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Monday, January 21, 2013

The modern relevance of Ibn Khaldun’s Economic Philosophy

“The modern relevance of Ibn Khaldun’s Economic Philosophy” by David Abramsky

We read in the last issue of this journal that “many economists accept that the moderndiscipline of economics is not in a healthy state” (Lawson 2010, p. 1), and that there is“widespread dissatisfaction with [...] the way economics is taught” (Skidelsky 2010, p. 1). This article seeks to put forward the work of Ibn Khaldun as part of a wider remedy to these shortcomings.
Those thinkers who demonstrated economic thought without even the awareness that they were doing so may have the most unbiased view of what economics is, as well as what it is for. Among these thinkers, there is possibly none more original or perceptive than Ibn Khaldun. Perhaps his greatest innovation was an empiricist approach to the study of economic phenomena. Ibn Khaldun says of his “original science” (Ibn Khaldun 1958, p. 78) of al-umran (roughly, civilization) that “penetrating research has shown the way to it. It does not belong to rhetoric.” (Ibid.) Each assertion on the laws that guide the course of human events is confirmed with reference to an historical example. Lacoste notes that “this is why his work seems so extraordinarily modern.” (Lacoste 1984, p. 160)
This approach sets him apart from earlier philosophers whose work included economic consideration, such as the Indian thinker Kautilya, or Greek philosophers such as Xenophon and Aristotle. Ibn Khaldun was familiar with Aristotle’s work, referring to it specifically in the Muqaddimah (Ibn Khaldun 1958). However, he advanced greatly on it by referring a priori principles to the empirical data of history. In this respect his work can be seen as an alternate branch to the modern school, since both built upon the observations of the Ethics. (Langholm 1979)
There are also undoubtedly similarities between Kautilya and Ibn Khaldun, though the latter was not aware of the former. Kautilya’s decree that “collection of revenue at a season when people were unable to pay is forbidden because it injures the source and causes immensetrouble” (Gopal 1935, p. 24), for instance, foreshadows Ibn Khaldun’s discussion of the impact of excessive imposts on cultural enterprise. (Ibn Khaldun 1958) But whereas Kautilya writes in unverified, though often perceptive, axioms such as the one above, Ibn Khaldun follows up his observations with reference to specific examples of over-taxation and its effects on tax revenue in the Abbasid, Ubayyid and Almoravid dynasties. It is this investigative rigor that sets him apart as a new kind of economic observer.
It is in Ibn Khaldun’s empirical methodology that we encounter the clearest way in which his work is relevant to the modern economist. The reason he used it was as a direct response to perceived shortcomings in some of the accounts of contemporary historians, which in turn led to unsound conclusions about the causes of events. Ibn Khaldun identified the rigorous study of historical fact as an essential check on any economic theory.
In the modern field, the limitations of mathematical modeling in explaining and predicting human systems have been widely acknowledged1. Perhaps a greater emphasis on the study of historical events could provide a partial remedy. Lord Skidelsky identifies the prevalence of Chicago School economic principles in undergraduate teaching, and notes that this school rests on assumptions of “perfect information, perfect competition, and complete markets.”(Skidelsky 2010, p. 1) But Friedman, the pioneer of this school, justified and qualified his premises through groundbreaking and extensive empirical research of markets and their history. (Friedman and Schwartz 1993) For instance, in order to understand the conclusions he reached with regards to the causes and likelihood of financial bubbles, one had to be familiar with the history behind them. For example, inclusion in undergraduate courses of Mackay’s Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, detailing such phenomena from the foundation of the ill-fated South Sea Company in 1711, would be an excellent counter-balance to the potential complacency that mathematical modeling or the seemingly intuitive conclusions of the Chicago school can instill.
Methodology aside, some of Ibn Khaldun’s discussion does seem to presage the classical school of Smith and Ricardo. Oweiss goes so far as to argue that his economic observations make him “the father of economics.” (Oweiss 2009, p. 1) This seems a strong claim (perhaps intentionally so) for a thinker who was not widely translated into any European language until the 19th century. (De Slane 1862) In the interests of consistency, it must be acknowledged that just as Ibn Khaldun’s work was a significant advance from that of, for example, Kautilya or Aristotle, because of the added depth and methodological rigor, The Wealth of Nations stands as a far more complete and detailed analysis of markets and commerce. Ibn Khaldun’s definitions of profit, capital and commerce are often cited by those seeking to emphasize his modernity, but on the macroeconomic scale all overarching theories will share basic principles and definitions. However, there are striking parallels on the ‘micro’ scale too. Even in very specific matters, Ibn Khaldun sees to the economic heart of things.
