  in  Egypt  (Potiphar),  he  calls  him  ‫ز‬￿‫ي‬￿‫ز‬￿‫ع‬￿‫ل‬￿‫ا‬￿  Al-­‐Aziz,   and  this  is  only  his  title  and  not  his  name.  Probably  all  that  is  important  about  this  man  is  that   he   bought   Joseph.   Actually   it   becomes   clear   that   this   was   a   title   since   Joseph   was   called   by   the   name  Al-­‐Aziz  when  he  was  appointed  by  Pharaoh  (Sura  12:88).   This   omission   of   details   from   the   Quranic   account,   such   as   the   names   of   people   appearing   in   the   story,   causes   the   story   to   appear   impersonal.   To   reconcile   this   problem,   Islamic   scholars   gave   names   to   every   person   in   the   story.   Potiphar   is   called   Al-­‐Aziz   Atfeer,   his   wife   is   Zalikha.   Pharaoh   is   Al-­‐Raian   Ben-­‐Alwaleed   and   others   too   (Ibn-­‐Kathir   1989,   318).   Al-­‐Tabari   relates   a   story   of   a   Jewish   person   who   asked   Muhammad   about   the   names   of   the   eleven   stars   Joseph   saw   in   his   dream.   Amazingly   Muhammad   was   able   to   mention   each   one   of   them   (Al-­‐Tabari   1954,  238).  All  this  is  an  indicator  that  those  who  heard  the  story  during  the  early  age  of  Islam   believed   that   the   story   was   missing   certain   details   and   some   tried   to   fill   these   gaps.   “This  
anonymity  of  other  characters  has  the  effect  of  making  the  Quranic  story  even  more  the  story  of  Joseph,   Messenger  of  God,  and  less  the  story  of  "his  people."  It  also  emphasizes  the  universal  meaning  of  the   story  and  minimizes  the  need  to  compare  it  with  any  other  telling”  (WALDMAN  1985,  6).  

This   omission   was   not   limited   only   to   history   and   names.     The   Quran   skipped   the   issue   of   Joseph’s  shirt,  and  this  caused  the  story  to  lose  some  of  its  artistic  value.  Furthermore,  Joseph's   personality,   according   to   the   Quran,   becomes   superficial   and   monotonous,   without   the   dynamics  of  change  and  personal  growth  over  time.  While  focusing  on  the  theological  aspects,   the  Quran  shows  lack  of  interest  of  the  bonds  with  the  beginning  of  the  Israel  nation  and  the   fathers   of   the   tribes.   As   a   result   of   this   position,   the   Quran   tells   very   little   about   Joseph’s   brothers.   This   causes   the   narrative   sequence   to   be   interrupted   with   loose   contact   between   the   various  episodes.  The  human  aspect,  the  conflict  and  dramatic  tension  we  find  in  the  Bible,  lose   their  depth  and  meaning  in  the  Quranic  narrative  (Garsiel  1997,  168).   To  conclude  the  Islamic  perspective  of  the  details,  we  will  quote  Zein  with  the  following:  
 Although  the  name  of  Jacob  id  mentioned  in  this  Sura,  but  only  in  referring  to  him  with  the  fathers  of  the  nation   with  Abraham  and  Isaac    put  not  in  the  plot  of  the  story.  


Undoubtedly, the absence of this theme (the cosmic message) in the Biblical narrative renders it more reflective of the perspective of the scribe who was increasingly locked into the history of Jacob’s family rather than establishing a cosmic or a universally guided narrative (Zein 2008, 196197).

