Bloody Wrath and Healing Touches Joseph and his Brothers in Early Imāmī Shī‛ī Tafsīr

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Adi Shirian



The meetings between Joseph and his brothers in Egypt are often portrayed in Qurʾān commentaries as dramatic occurrences. A few early Imāmī-Shīʿī commentaries mention a peculiar account that describes the heated clash between the brothers and Joseph following Joseph’s accusation that one of them stole from him. A comparative examination shows that a second version of this tradition appears in contemporary Sunnī exegesis, and that earlier Jewish Midrashim influenced both Muslim versions. This paper will suggest that the Muslim versions consciously altered the Jewish exegetical narrative to agree with the qurʾānic one and that the Islamicized version of the tradition was adopted “back” into later Jewish exegesis. The differences between the Imāmī and Sunnī versions suggest that each community had independent access to rabbinic lore. The paper also studies elements in the Imāmī version that are absent from both the Sunnī and Jewish versions, including unusual bleeding from various organs and a golden pomegranate. Finally, it offers some preliminary observations concerning the considerations that might have led to the unique developments exhibited in the Imāmī version.


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