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"The Best of Stories" Part I
A dream and a plot born out of jealousy
The story begins with the young Joseph recounting to his father, the Prophet Jacob, upon whom be peace, a dream he had:
[Remember ] when Joseph said unto his father, “O my father, truly I have seen [in a dream] eleven stars and the sun and the moon. I saw them prostrating before me.”
Immediately, Prophet Jacob, upon whom be peace, knew what this dream meant, and he cautioned his son:
He said, “O my son! Recount not thy vision to thy brothers, lest they devise some scheme against thee. Surely Satan is a manifest enemy unto man.
He then continued to explain the significance of this vision:
Thus shall thy Lord choose thee, and teach thee the interpretation of events, and complete His Blessing upon thee, and upon the House of Jacob, just as He completed it upon thy forefathers, Abraham and Isaac. Truly thy Lord is Knowing, Wise.”
The “interpretation of events,” means the proper interpretation of dreams. And thus Jacob foretold the coming glory of Joseph as a Prophet of God.
And, indeed, his brothers were jealous of Joseph and the love the Prophet Jacob, upon whom be peace, had for him. They indeed schemed a plot against Joseph, saying amongst themselves:
“Truly Joseph and his brother [Benjamin] are more beloved unto our father than are we, though we are a group. Surely your father is in manifest error! Slay Joseph, or cast him out to some land, that your father’s concern might be for you. And be, thereafter, a righteous people.” One among them said, “Slay not Joseph, but cast him into the depths of the well, that some caravan might pick him up, if you would take some action.”
And so, they sought to convince their father to send Joseph out with them to “frolic and play”:
They said, “O father! What ails thee that thou dost not trust us with Joseph? Truly we wish him well. Send him forth with us tomorrow, to frolic and play. We shall surely be his keepers.” He said, “Truly it grieves me that you should go with him. And I fear that the wolf may eat him, while you are heedless of him.” They said, “If the wolf should eat him, while we are a group, then we would surely be losers!”
And so, their father relented, and he let the little Joseph go with them to “frolic and play.” Yet, sadly, they had neither “frolic” nor “play” on their minds:
So when they went with him, and agreed to put him in the depths of the well, We revealed unto him [i.e., Joseph], “Verily thou wilt inform them of this affair of theirs, when they are unaware.”
Exegesis says that they were carrying Joseph on their shoulders until they were out of sight of their father, Jacob (upon whom be peace). Then, they threw him down on the ground and took turns beating him until he nearly died. Then, they threw him into the well and left him for dead.
After this, they, “in the evening, came weeping unto their father.”
They said, “O father! We went racing with one another, and left Joseph with our things, and the wolf ate him. But thou wouldst not believe us, even if we were truthful.” And they brought forth his shirt with false blood. He said, “Nay, your souls have seduced you in this matter. Beautiful patience! And God is the One Whose help is sought against that which you describe.”
So much for “frolic and play.” And it was clear to the Prophet Jacob, upon whom be peace, that they were lying: the shirt, while bloodied, was intact, which was curious seeing that they claimed he was eaten by a wolf. And all he could do was to lean on the Lord and endure “Beautiful patience” over the loss of his beloved son.
Then, a caravan came and found Joseph in the well:
And then a caravan came along and sent their water carrier, and he let down his bucket. He said, “Good news! Here is a boy!” So they hid him as merchandise. And God knew well what they were doing. And they sold him for a low price, a number of dirhams, for they valued him not! The man from Egypt who bought him said unto his wife, “Give him honorable accommodation. It may be that he will bring us some benefit, or that we may take him as a son.” And thus did We establish Joseph in the land, that We might teach him the interpretation of events. And God prevails over His affair, but most of mankind know not.”
And so, here is Joseph: “established in the land” by God, after being left for dead by his jealous brothers. God indeed prevailed over his affair and took care of little Joseph.
And Joseph grew up, and God furthered his favor upon him:
When he reached his maturity, We gave him wisdom and knowledge. Thus do We recompense the virtuous.
It is commonly understood that “wisdom and knowledge” means that God bestowed upon him the gift of Prophethood, and this was befitting of Joseph because he was indeed among the “virtuous.”
This is the end of part I, and the “signs and miracles” of this story continue in our next part of the series. Stay tuned.
The scripture quoted in this piece were 12:5-23 (translation from The Study Qur’an).
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