Qur’an 12: Joseph

So many of the chapters of the Qur’an are interpretive mash-ups — of Mary and Miriam, of Abraham and Peter, Moses and Joshua — that I wonder if the mash-ups are the essence of the chapters, and not just a feature of them. Specifically, I wonder if the chapters of the Qur’an are literally homilies, which follow a two-readings, a psalm, and a gospel as in most liturgical churches. So for the twelfth chapter, Joseph, and perhaps others, I will begin by presenting a list of readings that implicit in the chapter, and then discuss the particular narrative of the chapter itself.

Readings

A Reading, from the Book of Genesis:

And it came to pass after these things that his master’s wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.”

But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”

So it was, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her.

But it happened about this time, when Joseph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house was inside, that she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside. And so it was, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and fled outside, that she called to the men of her house and spoke to them, saying, “See, he has brought in to us a Hebrew to mock us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice. And it happened, when he heard that I lifted my voice and cried out, that he left his garment with me, and fled and went outside.”

So she kept his garment with her until his master came home. Then she spoke to him with words like these, saying, “The Hebrew servant whom you brought to us came in to me to mock me; so it happened, as I lifted my voice and cried out, that he left his garment with me and fled outside.”

So it was, when his master heard the words which his wife spoke to him, saying, “Your servant did to me after this manner,” that his anger was aroused. Then Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were confined. And he was there in the prison
Genesis 39:7-20

A Reading, from the Acts of the Apostles:

“Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. For these reasons the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me. Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come— that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”

King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe.”

Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.”

And Paul said, “I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.”

When he had said these things, the king stood up, as well as the governor and Bernice and those who sat with them; 31 and when they had gone aside, they talked among themselves, saying, “This man is doing nothing deserving of death or chains.”

Then Agrippa said to Festus, “This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”
Acts 26:13-23,23-32

A Song, from the Psalms:

Give the king Your judgments, O God,
And Your righteousness to the king’s Son.
He will judge Your people with righteousness,
And Your poor with justice.
The mountains will bring peace to the people,
And the little hills, by righteousness.
He will bring justice to the poor of the people;
He will save the children of the needy,
And will break in pieces the oppressor.
Psalms 72:1-4

A Reading, from the Gospel according St. Matthew:

Then Jesus said to His disciples,

“If anyone desires to come after Me,
let him deny himself,
and take up his cross,
and follow Me.

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”
Mark 16:24-28

A Qur’anic Homily

The Qur’anic author believes there is a “Book” or Heavenly Scrolls with God, but the Qur’an itself is not this book. It is a collection of talks, elaborated stories, that highlight the best of the Torah and the Gospels:

We will recount to you the best narratives in what We have revealed to you of this Lectionary and prior to it you were indeed among those who were unaware of it.
Qur’an 12:3

This Qur’an was written to more clearly express the morals in Torah and the Gospels:

There is certainly a moral in their accounts for those who possess intellect. This is not a fabricated discourse; rather, it is a confirmation of what was before it, and an elaboration of all things, and guidance and mercy for people who have faith.
Qur’an 12:111

The twelfth chapter of the Qur’an, “Joseph,” explains how judgment works. Good judges and bad judges are described, both in public matters and private.

For instance, in the Bible and the Qur’an Potiphar’s wife attempts to seduce Joseph, and then frames him for rape.

They raced to the door, and she tore his shirt from behind, and they ran to her husband [Potiphar]. She said, ‘What is to be the requital of him who has evil intentions for your wife except imprisonment or a painful punishment? He said, ‘It was she who solicited me.’

A witness of her own household testified: “If his shirt is torn from the front, she tells the truth and he lies. But if his shirt is torn from behind, then she lies and he tells the truth.’

Joseph, let this matter alone, and you, woman, plead for forgiveness for your sin, for you have indeed been erring.
Qur’an 12:29

Yet the next we see Joseph, he is in prison. The judge has ‘compromised,’ like Pilate, leading to an unjust outcome.

Somewhat better is the king, who at least demands the truth, and gets it:

The king said, ‘What was your business, women, when you solicited Joseph?’ They said, “heaven be praised! We know of no evil in him.’

The prince’s [Potiphar’s] wife said, ‘Now the truth has come to light! It was I who solicited him, and he is indeed telling the truth. This, that he may know that I did not betray him in his absence, and God does not further the schemes of the treacherous. Yet I do not absolve my soul, for the soul indeed prompts to evil, except inasmuch as my Lord has mercy. My Lord is indeed all-forgiving, all-merciful!’
Qur’an 12:51-53

A wise judge, such as Joseph during his evaluation of his brothers, seeks evidence and considers it wisely.

