When Joseph was told of the King’s wishes, he replied:
“Set me over the store-houses of the land: I will indeed guard them, as one that knows their importance.
The King consented to his request, and Joseph devoted himself faithfully to his task. During the seven years of prosperity, he ordered that the surplus grain be saved. But after these seven years came seven years of hardship, and famine spread everywhere in Egypt and the surrounding countries. Joseph began to distribute what had been saved, giving each person what he needed. He was a very wise man, for God had endowed him with great knowledge. Word of Joseph’s wisdom spread and before long tribes in neighboring lands were also coming to him for food.
Among those who came to Egypt were Joseph’s elder brothers. As was the case everywhere else, food had become scarce in their land and they had come to seek provisions from the King of Egypt’s minister. Little did they know that the minister was their brother Joseph whom they presumed dead. When Joseph’s brothers entered the palace, he immediately recognized them. Not surprisingly, they did not recognize him, for it never occurred to them that the young boy whom they had thrown down a well had not only survived, but also risen to such a high rank.
Joseph asked about their situation and about the number of people in their family in order to give them the exact amount of grain that they needed. They told him that they had a younger brother who had been left at home with their father. So Joseph asked them to bring him when they returned for provisions the following year. Secretly, he longed very much to see his younger brother, Benjamin; so he threatened them that if they failed to bring him, he would not give them any food.
The brothers went home with enough provisions for one year. When the time came for them to return to Egypt in order to obtain grain for the following year, they asked their father for permission to take their younger brother with them. Jacob feared for his son, remembering what had happened to Joseph:
“Shall I entrust him to you as I had previous entrusted his brother?”
Their urgent need for food, however, made Jacob accept to send his youngest son with his brothers. But he made them promise to take good care of him and bring him back safely.
The caravan carrying Jacob’s sons arrived in Egypt and proceeded to the palace. When the brothers entered, Joseph took Benjamin aside and confided to him that he was Joseph. He asked him not to reveal this to their other brothers. Joseph had decided to keep Benjamin with him in Egypt and, to this end, he had thought up a plan to prevent him from leaving with the others. Joseph ordered that provisions be supplied for the caravan. Then, as the brothers were preparing to depart, it was announced that the King’s silver cup, with which the grain was measured, was missing Joseph ordered that the caravan be searched. To the brothers’ protestations that they had not stolen anything, Joseph responded:
“What then shall be the penalty of this, if you are proved to have lied?”
The brothers answered:
“The penalty should be that he in whose saddle-bag it is found, should have the law applied to him.”
It was Abraham’s law that the victim of a theft was entitled to take the thief as a slave in compensation for the crime committed against him. When the caravan was searched, the cup was found in Benjamin’s bag and consequently Joseph had the right to keep his brother.
The brothers returned to their father and told him that their younger brother had stolen the cup, and that the minister had, kept him with him as punishment. The brothers swore to their father that this was the truth, and they even made the people of the caravan bear witness. Jacob, however, did not believe them and thought that they had plotted to get rid of their youngest brother just as they had plotted against Joseph, he wept with grief until he went blind. He then ordered them to return to Egypt to try and find news of their brother as well as of Joseph:
“O my sons! Go and enquire about Joseph and his brother, and never give up hope of God’s soothing Mercy, truly no one despairs of God’s soothing Mercy, except those who have no faith.”
So Jacob’s sons returned to Egypt and pleaded with Joseph to release their younger brother, since their father was an old man who deeply grieved for his son. To their pleadings, Joseph replied:
“Do you know how you dealt with Joseph and his brother, not knowing what you were doing?”
At once the brothers realized that they were in the presence of Joseph. At first, they feared that he might want to punish them, but he treated them kindly. Then Joseph took his shirt off and gave it to his brothers, telling them to return with it to their father and to cast it upon his face. This, he said, would restore his sight. He then requested them to bring the whole family to Egypt.
Greatly relieved and grateful, the brothers went home. As they approached their land and were only a few days’ journey from home, Jacob sensed that they were near because he could smell the scent of Joseph’s shirt. He told his family:
“I do indeed scent Joseph; and I am not making it up”
The people around Jacob thought that he had lost his mind. Shortly afterwards, however, the caravan arrived bringing Joseph’s shirt. The brothers laid it on their father’s face as Joseph had instructed, and Jacob’s sight was restored.
“Did I not say to you, “I know from God that which you know not?” They said, “O our father! Ask for us forgiveness for our sins, for we were truly at fault.” He said, “I will ask my Lord for forgiveness for you, for He is indeed Forgiving, Most Merciful.”
The whole of Joseph’s family then departed for Egypt. On arriving there, they were able to see the rank to which Joseph had risen, and they all prostrated themselves before him in awe. In this way, the dream that Joseph had had as a boy, of the sun, the moon and eleven stars prostrating themselves before him, was realised. Overwhelmed with gratitude to God for delivering him from prison, for reuniting him with his father and for guiding his brothers back to the right path, Joseph prostrated himself before God, saying:
“O my Lord! You have indeed bestowed on me power, and taught me the interpretation of dreams. o You Creator of the heavens and the earth! You are my Protector in this world and in the Hereafter. Take You my soul at death as one submitting to Your will, and unite me with the righteous.”
(Quran, 12: 101)