Sūra Yūsuf (Arabic: سورة یوسف) or Sūra Aḥsan al-Qaṣaṣ (Arabic: سورة اَحْسَنُ القِصَصْ) (literally: the best of stories) is the twelfth sura of the Qur'an. It is a Makki sura located in twelfth and thirteenth juz's of the Qur'an. It is called "Yusuf" (the Prophet Joseph (a)) because it is concerned with the life story of the Prophet Joseph (a) as the best of stories.
The story of Joseph (a) 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 (a) in all of its verses except the last few. "Yusuf" occurs twenty seven times in the Qur'an, twenty five of which is in Sura Yusuf. It is also called "Ahsan al-Qasas" (the best of stories) because the verse 3 of the sura characterizes the story of Joseph (a) 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 fifty third sura revealed to the Prophet (s). In the present order of compilation, it is the twelfth sura, located in twelfth and thirteenth 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.
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.
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 (s) when a group of Jews encouraged polytheists of Mecca to ask the Prophet about why Children of Israel immigrated from Levant 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-Qasas) 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.
قُلْ هَـٰذِهِ سَبِيلِي أَدْعُو إِلَى اللَّـهِ ۚ عَلَىٰ بَصِيرَةٍ أَنَا وَمَنِ اتَّبَعَنِي ۖ وَسُبْحَانَ اللَّـهِ وَمَا أَنَا مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ
"Say, ‘This is my way. I summon to Allah with insight—I and he who follows me. Immaculate is Allah, and I am not one of the polytheists.’"
|— Qur'an 12:108|
'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.
Merits and Benefits
Al-Shaykh al-Saduq has quoted Imam al-Sadiq (a) 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 (s) 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.
- Makārim Shīrāzī, Tafsīr-i nimūna, vol. 9, p. 292.
- Ṣafawī, "Sura-yi Yusuf," p. 839.
- Khurramshāhī, "Sura-yi Shuʾrā," p. 1240.
- Maʿrifat, Āmūzish-i ʿulūm Qurʾān, vol. 2, p. 166.
- Khurramshāhī, "Sura-yi Shuʾrā," p. 1240; Ṣafawī, "Sura-yi Yusuf," p. 839.
- Makārim Shīrāzī, Tafsīr-i nimūna, vol. 9, p. 293.
- Ṭabāṭabāyī, al-Mīzān, vol. 11, p. 73.
- Khamagar, Muhammad, Sakhtar-i suraha-yi Qur'an-i karim, Mu'assisa-yi Farhangi-yi Qur'an wa 'Itrat-i Nur al-Thaqalayn, Qom: Nashra, ed.1, 1392 Sh.
- Ṭabāṭabāyī, al-Mīzān, vol. 11, p. 74.
- Wāḥidī, Asbāb nuzūl al-Qurān, p. 275-276.
- Ṭabāṭabāyī, al-Mīzān, vol. 11, p. 277.
- Ḥuwayzī, Tafsīr nūr al-thaqalayn, vol. 2, p. 408.
- Makārim Shīrāzī, Tafsīr-i nimūna, vol. 9, p. 297.
- Ṣadūq, Thawāb al-aʿmāl, p. 106.
- Ṭabrisī, Majmaʿ al-bayān, vol. 5, p. 315.
- Qurʾān-i Karīm. Translated to Farsi by Muḥammad Mahdī Fūlādwand. Tehran: Dār al-Qurʾān al-Karīm, 1376 Sh-1418 AH.
- Ḥuwayzī, ʿAbd ʿAlī b. al-Jumʿa al-. Tafsīr-i nūr al-thaqalayn. Edited by Hāshim Rasūlī. Fourth edition. Qom: Intishārāt-i Ismāʿīlīyān, 1415 AH.
- Khurramshāhī, Qawām al-Dīn. "Sūra-yi Yusuf" in Dānishnāma-yi Qurʾān wa Qurʾān pazhūhī. Tehran: Dūstān-Nāhīd, 1377 Sh.
- Khāmagar, Muḥammad, Sākhtār-i sūrahā-yi Qur'ān-i karīm, Mu'assisa-yi Farhangī-yi Qur'ān wa 'Itrat-i Nūr al-Thaqalayn. Qom: Nashr-i Nashrā, 1392 Sh.
- Maʿrifat, Muḥammad Hādī. Āmūzish-i ʿulūm Qurʾān. 4th edition. Markaz-i Chāp wa Nashr-i Sāzmān-i Tablīghāt-i Islāmī, [n.p], 1371 Sh.
- Makārim Shīrāzī, Nāṣir. Tafsīr-i nimūnah. Tehran: Dār al-Kutub al-Islāmīyya, 1371 Sh.
- Ṣadūq, Muḥammad b. ʿAlī al-. Thawāb al-aʿmāl wa ʿiqāb al-aʿmāl. Qom: Dār al-Sharīf al-Raḍī, 1406 AH.
- Ṣafawī, Salmān. "Sūra-yi Yusuf" in Dānishnāma-yi Muʿāṣir-i Qurʾān-i Karīm. Qom: Intishārāt-i Salmān Azāda, 1396 Sh.
- Ṭabāṭabāyī, Mūhammad Ḥusayn. Al-Mīzān fī tafsīr al-Qurʾān. Qom: Daftar-i Intishārāt-i Islāmī, 1417 AH.
- Ṭabrisī, Faḍl b. al-Ḥasan al-. Majmaʿ al-bayān fī tafsīr al-Qurʾān. Tehran: Nāṣir Khusru, 1372 Sh.
- Wāḥidī, Alī b. Aḥmad. Asbāb al-nuzūl al-Qurʾān. Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-Ilmīyya, 1411 AH.