The Project Gutenberg ebook of The Koran

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Slay ye Joseph! or drive him to some other land, and on you alone shall your

father's face be set! and after this, ye shall live as upright persons."

One of them said, "Slay not Joseph, but cast him down to the bottom of the

well: if ye do so, some wayfarers will take him up."

They said, "O our Father! why dost thou not entrust us with Joseph? indeed we

mean him well.

Send him with us to-morrow that he may enjoy himself and sport: we will

surely keep him safely."

He said, "Verily, your taking him away will grieve me; and I fear lest while

ye are heedless of him the wolf devour him."

They said, "Surely if the wolf devour him, and we so many, we must in that

case be weak indeed."5

And when they went away with him they agreed to place him at the bottom of

the well. And We revealed to him, "Thou wilt yet tell them of this their

deed, when they shall not know thee."
And they came at nightfall to their father weeping.
They said, "O our Father! of a truth, we went to run races, and we left

Joseph with our clothes, and the wolf devoured him: but thou wilt not believe

us even though we speak the truth."
And they brought his shirt with false blood upon it. He said, "Nay, but

yourselves have managed this affair.6 But patience is seemly: and the help of

God is to be implored that I may bear what you tell me."
And wayfarers came and sent their drawer of water,7 and he let down his

bucket. "Good news!"8 said he, "This is a youth!" And they kept his case

secret, to make merchandise of him. But God knew what they did.
And they sold him for a paltry price�for some dirhems counted down, and at no

high rate did they value him.

And he who bought him�an Egyptian�said to his wife, "Treat him hospitably;

haply he may be useful to us, or we may adopt him as a son." Thus did we

settle Joseph in the land, and we instructed him in the interpretation of

dark sayings, for God is equal to his purpose; but most men know it not.

And when he had reached his age of strength we bestowed on him judgment and

knowledge; for thus do we recompense the well doers.

And she in whose house he was conceived a passion for him, and she shut the

doors and said, "Come hither." He said, "God keep me! Verily, my lord hath

given me a good home: and the injurious shall not prosper."
But she longed for him; and he had longed for her had he not seen a token

from his lord.9 Thus we averted evil and defilement from him, for he was one

of our sincere servants.
And they both made for the door, and she rent his shirt behind; and at the

door they met her lord. "What," said she, "shall be the recompense of him who

would do evil to thy family, but a prison10 or a sore punishment?"
He said, "She solicited me to evil." And a witness out of her own family11

witnessed: "If his shirt be rent in front she speaketh truth, and he is a

But if his shirt be rent behind, she lieth and he is true."
And when his lord saw his shirt torn behind, he said, "This is one of your

devices! verily your devices are great!

Joseph! leave this affair. And thou, O wife, ask pardon for thy crime, for

thou hast sinned."

And in the city, the women said, "The wife of the Prince hath solicited her

servant: he hath fired her with his love: but we clearly see her manifest

And when she heard of their cabal, she sent to them and got ready a banquet

for them, and gave each one of them a knife, and said, "Joseph shew thyself

to them." And when they saw him they were amazed at him, and cut their

hands,12 and said, "God keep us! This is no man! This is no other than a

noble angel!"
She said, "This is he about whom ye blamed me. I wished him to yield to my

desires, but he stood firm. But if he obey not my command, he shall surely be

cast into prison, and become one of the despised."
He said, "O my Lord! I prefer the prison to compliance with their bidding:

but unless thou turn away their snares from me, I shall play the youth with

them, and become one of the unwise."
And his Lord heard him and turned aside their snares from him: for he is the

Hearer, the Knower.

Yet resolved they, even after they had seen the signs of his innocence, to

imprison him for a time.

And there came into the prison with him two youths. Said one of them,

"Methought in my dream that I was pressing grapes." And the other said, "I

dreamed that I was carrying bread on my head, of which the birds did eat.