    What   we   find   as   a   result   of   our   previous   discussion   is   that   the   Quran   did   not   choose   all   Biblical   characters,  but  those  who  would  incorporate  the  Islamic  message.    For  this  reason  the  details   we  find  in  the  Quran  are  much  less  than  what  we  find  in  the  Bible  (Kalaf-­‐Allah  1999,  253).    For   this  reason  the  stories  in  the  Quran  are  used  as    “signs  of  God's  power  and  judgment  as  well  as   vehicles   for   revelation,   just   as   are   the   Messengers   who   bring   (or   live)   them.   The   Qur'an   is   interested  mainly  in  Joseph's  role  as  exemplary  God—fearing  man  and  Messenger.”  (Waldman   1985,  12).  This  can  be  considered  as  one  of  the  main  differences  between  the  two  books;  the   Bible   is   concerned   among   other   things   about   the   history,   whereas   the   Quran’s   stories   are   meant  to  be  preaching,  teaching,  warning  and  guiding  the  people  on  the  principles  of  Islam,  and   to  respond  to  opposition.  And  all  this  does  not  need  history  (Kalaf-­‐Allah  1999,  254).     4. Measure  for  Measure     Since   the   Biblical   story   of   Joseph   forms   a   link   within   the   meta-­‐narrative   of   the   book   of   Genesis,   repeated   patterns   can   be   noted,   especially   what   we   might   call   “measure   for   measure”,   or   reaping   what   was   sown   in   the   past,   and   which   re-­‐appear   to   demonstrate   that   we   do   indeed   reap   what   we   sow   This   element   is   missing   from   the   Quranic   story;   only   the   story   itself   can   provide   us   with   the   messages   and   lessons,   which   all   relate   to   that   passage   only.   To   illustrate   this  principle  of  measure  for  measure  we  will  provide  some  few  examples:     The   book   of   Genesis   shows   us   the   similarity   between   the   life   of   Jacob   and   the   life   of   Joseph.   Both   had   dreams   at   a   young   age,   both   dreams   was   connected   to   a   hatred   of   brothers.   For   Joseph  the  dream  is  the  reason  for  this  hatred,  for  Jacob  the  hatred  of  his  brother  Esau  is  the   reason  of  the  dream  (Dovshani  1976,  565).  



When  we  count  the  time  that  Joseph  was  away  from  home,  we  find  it  to  be  22  years.  The  story   started  when  he  was  17  and  he  stood  before  Pharaoh  at  the  age  of  30??  He  introduced  himself   to  his  brothers  two  years  after  the  seven  good  years;  all  together  22  years.    Amazingly  it  is  the   same   period   that   Jacob   was   away   from   home.   Was   Jacob   paying   a   double   punishment   for   cheating   his   father?     We   do   not   find   a   direct   answer   to   this   question,   but   it   could   be   read   between  the  lines  (Shiphman  1995,  43).     We  also  notice  the  principle  measure  for  measure  clearly  in  the  following  story.  Rebecca  and   Jacob   both   cheated   Isaac   by   means   of   the   “dress”   goatskins,   in   order   to   receive   his   blessing.   Due  to  his  mother’s  favoritism,  Jacob  suffered  at  the  hands  of  his  older  brother,  Esau  and  had   to  stay  away  from  home.  Jacob  repeated  his  mother’s  mistake  and  favored  Joseph  more  than   his  brothers,  and  again  had  to  carry  the  consequences  of  favoritism;  his  children  cheated  him,   they   sent   him   Joseph’s   robe   dipped   in   the   blood   of   a   goat,   and   he   did   not   see   his   son   for   many   years  (Mali  1968,  13).     There   is   also   Jude’s   story,   the   leader   of   his   brothers.     It   is   a   chain   between   the   desperate   act   of   selling  Joseph,  and  being  their  spokesman  with  Joseph  in  Egypt.  Jude,  unlike  Joseph,  does  not   control  his  lust,  and  he  is  punished  later.  Also  the  robe  plays  a  role  here.  Tamar  cheated  him   with  the  way  she  dressed,  and  later  his  dress  was  the  proof  of  what  he  did.  All  these  stories;   Jacob  and  Esau,  Jacob  and  his  sons  and  Jude  and  Tamar  are  all  connected  and  they  speak  about   cheating  in  the  family  (Garsiel  1997,  158).     A  positive  result  is  Joseph’s  reaction  to  what  was  going  on  around  him.  Joseph  was  proud  and   spoiled,  behaving  with  pride  with  his  brothers  and  was  punished  for  that.    He  was  humiliated,   turning  from  a  spoiled  boy  with  extra  privileges  to  a  slave  with  no  rights  at  all.  He  was  tested  in   order   to   change   his   character;   firstly   with   Potiphar’s   wife   and   secondly,   when   he   met   his   brothers  again,  and  he  passed  both  tests  (Garsiel  1997,  157-­‐158).   Most  of  these  dynamics  within  the  family  over  different  generation  are  missed  in  the  Quranic   account.    


