Yusuf and Zulaykha

One of the greatest mystical love stories of the Islamic world, the archetypal story of Yūsuf (Joseph) and Zulaykhā is known throughout world literature. This genre tells of an unusually handsome and virtuous young man who resists the advances of an older woman. The story is widely known as the tale in the Biblical book of Genesis in which Joseph is sold into slavery and firmly resists the approaches of the wife of his master, the Egyptian official Potiphar.

Medieval Persian versions of the story presented Yūsuf as a universal image of the human soul, and at least 18 Persian poets are known to have recounted and embellished the tale. In 1484 the great poet and religious authority Jāmī wrote a version considered by many to be the best of all. In it, Yūsuf eventually becomes a high-ranking minister and marries Zulaykhā, as they unite in shared spiritual aspiration. The ultimate symbol of the beloved, the Joseph of Jāmī is inspired by the chapter named "Yūsuf" in the Qurʾān.

Love and Devotion exhibition poster
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