His discussion of labor and its return in different markets is fascinating in this light. Ibn Khaldun identifies the disparity in the preponderance of certain crafts between different markets, observing that “the activities required for the necessities of life [...] exist in every city. But activities required for luxury customs and conditions exist only in cities of a highly developedculture.” (Ibn Khaldun 1958, p. 302) Perhaps this seems obvious to modern readers, but it was not so well-understood that Smith felt it could go unsaid some four hundred years later. In fact, Smith describes the same phenomenon when he writes that “There are some sorts of industry, even of the lowest kind, which can be carried on nowhere but in a great town. A porter, for example, can find employment and subsistence in no other place.” (Smith 1776, Bk. 1, Ch. 3, Sec. 1.3.2)
Ibn Khaldun is also aware that identical occupations provide different wages in different places, because prices differ due to the amount of available labor. Again he exemplifies the principle empirically. He cites the difference in judges’ wages between Tlemcen, a small town in Algeria, and Fez, the thriving economic hub of the Maghreb, “the only reason for [which] is the difference in labour available in the different cities,” (Ibn Khaldun 1958, Vol. 2, p. 273) which has a knock-on effect on the cost of living. Having already explained the meaning of terms such as labor, profit, capital and commerce, Ibn Khaldun demonstrates an understanding of the impact of the specific market on any transaction.
Ibn Khaldun similarly understood the significance of transportation to the return on goods. He first observes that merchants limit the goods which they transport to those of “medium quality,” which will have the widest customer base, since “if [a merchant] restricts his [transported] goods to those needed only by a few, it may be impossible for him to sell them,since these few may for some reason find it difficult to buy them. Then, his business would slump, and he would make no profit.” Further, he notes that the most profit is obtained by the most difficult transportations, such as through the dangerous Sudan or across the long route to the East, made at the least possible expense. Smith similarly explores the increase in feasible commerce enabled between London and Calcutta solely by the availability of reliable water-carriage as opposed to land transport.
There are many parallels of the sorts described above, as Ibn Khaldun goes on to discuss commerce, hoarding, taxation, price fluctuation and many of the other questions which also preoccupied Smith. Oweiss gives a more complete account of this overlap, which attests to the universality of many of Smith’s more general maxims. Ibn Khaldun achieved such insight because he possessed something anachronistic for his time: a truly international and impartial understanding of social science. It was in part the wider prevalence of such an understanding which prompted the birth of pure economic thought in the 18th century. There was no perspective he felt bound to; as a matter of fact, he was highly critical of many aspects of Arabic culture and economic practice. This approach was a result of the philosopher’s unusual life; he travelled constantly, exercising his ambition in numerous fields in many different courts, from Muslim Spain, to the Middle East and North Africa. Rosenthal notes that this “gave him a remarkable detachment with respect to the historical events that took place before his eyes. In a sense, it enabled him to view them as an impartial observer.” (Ibn Khaldun 1958, p. xxxvi)
This is the second major reason why his thought is beneficial to an insightful study of economics in this age. The “autism” and premature specialization of economic teaching that was lamented by Lord Skidelsky can undermine the impartiality that Ibn Khaldun applied to his study. Students are encouraged to focus too soon on very particular and vocational approaches to economics, mostly based on work from the past century coming from the Western hemisphere. The conclusions of these schools of thought are then taken for granted. For example, in the widely used first year textbook Economics: A Student’s Guide, it is openly acknowledged that “neoclassical economics [...] [has] created the mainstream economics that dominates this and most other textbooks.” (Beardshaw, Brewster, Cormack and Ross 2001, p. 705) It then goes on to briefly outline the primary heterodox approaches. The problem is not that priority is given to this school, which deserves its preeminence, but that insufficient acknowledgement of the existence and potential insight of other schools is instilled. In the textbook, this passage acknowledging this emphasis, and detailing alternatives, comes on page 705 and lasts 7 pages. Over the previous 700 pages all the basic principles of economics have already been laid out as though they were scientific givens. This embodies the flaw in attitude of undergraduate economic study. Reading the Muqaddimah instills some of the importance of approaching economic questions with a detachment from orthodoxy and formalism.