5. Theological  Character  of  the  story   As  already  mentioned  each  story  in  the  book  of  Genesis  forms  an  episode  of  a  larger  account  of   God’s   work   in   history   in   order   to   make   himself   known   to   humankind.     This   occurs   either   through   his   relationship   with   individuals   and   nations   (as   for   example   choosing   Abraham,   and   continuing   with   his   descendents)   that   He   chooses,   or   through   signs   and   wonders   (the   creation,   and   later   the   flood).     In   both   case   He   reveals   His   sovereignty   and   plans   not   only   for   the   present   and   the   individual   only,   but   for   the   future   and   many   generations   ahead.   There   is   little   direct   mention  about  the  attributes  of  God,  but  still  we  can  read  them  through  the  way  He  moves  in   this  book,  to  call,  guide,  rescue,  rebuke  and  punish,  especially  through  achieving  his  purposes   and  fulfilling  His  promises.  This  is  found  in  the  creation  account,  Adam  and  Eve,  the  fall,  Noah,   Tower  of  Babel,  the  election  of  Abraham,  Isaac  and  Jacob,  Hagar  and  Ishmael,  and  also  in  this   story   of   Joseph.     By   means   of   narrative,   plot,   character   development,   and   especially   divine   action,  Genesis  teaches  us  that  we  stand  in  the  presence  of  an  omniscient,  omnipresent,  and   omnipotent  God.      So  as  to  clear  up  any  confusion,  we  are  not  claiming  that  this  is  the  only  way   God   reveals   himself   in   the   Bible,   for   we   find   different   modes   of   revelation   in   different   books   and  genres.  What  I  have  just  mentioned,  is  expressed  well  as  follows:    
The   first   episode   (Chapter   37)   in   the   drama   of   Joseph   story   unfolds   without   reference   to   God.   As   the   story   unfolds,   however,   it   is   clear   that   God   is   present   and   very   much   at   work.   This   ‘absent   presence’  of  God  is  characteristic  of  the  whole  narrative  (Wilcox  2007,  1-­‐2)  

  What   has   been   stated   is   not   true   of   the   Quran,   where   we   find   a   direct   approach   taken   in   revealing  God’s  attributes  and  his  laws  through  the  different  chapters  of  the  book.  And  while   for  example,  the  lessons  in  the  Biblical  story  of  Joseph,  are  left  for  the  readers,  it  is  not  like  that   in  the  Quran.  The  narrative  begins  with  a  given  purpose:  “We  have  sent  it  down  as  an  Arabic   Quran,   in   order   that   ye   may   learn   wisdom”   (Sura   12:2)   (Shiphman   1995,   45).   And   this   would   also   form   one   of   the   reasons   for   the   differences   between   the   two   accounts.   It   is   God’s   voice   and  name  that  exists  through  the  whole  story  to  make  sure  that  the  listeners  understand  Him,   as   it   was   said:   “hence in the Qur’an, the story of Joseph is framed by the Voice of God speaking to Muhammad. That Voice defines the story's nature and meaning (Stokes 1997, 42).  In  the  next  


few   paragraphs,   we   shall   highlight   the   main   theological   points   Muhammad   inserted   to   this   story,  in  order  to  support  his  case.  
a) God  The  Dominant   ‫  ﺍاﻝلﻝلﻩه ﺍاﻝلﻍغﺍاﻝلﺏب‬