Declare to us the interpretation of this, for we see thou art a virtuous

He said, "There shall not come to you in a dream any food wherewith ye shall

be fed, but I will acquaint you with its interpretation ere it come to pass

to you. This is a part of that which my Lord hath taught me: for I have

abandoned the religion13 of those who believe not in God and who deny the

life to come;
And I follow the religion of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. We may

not associate aught with God. This is of God's bounty towards us and towards

mankind: but the greater part of mankind are not thankful.
O my two fellow prisoners! are sundry lords best, or God, the One, the

Ye worship beside him mere names which ye have named, ye and your fathers,

for which God hath not sent down any warranty. Judgment belongeth to God

alone. He hath bidden you worship none but Him. This is the right faith: but

most men know it not.
O my two fellow prisoners! as to one of you, he will serve wine unto his

Lord: but as to the other, he will be crucified and the birds shall eat from

off his head. The matter is decreed concerning which ye enquire."
And he said unto him who he judged would be set at large, "Remember me with

thy lord." But Satan caused him to forget the remembrance of his Lord,14 so

he remained some years in prison.
And the King said, "Verily, I saw in a dream seven fat kine which seven lean

devoured; and seven green ears and other withered. O nobles, teach me my

vision, if a vision ye are able to expound."
They said, "They are confused dreams, nor know we aught of the unravelling of

And he of the twain who had been set at large, said, "I will tell you the

interpretation; let me go for it."
"Joseph, man of truth! teach us of the seven fat kine which seven lean

devoured, and of the seven green ears, and other withered, that I may return

to the men, and that they may be informed."
He said, "Ye shall sow seven years as is your wont, and the corn which ye

reap leave ye in its ear, except a little of which ye shall eat.

Then after that shall come seven grievous years which shall eat what ye have

stored for them, except a little which ye shall have kept.

Then shall come after this a year, in which men shall have rain, and in which

they shall press the grape."

And the King said, "Bring him to me."15 And when the messenger came to Joseph

he said, "Go back to thy lord, and ask him what meant the women who cut their

hands, for my lord well knoweth the snare they laid."
Then said the Prince to the women, "What was your purpose when ye solicited

Joseph?" They said, "God keep us! we know not any ill of him." The wife of

the Prince said, "Now doth the truth appear. It was I who would have led him

into unlawful love, and he is one of the truthful."

"By this" (said Joseph) "may my lord know that I did not in his absence play

him false, and that God guideth not the machinations of deceivers.

Yet I hold not myself clear, for the heart is prone to evil, save theirs on

whom my Lord hath mercy; for gracious is my Lord, Merciful."

And the King said, "Bring him to me: I will take him for my special service."

And when he had spoken with him he said, "From this day shalt thou be with

us, invested with place and trust."
He said, "Set me over the granaries of the land,16 I will be their prudent

Thus did we stablish Joseph in the land that he might house himself therein

at pleasure. We bestow our favours on whom we will, and suffer not the reward

of the righteous to perish.

And truly the recompense of the life to come is better, for those who have

believed and feared God.

And Joseph's brethren came and went in to him and he knew them, but they

recognised him not.

And when he had provided them with their provision, he said, "Bring me your

brother from your father. See ye not that I fill the measure, and am the best

of hosts?
But if ye bring him not to me, then no measure of corn shall there be for you

from me, nor shall ye come near me."

They said, "We will ask him of his father, and we will surely do it."
Said he to his servants, "Put their money into their camel-packs, that they

may perceive it when they have returned to their family: haply they will come

back to us."
And when they returned to their father, they said, "O, our father! corn is

withholden from us: send, therefore, our brother with us and we shall have

our measure; and all care of him will we take."
He said, "Shall I entrust you with him otherwise than as I before entrusted

you with his brother? But God is the best guardian, and of those who shew

compassion He is the most compassionate."
And when they opened their goods they found their money had been returned to

