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Tice 1

Stephen Tice Dr. Marci Mitchell ENGL 2331.V01 February 25, 2006 Prophet or Plagiarist The stories of Joseph in the Koran and the Bible are remarkably similar, so much in fact that Sura 12 "Yusuf" must be a derivative work. From a scholarly viewpoint that's a problem. Either Mohammed or Allah, (whoever authored the Koran), was clearly guilty of plagiarism and possibly historical revision. Should intellectual dishonesty be excused? No, it should be exposed. Throughout this paper, the quotations on the left are from Genesis chapters 37 and 39-50 about the life of Joseph and the quotations on the right are from Sura 12 of the Koran:
Joseph And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me. And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth? (Gen. 37:9-10) Yusuf When Yusuf said to his father: O my father! surely I saw eleven stars and the sun and the moon -- I saw them making obeisance to me. He said: O my son! do not relate your vision to your brothers, lest they devise a plan against you; surely the Shaitan is an open enemy to man. (Sura 12.4-5)

note: lockstep phrase repetition from Genesis to the Yusuf story

The pattern of presentation throughout Sura 12 is an echo of the original older text in Genesis. Sura 12 is more than a paraphrase, which is problem enough since it was not attributed. Allowing for language differences--the wording is remarkably similar. Surely there is no need for a deity or its agents (angel or jinn) to quote from an earthly text if they are a citing "a divine Koran that exists in Paradise" (World Masterpieces 868).

Tice 2

Time and again throughout the Sura, words and phrases are used that are closely the same. I've underlined them to make it easy to see. It would be very interesting to compare original languages. The Koran quite likely will show close transliteration instead of translation. In the following passages, "slay . . . cast him into" is an example. The following verse has a close translation where Joseph's brother Reuben says not to kill him. Note the similarity of form.
Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams. And Reuben heard it, and he delivered him out of their hands; and said, Let us not kill him. (37:20-21) Slay Yusuf or cast him (forth) into some land, so that your father's regard may be exclusively for you, and after that you may be a righteous people. A speaker from among them said: Do not slay Yusuf, and cast him down into the bottom of the pit if you must do (it), (so that) some of the travellers may pick him up. (12.9-10)

close to Genesis with minor changes

Why would an angel not name Reuben?

It's bad enough when it happens once, but this happens repeatedly. Sura 12 opens with no attribution, in the form of royal or divine proclamation: "Surely We have revealed it -- an Arabic Quran -- that you may understand. We narrate to you the best of narratives, by Our revealing to you this Quran, though before this you were certainly one of those who did not know" (12.2-3). The capitalization in the text of "Our" indicates divine promulgation, yet the pattern of plagiarism draws clearly on the written text of Genesis. For instance, in the next passage the Sura indicates that "the blood is false," but does not say that it was from a goat. The Sura translation is unclear without reference to the original text. Not something a deity would overlook, no doubt.
And they took Joseph's coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood; (37:31) And they brought his shirt with false blood upon it. He said: Nay, your souls have made the matter light for you, but patience is good and Allah is He Whose help is sought for against what you describe. (12.18)

In Arabic, should "false" be "goat?" If so, it's a more obvious copy.

Tice 3

Plagiarism is bad enough, whether human or divine, but revisionism is a more serious matter. In the next set of passages, the sweep of the narrative jumps chapter 38 of Genesis. It is interesting to see that reference to Ishmael, (the likely progenitor of the Arabs), is left out. Clearly though, the Koran summarizes and tracks the much larger narrative from Genesis.
And the Midianites sold him into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh's, and captain of the guard. (37:36) And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither. (39:1) And they sold him for a small price, a few pieces of silver, and they showed no desire for him. And the Egyptian who bought him said to his wife: Give him an honorable abode, maybe he will be useful to us, or we may adopt him as a son. And thus did We establish Yusuf in the land and that We might teach him the interpretation of sayings; and Allah is the master of His affair, but most people do not know. (12.20-21)

Why not name the Egyptian? ...Or the Ishmailites?