This   is   one   of   God’s   names   in   the   Quran,   which   summarizes   the   result   of   the   story.   Throughout   the  whole  narrative  we  find  this  main  theme;  faith  in  one  God  and  his  divine  promise.  Faith  in   God  and  his  miracles,  and  his  ability  to  vindicate  his  prophet  is  what  distinguishes  the  Quranic   story   from   the   detailed   family   account   that   we   find   in   the   Bible.     We   do   not   find   any   value   in   it   in  the  Quran  (Alon  2004,  159).  By  using  this  story  (and  other  Biblical  stories)  Muhammad  was   pointing  to  other  prophets  who  were  rejected  by  their  own  people,  but  in  the  end  those  people   were   punished.     Similarly   his   prophets   will   overcome   all   who   are   opposing   them   (Shiphman   1995,   49).     God’s   control   over   what   is   happening   is   repeated   over   and   over   in   this   Sura,   for   example   in   v.   21   “And   Allah   hath   full   power   and   control   over   His   affairs”.   Mir   concludes   succinctly:  
The  story  of  Joseph  is  presented  as  a  dramatic  vindication  of  the  thesis  that  God  is  dominant  and   His  purposes  are  inevitably  fulfilled.  The  thesis  is  presented  in  vs.  21  that  God  is  dominant  and   has  complete  control  over  everything  is  a  theme  that  finds  expression  elsewhere  in  the  Quran,   too.   However,   this   is   perhaps   the   only   sura   in   which   that   theme   is   consistently   developed   throughout.  (MlR  1986,  5)  

Behind   the   scenes   of   the   story,   we   find   that   there   is   a   Divine   hand   watching   and   moving   situations   according   to   a   well   calculated   plan,   working   on   principles   of   justice   and   morals   in   order  to  recompense  the  person  according  to  his  deeds.  (Garsiel  1997,  158)    The   story   in   the   Quran   emphasizes   God’s   sovereignty,   for   example   the   unexpected   arrival   of   Potiphar   at   the   exact   time   that   his   wife   was   trying   to   chase   and   seduce   Joseph,   indicates   a   divine   intervention   in   the   life   of   his   hearers,   and   much   more   than   that   for   his   prophets   (Al-­‐ Dagani  1994,  165).  While  the  reader  of  the  Biblical  text  considers  that  Joseph  being  sent  to  jail   was   an   unjust   act,   the   Quran   relates   it   to   God,   who   through   his   mercy   answers   Joseph’s   prayer   (Mansour  2008,  38).     Now  some  might  understand  from  our  previous  words  that  this  Bible  story  demonstrates  that   God   is   not   in   control,   or   that   what   happened   to   Joseph   merely   depended   on   circumstances.    


This   is   not   our   intention.     Of   course   God   is   in   control  of   what   was   happening   to   Joseph,   but   the   Biblical   narrator   does   not   mention   that   directly.   Yet   we   still   can   see   God’s   hand   through   the   entire  chronicle.  A  clear  example  of  the  sovereignty  of  God  in  the  Bible  (also  in  the  Quran)  can   be   seen   through   the   fulfillment   of   dreams.   The   dreams   represent   a   viewpoint   where   what   is   happening  in  the  world  is  predestinated  by  God.  Man  cannot  change  it  since  it  is  destined  to   happen  and  was  revealed  ahead  of  time  through  the  dream  (Dovshani  1976,  563).     We  might  ask  then,  what  is  the  difference  between  the  two  stories  concerning  this  point?  To   answer  this  question  we  may  say  that  the  Quran  refers  to  Joseph’s  story  from  an  emphasized   theological   perspective.     In   order   to   do   this,   he   skips   episodes   and   scenes   which   have   no   definite  theological  meaning.  Sometimes  he  changes  the  details  of  the  plot  to  strengthen  the   theological  teaching  that  he  wants  to  convey  to  his  people  (Garsiel  1997,  168).     b) God  all  wisdom  and  knowledge  ‫  ﺍاﻝلﺡحﻙكﻱيﻡم ﻭوﺍاﻝلﻑفﻩهﻱيﻡم‬ God  is  not  only  all  powerful  and  controls  everything  but  he  is  also  all  wisdom  and  knowledge.     These   two   attributes   of   God   in   the   Quran   are   used   together   through   the   entire   story   (v.   6,   83,100),  to  tell  those  reading  this  story  that  God  had  a  purpose  for  Joseph’s  life  (MlR  1986,  6-­‐7).   At  first  glance,  it  looks  exactly  similar  to  the  Biblical  view  about  God  in  the  Bible.  From  reading   the   Biblical   story,   we   can   sense   this   indirectly   from   what   was   happening.     We   also   hear   that   directly  from  Joseph  when  he  told  his  brothers  “because  it  was  to  save  lives  that  God  sent  me   ahead  of  you…  So  then,  it  was  not  you  who  sent  me  here,  but  God”  (Gen  46:5,  8).    What  was   considered   as   an   attempt   from   the   brothers   to   sell   Joseph   in   order   to   thwart   the   possible   meanings  and  outcomes  of  his  dreams,  God  turns  the  circumstances  around  in  such  a  way  as  to   bring   about   their   fulfillment   for   the   Divine   plan   was   to   save   the   people   of   Israel     (Dovshani   1976,  563).    God  through  his  knowledge  and  wisdom  allowed  this  to  happen.    Now  we  might  ask  the  same  question  that  was  asked  earlier;  what  is  the  difference  between   what  we  learn  from  the  Bible  and  what  we  read  in  the  Quran?    And  here  we  can  find  two  major   differences:  firstly,  knowledge  and  wisdom  in  the  Bible  are  seen  in  his  work  throughout  history,   and   not   in   the   abstract   way   we   find   in   the   Quran.   Secondly,   we   find   in   the   Bible   that   this   wisdom  is  available  to  each  person  who  seeks  to  follow  God,  whereas,  in  the  Quran  according  


