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The Term (Lord) in the Quranic Chapter 12

The Term (Lord) in the Quranic Chapter 12


Published in April 20, 2018

Translated by: Ahmed Fathy




1- Some people misunderstand the Quranic verse 12:23 by assuming that Joseph had taken his lord, the Potiphar of Egypt, in whose house he lived, as his Lord God. God says in the Quran: "She in whose house he was living tried to seduce him. She shut the doors, and said, "I am yours." He said, "God forbid! He is my Lord. He has given me a good home. Sinners never succeed."" (12:23). It is a misinterpretation to assume that the word (Lord) in 12:23 refers to the Potiphar of Egypt; it refers here only to Allah the Lord and Creator of the universe.

2- In fact, the terms "Lord" and "lord(s)" are repeated many times in the Quranic Chapter 12. Of course, the term "Lord" (with the capitalization of the letter "L") refers exclusively to the Lord God Allah; the term ''lord" (with the small letter "l") refers to gods/deities worshipped at the time in Egypt, which included the ruler/king of Egypt as well. We should bear in mind that Joseph meant the Lord God Allah in 12:23 and not to the Potiphar of Egypt who bought him as a slave. We provide some details in the points below. 


Firstly: it is impossible that any of God's prophets/messengers would have taken lords/gods besides the Lord God Allah:

 All the prophets/messengers of the Lord God conveyed one, clear message; namely, (There is no God but Allah), and they asserted to their peoples that God is the Lord of the Worlds and the Creator and Originator of everything; this has been the divine message that confronted those polytheists who take for themselves lords/gods/deities besides Allah. This is repeated in the Quran, God's Last Message to all human beings, and we exemplify this within the Quranic story of the prophet Hud who was sent to the people of Aad and the Quranic story of Muhammad who lived in Arabia where he conveyed and preached God's Word: the Quran.   

1- God says in the Quran: "And to Aad, their brother Hud. He said, "O my people, worship Allah, you have no other god besides Him. You do nothing but invent lies."" (11:50); of course, the term (god) here is synonymous with the term (lord), as his people worshiped several false gods/lords besides the Lord God. Hud told them further to implore their Lord for pardon and forgiveness (because of their polytheism) so that He would accept their repentance : ""O my people, ask forgiveness from your Lord, and repent to Him..." (11:52); here, the term (Lord) refers only to Allah as the Only God; this is repeated in the other words of Hud within his dialogue with the people of Aad: "I have placed my trust in God, my Lord and your Lord...My Lord is on a Straight Path." (11:56); "...and my Lord will replace you with another people...My Lord is Guardian over all things."" (11:57).

2- God has commanded Muhammad to announce his dedicating his life, religion, and worship to the Lord God and that it is impossible that he might worship other lords besides Him: "Say, "My prayer and my worship, and my life and my death, are devoted to God, the Lord of the Worlds. No partners has He. Thus I am commanded, and I am the first of those who submit. Say, "Am I to seek a Lord other than God, when He is the Lord of all things?"..." (6:162-164).

3- During his ministry, Muhammad urged the People of the Book (i.e., Jews + Christians) in Arabia to worship only God and never to take (from amongst themselves) other lords/deities besides Him: "Say, "O People of the Book, come to terms common between us and you: that we worship none but God, and that we associate nothing with Him, and that none of us takes others as lords besides God." And if they turn away, say, "Bear witness that we have submitted."" (3:64).  

4- God prohibits deifying prophets, messengers, an angels as lords/gods besides the Lord God Allah: "No person to whom God has given the Book, and wisdom, and prophethood would ever say to the people, "Be my worshipers rather than God's."...Nor would he command you to take the angels and the prophets as lords. Would he command you to disbelieve after you have submitted?" (3:79-80).

5- The disobedient sinners and polytheists among the People of the Book deified Jesus and clergymen; the term (lords) here means deities or gods: "They have taken their rabbis and their priests as lords instead of God, as well as the Messiah son of Mary, although they were commanded to worship none but The One God. There is no God except He. Glory be to Him; High above what they associate with Him." (9:31).