Though it's obvious in the Koran that the narrative follows the Genesis text, there are additions and revisions that must be intentional. More dialogue is included in Sura 12 concerning the attempted seduction of Joseph. To what purpose? It could be a way of dramatizing an otherwise dull summary, but if the dialogue in the Koran has been dramatized, then the actual events related may also be questioned.
And it came to pass after these things, that his master's wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me. (39:7) And she in whose house he was sought to make himself yield (to her), and she made fast the doors and said: Come forward. He said: I seek Allah's refuge, surely my Lord made good my abode: Surely the unjust do not prosper. (12.23)

There are a number of variations that might be simply due to translation differences; such as in the following, where Joseph leaves his garment in the hands of the seductress in the Genesis account, but Yusuf's shirt is ripped in the Sura. In the Sura the garment being torn becomes a legal issue during the next several verses, which may be just more dramatization, or possibly an object lesson in how to detect infidelity.

Tice 4 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. (39:12) And they both hastened to the door, and she rent his shirt from behind and they met her husband at the door. She said: What is the punishment of him who intends evil to your wife except imprisonment or a painful chastisement? (12.25)

In Genesis, Joseph is imprisoned because he was framed. In the Sura, he's put in prison as protective custody seemingly through the orchestrations of Allah, to keep him from yielding to temptation. The implication is that women and men are likely to lose control of their passions.
And Joseph's master took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king's prisoners were bound: and he was there in the prison. (39:20) He said: My Lord! the prison house is dearer to me than that to which they invite me; and if Thou turn not away their device from me, I will yearn towards them and become (one) of the ignorant. (12.33)

It would be interesting to see what type of moral lesson is taught in the Madrasa or preached in Mosques as a result of the Sura 12 presentation. The story turns to dream interpretation.
And they dreamed a dream both of them, each man his dream in one night, each man according to the interpretation of his dream, the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt, which were bound in the prison. (40:5) And they said unto him, We have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter of it. And Joseph said unto them, Do not interpretations belong to God? tell me them, I pray you. (40:8) And two youths entered the prison with him. One of them said: I saw myself pressing wine. And the other said: I saw myself carrying bread on my head, of which birds ate. Inform us of its interpretation; surely we see you to be of the doers of good. He said: There shall not come to you the food with which you are fed, but I will inform you both of its interpretation before it comes to you; this is of what my Lord has taught me; surely I have forsaken the religion of a people who do not believe in Allah, and they are deniers of the hereafter: (12.36-37)

note the lock step linking of phrases as evidence of plagiary or forgery

Close paraphrasing continues in the story about Joseph's time in prison. Regarding dream interpretation, the role of the prophet in the Koran differs than that in the Bible. The Sura explains the role as predictive in verse 37 above, but the role of the prophet is to convey a message from God in chapter 40 verse 8 of Genesis. The underlined phrasing of the narrative again indicates that the Sura has been copied from the Genesis account in the following passages.

Tice 5 Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thine head, and restore thee unto thy place: and thou shalt deliver Pharaoh's cup into his hand, after the former manner when thou wast his butler. 40:14 But think on me when it shall be well with thee, and shew kindness, I pray thee, unto me, and make mention of me unto Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house: (40:13-14) O my two mates of the prison! as for one of you, he shall give his lord to drink wine; and as for the other, he shall be crucified, so that the birds shall eat from his head, the matter is decreed concerning which you inquired. (12.41) And he said to him whom he knew would be delivered of the two: Remember me with your lord; but the Shaitan caused him to forget mentioning (it) to his lord, so he remained in the prison a few years. (12.42)

more clear evidence that the Yusuf rendering follows the gramatical sequence from Genesis

I find the phrase above "make mention of me unto Pharoah" (Gen. 40:14) quite notable since it shows how plagiarism can have completely different phrasing and still convey the same idea. The source phrase "Remember me with your lord" (Sura 12 42) would be hard to present as evidence of copying without the much clearer ties in the previous verses (40:13 & 12.41). The phrasing and sequence of verses throughout Sura 12 is conclusive evidence of copying phrases directly from the text of Genesis chapters 37-50.
And the ill favoured and lean fleshed kine did eat up the seven well favoured and fat kine. So Pharaoh awoke. (41:4) And the king said: Surely I see seven fat kine which seven lean ones devoured; and seven green ears and (seven) others dry: O chiefs! explain to me my dream, if you can interpret the dream. (12.43)

As regards the sequence of copied phrases, if Sura 12 were an authentic independent account, then portions would likely appear out of sequence. The Sura simply tracks the Genesis account directly. Additional material has been added in and reworked.
And it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled; and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof: and Pharaoh told them his dream; but there was none that could interpret them unto Pharaoh. (41:8) They said: Confused dreams, and we do not know the interpretation of dreams. (12.44)

Some of the attempts to summarize the material simply didn't work. Without the source narrative in Genesis 41:8, Sura 12.44 makes no sense. It's the same situation between Genesis 41:13 and Sura 12.45 following, which is vague without the Genesis source.