to  Mir,  wisdom  is  for:  “certain  chosen  individuals  who  are  supposed  to  guide  mankind—to  prophets,  
that   is—God   gives   a   special   understanding   of   His   laws.   Jacob   and   Joseph   are   such   individuals;   see   for   example  v,  68”  (MlR  1986,  7)  

  Summary   At  this  point,  we  have  analyzed  what  might  be  the  reasons  behind  the  differences  between  the   Biblical  story  of  Joseph  and  the  Quranic  one.  And  to  conclude  we  may  propose  the  following:   Firstly,  Muhammad  tried  to  convince  the  polytheistic  tribes  opposing  him  to  accept  his  message   and   to   believe   in   one   God.   To   do   so   he   combined   the   main   doctrine   of   his   teaching   with   interesting   stories,   many   of   them   from   the   Bible   (Garsiel   1997,   168).   Joseph’s   story   is   a   good   example,   as   it   was   mentioned   by   Muhammad   himself:   “We   have   sent   it   down   as   an   Arabic   Qur'an,   in   order   that   ye   may   learn   wisdom.   We   do   relate   unto   thee   the   most   beautiful   of   stories,  in  that  we  reveal  to  thee  this  (portion  of  the)  Qur'an:  before  this,  thou  too  was  among   those  who  knew  it  not”    (Sura  12:2-­‐3).    
Above all, the Qur'án appears to say that the story signifies the nearly despairing experience not only of earlier messengers of God but of Muhammad Himself, to Whose teachings His people were not yet listening. In that sense, the Qur'an seems to be saying that Joseph is to be understood as a model for Muhammad. (Stokes 1997, 42)  

Secondly,   history   in   the   Biblical   stories   is   an   important   element,   whereas   the   Quran   has   no   interest   this,   utilizing   rather   the   lessons   taken   from   history.   The   stories   of   the   prophets   and   their  nations  are  a  kind  of  revelation  from  God  to  the  infidels  to  warn  them,  on  the  one  hand,   and  to  testify  to  the  message  of  Muhammad  on  the  other.  As  to  the  believers,  these  stories  are   a   source   of   encouragement   in   the   time   of   trails   (Kalaf-­‐Allah   1999,   72).   It   starts   and   ends   with   a   pure  Islamic  approach  (Sura  12:1-­‐3,  101-­‐111).    It  is  not  a  continuation  of  an  earlier  story,  and   neither  is  it  a  step  of  an  ongoing  one.  As  Zein  explains:  
Finally,  he  came  to  the  moment  of  declaring  the  realization  of  his  dream  that  turned  a  beginning-­‐ to-­‐end   narrative   into   an   end-­‐   to-­‐   end   one   in   the   Quranic   account,   whereas   it   seems   fairly   certain   that   the   Biblical   narrative   has   it   as   a   beginning-­‐to-­‐end   narrative.   In   the   story   of   Jacob’s   family,   this  developed  to  encompass  Joseph’s  story  and  beyond.  (Zein  2008,  205)  

  This  made  the  Quranic  story  lose  the  connections  with  the  past,  and  consequently  to  lose  some   lessons  related  to  previous  incidents.  



