وَلَقَدْ هَمَّتْ بِهِ ۖ وَهَمَّ بِهَا لَوْلَا أَن رَّأَىٰ بُرْهَانَ رَبِّهِ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ لِنَصْرِفَ عَنْهُ السُّوءَ وَالْفَحْشَاءَ ۚ إِنَّهُ مِنْ عِبَادِنَا الْمُخْلَصِي
Certainly, she was burning with desire for him (Joseph); and he would have desired her had it not been that he had already seen the argument and proof of his Lord (concerning chastity and good conduct, and so was anxious only about how to escape her). We did it in that way (We showed to him Our argument and proof) so that We might avert from him evil and indecency. For he was one of Our servants endowed with perfect sincerity and purity of intention in faith and practicing the Religion. (Yūsuf 12:24)
The following two mistakes have usually been made while interpreting this verse:
Joseph, a sinless, sincere Prophet, is approached like an ordinary man overwhelmed with his emotions and desires, and the verse is interpreted from this perspective. Those who do so give the meaning to the verse: “The woman was inclined toward him, and he was inclined toward the woman, yet he saw the proof of his Lord and avoided the woman.” However, as easily understood from the entirety of the Sūrah, Joseph was perfectly honest, trustworthy, righteous, and far from sinning throughout his whole life. Besides, the Qur’ān mentions him as one near-stationed to God (mukhlas) and dedicated to doing good as if seeing God (muhsin). In addi-tion, the following expressions of the verse, “We did it in that way (We showed to him Our argument and proof) so that We might avert from him evil and indecency. For he was one of Our servants endowed with perfect sincerity and purity of intention in faith and practicing the Religion,” states that evil and indecency were always averted from him, that he never approached any evil and indecency, nor did he ever think of doing so. Furthermore, the conditional particle “law” in “lawlā an-raā burhāna Rabbih” (if he had not already seen the argument and proof of his Lord) is a proposition of a hypothetical past conditional which denotes that the event dependent upon it never happened. Therefore, the verse itself clearly means that Prophet Joseph, peace be upon him, had already seen his Lord’s proof and argument against any indecency and evil and therefore never felt inclina-tion towards the woman.
There are others who approach the issue contrary to human reali-ties and claim that Prophet Joseph, upon him be peace, had no sexual de-sires. This would imply a defect of a Prophet of God and is utterly unrealis-tic.
Every Prophet was perfectly sound as a human being. Having no mental and bodily defects are basic characteristics of every Prophet. They are perfect human beings in respect of the bodily structure and constitu-tion. Therefore, they had bodily desires. However, they were also perfect mentally and spiritually. They were the most patient among human beings and the most resistant against their physical drives. Their greatness lies in this. Therefore, despite his bodily desires and his youth, when bodily de-sires are most powerful, Prophet Joseph never inclined toward the woman and guarded his chastity most perfectly.
The Qur’ān uses for the woman the expression, “Certainly, she was burning with desire for him.” This was not a theater in order to judge Joseph’s innocence and patience. The woman was really inclined and moved towards him with a burning desire. Therefore, Joseph might have been inclined and moved towards her as well; there were no impediments. However, Prophet Joseph had already been and was always equipped with God’s proof against any evil and indecency. So he became the epitome of strong-mindedness, with full determination, and strong will accompanied by his most profound belief, knowledge of God, and awe of Him. In an environment where all the doors were open to the satisfaction of bodily desires for anybody, he made no attempt to do anything other than escape that environment. Indeed, it was nothing else but Joseph’s strong will to become a perfect human being supported by his chastity, modesty, and faithfulness that made him reach the point of being safeguarded and caused him to be exalted with extra favors in a moment when internal and external circumstances, which can lead every human being to the deepest pits of evil, united against him.
Indeed, Joseph was both a leader and a man of action and mission selected for the mission of obeying and guiding others to obey God. In fact, Zulaykha, too, would later confess her guilt and bear witness to Joseph’s perfect chastity, saying:
And, indeed, I did seek to enjoy myself by him, but he was resolute in his chastity. (Yūsuf 12:23)
Now the truth has come to light. It was I who sought to enjoy myself by him. He was indeed truthful (in all he said, and true to his Lord) (Yūsuf 12:51)