However, despite the overlap between Ibn Khaldun’s work and that of later economists, a sentenceby- sentence comparison can be misleading. The similarities should not be overstated. For every sentence in The Wealth of Nations that appears foreshadowed by one in the Muqaddimah, and there are many, there are many more that would have meant little to Ibn Khaldun. This is largely because a detailed account of how a commercial economy functions was never his intention. The aim of his economic investigations was to improve historiography. The economic and social laws he documented were to be applied as a test to future historical accounts, to establish whether they seemed reasonable and should be trusted. This makes the depth and accuracy of his observations even more impressive; to him, they were only a means to an end.
The real relevance of his work lies not in how much credit is due to him for economics as it is today. The simple answer is that, since the major advances on which the modern field is founded were made in ignorance of his work, little credit is due. Equally, how much he ‘got right’ by modern standards is not the best judge of merit. The most value that can be gleaned from his book lies in the incredibly fresh perspective it grants on the field of economics. The economic philosophy of the Muqaddimah provides an excellent counterweight to many of the weaknesses and blind spots in modern economic thought and methodology. Certain attitudes are incredibly hard to remove, and direct controls such as increased and improved regulation must play a large part in response to the crisis we have recently witnessed. However, to avoid future bubbles, both in the financial system and in economic thought itself, the wider study of such works would also be of great value.
  1. Among these false predictions were the continued rise of property values, and the value of what proved to be wholly toxic financial derivatives. See In Modelling Risk, the Human Factor Was Left Out, published November 4th 2009 in the New York Times for an overview.

Prophet Joseph

  1. Alif, Lam, Ra. These are the verses of the clear Book.
  2. Indeed, We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur’an that you might understand.
  3. We relate to you, [O Muhammad], the best of stories in what We have revealed to you of this Qur’an although you were, before it, among the unaware.
  4. [Of these stories mention] when Joseph said to his father, “O my father, indeed I have seen [in a dream] eleven stars and the sun and the moon; I saw them prostrating to me.”
  5. He said, “O my son, do not relate your vision to your brothers or they will contrive against you a plan. Indeed Satan, to man, is a manifest enemy.
  6. And thus will your Lord choose you and teach you the interpretation of narratives and complete His favor upon you and upon the family of Jacob, as He completed it upon your fathers before, Abraham and Isaac. Indeed, your Lord is Knowing and Wise.”
  7. Certainly were there in Joseph and his brothers signs for those who ask,
  8. When they said, “Joseph and his brother are more beloved to our father than we, while we are a clan. Indeed, our father is in clear error.
  9. Kill Joseph or cast him out to [another] land; the countenance of your father will [then] be only for you, and you will be after that a righteous people.”
  10. Said a speaker among them, “Do not kill Joseph but throw him into the bottom of the well; some travelers will pick him up – if you would do [something].”
  11. They said, “O our father, why do you not entrust us with Joseph while indeed, we are to him sincere counselors?
  12. Send him with us tomorrow that he may eat well and play. And indeed, we will be his guardians.
  13. [Jacob] said, “Indeed, it saddens me that you should take him, and I fear that a wolf would eat him while you are of him unaware.”
  14. They said, ” If a wolf should eat him while we are a [strong] clan, indeed, we would then be losers.”
  15. So when they took him [out] and agreed to put him into the bottom of the well… But We inspired to him, “You will surely inform them [someday] about this affair of theirs while they do not perceive [your identity].”
  16. And they came to their father at night, weeping.
  17. They said, “O our father, indeed we went racing each other and left Joseph with our possessions, and a wolf ate him. But you would not believe us, even if we were truthful.”
  18. And they brought upon his shirt false blood. [Jacob] said, “Rather, your souls have enticed you to something, so patience is most fitting. And Allah is the one sought for help against that which you describe.”
  19. And there came a company of travelers; then they sent their water drawer, and he let down his bucket. He said, “Good news! Here is a boy.” And they concealed him, [taking him] as merchandise; and Allah was knowing of what they did.
  20. And they sold him for a reduced price – a few dirhams – and they were, concerning him, of those content with little.
  21. And the one from Egypt who bought him said to his wife, “Make his residence comfortable. Perhaps he will benefit us, or we will adopt him as a son.” And thus, We established Joseph in the land that We might teach him the interpretation of events. And Allah is predominant over His affair, but most of the people do not know.
  22. And when Joseph reached maturity, We gave him judgment and knowledge. And thus We reward the doers of good.
  23. And she, in whose house he was, sought to seduce him. She closed the doors and said, “Come, you.” He said, “[I seek] the refuge of Allah . Indeed, he is my master, who has made good my residence. Indeed, wrongdoers will not succeed.”
