The Saga of Joseph – Part II: A Comparative study of Prophet Joseph’s story in Genesis (Ch. 37-50) and the Quran


Click here for Part 1

Dr A. R. Bhutta, Germany
SpencerWing | Pixabay

Josephas did not leave his garment with a woman 

The most important and sensitive part of Joseph’sas story is the attempted seduction of Josephas by Potiphar’s wife. When Josephas refused to submit to her demand, she tried to use force. Relating the story, the Bible says: 

“And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out.

“And it came to pass, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand, and was fled forth, 

“That she called unto the men of her house, and spake unto them, saying, See, he hath brought in an Hebrew unto us to mock us; he came in unto me to lie with me, and I cried with a loud voice: 

“And it came to pass, when he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled, and got him out. 

“And she laid up his garment by her, until his lord came home. 

“And she spake unto him according to these words, saying, The Hebrew servant, which thou hast brought unto us, came in unto me to mock me: 

“And it came to pass, as I lifted up my voice and cried, that he left his garment with me, and fled out. 

“And it came to pass, when his master heard the words of his wife, which she spake unto him, saying, After this manner did thy servant to me; that his wrath was kindled.” (Gen. 39:12-19)

It is repeatedly mentioned in the Biblical story that Josephas “left his garment in her hand” and fled away. It is generally known that, in Egypt, the only garment that the Hebrews, particularly the servants and slaves, used to wear in those days was a long shirt that covered the whole body. They did not wear trousers. If Josephas had fled away, leaving his garment in the woman’s hands, as the Bible says, then is that to say he fled away almost naked? This is something that nobody can even conceive of. And thus, evidently, we are compelled to deem that the story has not been told correctly. 

The Holy Quran, in comparison, states that his shirt was merely torn from the back, as we read: “And she tore his shirt from behind.” (Surah Yusuf, Ch.12: V.26) This is a more probable and logical approach.   

The Bible shows Joseph to be guilty 

From the Biblical narrative, Josephas appears to be the guilty party. He is shown to be without a garment. And then he is said to have fled from the crime scene and is not even mentioned in the story again. It is only the woman that we hear talking and pleading her case in the Biblical version, and not a single word of Joseph’sas version of the incident is included in the story. Finally, we are told that the woman’s version was accepted and Joseph was imprisoned. (Gen. 39:20)

One wonders what the authors of Genesis were trying to suggest to their masses by showing only one side of the picture. No lawyer for that woman could have done better than these scribes of Jews to incriminate Josephas. By quoting only the woman’s accusing statements about Joseph’sas shirt and by totally omitting Joseph’sas defence, these Scribes, it seems, have deliberately tried to create doubts about the innocence of Josephas

Holy Quran finds the woman guilty and Joseph innocent 

Going through the Quranic version of this incident, we thank God for revealing the real facts about Prophet Joseph’sas story; otherwise, the world would have never known what happened on that fateful day and how innocent Prophet Josephas was in that case. The Quranic version not only mentions the statements of both parties but also highlights the all-important evidence of Joseph’sas shirt that it was torn from behind. It goes on to point out that Potiphar had declared his wife to be the guilty party. The Holy Quran says: 

“And she, in whose house he was, sought to seduce him against his will. And she bolted the doors, and said, ‘Now come.’ He said, ‘I seek refuge with Allah. He is my Lord. He has made my stay [with you] honourable. Verily, the wrongdoers never prosper.’

“And she made up her mind with regard to him, and he made up his mind with regard to her. If he had not seen a manifest Sign of his Lord, [he could not have shown such determination]. Thus was it, that We might turn away from him evil and indecency. Surely, he was [one] of Our chosen servants.

“And they both raced to the door, and she tore his shirt from behind, and they found her lord at the door. She said, ‘What shall be the punishment of one who intended evil to thy wife, save imprisonment or a grievous chastisement?’

“He said, ‘She it was who sought to seduce me against my will.’ And a witness of her household bore witness [saying], ‘If his shirt is torn from the front, then she has spoken the truth and he is of the liars.

“‘But if his shirt is torn from behind, then she has lied and he is of the truthful.’

“So when he saw his shirt torn from behind, he said, ‘Surely, this is a device of you women. Your device is indeed mighty.” (Surah Yusuf, Ch.12: V.24-29) 

With a simple read of the verses above, we learn that the torn garment of Josephas had played a decisive role in establishing the innocence of Josephas; however, in the Biblical story, the same garment has been used as incriminating evidence against him. No mention is made in the Bible that the garment was torn from behind. 

Why was Josephas put in prison? 

According to the Biblical version, the master had found Josephas guilty and was so angry that he had put him in prison (Gen.39:19,20). However, the Quranic version shows that the master found “the wife of the ‘Aziz’” guilty and considered Josephas to be innocent. However, in order to preserve their good name, they decided that Josephas should be put in prison for some time. (Surah Yusuf, Ch.12: V.36)

Moreover, it was also necessary to separate the two ‘parties’ in order to avoid the occurrence of such an incident again. And obviously, the master could not have put his wife in prison to keep her away from a Hebrew slave. So we can see that Josephas was put in prison, not because he was guilty, but because the circumstances demanded that he be moved away from the crime scene for a certain period. 

The woman confessed that she was guilty 

As far as the innocence of Prophet Josephas is concerned, according to the Quranic version, the woman had herself declared Josephas to be innocent and had confessed her guilt while talking to her guests. She is reported to have told her guests that “I did seek to seduce him against his will, but he preserved himself [from sin].” (Surah Yusuf, Ch.12: V.33)

Again, years later, when the king asked the woman and her friends about the facts of this incident, all the women of the city came out with the truth and said that Josephas was innocent. The Holy Quran relates: 

“He (the King) said [to the women], ‘What was the matter with you when you sought to seduce Joseph against his will?’ They said, ‘He kept away [from sin] for fear of Allah — we have known no evil against him.’ The wife of the ‘Aziz said, ‘Now has the truth come to light. It was I who sought to seduce him against his will, and surely, he is the truthful.’” (Surah Yusuf, Ch. 12: V.52) 

Both of the above-mentioned incidents, where the woman is shown to be confessing her guilt and declaring Josephas to be innocent, are nowhere to be seen in the Biblical version of the story. 

The Jewish Encyclopaedia supports the Quranic version 

It is rather strange to learn that the authors of Genesis completely ignored Joseph’sas defence and avoided mentioning that the garment was torn from behind. In their narrative, they have included only the woman’s complaints, thus making it seem as if it is favouring the woman in this case against Joseph. However, it is encouraging to see that this mistake is corrected in The Jewish Encyclopaedia. Supporting the Quranic version, it writes: 

“With one hand she grasped a sword and with the other caught Joseph’s garment, and when he attempted to release himself a rent was made in the garment. Afterward, when Joseph was brought before the priests for judgment […] The priests then ordered the garment to be brought in order that they might see on which side it had been rent; seeing that it was rent in the back, they declared Joseph innocent. Joseph was nevertheless thrown into prison by Potiphar, who was anxious thus to save his wife a public exposure.” (The Jewish Encyclopaedia, “JOSEPH ( in Ps. lxxxi. 6)”, under ‘Joseph in Prison’,

No posts to display


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here