them. They said, "O, our father, what more can we desire? Here is our money

returned to us; we will provide corn for our families, and will take care of

our brother, and shall receive a camel's burden more of corn. This is an easy

He said, "I will not send him with you but on your oath before God that ye

will, indeed, bring him back to me, unless hindrances encompass you." And

when they had given him their pledge, he said, "God is witness of what we

And he said, "O, my sons! Enter not by one gate, but enter by different

gates.18 Yet can I not help you against aught decreed by God: judgment

belongeth to God alone. In Him put I my trust, and in Him let the trusting

And when they entered as their father had bidden them, it did not avert from

them anything decreed of God; but it only served to satisfy a desire in the

soul of Jacob which he had charged them to perform; for he was possessed of

knowledge which we had taught him; but most men have not that knowledge.

And when they came in to Joseph, he took his brother to him. He said,

"Verily, I am thy brother. Be not thou grieved for what they did."19

And when he had provided them with their provisions, he placed his drinking

cup in his brother's camel-pack. Then a crier cried after them, "O

travellers! ye are surely thieves."
They turned back to them and said, "What is that ye miss?"
"We miss," said they, "the prince's cup. For him who shall restore it, a

camel's load of corn! I pledge myself for it."

They said, "By God! ye know certainly that we came not to do wrong20 in the

land and we have not been thieves."

"What," said the Egyptians, "shall be the recompense of him who hath stolen

it, if ye be found liars?"

They said, "That he in whose camel-pack it shall be found be given up to you

in satisfaction for it. Thus recompense we the unjust."

And Joseph began with their sacks, before the sack of his brother, and then

from the sack of his brother he drew it out. This stratagem did we suggest to

Joseph. By the King's law he had no power to seize his brother, had not God

pleased. We uplift into grades of wisdom whom we will. And there is one

knowing above every one else endued with knowledge.
They said, "If he steal, a brother of his hath stolen heretofore."21 But

Joseph kept his secret, and did not discover it to them. Said he, aside, "Ye

are in the worse condition. And God well knoweth what ye state."
They said, "O Prince! Verily he hath a very aged father; in his stead,

therefore, take one of us, for we see that thou art a generous person."

He said, "God forbid that we should take but him with whom our property was

found, for then should we act unjustly."

And when they despaired of Benjamin, they went apart for counsel. The eldest

of them said, "Know ye not how that your father hath taken a pledge from you

before God, and how formerly ye failed in duty with regard to Joseph? I will

not quit the land till my father give me leave, or God decide for me; for of

those who decide is He the best.
Return ye to your father and say, 'O our father! Verily, thy son hath stolen:

we bear witness only of what we know: we could not guard against the

Enquire for thyself in the city where we have been, and of the caravan with

which we have arrived; and we are surely speakers of the truth.'

He said, "Nay, ye have arranged all this among yourselves: But patience is

seemly: God, may be, will bring them back to me together; for he is the

Knowing, the Wise."
And he turned away from them and said, "Oh! how I am grieved for Joseph!" and

his eyes became white with grief, for he bore a silent sorrow.

They said, "By God thou wilt only cease to think of Joseph when thou art at

the point of death, or dead."

He said, "I only plead my grief and my sorrow to God: but I know from God

what ye know not:22

Go, my sons, and seek tidings of Joseph and his brother, and despair not of

God's mercy, for none but the unbelieving despair of the mercy of God."

And when they came in to Joseph, they said, "O Prince, distress hath reached

us and our family, and little is the money that we have brought. But give us

full measure, and bestow it as alms, for God will recompense the almsgivers."
He said, "Know ye what ye did to Joseph and his brother in your ignorance?"
They said, "Canst thou indeed be Joseph?" He said, "I am Joseph, and this is

my brother. Now hath God been gracious to us. For whoso feareth God and

endureth. . . . God verily will not suffer the reward of the righteous to

They said, "By God! now hath God chosen thee above us, and we have indeed

been sinners!"
He said, "No blame be on you this day. God will forgive you, for He is the

most merciful of those who shew mercy.