Thirdly,  the  Quran  made  an  effort  to  present  Joseph  as  a  bland  character.  He  is  portrayed  as  a   righteous  person  from  the  beginning  to  the  end,  with  no  negative  image  being  imputed  to  him.   In   the   Bible   Joseph   has   a   complex   personality,   which   might   change   and   has   the   ability   to   surprise   us   with   its   action   and   reaction     (Garsiel   1997,   161).   This   is   an   important   point   since   Muhammad  was  declaring  himself  as  a  prophet  too.  Moreover,  should  the  people  not  see  him   as   Joseph?   Was   not   he   facing   hatred   from   his   brothers,   the   people   of   Mecca?   Muhammad   actually  ends  this  Sura  In  v.  111  emphasizing  to  his  followers  that  those  who  believe  in  God  and   in   him,   comprehend   the   importance   of   the   Quran   and   its   stories,   with   its   morals   and   models   and  should  follow  (Zaoui  1982,  116).   Fourthly,   when   we   speak   about   theological   differences,   we   might   say   that   “the   figure   of   God   seems   somewhat   more   distant   in   the   Biblical   story,   less   concentrated   on   a   relationship   with   Joseph  and  more  involved  with  the  lives  of  all  the  many  characters,  whereas  in  the  Quran  God   intervenes   and   guides   His   messenger   constantly   (WALDMAN   1985,   5).   Again   we   find   that   the   attributes   of   God,   whether   his   sovereignty,   or   his   wisdom   and   knowledge,   work   together   to   vindicate   Joseph,   and   the   Quranic   story   actually   ends   when   his   family   bow   down   before   him   and  his  dream  becomes  real.  These  attributes  are  the  way  God  works  in  the  history  of  salvation.       Finally,   it   seems   that   Muhammad   was   attempting   to   contextualize   this   story,   not   to   accommodate   his   case   alone,   but   also   to   fit   in   with   the   Arabic   culture   of   his   day.     Several   elements   can   be   distinguished   in   the   story   which   might   relate   well   to   Arab   culture,   such   as:   hospitality,  self  boasting,  fights  among  brothers,  the  importance  of  wells,  the  image  of  women   and  the  honor  of  the  family.  These  are  an  integral  part  of  life  at  that  time  (Garsiel  1997,  168)   and  would  make  the  story  easy  to  hear  and  read  on  the  one  hand,  and  on  the  other,  to  apply  it   to  their  situation.   As   a   final   point,   although   it   is   not   part   of   the   story   we   were   discussing,   we   find   that   it   is   important  to  present  the  Islamic  approach  towards  the  Biblical  story  of  Joseph  as  it  developed   and  its  relation  to  certain  political  situations  in  our  day.       Al-­‐Dagani   in   reflecting   on   the   Biblical   story,   especially   when   Joseph   became   second   only   to   Pharaoh,   confessed   surprise   that   Joseph   used   his   authority   and   talents,   not   only   to   serve  


Pharaoh,  but  also  to  take  advantage  of  poor  starving  people,  in  an  unjust  way,  with  no  mercy  or   compassion,  with  the  purpose  of  controlling  their  lands  and  turning  them  into  slaves  (Al-­‐Dagani   1994,  177).  According  to  her  such  things  are  not  appropriate  for  a  prophet.   Abdel-­‐Rahmaan  employs  a  similar  idea  to  Al-­‐Adgani,  but  he  goes  further,  making  a  connection   between   the   way   Joseph,   through   his   plan,   was   able   to   put   his   hand   on   all   the   lands   of   the   Egyptians,   (where   Pharaoh   was   the   real   owner),   with     what   he   calls   the   nature   of   the   Jews   throughout   history.   He   goes   on   to   claim   that   the   priests   who   wrote   the   OT   were   attempting   to   highlight   their   special   position   in   the   Jewish   nation,   and   the   commitment   that   the   people   should   have   towards   them;   a   commitment   which   was   expressed   through   giving   them   the   firstborn   of   their   animals,   and   the   tithes   of   their   crops.   These   priests   were   greedy,   and   why   should  they  not  present  their  prophets  and  kings  in  the  same  way  as  they  do?  While  Joseph  is   very   generous   towards   his   family,   he   is   very   unjust   towards   the   Egyptians,   making   them   and   their   families,   slaves   to   Pharaoh.   This   is   depicted   in   the   Bible   as   wisdom;   a   kind   of   wisdom   that   has  continued  throughout  history  and  has  affected  the  relationship  of  the  Jews  with  the  nations   around  them;  such  is  their  tendency  to  control  them  and  be  part  of  the  decision  makers  in  the   world  (Abdel-­‐Rahmaan  2000).   This   is   probably   a   good   example   of   how   Muslims,   especially   in   the   Middle   East,   perceive   the   Biblical   stories   (whether   the   Old   Testament   or   the   New   Testament),   as   twisted   and   altered   accounts,   caused   by   certain   people   to   serve   their   religious   and   political   ends.   Prophets   are   infallible.    Any  attempt  from  any  book  to  claim  otherwise,  will  attract  direct  attack  at  both  the   book  and  its  writer.      

