Did Joseph (pbuh) set up a trap for his brothers?

Details of the Question

- In the 76th verse of Surah Yusuf, it is written in the translations of the Quran that Allah Almighty states “We taught Yusuf such a remedy (measure, cheat, trap)”. No matter how it is translated and no matter whether there are many good deeds in the end or not, the first thing that comes to mind here is the accusation of his brothers of theft.
- What are we supposed to understand from this issue?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The meaning of the verse in question is as follows:

“Joseph began searching their bags before that of his brother ˹Benjamin˺, then brought it out of Benjamin’s bag. This is how we inspired Joseph to plan/ thus did we plan for Joseph. He could not have taken his brother under the King’s law, but Allah had so willed. We elevate in rank whoever We will. But above those ranking in knowledge is the One All-Knowing.” (Yusuf, 12/76)

The concept of “kayd", indicated by the verb "kidna" in the verse, has two meanings:

First meaning: To try to achieve the desired result, trying to cheat at the beginning of the work and to implement a plan.

Second meaning: A person falls into an irreversible and undesired situation without realizing it at the end.

The concepts of "kayd, majr" used for Allah in the Quran are only in this second meaning. It is not permissible to attribute them to Allah in the first meaning. In this verse, this second meaning of the word is essential.

In other words, Allah created such a result that Joseph's brothers were forced to surrender to him unwillingly. This result created by Allah has been interpreted in two ways:

1) Joseph wanted to retain his brother Bünyamin in some way. While he was trying to do so, his other brothers were trying to frustrate his efforts. However Allah helped Joseph and made him superior.

2) Allah, put the idea of "Let anyone who commits theft stay as a hostage" into the hearts of Yusuf's brothers. Thanks to this, Yusuf was able to retain his brother. (Razi, interpretation of the relevant verse)

- While there is something evil here in appearance like an accusation of theft, it actually seems to be a good measure of divine wisdom in several ways. That is to say:

The reason why Allah allows this disgraceful accusation to be made against Joseph's brothers is the punishment for what they had done to Joseph before because, in this regard, things happened completely in accordance with the principle they put forward: "The penalty should be that he in whose saddle-bag it is found, should be held as bondman to atone for the crime."

They found themselves guilty and felt more upset about what they had caused by saying that. On the one hand, to be separated from Bunyamin (Benjamin), and on the other hand, their grief caused by not being able to keep their promises to their fathers made their hearts sink.

This incident was in the form of both a punishment and atonement for them. Divine wisdom allowed this solution for such good results.

Bunyamin did not grieve at all because Yusuf had already told his brother Bunyamin about this plan. (cf al-Maraghi, interpretation of the relevant verse)

In summary: The trick / secret measure, in the verse is regarded as a legitimate and beautiful plan that Allah loves and consents due to its different wisdom and benefits.

It is understood from this verse that people can use a legitimate means of attaining their legitimate desires that is not contrary to Shari’a law and that does not harm anyone else-which appears to be cheating in appearance. (see Ibn Kathir; al-Maraghi;  W. Zuhayli/ al-Munir, the relevant verse)

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