Go ye with this my shirt and throw it on my father's face, and he shall

recover his sight: and bring me all your family."

And when the caravan was departed, their father said, "I surely perceive the

smell of Joseph:23 think ye that I dote?"

They said, "By God, it is thy old mistake."
And when the bearer of good tidings came, he cast it on his face, and Jacob's

eyesight returned."

Then he said, "Did I not tell you that I knew from God what ye knew not?"
They said, "Our father, ask pardon for our crimes for us, for we have indeed

been sinners."

He said, "I will ask your pardon of my Lord, for he is Gracious, Merciful."
And when they came into Joseph he took his parents24 to him, and said, "Enter

ye Egypt, if God will, secure."

And he raised his parents to the seat of state, and they fell down bowing

themselves unto him. Then said he, "O my father, this is the meaning of my

dream of old. My Lord hath now made it true, and he hath surely been gracious

to me, since he took me forth from the prison, and hath brought you up out of

the desert, after that Satan had stirred up strife between me and my

brethren; for my Lord is gracious to whom He will; for He is the Knowing, the

O my Lord, thou hast given me dominion, and hast taught me to expound dark

sayings. Maker of the Heavens and of the Earth! My guardian art thou in this

world and in the next! Cause thou me to die a Muslim, and join me with the

This is one of the secret histories25 which we reveal unto thee. Thou wast

not present with Joseph's brethren when they conceived their design and laid

their plot: but the greater part of men, though thou long for it, will not

Thou shalt not ask of them any recompense for this message. It is simply an

instruction for all mankind.

And many as are the signs in the Heavens and on the Earth, yet they will pass

them by, and turn aside from them:

And most of them believe not in God, without also joining other deities with

What! Are they sure that the overwhelming chastisement of God shall not come

upon them, or that that Hour shall not come upon them suddenly, while they

are unaware?

SAY: This is my way: resting on a clear proof, I call you to God, I and whoso

followeth me: and glory be to God! I am not one of those who add other

deities to Him.
Never before thee have we sent any but men, chosen out of the people of the

cities, to whom we made revelations. Will they not journey through the land,

and see what hath been the end of those who were before them? But the

mansions of the next life shall be better for those who fear God. Will they

not then comprehend?
When at last the Apostles lost all hope, and deemed that they were reckoned

as liars, our aid reached them, and we delivered whom we would; but our

vengeance was not averted from the wicked.
Certainly in their histories is an example for men of understanding. This is

no new tale of fiction, but a confirmation of previous scriptures, and an

explanation of all things, and guidance and mercy to those who believe.


1 See Sura lxviii. p. 32. In no other Sura beside this is one subject treated

of throughout. It was recited to the first eight of the Ansars who were

converted, and clearly proves that Muhammad must have been in confidential

intercourse with learned Jews.

2 The word Koran is here used in the same sense as Sura.
3 Muhammad was either unaware of the previous dream mentioned, Gen. xxxvii.

7, or passes it by in silence.

4 The captious and unbelieving Koreisch.
5 Wir mussten denn zuerst das Leben einbüssen. Wahl. Ullm. Maracci.
6 Lit. your minds have made a thing seem pleasant to you.
7 According to Gen. xxxvii. 24, the well or pit had "no water in it.
8 Some take the Arabic Boshra as the proper name of the person who

accompanied the drawer of water.

9 The apparition of his father, who said, "Hereafter shall the names of thy

brethren, engraven on precious stones, shine on the breast of the High

Priest. Shall thine be blotted out?" Tr. Sotah, fol. 36. Comp. Weil,

Legenden, p. 109, n.

10 Lit. that he be imprisoned.
11 An infant in the cradle. Sepher Hadjascher, as below on v. 31.
12 Instead of their food, through surprise at his beauty. Seph. Hadj. in

Midr. Jalkut. See also Midr. Abkhir, ib. ch. 146.

