Surah Yusuf - Revisited
Updated structuring of Surah Yusuf based on new research
We are going to diverge from our usual Friday scheduling to send this post in lieu of new information on the topic.
One of the first posts we did for this blog was on Surah Yusuf (Joseph). Due to its relatively linear style of storytelling - when compared to the rest of the stories in the Quran - there has been much research into the themes and structure of Surah Yusuf.
It was brought to our attention that there was recent research into the structure of Surah Yusuf that changed how the story was broken up in its ring composition. Below is a summary of the findings. Please reference the original paper for a detailed analysis of how the author came to his conclusions.
Quick notes before continuing: Again, all Arabic has been omitted, though the referenced ayah numbers are shown if you’d like to look them up.
For the sake of readability, we will use the proper nouns from extra-Quranic sources for characters in the narrative who are not named in the surah. Thus, we will use “Potiphar” instead of al-ʿAzīz, “Zulaykhā” instead of the wife of al-ʿAzīz, and “Benjamin” for Joseph’s brother.
Overall Narrative Structure
Parallelism in Jacob’s Family Drama
Section [C], detailing Jacob’s family drama, deserves a closer look, as it is in fact longer than the central part of the story, Joseph in Egypt [D]. Rather than displaying the concentric structure that has been outlined thus far, the events in sections [C] and [C′] display, with one exception, parallelism (ABCD/A′B′C′D′). The structure may be summarized as follows (click to zoom in):
With the exception of the order of Joseph’s shirt being brought forth as evidence and Jacob’s resignation, the two sections are almost entirely parallel to each other. It should be remembered that the parallels are not exact, as two acts (Joseph’s shirt returning and Jacob’s resignation) in [C′] do not occur in the same order as in [C]. There is thus a partial symmetry between these two sections.
واللهُ أَعلَمُ - And Allah knows best
Qureshi, Jawad Anwar. “Ring Composition in Sūrat Yūsuf (Q 12).” Journal of the International Qur'anic Studies Association, vol. 2, 2017, pp. 149–168. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.5913/jiqsa.2.2017.a007. Accessed 26 Sept. 2020.