THE IRON IN THE SOUL
Joseph and the Undoing of Violence
It does not take a detective to see that J-o-S-e-PH and Y-u-S-u-F are the same word and in the Bible (Genesis 37-46) and the Qur’an (Surah 12) the same person. Yusuf is unique in having a whole chapter to himself and bearing his name. It has features absent from Genesis, notably about Zulaika and her court women who found such fascinating beauty in him, which Islamic art and poetry have long celebrated.
The deep significance, however, of Joseph/Yusuf is surely in the sequence from suffering victim to viceroy and provider in Egypt. The ‘dreamer’ came to mastery but only through a long story of adversity-the well, exile, prison and languishing forgotten there under a false charge. Through all, he held to a pattern of brave forbearance and magnanimity. There is no evidence of a will in him to resent, retaliate, revenge or resist his brothers, his ill-users or accusers. At every point we find him a paragon of the non-vindictive.
This makes him a very telling figure at the heart of Islam, liable as Muslims have been to returning attack or holding ‘sedition’ as a worse evil than ‘war’. Thus it is salutary to find in the Qur’an Yusuf’s quiet ‘bearing of wrong’, his genuine peace-mindedness. The point of The Iron in the Soul is to press this Joseph/Yusuf model upon sundry situations in the contemporary world where the ‘iron’ of injustice, hatred or strife ‘fetters’ the mind, or-the other meaning-where it ‘steels’ the will to gentleness and the overcoming of evil with good. The conversion of current Islamic violence into the art of a co-existent human society is the urgent need of our time. These chapters are meant to serve the study and care of that hope, whether with Palestine/Israel, the Sacred/Secular, or the ‘this faith/that faith’ situation where its fulfilment is hard to seek but urgent to be found.
216 x 138mm, 240 pages, paperback
ISBN 978 1 901764 55 0
£15.00 January 2009