6- The bad, polytheistic habit of worshiping many lords/deities/gods still persists today; the Muhammadans (in Egypt and elsewhere) have fallen into the trap of this grave sin as they worship dead persons (prophets and non-prophets), the so-called 'saints', and all types of clergymen.


Secondly: Joseph followed the same monotheistic path of making Allah His Only Lord and God:

  We trace the terms (Lord) and (lords) in the words of Joseph in the Quranic Chapter 12.

1- As a child, Joseph narrated his dream to his father, Jacob: "When Joseph said to his father, "O my father, I saw eleven planets, and the sun, and the moon; I saw them bowing down to me."" (12:4); Jacob told him the following: "He said, "O my son, do not relate your vision to your brothers, lest they plot and scheme against you. Satan is man's sworn enemy. And thus your Lord will choose you, and will teach you the interpretation of events, and will complete His blessing upon you and upon the family of Jacob, as He has completed it before upon your forefathers Abraham and Isaac. Your Lord is Knowing and Wise." (12:5-6). The term (Lord) here is repeated twice to refer to the Lord God Allah.

2- The term (Lord) here refers only to the Lord God Allah; as sinners never succeed before His sight on the Last Day: "She in whose house he was living tried to seduce him. She shut the doors, and said, "I am yours." He said, "God forbid! He is my Lord. He has given me a good home. Sinners never succeed."" (12:23). The same usage and meaning of the term (Lord) is repeated here: "She desired him, and he desired her, had he not seen the proof of his Lord. It was thus that We diverted evil and indecency away from him. He was one of Our loyal servants." (12:24). When Joseph rushed to the door and was followed by the Potiphar's wife who desired to catch up with him, they found her master at the door; he was her master and not Joseph's: "As they raced towards the door, she tore his shirt from behind. At the door, they ran into her master..." (12:25).

3- Within the presence of the affluent women, the Potiphar's wife threatened to imprison Joseph if he would not have sex with her and Joseph sought refuge in His Lord God to distance him from the sin of fornication, and his Lord answered his prayers: "She said, "Here he is, the one you blamed me for. I did try to seduce him, but he resisted. But if he does not do what I tell him to do, he will be imprisoned, and will be one of the despised." He said, "My Lord, prison is more desirable to me than what they call me to. Unless You turn their scheming away from me, I may yield to them, and become one of the ignorant ones." Thereupon his Lord answered him, and diverted their scheming away from him. He is the Hearer, the Knower." (12:32-34). 

4- Inside the prison cell and before Joseph interpreted the dreams of the two prison cell inmates, he preached them to embrace monotheism/Islam by discarding the false lords/gods and believing in the One True Lord: ""O my fellow inmates, are diverse lords better, or God, the One, the Dominant?" "You do not worship, besides Him, except names you have named, you and your ancestors, for which God has sent down no authority. Judgment belongs to none but God. He has commanded that you worship none but Him. This is the right religion, but most people do not know." (12:39-40).

5- After the brothers of Joseph confessed their sin, they requested from Jacob that he would implore and supplicate to his Lord God to forgive them: "They said, "Father, pray for the forgiveness of our sins; we were indeed at fault." He said, "I will ask my Lord to forgive you. He is the Forgiver, the Most Merciful."" (12:97-98).

6- The term (Lord) which refers only to our Lord God Allah is used twice in this context: "Then, when they entered into the presence of Joseph, he embraced his parents, and said, "Enter Egypt, God willing, safe and secure." And he elevated his parents on the throne, and they fell prostrate before him. He said, "Father, this is the fulfillment of my vision of long ago. My Lord has made it come true. He has blessed me, when he released me from prison, and brought you out of the wilderness, after the devil had sown conflict between me and my brothers. My Lord is Most Kind towards whomever He wills. He is the All-knowing, the Most Wise."" (12:99-100).

7- Joseph implored and supplicated to his Lord God using these unique, great prayers: ""My Lord, You have given me some authority, and taught me some interpretation of events. Initiator of the heavens and the earth; You are my Ally in this life and in the Hereafter. Receive my soul in submission, and unite me with the righteous ones."" (12:101).


