In progress and under revision
Stephen Lambden UC Merced. Last updated 11-02-2022.
Jacob - Ya`qūb = Israel - Isrā’īl (13), the twelve Israelite tribes (14) Joseph -Yūsuf, his brothers (14a) and associated prophets and their sacred Books.
Israelite patriarchs, prophets and other miscellaneous figures
13. Hebrew ya`āqôb,) Qur'anic Arabic Ya`qūb. in the Qur'an is a Prophet (nabi)
Jacob also know as (Heb. yisrael) (Ar.) Isrā’īl or Israel, cf. Q. 3:87, etc), the son or brother of the biblical Isaac (Q. 37:113; 6:84).
Jacob may have flourished in the mid. 2nd millen. BCE. He is reckoned as a nabī and is 16 times mentioned in 10 sūras of the Q. The father of the (twelve) tribes (Q. 2:126f) including that stemming from his beloved son Joseph. It was over separation from this "son of his old age" (Gen. 37:3b) that he was blinded with grief until Joseph’s "coat" (qamiṣ) was cast upon his head thereby restoring his sight (Q.12:93-4). In Shī`ī tradition the sacred qamīṣ ("garment") was thawb min thiyāb al-janna, ("one of the robes of Paradise") with which God through Gabriel clothed Abraham. It was handed down to Jacob who bestowed this scented (rīḥa) garment ( Q. 12:94b) upon Joseph (Biḥār 2 12:249).
Jacob-Israel is infrequently mentioned in Bābī- Bahā’ī sources save relative to his being the father of Joseph. In his K. Asmā’ the Bāb interpreted messianically the qur’ānic episode of Jacob’s sight being restored through the healing scent of the garment of Joseph. The motif of Joseph’s sight bestowing, life-giving, resurrecting qamīṣ is important in both Bābī and Bahā’ī writings.
In his K. Asmā’ , for example, the Bāb, commenting upon the Name of God al-Bashīr ("the Herald of Good Tidings", Q. 12:93) refers to a garment of the "Joseph of Bahā' ". In a passage inspired by Q. 12:93 he writes
Hearken! Then take ye firm hold of the garment of the Joseph of Bahā' (qamīṣ yūsuf al-bahā') from the hand of His Exalted, Transcendent herald of Glad-Tidings (mubashshirihi al-`aliyy al-a`lā). And place it upon thy head in order that thou might be endowed with insight (li-tartadda baÿr an) and discover thyself truly aware (khabār an) (text cited QI 4:1875).
Note the use of the exclamation "Good news!" (yā bushrā) in Qur'an 12:19b followed by the words "Here is a youth (ghulām)!" (Q.12:18, 25ff) and the use of the word bashīr ("bearer/herald of good tidings") in Q.12:93 which recounts the episode of Joseph's garment being placed on the head or face of the patriarch Jacob / Israel (= "But when the bashīr ["bearer of good tidings"] came to him, and laid it on his [Jacob's] face [wajhihi], forthwith he saw once again"). It is this qur'ānic verse which lies behind the Bāb's words translated above and the following passage from Baha'u'llah’s Surat al-Qamīṣ.(The Surah of the Robe).
The Bahā’ī apologist Ishrāq Khavarī understood this passage relative to Baha'u'llah’s being the Bābī messiah figure man yuhiru-hu Allāh (Ishrāq Khāvarī, QI 4:1870ff).
On theophanological lines is the exegesis of qamīṣ ("garment") presupposed in the Sūrat al-qamīṣ (The Surah of the Robe, c. 1865) of BA*. This 25 page Arabic work opens by identifying the supernatural "Garment" as a reality evident as the haykal (Temple) of the Person of Baha'u'llah "betwixt all the worlds!" (S-Qamīṣ, AQA 4:41). In the course of this Surat al-Qamīṣ Baha'u'llah is addressed by a supernatural voice as the yūsuf al-kibriyā' ("Jospeh of the Divine Grandeur") in Abhā' (All-Beauteous) garments (qumuṣ al-abhā') bidding him ,
... deprive not the ears from the melodies of Thy holiness (naghamāt qudsika) nor the eyes (al-abṣār) from smearing with the kohl (eye makeup) of the gnosis of thy Beauty (`an kuḥl al-`irfān jamālika) nor the suns (al-shumūs) from the flashes of the Lights of Thy Grace (bawāriq anwār faḍlika)...
Commenting on Q.3:93a in his Lawh-i Kull al-ṭa`ām (Tablet of All Food, c. 1854), in a completely different context, BA* gives "Isrā’īl" (Israel) and the "children of Israel" a mystical interpretation relative to the religion of the Bāb at the same time censoring the antinomian proclivities of early Bābī factions:
Then know that the significance of "food" (ṭa`ām) is [the one who is] the Locus of Knowledge (nafs al-`ilm), that is, all branches of learning (kull al-`ulūm). "Israel" signifies the nuqṭat al-ulyā (Primordal Point = the Bāb) and the banī Isrā’īl ("children of Israel") he whom God, on His part, made a [messianic] Proof (ḥujjat) unto the people in these days [= BA*?]. "Except what Israel made unlawful for itself [or himself]" (Q. ) indicates that which the Primal Point [= the Bāb] made unlawful for His elevated ones and His servants (Baha'u'llah, Ma’idih IV:371).