Tice 6

And it came to pass, as he interpreted to us, so it was; me he restored unto mine office, and him he hanged. (41:13)

And of the two (prisoners) he who had found deliverance and remembered after a long time said: I will inform you of its interpretation, so let me go: (12.45)

Sura 12 proceeds in lockstep fashion with Genesis through the remainder. There are clearly errors in the Sura in places, but it's the little details that are the key. Though the broader text has additional material, there is an underpinning of similar marker phrases throughout. The evidence mounts. Copied phrases, lockstep sequence, and dependent passages indicate that the underlying source of Sura 12 in the Koran is the Genesis account--not Mohammed--and not Allah, (except for the additional material and revisions).
And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I have dreamed a dream, and there is none that can interpret it: and I have heard say of thee, that thou canst understand a dream to interpret it. (41:15) Yusuf! O truthful one! explain to us seven fat kine which seven lean ones devoured, and seven green ears and (seven) others dry, that I may go back to the people so that they may know. (12.46)

Moses is generally accepted as the writer of Genesis. There is a plausible way that he would know of the details of Joseph's life. Joshua was Moses' protege and became leader of the Israelites after his death. Joshua was also a descendent of Joseph--10 generations later (1Ch. 7:22-27). No doubt Joseph's story was a point of pride in the tribe of Ephraim, to which Joshua belonged. When they were camped out on the Exodus there was likely plenty of time to recount the tales in the evening while camped. The matter of Joseph's first encounter with Pharaoh must have been particularly interesting to Moses, who grew up in the royal household of Egypt.
The seven good kine are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years: the dream is one. And the seven thin and ill favoured kine that came up after them are seven years; and the seven empty ears blasted with the east wind shall be seven years of famine. (41:26-27) He said: You shall sow for seven years continuously, then what you reap leave it in its ear except a little of which you eat. Then there shall come after that seven years of hardship which shall eat away all that you have beforehand laid up in store for them, except a little of what you shall have preserved: (12.47-48)

Compare the phrases: "seven years of famine" and "seven years of hardship."

Tice 7 Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt: (41:29) Then there will come after that a year in which people shall have rain and in which they shall press (grapes). (12.49)

An odd variation arises tracking through the verses. Sura 12.49 breaks with the general narrative of both accounts that describes "7 years of Plenty" followed by "7 years of famine." Perhaps this is merely a transcription error in the Koran. It's funny that it tracks with Genesis 41:29, which highlights the error. Compare the phrases: "there come ... seven years" with "there will come ... a year."
Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, and take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt in the seven plenteous years. (41:34) He said: Place me (in authority) over the treasures of the land, surely I am a good keeper, knowing well. (12.55)

It's almost comic to see in the Koran that they followed the sequence of the Genesis account so closely, but decided to flip some points. In the above verses, Joseph has become humble having spent so long in prison and as a slave. Yusuf is almost the exact opposite promoting himself in front of a king. Is Joseph better seen as a humble son of Israel (Jacob) or a proud prophet of Islam? No doubt in Islam a prophet is expected to have a certain amount of boldness . . . but which is the true Joseph, the son of Israel or the prophet of Islam?
Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou. (41:40) And thus did We give to Yusuf power in the land -- he had mastery in it wherever he liked; We send down Our mercy on whom We please, and We do not waste the reward of those who do good. (12.56)

Now this is good in Sura 12:56, since there is no doubt that Allah is giving the account of Yusuf: "We did give to Yusuf power in the land" (12:56). This is not pharaoh or Mohammed speaking, nor can it be an angel or jinn. Either the account of Yusuf has come from Mohammed as a poorly plagiarized story or Allah is a false god. There are too many errors. I suppose it's possible that it could have come from a jinni, but demons and false gods go hand in hand.