      Joseph  in  the  Christian  Tradition  
In speaking about Joseph in Christianity, two things at least should be mentioned here: first, the general approach of Christians towards Old Testament figures (such as patriarchs, prophets, kings, etc…), the lessons, on the moral and spiritual level that might be learned from their lives


and their walk with God. Second, the parallel between some of them and Christ, whether this parallelism is done by New Testament writers, or developed by the church fathers during the history, where we can find a “long tradition of this kind of ‘typology’28 in the church (related to Christ and Joseph” (Wilcox 2007, xi). Turning back to the first point, it is clear that we do not have many references to Joseph story in the New Testament. He is only mentioned for times in (John 4:5) where we are told merely a historical information that Jacob gave his son a piece of land (an information that is not mention in the Old Testament). Joseph is mentioned also in Stephen speech in (Acts 7:9-17) while he was going through the history of the Jewish nation; his name also appears in Hebrews (11:22), where he is mentioned as a hero of faith. And finally his name is mention in (Revelation 7:8) when John mention his tribe (Stokes 1997, 40; see also Boice 1987, 11). Therefore, with the lack of direct reference to lessons and values which we can learn from Joseph’s story, It would be probably safe to say that the New Testament would affirm the general values that can be drawn from the story and life of Joseph as a man of God as we find it in the book of Genesis. Values such as, faithfulness (whether to God or to people we deal with), purity, forgiveness, trusting in God’s sovereignty and his perfect will, his continuous work in history to save people. These attributes are not exclusive for the Christian faith.

As mentioned, the second point was the issue of typology, where Joseph is seen as a type of Christ29.  As  to  say  that,  “in  many  ways,  the  life  of  Joseph  parallels  the  life  of  Christ.  Despised   and  rejected  by  His  fellow  Jews,  Jesus  actually  became  the  Savior  of  His  brothers”  (Tanner  2003,   7.5). Ambrose (340-397) was one of the church fathers who hold this position and wrote about this subject. In summarizing his teaching we could have a wide idea of this approach. Ambrose relates every incident in Joseph’s life to the life of Christ. For example, Jacob sends Joseph to
                                                                                                                          28  “Typology”  has  been  defined  as  “that  form  of  biblical  interpretation  which  deals  with  the  correspondence  
between  traditions  concerning  divinely  appointed  persons,  events,  and  institutions,  within  the  framework  of   salvation  history”  (Achtemeier  qtd  in  Alsup  1996,  682).  God  displays  a  consistent  character  as  he  works  in  new   situations  in  the  course  of  history;  rich  dimensions  of  truth  and  God's  nature  are  revealed  in  the  pattern  of  a  type.   For  example,  the  NT  views  Moses  as  a  type  of  Jesus,  the  second  and  greater  Moses.  Also,  the  Temple  and  the   sacrifice  institution  found  their  fulfillment  in  the  sacrifice  of  the  Lord.      (Treier  2005,  824).     29  This  of  course  was  not  exclusive  for  Joseph  only.  For  example  Abraham  considered  as  a  type  of  God  the  father,   Isaac  the  obedient  son  (Ben-­‐Nabai  2000,  12).    



