What is the real nature of the prostration before Hz. Yusuf mentioned in verse 100 of the chapter of Yusuf?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Chapter of, verse 100:

"And he (Yusuf) raised his parents high on the throne (of dignity), and they fell down in prostration, (all) before him. He said: ‘O my father! this is the fulfilment of my vision of old! Allah hath made it come true! He was indeed good to me when He took me out of prison and brought you (all here) out of the desert, (even) after Satan had sown enmity between me and my brothers. Verily my Lord understandeth best the mysteries of all that He planneth to do, for verily He is full of knowledge and wisdom.'"

The explanation of the verse:

When Hz. Yusuf’s parents and brothers entered the city and came to the presence of Yusuf (Joseph), he placed his mother and father on the throne. Just then, his eleven brothers, mother and father prostrated before him. When Yusuf saw it, he said, "O my father! This is the fulfilment of my vision of old! Allah hath made it come true."

Tafsir scholars interpreted Hz. Yusuf's mother, father and brothers’ prostration before him in two ways:

a) They fell down in prostration in order to greet Hz. Yusuf in respect. Verse 4 supports this meaning.

"Behold! Joseph said to his father: ‘O my father! I did see eleven stars and the sun and the moon: I saw them prostrate themselves to me.’" (Yusuf, 12/4)

b) They fell down in prostration in order to thank Allah for rejoining Hz. Yusuf. It is possible to translate the sentence "I saw them prostrate themselves to me" as "I saw them prostrate themselves for me". In that case, the second meaning is supported.

Hz. Yusuf showed another example of kindness and modesty; he praised Allah by saying that the splendor and pomp he had was granted to him by Allah. He did not think of taking revenge at a time when his brothers needed him; he did not even utter a word to remind them of what they had done; he said Satan caused a rift between his brothers and him. In addition, he pointed out that those incidents took place as a result of divine predestination and wisdom. (see Diyanet Tefsiri, Kur’an Yolu: III/237-238.)

"And he raised his parents high on the throne (of dignity), and they fell down in prostration, (all) before him." There are different views about who prostrated before Hz. Yusuf and about the real nature of the prostration mentioned in the sentence above.

According to the clearest one, those who prostrated before Hz. Yusuf were his mother, father and all brothers. According to another view, those who prostrated before Hz. Yusuf were only his brothers. However, the dream Hz. Yusuf saw refutes the second view because he was informed in his dream that his parents and brothers would prostrate before him. According to the apparent meaning, prostration was made by putting the forehead on the ground. Prostration like that was permissible in the shari’ah of Hz. Yaqub (Jacob). Prostration was used as greeting and kissing hands at that time like standing up, shaking hands and kissing hands today in order to show respect to a person.

Qatada states that prostration at that time was like greeting the kings. Allah gave salam (greeting), which is the greeting form of the people of Paradise, only to the ummah of Muhammad.

Some scholars say that prostration was in the form of a gesture by the head while some other scholars say it was a kind of prostration resembling ruku’ without placing the head on the ground. According to some scholars, what is meant by prostration here is modesty.  

According to an interpretation attributed to Ibn Abbas, they prostrated to Allah for the sake of Hz. Yusuf. They did so in order to thank Allah for the boons He gave them.

Allah might have ordered Hz. Yaqub to prostrate before Hz. Yusuf. Hz. Yusuf might not have done anything since he knew about that order and might have kept silent and obeyed that order. As a matter of fact, Hz. Yusuf's address "O my father!" indicates this. Hz. Yusuf virtually wanted to state the following:

"O my father! It does not fit you, who has such a high rank in knowledge, religion and prophethood, to prostrate before your son. However, that is a command by Allah. It is a responsibility and Allah rendered it as an obligation for you."

The best probability is the one that Allah ordered Hz Yaqub to prostrate before his son Hz. Yusuf due to some wisdom that only Allah knows. As a matter of fact, as it is understood from the context of the verses, this prostration was performed by Hz. Yaqub, his wife and all of his children. That prostration is not a "prostration of worshipping", but a greeting. (Ali Arslan, Büyük Kur’an Tefsiri, Arslan Yayınları: 8/465-468.)

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