Tice 8 And Joseph's ten brethren went down to buy corn in Egypt. (42:3) And Yusuf's brothers came and went in to him, and he knew them, while they did not recognize him. (12.58)

Without benefit of side by side comparison above, it would be hard to equate the phrases: "Joseph's ten brethren went down" and "Yusuf's brothers came and went in." Without the sequential tracking it would be hard to catch the similarity, since the surrounding events are not exact. Yet the clear evidence has to be considered. How much of the Koran is plagiarism?
Then Joseph commanded to fill their sacks with corn, and to restore every man's money into his sack, and to give them provision for the way: and thus did he unto them. (42:25) And he said to his servants: Put their money into their bags that they may recognize it when they go back to their family, so that they may come back. (12.62)

Again we have evidence of plagiarism as underlined above where "Joseph commanded" is rendered as "he said to his servants." His reason for doing so is exactly opposite as follows:
And he said unto his brethren, My money is restored; and, lo, it is even in my sack: and their heart failed them, and they were afraid, saying one to another, What is this that God hath done unto us? (42:28) And when they opened their goods, they found their money returned to them. They said: O our father! what (more) can we desire? This is our property returned to us, and we will bring corn for our family and guard our brother, and will have in addition the measure of a camel (load); this is an easy measure. (12.65)

When a plagiarized text gives the opposite sense, we have to ask if that's intentional. Revisionism is a far more serious charge than plagiarism. Anyone who would recast an historical account to have its opposite sense, would likely tell outright lies. On the evidence here, Mohammed can be charged not only with plagiarism, but also as a false prophet. By his own words: "Know that we send down to the unbelievers devils who incite them to evil" (Mary 19.83 884). A lying prophet does not speak the words of God. "We cast the truth against the falsehood, so that it breaks its head, and lo! it vanishes; and woe to you for what you describe" (Prophets 21.18). Let his own words judge him.

Tice 9

The following comparisons simply show that the Sura is continuing to track in lock step with Genesis. As before, compare the underlined portions:
And put my cup, the silver cup, in the sack's mouth of the youngest, and his corn money. And he did according to the word that Joseph had spoken. (44:2) And when they were gone out of the city, and not yet far off, Joseph said unto his steward, Up, follow after the men; and when thou dost overtake them, say unto them, Wherefore have ye rewarded evil for good? Is not this it in which my lord drinketh, and whereby indeed he divineth? ye have done evil in so doing. (44:4-5) So when he furnished them with their provisions, (someone) placed the drinking cup in his brother's bag. Then a crier cried out: O caravan! you are most surely thieves. (12.70) They said while they were facing them: What is it that you miss?

They said: We miss the king's drinking cup, and he who shall bring it shall have a camel-load and I am responsible for it. (12.71-72)

It's amusing to consider that Israel's family might have used camels instead of donkeys (12.72).
And they said unto him, Wherefore saith my lord these words? God forbid that thy servants should do according to this thing: (44:7) They said: By Allah! you know for certain that we have not come to make mischief in the land, and we are not thieves. (12.73)

In the verses above, the oath stands out as a marker. In the Genesis account it is rendered "God forbid," but in the Sura it is "By Allah!" Again the Sura is locked to the source in Genesis, along with the rest of the underlined text. Below, I have to wonder why they would bother with changing the penalty in the Sura? Why follow a text closely, but intentionally alter it?
With whomsoever of thy servants it be found, both let him die, and we also will be my lord's bondmen. (44:9) They said: The requital of this is that the person in whose bag it is found shall himself be (held for) the satisfaction thereof; thus do we punish the wrongdoers. (12.75)

I suppose there is no reason to expect consistency in plagiarism or revisionism. Perhaps in the tribal culture of the day, the penalty would just obviously have been death, so it need not have been stated (17.5).