Thirdly: the polytheistic ways of worshiping many lords/gods in Ancient Egypt:

1-Joseph urged the two prison cell inmates to worship only the Lord God  and to reject the worship of false lords/gods: ""O my fellow inmates, are diverse lords better, or God, the One, the Dominant?" "You do not worship, besides Him, except names you have named, you and your ancestors, for which God has sent down no authority. Judgment belongs to none but God. He has commanded that you worship none but Him. This is the right religion, but most people do not know." (12:39-40). The polytheism of worshipping many lords/gods/deities spread explicitly in Egypt at the time, and it is still dominant implicitly in Egypt.

2- On top of the list of the pantheon of lords/gods in Egypt was the tyrannical ruler; until today, the Egyptians deify and sanctify tyrants as lords. During the lifetime of Joseph, the ruler is described as lord (i.e., a god/deity); this is why Joseph told the released man to remind his tyrannical, unjust lord/ruler/master of the injustice occurred to him as an imprisoned innocent man; Joseph used the term (lord) because it was dominant at the time to describe self-deified, unjust, tyrannical rulers: "And he said to the one he thought would be released, "Mention me to your lord." But Satan caused him to forget mentioning him to his lord, so he remained in prison for several years." (12:42). This tyrant/deity/lord was the king of the Hyksos; this king saw a dream and his affluent retinue members in the palace failed to interpret this dream; this made the released man remember Joseph and to bring him from the prison cell to his lord the king of the Hyksos. Joseph refused to be released unless his innocence is proven and his honor is restored, and he told the released man to return to his lord/god/ruler to tell him about this stance: "The king said, "Bring him to me." And when the envoy came to him, he said, "Go back to your lord, and ask him about the intentions of the women who cut their hands; my Lord is well aware of their schemes."" (12:50). 

3- The Potiphar's wife repented and felt remorse because of her sinful ways; she submitted to the Lord God within monotheism/Islam and rejected the worship of false lords/gods/deities; this is why she confessed her guilt/sin in public before the king of the Hyksos and before the affluent women who saw Joseph before and were interrogated: "He said, "What was the matter with you, women, when you tried to seduce Joseph?" They said, "God forbid! We knew of no evil committed by him." The Potiphar's wife then said, "Now the truth is out. It was I who tried to seduce him, and he is telling the truth.""This is that he may know that I did not betray him in secret, and that God does not guide the scheming of the betrayers."" (12:51-52). We see here that she confessed her sin before those who were present and declared her repentance as she believed in her Lord God Who never guides schemers of evil; she said the following about herself while pronouncing the term (my Lord) twice; she was among the good monotheistic believers by her repentance and her dedicated faith and she hoped to attain the mercy and forgiveness from the Lord God: ""Yet I do not claim to be innocent. The soul commands evil, except those on whom my Lord has mercy. Truly my Lord is Forgiving and Merciful."" (12:53).   


Fourthly: Moses' Pharaoh went into the extremes of disbelief and polytheism:

 As per history, Ahmose I managed to fight the Hyksos and to expel them out of Egypt for good, and later on, the Ramses dynasty ascended to power and it turned Egypt into a private ownership of the Pharaonic military army; this is repeated now by Al-Sisi and his military regime. The Hyksos king during the lifetime of Joseph was a lord (i.e., a deity) among many lord/deities, whereas Moses' Pharaoh proclaimed himself as the supreme, most high lord for all Egyptians: "And gathered and proclaimed. He said, "I am your lord, the most high."" (79:23-24). Moses' Pharaoh forced the Israelites to deify and worship him; during his dialogue with Moses, Moses' Pharaoh went into the extremes of disbelief and polytheism by denying the Lord God and by threatening to imprison Moses if he would take another lord/god apart from him: "Is that the favor you taunt me with, although you have enslaved the Israelites?" Pharaoh said, "And what is the Lord of the Worlds?" He said, "The Lord of the heavens and the earth, and everything between them, if you are aware." He said to those around him, "Do you not hear?" He said, "Your Lord and the Lord of your ancestors of old." He said, "This messenger of yours, who is sent to you, is crazy." He said, "Lord of the East and the West, and everything between them, if you understand." He said, "If you accept any lord other than me, I will make you a prisoner."" (26:22-29).

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