  24. And she certainly determined [to seduce] him, and he would have inclined to her had he not seen the proof of his Lord. And thus [it was] that We should avert from him evil and immorality. Indeed, he was of Our chosen servants.
  25. And they both raced to the door, and she tore his shirt from the back, and they found her husband at the door. She said, “What is the recompense of one who intended evil for your wife but that he be imprisoned or a painful punishment?”
  26. [Joseph] said, “It was she who sought to seduce me.” And a witness from her family testified. “If his shirt is torn from the front, then she has told the truth, and he is of the liars.
  27. But if his shirt is torn from the back, then she has lied, and he is of the truthful.”
  28. So when her husband saw his shirt torn from the back, he said, “Indeed, it is of the women’s plan. Indeed, your plan is great.
  29. Joseph, ignore this. And, [my wife], ask forgiveness for your sin. Indeed, you were of the sinful.”
  30. And women in the city said, “The wife of al-’Azeez is seeking to seduce her slave boy; he has impassioned her with love. Indeed, we see her [to be] in clear error.”
  31. So when she heard of their scheming, she sent for them and prepared for them a banquet and gave each one of them a knife and said [to Joseph], “Come out before them.” And when they saw him, they greatly admired him and cut their hands and said, “Perfect is Allah ! This is not a man; this is none but a noble angel.”
  32. She said, “That is the one about whom you blamed me. And I certainly sought to seduce him, but he firmly refused; and if he will not do what I order him, he will surely be imprisoned and will be of those debased.”
  33. He said, “My Lord, prison is more to my liking than that to which they invite me. And if You do not avert from me their plan, I might incline toward them and [thus] be of the ignorant.”
  34. So his Lord responded to him and averted from him their plan. Indeed, He is the Hearing, the Knowing.
  35. Then it appeared to them after they had seen the signs that al-’Azeez should surely imprison him for a time.
  36. And there entered the prison with him two young men. One of them said, “Indeed, I have seen myself [in a dream] pressing wine.” The other said, “Indeed, I have seen myself carrying upon my head [some] bread, from which the birds were eating. Inform us of its interpretation; indeed, we see you to be of those who do good.”
  37. He said, “You will not receive food that is provided to you except that I will inform you of its interpretation before it comes to you. That is from what my Lord has taught me. Indeed, I have left the religion of a people who do not believe in Allah , and they, in the Hereafter, are disbelievers.
  38. And I have followed the religion of my fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And it was not for us to associate anything with Allah . That is from the favor of Allah upon us and upon the people, but most of the people are not grateful.
  39. O [my] two companions of prison, are separate lords better or Allah , the One, the Prevailing?
  40. You worship not besides Him except [mere] names you have named them, you and your fathers, for which Allah has sent down no authority. Legislation is not but for Allah . He has commanded that you worship not except Him. That is the correct religion, but most of the people do not know.
  41. O two companions of prison, as for one of you, he will give drink to his master of wine; but as for the other, he will be crucified, and the birds will eat from his head. The matter has been decreed about which you both inquire.”
  42. And he said to the one whom he knew would go free, “Mention me before your master.” But Satan made him forget the mention [to] his master, and Joseph remained in prison several years.
  43. And [subsequently] the king said, “Indeed, I have seen [in a dream] seven fat cows being eaten by seven [that were] lean, and seven green spikes [of grain] and others [that were] dry. O eminent ones, explain to me my vision, if you should interpret visions.”
  44. They said, “[It is but] a mixture of false dreams, and we are not learned in the interpretation of dreams.”
  45. But the one who was freed and remembered after a time said, “I will inform you of its interpretation, so send me forth.”
  46. [He said], “Joseph, O man of truth, explain to us about seven fat cows eaten by seven [that were] lean, and seven green spikes [of grain] and others [that were] dry – that I may return to the people; perhaps they will know [about you].”
  47. [Joseph] said, “You will plant for seven years consecutively; and what you harvest leave in its spikes, except a little from which you will eat.
  48. Then will come after that seven difficult [years] which will consume what you saved for them, except a little from which you will store.
  49. Then will come after that a year in which the people will be given rain and in which they will press [olives and grapes].”
  50. And the king said, “Bring him to me.” But when the messenger came to him, [Joseph] said, “Return to your master and ask him what is the case of the women who cut their hands. Indeed, my Lord is Knowing of their plan.”
  51. Said [the king to the women], “What was your condition when you sought to seduce Joseph?” They said, “Perfect is Allah ! We know about him no evil.” The wife of al-’Azeez said, “Now the truth has become evident. It was I who sought to seduce him, and indeed, he is of the truthful.
