The name Yusha (يوشع) is the Arabic form of the Hebrew name Yehoshua (يهوشواع). It means “Yahweh (God) is salvation.” This name was given to him by Prophet Musa (Moses) because his original name was Hoshe’a (شواع) but Prophet Musa added the first part and made it Yehoshua (يهوشواع). The name is shortened to Yeshua (يشوع) in the Old Testament. In the English world, he is known as Joshua in the Bible.
His full name was Yusha son of Nun, son of Ephraim, son of Prophet Yusuf (Joseph), son of Prophet Ya’qub (Jacob), son of Prophet Ishaaq (Isaac), son of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham). So Yusha is the great-grandson of Prophet Yusuf (pbuh) and out of six of his forefathers, four were prophets.
Yusha bin Nun was one of prophets sent to the Children of Israel after Prophet Musa, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon them both. Prophet Yusha was the one responsible for leading an army into Jerusalem and conquering it with the Children of Israel. Before this point, they were all wandering in the desert for 40 years as a punishment from Allah due to constant disobedience of His commands by the Children of Israel. Prophet Musa and his brother Prophet Haroon (Aaron) both passed away during the wandering period. Yusha had taken over the leadership role of the Children of Israel after the death of Prophet Musa. Prophet Haroon died two years before Prophet Musa according to Ibn Kathir.
Yusha in the Islamic Traditions
In the Islamic tradition, he is more popularly known as the servant and student of Prophet Musa in the story of Al-Khidr in the Qur’an as mentioned in verses 18:60-64. He is also said to be one of the two referred to in the following verse:
“Said two men from those who feared [to disobey] upon whom Allah had bestowed favor, “Enter upon them through the gate, for when you have entered it, you will be predominant. And upon Allah rely, if you should be believers.” [Qur’an 5:23]
The context of the above verse is that when Prophet Musa commanded the Children of Israel to go into Jerusalem to claim it, they refused because they feared its inhabitants, who were very strong people. They refused to fight them but Yusha was one of the people who tried to persuade them into going into battle with the inhabitants. Due to their disobedience, Allah forbade them to be able to enter Jerusalem and they were made to wander in the desert for 40 years as mentioned in the Qur’an in verses 5:23-26.
One of the wisdoms behind their wandering is said to be that Allah did not want anyone who had worshiped the calf to enter Jerusalem. Therefore, after 40 years, that whole generation had passed away and the new generation was brought up under the direct teachings of Musa, Haroon, and Yusha. It was this new generation under the leadership of Yusha that was allowed to enter Jerusalem with a victory.
According to some sources, “he is also credited with being present at Musa’s death and literature records that Musa’s garments were with Yusha at the time of his departure.”
It is reported that in the last battle, which began on Friday, the Jews were nearing victory with Yusha as their commander. However, the sun was nearing to set and the Jews did not work or fight on Saturday, thus, Yusha started to fear that they may lose the battle. So he looked towards the sun and said:
“You are commanded and I [too] am commanded [from Allah], O Allah stop the sun!”
The sun stopped in its place and remained that way until he was able to conquer Jerusalem and enter it. In Jewish and Islamic calendars, the following day begins with sunset and the Jews were forbidden by God to work on Saturdays.
There is a hadith which details this incident. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is reported to have said:
“One of the Prophets made a holy war. He said to his followers: ‘One who has married a woman and wants to consummate to his marriage but has not yet done so; another who has built a house but has not yet erected its roof; and another who has bought goats and pregnant she-camels and is waiting for their offspring-will not accompany me.’ So he marched on and approached a village at or about the time of the Asr prayers. He said to the sun: ‘Thou art subservient (to Allah) and so am I. O Allah, stop it for me a little.’ It was stopped for him until Allah granted him victory.” [Muslim]
We know that the above is referring to Yusha bin Nun because in another hadith, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) clearly states:
“The sun has never stopped from setting for any human being except for Yusha on the evening he invaded Jerusalem.” [Ahmad – it was graded authentic by Ibn Khatir, Ibn Hajar, and Al-Albani]
The Children of Israel lived in Jerusalem for some time and Yusha (pbuh) taught them the Torah and ruled according to it. Ibn Kathir says that he lived up to be 127 years old. He lived 27 years after the death of Prophet Musa.