“Take Thou my soul (at death) as one submitting to Thy will (as a Muslim), and unite me with the righteous." (Yusuf, 12/101) Did Hz. Yusuf die immediately after his prayer above?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

“Take Thou my soul (at death) as one submitting to Thy will (as a Muslim), and unite me with the righteous.” There are generally two different views about the verse above:

- According to some scholars, Hz. Yusuf (Joseph) did not want to die immediately with this prayer; he wanted to die in full obedience when he died. Accordingly, the translation of the verse is as follows in summary: “O Allah! When it is time for my death, take my soul as a slave who is fully obedient to you...” According to this interpretation, Hz. Yusuf’s prayer mentioned above may have been said any time and it has no connection with his real death.

- According to the great majority of scholars, a prayer that is said in order to die is in question in the verse. (for both views, see Ibn Kathir, al-Bidaya wan-Nihaya, 1/456; Tabari, Razi, the interpretation of the verse in question)

Accordingly, Hz. Yusuf wanted reunion, meeting, Paradise and eternity at a time when he was at the peak of worldly sovereignty and in a peaceful medium with his family. Accordingly, the translation of the verse is as follows in summary: “O Allah! I want to rejoin you; please take my soul as a slave who is fully obedient to you...” 

This prayer is in compliance with the prayer of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) requesting death in his last days by saying, “ar-Rafiq al-a’la = I want the sublime friend”. (Ibn Kathir, the interpretation of the verse in question)

- According to the second interpretation, a question about how long Hz. Yusuf lived after this prayer can come to mind: 

We should first say that we have not been able to find any information in the Quran and hadiths that can answer this question. Therefore, scholars have made different interpretations regarding the issue. It is possible to divide them into two parts in general:

a. After saying this prayer, Hz. Yusuf lived for a long time and died afterwards.

b. Hz. Yusuf died immediately/a short while after that prayer. (see Ibn Kathir, ibid)

- Badiuzzaman Said Nursi also adopted this view. It is possible to understand it from his statements below:  

“...Although this verse mentions Joseph’s death just at the most brilliant part of his story, when he is Ruler of Egypt, united with his mother and father, fondly meeting with his brothers, and is experiencing the greatest worldly happiness and joy, it does so in such a way as to say: Joseph himself asked Almighty God for his death in order to experience greater happiness and a more brilliant situation; and he did die and did receive that happiness. That is to say, there is beyond the grave a happiness and joy greater than the pleasurable happiness of this world, so that while in that most joyful worldly situation, a truth-seeing person like Joseph (Upon whom be peace) wished for bitter death, so as to receive that other happiness.”(see Mektubat, Yirmi Üçüncü Mektup)

It is interesting that this prayer is not mentioned in the Bible.

The following information exists in the Bible:

“This is the account of Jacob’s family line. Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.” (Genesis, 37: 2)

“Joseph stayed in Egypt, along with all his father’s family. He lived a hundred and ten years.” (Genesis, 50: 22)

“So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten. And after they embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt.” (Genesis, 50: 26)

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