The story of Yaqub and Yusuf (alaihis salam) given in Surah Yusuf, is a fascinating story, imparting a strong lesson in patience, loyalty, nobility, and compassion. Life is full of challenges, and there isn’t a single human being on earth who’s free from hardship in one form or another. Even the prophets were tested with losses of wealth, health or their loved ones. Quran says, “Or do you think that you will enter Paradise while such [trial] has not yet come to you as came to those who passed on before you? They were touched by poverty and hardship and were shaken until [even their] messenger and those who believed with him said, “When is the help of Allah?” Unquestionably, the help of Allah is near.” (Surah Al-Baqara, Verse 214) Prophet Yusuf (a.s) descended from a long line of Prophets, beginning with the Prophet Ibrahim (a.s), who was his great grandfather. Prophet Yusuf (as)’s grandfather was Prophet Ishaq (as) and his father was Prophet Yaqub (as).Prophet Yusuf (a.s) had eleven brothers. They all lived near Jerusalem in Palestine, which at that time was called Canaan. His youngest brother was called Binyamin (Benjamin). The story begins with a dream, in the middle a dream and ends with its interpretation fulfilled. Yusuf (alaihis salam), son of the Prophet Yaqub (alaihis salam) awoke from his sleep and filled with excitement, ran to his father and related his dream. He had a dream in which he saw the sun, the moon and eleven stars bow down to him. Prophet Yusuf (a.s) told his father, Yaqub (a.s), about his strange dream. Yaqub (a.s) told him to be careful and not to tell anyone else about the dream. Prophet Yaqub (a.s) loved all of his sons. But they all, except Binyamin, felt jealous of Yusuf (a.s) because they thought their father loved Yusuf more than he loved them. The brothers were so jealous of Yusuf (a.s) that they came up with a plan to get rid of him forever. One brother suggested that they should kill him. Others did not have the heart to kill him and thought it would be better to send him to a faraway place. Finally, they decided to throw him into a well. Travellers would find him when they stopped for water, andYusuf (a.s) would disappear from the brothers’ lives forever. Their purpose would be served with his exile. And then they would repent for their crime and become good people once again. It was the cleverest of ideas seemingly safe. One day, brothers approached their father asked their father if they could take Yusuf (a.s) with them to play. Yaqub (a.s) was afraid for Yusuf (a.s), but agreed to let him go. The brothers set off together with Yusuf (a.s). When they were a long way from home, the brothers acted on their plan. They threw Yusuf (a.s) into a well and left him there. The brothers then returned home without Yusuf (a.s). They went to their father weeping, saying that Yusuf (a.s) had been eaten by a wolf whilst they were playing. The brothers showed Yaqub (a.s) their younger brother’s shirt covered with the blood of a sheep, to convince him of their story. Deep down in his heart Yaqub (alaihis salam) knew that his beloved son was still alive and that his other sons were lying. He held the blood stained shirt in his hands, spread it out and remarked: “What a merciful wolf! He ate up my beloved son without tearing his shirt!” There was water in the well, which buoyed Yousuf’s body, so he was not harmed. In the dark well Yusuf managed to find a stone ledge to hold onto, thinking why my brothers do it? His father’s smile flashed before him recalling the love and affection he had always shown him. Yusuf began to pray earnestly, pleading to Allah for salvation. A group of travellers stopped by the well on their way to Egypt. When the travellers lifted the bucket from the well, Yusuf (as) came up too. The travellers took Yusuf (as) from Palestine to Egypt, where they sold him as a slave. Yusuf (as) was bought by the Chief Minister, the Aziz, of Egypt. The Aziz treated Yusuf (as) well, and Yusuf (as) was thankful to Allah and remained a loyal slave. Yousuf was made the personal attendant of the chief minister’s wife, Zulaikha and with his pleasant manners, handsomeness and charming behavior, he won everybody’s heart. The days passed and Yousuf grew in this family. Shaytaan came in Zulaikhas mind and she fell in love with Yousuf. Eventually, even though he did nothing wrong, Yusuf (a.s) was sent to prison as a way of avoiding unwanted attention and sin. The chief minister knew Yousuf (A.S) was absolutely innocent, with a heavy heart, he sent Yousuf to prison. Prophet Yusuf (a.s) was someone who recognised his own strengths and weaknesses.