As far as I am aware this understanding of "Israel" (= the Bāb) is not taken up in Bābī or Bahā’ī literatures though, as will be noted below, it has something of a Shī`ī- Shaykhī hermeneutical precedent (Aḥsā’ī, Sh-Ziyāra, III:278).
14. Yūsuf M [=R]+N+M* (= Heb. Yôsêp), Joseph after whom Sūrah 12 is named, is mentioned 27 times in the Q., twice outside Q. 12 (Q. 6:84 and 40:34). He is the biblical eleventh son of Jacob (= Israel) and Rachel. Though according to the Q. he came with "clear proofs" (Q.6:85b; 40:34b) he was doubted as a prophet.
In Islam Joseph is an important messenger-prophet of God. His story is the longest continuous prophetological narrative in the Q. (111 verses) mirroring the extended biblical narrative (Gen 37-50). The
Sūrat Yūsuf (Q.12) is reckoned the aḥsan al-qaṣaṣ, the "most beauteous of narratives" (Q.12:3). It contains dimensions of the extended biblical story (Gen. 37-50) with supplementary haggadic-rooted and other unique features. In Islamic tradition Joseph is reckoned a paragon of handsome  beauty (ḥusn / jamāl) and one eminently righteous (al-ṣiddiq). 1
1. See Coats, `Joseph...’, ABD 3:976ff; Dijkstra, `Joseph..’ DDD:895-8; Enc.Jud. X:202-217; Heller, `Yūsuf b. Ya`kūb’, EI VIII:1178-9+bib.; MacDonald, MW 46 (1956), 113ff+207ff; etc.
Joseph is figure of great importance in Bābī- Bahā’ī primary sources. He is mentioned numerous times in a great many texts. The first major work of the Bāb, his Tafsīr Sūra Yūsuf (Commentary upon the Surah of Joseph) or Qayyūm al-asmā’ (lit.`The Self-Subsisting of the Divine Names’) is an Arabic neo-qur’ānic, messianic, esoteric and quasi-qabbalistic expanded rewrite of select qur’ānic pericopae. For the Bāb Joseph was a key proto-Shī`ī type of the occulted, messianic Qā’im as well as one who prefigured the martyred and expected to "return" Imam Ḥusayn (d. 61/680).
As in Shī` ī messianism Ḥusayn’s eschatological role is anticipated in the QA , Kitab al-Asmā’ and other writings of the Bāb.The Qā’im / Ḥusayn-Joseph typology is central to Bābī- Bahā’ī sacred writings. The eschatological Qā’im and Ḥusayn are pictured as "hidden" and "secreted" in a messianic ghayba (occultation) just as Joseph was "hidden" in the "pit" of his eschatological theophany by his jealous "brothers" who at times represent the 12 letters of the kalimat al-tawḥīd, ("Word of the Divine Unity"), the shāhada as the cryptic expression of Shī`ī orthodoxy.
A qur’ānic nabī (prophet) Joseph in developed Bahā’ī doctrine was elevated to the position of maẓhar-i ilāhī (M*). SE* expressed this as follows, "Joseph was one the `Sent Ones' [= mursal ] of the Qur'an, meaning a Manifestation of God [rasūl = maẓhar-i ilāhī ]" (LG:497). The allegorical-typological Bahā’ī identification of Joseph with Baha'u'llah contributed markedly to his being elevated from Islamic "prophet" to an exalted, pre-existent Bābī- Bahā’ī maẓhar-i ilāhī (Divine manifestation, theophany). For Baha’īs the all-eternal, paradigmatic husn, jamāl ("beauty", cf. the messianic 3rd Imam Ḥusayn) of the biblical- qur’ānic Joseph, became the bahā ’ / abha , the radiant and glorious "Beauty" of the person of Baha'u'llah in his role as the incarnation of the powerful al-ism al-a`ẓam, the Mightiest Name of God.
Baha'u'llah frequently claimed to be the new, true, supremely beauteous (abhā) Joseph. Bahā’ī exegesis has it that the story of Joseph as interpreted by the Bāb parallels and anticipates the person and fate of Baha'u'llah. This especially in terms of his Ottoman imprisonment and 1866-7 rejection by his half-brother, Mīrẓa Yaḥya Nūrī. Shoghi Effendi wrote that the Jospeh story "forecast what the true Joseph [Baha'u'llah] would, in a succeeding [Bahā’ī]. Dispensation, endure at the hands of one who was at once His arch-enemy and blood brother" (GPB:23 + index).