The Quran

Commentaries for 12.37

Yusuf (Joseph) - يوسف

12.37 Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(He said) Joseph said to them, because he wanted to inform them about his knowledge of interpreting dreams: (The food which ye are given (daily) shall not come unto you but I shall tell you the interpretation) i.e. of its colour and type (ere it cometh unto you) so can I fail to interpret your dreams? (This) the interpretation of dreams (is of that which my Lord hath taught me. Lo! I have forsaken the religion of folk) I did not follow the religion of a people (who believe not in Allah and are disbelievers in) they are deniers of (the Hereafter) resurrection after death.
12.37 Jalal - Al-Jalalayn
He said, to them both, in order to inform [them] that he knew how to interpret dreams: ‘The food, with which you are provided, shall not come to you, while you are asleep, but I shall tell you the interpretation thereof, while you are conscious, before it, the interpretation thereof, comes to you. This is from that which my Lord has taught me — herein is an incitement for them to believe, which he reinforces with the following words: Lo! I have forsaken the creed, the religion, of a folk who do not believe in God and who moreover (hum, ‘they’ [is repeated] for emphasis) are disbelievers in the Hereafter.
12.37 Kashani - Kashani
As for the words, 'The food, with which you are provided, shall not come to you, to the end of this [verse]: an allusion to the his [Joseph's] prohibiting the two from their shares until he had made clear to them what the outcome of their affair will be concerning the tasks which they have to fulfil through judicious guidance, right direction, rectification and setting [things] right. His manifesting to them of [his] affirmation of Oneness with his words, Lo! I have forsaken, to the end of this [verse], constitutes his urging them to fulfill the incontrovertible divine command, to refrain from inquisitiveness and not to allow the disuniting of [their] orientation or the dissipation of [their] aspirations. For, the specific quality of vain desire is disunity, division and devotion to the various lusts of the contending faculties. The specific quality of [spiritual] love at the beginning, and before reaching the end, is attachment to virtuous attributes and devotion to these regardless of the beauty of the essence. So he called them both to the affirmation of Oneness with his words, Lo! I have forsaken the creed of a folk who do not believe in God, in other words, those idolaters who worship the graven images of the soul's attributes, nay [who worship] the presence of the heart and its attributes, and who in the Hereafter, that is, and who are veiled from subsistence in the spiritual world, [and he called them also] with his words,
12.37-38 Kathir - Ibn Al Kathir
Yusuf calls His Jail Mates to Tawhid even before He interprets Their Dreams
Yusuf, peace be upon him, told the two men that he has knowledge in the interpretation of whatever they saw in their dream, and that he will tell them about the interpretation of the dreams before they become a reality. This is why he said,
لاَ يَأْتِيكُمَا طَعَامٌ تُرْزَقَانِهِ إِلاَّ نَبَّأْتُكُمَا بِتَأْوِيلِهِ
(No food will come to you as your provision, but I will inform you of its interpretation) Mujahid commented,
لاَ يَأْتِيكُمَا طَعَامٌ تُرْزَقَانِهِ
(No food will come to you as your provision,) this day,
إِلاَّ نَبَّأْتُكُمَا بِتَأْوِيلِهِ قَبْلَ أَن يَأْتِيَكُمَا
(but I will inform you of its interpretation before it comes.) As-Suddi said similarly. Yusuf said that, this knowledge is from Allah Who taught it to me, because I shunned the religion of those who disbelieve in Him and the Last Day, who neither hope for Allah's reward nor fear His punishment on the Day of Return,
وَاتَّبَعْتُ مِلَّةَ ءَابَآءِي إِبْرَهِيمَ وَإِسْحَـقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ
(And I have followed the religion of my fathers, - Ibrahim, Ishaq and Ya`qub) Yusuf said, `I have avoided the way of disbelief and polytheism, and followed the way of these honorable Messengers,' may Allah's peace and blessings be on them. This, indeed, is the way of he who seeks the path of guidance and follows the way of the Messengers, all the while shunning the path of deviation. It is he whose heart Allah will guide, teaching him what he did not know beforehand. It is he whom Allah will make an Imam who is imitated in the way of righteousness, and a caller to the path of goodness. Yusuf said next,