“When he had furnished them with their provisions, he put the drinking-cup into his brother’s saddlebag. Then a herald shouted: O caravan! You are indeed thieves!.. The said, ‘The requital for it shall be that he in whose saddlebag it is found shall give himself over as its requital. Thus do we requite the wrongdoers.’
Qur’an 12:70,75

Joseph also judges — or balances — in theological matters. For instance, he uses dreams of bread and grapes (the raw material of the transubstantiation) to emphasize the need for absolute Monotheism and a lack of intercessors:

There entered the prison two youths along with him. One of them said, ‘I dreamt that I am pressing grapes.’ The other said, ‘I dreamt that I am carrying brad on my head from which the birds are eating.’ ‘Inform us of its interpretation, for indeed we see you are a virtuous man.’

He said, ‘Before the meals you are served come to you I will inform you of its interpretation. That is among things my Lord has taught me. Indeed, I renounce the creed of the people who have no faith in God and who also disbelieve in the Hereafter. I follow the creed of my fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

It is not for us to ascribe any partner to God. That is by virtue of God’s grace upon us and upon all mankind, but most people do not give thanks.

O my prison mates! Are different masters better, or the God, the One, the All-paramount?
Qur’an 12:36-38

And likewise Joseph prays for his brothers, not of his own initiative (Which would have been arrogant in the Qur’anic author’s eyes) but as a response to a request (which was to help those of weak faith)

They said, ‘Father! Plead for forgiveness of our sins! We have indeed been erring!.’

He said, ‘I shall plead with my Lord to forgive you; indeed He is the All-forgiving, All-merciful.’
Qur’an 12:97-98

Joseph is a type of Christ, calling others to follow him:

They said, ‘Father! Plead for forgiveness of our sins! We have indeed been erring!.’

He said, ‘I shall plead with my Lord to forgive you; indeed He is the All-forgiving, All-merciful.’
Qur’an 12:97-98

And even using his clothes to mediate his presence to others:

Take this shirt of mine and cast it upon my father’s face, he will regain his sight, and bring me all your folks.’

As the caravan set off, their father said, ‘I sense the scent of Joseph, if you will not consider me a dotard.’
Qur’an 12:93-94

Joseph is an icon of what a judge, a balances, a man should be. “Are you really Joseph?” in the reunion between Joseph and Benjamin could be replaced with, “Are you really what I should be?”

They said, ‘Are your really Joseph?”‘

He said, ‘I m Joseph, and this is my brother. Certainly God has shown us favor. Indeed, if one is Godwary and patient, God does not waste the reward of the virtuous.’

They said, ‘By God, God has certainly preferred you over us, and we have indeed been erring.’

He said, ‘There shall be no reproach on you today. God will forgive you and He is the most merciful of the merciful.
Qur’an 12:90-92

The cause of these though is the Lord, and it is the Lord’s power without intercession which allows any of this to work.

And as with Christ, Joseph leave us with a prayer, a variation of the Our Father.

My Lord! You have granted me a share in the kingdom, and taught me the interpretation of drams. Originator of the heaven and earth! You are my guardian in this world and the Hereafter! Let my death be in submission, and unite me with the Righteous.
Qur’an 12:101

Unites his father with his brothers:

And he seated his parents high upon the throne, and they fell down prostrate before him. He said, ‘Father! This is the fulfillment of my dream of long ago, which my Lord has made come true. He was certainly gracious to me when He brought me out of the prison and brought you over from the desert after that Satan had incited ill feeling between me and my brothers. My Lord is indeed all-attentive in bringing about what He wishes. Indeed, He is the All-knowing, the All-wise.’
Qur’an 12:100

And as with Genesis, in all of this, there is a shock.

The first book book with a Bible ends with the last of the Patriarchs, entombed, a mummy:

So Joseph died, being one hundred and ten years old; and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.
Genesis 50:26

To any who know typology, and what Egypt represents, the penultimate lines of Joshua are no less shocking:

When they entered into the presence of Joseph, he set his parents close to himself, and said, ‘Welcome to Egypt, in safety, God willing!’
Qur’an 12:99

The only thing more shocking in the Bible, perhaps, is the next Joseph who enters Egypt:

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”

When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”
Matthew 2:13-15