13 It is curious to observe how Muhammad, in this and the following verse,

puts his own doctrine and convictions into the mouth of Joseph.

14 Satan induced Joseph to place his confidence in man, rather than in God

alone, in punishment of which sin the imprisonment was continued. Thus Midr.

Rabba. Gen. Par. 89. Midr. Jalkut, ib. ch. 147.
15 In Gen. xli. 14, Joseph is released from prison before the interpretation

of the dreams. But the Koran makes him decline to quit it till his character

is cleared.
16 According to Gen. xli. 39, Pharaoh of his own accord sets Joseph over his

house and land.

17 For the king to bestow.
18 Thus we read in Mid. Rab. on Gen. Par. 91, "Jacob said to them, Enter ye

not all by one gate." See also Midr. Jalkut, ch. 148.

19 Thus also, in the Sepher Hadjaschar, Joseph first discovers himself to

Benjamin, in opposition to Gen. xlv. 1.

20 Comp. Gen. xlii. 9.
21 Joseph is said by the Muhammadan commentators to have stolen an idol of

gold belonging to his mother's father, which he broke, that he might not

worship it. But this comment, as well as the text of the Koran, is probably

based upon some such tradition as that of Midr. Rabba, Par. 92, "He is a

thief and the son of a thief" (Comp. Gen. xxxi. 19)�spoken of Benjamin.
22 That is, that Joseph was still alive. Thus Midr. Tanchumah on Gen. xlii.

23 Comp. Gen. xxvii. 27.

24 Joseph's mother had long been dead. See Gen. xxxv. 19. But the object of

Muhammad was probably to bring the event into strict accordance with the

prediction of the dream. Gen. xxxvii. 10. Some, however, suppose that Bilhah

is here meant, and her appearance before Joseph is also asserted to be the

fulfilment of the dream by some of the Rabbins. Comp. Raschi on Gen. xxxvii.

25 Lit. This is of the announcements of the things unseen (by thee,

Muhammad). Compare the manner in which the story of the Creation and of Moses

in the mount is introduced. Sura xxxviii. 70; xxviii. 45. Mr. Muir thinks

that Muhammad must at this period, while recasting and working up these

materials, have entered upon a course of wilful dissimulation and deceit

(although the end would justify to him the means employed) in claiming

inspiration for them.

MECCA.�85 Verses
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
HA. MIM. The Revelation (sending down) of the Book is from God the Almighty,

the All-knowing,1

Forgiver of sin, and receiver of penitence,�vehement in chastisement,
Long-suffering! There is no God but He: to Him shall be the final gathering.
None but infidels gainsay the signs of God: but let not their prosperity in

the land deceive thee.

The people of Noah, and the confederates after them, have brought the charge

of imposture before these Meccans: each nation schemed against their apostle

to lay violent hold on him, and disputed with vain words to refute the truth.

Therefore did I lay violent hold on them; and how great was my chastisement!

Thus is it that thy Lord's sentence, that inmates shall they be of the fire,

was accomplished upon the infidels.

They who bear the throne2 and they who encircle it, celebrate the praise of

their Lord and believe in Him, and implore forgiveness for the believers:�"O

our Lord! thou embracest all things in mercy and knowledge; forgive,

therefore, those who turn to thee and follow thy path; keep them from the

pains of hell:
O our Lord! and bring them into the Gardens of Eden which thou hast promised

to them, and to the righteous ones of their fathers and their wives and their

children; for thou art the All-mighty, the All-wise:
And keep them from evil: for on him hast thou mercy whom on that day thou

shalt keep from evil;" and this will be the great felicity.

But to the infidels shall a voice cry, "Surely the hatred of God is more

grievous than your hatred of yourselves, when ye were called to the faith,

and remained unbelievers."
They shall say, "Twice, O our Lord, hast thou given us death, and twice hast

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