مَا كَانَ لَنَآ أَن نُّشْرِكَ بِاللَّهِ مِن شَىْءٍ ذلِكَ مِن فَضْلِ اللَّهِ عَلَيْنَا وَعَلَى النَّاسِ
(and never could we attribute any partners whatsoever to Allah. This is from the grace of Allah to us and to mankind,) this Tawhid -Monotheism-, affirming that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah alone without partners,
مِن فَضْلِ اللَّهِ عَلَيْنَا
(is from the grace of Allah to us), He has revealed it to us and ordained it on us,
وَعَلَى النَّاسِ
(and to mankind,), to whom He has sent us as callers to Tawhid,
وَلَـكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لاَ يَشْكُرُونَ
(but most men thank not.) they do not admit Allah's favor and blessing of sending the Messengers to them, but rather,
بَدَّلُواْ نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ كُفْرًا وَأَحَلُّواْ قَوْمَهُمْ دَارَ الْبَوَارِ
(Have changed the blessings of Allah into disbelief, and caused their people to dwell in the house of destruction.) 14:28
12.36-41 Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
At the time when Prophet Joseph was sent to prison, probably he was about twenty years old. This has been inferred from two statements in the Qur'an and the Talmud. The Qur'an (v. 42) says that `....he remained in the prison for a decade or so' and the Talmud says that `....Joseph was thirty years old when he was elevated to his honorable and trustworthy position.
One of the two prisoners, according to the Bible, was the chief of the butlers of the king of Egypt, and the other the chief of the bakers. And according to the Talmud, they were condemned to the prison because during a feast stone grits were found in the bread and a fly in the wine.
The fact that two prisoners attested his righteousness shows that Prophet Joseph was held in high esteem in the prison. Otherwise there was no reason why the two should have requested him alone to interpret the dreams and paid their homage like this: "We have seen that you are a righteous man". It clearly means that the events narrated in the preceding verses had reached all and sundry and the people inside the prison and outside it, knew that he had not been guilty of any crime or sin. On the other hand, he had proved himself to be a noble soul who had come out successful in the hardest test of his piety. So much so that there was not the like of him in piety, not even among their own religious leaders in the whole country. That was why not only the prisoners but also the officers and officials of the prison looked upon him as an honorable man and had full confidence in him. The Bible confirms this: "And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph's hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it. The keeper of the prison looked not to anything that was under his hand." (Gen. 39: 22-23).
This discourse, which is the soul of this story, and is one of the best on the doctrine of Tauhid in the Qur'an itself, finds no place at all in the Bible and the Talmud. This is because they regard him merely as a wise and pious man and not as a Prophet. That is why Rev. Rodwell has, in regard to this passage, accused Muhammad (Allah's peace be upon him) of putting his own doctrine and conviction into the mouth of Joseph (Allah's peace be upon him). But the Qur'an not only puts forward and presents these two aspects of his life in a much better and clearer way but also presents him as a Prophet, who had started propagating the Message even in the prison.
As this discourse suggests several' very important things, it will be worthwhile to consider these one by one:
(1) This is the first occasion on which Prophet Joseph appears to have begun the preaching of the true Faith. For before this, the Qur'an reveals him in the different stages of his life as a man of high morality but does not say anything to show that he conveyed the Message also. From this it is clear that those stages were of a preparatory nature and the mission of Prophethood was entrusted to him at the stage of his imprisonment and this was his first discourse as a Prophet.
