Sura Yusuf or Sura Ahsan al-Qisas (literally: the best of stories) is the twelfth sura of the Qur'an. It is a Makki sura located in 12th and 13th juz's of the Qur'an. It is called “Yusuf” (the Prophet Joseph) because it is concerned with the life story of the Prophet Joseph as the best of stories.
The story of Joseph is the only story in the Qur'an which is recounted in detail from the beginning to the end in one sura. The whole sura is devoted to the story except its last few verses. The sura concerns God’s care for His sincere servants by giving them esteem in the hardest of conditions.
The sura is called “Yusuf” because it fully recounts the life story of the Prophet Joseph in all of its verses except the last few. “Yusuf” occurs 27 times in the Qur'an, 25 of which is in Sura Yusuf. It is also called “Ahsan al-Qisas” (the best of stories) because the verse 3 of the sura characterizes the story of Joseph as the best of stories.
Place and Order of Revelation
Sura Yusuf is a Makki sura of the Qur'an. In the order of revelation, it is the 53rd sura revealed to the Prophet. In the present order of compilation, it is the 12th sura, located in 12th and 13th juz's of the Qur'an.
Number of Verses and Other Features
Sura Yusuf has 111 verses, 1795 words, and 7305 letters. With regard to size, it counts as one of the Mi'un suras, that is, intermediary with respect to size. It is the sixth sura opening with disjoined letters.
All verses of Sura Yusuf, except its last few verses, are concerned with the exemplary life story of the Prophet Joseph who displayed chastity, continence, piety, and faith.
In his al-Mizan, 'Allama Tabataba'i takes the main theme of Sura Yusuf to be God’s care for, and guardianship over, human beings, particularly His sincere servants. In his view, if one has sincere faith in God, God will train him in the best possible way and will give him the utmost esteem and respect in the hardest of conditions in which all apparent causes seem to aim at his destruction.
Table Content of Sura Yusuf
God’s support of sincere believers
First chapter: the story of God’s support of Joseph because of his sincerity
Introduction: the Qur'an’s excellent way of story-telling
First speech: Joseph’s childhood and his brothers’ enmity towards him
Second speech: Joseph as a slave in Egypt
Third speech: Joseph’s chastity in the palace
Fourth speech: Joseph in the prison
Fifth speech: Joseph’s appointment as a minister in Egypt
Sixth speech: Joseph’s meeting with his brothers in Egypt
Seventh speech: Joseph’s plan to keep his brother in Egypt
Eighth speech: Jacob’s conversation with his sons
Ninth speech: the repentance of Joseph’s brothers
Tenth speech: Jacob’s meeting with Joseph
Eleventh speech: God’s guardian over, and care for, Joseph in all stages of his life
Second chapter: invitation of people to have sincere faith
First subject-matter: satisfaction of conditions for people’s faith
First point: the Prophet’s call to monotheism not being intended for a payment
Second point: signs of monotheism in the nature
Third point: the approach of God’s punishment
Second subject-matter: the Prophet’s obligation to call people to faith and sincerity
First point: the call to monotheism
Second point: a reminder of the fate of polytheism and faithlessness
Third point: the story of Joseph having a lesson for people of understanding
Historical Stories and Narrations
The story of Joseph is recounted in Sura Yusuf within the following sections:
- The story of Joseph’s dream, which he told his father about
- The jealousy of Joseph’s brothers towards him and throwing him into a water well
- Joseph’s rescue from the well and him being sold as a slave in Egypt
- Zuleikha’s infatuation with Joseph, her disgrace, and Egyptian women cutting their fingers when seeing Joseph
- Joseph’s imprisonment and his interpretation of the dreams of his two fellow prisoners
- Joseph’s interpretation of the dream of the Egyptian king, his acquittal, his release from the prison
- Joseph’s rise to a position in the court of Egypt
- Joseph’s brothers going to Egypt to receive their share of wheat, Joseph’s keeping Benjamin in Egypt, his introduction of himself to his brothers, and…
- Jacob and Children of Israel going to Egypt, and Joseph’s dream coming true
Occasion of the Revelation
According to 'Allama Tabataba'i, Sura Yusuf was revealed to the Prophet when a group of Jews encouraged polytheists of Mecca to ask the Prophet about why Children of Israel immigrated from al-Sham to Egypt. Thus, the sura was revealed in response to their question.
According to Asbab nuzul al-Qur'an by 'Ali b. Ahmad al-Wahidi, some people asked the Prophet to tell them a story so that they no longer feel bored. In response, Sura Yusuf was revealed, which came to be called the best of stories (Ahsan al-Qisas) or the best of talk (Ahsan al-Hadith).
One well-known verse of Sura Yusuf is the verse 108 of Sura Yusuf inviting people to follow the Prophet’s way with insight.
'Allama Tabataba'i interprets the “way” in this verse as pure faith and sincere monotheism with insight and certainty. The way is merely shared by people who are sincere in religion, knowledge of God’s position, and have insight and certainty.
Teaching the Sura to Women
There are hadiths prohibiting women from learning and reading Sura Yusuf. According to Tafsir-i nimuna, although the Qur'an recounts the story with pure euphemism to remove any such doubts, these hadiths are not reliable. It is said that there are hadiths, in contrast, which encourage the teaching of this sura to families.
Virtue and Effects
Al-Shaykh al-Saduq has quoted Imam al-Sadiq as saying that if one recites Sura Yusuf every night or every day, God will resurrect him with a face as beautiful as Joseph’s, he will not fear on the day of resurrection, and will be a righteous and selected servant of God.
According to Majma' al-bayan, the Prophet said: if one recites Sura Yusuf and teaches it to his family and his servants, God will ease death for him and will give him the power not to be jealous of any Muslim.
- The material for this article is mainly taken from سوره یوسف in Farsi WikiShia.
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