Zulaikha's Redemption

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After deciding to worship yusuf's god, zulaikha's life turned around. She managed to catch a glimpse of yusuf, meet him, have her beauty and youth returned, and ended up with the man of her dreams. However, her true turning point in this is when her looks are returned.

Were they really returned to her? Did yusuf posses this divine ability to produce what time had taken away from her? While Yusuf was affiliated to the divine, besides his dreams, he never really performed any physical miracles. I would like to question whether or not Zulaikha's looks were truly returned.

Could it be interpreted that she only wished to be beautiful in Yusuf's eyes? Or that she was beautiful in his eyes again, so that she could be with him? It is possible that because of her change in spirituality, yusuf found her more beautiful, or that in his words of prayer, he welcomed her into the religion and therefore was perceived as more beautiful. This would also explain why the angel Gabriel told Yusuf that he could finally marry her.

Idols- the key to Zulaikha's transformation

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Zulaikha's redemption comes when she is has degenerated from her former glory into desolate circumstances. The monologue she has in front of the graven image is significant and reveals what she has not recognised herself. The stone is blamed as a "stumbling block" that has "closed the path of happiness to [her] heart". Allegorically Jami shows that in her worship of the beauty of Yusuf, she has failed to turn her devotion toward the true object of Allah. Reference is made to the story of Abram destroying Terah's idols (not in Genesis but in Genesis Rabbah). There is a clear didactic purpose revealed here as Jami alludes back to the theological roots of Sufi Islam. Zulaikha's action of destroying the idol brings unexpected "new consolation" for the lover that has been in a "sea of affliction" with "waves of sorrow". The short respite lead to the final revelation- an enlightened Zulaikha confesses to the idolatry she has been practising. However, unlike Bazigha, she does not renounce the attachment. Is it then problematic that the ideal set up by Bazigha is not reached and instead Zulaikha gets the final consummation she has been yearning for? Although her fixation on Yusuf has not been severed, it is renewed with a different slant. Allah that is reflected in Yusuf is now the centre as seen when she speaks of Yusuf's kingship as granted by Allah. This call catches the attention of Yusuf who till now has been immune to her loud wails in previous instances. The transformed Zulaikha now becomes worthy of the absolution she receives and the love she seeks.

Mysterious Yusuf

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Yusuf and his beauty are described as if they are divine and sacred. His presence brightens the surroundings, every women fall for him completely just by a glimpse of him, and etc. However, the concept that his beauty is not from Yusuf himself but is derived from God keeps appearing and being emphasized. Therefore, despite the fact that Yusuf is depicted almost as a divine figure and that his beauty transcends his beauty of physical appearance in terms of its significance, it is clear that Yusuf is some sort of a vehicle or a medium to spread God’s words.

However, Yusuf fulfills Zulaikha’s boons, in the chapter “Union,” in a way that God brings miracles to the world. In his encounter with Zulaikha, who has lost her beauty and become all weary after her separation from Yusuf, Yusuf feels sorry for her, so he decides to “fulfill all [her] wishes” if they are within his power. Zulaikha has 2 wishes for Yusuf. She asks Yusuf to restore her beauty, and as her second wish, she wishes to live with Yusuf.

What’s interesting in this story is that Zulaikha’s first wish is within Yusuf’s ability, whereas here second request requires God’s request. In common sense, her first request needs divine power—it isn’t within human’s capacity/ability. However, interestingly, as Yusuf has said, prior to the moment Zulaikha makes her requests, that he would fulfill her needs if they are within his ability, restoring Zulaikha’s beauty was not done by God but done by Yusuf himself. In this particular incident, he doesn’t refer to God or is in need of Him; Yusuf autonomously makes the decision and acts upon his will. This significant scene suggests that Yusuf is not just a vehicle or medium that acts as a messenger of God, but there is definitely something more extraordinary/mysterious about Yusuf.

Sight

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Last seminar we discussed the significance of sight and beauty in relation to God – his glory is reflected in the beauty of all things, even to the point of beauty being mirrored in every smallest atom, and only the perceptive person is able to see this. This outward beauty is seen by some merely as an external attribute that causes in them bodily desire, lust, and other wrongful fancies. Sight is the sense that allows someone to appreciate beauty, and if misused, it can easily be “a path leading to error”. In Zulaikha’s case, her sense of sight led to two errors: her inappropriate desire for Yusuf’s beauty, and her idol that she had worshipped all her life.