inquire the safety of his brothers, as God the father sends the son. Joseph was hated by his brothers; Christ was hated by his own people. Joseph was sold for twenty of silver; Christ was sold for thirty silver. As Joseph’s brothers took off his robe and through him to the pit, Jesus robe also was taken off him before he was sent to the cross. This goes on and on, and Ambrose uses some verses to support this comparison, such as Psa. 88:6 You  have  put  me  in  the  lowest  pit,  in   the  darkest  depths” (Ambrose qtd in Stokes 1997, 41-42). Delitzsch as other commetater, would support Ambrose’s allagory. Refecting on the parallelism between Joseph and Christ he wrote “as a type of path-way… of Christ, from lowliness to exaltation, from slavery to liberty, from suffering to glory” (Delitzsch qtd in Boice 1987, 12). In summary, we could say that Joseph’s story in the Christian point of view, plays an important role in the salvation history, as much as he also a model for the believers to imitate, and a source of encouragement, especially during the time of temptation and hardship. The relation between Joseph and Christ, although it looks very interesting, nevertheless it is difficult to find Biblical support for it, especially since, as Morris put it “the New Testament nowhere speaks of Joseph as a type of Christ” (Morris qtd in Boice 1987, 12).        

In  concluding  this  work,  I  would  like  to  start  with  the  following  quote  from  Boice:
If  there  was  ever  a  man  for  all  seasons,  it  was  Joseph,  the  favored  son  of  the  patriarch  Jacob.  Joseph’s  life   spanned  the  social  spectrum  of  the  ancient  world.  Raised  as  a  future  heir  of  the  wealthy  Jewish  patriarch,   he  fell  in  to  slavery  in  far-­‐off  gentile  land  but  later  rose  to  a  position  of  prominence  as  second  command   only   to   Pharaoh.   He   was   loved   and   hatred,   favored   and   abused,   tempted   and   trusted,   exalted   and   abased…  Adversity  did  not  harden  his  character.  Prosperity  did  not  ruin  him.  He  was  the  same  in  private   as  in  public.  He  was  truly  great  man  (Boice  1987,  11)  



I   believe   this   summarizes   well   the   perception   of   Joseph   by   Jewish,   Islam   and   also   Christians,   where   all   of   them   would   agree   about   the   good   characters   of   Joseph.   The   departures   starts   between   Quranic   story   of   Joseph   and   the   Biblical   one,   where   the   Quran   insert     Joseph   an   Islamic   flavor   story,   or   probably   it   would   be   more   appropriate   to   say,   when   the   Quran   grafts   into  the  Biblical  story  new  information,  taken  from  the  Midrash  and  other  sources  as  well,  in   order   to   advance   his   case.   For   this   reason   Muhammad   used   the   image   of   Joseph,   who   was   hated  by  his  brothers,  for  no  reason,  nevertheless  he  was  a  prophet,  a  messenger  of  God  who   in   the   end   will   save   them.   All   this   fits   very   well   with   Muhammad’s   situation,   where   he   was   rejected  and  opposed  from  his  tribe,  however  he  a  prophet  a  messenger  of  God,  who  through   his   message   they   might   be   saved.   In   doing   that,   Muhammad   emptied   the   story   from   its   historical  context  and  other  details  which  might  be  irrelevant  to  the  Arabs  at  that  time.  Above   all,   he   made   sure   to   emphasize   God’s   sovereignty,   wisdom   and   knowledge,   and   his   ability   to   defend  and  vindicate  his  prophets.     From   the   other   side,   we   found   that   the   emphasis   in   the   Biblical   account   was   on   God’s   work   through  history,  saving  his  people,  keeping  up  his  promises,  as  we  hear  that  from  Joseph:  "I  am   about  to  die,  but  God  will  surely  take  care  of  you,  and  bring  you  up  from  this  land  to  the  land   which   He   promised   on   oath   to   Abraham,   to   Isaac   and   to   Jacob"   (50:24).   “Whereas   Genesis   began   with   Adam   in   Eden,   it   closes   with   Joseph   in   a   Coffin”   (Tanner   2003,   7.5).   Joseph   role   and   life   ended,   but   God   still   alive   to   carry   out   his   purposes   through   this   nation.   “So   the   curtain   closes,   not   at   the   end   of   the   play   but   only   between   the   first   two   episodes.   The   story   will   continue  in  the  book  of  Exodus”  (Longman-­‐III  2005,  161).    

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