Being aware of his own weaknesses, he went to prison rather than be potentially seduced by his master’s wife Zulaikha.In prison Allah blessed him with an extraordinary gift; the ability to interpret dreams. At about the same time two other men landed in the prison. One was the cupbearer and the other was the king’s cook. The two men sensed that Yousuf (A.S) is not a criminal. Both men had vivid dreams, and they were anxious to have them explained. The king’s cook dreamed that he stood in a place with bread on his head, and two birds were eating the bread. The cupbearer dreamed that he was serving the king wine. The two went to Yousuf (A.S) and told him their dreams, asking him to give them their meaning. First, Yousuf (A.S) called them to Allah. Then he said that the cook would be crucified until he died and that the cupbearer would return to the service of the king. Yousuf (A.S) told the cupbearer to remember him to the king and to say that there was a wronged soul called Yusuf in prison. What Yusuf predicted did happen; the cook was crucified and the cupbearer returned to the palace. After the cupbearer returned to service, Satan made him forget to mention Yousuf’s name to the king. Therefore, Yousuf (A.S) remained in prison for a few years, but he made patience his own, praying to Allah. The scene in the prison closes; a new scene opens in the bedchamber of the king. The King of Egypt had a troubling dream that nobody could explain. The king dreamt that seven fat cows were eaten by seven thin cows. He then saw seven healthy ears of corn and seven dry and shrivelled ears of corn. The King was troubled because he could not understand the dream, and no one could explain it to him. The King’s servant recalled of Yusuf (a.s) approached him and asked Yusuf (a.s) to interpret the King’s dream. With the gift Allah had given him, Yusuf (as) interpreted the King’s dream. The dream meant that for the next seven years there would be plenty of crops and food throughout the land. But, for seven years after that, there would be famine throughout the land. There would be no crops and not enough food for the people to live on. When the King heard Yusuf (a.s)’s interpretation of the dream, he was fascinated by Yousuf (A.S)’s interpretation. He commanded that Yousuf (A.S) be set free from prison and presented to him at once. The king’s envoy went to fetch him immediately, but Yousuf (A.S) refused to leave the prison unless his innocence was proven. Perhaps they accused him of cutting the ladies hands, or trying to rape them. Perhaps any other false accusation was made. The king ordered: “Bring the wives of the ministers and the wife of the chief minister at once.” The king felt that Yousuf (A.S) had been harmed unfairly but he did not know exactly how. The wife of the chief minister came with the other ministers’ wives. She confirmed infront of all that I betrayed, not Yousuf (A.S) betrayed Aziz during his absence. Yousuf (A.S) wanted this clearance only to show his master that he never betrayed him. It is believed that imprisonment of Yusuf (A.S) was a great turning point in Zulikah’s life, she turned to Yousuf (A.S)’s religion or was mad. The King was so impressed with Yusuf (a.s)’s character and wisdom that he asked Yusuf (a.s) to work for him. Yusuf (a.s) agreed and asked to be put in charge of the food storehouses in Egypt so that he could prepare the land for the seven years of famine, which would follow the seven years of plenty. During the first seven years of plenty, Yusuf (a.s) harvested and carefully stored crops and food. When the seven years of famine followed, through Allah’s mercy Yusuf (as) had stored enough food to make sure that the people did not starve. The famine spread throughout the land, including to Palestine where the family of Yusuf (a.s) also suffered. Yusuf (a.s)’s brothers knew that in Egypt, there were stores of food that were being given to the people. Eventually,Yusuf (a.s)’s ten brothers decided to travel from Palestine to Egypt to ask for food.When the group of men arrived in Egypt, Yusuf (a.s) immediately recognised his brothers. But many years had passed and the brothers did not recognise the powerful man before them as their youngest brother, Yusuf (a.s). Yusuf (a.s) noticed that his youngest brother, Binyamin was not with the others. He gave each of the brothers food and told them to come back again, this time with Binyamin so that he may give them more food. Yousuf (A.S) asked them if you are truth people bring your brother with you as proof and I will reward you with double rations. Yousuf (A.S) ordered his servant to secretly place the purse, with the money they had paid, into one of their grain sacks. The scene dims