The “jewel of [her] sight” was Yusuf, but she only saw and desired for his physical beauty because she only saw beauty to be an external attribute without further importance; she did not realize or care for the God of whose beauty Yusuf is a manifestation of. Instead, her internal and spiritual sight was set on her idol. The significance of this idol can be linked back to a previous scene in which the idol is seen hidden behind a curtain as Zulaikha had attempted to seduce Yusuf. There, Zulaikha was aware of her act being immoral, yet believed that as long as a curtain hid her from her idol, it would not know of her “impious deed” and she would be safe. We can see from here that she understands sight to be simply physical, and this signifies her lack of belief in the all-seeing, true God. Furthermore, her idol is physically beautiful to the extreme – “it is made of gold and has eyes of pearl”. This emphasizes the point that she believes beauty to be all about what is external, as she is unable to worship or deem worthy anything that is physically unaesthetic to her even though the true God made every atom reflect His beauty; therefore, she has not yet reached the state of the perceptive person who can see not only every being, but every thing, on Earth to be equally beautiful and worthy. Her smashing of the idol later on is not only metaphorical of her breaking her incorrect faith in order to take up the religion of the right God, but it is also representative of her renouncing her belief that external physical beauty, such as that of her idol, is what determines worth. In other words, she had opened up her eyes and is now able to see beauty the right way and as more than just physicality, which is why God gives her back her sight to see Yusuf.

Yusuf's power

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In the chapter "union", we see how Yusuf meets Zulaikha again and restores her beauty and youth. As discussed in class, we have established that Zulaikha's longing for Yusuf mirrors humankind's longing for god. Physical appearances are but a mirror reflecting god's beauty. Yusuf restoring Zulaikha's beauty is symbolic of restoring a sense of piousness in her, something that makes her worthy of God. Yusuf swears by Abraham to fulfil all of Zulaikha's wishes if it were in his power.

He proceeds to fulfil her first two wishes, which is to restore her youth and beauty, secondly, her sight so she can see his face and 'pluck a rose from the garden of countenance'. Youth and beauty in this context, seem to suggest more than just physical appearance, but also suggests a human's ability to reflect God's eternal splendour. Upon shattering her idol and praying for guidance and forgiveness, it is evident that Zulaikha displays piousness which deems her worthy of her youth, which was described to be 'new-found beauty that reached even greater heights than before'.

Ironically, without hesitance, Yusuf restores Zulaikha's youth and sight, not in his capacity, but with divine powers from God through his prayer. When he is in turn being asked by Zulaikha for permission to 'live with him', he is unable to make a decision which is within his human choice. This implies that their union is not a mere physical union, but something spiritual which could allude to the union of God and humankind.

Tears

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Joseph, throughout the course of his three meetings with his long-estranged brothers, cries repeatedly. How are we to interpret these tears? Are they of sadness or joy, or do they have a deeper purpose?

The portrayal of tears increase in intensity each time. It begins with his mild weeping and ends with a bawl that all of the palace hears. A clue to the emotion behind the tears is Joseph's actions directly following the tears. First, he sends them off coldly, feasts with them the second and finally reveals his identity to them in the last. There is a parallel between the increasing intensity of each tearing scene and his actions against his growing affection for them and recognition of their repentance. As he cries with more force, he is growing closer to his family and moving one step closer towards eventual reunion.

This mirrors Odysseus, who also cries repeatedly in the Odyssey. He cries when the bard's song incites his reminiscence of the losses and tragedy of war, and also when he meets Telemachus again in a recognition scene. Just as in Genesis, tears do not seem to be a sign of weakness. Odysseus and Joseph do not cry when they are weak or upset, rather, the tears come when they are experiencing powerful positive emotion. Odysseus when he remembers his Greek brothers who died in the war or Joseph when he sees Benjamin is well and safe. Tears serve as a plot device, to indicate that there is character development or foreshadow future events. Joseph's tears increase as a build up towards the eventual recognition, and grow in intensity as the repentance of the brothers are proved through their words and actions until they prove themselves worthy.

Dreams

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In Genesis, Jacob wrestles with God, or an angel. Or was it a random person? When we talked about it in class we concluded that it could have been just a dream, since the "man" said, "let me go , for dawn is breaking." The dream world seems to be a sacred place, and like we talked about in class, it could be a way of God taking a backseat in the human world instead of talking to people directly like he did before.

What I would like to question is whether this was specific to Abraham's bloodline. In Genesis, we follow his bloodline and watch as they prosper and carry out God's will. However, the Baker, cup bearer and the Pharaoh all had divine dreams as well. Was this because they were to encounter Joseph that they had these dreams or would they have had it anyway?

What this made me question is whether, as a historical text, this was one of the recordings of what happened chronologically for this family, but did other people have devine dreams as well during this time period. Would this have happened for a few people or just the people who were in the bible because they were required to. It reminded me of the line mentioned in classalong the lines of what wasn't mentioned in the bible that makes it more interesting.