  52. That is so al-’Azeez will know that I did not betray him in [his] absence and that Allah does not guide the plan of betrayers.
  53. And I do not acquit myself. Indeed, the soul is a persistent enjoiner of evil, except those upon which my Lord has mercy. Indeed, my Lord is Forgiving and Merciful.”
  54. And the king said, “Bring him to me; I will appoint him exclusively for myself.” And when he spoke to him, he said, “Indeed, you are today established [in position] and trusted.”
  55. [Joseph] said, “Appoint me over the storehouses of the land. Indeed, I will be a knowing guardian.”
  56. And thus We established Joseph in the land to settle therein wherever he willed. We touch with Our mercy whom We will, and We do not allow to be lost the reward of those who do good.
  57. And the reward of the Hereafter is better for those who believed and were fearing Allah .
  58. And the brothers of Joseph came [seeking food], and they entered upon him; and he recognized them, but he was to them unknown.
  59. And when he had furnished them with their supplies, he said, “Bring me a brother of yours from your father. Do not you see that I give full measure and that I am the best of accommodators?
  60. But if you do not bring him to me, no measure will there be [hereafter] for you from me, nor will you approach me.”
  61. They said, “We will attempt to dissuade his father from [keeping] him, and indeed, we will do [it].”
  62. And [Joseph] said to his servants, “Put their merchandise into their saddlebags so they might recognize it when they have gone back to their people that perhaps they will [again] return.”
  63. So when they returned to their father, they said, “O our father, [further] measure has been denied to us, so send with us our brother [that] we will be given measure. And indeed, we will be his guardians.”
  64. He said, “Should I entrust you with him except [under coercion] as I entrusted you with his brother before? But Allah is the best guardian, and He is the most merciful of the merciful.”
  65. And when they opened their baggage, they found their merchandise returned to them. They said, “O our father, what [more] could we desire? This is our merchandise returned to us. And we will obtain supplies for our family and protect our brother and obtain an increase of a camel’s load; that is an easy measurement.”
  66. [Jacob] said, “Never will I send him with you until you give me a promise by Allah that you will bring him [back] to me, unless you should be surrounded by enemies.” And when they had given their promise, he said, ” Allah , over what we say, is Witness.”
  67. And he said, “O my sons, do not enter from one gate but enter from different gates; and I cannot avail you against [the decree of] Allah at all. The decision is only for Allah ; upon Him I have relied, and upon Him let those who would rely [indeed] rely.”
  68. And when they entered from where their father had ordered them, it did not avail them against Allah at all except [it was] a need within the soul of Jacob, which he satisfied. And indeed, he was a possessor of knowledge because of what We had taught him, but most of the people do not know.
  69. And when they entered upon Joseph, he took his brother to himself; he said, “Indeed, I am your brother, so do not despair over what they used to do [to me].”
  70. So when he had furnished them with their supplies, he put the [gold measuring] bowl into the bag of his brother. Then an announcer called out, “O caravan, indeed you are thieves.”
  71. They said while approaching them, “What is it you are missing?”
  72. They said, “We are missing the measure of the king. And for he who produces it is [the reward of] a camel’s load, and I am responsible for it.”
  73. They said, “By Allah , you have certainly known that we did not come to cause corruption in the land, and we have not been thieves.”
  74. The accusers said, “Then what would be its recompense if you should be liars?”
  75. [The brothers] said, “Its recompense is that he in whose bag it is found – he [himself] will be its recompense. Thus do we recompense the wrongdoers.”
  76. So he began [the search] with their bags before the bag of his brother; then he extracted it from the bag of his brother. Thus did We plan for Joseph. He could not have taken his brother within the religion of the king except that Allah willed. We raise in degrees whom We will, but over every possessor of knowledge is one [more] knowing.
  77. They said, “If he steals – a brother of his has stolen before.” But Joseph kept it within himself and did not reveal it to them. He said, “You are worse in position, and Allah is most knowing of what you describe.”
  78. They said, “O ‘Azeez, indeed he has a father [who is] an old man, so take one of us in place of him. Indeed, we see you as a doer of good.”
  79. He said, “[I seek] the refuge of Allah [to prevent] that we take except him with whom we found our possession. Indeed, we would then be unjust.”
  80. So when they had despaired of him, they secluded themselves in private consultation. The eldest of them said, “Do you not know that your father has taken upon you an oath by Allah and [that] before you failed in [your duty to] Joseph? So I will never leave [this] land until my father permits me or Allah decides for me, and He is the best of judges.