Tice 10

In verse 76, Mohammed again lapses into divine commentary speaking as Allah. Having demonstrated that Sura 12 is a plagiary or worse, we can ask whether Mohammed is insane or 19 possessed? The commentary in the Sura suggests possession, almost like saying behind every soothsayer is a demon: "above every one possessed of knowledge is the All-knowing one" (76).
Then they speedily took down every man his sack to the ground, and opened every man his sack. (44:11) So he began with their sacks before the sack of his brother, then he brought it out from his brother's sack. Thus did We plan for the sake of Yusuf; it was not (lawful) that he should take his brother under the king's law unless Allah pleased; We raise the degrees of whomsoever We please, and above every one possessed of knowledge is the All-knowing one. (12.76) They said: If he steal, a brother of his did indeed steal before; but Yusuf kept it secret in his heart and did not disclose it to them. He said: You are in an evil condition and Allah knows best what you state. (12.77)

And he searched, and began at the eldest, and left at the youngest: and the cup was found in Benjamin's sack. (44:12)

Knowing that there is plagiarism in the Sura, it can be used to compare cultural expressions. For hair to turn gray (Gen. 44:29) and for eyes to become white (Sura 12.84) both indicate age and/or shock. In this case the sense of the text has likely not been changed, but translated into different cultural expressions:
And if ye take this also from me, and mischief befall him, ye shall bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave. (44:29) And he turned away from them, and said: O my sorrow for Yusuf! and his eyes became white on account of the grief, and he was a repressor (of grief). (12.84)

When Joseph reveals who he is to his brothers, buried in the structure of the parallel texts underlined, there is another flip. Instead of Joseph's brothers being speechless, they speak asking him if he is "indeed Yusuf?" (note: see also next page)
And Joseph said unto his brethren, I am Joseph; doth my father yet live? And his brethren could not answer him; for they were troubled at his presence. He said: Do you know how you treated Yusuf and his brother when you were ignorant? (12.89)

Tice 11 And Joseph said unto his brethren, Come near to me, I pray you. And they came near. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. (45:3-4) They said: Are you indeed Yusuf? He said: I am Yusuf and this is my brother; Allah has indeed been gracious to us; surely he who guards (against evil) and is patient (is rewarded) for surely Allah does not waste the reward of those who do good. (12.90)

Here's another flip in the narratives below between the Sura and Genesis. Joseph's mother had died (Gen. 48:7). No mention is made of that in the Sura (12.99). A Muslim apologist might explain that Joseph had many mothers, since Jacob (Israel) had married 4 wives, so that it could be correct to say parents, plural, but I doubt it.
And as for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died by me in the land of Canaan in the way, when yet there was but a little way to come unto Ephrath: and I buried her there in the way of Ephrath; the same is Bethlehem. (48:7) Then when they came in to Yusuf, he took his parents to lodge with him and said: Enter safe into Egypt, if Allah please. (12.99)

12 In conclusion, Sura 19 "Yusuf" is certainly at least a plagiary of the Genesis chapters


about Joseph. The plagiarism has been amply demonstrated. One type of evidence is the repeated use of similar phrasing as in Genesis. Another type is use of direct transliterations of Genesis texts. Dissimilar phrases (that are cultural translations) about the same event have also been shown. Small otherwise unnoticeable connecting words have been rendered the same frequently in both texts. Most importantly a lock step sequencing of the verses of Sura 19 tracks directly with Genesis all the way through the Sura. Certainly, plagiarism can not be attributed to God. The side by side comparisons of the texts is a very powerful forensic method. During the course of this investigation, many notable differences have been shown that indicates intentional revision of the story of Joseph's life. The purpose of such revision is unclear. Disturbingly, in several places the text is ascribed to Allah. That presents the unpleasant options that Mohammed was either mad, possessed, or both. What that might imply about a major world religion with over a billion followers is alarming. The matter now needs to be referred to more expert review.

Tice 12

In light of the facts of this presentation, two quotes from the closing section of Sura 19 are worth remembering: Until when the apostles despaired and the people became sure that they were indeed told a lie, Our help came to them and whom We pleased was delivered; and Our punishment is not averted from the guilty people. In their histories there is certainly a lesson for men of understanding. It is not a narrative which could be forged, but a verification of what is before it and a distinct explanation of all things and a guide and a mercy to a people who believe. (12.110-111) This comes from a madman. What Mohammed wrote was self-delusion. Sura 19 is exactly a forgery of the story of Joseph in Genesis and not verification. Let the Prophet of Islam be judged by his very own words.

Tice 13

Works Cited The Bible. King James Version. M. H. Shakir's translation. Sura 19 "YUSUF," The Holy Qur'an. Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library. Tahrike Tarsile Qur'an, Inc., Elmhurst, New York 2-24-06 < http://etext.virginia.edu/koran.html > "The Koran." The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces. Ed. M. Mack. Expanded ed. New York: Norton, 1997. 868-888.