 

Bible Vs Jami

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Something that really intrigued me is the language of both Genesis and Yusuf and Zulaikha. The writing in Jami's version of the text struck me as a mix between Homer and Valmiki, being both poetic and descriptive as well as told by a sort of "visible" narrator who calls on a divine power. However, the language in genesis was much more vague and functional; the story was put across to make a point, no prominent details outside of the actual storyline.

Jami makes many interjections of comments within the story, sometimes coming to a few paragraphs, but we don't see any of this in the third person's narrative of Genesis. My question is: What is the difference that this makes? Why do the two texts have such different takes in terms of writing?

Both texts are religious texts, but both go about different ways in teaching. Genesis holds a very utilitarian form of writing; it tells, it teaches but it doesn't do more. Sometimes it even skips over a few years at a time. When describing Joseph's looks, the only thing the Bible Says "And joseph was comely in features and comley to look at." whereas Jami's text is constantly poetically and metaphorically describing Yusuf's features in lines such as " And there in the middle of the flock was Yusuf, like a brilliant sun in the sign of a ram".

I believe that that Joseph's story is linked to his family, and Genesis focuses on his bloodline, therefore it doesnt have to be as detailed as Yusuf and Zalaikah, which chooses to convey its passion to teach how dangerous indulging in adoration is when it is not in god.

end of Jami, end of the seminar

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  1. Comment on the decisive influence of dreams on the course of the narrative (e.g. p. 108-110, 131, etc).
  2. What is the significance of the shattering of the idol by Zulaikha (p. 121)? Also note the references to idols on p. 72, 74.
  3. Why is the sense of sight blamed as a path leading to error (p. 121)?
  4. What is the significance of Yusuf’s power to restore Zulaikha to her former beauty (p. 124)?
  5. Comment on the role of divine manifestations in the narrative.
  6. Why do you think is Zulaikha’s love described as ‘pious devotion’ (p. 130)?
  7. Why should one empty one’s heart of ‘all desire for joy’ (p.158)?
  8. Why is the world like a shoe than pinches (p. 139)?
  9. "theory without practice is a poison without an antidote" (p. 140) does this apply to the texts that we have been studying?
    10.  “Turn from this busy workshop to the world of books, and develop your imagination by reading them. As the famous maxim wisely says, wisdom abides in books even when the sage is in his tomb. A book is the companion of solitude, the brilliant light of the dawn of wisdom, forever opening new vistas of knowledge” (p.143). Sima Qian writes that “[the sages] withdrew and put their deliberations into writing in order to give full expression to their outrage, intending to reveal themselves purely through writing that would last into the future.” The Egyptian scribe writes, “Man dies, his body is dust, / his family all brought low to the earth; / But writing shall make him remembered, /alive in the mouths of any who read.” (remember the handout i gave you guys?) What are the various ways in which the authors that we have studied theorize the power of writing?
    11. "Each of its chapter is a perfumed garden, with beauteous roses in every flowerbed. There the trees of ideas interlace their branches, and find their expression in the melodies of pertly chirruping song-birds" (145). How does this relate to my early lesson about the etymology of seminar?

Driving Me Crazy

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“Baby, you been driving me crazy, Can you be my lady? Can you be my baby, baby driving me crazy,” Boston’s Boy, a.k.a Sammy Adams, proclaims in his song, Driving Me Crazy. In the song he references the emotional throes he is forced to undergo, now that he has fallen in love with this ‘baby’. In the first part of Yusuf and Zulaikha, her experience’s match very closely those of Boston’s Boy’s.

A stark contrast is provided between Zulaikha before and after her dream about Yusuf. Such exaggerations as, “Never had her heart been oppressed even by the slightest sorrow; never had a thorn so much a s scratched her foot,” mark the tranquility in her life before the dream (pg. 13). But once she has glimpsed Yusuf through her dreams, she enters a deep distress. As Zulaikha is gripped by her love for this beautiful man, she is described as, “her heart languished in silent lamentation” (pg. 15) , “pierced to the heart, Zulaikha collapsed like a hunted animal” (pg.22), and “Zulaikha was wounded to the depths of her being” (pg.27).

Jami however, does not seem to condone or condemn love. What it shows here is that the act of falling in love is never a simple one. Zulaikha also goes through incredible moments of bliss when she sees Yusuf in her dreams, and feels the same sense of passion and elation when she finally does end up seeing him. And before her dream, Zulaikha lives quite an extravagant life, but one that seems to drag on monotonously for the foreseeable future. There is no excitement. So I think what Jami is trying to express here is not disapproval necessarily, but instead a tribute to the emotional roller coaster ride that is falling in love.