  81. Return to your father and say, “O our father, indeed your son has stolen, and we did not testify except to what we knew. And we were not witnesses of the unseen,
  82. And ask the city in which we were and the caravan in which we came – and indeed, we are truthful,”
  83. [Jacob] said, “Rather, your souls have enticed you to something, so patience is most fitting. Perhaps Allah will bring them to me all together. Indeed it is He who is the Knowing, the Wise.”
  84. And he turned away from them and said, “Oh, my sorrow over Joseph,” and his eyes became white from grief, for he was [of that] a suppressor.
  85. They said, “By Allah , you will not cease remembering Joseph until you become fatally ill or become of those who perish.”
  86. He said, “I only complain of my suffering and my grief to Allah , and I know from Allah that which you do not know.
  87. O my sons, go and find out about Joseph and his brother and despair not of relief from Allah . Indeed, no one despairs of relief from Allah except the disbelieving people.”
  88. So when they entered upon Joseph, they said, “O ‘Azeez, adversity has touched us and our family, and we have come with goods poor in quality, but give us full measure and be charitable to us. Indeed, Allah rewards the charitable.”
  89. He said, “Do you know what you did with Joseph and his brother when you were ignorant?”
  90. They said, “Are you indeed Joseph?” He said “I am Joseph, and this is my brother. Allah has certainly favored us. Indeed, he who fears Allah and is patient, then indeed, Allah does not allow to be lost the reward of those who do good.”
  91. They said, “By Allah , certainly has Allah preferred you over us, and indeed, we have been sinners.”
  92. He said, “No blame will there be upon you today. Allah will forgive you; and He is the most merciful of the merciful.”
  93. Take this, my shirt, and cast it over the face of my father; he will become seeing. And bring me your family, all together.”
  94. And when the caravan departed [from Egypt], their father said, “Indeed, I find the smell of Joseph [and would say that he was alive] if you did not think me weakened in mind.”
  95. They said, “By Allah , indeed you are in your [same] old error.”
  96. And when the bearer of good tidings arrived, he cast it over his face, and he returned [once again] seeing. He said, “Did I not tell you that I know from Allah that which you do not know?”
  97. They said, “O our father, ask for us forgiveness of our sins; indeed, we have been sinners.”
  98. He said, “I will ask forgiveness for you from my Lord. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.”
  99. And when they entered upon Joseph, he took his parents to himself and said, “Enter Egypt, Allah willing, safe [and secure].”
  100. And he raised his parents upon the throne, and they bowed to him in prostration. And he said, “O my father, this is the explanation of my vision of before. My Lord has made it reality. And He was certainly good to me when He took me out of prison and brought you [here] from bedouin life after Satan had induced [estrangement] between me and my brothers. Indeed, my Lord is Subtle in what He wills. Indeed, it is He who is the Knowing, the Wise.
  101. My Lord, You have given me [something] of sovereignty and taught me of the interpretation of dreams. Creator of the heavens and earth, You are my protector in this world and in the Hereafter. Cause me to die a Muslim and join me with the righteous.”
  102. That is from the news of the unseen which We reveal, [O Muhammad], to you. And you were not with them when they put together their plan while they conspired.
  103. And most of the people, although you strive [for it], are not believers.
  104. And you do not ask of them for it any payment. It is not except a reminder to the worlds.
  105. And how many a sign within the heavens and earth do they pass over while they, therefrom, are turning away.
  106. And most of them believe not in Allah except while they associate others with Him.
  107. Then do they feel secure that there will not come to them an overwhelming [aspect] of the punishment of Allah or that the Hour will not come upon them suddenly while they do not perceive?
  108. Say, “This is my way; I invite to Allah with insight, I and those who follow me. And exalted is Allah ; and I am not of those who associate others with Him.”
  109. And We sent not before you [as messengers] except men to whom We revealed from among the people of cities. So have they not traveled through the earth and observed how was the end of those before them? And the home of the Hereafter is best for those who fear Allah ; then will you not reason?
  110. [They continued] until, when the messengers despaired and were certain that they had been denied, there came to them Our victory, and whoever We willed was saved. And Our punishment cannot be repelled from the people who are criminals.
  111. There was certainly in their stories a lesson for those of understanding. Never was the Qur’an a narration invented, but a confirmation of what was before it and a detailed explanation of all things and guidance and mercy for a people who believe.

    Source : Translation of Quran, Sahih International, Chapter 12: Yusuf (Joseph