‘Prophet Joseph’ by late Iranian director Farajollah Salahshour and Roger Young’s ‘Joseph’ present a tale of two Josephs who share little resemblance when it comes to prophethood, morality and social interactions.
Coproduced by German, Italy and the US in 1995, ‘Joseph’ is clearly a soap opera-like narrative of disloyalty, adultery and sibling rivalry while ‘Prophet Joseph’, made in 2008, goes deeper in spiritual content.
The Iranian version of the series depicts Yusuf also called Youzarsif as a faultless individual, a faithful man of integrity and a virtuous prophet. Throughout the whole series, Yusuf’s behavior is impeccable. He not only strives to do what is right but also to do it the right way. This portrayal stands in direct contrast to what ‘Joseph’ narrates. It shows Yusuf, named Zaphnath-Paaneah by the pharaoh, as a deeply blemished, overconfident and egomaniac youth who is inconsiderate towards other people’s needs and feelings.
In ‘Joseph’, Potiphar’s wife Zoleikha is appeared as the dyed-in-the-wool seductress of the elegant Joseph. At every step of the way, she manifests the worst in human nature. Zoleikha, however, disappears post-seduction in the series with no proper conclusion of where she ends up. In contrast, Potiphar’s wife in the Iranian series is displayed as a complex character blinded by Prophet Joseph’s charm. She is merely an ordeal for Joseph’s virtue. Zoleikha finally confesses and repents for her sins.
Zoleikha’s repentance as narrated in the holy Quran, which is also well-depicted in the Iranian version of the series, is significant as it shows how God honors obedience and faithfulness. It conveys the message that when we remain steadfast in our trust in Lord, He will answer us with a blessed outcome. Zoleikha, in fact, is a proof that with God’s help, any seemingly bad situation can turn out well.
Moreover, one of the incidents, which is totally ignored in ‘Joseph’, is the all-woman party thrown by Zoleikha to preserve her honor and to shut down gossips about her fidelity. In the party, Yusuf parades among the guests while everyone is peeling off an orange. They all cut their fingers in disbelief at Yusuf’s beauty.
Prophet Joseph's life story offers many valuable lessons; yet there is also a prophetic aspect to the account that is absolutely undermined in the ‘Joseph’ series. The Iranian series repeatedly indicates that Joseph has been given special knowledge by God that makes him wise and sets him apart from other people while in ‘Joseph’, Yusuf is no different than others – no word of prophecy.
After all, perhaps the most significant difference between the two series is the more active role God plays in ‘Prophet Joseph’ as compared to ‘Joseph’. In moments of crisis, the characters in the Iranian series rely upon God to come to their assistance. God reassures Joseph, after his brothers throw him into the pit, that they will pay for what they did. Or when Jacob receives word of his son’s presumed death, he holds his faith and trust in God, something that is missing from ‘Joseph’. Likewise, in the scene where Zoleikha attempts to seduce him, Prophet Joseph does not succumb to the temptation because God is with him. These virtues are all absent in ‘Joseph’.
Another key element highlighted in ‘Prophet Joseph’ is that God is not responsible for the evil deeds of human beings. For this reason, the series reminds us that Satan is the one behind the brothers’ decision to get rid of Joseph.
More stories on 'Prophet Joseph':