in Egypt and lights in Canaan. The brothers returned to their father. Back in Palestine, the brothers convinced their father to let Binyamin travel with them to Egypt. Yaqub (as) was hesitant at first, remembering what had happened to Yusuf (as) so many years before; but after some time he agreed. The brothers returned to Egypt with Binyamin. Yusuf (a.s) was happy to see Binyamin. He spoke to Binyamin alone and told him who he really was. Yusuf (as) then acted out a plan to ensure that his brother Binyamin would stay with him and not return to Palestine with the other brothers. Yusuf (a.s) placed one of the King’s drinking cups in Binyamin’s food bag. When the brothers were ready to set out, the gates were locked, and the court crier shouted: “O you travelers, you are thieves!” The accusation was most unusual, and the people gathered around Yousuf (A.S)’s brothers. “What have you lost?” his brothers inquired. A soldier said: “The king’s golden cup. Whoever can trace it we will give a beast load of grain.” Yousuf (A.S)’s brothers said with all innocence: “We have not come here to corrupt the land and steal.” Yousuf (A.S)’s officers said (as he had instructed them): What punishment should you choose for the thief?” The brothers answered: “According to our law, whoever steals becomes a slave to the owner of the property.” The officers agreed: “We shall apply your law instead of the Egyptian law, which provides for imprisonment.” The chief officer ordered his soldiers to start searching the caravan and finally cup was found in the saddle of Binyamin’s. The brothers exclaimed: “If he steals now, a brother of his has stolen before.” They strayed from the present issue in order to blame a particular group of the children of Yaqub (a.s). Yousuf (A.S) heard their resentment with his own ears and was filled with regret. Yet, he swallowed his own resentment, keeping it within. As part of his plan, Yusuf (a.s) commanded Binyamin to remain in Egypt as punishment. Remembering their promise to Yaqub (a.s) that Binyamin would return to Palestine safely, the brothers pleaded with Yusuf (a.s) to let Binyamin leave with them, but Yusuf (a.s) refused. The brothers returned home to Palestine leaving elder brother in Egypt and told their father what had happened. The Prophet of Allah, Yaqub (a.s) remained patient, even though he had become blind from the sorrow of losing Yusuf (a.s) many years before and had now lost a second son. Finally, the brothers had to make a third trip to Egypt for more food. They were now very poor and had only a few things to trade. The brothers begged Yusuf (as) to have mercy on them. When Yusuf (as) saw the desperate state his brothers were in, he asked them one simple question. “Do you now realise what you did to Yusuf?”Stunned by the question, the brothers realised that the powerful man before them had to be their brother Yusuf; because, besides the brothers, Yusuf (as) was the only one who knew aboutthat day so many years ago when they had left their brother in a well. Even though Yusuf (as) had been through so much hardship because of what his brothers had done to him, he did not get upset. Instead, Yusuf (as) prayed for his brothers and asked them to do two things: First, to take his shirt and lay it over their father’s face. Second Yusuf (as) asked his brothers to bring their entire family back to Egypt. When the brothers returned home they placed Yusuf (as)’s shirt over their father’s face. Through Allah’s mercy Yaqub (as)’s sight returned and he was able to see again. Yaqub (as), his sons and their families travelled from Palestine to Egypt. Yaqub (as) was overjoyed to meet his beloved son again. In respect, Yusuf (as)’s father, mother and eleven brothers bowed before Yusuf (as). Seeing this, Yusuf (as) realised that the dream he saw as a child had become a reality: the sun, the moon and eleven stars bowing to him.Through constant patience and remembrance of Allah, Yusuf (as) was successful in all of life’s tests and was richly rewarded for his patience. Yousuf (A.S) prostrated to Allah in gratitude. Before he died, Jacob (pbuh) advised his children to adhere to the teachings of Islam, the religion of all of Allah’s prophets. Yousuf (A.S) (pbuh), at the moment of his death, asked his brothers to bury him beside his forefathers if they were to leave Egypt. So when Yousuf (A.S) (pbuh) passed away, he was mummified and placed in a coffin until such a time as he could be taken out of Egypt and buried beside his forefathers, as he had requested. It was said that he died at the age of one hundred ten. May Allah’s peace be upon him.
(The authors write regularly on Islamic topics for “ Kashmir Horizon” exclusively. Views are his own)