(2) Moreover, this was the first occasion when he revealed his identity to others. Before this, we find him bearing patiently everything that happened to him without revealing anything about his relationships with Prophet Abraham and others. He kept silent when the caravan made him a slave and carried him to Egypt: when Al-`Aziz bought him and when he was sent to prison. As Prophet Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Allah's peace be upon them all) were quite well-known, he might have used their names to advantage. The members of the caravan, both the Ishmaelites and the Midianites, were closely related to his family, and the Egyptians were, at least, familiar with the name of Prophet Abraham. Nay, the way in which Prophet Joseph mentioned their names in this discourse, shows that the fame of. his father, grandfather and great grandfather had reached Egypt. But in spite of this, Prophet Joseph did not use their names on any of the critical occasions to save himself from the plight in which he was placed. This shows that probably he himself knew that these things were inevitable for his training for the Mission for which Allah had chosen him. Now it was absolutely necessary for him, for the sake of his Mission, to reveal this fact in order to show that he was not presenting any new Faith but the same Faith that was preached by Prophets Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Allah's peace be upon them all). This was necessary because the Message demanded that it should not be presented with the claim that it was a new and novel thing but that it was the same universal and eternal Truth that has always been presented by its bearers.
(3) This teaches us that one can, like Prophet Joseph, carve out a way for the propagation of the Message, if one has the intention and the required wisdom. The two men pay their homage to him and request him to interpret their dreams. In answer to this he says, "I will tell their interpretations but Iet me first inform you about the source of my knowledge that enables me to understand dreams". Thus he takes advantage of their request and preaches his own Faith to them. We learn from this that if a person is imbued with the true and strong desire for propagating the Truth, he can very gracefully turn the direction of the conversation towards the Message he desires to convey. On the contrary, if a person has no strong desire for the propagation of the Message, he never "finds" any opportunity for it, even though hundred and one such opportunities might have come his way which could have been utilized for this purpose. But one must be on one's guard to discriminate between the right use of an opportunity by a wise man from the crude "propagation" of a foolish and un-cultured person, who tries to thrust the Message into the ears of unwilling hearers and succeeds only in creating aversion for it in their minds because of his crude way of presentation.
(4) This also teaches the right procedure that should be followed in presenting the Message. Prophet Joseph does not present, at the very start, the details of the creed and regulations of the Faith but the most fundamental thing that distinguishes a Believer from a non-Believer, that is, the distinction between Tauhid and shirk. Then he presents it in such a rational manner as cannot fail to convince any man of common sense. And his argument must have impressed deeply on the minds of the two slaves. "Which is better: various gods or One Omnipotent Allah?" They knew it from their personal experience that it was much better to serve one master than a number of them. Therefore it was far better to serve the Lord of the universe than His servants. Moreover, he does not invite them directly to accept his Faith and discard their own faith, but he very wisely draws their attention to this fact; "This is Allah's bounty upon us and upon all mankind that He has not made us the servants of any other than Himself, yet most of the people are not grateful to Him. Instead of serving Him alone, they invent gods for themselves and worship them". Then it is also noteworthy that his criterion of the faith of his addressees is based on wisdom and has no tinge of bitterness in it. He says, "The gods whom you call `the god of wealth' or `the god of health' or 'the god of prosperity' or `the god of rain' etc. are mere names you have given them without any reality behind them. The real Owner of everything is the Supreme Allah Whom you also acknowledge as the Creator and the Lord of the whole universe. He has sent no authority and given no sanction to anyone for Godhead and worship, but has reserved all the powers, all the rights and all the authorities for Himself, and commanded, `Serve and worship none but Me.''
(5) It may also be inferred from this discourse that Prophet Joseph must have made full use of this "opportunity" of a decade for the propagation of the Message. Some people think that that was the only time when he extended the invitation to the Message. This is wrong for two reasons. First, it is absurd to imagine that a Prophet could have been neglectful of his Mission for a long period. Second, it cannot be imagined that the person who availed himself of the opportunity when two men approached him for the interpretation of their dreams, could ever have passed a decade of imprisonment without propagating the Message entrusted to him by his Lord.